Naples, to judge from its traditional songs – such as ‘O Sole Mio’ – is a city of sunshine, and people who have never been there, or who haven’t lived there, imagine a city of eternal light, of eternal blue skies and eternal heat. Such a view is certainly possible, but not the only one. As it happens, some time ago a friend of mine from Milan was somewhat surprised when I told him that, in reality, Naples is one of the cities with the highest rainfall in Italy: between seven hundred and one thousand millimetres a year. So, Naples is sunshine but also rain; and when it rains, it’s real rain: it pelts down and it floods. There are two books that exemplify this duality. The first of these is Ferito a morte (‘The Mortal Wound’, 1961) by Raffaele La Capria, a masterpiece of Italian modernism that identifies how Naples (and life) deceives you with the promise of its ‘beautiful days’, from which you must nevertheless escape. The second book, by contrast, is Nicola Pugliese’s Malacqua, which tells the story of four days of rain, ruin and collapse amid many bizarre events that befall the city. Radiance and gloom, promise and mystery are the cardinal points on the compass of the literary traveller. You may try not to get lost, but this is no simple undertaking.
by Cristiano de Majo
translated by Max Easterman
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