While many scholars of world literature view national literary traditions as resolved and stable, Kafka’s Italian Progeny takes the fluid identity of the modern Italian tradition as an opportunity to reconsider its dimensions and influencers. Exploring a distinct but unexamined Kafkan tradition in modern Italian literature, it brings Italian literary works into larger debates and reorients the critical view of the Italian literary landscape. The book calls attention to the way Kafkan themes, narrative strategies, and formal experimentation appear in a range of Italian authors. Offering new perspectives on familiar figures, such as Italo Calvino, Italo Svevo, and Elena Ferrante, it also sheds light on some lesser-known authors, including Tommaso Landolfi, Paola Capriolo, and Lalla Romano.
Using diverse approaches to explore thematic, generic, historical, and cultural connections between Kafka’s works and those of Italian authors, the author argues for a new view of Italian literature that includes talking animals, parental bonds, modernist realism, literary detective novels, and lyrical microfiction. Whereas Kafka has been mobilized in discourses on minor and world literature, Kafka’s Italian Progeny investigates the particular nature of the Italian reception of Kafka to reveal the richness and variety of modern Italian literature.
Saskia Elizabeth Ziolkowski is an assistant professor of Italian in Romance Studies at Duke University.
Kafka, World Literature, and the Italian Literary Landscape
The Place of Italian Literature in World Literature Debates Kafka’s Italian Reception: An Overview Morante and Buzzati: Two Cases of Kafka Reception Kafka’s Italian Progeny: An Overview
1. Amerika in Italy: Kafka’s Realism, Pavese, and Calvino
Kafka’s Amerika in Italy The Italian View of Kafka’s Realism Calvino’s Realist Kafka Amerika and The Path to the Spiders’ Nests: Finding and Losing the Way, All Over Again The Americas of Kafka and Pavese
2. Dreams of Short Fiction after Kafka: Lalla Romano, Giorgio Manganelli, and Antonio Tabucchi
Lyrical, Short Kafka Experimenting with Short, Short Works after Kafka The Transformations of Romano, Manganelli, and Tabucchi
3. Processi without End: The Mysteries of Dino Buzzati and Paola Capriolo
Kafka, Detective Fiction, and Italy The Structures of Suspense: Questions, Identity, and Home Prisons of Analysis and the Pull of Imagination
4. Kafka’s Parental Bonds: The Family as Institution in Italian Literature
The Familial Institution in Kafka and Modern Italian Literature Svevo’s A Life and Ferrante’s Troubling Love: Societal Stress and the Bonds of Family Leaving Parental Bonds in Bontempelli’s The Son of Two Mothers and Morante’s Arturo’s Island
5. The Human-Animal Boundary, Italian Style: Kafka’s Red Peter in Conversation with Svevo’s Argo, Morante’s Bella, and Landolfi’s Tombo
Italian Literature, Kafka, and Animal Studies Communication across Species: The Monologues of Kafka’s Red Peter and Svevo’s Argo Interspecial Communication: Landolfi’s Châli and Tombo, Morante’s Belli and Immacolatella The Language of Animals and Dialects Animal Bodies and Christian Spirit in Morante, Landolfi, and Buzzati
Epilogue Calvino’s Kafka and Kafka’s Italy
"Ziolkowski’s innovative research fills a gap in Italian comparative literature and explores the Kafkian tradition in Italy, one that has not been examined up until today."
Andrea Sartori, Annali d’italianistica
"The prismatic effect of viewing modern Italian literature through Kafka in multiple senses – thematic, formal, and as an historical force drawing together dispersed writers – captures a complex literary scene that defies the easy labels of movements and periods. Intervening into an impressive range of critical debates, this book will interest scholars working on contemporary topics including the changing representation of motherhood, animal fiction, detective novels, and the contours of realism and modernism."
Michael Subialka, Department of French and Italian, University of California, Davis
"With an impressive command of scholarship in both German and Italian, Saskia Elizabeth Ziolkowski engages with a range of debates, from questions of canonization in world literature to genre theory pertaining to detective fiction, realism, and animal studies."
Salvatore Pappalardo, Department of English, Towson University
Winner - 2020 AAIS Book Prize in the category of Literary Studies American Association of Italian Studies