A weary man faces the ghosts of his past while caring for his grandson in Naples in this National Book Award finalist novel by the acclaimed author of Ties.
In Tricks, Domenico Starnone presents an unusual duel between two formidable minds. One is Daniele Mallarico, a once-successful illustrator who feels his artistic prowess fading. The other is Mario, Daniele’s four-year-old grandson. Daniele is living in virtual solitude in Milan when his daughter asks him to come to Naples to babysit Mario for a few days.
Shut inside his childhood home―an apartment in the center of Naples that is filled with memoires of Daniele’s past―grandfather and grandson match wits as Daniele heads toward a reckoning with his own ambitions and life choices. Meanwhile, Naples pulses outside, a wily, passionate city whose influence can never be shaken.
As translator Jhumpa Lahiri says in her introduction, Trick is “an extremely playful literary composition” by the Strega Prize–winning novelist whom many consider to be one of Italy’s greatest living writers.
Starnone's astute and emotionally precise novel (after Ties) follows famed illustrator Daniele Mallarico as he returns to his childhood home in Naples at the request of his daughter, Betta. Daniele is reluctantly tasked with watching his four-year-old grandson, Mario, while Betta and her husband, Saverio, head to Milan for an academic conference and a chance to discuss their failing marriage. Daniele's three-day visit to the apartment where he was raised prompts him to reflect on the course of his life, and he begins to see apparitions from his past. Struggling to complete a project for a book publisher while sparring with the thoughtful and rebellious Mario, Daniele confronts his mortality and the ephemeral nature of art. Lahiri's translation preserves the poignancy and humor of the first-person narration, which balances compassion and repressed irritation. The book is packed with endearing moments and clever observations about familial relationships (both Betta and Saverio confide in Daniele right off the bat, forcing him into the thick of their tension). This remarkably layered work encourages rereading to unearth subtle and new interpretations.