An epic story of suspense and revenge set on the mountainous frontier of 19th-century Italy.
Jole is fifteen the first time she accompanies her father, Augusto, as he smuggles tobacco across the Italian border into Austria. She knows the dangers of the treacherous high mountain passes—border guards, brigands, wild animals, ferocious weather—but she is proud that her father asks her. Life is hard, and without the extra money Augusto’s smuggling brings in, the family would starve.
When Augusto disappears during one of his trips, Jole must retrace the route he took, seeking a buyer for her family’s tobacco—and the truth behind her father’s disappearance.
Soul of the Border is an epic story of revenge and salvation, a ferocious tale of violence and corruption, and a journey into the wild.
Matteo Righetto was born in in 1972 in Padua, where he teaches literature. He is the author of four novels, which have been translated into many languages. His most recent novel, La Pelle dell’Orso (The Bear Skin) is a bestseller in Italy and has been made into a feature film. Soul of the Border is the first of his works to be published in English.
Howard Curtis has more than thirty years’ experience as a literary translator from Italian, French and Spanish, and has translated the work of authors such as Georges Simenon and Luigi Pirandello, as well as a great deal of contemporary fiction.
'Matteo Righetto's writing is clear and sharp as the mountain horizon…It is a story both harsh and delicate, multifaceted as a precious stone, seductive as the land of the high Brenta Valley...We hear the rhythm of Hemingway between the pages, and the raw realism of Cormac McCarthy.’ Corriere del Veneto
'A novel in which you hear the howling of the wolf, the hooting of the owl, the humming of insects in the meadows; in which you feel nature talking and moving, and all the passions and impulses of men…Matteo Righetto shows us the consequences of crossing the frontier…Once it is crossed, the reader, like the characters, will never be the same again.’ Il Giornale
Italian writer Righetto's first book to be translated into English delivers an intense yet uneven account of 18-year-old Jole's efforts to take over her father Augusto's long-standing tobacco-smuggling business after his mysterious disappearance and presumed death. Set in the late 19th century and unfolding in three parts, the narrative chronicles Jole's arduous three-day journey from Nevada, a small, poverty-stricken village in the Italian countryside, through the Brenta Valley, over the rugged mountains, and across the Austrian border, ending in a mining town filled with workers who are "the very image of damned souls, expelled from hell and exiled on earth." Though she successfully trades her stash of tobacco for enough copper and silver to provide food and supplies for her family, the return trip home isn't without drama. In a piled-on sequence of unfortunate events, Jole faces threats from border guards who will capture or shoot her if she is caught with contraband; she is also stalked by a villainous man seeking revenge for Jole's father's supposed sexual assault and murder of his own daughter on a previous smuggling journey. A gratuitous scene toward the end further mars the book. Righetto's in-depth descriptions of the harsh, pastoral scenery are what save the book from being a long-winded recap of a young maiden's increasingly wretched trials over the river and through the woods, making it most recommendable as a transportive look at a specific time and place. \n