The Fireflies of Autumn (Black Inc 2018) is a novel that is a compendium of stories by Moreno Giovannoni, all set in the area of San Ginese in Italy. The epithet reads: Migrants never arrive at their destination, and the stories revolve around generations of families from this small community, and the journeys they make to other countries and back again.
This could be a book of fables, or fairytales; it is a book filled with magic realism and auspicious events and sinister portents and wondrous events. San Ginese is a God-fearing village filled with a community of interconnected characters. There is a map at the beginning of the book that shows places in relation to other places, and an index at the back that explains people’s relations or connections to others. Many of the characters dream of escaping, to Australia or America or Argentina. Some do, but regret their decision. Some never leave but also never relinquish their yearning for somewhere different. Some leave and then come back, and wonder why they ever left in the first place. In the piazzas of this village, and amongst the olive groves and the farms and the orchards, we meet an extraordinary cast of eccentric and memorable characters. The chapter headings give you an idea of the whimsical nature of the stories within: Tista and the Mute; Tommaso the Killer; The Imbeciles and the Fig Tree; The Flour-Eater and the Girl Without a Reflection; the Angel of Sadness; the Enchanted Glade and the Babbling Brook; The Adulteress; The Dead Boy. Over the course of a hundred years or more, through wars and peacetime, feasts and famine, fortunes made and lost, migrations, lovers and sinners and poverty and abundance and myths and legends and superstitions and the daily drudgery of everyday life, these wonderful characters come alive in a heady mix of language, mysticism, adventures and dreams, told in a beautifully evocative tale of place, permanence, history, risk-taking, family and community.