The unnamed narrator of this slim, alluring novel recalls a summer spent at age sixteen on an idyllic Italian island off the coast of Naples in the 1950s, where he spends his days with Nicola, a local fisherman. The narrator falls in love with Caia, who shares with him that she’s Jewish, saved by Italian soldiers from the Nazis, who killed the rest of her Yugoslav family. The boy demands answers about the war from the adults around him, but is rebuffed by everyone but Nicola, who tells him of Italy’s complicity with the Nazis. His passion for Caia and his ardent patriotism lead him to a flamboyant, cataclysmic act of destruction that brings his tale to an end.
A fish is a catch once it’s in the boat. It’s a mistake to shout that you’ve hooked it when it has only snapped at the bait and you feel its weight bouncing in the hand that holds the line. A fish is a catch only when it’s on board. You have to pull it up swiftly from the depths with a gentle, even movement, and without jerking. Otherwise you’ll lose it. You mustn’t get excited when you feel it thrashing below and it seems heaven only knows how big, judging by the force it exerts to extricate the hook and bait from its body.
Nicola taught me how to fish. The boat wasn’t his, it was Uncle’s, my uncle. Nicolas used it year-round, but when the weather was mild he was my uncle’s sailor on Sundays and during summer holidays. At night he went out with a lantern and fished for cuttlefish, a kind of squid, to make bait for the tip of the hook.
Excerpted from Me, You by Erri De Luca. Copyright © 2011 by Erri De Luca. Excerpted by permission of Other Press, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
“High hopes in clear language, cautions against real evil, and scenes thick with poetic sentiment - these elements fuel the warmth to be found in De Luca's brief but affecting novels.” —The National
“Full of steadfast and simple charm… while still being steadfastly aware of the larger histories that are always playing out in the backgrounds of whatever it is that charms us in a momentary idyll.” —Bookslut
“De Luca lovingly, even rapturously, explores familiar territory with bittersweet romanticism… De Luca writes like a dream, passionately but not effusively, and he treats his characters with both respect and affection.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“In the United States, nostalgia for the 1950's runs to baseball, heavy petting and the first stirrings of rock-and-roll. [Me, You], set on an island off the coast of Italy during those years, evokes an entirely different longing -- not for our own false Golden Age but for the harsh beauty of a wounded and willfully innocent Italy unable to come to grips with its role in the Holocaust.” —New York Times Book Review
“An alluring and poignant story...Brombert’s translation ranges from clear to shimmeringly lyrical.” —Publishers Weekly
“Beautifully written.” —Library Journal
“Recounted in brusque, straightforward prose, the text pays homage to the brutal forces of the sea and Caia’s powerful yearning to see in the narrator all she holds most dear, Me, You is an excellent introduction to this well-respected Italian novelist and an unforgettable tale of coming of age.” -San Francisco Book Review