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Italian Ways: On and Off the Rails from Milan to Palermo

Italian Ways: On and Off the Rails from Milan to Palermo

Hardback Harvill Secker

By (author) Tim Parks

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  • Publisher: HARVILL SECKER
  • Format: Hardback | 288 pages
  • Dimensions: 162mm x 240mm x 29mm | 622g
  • Publication date: 6 June 2013
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 1846557747
  • ISBN 13: 9781846557743
  • Illustrations note: 4 maps
  • Sales rank: 54,802

Product description

This is a journey around Italy by train, full of humorous and insightful observations on what the railways and their travellers reveal about the country. In Italian Ways, bestselling writer Tim Parks brings us a fresh portrait of Italy today through a wry account of his train journeys around the country. Whether describing his daily commute from Milan to Verona, his regular trips to Florence and Rome, or his occasional sojourns to Naples and Sicily, Parks uses his thirty years of amusing and maddening experiences on Italian trains to reveal what he calls the 'charmingly irritating dystopian paradise' of Italy. Through memorable encounters with ordinary Italians - conductors and ticket collectors, priests and prostitutes, scholars and lovers, gypsies and immigrants - Parks captures what makes Italian life distinctive. Italian Ways also explores how trains helped build Italy and how the railways reflect Italians' sense of themselves from Garibaldi to Mussolini to Berlusconi and beyond. Most of all, Italian Ways is an entertaining attempt to capture the essence of modern Italy.

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Author information

Born in Manchester, Tim Parks grew up in London and studied at Cambridge and Harvard. In 1981 he moved to Italy where he has lived ever since. He is the author of novels, non-fiction and essays, including Europa, Cleaver, A Season with Verona and Teach Us to Sit Still. He has won the Somerset Maugham, Betty Trask and Llewellyn Rhys awards, and been shortlisted for the Booker Prize. He lectures on literary translation in Milan, writes for publications such as the New Yorker and the New York Review of Books, and his many translations from the Italian include works by Moravia, Calvino, Calasso, Tabucchi and Machiavelli.

Review quote

"All Italy is here, its history, its character, its flaws" Sunday Times "A treat equivalent to a ride on the Orient Express" Wall Street Journal "Like the best train journeys, you don't want it to end" New Statesman "A very funny hosanna to Italian railroad locomotion in all its rackety glory" Evening Standard, Books of the Year "Parks has the keenest of eyes for the telling of amusing detail ... He remains the best interpreter of Italian ways in Italy" Sunday Herald "Tim Parks has written a book about Italian railways that is engrossing, entertaining, and wonderfully revealing about the country and its people. It makes perfect armchair travelling - a delight from beginning to end" -- David Lodge "The book is, as Tim Parks says, a search for the Italian character, which he evokes in dozens of gorgeously written scenes; but beyond that Parks is exploring the dynamic between tradition and innovation... Underneath everything, Parks is trying to come to a point of loving the world in all its confusion and frustration, and by the book's end he does, he does. Bravo" -- David Shields "This latest peg on which to hang another ruminative book about the character of Italy provides Parks with a first-class ticket to ride as a lively, erudite raconteur in salty daily negotiation with what he calls a 'dystopian paradise'" -- Iain Finlayson The Times "With Paul Theroux apparently winding down, there might be an opening for Parks as a new laureate of international railways" -- Andrew Martin Observer "Parks is also a railway enthusiast and this delightful book is the story of his love-hate relationship with Italian trains" Literary Review "This is not a "railway book" in any conventional sense. It is sharp-eyed and sharp-tongued about the absurdities of 'Italian ways'" -- John Lloyd Financial Times "Over thirty years living among the Italians, [Parks] has developed an acute eye for their idiosyncrasies and, over the course of three previous books on Italy, he has created a style sharp and subtle enough to evoke them... As an inglese italianizatto insider-outsider he brings an ideal dual perspective... It is this double vision (along with his superb style) that elevates Parks's books way above other recent Anglo-Saxon portraits of Italy... [it] adds in turn to the long tradition of excellent English writing on Italy established by Hazlitt, Lawrence and Norman Lewis" -- Thomas Wright Daily Telegraph "Compelling... Parks conveys a detailed, dense, oppressive sense of the inadequacies and idiosyncrasies of the national rail system...but Parks's railway system in the end links families, reuniting Italian mamas with prodigal sons, and provides a wonderful space for the earwigging of intimate arguments conducted, as ever, on the telefonino" -- Emma Townshend Independent on Sunday "Tim Parks' detailed descriptions will leave you rocking to the thrum of the tracks, and come dotted with his often bizarre but always comical experiences en route" -- Daisy Cropper Wanderlust "A hybrid of travel and cultural history...and very amusing it is too... Parks has done Lecce and all Italy proud in this eccentric hosanna to railroad locomotion" -- Ian Thomson Evening Standard "Italian Ways gracefully tells you an enormous amount about Italy and its trains. Parks is also very funny, a master of the dry aside" -- Nick Rider Sunday Express "Closely observed and often amusing" -- Thomas Jones Guardian "An entertaining look at Italian railways, the people who run them and the people who travel on them... Wry, thoughtful, funny, serious and cleverly capturing the essence of modern Italy, it is perfect armchair travelling" -- Simon Evans Choice

Editorial reviews

The book is, as Tim Parks says, a search for the Italian character, which he evokes in dozens of gorgeously written scenes; but beyond that Parks is exploring the dynamic between tradition and innovation... Underneath everything, Parks is trying to come to a point of loving the world in all its confusion and frustration, and by the book's end he does, he does. Bravo.

Back cover copy

'A search for the Italian character, which he evokes in dozens of gorgeously written scenes... Underneath everything, Parks is trying to come to a point of loving the world in all its confusion and frustration, and by book's end he does, he does. Bravo' David Shields PRAISE FOR TIM PARKS 'Parks is an excellent writer, capable of writing wittily and with great beauty about the near indefinable' Sunday Telegraph 'A truly outstanding writer...immensely readable and deeply intelligent' Independent 'Parks is more than just an effortless raconteur playing for laughs...he offers detailed cultural observation, witty yet eagle-eyed, of what makes Italians so Italian' The Times

Flap copy

In Italian Ways, bestselling writer Tim Parks brings us a fresh portrait of Italy today through a wry account of his train journeys around the country. Whether describing his daily commute from Milan to Verona, his regular trips to Florence and Rome, or his occasional sojourns to Naples and Sicily, Parks uses his thirty years of amusing and maddening experiences on Italian trains to reveal what he calls the ‘charmingly irritating dystopian paradise’ of Italy. Through memorable encounters with ordinary Italians – conductors and ticket collectors, priests and prostitutes, scholars and lovers, gypsies and immigrants – Parks captures what makes Italian life distinctive. Italian Ways also explores how trains helped build Italy and how the railways reflect Italians’ sense of themselves from Garibaldi to Mussolini to Berlusconi and beyond. Most of all, Italian Ways is an entertaining attempt to capture the essence of modern Italy.