Around Three O’Clock
Translated by Wendell Ricketts
[Longo’s characters] are immigrants, mafia killers, prostitutes, everyday people…. Each one of them was doing something that day at around three o’clock. Just like all the rest of us. (Dario Olivero, La Repubblica)
At just before nine in the morning in New York City on September 11, 2001, the time in Naples, Italy was around three o’clock. The destruction, death, and terror that followed the kamikaze attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington overwhelmed the world with a sense of impending danger. Italians, of course, learned of the attacks just as many in the U.S. did—from obsessive, incredulous television coverage and in frantic phone calls from friends and loved ones. “What happened in America” became a mysterious signal, a watershed moment between “life before” and “life after.”
Andrej Longo’s Più o meno alle tre (Meridiano Zero, 2002) was the first Italian novel to use the 9/11 attacks as the subject matter for literature, and it remains one of the few works of fiction in any language to explore the immediate impact of September 11th on average people—on working-class men and women caught, as they attended to personal dramas and everyday routines, by an event whose nearly ungraspable magnitude reproportioned their experiences.
Naples, Italy, lies along virtually the same line of latitude as New York City, and it is in Naples that Longo sets his nineteen interwoven tales.
The continuous contrast between the American metropolis and an eccentric Naples, between the spectacular drama of a media event and the loneliness in which we consume our daily ration of personal pain, renders the light note of tragedy all that much dryer and more pungent. (Marco Belpoliti, L’Espresso)
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