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Old 03-05-2017   #1
R.P.Dwyer
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The Twenty Days of Turin

The Twenty Days of Turin by Giorgio De Maria
Translator's Introduction by Ramon Glazov

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Type of book: Cosmic horror novel; weird novel
Similiar writers: H.P. Lovecraft, Thomas Ligotti, T.E.D. Kline


_The Twenty Days of Turin_ was first published in Italy in 1977 and published in English in February 2017. This edition also contains a translator's introduction which is well worth reading too. After the novel are two unrelated short pieces: a short story about Lord Bryon which I found meh, and an essay on 1960s Italian pop music which I found mildly interesting.

The translator's introduction gives the background of the novelist and the times he lived in, and also about Turin. The introduction contributes to the dark atmosphere of the novel:

" IN A FAR-FLUNG CORNER of northwestern Italy, girdled by industrial haze, flanked by a crescent of jagged Alps, stands Turin, grandiose necropolis of a town. Baroque palaces, shaded neoclassical arcades, interwar military monuments and diverse hordes of bronze statues recall a history as the first capital of modern Italy and, in a fuzzier, earlier time, royal capital of the Kingdom of Savoy. It’s a museum city, famous for its eponymous Shroud, its Napoleonic trove of Egyptian tomb treasures, its streets where Nietzsche suffered his tragic mental collapse. At first glance, a quiet museum city— yet museums rarely come without an odor of death, or, in Turin’s case, a whiff of Armageddon. Nicknamed the “City of Black Magic” by its tolerant Italian neighbors, Turin has a long reputation for everything disquieting and spooky. Dozens of bookshops can still be found near its center selling witchcraft manuals, Satanism how-tos, UFO monthlies and the supposed confessions of ex-Illuminati. Walking along the River Po, you’ll see bridge after bridge daubed with bilingual End Times graffiti. (LORD JESUS IS COMING VERY SOON TO SAVE US WITH OUR FAMILIES, one reads, beside IL S. GESU STA ARRIVANDO.) By dread coincidence, Turin has also lent its Italian name to the Torino Scale, used by astronomers to grade the chances that a near-Earth object might “threaten the future of civilization as we know it.”

The narrator, who has a regular job, is doing research for a book on the paranormal events that happened years previously in a twenty day period in Turin. There was a collective psychosis. Individuals couldn't sleep and they went outside at night, where some of them were murdered. Also, a library was created where lonely citizens can read one another’s personal diaries and connect with like-minded souls in "dialogues across the ether."

Our narrator obtains disturbing information about that time. For example, he mets an enthusiast of Fortean phenomenon who made recordings of that time. From the recordings, it seems that something intruded on Turin:

"I pricked up my ears. Now and then, within that strained pageant of voices, I could detect a number of syllables that colluded to form words. And so I could piece together the word “TREE-TRUNK” and then the word “WA-ALL” . . . As I focused harder, I noticed that each noun was preempted by the phrase “I-SPY” . . . You’d hear things like “I-SPY-A-TREE-TRUNK,” or “I-SPY-A-WALL.” They were pure and simple observations, as if, at the pinnacle of their rock-tunneling, their fluid drainage, these entities had gotten to the surface only to find what was right in front of their eyes and describe it in brief jottings. Then one voice, more sullen than the others, completed the sentence, “I-SPY-A-PATH-BE-TWEEN-THE-HOU-SES.” And another voice, equally monotonous, answered, “I-SPY-A-WAY-THROUGH-THE-BUSH-ES.” Gradually, the exchanges of information became more flexible. The muck that was slurped up at every pause seemed to act as a lubricant. But the conversation was still short on adjectives. These were nothing more than rigid descriptions of anything that happened to fall in their field of view. "

Suspense in the story builds: the narrator is under threat. He is being followed. Someone, or something, slammed against the door of the room he was staying in. The narrator and a resident of Turin now think that whatever intruded on Turin years ago is coming back soon.

A good amount of the novel is written in dialogue, which contributes to its informal, highly readable writing style.

"Reality is often dangerous...And of course be prepared for a big change; something indescribable, unpredictable. " -- Robert Aickman
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Re: The Twenty Days of Turin

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Re: The Twenty Days of Turin

I recommend this book highly. It makes you want to read it again and its prescience is uncanny. The translation is fluid and excellent. A very creepy book that stays in your head like a virus. By the way, I'm back after 38 days without electricity, running water, and scant food other than fast food handouts by FEMA. Yes, I survived Hurricane Maria, which was like Blackwood's " The Willows" on steroids.
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Re: The Twenty Days of Turin

Quote Originally Posted by marioneta View Post
I recommend this book highly. It makes you want to read it again and its prescience is uncanny. The translation is fluid and excellent. A very creepy book that stays in your head like a virus. By the way, I'm back after 38 days without electricity, running water, and scant food other than fast food handouts by FEMA. Yes, I survived Hurricane Maria, which was like Blackwood's " The Willows" on steroids.
This book's been on the list for a while. I'll have to elevate its position.

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This is my life. This is my damnation. This is my only regret--that I ever was born.

-- Swans, "Beautiful Child"
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Re: The Twenty Days of Turin

I have to chime in. A truly original novel. Highly recommended.
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