by Antonio Pennacchi
Translated from the Italian by Judith Landry
Published by Dedalus Books
The Mussolini Canal is one of the great achievements of contemporary Italian fiction. It spans 100 years of Italian history as seen through the lives of a peasant family, the Peruzzi, from the Veneto, who are among the 30,000 peasants from Northern Italy sent down to farm the recently drained Pontine Marshes outside Rome in the 1930s. The book immediately brings to mind Verga’s I Malavoglia, one of the great landmarks of Italian literature, and what Verga achieves for the 19th-century Sicilian fishermen Pennacchi achieves for the 20th-century northern farm workers.
Mussolini and the fascists are liked, although the failings of fascism emerge loud and clear. Contemporary events flash through the book and the hardship and misery of earlier periods are also seen against the background of modern prosperity.
Judith Landry so brilliantly captures the narrator’s voice and the feel of Antonio Pennacchi’s novel that one can easily forget one is reading a translation and not the original.
Antonio Pennacchi still lives in Latina outside Rome, where he was born in 1950. For most of his life he worked on the nightshift of a local factory before his success as a writer allowed him to leave. His first novel Il Fasciocommunista (2003) won the Premio Napoli and was turned into a major feature film. His second novel The Mussolini Canal (2010) won The Strega Prize and has been one of the most successful literary novels published in Italy in recent years.
Judith Landry was educated at Somerville College, Oxford where she obtained a first class honours degree in French and Italian. She combines a career as a translator of works of fiction, art and architecture with part-time teaching.
Her translations for Dedalus are: The House by the Medlar Tree by Giovanni Verga, New Finnish Grammar and The Last of the Vostyachs by Diego Marani, The Mussolini Canal by Antonio Pennacchi, The Devil in Love by Jacques Cazotte, Prague Noir: The Weeping Woman on the Streets of Prague by Sylvie Germain and Smarra & Trilby by Charles Nodier. She is currently translating God’s Dog by Diego Marani for Dedalus.