You come across the shell of a ruined house. It could be anywhere in southern Europe where people once lived and then moved away because there was no work to hold them there. You might find things scattered in the empty rooms: a bread oven, a broken spade, earthenware jars that still hold the pungent scent of olive oil; even clothes left hanging in a cupboard, a silent clock on a shelf, a picture cut from a newspaper pinned on a wall.
The house is remote, but it is surrounded by a tracery of thin paths. One path goes steeply down to a village; others zigzag their way to scattered huts and stone shelters, to caves where you could hide in times of danger and to unexpected lookout points from where you could watch the approach of animals or human intruders.
Julia Blackburn and her husband moved to a little house in the mountains of northern Italy in 1999. She arrived as a stranger speaking no Italian, but a series of events brought her close to the old people of the village. They began to tell her stories that made the landscape come alive, repopulating it with their vivid memories. Until quite recently most of them had been mezzadri, half-people who were trapped in an archaic feudal system and owned by a local padrone who demanded his share of all they had - even a pretty wife or daughter. They were eager to talk about the old way of life and about how everything changed with the eruption of the Second World War. This village was at the heart of the conflict between the fascists and the partisans, so they learnt a lot about death and fear and hunger and how men and women could hide like foxes in the mountains. 'Write it down for us,' they said, 'because otherwise it will all be lost.'
Thin Paths is a celebration of the songlines of one place that could be many places; it is also a celebration of the humour and determination of the human spirit.
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"No Italian-themed book of this season conjures up a place so scrupulously. And none can match Blackburn's in its sympathy with every human traveller through the "vast landscape" of time. Blackburn brings her special gift for the art of place to this lyrical account of the Italian mountain village where she and her husband settled. Although she writes superbly about landscape and wildlife, it's her neighbours, and their haunting tales, who make the book sting." ( Independent)
"My book of the year. Beautiful, beguiling, memorable." ( Edmund de Waal)
"Impossible to forget...beautiful and deeply humane." ( Sunday Times)
"Reading Julia Blackburn's account of her life in a remote corner of the Ligurian mountains is like lifting a stone to find a strange, intricate, hidden world...prose that is ruthlessly unsentimental, but full of love." (Maggie Fergusson Intelligent Life)
"A beautiful and unusual exploration of a strange landscape and forgotten lives in a remote Italian region that captivated us all." (Sue Baker, Peter Donaldson and Flora Fraser Costa Book Awards 2011 judging panel)
An account of the history, landscape and people of a remote village high in the Ligurian mountains.
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Descrizione libro Condizione libro: New. H. Codice libro della libreria 75836
Descrizione libro Jonathan Cape, 2011. Hardcover. Condizione libro: New. book. Codice libro della libreria 0224090682
Descrizione libro Jonathan Cape, 2011. Hardcover. Condizione libro: New. Codice libro della libreria P110224090682