By Viola Di Grado
Translated from the Italian by Antony Shugaar
In a literary panorama dominated by realism, young author Viola di Grado stands out as a unique voice in contemporary Italian writing. Hollow Heart is a novel of the afterlife that blurs the boundary between life and death, challenging social taboos surrounding difficult and rare subjects from the psychology of suicide to bodily decay. Weird and goth, it traces a line back to 19th-century Italian fantastic literature that is too little known in English. Translator Antony Shugaar renders her prose, which has been praised for its expressivity in Italian, as lyrical yet punchy—pitch-perfect for a young, sarcastic suicide. Yet this is also in keeping with Shugaar’s translatorial style, which, here as in the rest of his numerous translations of Italian fiction, dexterously uses all the resources of English to bring out the most colloquial and resonant version of the idiom. This literary ease, combined with Shugaar’s bold departures (two words: “grim mojito” is an inspired rendering considering the contents of the Italian “triste mojito” are “mint bubble bath and blood”), give brisk new life to the visceral pleasures and meandering meditations of Hollow Heart.