This is the second novel I’ve read from this author and one of two that are available in English translation. It is a shame that there are only two because Carmine Abate is a wonderful writer. In “Between Two Seas” he author’s prose continues to show his signature lyrical, poetic style.
The story is once again set in Abate’s native Calabria. A well known German photographer travels through southern Italy seeking to take advantage of its scenic beauty to incorporate into his work. Along the way he meets Giorgio Bellusci a man whose goal in life is to restore the south’s most famous inn known as theFondaco del Fico, well known for once harboring brigands during the Italian unification as well as it’s most famous guest, the writer Alexandre Dumas during his travels through Italy. Giorgio’s obsession with restoring the inn slowly becomes a dangerous obsession which will eventually leave blood on his hands and test the friendship between himself and the photographer, Hans Heumann. The story is told from the point of view of Giorgio’s grandson, Florian, who not only recounts his grandfather’s quest to restore the inn but of his family and childhood in the small town of Roccalba, which lies between the Ioanian and Tyrrhenian seas.
It is a wonderful novel about a complex family history and how chance meeting can somehow effect the lives of so many different people. It is also an example of how family history can be closely intertwined with national and cultural history, sometimes with tragic consequences. Abate’s prose style moves the story along with an almost child-like wonder and his description of the Calabrian landscape brings the reader right there along with him. You can smell the orange blossoms, feel the thistles, and hear the sounds of the two seas which lies at either end of the town. Not an easy thing to accomplish. Many lesser writers would kill for Abate’s ability to bring his setting to life, allowing the reader, who most likely never been to such an out of the way place, to experience it as the characters experience it.
It’s a shame that all of Abate’s books are not yet available in translation. He is truly one gifted writer and those outside Italy are missing out on one of the more memorable voices in contemporary literature.