Troppo umana speranza is an astonishingly assured debut by a novelist to watch.
Set during the Italian Risorgimento, it tells four intertwined stories of longing and ambition. The first is that of Colombino, the fifteen-year-old ‘village idiot’ of Sacconago, a town located high in the moors of northern Lombardy. Following the sudden death of Don Sante, his fatherly guardian, Colombino is left alone in his pursuit of the beautiful Vittorina, whose family has no intention of allowing him her hand in marriage. For help, Colombino decides to go to Rome and appeal to none other than the Pope. Thus begins a picaresque journey down the Italian peninsula, with Colombino accompanied by his donkey, Astolfo. Making the same journey in the opposite direction is the nineteen-year-old Leda, who had escaped imprisonment in a nunnery in Rome only to learn that her lover had been executed. Having been trained as spy, she is aiming to reach the Italian community exiled with in London with Giuseppe Mazzini. Meanwhile, in Milan, a high society portraitist and ladies man named Lisander Pestagalli finds himself intrigued by the potential of early photographic techniques, including the peddling of smutty pictures. Intertwined with the stories of Colombino, Leda and Lisander is that of national hero José Garibaldi, seen largely through the eyes of his young lover Aninha; in 1848, with his motley crew of revolutionaries and his three-legged dog Guerrillo, Dom José returns to Italy to fight. And hope, all too human a hope, echoes everywhere.
A beautifully written and epic narrative, Troppo umana speranza is a powerful of the making of Italy.
“Alessandro Mari’s debut novel is a jubilantly poetic work, marked by a vitality and generosity of spirit” Gad Lerner, Vanity Fair
“A truly great novel” La Stampa
“An astonishing novel… for the richness of invention, for the artistry with which plotlines are interwoven, and for the beauty and power of the writing” Il Cittadino