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The New York Times: "Thanks to Stefano Benni and his translator, Antony Shugaar, we have a renewed appreciation of the imagination's ability to free us from our increasingly mundane surroundings."

Date: Feb 17 2007

The sickly 14-year-old heroine of this charming Italian novel prefers to “call things not only by the names that are found in the dictionary but also by names found only in the fictitonary, names that I make up and choose.”  This makes Margherita a bit of an unreliable narrator, but not in the ways you might think.  One day a monolithic mansion, “an immense black-glass Cube, without any visible doors or windows,” appears next to her family’s house on the “dusty and depressing outskirts” of an unnamed town.  The building is occupied by a family far more fashionable and wealthy than her own, and its members soon enlist her father in a mysterious business venture, which the ever-suspicious teenager sets out to expose.  Satirically portrayed by their daughter, Margherita’s parents are so wowed by their neighbors’ cosmopolitanism that they become blind to the ecological and psychic devastation of the suburban sprawl threatening their once-remote home and its surrounding meadows. Despite (or perhaps because of?) her eccentric musings, Margherita provides an opposing voice of reason. Thanks to Stefano Benni and his translator, Antony Shugaar, we have a renewed appreciation of the imagination’s ability to free us from our increasingly mundane surroundings.

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