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.