Zeno’s Conscience


By Italo Svevo

I decided to re-read this book because I am going to Trieste shortly, which is where Svevo lived most of his life. I couldn’t remember much about the story possibly because there are not many major plot movements to stick in the memory. Events happen to Zeno and the other characters but there is much navel gazing along the way coutesy of Zeno. It took me a while to work out that the irritation I felt with the novel was completely by design. Near the end you suddenly understand. I’m not going to spoil it but I will link to this Wikipedia article about Zeno’s namesake. Svevo is a masterful ironist and by the novels end all the irritation has dissipated. The control and design with which he wrote the novel must have been the culmination of a lifetime of thought (this was his last major work of three with the other two written twenty years earlier). Someone once told me that Svevo is a man’s writer in the same way that de Beauvoir is a woman’s. I’m not sure I agree but I can see their point – both are concerned with their male and female view of the world. Zeno’s Conscience is not for everyone but it is an important book and both interesting and entertaining.

Soundtrack: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – The Mercy Seat.

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