The Fireflies of Autumn by Moreno Giovannoni
In this debut work of fiction, Moreno Giovannoni brings together many tales from the small town of San Ginese in Tuscany, Italy. While the stories of The Fireflies of Autumn are fictional, San Ginese is a real village, and Giovannoni’s birthplace. This book has a wonderful fable-like quality, and features lovely descriptions of the Tuscan countryside, as well as the way of life of its inhabitants.
These intergenerational yarns all come together, forming a web that tells the story of San Ginese and its residents. In the process fact and fiction blend, and, like any great village tale passed down through the generations, it doesn’t really matter – the truth of the event is less important than the lesson it teaches. Each story has a timeless quality to it – most of these tales are from the twentieth century, but they are all given the mythic treatment one might expect from a story that is hundreds of years old. Together, all these interwoven stories give a sense of San Ginese’s collective identity: the things its people find important, the way they set themselves apart from outsiders, and even the history behind phrases used in their dialect. One major underpinning theme is that of migration – many of San Ginese’s inhabitants depart Italy for places like Australia, America and Canada to make their fortunes; some return with vast riches, some with empty pockets, and others do not return at all.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. Giovannoni encapsulates such a broad range of emotions in each tale – great joy and horrible tragedy often live right beside each other. The quaint drama of village life is very entertaining – the scope and intensity of decades-old grudges in particular had me giggling and gasping at the same time. This book is a must-read for any lover of folktales.