*Ties*, by Domenico Starnone

This is one of the better Italian novels of the last few decades, and this year’s first fiction must-read.  It is short, easy to comprehend, utterly compelling, and the basic story line is that of a married couple and their children, to say more would spoil the plot.  The introduction and translation are by Jhumpa Lahiri, also first-rate (by the way, here is my conversation with Jhumpa, toward the end she discusses this project).

Here is the Amazon link.   This Rachel Donadio NYT review provides some very useful background knowledge.


' It is short, easy to comprehend, utterly compelling,'

Aren't these the traits of something suited for the complacent class, particularly the first two?

There's optimization of time across activities that takes place to be considered to minimize complacency. Reading may no weight very highly compared to, say, hitchhiking.

That made me laugh.

I remain rooted to the spot where I was planted, having grown attached to the gifts of nature as manifest in my own little corner of the world. I search my yard every day for new signs of spring. Is that complacency?

That was an awfully complacent first sentence by me.

It was in the 2nd sentence where you grew complacent about grammar.

"It is short, easy to comprehend, utterly compelling, " - yes, prior_test2 is right, and it's also unrealistic. Life is more improbable than fiction. That's in fact how tax cheats are caught: they try and make figures that 'look random' but their mistake is that they don't repeat numbers (since they think that's not random) and you can tell thus they are making up the numbers. That and Zipf's law.

Of course, there's no greater disruption in one's life than the breakup of one's family, the lace that defines who and what one is, the place where one belongs. If disruption is such a good thing, why is it that disruption of the family is so destructive? Disruption is the mother's milk of isms, fascism, communism, consumerism, the ism replacing what has been lost in the disruption. Is it any wonder that so many today don't know their own mind, don't even know their own gender? The opposite of disruption is harmony: friendship, cooperation, understanding, consensus, unity, sympathy. Beware the purveyors of disruption.


A million ways to put it, and well done.

Is it an appropriate time to mention the possible upsides of creative desctruction? Perhaps only to the extent that it enables to say "not really".

Gentlemen, let us rise as one to endorse this platitude.

I will always favor victories over ties.

In Canada they say a tie -- when two sports teams cannot determine a winner -- is like kissing your own sister.

As Brazilian writer José de Alencar would have said, it is like mixing wine and water, spoiling two good beverages. As Brazilian writer Machado de Assis would have said, it is like bullfighting without killing the bull.

Come on, you need to improve your schtick. The Lusiphone world does drink water with its wine. Always has. And the defining difference between Portuguese and Spanish bull fighting is that the Portuguese bulls are not always killed. Because, as people from the other side the Strip often say, the Portuguese are too poor to be able to afford to kill a bull.

If you are going to troll by pretending to be Brazilian you should do more than just quickly read Wikipedia.

@TR who says: " it is like bullfighting without killing the bull" - bull! That's precisely Portuguese-style bullfighting! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portuguese-style_bullfighting

Exactly, as mistrearing animals go, it is pointless. Why to torture an animal if you will not kill it? By the way, Brazilian writer Verissimo pointed out, this explains why the Spanish-speaking countries love savage caudillos and wars while Brazilians like peace, do not fight wars and don't engage in terrorist acts or massive human rights violations: Portuguese-speaking peoples don't kill the bull, they favor compromisse, friendship and cooperation.

I will tell dead Brazilian writer José de Alencar, the most famous writer of his generation, that he knows nothing about the Portuguese-speaking world. Thankfully, Brazil is the country with the biggest Spiritist following.

About the bulls not being killed, this is exactly the point both Machado de Assis and Verissimo (both texts are famous enough in the Portuguese-speaking world to not have to be copied and pasted here) were making: Portuguese-style bullfighting (there is no such savage thing in Brazil, although there is some cerimonies like that in the North and the Northeast) is stupid. The whole reason to fight the bull is killing it.

>In Canada....

And yet they play ice hockey, a sport second only to Third World Kickball when it comes to ties.

It is called football because it is played with one's mighty foot.
"And yet they play ice hockey"
And they have 100 words for tie.
"The art of landscape-painting could never have been born in the Sahara." - Leon Trotsky, Ukrainian-born Russian agitator, politician, Bolshevik Leader and People's Commissar.

It's just not very practical in a league to have the game go on for several additional hours when you have to catch a flight in the morning and play another game tomorrow.

The practice is that if there is a tie, "sudden death" starts when things are ready to wrap up.

If there is a tie in Canada, it must be a foreign sport.

Until you drop.

"This is one of the better Italian novels of the last few decades". This is a strong sentence, I can not say I agree, despite having liked the book, but never mind this. Because I am Italian, I feel the need to ask, since I never noticed nothing mentioned before on your blog: do you speak and read Italian?

I think when Tyler wrote that it was "one of the better Italian novels of the last few decades", he merely meant that it was better than the other Italian novel he skimmed through 10 years ago.

If one doesn't speak the original language, how does one know if a translation is good or if it is something else?

I think it's pretty easy to judge a novel as "good" or "not very good" in translation - and then you trust the reviewers for how good the language of the translation is.

That is sort of my point/question - the English version may be a great work but how can you judge how well it captures what the author wrote in Italian if you don't read Italian? Maybe the translator is a better writer or a good editor and vastly improved the book. I guess you are saying "rely on the experts" to tell you if the translation is a new work or an accurate reflection in English of what the author wrote in Italian. Perhaps our host was just saying that, whatever the quality of the book in Italian is, the English adaptation was good (or perhaps he read both versions!). The funny thing is that you may think I have too much time on my hands this afternoon if I am arguing such a minor point but I actually do not.

You really need to put it through Google Translate to know how far the human translator was off in the translation.

Clearly, Jhumpa Lahir is self-recommending.

Not for nothin', Mr Dr Tyler Cowen, but "Jhumpa Lahiri" has got to be one of the most euphonious names in contemporary literature and I'm sure this is not unrelated to her runaway success

It's cool that Tyler doesn't need to work at his job anymore and can spend all his time doing cool shit.

I initially read the post title as "Tits."

Are they underrated or overrated?

I'm too complacent to care anymore.

It's a decent reading. The fact it is so highly recommended reinforces my conclusion that nothing beats a classic when choosing how to allocate scarce time resources

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