I’ve just finished reading 100 books. Well, sort of. Giorgio Manganelli’s Centuria contains 100 short-short stories, each taking up only about 1 1/2 pages. What I thought would be 100 short scenes making for somewhat light reading turned out to me much more substantial and intense. Manganelli (1922 – 1990) had a mastery of language that allowed him to condense his intentions into compact storytelling, somewhat like a poet who can take a few well-chosen words to create a complete scene. The Centuria experiment proves it page after page.

Each of the 100 stories, originally published in Italian, shows the trials a character’s life is under, his interactions with others, his moral struggles or his deep dark sin, all within this micro-tale. Because each one is so full of detail, it’s not a book one would want to sit down and slam through in the course of an evening, but rather digest over time. I’d recommend reading one when you have a few moments’ spare “brain absorption” time, to turn them over in your mind. Rushing through them would be a disservice.

Giorgio Manganelli was born and died in Italy and was considered a leader of the Italian Avant-garde movement during the 1960′s. Centuria was first published in 1979 and was winner of the Viareggio Prize in Literature that same year.

If you are a writer, whether aspiring or established, reading Centuria might be just the boost you need to get out a notebook and start your own short-short story collection. Or a collection of 1 1/2 page dialogues or character sketches. It would make a fantastic writer’s exercise – just don’t measure your progress to that of Manganelli. You’ll find his fine Italian shoes hard to fill.

3 Comments

  1. This sounds fabulous.

  2. I understand well about the need for some “brain absorption” time. Years ago while in college, I was so interested in a particular subject I read 186 pages in one evening. Needless to say, I had to set that book aside for weeks, as I had to comtemplate what I’d read. This was not something I’ve repeated since. The love of books, especially on certain topics of interest can be hazardous to ones mental health if you overdo on the reading too much at one time… if you let it! (smiles)

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