'The Scortas' Sun' - Laurent Gaudé

(Originally published in French as Le Soleil des Scorta, published in the US and Canada as The House of Scorta.)
Translated from the French by Andrew Brown

WINNER of the Prix Goncourt, 2004
Boasting a notorious brigand as an ancestor, the Scorta family is born into extreme poverty in the small Italian village of Montepuccio. Each successive generation must confront their heritage and attempt to wrest a living out of the sun-scorched fields of Apulia, while passing on their pride, their cherished memories, and their passionate appetite for life. Spanning five generations of Scortas, the family’s deepest secrets and fiercest passions are at last revealed by Carmela as she makes her final confession to the village priest.
A profoundly human work set in the glorious landscape of southern Italy, Laurent Gaudé’s sweeping, cinematic tale of family life won the Prix Goncourt in 2004.
I really felt I was armchair travelling while reading this book, as it transported me to the hot, sun-scorched landscape of the Apulia region of southern Italy. The story covers several generations of the Scorta family from a rather illustrious beginning. Sometimes the author gives detailed descriptions that really bring the people and events to life, other times the story skips ahead several years down the road. In this way it was like snapshots of their lives laid out to tell their story. Despite the secrets, passions, and regrets of each successive generation, what comes through is their strong attachment to the land and the importance of family. Like the previous book I read, it was the vividly portrayed setting that really made this an enjoyable read. (4/5)
Olives are eternal. A single olive doesn’t last. It grows ripe and rots. But olives succeed one another, in an infinite, repetitive way. They’re all different, but the long chain of them is endless. They have the same shape, the same colour, they have been ripened by the same sun and have the same taste. So yes, olives are eternal. Like men. The same infinite succession of life and death.
Cross-posted on my blog.


    On July 1, 2008 at 5:15 AM Anonymous said...

    Nice review: I could certainly do with being transported off to Italy!

    And thanks for reminding me that I have a copy of this hidden somewhere -- must seek it out. You can always rely on Hesperus Press to knock out good books ...