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Trick is a novella about unease and relationships of resentful dependency, set in a tiny apartment within tempestuous Naples. An aging artist, Daniele, is illustrating a Henry James story about ghostly alter-egos when his daughter Betta calls. To try to make up for his failings as a father, he reluctantly promises to leave Milan to watch his grandson Mario for a few days. The apartment he grew up in, reconfigured by Betta and gleaming with innate danger, terrifies him: the gas that leaks, the glass that breaks. He sees ghosts within its halls—teenagers that wield a knife instead of a brush. Mario is energetic and playful, but Daniele fears that the same violence he fled as a youth is blossoming in his grandson. Each finds the other’s habits mysterious and unappealing, and since they are at each other’s mercy, their relationship swings from affectionate to malicious and back.

The dour voice of Daniele is the winning element of Trick, played to excellent effect as, in his ruminations, he loses track of time, his work, his own grandson. His overly serious outlook lends an ironic air that contrasts with Trick’s dark overtones. Similarly, the hand-wringing uncertainty of the narration is balanced by the precocious confidence of Mario. In fact, Daniele’s jealousy of a toddler successfully comes off as both profound and pathetic; watching someone wrestle with self-pity has never been more enjoyable. I didn’t feel that the Henry James short story, however, brought much more than a reflection for the novel to mirror. The book’s appendix, a diary, also adds little, but its final, eerie illustrations are a welcome invitation to reconsider Daniele’s words.

Reviewed By:

Author Domenico Starnone • Jhumpa Lahiri, Translator
Star Count /5
Format Trade
Page Count 176 pages
Publisher Europa Editions
Publish Date 2018-Mar-06
ISBN 9781609454449 Buy this Book
Issue September 2018
Category Modern Literature


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