She’s not scared
- Anna by Niccolò Ammaniti, translated by Jonathan Hunt
Canongate, 261 pp, £12.99, August 2017, ISBN 978 1 78211 834 3
The novel that made Niccolò Ammaniti internationally famous, his fourth, Io non ho paura (2001, translated into English by Jonathan Hunt as I’m Not Scared), is set in the long hot summer of 1978, in an isolated hamlet surrounded by cornfields in an unspecified part of southern Italy. The narrator, nine-year-old Michele Amitrano, is quick-witted, observant, brave and good – everything the child hero of a storybook ought to be – but he doesn’t think of himself as any of those things, so is able to describe the monstrous events of his childhood in an unassuming sort of way. Michele is remembering what happened as an adult, twenty years on, but this level of ironic distancing makes less difference to the overall effect of the novel than the disconnect between the simple story that Michele thinks he’s telling and the more intricate one we can’t help reading through it. The nine-year-old’s voice is captured in part by Ammaniti’s use of tenses: Io non ho paura is narrated in the perfect (passato prossimo) and imperfect tenses, rather than the preterite (passato remoto) of conventional fiction.
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