The Pro-Something Sposi

Alice, EconomistPhoto: economist.com

I picked up this collection of Alice Munro stories, Too Much Happiness and I began reading story number seven. It’s called Some Women. Really nice. This woman is remembering a summer job she had when she was thirteen. She was hired to look after a man with leukemia while his wife was at work.

Well, on the very first afternoon she’s in the house she goes into the parlour and sees the bookcase. There are all these Harvard Classics. One of them takes her eye: I Promisso Sposi. “It appeared to be fiction all right, and it was in English.”

I nearly collapsed. If I had Alice Monro’s number I would have called her. I wanted to ask: why did you put that Manzoni book into the story? And why did you put the title in Italian when you say the book was in English? And why did you get the Italian wrong?

All she had to do was google it. It’s I Promessi Sposi. We call it, round these parts, The Bethrothed, by Alessandro Manzoni.

I called Chatto & Windus. They’re responsible for publishing this Booker winning book over here. They didn’t pick up. I called McClelland & Stewart in Canada. Luckily, they didn’t pick up. I don’t have Alice’s number. I need to know what everyone was thinking.

It’s mentioned once more in the story, and Alice gets it wrong in a different way. This time it’s I Promissi Sposi. Anyway, this is just by way of warning. The story is great, but I didn’t want you to be as upset by all this Manzoni stuff, and forearmed is forewarned, you know.

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