Thus Spake Bellavista

The richly developed characters in this funny collection of conversations and experiences all reside in Naples; the narrator and chief speakers have more than a little partisan feeling for the city. The narrator is the author in thinly veiled disguise, but the chief speaker is Professor Bellavista, a proponent of the Epicurean way, which he regularly shares with his friends along with his wine.

A typical anecdote from the narrator tells of the enterprising young runner who cons a tip out of the narrator by persuading him that the former had earned it by not stealing from the latter. Most often, though, the Professor presents his analysis of humanity, especially as it manifests itself in the sociopolitical arena. Salvatore and Saverio, the two lower class parties to these conversations, keep the Professor from soaring beyond their comprehension, and Dottore Palluotto keeps him from ignoring realities.

Every so often, Luigino, the poet of this group, contributes his own vision at the conclusion of a story. The wistfulness of his images fits well with the soft, wry humor expressed by this group of hardened cases. Saverio, for example, proposes a pragmatic approach to solving the Middle East conflict: “Organize a soccer tournament for teams from different religions.” Salvatore suggests publicity posters reading “One Communion in Jerusalem Is Worth Two Anywhere Else” and “Get Your Circumcision Now During the Holiday Sale.” The Dottore and the Professor, meanwhile, argue over the value of Communism as it might be practiced in Italy.

For fans of MY DINNER WITH ANDRE, THUS SPAKE BELLAVISTA should provide good after dinner company.