When you merge philosophy with music, you come up with the novel like The Young Bride (La Sposa giovane). Alessandro Baricco apparently uses his degrees in philosophy and piano to master his story-telling skills, as his newest book released last year elegantly flows in the rhythm of Italian barcarole simultaneously contemplating on the theme of personal salvation.
Perhaps this sense of a fluctuating melody is possible thanks to the original Italian language. And this is not the sole peculiarity. Language structure and semantics play a key role in building the atmosphere and eerie characters of the novel. No names are given, except one. There are only The Father, The Mother, The Son, The Daughter, The Uncle and The Young Bride. The exception is Modesto, a loyal servant, but actually it‘s more an attribute than a name. Modesto is so modest, almost invisible, though he‘s been with the family for decades.
Meanwhile the family members might constitute any father, mother or daughter from any family in the beginning of the 20th century‘s Italy. Or stress the obscurity around the individual character, gradually revealing stories and legends about each of them. It might also be both cases or neither of them.
Another specific accent of the language is expressed via direct speech, which is so rare and scarce, that most often every phrase articulated is limited to no more than four words, presumably indicating that every word matters and cannot be wasted in vain. There‘s a part in the novel where the narrator (a.k.a the imaginary writer of the book) contemplates on perfecting the key phrase The Father told The Young Bride. But it‘s enough to pronounce this phrase out-load, and the narrator is certain that the initially written words are the ones acknowledged with no uncertainty. „I‘m not writing, I‘m living“, occurs to the writer and perhaps this is exactly what is intended by the real author – to live this book through.
The plot bears no complexity and starts in the usual morning at the house of a wealthy family where The Father, The Mother, The Daughter, The Uncle and their casual guests have breakfast. The unusual is the length of this morning ritual, which might dwell on till three in the afternoon. During the breakfast The Young Bride arrives. There was a wedding arrangement agreed upon three years ago and now being eighteen years old she finds herself on the threshold of The Son‘s family house. But The Son is not here. While waiting for the wedding he was sent to England to improve his textile business skills and now has to be summoned back.
Of course, the family accepts The Young Bride and they all together start waiting for The Son to return. Soon she finds out that the members of the family are afraid to die at night. This fear has been transferred through generations, as men and women of the family were always dying after sunset. The other bizarre thing The Young Bride learns from Modesto is that she is not allowed to read books. The family trusts all the things, the people and themselves, therefore books are only a useless distraction, he explains but confesses that he secretly reads the books in his own room and destroys them after reading.
While waiting for The Son who‘s actually gone missing, The Young Bride starts gathering the missing pieces of a puzzle of each family member‘s secrets, passions and fears. Encounters with each member of this family initiate her own transformation towards unleashed femininity. Because her grandmother taught her quite the opposite: “… don’t ever wish to be beautiful, don’t try to please anyone, you mustn’t please even yourself. You have to inspire disgust, and then they’ll leave you alone…”
The novel has a puffy erotic lining wrapped around the Young Bride‘s sexual experience. The Daughter teaches her how to masturbate at night, The Mother gives her a lesson of how to feel attractive to herself and to others as a form of liberation while The Farther takes her to the brothel. Meanwhile The Uncle who lives his life sleeping all the time rounds up with a lesson of existentialism stating that we don‘t leave any traces in life, even in ourselves. And if we don‘t have a future, hatred is the only instinct.
The novel started on the narrator‘s computer finishes in the narrator‘s head. The text is rather jumpy – from The Young Bride story to the narrator‘s thoughts and life episodes and vice versa, causing the reader to switch a mental button too often and leaving too many open questions. But The Young Bride isn‘t going to provide the answers. “Here I ask the questions,“ is her final verdict.