A large part of the value of fiction translated from other languages into English is that it codifies foreign zeitgeists for the cultural record in a way that nonfiction or secondhand observation by Americans never could. In Alfa Romeo 1300 and Other Miracles, a debut comedic novel from Italian Fabio Bartolomei, it turns out that what plagues the soul of the modern Italian mired in a recession is quite similar to what plagues the soul of his American cousin, namely desire for money and respect and disillusionment with the society that has been left for them mixed in with a healthy dash of urban malaise. In the book, three shiftless and unhappy men become unlikely business partners in an attempt to flee their old lives by purchasing a rundown house in the countryside and converting it into an “agritourism” bed-and-breakfast. When the mafia tries to get in on the action, the men quickly realize that they’re in over their heads. The translation is generally adept at preserving the manic energy required to fuel a farce like this, and the end result is a product conspicuously absent from modern American publishing: a story that takes itself unseriously enough to be funny, while simultaneously addressing a topical issue worth discussing seriously.