Follows the adolescent Arturo through his days on the isolated Neapolitan island of Procida, where―his mother long deceased, his father often absent, and a dog as his sole companion―he roams the countryside and the beaches or reads in his family’s lonely, dilapidated mansion. This quiet, meandering existence is upended when his father brings home a beautiful sixteen-year-old bride, Nunziatella.
Italian speakers have complained of the stilted way Morante’s prose comes out in English ... Ann Goldstein’s deft translation is an exception; it gives a clear sense of Morante’s love of the romantic, while preserving a lightness of tone that prevents the lyrical prose from calcifying.
Morante’s vision is so baroque, and her prose so operatic, that after reading her I needed some alone time, with cucumber slices over my eyelids ... Morante delivers epic emotions ... Morante’s themes are not subtle. Arturo’s Island, even in Goldstein’s adroit translation, is a sledgehammer performance. But her writing, once you acclimate to its gargoyle extravagance, has the power of malediction.
[Ann Goldstein's] new version of Arturo’s Island...is not always an improvement on [the 1959 version by Isabel] Quigly’s. It is literal—that is, word-for-word accurate—and keeps to the Italian sentence structure throughout, resulting in often stilted English ... Despite such objections, I am pleased that Arturo’s Island is having a second life, as, no doubt, the novel will garner its neglected author the new readers she deserves ... I must confess that I am no longer as enthralled as I once was. I am instead struck by its heavy-handed treatment of misogyny, homophobia and jealousy. In addition, and perhaps due in part to Ms. Goldstein’s overly literal translation, Morante’s writing seems often bombastic and repetitive. Yet there are marvelous exceptions[.]