December 8, 2023 | Rome, Italy

Forbidden Notebook

By |2023-06-18T02:12:58+02:00May 13th, 2023|Book Reviews|

s Mother’s Day approaches, we may expect the usual demand for flowers, candy, and treacly greeting cards.

While these gifts may be welcomed or expected, sons and daughters who wish to bestow a more meaningful present might consider a literary masterpiece of self-discovery.

Originally conceived as a serial novel, “Forbidden Notebook”by Alba de Céspedes became a fictionalized diary published in the magazine “La Settimana Incom Illustrata,” between December 1950 and June 1951. These were bleak times for Italians, coping with post-WW II rationing and scarcity. Many mothers were mourning the children they lost to the either to the war or to mass migration.

As my esteemed colleague Aldo Magagnino noted in his January post, reading works in translation has a special appeal. This new English language translation is by Ann Goldstein, best known for translating Elena Ferrante’s novels. Indeed it was Ferrante who introduced her to the best-selling author who now credits her as “an inspiration.”

Ann Goldstein has also translated “The Written World and the Unwritten World” by Italian writer Italo Calvino, who, coincidentally, was also born in Cuba to Italian parents. Like the musings of Calvino, her prose burns with intensity.

With the very first line, “I was wrong to buy this notebook, very wrong,” we are instantly taken into Céspedes’s confidence, while embarking on an enchanting personal, yet unsentimental, journey.

About the Author:

Patrick Burnson worked for The Rome Daily American and the International Herald Tribune early in his career. Using the pen name of Paul Duclos, he is the author of the novel “Flags of Convenience.”