“Readers of books are ever more false” is the title of one of four novellas by the Italian writer Gianni Celati, translated by Stuart Hood and collected in Appearances (Serpent’s Tail), a slim volume that disappeared from my desk the day I brought it home from the library. I waited for it to reappear until the renewal periods had run out and then went back to the library and confessed that I had lost it. The librarian granted a waiting period of another couple of months in case the book should reappear, which it failed to do; eventually the cost of a replacement copy appeared on my account, and I paid the bill. A few days later Appearances reappeared on the shelf above my desk, where it must have been all those months.
To claim ownership of this “orphaned” copy, which still bears the imprint of the public library, seems an impropriety at the least; but to return it will only cause the over-extended library system more shelving and acquisition headaches. So I have resolved to do nothing until I have read all four novellas, later in the summer, outdoors in the shade.
The first story opens with these words: “I shall tell the story of how Baretto, coming home one evening, was bereft of thoughts, and of the consequences of his living as a mute for a long time.” The second story is about a landscape painter who, in the words of the second sentence, “knew very well how the light falls from the sky, how it touches and envelops things.” The last story, “The Disappearance of a Praiseworthy Man,” I intend to read in direct sunlight, well out of the shade.