A Romance of Naples

August 9, 2010

“Falling Palace”

This is the first book I read by Dan Hofstadter and it was a real pleasure from the first till the last page. He wrote three previous books. His most recent, The Love Affair as a Work of Art, is a collection of essays on French writers. For several years D. Hofstadter was also a regular contributor to The New Yorker.

This fascinating book is about his years in Naples and about Benedetta, the passionate and mysterious  Neapolitan woman he met there. But not only. D. Hofstadter  shares with so much talent his knowledge and love of this unique city and  people. His words bring to life – and how brilliantly ! – some great Neapolitan characters whom he befriended during his stay.

D. Hofstadter makes me feel like going back to Naples and exploring some  streets and areas I was a bit unsure of visiting as a tourist. It is not easy to describe Naples´atmosphere beside its hustle and bustle. There is so much more that remains unseen to a visitor on vacation. If Naples is a future destination for you, then read D. Hofstadter´s book about it. He has seen this city with his heart. Is there a better way to visit and feel a new place ?

“Falling Asleep in the City”, a few words of the Prologue that made me love D. Hofstadter´s book about Naples immediately :

“Whenever, after a long absence, I return to Naples, that beautiful and wounded city, I find myself looking forward to bedtime, to the first few moments of falling asleep. I always stay in  one of the more populous quarters, in a room overlooking a steep, narrow street, and as I throw open my window a vast wave of sound floods over me. Settled in bed, I´m disconcerted at first by the sheer volume, by my feeling of floating helplessly in a tide of half-drowned voices, people calling or quarreling, snatches of jokes, television commercials, soccer games, ghosts of song twisted by the wind; footfalls mingle with rasping sc0oters, a baby´s crying with the honking of horns. Yet soon the noises soothe me, and suspended between wakefulness and sleep I enjoy a sensation of homecoming, of rejoining a crowd of kindred spirits,  faces I have always known.

4 Responses to “A Romance of Naples”

  1. Gerry said

    I was surprised by the intensity of the negative response I felt to the excerpt–I generally admire the books you write about. But I am really, truly, averse to that kind of noise level.

    I was in Madrid very briefly, and had a fine visit. I learned a lot, and all of it was worth learning. However, the impression that stands out is of how noisy it was, even in the wee hours of the morning. It was vibrant, exciting, sophisticated . . . and ultimately intolerable to my northwoods self.

    My friend Chikako, who grew up on a foggy Japanese seacoast, loved to visit me when she lived in the US, and extended an open invitation to visit her when they moved to Tokyo . . . but she told me she thought I would not like to be there very long. “Noisy.”

    Humans are adaptable, and I suppose I could learn to love a noisy place, but my heart longs for deep quiet. (“Well, then,” I can hear my friend Carol, who is a no-nonsense sort of person, “you must be looking forward to the peace of the grave very much!”)

    Um, no.

    • Hi Gerry ! I can totally understand that you were not exactly attracted by the excerpt I shared of “Falling Palace”.You see, D. Hofstadter´s words brought me back to the many holidays I spent with my family near Venice years ago. It reminded me of the very lively mood and sounds as we walked through the streets in the evening. I also like the quiet village I am living in at the moment,mind you. When I go back to Italy though, I like to take the pulse of the city I am in and enjoy the differences with my own place here.

  2. I think the prologue is beautiful. I love his word choice and the way that they glide together to form not only an image but a feeling. I know that feeling and unlike Gerry, I like those sounds.

    • Hello Tammy ! Yes indeed the prologue is beautiful, this is only a small part I quoted. The whole book is written with such talent and great knowledge that you feel you walk around Naples too.I will definitely read more of D. Hotstadter´s writings.

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