Magazine article World Literature Today

When the Night

Magazine article World Literature Today

When the Night

Article excerpt

Cristina Comencini. When the Night. Marina Harss, tr. New York. Other Press. 2012. isbn 9781590515112

Writer and filmmaker Cristina Comencini's 2009 novel Quando la notte was a hit in Italy, as was her film based on the book, released two years later. Now, Marina Harss's English translation of the popular work is available under the title When the Night. Set in northern Italy's Dolomite Mountains, it tells the story of Marina, on vacation with her young son, and Manfred, the mountain guide who rents them an apartment. The novel is consumed by the growing tension between Marina and Manfred, while their individual characters are gently rounded out page by page through memories of adolescence, family life, and past loves. The majority of the work spans a few short weeks, enough time for the equally troubled Marina and Manfred to piece together clear impressions of one another, and for what starts as anger and suspicion to find its way to love. Abandoned by his own mother as a young child, Manfred doubts Marina's maternal capabilities, especially after a curious accident with her son one night. She, in turn, reads his brusque ways as the outward manifestation of a deeply wounded child, denied the sort of tenderness she at times struggles to provide to her son. Contemplating Manfred's childhood from the mountain lodge in which he was raised, now run by his brother's family, Marina concludes: "If he had been my child, I wouldn't have lefthim. …

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