A touching, funny, memorable tale set in beautiful Savannah GA
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When his beloved wife Nina suddenly dies - after 23 years of life together - Alberto Landi understands he has to leave Milan Italy. He leaves his friends, colleagues, a good job and the polluted big city he has never loved which has now become even more intolerable to him. He is fifty, he is totally alone and he is confused, but he definitely knows that he has to escape very far away, across the ocean to the only place he and Nina had always loved together. He lands in Savannah, Georgia. There, in a natural paradise governed by the breath of the tides and with the help of many dear friends - colorful human characters as well as wise animals - he starts to rebuild his new life. His dream is coming true until the day he wakes up one morning and discovers that…
The air told me and the azaleas confirmed it: it was the end of March in Savannah.
I was inhaling, breathing, and becoming intoxicated. Yet it was not perfume. It was an antique, ancestral odor, it was the humid scent flowing every six hours from sticky coats of mud left after each tide by the tireless embrace between earth and water. It was the primitive and stagnant essence the lagoon spreads on its banks with the selfless generosity that belongs only to Nature. It is like the thick scent of an excited woman in love, it’s sweet and sour at the same time.
I was breathing in again and I recognized it.
Now I understood the sincere sensation that I had experienced the very first time I had arrived here and immediately felt this place hidden deeply inside something already familiar that belonged to me. It was almost as if that water and that mud, so remote from the places where I was born and had lived, were in reality elements that had always been known to me, so much so that from then on I felt as if I was immersed, secure and at ease in an amniotic liquid.
I’m not crazy. The truth is that I fell madly in love one day with this part of the Georgian coast, with this humid and harsh land of perennially nomadic waters that at certain times disappear, but then always come back. And I was also in love with these sometimes little crazy people as well as with the always profoundly wise animals that live here. Since then the city of Savannah has become something intimate, an inseparable part of me, like a vital organ or my second skin.
After that first time I fell prisoner to that blind confusion that a human being can experience not only for another person, but also for a place, that I would return to as soon as I could. There was something inside of me that I cannot explain, but I would never investigate, something that even now I find hard to describe fully in words, something that kept telling me that I “had” to make that trip, a sort of a sentimental pilgrimage, at least once a year. And I have obeyed and often exceeded those annual orders.
I have done it regularly for years. At least every six months I’ve shouldered the boredom of the hours needed to fly over the Atlantic. But this has been done while passing time awaiting to return - always made even more agonizing by the nostalgic suffering from previous departures - that I have come to the point of no longer even feeling those long hours as they have been devoured by anxiety over each upcoming arrival.
Meanwhile I learned to bear coming back with a smile to the unchanging bureaucracy and predictable questions of U.S. Immigration officers. Those who want to know every time from me - but they should know every detail of me by now, since it’s all there in their computer terminals, from fingerprints to eye scans - whether I bring seeds or missile launchers, both options contained in the scope of an identical box to tick, as if the two things may have the same potential danger.
The consequence of my love affair was, until yesterday - because yesterday my life changed forever - a back and forth experience between Italy and America to the point that I did not know how many times I had landed at Atlanta airport and ran a race in order to not miss my connecting flight at the gate, pacing around and waiting for the amplified voice, “Savannah, Delta flight number...”
Then, another seat belt to buckle, another taxi down the runway, another attempt to fly with that lovely sensation of weightlessness that leaves a gap between the ground and the air and takes away the breath for quick and exciting moments.
So on, again into the heavens, always hoping in my heart that there will not be a lot of clouds. This is not for fear of turbulence, but because when the sky is clear I can follow mile after mile as everything is passing before my eyes, giving me the illusion of shortening time. With eyes glued to the window in an unnatural position that makes for a sore neck, I devour every minute and mile and turn my eyes down, to scroll past houses and bridges, rivers and roads in a Lilliputian world that has come to be quite familiar. Forward and onward, until the long-awaited moment when the plane reduces engine power to create the sensation of wanting to drop down. At that point my anxiety goes up to the limit and the forces within me are restrained only by the safety belt.
