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New Finnish Grammar, By Diego Marani (trs Judith Landry)

The gloom of an unknown soldier

The Italian author Diego Marani's first novel (there are five more) is the story of a mute, wounded amnesiac who fetches up in Trieste in 1940.

The Finnish doctor who treats him – thinking him Finnish on the strength of the name sewn in his jacket – has him sent to Finland. The man keeps a journal recording his attempts to learn the language and establish an identity, during the Soviet invasion of the country; the journal is intercut with commentary from the doctor, who attempted to trace him after the war.

One somehow knows that this couldn't have been written by an English writer. It has a thoroughly European sensibility: intellectual, melancholy, mysterious, imbued with a sense of tragedy and history.