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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

     

The Twenty Days of Turin

by
Giorgio De Maria


general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase The Twenty Days of Turin



Title: The Twenty Days of Turin
Author: Giorgio De Maria
Genre: Novel
Written: 1977 (Eng. 2017)
Length: 204 pages
Original in: Italian
Availability: The Twenty Days of Turin - US
The Twenty Days of Turin - UK
The Twenty Days of Turin - Canada
The Twenty Days of Turin - India
Le venti giornate di Torino - Italia
  • Italian title: Le venti giornate di Torino
  • Translated and with an Introduction by Ramon Glazov
  • Includes two earlier pieces by De Maria, 'The Death at Missolonghi' (1963) and 'Phenomenology of the Screamer' (1971)

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Our Assessment:

B : nicely done; unsettling

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Publishers Weekly . 24/4/2017 .
La Stampa . 25/1/2017 Vittorio Sabadin


  From the Reviews:
  • "De Maria excels at creating a growing sense of cosmic menace in this mesmerizing work of literate horror." - Publishers Weekly

  • "Degno del miglior Edgar Allan Poe e scritto mirabilmente, con reminiscenze di Calvino e Saramago mescolate al gusto per l’horror e il macabro di Lovecraft" - Vittorio Sabadin, La Stampa

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Twenty Days of Turin is narrated by an unnamed protagonist a decade after the twenty days of the title from a terrible Turin July happened. The narrator is looking into the events, planning on writing a book about them, and tries to collect information about what really happened.
       The exact nature of events remains a bit vague. It's introduced as:

neither a war nor a revolution, but, as it's claimed, "a phenomenon of collective psychosis" -- with much of that definition implying an epidemic
       There were victims, killed -- and in first describing one of these the narrator doesn't ascribe the murder to a specific person, but rather speaks of how: "the horrible thing arrived which slaughtered him". From the beginning, the sense is of something other -- with something beyond human involved here. The behavior of those under the spell of whatever happened -- transformed into what seems like an almost zombie-like state -- reïnforces the idea -- as do the sounds that presaged and accompanied what happened, where typically:
I had no words to describe the kind of scream I heard ... Bestial ? Inhuman ? Yes, if anything, but that's still being rather nonspecific.
       De Maria of course trades in full horror-mode -- suggestive but ... nonspecific. The reader is meant to imagine the horror that the people faced .....
       A clever idea introduced by De Maria is the existence of an institution called 'the Library' back in those times -- and: "There's nobody anxious to remember the Library, except perhaps its creators". It grew quickly in popularity -- and then, ten years ago, a few months after the 'twenty days' it was apparently dismantled. People contributed diaries -- personal confessions and revelations -- to the Library; the volumes only had a reference number, but patrons could purchase the name and address of the authors. The idea for the Library was originally pitched as a way of facilitating communication, in an age where people found it hard to connect: people could write about their problems, and others would take an interest in them: "We'll make sure to put them in touch with you and you'll become friends; you'll both feel liberated". (It is this premise that has led to The Twenty Days of Turin being promoted as having predicted (aspects of) the internet and, specifically, contemporary social media.)
       As someone sums up to the narrator, the Library's shared holdings:
helped to furnish the illusion of a relationship with the outside world: a dismal cop-out nourished and centralized by a scornful power bent only on keeping people in their state of continuous isolation. The inventors of the Library knew their trade well !
       The effects were pernicious -- and, as the narrator continues looking into those times he finds also that maybe the Library lingers on, "in new shapes and guises", a once-again subtly present danger ..... And odd sounds, past and present, resound, too, and he finds he is being followed and "under scrutiny" ..... Clearly, there are still forces out there, concerned about what may be uncovered as they seek to reassert themselves.
       De Maria ratchets up the sense of menace as the story advances, with descriptions of progressively more disturbing things from both present and past. Unsigned letters seeking to engage the narrator arrive, and the mysterious forces that affected so many a decade earlier seem to be back in play. And eventually he's had enough, abandoning his project, and even ready to abandon the city. But by then the range of of the powers that be already extend very far .....
       It's a solid, haunting horror tale, nicely presented and quite effective.

       Two short pieces are, rather distractingly, appended to the novel in the English translation -- to pad the volume ? 'The Death at Missolonghi' is presented as an 1879 account written by and for Church authorities 'concerning an alleged episode in the life of Lord Byron', while 'Phenomenology of the Screamer' is an essay on a contemporary Italian music fad. They're of some interest, but their inclusion here seems somewhat pointless -- and, even with some tenuous connections to the novel proper, anti-climactic.

- M.A.Orthofer, 22 January 2018

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Links:

The Twenty Days of Turin: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Italian author Giorgio De Maria lived 1924 to 2009.

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© 2018 the complete review

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