IF YOU KEPT A RECORD OF SINS by Andrea Bajani, Translated from the Italian by Elizabeth Harris


This lovely book, this lovely, sad book, really struck me. Its beautiful, spare language is never overwrought, even as it pulls us through great sorrows, great loss. I loved that about it because it ultimately tells a very sad story, the story of a child abandoned by his mother. But I never felt pummeled by tragedy. I felt like a witness. One reviewer describes it as “prismatic,” which I loved, as the story is told in brief chapters that bounce around in time. But even with this time travelling the story feels to me as though it unfolds in a constant internal present, like the reader is witness to these stories and events that are always present in the young man whose story is being told. They have shaped him. They are shaping him still.

A few favorite passages –

Then I’d head to my room and drop my plunder on the rug. It grew harder and harder to find any space to put the new souvenirs you’d brought without burying the old. They were from every country, every corner on earth, my room, trip after trip, becoming the world map of your absence.

And later –

I gave lengthy, articulate speeches, talking fast, words running together, pronounced so quickly they got caught in my teeth…..Every word I spoke felt like a bulwark against sleep, a few more captured meters in the direction of your phone call…”

And one more thing. This is a small book, physically small. It is just 200 pages and nearly square, 6 1/2″ x 5 1/2″. Somehow this size, holding it in my hands as I read it, made it feel even more intimate.

7 comments on “IF YOU KEPT A RECORD OF SINS by Andrea Bajani, Translated from the Italian by Elizabeth Harris”

  1. I appreciate spare language, too. It shows such care, such control and respect of language. Thanks for another evocative response to a book, JNaz.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I relish in our ongoing conversations about audiobooks v print and now you bring up book size. I love a small book — I’m thinking of a favorite small book thanks to you, JNaz — Poetry as Insurgent Art by Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

    This sounds like a depth of reading despite its small size – thanks for your review.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, borkali, yes. I am a BIG fan of audiobooks, BIG fan, but the physicality of this particular book enriched it, I would have missed that additional nod to intimacy had I listened to the book.

      Ah, yes, the pleasure of small books…

      Liked by 1 person

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