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The Italianness of it all

Tessa Hadley: Iris Origo, 24 May 2018

Images and Shadows: Part of a Life 
by Iris Origo.
Pushkin, 384 pp., £12.99, February 2017, 978 1 78227 266 3
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War in Val d’Orcia 
by Iris Origo.
Pushkin, 320 pp., £9.99, February 2017, 978 1 78227 265 6
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A Chill in the Air: An Italian War Diary 1939-40 
by Iris Origo.
Pushkin, 200 pp., £14.99, October 2017, 978 1 78227 355 4
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A Study in Solitude: The Life of Leopardi 
by Iris Origo.
Pushkin, 416 pp., £12.99, June 2017, 978 1 78227 268 7
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The Last Attachment 
by Iris Origo.
Pushkin, 576 pp., £12.99, June 2017, 978 1 78227 267 0
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... Iris Origo​ wrote biographies of an Italian poet, an Italian saint, a merchant from Prato, and Byron’s Italian mistress; her bestselling book was the diary she kept of her experiences on her estate in the Val d’Orcia in Tuscany during the Second World War. Everything in her life and writing was inflected by her relationship with the idea of Italy and its past (of course it was not always one ‘Italy’), as well as with the actual 20th-century country where she mostly lived ...

A Little ‘Foreign’

P.N. Furbank: Iris Origo, 27 June 2002

Iris OrigoMarchesa of Val d’Orcia 
by Caroline Moorehead.
Murray, 351 pp., £22, October 2000, 0 7195 5672 4
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... Iris Origo, who died in 1988 at the age of 86, was a highly esteemed biographer and autobiographer, author of The Last Attachment (1949), about Byron and Teresa Guiccioli, his last mistress; The Merchant of Prato (1957), about a 14th-century Tuscan merchant and banker, and other Italy-oriented works. Her father, Bayard Cutting, came from an exceedingly rich New England family, with a fortune derived from the railroads and land development; her mother, Sybil, was daughter of Lord Desart, an Irish peer ...

Unliterary, Unpolished, Unromantic

Charles Nicholl: ‘The Merchant of Prato’, 8 February 2018

The Merchant of Prato: Daily Life in a Medieval Italian City 
by Iris Origo.
Penguin, 400 pp., £10.99, May 2017, 978 0 241 29392 8
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... This latest reprint​ of Iris Origo’s The Merchant of Prato celebrates it as a ‘modern classic’, though it can’t have seemed very modern when it first appeared in 1957. Various books published that year had some kind of finger on the pulse – On the Road, Room at the Top, The Uses of Literacy – but a biography of a medieval Italian businessman written by a scholarly aristocrat living in Tuscany doesn’t sound like one of them ...

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