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Not even love transforms the Stock Exchange of destinies The novel by the economist Vito Spada, L’amore infelice, presents the contrast between living in New York and returning to Lecce, amidst slow rhythms and paralysis.
A story of personal crisis against a backdrop of the epochal economic crisis of the last ten years.
And love that breaks out oblivious to any rational design
by Sergio D’Amaro
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Vito Spada is a well-known economist with an international reputation. He has his finger on the pulse of the world’s current situation, not only the financial side, and, since he has a good knowledge of the two parts on either side of the Atlantic, is quick to pick up the contrasts between the two different worlds.

It was the desire to look more closely at this anthropological and social contrast in the closing stages of the great world crisis triggered in 2008, that led Spada, not new to literary ventures, to write his recent novel, entitled L’amore infelice (Unhappy love, Lecce, Pensa MultiMedia, 2017, pp. 231, € 15). The return of the protagonist Stefano Valli to Lecce from America has the taste of a re-discovery and a recognition, but also the bitter tone of disillusionment. It is good once more to enjoy the opulent countryside of Salento, the roads and landmarks of his past youth, but it is not so pleasing to notice the macroscopic defects that still undermine the social fabric and make it similar to Lampedusa’s image of what is essentially paralysis. For someone arriving from the States, the greatest desire is to plunge into a new dimension, the pleasure of the slow rhythms of a town in the South, the community nature of personal relations. But trying to change and at the same time return to the past seems to be a huge problem, since Lecce (but it could be any other city in the South) invariably presents two faces: on the one hand it shows a middle class that upholds its own typical values, on the other a traditional mindset, tied to ancient prejudices.

Stefano’s journey, outlined against the backdrop of the epochal crisis that started ten years ago, is therefore undertaken in the awareness of these contradictions and in the desire to overcome them. The fulcrum of the novel symbolically becomes Milena, who here plays the role of a modern-day Beatrice, an angel-woman come to save the protagonist. Spada is very good at building this “enlightenment” up to a climax culminating in the lovers’ total mutual understanding and then in their inevitable separation.

Personal crisis and economic crisis run in parallel towards the catharsis. The economist in Spada finds it hard, in the dialogs between the characters that come onto the stage, to refrain from precise comments on the causes and effects of the phenomenon underway. Admittedly, reason, especially of the financial kind, cannot explain everything that happens on the other side, that of human decisions, of doubts and disguises, of appearances and desires. The dramatic multifaceted game of life is bigger than any crisis and than any attempt to dominate fate, bowing neither to the desire to change nor to the sudden revelation of feelings.

So Stefano comes back to his Salento and adapts to it. His love for Milena is over and it’s time for him to win back his wife Francesca. The change he yearned for has only given him an existential fever that hasn’t been able to beat the readjustment to a place that is still in the thrall of its ancient roots, of its centuries-old resistance. Between New York and Salento the way roles are played is still different, just as the social and anthropological profiles of the two situations are different.

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