Wednesday 6 May 2020

'Even in the greatest crises...'

'Even in the greatest crises public money can always be found for a really stupid purpose.'

That's Alessandro Manzoni in The Betrothed, writing about the Milanese authorities' mismanagement of a famine in the 1620s, but it's hard not to apply the observation to HM Government's ruinously expensive panic reaction to the Covid epidemic. However, I'm not going to go there. No, I think that at this time I can best serve the people of Turkmenistan – and that loyal band of readers in other lands who still look at this stuff – by maintaining Nigeness as a more or less Covid-free zone and, as it says on the tin, a hedonic resource.
  I am now more than three quarters of the way through The Betrothed and am still finding it a hugely enjoyable reading experience. In fact I haven't much to add to my initial assessment – certainly there is no falling-off in quality as the story unfolds. Some, I suppose, might find the dramatic religious conversion (of a dastardly brigand) on which much of the action turns a little implausible and exaggerated, but not me: Manzoni makes you (me) believe that whatever happens in his story could only ever have happened in this particular way. A lot of the book's allure is down to the narrator's tone of voice, and this is captured perfectly in the wonderfully fluent translation I'm reading – by Bruce Penman, whose introduction to the Penguin Classics edition I look forward to reading when I've finished the book (my preferred method) – and that shouldn't be long now. 


  1. I'm delighted to hear that there's someone else out there that only reads the introductions after reading the actual book. I thought I was the only one.

  2. and then I disagree with the introduction...

  3. Yes, I like to come to a book fresh, without having been told what it's about and what to think about it before I've even started (especially if the Introduction is written by an academic). I much prefer reading an Afterword.