Zeno's Conscience

Zeno's Conscience

A Novel

Book - 2003
Average Rating:
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Long hailed as a seminal work of modernism in the tradition of Joyce and Kafka, and now available in a supple new English translation, Italo Svevo's charming and splendidly idiosyncratic novel conducts readers deep into one hilariously hyperactive and endlessly self-deluding mind. The mind in question belongs to Zeno Cosini, a neurotic Italian businessman who is writing his confessions at the behest of his psychiatrist. Here are Zeno's interminable attempts to quit smoking, his courtship of the beautiful yet unresponsive Ada, his unexpected-and unexpectedly happy-marriage to Ada's homely sister Augusta, and his affair with a shrill-voiced aspiring singer. Relating these misadventures with wry wit and a perspicacity at once unblinking and compassionate, Zeno's Conscience is a miracle of psychological realism.
Publisher: New York : Vintage Books, 2003
Edition: 1st Vintage International ed
ISBN: 9780375727764
0375727760
Branch Call Number: FICTION SVEVO 2003
Characteristics: xxv, 437 p. : maps ; 21 cm
Additional Contributors: Weaver, William 1923-

Opinion

From Library Staff

Not your typical linear narrative, but hilarious and frenetic, Svevo's character of Zeno has been described as the Woody Allen of Italian fiction. Stay with it and you will smile. A great balance with the majority of more serious selections on this list.


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DWIGHT A GREEN
Mar 11, 2016

The fictional autobiography and journal of Zeno Cosini proves to be full of comic contradictions, highlighting his own unreliability. Yet Zeno can be observant and perceptive, although not always at the same time. As he says at one point about his abilities, “For all my efforts I achieved the result of that marksman who hit the bullseye, but of the target next to his.” What gives Zeno’s ‘writings’ additional meaning centers on why he’s keeping these journals: he is following the orders of his analyst, supposedly helping cure himself through this exercise. Except…Zeno thinks psychoanalysis is a fraud and makes him sicker. He resists any help from his analyst while laughing at the diseases ascribed to him. In addition, Zeno believes "A confession in writing is always a lie.” So what are we to make of his book-length confession, the ramblings of his conscience?

In the end Svevo has his character turn on much of what he wrote earlier, all but declaring psychoanalysis a false religion. Fortunately Zeno can declare (and believe in) his innocence and ultimately his health, eventually exercising the freedom he incorrectly believed he had to this point. Even at the end of the book Zeno invests himself in his ultimate passion—confession.

I highly recommend this deceptively simple appearing celebration of an ordinary and convoluted life. There are slow spots, but even they add dimensions to the conclusion.

l
lukasevansherman
Apr 28, 2015

"Present-day life is polluted at the roots. Man has put himself in the place of trees and animals and has polluted the air, has blocked free space."
Sometimes translated as "Confessions of Zeno," this is a classic, if obscure, modern novel by Italo Svevo (real name: Aron Ettore Schmitz), an Italian who was friends with Joyce and died in a car crash in 1928. Is the name Zeno a reference to the famous paradox? We don't find out. Will appeal to readers of Stefan Zweig, Kafka, Joyce (duh), and Nabokov. Translated by William Weaver and introduced by Elizabeth Hardwick and Weaver. Set in Trieste, the city where Joyce spent time and met Svevo.

Ian1 Apr 26, 2015

Deep, complex, and a great storyline to bend the ear of the psychonalyst or define the unease of an analysand. No wonder Joyce and Freud loved it.

keknight Mar 03, 2014

The library's copy is covered in underlining and notes from some tacky patron. Perhaps considering replacing this copy?

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