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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction



Centuria

by
Giorgio Manganelli


general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Centuria



Title: Centuria
Author: Giorgio Manganelli
Genre: Stories
Written: 1979 (Eng. 2005)
Length: 210 pages
Original in: Italian
Availability: Centuria - US
Irrläufe - Deutschland
  • One Hundred Ouroboric Novels
  • Italian title: Centuria
  • Translated and with a Preface by Henry Martin
  • With an Author's Preface

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Our Assessment:

A : delightful, impressive

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Bookforum . Summer/2005 Harvey Pekar
Rev. of Contemp. Fiction . Winter/2005 Tim Feeney
TLS . 11/11/2005 Florian Mussgnug
The Village Voice . 21/6/2005 Angela Starita


  From the Reviews:
  • "Despite the short length of his "novels," Manganelli not only provides a great range of genres -- ghost stories, love stories, tall tales, and so on -- but also manages to end each story satisfyingly. His economic and essential use of language cuts to the heart of the matter, and, combined with his clever sense of humor, this makes Centuria an elegant and evocative book." - Harvey Pekar, Bookforum

  • "(A)s fire is cleansing, Centuria is metadestructive, immolating itself (and, by extension, its traditions), but leaving in its place something new and pure and often spellbinding." - Tim Feeney, Review of Contemporary Fiction

  • "Henry Martin (...) is an astute and imaginative translator, whose elegant and confident style gives us more than a flavour of the cersatility and complexity of Manganelli's prose. (...) The mix may not appeal to those in search of easy reading, but Centuria earns its place among postmodern classics " - Florian Mussgnug, Times Literary Supplement

  • "Manganelli, who died in 1990, distills popular literary clichés as if he's just set the timer on a bomb meant to end the whole sorry business of novels. (...) Centuria is a wonderful read for its endlessly inventive send-ups of narrative conventions." - Angela Starita, The Village Voice

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Giorgio Manganelli describes the contents of Centuria as "one hundred romans fleuves". They are a hundred stories, of roughly equal, one-page length, and while they can't offer the expansive detail and turning plots of real novels, Manganelli does compress a great deal into most of them.
       Manganelli writes with great precision, and these stories are crafted like those by Borges or Monterroso, the wild imaginings contrasting with the exacting style. The stories are incredibly varied -- indeed, far from growing stale or repetitious, the collection gains energy in its variations and echoes.
       There are ghost-stories and there is the surreal (a woman gives birth to a twenty-centimetre sphere). There is the grand -- stories describing the day before the Creation of the World, or, in one of the true stand-outs, the demise of the dinosaurs -- and the mundane. Characters meet themselves or are condemned to non-existence. Temporal confusion is often an issue -- so for the pensive and dispirited man faced with the conundrum of loving three women, two who lived long before he was born, another who won't be born for another two centuries. The possibility of death, of killing or being killed, are often at issue too.
       The stories often touch upon the metaphysical, but always playfully. Some are very simple: the man who loves waiting and "detests the punctuality of others" (i.e. those who don't make -- or rather: allow -- him to wait), for whom: "Waiting becomes adventurous, restless, infantile." Or: an architect certain of the non-existence of God gets commissioned to build a church.
       Other situations have more obvious profound implications:

     Exiting a shop into which he had entered to purchase some aftershave lotion, a middle-aged gentleman, well-mannered and serious, saw that they had robbed him of the Universe. In place of the Universe, there was only a grayish dust, the city had disappeared, the sun was gone, no sound came out of that dust, which apparently was entirely accustomed to its métier as dust. Of calm disposition, the gentleman found no cause to make a scene; a theft had taken place, a larger than ordinary theft, but a theft nonetheless.
       Another story posits a different world:
     This is not a properly human place, in the sense that its inhabitants are not human beings, and that their notions concerning humans are vague, transmitted by ancient story-tellers, or invented by merchants, geographers, falsifiers of photographs. Many who possess a relatively higher level of culture do not believe in the existence of human beings. They say it is a question of an old and fairly silly superstition, and in truth the conviction that human beings exist is mainly current among the lower classes.
       In the small space he allots himself for each piece, Manganelli nevertheless manages to offer a story that is complete and whole. Some cover years -- large chunks of history or a person's lifetime -- while others describe only a scene or few moments. Amazingly, there's practically no let-down across the hundred tales: Manganelli keeps coming up with the goods -- and very, very good some of them are.
       An incredibly rich collection, with some brilliant ideas, Centuria is both entertaining and thought-provoking. Thoughtful, elegant, and often very amusing, this collection is highly recommended.

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Links:

Centuria: Reviews: Other books by Giorgio Manganelli under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Italian author Giorgio Manganelli lived 1922 to 1990.

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© 2005-2008 the complete review

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