The Independent Foreign Fiction Award: The echo of an echo

FOR WHAT was the road I sought if not a repeat of my father's, but dug out of the depths of another otherness, the upperworld (or hell) of humanity, what were my eyes seeking in the dimly lit porches of the night (sometimes the shadow of a woman would disappear inside) if not the half-open door, the cinema screen to pass through, the page to turn that leads into a world where all words and shapes become real, present, my own experience, no longer the echo of an echo of an echo.

Talking to each other was difficult. Both verbose by nature, possessed of an ocean of words, in each other's presence we became mute, would walk in silence side by side along the road to San Giovanni. To my father's mind, words must serve as confirmations of things, and as signs of possession; to mine they were foretastes of things barely glimpsed, not possessed, presumed. My father's vocabulary welled outward into the interminable catalogue of the genuses, species and varieties of the vegetable world - every name was a distinction plucked from the dense compactness of the forest in the belief that one had thus enlarged man's dominion - and into technical terminology, where the exactness of the word goes hand in hand with the studied exactness of the operation, the gesture. And this whole Babel-like nomenclature was mashed up in an equally Babel-like idiomatic base, where various languages vied with each other, combining together as need or memory dictated (dialect for anything local and blunt - he had an unusually rich dialect vocabulary, full of words no one used anymore - Spanish for things general and decorous - Mexico had been the backdrop to his most successful years - Italian for rhetoric - he was, in everything, a nineteenth-century man - English - he had been to Texas - for the practical side, French for jokes), the result being a conversational style all woven together with stock refrains promptly trotted out in response to familiar situations, exorcizing the movements of the mind and forming once again a catalogue, parallel to that of his farming vocabulary - and to yet another catalogue of his made up not of words this time but of whistles, twitters, trills, tu-whits and tu-whoos, this arising from his great ability to mimic birdcalls, whether simply by pursing his lips or cupping his hands round his mouth in some particular way, or by using little whistles or gadgets that you blew into or that went off with a spring, a considerable assortment of which he would carry around with him in his hunting jacket.

I could recognize not a single plant or bird. The world of things was mute for me. The words that flowed and flowed inside my head weren't anchored to objects, but to emotions fantasies, forebodings. And all it took was for a scrap of trampled newspaper to find its way beneath my feet and I would be engrossed in soaking up the writing on it . . .

The winner of the Independent Foreign Fiction Award for October/November is The Road to San Giovanni by Italo Calvino (Jonathan Cape, pounds 12.99), translated from the Italian by Tim Parks. It joins The Infinite Plan by Isabel Allende, translated by Margaret Sayers Peden

(HarperCollins) and Fima by Amos Oz, translated by Nicholas de Lange (Chatto) on the shortlist for the pounds 10,000 annual award, which will be announced in May 1994. The judges this month were Beverley Anderson, Anthony Lane and Natasha Walter.

The Road to San Giovanni is a posthumously published collection of five pieces, ranging from a lyrical, elegaic portrait of the author's relationship with his father to a perceptive essay on his obsession with the cinema.

The winner of the Independent Foreign Fiction Award for October/November is The Road to San Giovanni by Italo Calvino (Jonathan Cape, pounds 12.99), translated from the Italian by Tim Parks. It joins The Infinite Plan by Isabel Allende, translated by Margaret Sayers Peden (HarperCollins) and Fima by Amos Oz, translated by Nicholas de Lange (Chatto) on the shortlist for the pounds 10,000 annual award, which will be announced in May 1994. The judges this month were Beverley Anderson, Anthony Lane and Natasha Walter.

The Road to San Giovanni is a posthumously published collection of five essays ranging from a lyrical portrait of the author's relationship with his father to a perceptive essay on his own youthful obsession with the cinema. Many of the author's celebrated preoccupations - with space, with time, with gentle human frailties - are everywhere in evidence.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch will voice Shere Khan in Andy Serkis' movie take on The Jungle Book

film
Arts and Entertainment
DJ Calvin Harris performs at the iHeartRadio Music Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush

music
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Mark Crown, DJ Locksmith and Amir Amor of Rudimental performing on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park, Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison star in political comedy The Thick of IT

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judy Murray said she

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
Gary Lineker at the UK Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Bale as Batman in a scene from
film
Arts and Entertainment
Johhny Cash in 1969
musicDyess Colony, where singer grew up in Depression-era Arkansas, opens to the public
Arts and Entertainment
Army dreamers: Randy Couture, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren and Jason Statham
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off 2014 contestants
tvReview: It's not going to set the comedy world alight but it's a gentle evening watch
Arts and Entertainment
Umar Ahmed and Kiran Sonia Sawar in ‘My Name Is...’
Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
This year's Big Brother champion Helen Wood
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Full company in Ustinov's Studio's Bad Jews
Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Harari Guido photographed Kate Bush over the course of 11 years
Music
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
    eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

    eBay's enduring appeal

    The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

    'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
    Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

    Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

    Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
    Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

    Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

    After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
    Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

    Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

    After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
    Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

    Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

    Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
    7 best quadcopters and drones

    Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

    From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home