Alba de Céspedes
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“I need it, I absolutely need it,” Valeria says of the notebook in the opening, formative and fatal scene of this novel-as-diary. The first clausal expression of her need stopped my breath, and the repetition of this need, amplified with an adverb—“absolutely,” in Ann Goldstein’s impeccably pitched translation—re-started it. The entries in Forbidden Notebook—written in stolen, haunted pockets of time—unfurl hurriedly, desperately, revealing a very simple, very vital act: a woman, thinking. We, the forbidden readers, are privy to a woman changing (or creating) her mind, carving out new corners of an ultimately dangerous interiority. This is a writing that burns.
In this modern translation by acclaimed Elena Ferrante translator Ann Goldstein, Forbidden Notebook centers the inner life of a dissatisfied housewife living in postwar Rome.
Valeria Cossati never suspected how unhappy she had become with the shabby gentility of her bourgeois life—until she begins to jot down her thoughts and feelings in a little black book she keeps hidden in a closet. This new secret activity leads her to scrutinize herself and her life more closely, and she soon realizes that her individuality is being stifled by her devotion and sense of duty toward her husband, daughter, and son. As the conflicts between parents and children, husband and wife, and friends and lovers intensify, what goes on behind the Cossatis’ facade of middle-class respectability gradually comes to light, tearing the family’s fragile fabric apart.
An exquisitely crafted portrayal of domestic life, Forbidden Notebook recognizes the universality of human aspirations.
Hardcover | 288 pages | 6.31" x 9.31"