Much about Nel momento feels very American, at least as America is represented in movies and books today. The principal character, Luca, owns an ecologically correct riding stable in the country north of Rome. There is a scene at a private indoor swimming pool inside the city and a lot of driving around in what seem to be SUVs. More to the point, there is a kind of rootlessness about the characters who appear in Andrea De Carlo's novel that, rightly or wrongly, we tend to associate more with America than with Italy. These are people who, while they may have children (as Luca does) and a spouse or partner somewhere in the background, seem largely disconnected from family or a place of origin. All of them tend to move through life aimlessly and in response to whatever is happening "at the moment" (which is how the book's title might be translated).
For example, after living for four years with Anna, once Luca's riding student and now his partner at the stable and in life, Luca is unhappy for reasons that he cannot quite articulate, even to himself. After a nearly fatal fall from one of his horses, he is driven to the hospital by his neighbor Alberta, but only after she, in turn, has a noisy and violent breakup with her own partner. Luca, for reasons that are not entirely clear, promptly falls in love with the stormy Alberta. But when Alberta attempts suicide and Luca meets her sister, Maria Chiara, the moment seems right to fall in love with her instead. In the end, and after a torrid love scene that the reader has been expecting for nearly two hundred pages of narrative given over mostly to Luca's thoughts on his own angst, Luca leaves Anna not for Alberta but for her sister. "And I thought," he reflects toward the end of the novel, "that maybe the reasons for my unhappiness were inside me instead of outside; that I had continued to fall out of love with every woman and job and relationship as soon as it had begun to lose its initial magic only because I was unable to take on adult responsibilities or interpret the evolved behaviors of our species in a positive manner. I thought that maybe what I called staying loose was a kind of egotistical superficiality that caused me to run away from rather than accept life's challenges and what I called heaviness was the true consistency of things."
If Luca's statement does not seem like a very interesting conclusion to this tenth novel by a writer who at the beginning of his career was deemed an author of great promise, that is because it isn't. While Nel momento is of a certain sociological interest for its suggestions of how Americanized Italy has become not only in terms of social practices but also in terms of emotional life, the banality of its conclusion and Luca's own superficiality make it an ultimately disappointing read.
Charles Klopp Ohio State University