Aldo Palazzeschi Ernest Jones - Essay

Ernest Jones

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[The Sisters Materassi] is leisurely in a pleasantly old-fashioned way…. It lingers throughout on the details of the dailiest kind of life and out of them creates an entire little world, all wonderfully alive, for Signor Palazzeschi knows exactly what he is about and is sure of his power. This long-drawn-out and unclimactic account of the fatuities of the Materassis, lingerie makers to wealthy Florentines, and of their selfish and selfless devotion to a worthless object, their beautiful, captivating, and amoral nephew, is reminiscent of the novels of Italo Svevo. But with a difference. The buffoonery of a Zeno, the folly of an Emilio Brentani destroy them spiritually. Signor Palazzeschi, though he never loses sight of the spiritual and moral idiocy which animates the self-sacrifice of his victims, sees their folly as conferring on them a perverse minor triumph. Their entirely material and curiously sexual passion for Remo reaps for them the spiritual benefit of being able to continue life on some level meaningful to them when money and the object of passion are gone. In this sense, and as a study of the material destruction of those ripe for destruction the novel is first-rate.

Technically it is remarkable for the way in which, on occasion, the careful realism is deliberately violated by the introduction of passages of grotesquerie which point up in comic horror the monstrousness of the victor and his victims. (pp. 712, 714)

The portrait of Remo, the temperate and calculating prodigal, is superb…. It is possible to construe him, given the date of The Sisters Materassi, as a sly parable on Fascist youth, though on its surface the novel is set in a political vacuum into which nothing penetrates but the immediate material concerns of the characters. His existence is all Kraft durch Freude, and although his important affiliations are with motorcars, in his radiant and meaningless beauty he reminds one of a figure on a party poster. (p. 714)

Ernest Jones, in Partisan Review (copyright © 1953 by Partisan Review, Inc.), November-December, 1953.