Riccardo Bacchelli Robert Knittel - Essay

Robert Knittel

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

In "The Mill on the Po" Bacchelli's chief interest lies with the little people, those who somehow manage to survive, generation after generation, and who, in the author's words, "with tenacious humility, have kept faith in themselves and refused to be crushed by the almost overwhelming burden of their history." There are two distinct story elements in "The Mill on the Po," yet the author has blended them into one artistic whole, creating an epic novel on the largest and most satisfying scale, crowded with dramatic incident and superb character-portrayal, which holds the reader in its grip from beginning to end.

On the one hand, there is the story of these little people, symbolized in the Scacerni family and a wide variety of other profoundly human characters, and on the other, there is the genesis of modern Italy, as a unified and independent country….

No one who reads "The Mill on the Po" as fiction will be disappointed. And all who care to give it some further thought will find that in many ways much of its contents transcends the story of Italy, for it leaves one with the feeling that no one in this world is so small or unimportant that he does not in some manner or other, by his actions, contribute to or influence the destiny of others.

Robert Xnittel, "An Epic Novel of Little People," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1950 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), September 17, 1950, p. 5.