...an enticing collection of forty tales ... Readers are offered a kaleidoscopic view of different female identities and male perceptions of them—some objectionable, others deeply touching ... A few stories focus on childhood, with captivating effect ... Each story is preceded by a short introduction by Lahiri ... Informative and peppered with anecdotes, the sketches outline the authors’ lives, education, travels, name changes and career paths, offering a concise introduction to the themes and style of their work, and the story at hand ... These are excellent renderings ... The Penguin Book of Italian Short Stories, which has also been published in Italian, successfully offers a 'portrait of Italy that reflects its reality,' and that reality is multi- faceted. The tales are by turns startling, moving, intriguing and provocative; they bring melancholy, humor and a dose of the uncanny.
Jhumpa Lahiiri deserves a medal for her services to Italian literature ... What criteria guided the selection? Lahiri explains that she chose her favourite stories and those recommended by Italian friends, which resulted in a 'portrait of Italy.' It does, but a lot is left out ... But there is a rich menu ... The translations seem to catch nuances but, to my mind, there are a few glitches ... Such discords are rare as are the editing errors in what is an excellent anthology.
...[a] lavish, and immensely capacious, volume ... overall it’s a collection full of prompts to discover more writing by the listed authors. Yet, Lahiri does something more than simply present her list. She conditions the reader to see the group of writers as a collective, with all sorts of hybridity defining their profiles as writers as well as their texts.
The Penguin Book of Short Stories can be judged by its cover ... [the] spare, unsettling composition fits the print its dust jacket guards. It warns that this is no panorama of sun-dappled Tuscany, no Capri blue postcard, no Florentine tower, no Venetian gondola, no Roman dome. ...[Lahiri] compiles what she can from the texts she loves. She features women, authors less-known or neglected, and those 'who practiced the short form with particular vehemence and virtuosity' ... Forty stories fill nearly 600 pages. Sixteen appear in English for the first time. Another nine merited fresh translations for this volume. Lahiri says she cut the total numer of stories down from 50, but never satisfactorily explains why, conspiring in this creative refusal to be pinned down ... these texts revel in their autonomy, emerging from the less rigid culture where Italy's editors, novelists, journalists, and professors exchange roles ... The ornamented, arabesque, and mandarin fussiness of certain of Lahiri's preferences may express the editorial perspective and the professorial parameters of a smitten admirer who wants her predecessors to step out of obscurity. Her criterion: no living authors make the cut .... Not all of Lahiri's Top 40 may stay long on a reader's hit parade. However, as with any exposure to new sounds, the experience incorporated as The Penguin Book of Short Stories may reward the patient listener to the voices of these tellers.
Taken one by one, each story in this volume is a jewel. Taken all together, the book is a remarkable introduction to Italian literature and a great gift to the English-speaking reader. Remarkable stories from a wide range of writers describe the mundane and the fantastic, the everyday and the sublime.