Critical Context

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Last Updated on May 10, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 194

Acquainted with Grief received the Fomentor International Literary Prize and is considered by many to be Gadda’s masterpiece. As a portrait of suffering, it is a more human book than That Awful Mess on Via Merulana, and in it, Gadda takes even greater pleasure in linguistic gyrations. The novel has been called a major work of modernism, earning comparisons with the fiction of Henry James, Marcel Proust, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, and William Faulkner, especially the latter’s The Sound and the Fury (1929). Burdened with maintaining a myth of family respectability, Gonzalo resembles Faulkner’s Jason Compson.

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Acquainted with Grief encompasses two centuries of Italian literary traditions. Gadda’s Maradagal recalls not only his own Brianza but also that region as it is depicted in Alessandro Manzoni’s I promessi sposi (1840-1842; The Betrothed, 1951). Acquainted with Grief was embraced by the Italian avant-garde writers of the 1960’s as indicative of what they were attempting to achieve in their fiction, influencing the works of Nanni Balestrini, Angelo Guglielmi, Giorgio Manganelli, and Edoardo Sanguinetti. It inspired them through its use of language, its psychological insights, its fragmentation of reality, and its hostility toward contemporary society.

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