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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


I hadn't understood

Diego De Silva

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To purchase I hadn't understood

Title: I hadn't understood
Author: Diego De Silva
Genre: Novel
Written: 2007 (Eng. 2012)
Length: 357 pages
Original in: Italian
Availability: I hadn't understood - US
I hadn't understood - UK
I hadn't understood - Canada
I hadn't understood - India
Ich habe nichts verstanden - Deutschland
Non avevo capito niente - Italia
No me entere de nada - España
  • Italian title: Non avevo capito niente
  • Translated by Antony Shugaar

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Our Assessment:

B : amusing ramblings and (mis)adventures of a somewhat hapless narrator

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
World Lit. Today . 7-8/2013 Kerri Shadid

  From the Reviews:
  • "While the plot of the novel -- a series of quotidian and not -- so-quotidian events—moves along nicely, the real pleasure is being immersed in Malinconico’s thoughts, which receive an artistic treatment from De Silva’s creative and funny turns of phrase. The book rings true, for Malinconico’s rambling inner dialogue bears a remarkable similarity to our own thoughts, processing along without end." - Kerri Shadid, World Literature Today

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:

       Vincenzo Malinconico is a forty-two year-old Neapolitan lawyer, and he admits from near the start

     The fact is that I'm an inconsistent narrator. I'm not a narrator you can rely on. I'm too interested in incidental considerations that can take you off track. When I tell a story, it's like watching someone rummage through the drawer where they keep their receipts and records.
       The technique works in this case because Vincenzo isn't so much unreliable as he is often clueless; he really has little choice but to ramble about, not getting at the gist of things because they escape him, the world a more complex place than he's equipped (or willing) to handle.
       His much more successful wife, a psychologist, has left him (but still strays back on occasion), and he's still close to his stepdaughter, Alagia, whom he secretly meets to indulge in conversation and fast food with at the airport (the only place in town that has a Burger King). Teen son Alfredo appears to be in the middle of the sort of predictable teen-crisis that Vincenzo isn't entirely capable of confronting head-on (with, among other things, Alfredo getting himself beaten up rather often -- and perhaps enjoying that more than he reasonably should). And in the course of events Vincenzo finds himself getting closer to the stunning Alessandra Persiano, a woman who would seem to be way out of his league ("The whole courthouse pants and drools when she walks by").
       Vincenzo's career hasn't amounted to much, either, and he shares an office with an assortment of other similarly marginal professionals (and a little dog). He did, however, put his name on the public defenders' registry -- and to his amazement, gets the call to handle a case. He's no one's first choice, stumbling into this case, where a low-level Mafioso has been arrested because of a hand buried in his backyard, but he seems to do okay handling the initial steps and motions required of him -- surprising himself as much as anyone.
       Vincenzo has his doubts about working for the Mafia, but they're insistent that he continue handling the case, flattering his ego and reminding him that: "We've always been professionals with our lawyers, just ask around". Vincenzo can't help but feel he's missing something -- or several things -- and that the bigger picture is eluding him -- and, of course, he's right. He hadn't understood, not a thing, pretty much, and he's pretty much just a pawn in the proceedings, played by both the Mafia and the authorities. (The Italian legal system moves in mysterious procedural ways, but the steps are spelled out reasonably well enough here and as long as readers understand that things are done differently than they would be in the US or UK this doesn't really pose much of a problem in understanding what is going on.)
       Besides acknowledging that he is an 'inconsistent narrator', Vincenzo also admits that he is:
A true master of the improvisational jazz of complications. Give me a situation that's already compromised and watch me launch into my virtuoso solo. The funny thing is that I work hard at complicating my life, in an almost invariably unsuccessful attempt to simplify it.
       He has a lot of help here, of course, from the efficient Mafia-minder sent to watch over and handle him to the lovely Alessandra Persiano, seeking his attentions, and all the the usual (and some more unusual) family issues. It all makes for an entertaining mess of complications, with some amusing encounters and confrontations, easily dosed through the story.
       Philosophically Vincenzo meanders and squirms along, somehow muddling through -- all amiably recounted in enjoyable style by a man who realizes that it's tough to really get a grip on how the world around him works and doesn't let himself get too obsessed with figuring it all out. Prone to conversations with himself, he's easily distracted and has a hard time with priorities; it makes for a quite entertaining read, much less a legal thriller or mystery than an amusing fellow's rambling but fairly inconsequential tale -- and thus entirely more true to life.
       An enjoyable lazy read, I hadn't understood makes for good company

- M.A.Orthofer, 25 November 2014

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I hadn't understood: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Italian author Diego De Silva was born in 1964.

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© 2014 the complete review

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