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Ninna nanna del lupo.

The intense baroque language and imagery of Ninna nanna del lupo do not clash with the novel's paradoxical and disturbing naturalistic content, merging as they do, with centripetal force, right at the heart of the matter. Tall, garret, ninety-year-old Mosca Centonze, ex-peasant, ex-emigrant, ex-Mafia moll, is dying, but she is dying with the secret contract she made with herself as a young girl in a foreign country intact: no emotions, no confidences, no human bonds. This cruel code of survival had seen her through a bout of tuberculosis in an American hospital, a loveless relationship with a minor mobster, the Fascist regime, and old age, which, since the sixties, she has chosen to spend in seclusion in her Sicilian villa outside her native town of Bisacquino.

Alone and aloof even from her faithful servant Clementina, who has shared half her life and who continues, in her daily ministrations, to take care of her, Mosca, sitting in her faded bergere, gripping its arms with her arthritic hands, seems to be carved in stone. Her memory, however, remains as sharp as her fevered high cheekbones. While inspecting with a clinical eye the quality of her sputum, and while submitting with disdain to such ablutions as massaging her tortured hands with pomades and powders, Mosca weaves back and forth in time between the American hospital where the only human being she had ever loved, the cultured Armenian woman Rascia, a lute player and a maker of ivory miniatures who had taught Mosca English and style, had succumbed to the illness, and Bisacquino, where the impotent Fascist podesta, who loved to castrate cats and kill old women, had perished at Mosca's own hands, via a pair of valuable scissors "Made in the USA."

Relentless as ever, even to the point of cruelty, Silvana Grasso has created, through the avenging angel Mosca Centonze, an immediacy of character and place the attraction/repulsion power of which remains long after the book is put down.

Rosetta Di Pace-Jordan University of Oklahoma
COPYRIGHT 1996 University of Oklahoma
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Pace-Jordan, Rosetta Di
Publication:World Literature Today
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 22, 1996
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