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Memory Of The Abyss

An extremely thoughtful review of Marcello Fois’ Memory of the Abyss by Thomas Jones in Sunday’s Observer prompts this roundup of sparkling notices. Jones, who read the Italian edition in parallel writes:

Fois combines a remarkable number of different ways of seeing the world, different forms of storytelling, different kinds of language and different narrative voices in this short novel: Memory of the Abyss is by turns epic, fable, love story and thriller; the point of view moves between an omniscient narrator, free indirect style, village gossip, official dispatches and first-person stream of consciousness.


The blood-letting is convincingly Homeric (or at least, reads like many English translations of Homer), and the jokes are funny in the best tradition of blackly comic war novels.

In June, the reviewer for The National, a paper based in the United Arab Emirates, concluded:

As far as legends go, the tale of Samuele Stocchino is one that is likely to make the blood run cold. Hailed as a military hero at the tender age of 16, the shepherd’s son goes on to become one of Sardinia’s most feared bandits.


Bold and deft, it is quite clear that the awards lavished on Fois’ work are well-deserved. Memory of the Abyss will ensure Stocchino’s legacy will survive for some time to come.

In May, Mark Staniforth reviewed in on his (unpronounceable!) ELEUTHEROPHOBIA blog:

Such is Stocchino’s legendary status that a bare factual biography would probably be as impossible as it would be inappropriate. While remaining loosely loyal to Stocchino’s real-life story, Fois makes no apologies for diverting into fiction: ’What you have read’, he admits candidly in his afterword, ’is not the truth’.


It’s a fascinating novel, all the better for deeply embedding intself in the unique culture and history of its region, and it really comes into its own in the final third, when Stocchino lives a bloodthirsty fugitive existence, and for all his slaughtering ways, you still find yourself secretly cheering him on from the sidelines.

And Victorian supermodel Lizzy Siddall wasn’t entirely convinced by the novel’s ending, but at least she loved the cover:

Not only is the cover beautiful but the impressionistic tree with its Pan-like figure at the base is an perfect fit to the tone of this fable-like history of Samuele Stocchino.

Memory of the Abyss is available in Hardback

May I Interest You In?

This month there are no fewer than three new books from the MacLehose stable, two fiction and one non-fiction, a Goncourt winner, an Italian novel about the Sardinian Robin Hood and travelogue about a country that no longer exists . . .

Marie NDiaye must be (or perhaps have been?) the most precocious author on the MacLehose list. Her first novel was published when she was just seventeen: the story goes that legendary French publisher Jerome Lindon waited at the gates of her lycee to sign her up when the school bell rang. Since then she has become the only author to have won the Prix Medici and the Prix Goncourt, and the first black woman to win the latter (for Three Strong Women). Three Strong Women, also the winner of the Berlin International Literary Prize, is a blisteringly powerful novel about three women who almost have it all, who come so close, but end up having to fight and scrap for their very survival.

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One for the ultra-boutique MacLehose non-fiction list this. Jean-Paul Kauffmann is probably best know over here for a book about St Helena called The Dark Room at Longwood. He has a knack for writing about the worlds most obscure and esoteric reaches. A Journey to Nowhere is about a journey Kauffmann made through Courland, a once-independent kingdom that is now a part of Latvia — except that many Latvians you meet will probably scratch their heads if you mention it. Kauffmann has always been irresistibly drawn to this buffer between the Germanic and Slav worlds — not least because a former love hailed from there.



Marcello Fois is a Sardinian author and a member of a groups of Italian writers and crime writers known as “Gruppo 13″, who are particularly interested in exploring the cultural roots of their respective regions. Memory of the Abyss follows the life of the historical and legendary figure of Samuele Stochino, a Sardinian bandit and outlaw who can be thought of almost as the Sardinian Robin Hood — with Mussolini as his Sheriff of Nottingham. Fois’ Stocchino is given two “s”s, and his story — which sees him go from colonial soldier in North Africa to fighting in the First World War, to falling foul of the richest clan in his village — is to some extent . . . embellished. Stirring stuff.