16 November 2004

Book Review: The Dark Heart of Italy, by Tobias Jones. *


In 1999 Tobias Jones travelled to Italy, expecting to discover the pastoral bliss described by centuries of foreign visitors and famous writers. Instead, he discovered a very different country, besieged by unfathomable terrorism and deep-seated paranoia, where crime is scarcely ever met with punishment. Now, in this travelogue, Jones explores not just Italy's familiar delights (art, climate, cuisine), but the livelier and stranger sides of the bel paese: language, football, Catholicism, cinema, television and terrorism. Why, he wonders, do bombs still explode every time politics start getting serious? Why does everyone urge him to go home as soon as possible, saying that Italy is a 'brothel'?


This must be the worst book on Italy I have ever read. Uninformed, superficial, exuding prejudice and smugness, politically biased. The author displays phenomenal ignorance and his judgement is superficial almost to the point of being funny! Were it not for some specific anecdotes he tells rather amusingly, I would have wondered whether he ever set foot in the country at all. He is obsessed with Berlusconi, he just hates the guts of the man. Well that's fine, many Italians do too, but it does not make for informative reading. His writing style is full of smugness, he says he loves the country but he is very condescending toward Italians and does not display the least interest in truly integrating in Italian society. Inaccuracies are too many to list here. A book that is better avoided by those who want to understand contemporary Italy.


  1. Well, I guess the author focuses so much on Mr. Berlusconi because he pretty much sums up the faults of Italian people. And the fact that - despite all of the sexual and tax evading scandals of the past years - Mr. B. still gets 10 million votes, says a lot about Italians.

    Unfortunately, I think Mr. B. says a lot more about Italy thank you would like to think. I read this book a long time ago and I remember the author's views were not too far from what Italy is for real. It would be interesting to read an update, dealing with the economic crisis, the cultural, demographic and social decline.

    1. An update on this book would tell you as much about Italy as an update on Monica Lewinski's biography about the US.


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