All this happened to me again just yesterday. […]
[…] Finally, beneath my eyes was the green of the impenetrable foliage from the trees that over time have become my friends, if not brothers, as well as the Savannah River along with its tributaries - the Herb, the Moon, the Vernon and the Skidaway - in whose waters wooden walkways leading to piers stretch out like long legs of locusts, frail and trembling. Further down in altitude is the twisty maze of tidal creeks, the shallower and narrower canals that do not even have the right to have their own name. They are perfectly visible and submitted every six hours to the comings and goings of the tides that make them look from time to time snake-like in the brown mud of shallow water when they are dry and like liquid tinsel squiggles illuminated by reflections of silver hue when the waters have invaded them.
Now, ever faster and closer, I saw coming towards me roofs, steeples, blue eyed waters of swimming pools, cars, and finally - more and more quickly - power and telephone lines along a runway with other aircraft already landed just moments before. Then, underneath me, I felt the soft bounce and great screeching from the tires of the plane on the sun warmed tarmac, the roar of the open flaps down against the air resistance and finally the weight of my body pushed forward while the brakes screamed and velocity decreased until everything came to a halt.
It had all happened to me again like it was just yesterday. The difference being that this time and from here on after, I would not depart again.
A Shimmering Love Story, A Contemporary Divine Comedy
By Susan Anderson *****
WHISPERING TIDES by Guido Mattioni, trans., William Marino and Daniela Zoppini, is a shining love story, one that gripped me from its opening pages. I read it straight through from cover to cover, mulled over my notes, skipped back and forth, re-read the highlights. Surprised and delighted in equal measure by its ending, I continue to ponder the meaning of the story and am loathe to leave the experience of this wonderful book.
Although it is the chronicle of one man's grief, WHISPERING TIDES is the story of a humanist and his love for his friends and the South, for the bright mystery of animals, for the unique vision of characters with unfettered souls, for the locals who live in and around Savannah, Georgia.
Dante might say that Alberto Landi, the main character of WHISPERING TIDES, is in the middle of life's journey and lost in a dark wood. Fifty years old, leading a successful life in Milan and surrounded by the trappings of wealth and glitterati, Alberto suddenly loses the love of his life, Nina, his wife of twenty-three years. His world crashes; he is lost without her. His grief is so deep that he journeys in body, mind and dreams across the globe to Savannah, Georgia, where once he knew happiness. He is in search of the rebirth that the new world and, especially, the southern sentiment and way of life, seem to offer. He stays at the home of a friend where he and his wife had enjoyed happier times. He revisits places and people he loves, commenting on and sharing their uniqueness. Vowing to rebuild his life there, he renounces his former work and possessions. Stripped clean of his old ways, he slowly, painstakingly begins his reawakening. To be more specific would give away the story.
Alberto has a love of Savannah, its history, its people, its animals. Local characters abound. Many are humorous; all are unforgettable.
Perhaps my favorite is the statue of James Edward Oglethorpe:
"He appeared to be looking South with his right hand softly resting on the hilt of his sword as if to caress it, while his left hand was planted on his side in a posture halfway between that of martial vigilance and male dare. He seemed to be looking towards the Florida border and pondering the fact that there he had tried many times to spot the glittering helmets of Spanish bullies who were greedy for conquest and carrying unmentionable diseases."
The novel is the journey of one man's dark night of the soul. It is for all of us, a poignant evocation of grief, but it is also a deep affirmation of life.
Guido Mattioni's gift of storytelling is large. His spirit is exuberant, his grasp of American history is large. He has the eyes of a humanist and the soul of a poet.
I recommend WHISPERING TIDES to all readers who enjoy a good story, but search for meaning in between the words, to those who want to come away from a great read with an even greater understanding of what it means to be human.
By Federico Bini *****
Like a magical scene that lights up page after page, a long passionate declaration of love for the city of Savannah is revealed in this book by Guido Mattioni. Not only does it display an extraordinary gallery of characters, but also colors, smells and voices emerging from the wings to go on stage and say. "Listen, we have something to say. We want to tell you about our America that is far away from New York or California and explain our easy pace and past history. Come closer... you'll be amazed..." A cat and a slacker, a garden and a house, a statue or a pier, every entry has its own small or big story that deserves to be heard. As a skilled director, the Author urges them on stage and gives them their lines and ironic manner. The reader is invited to indulge in their history, lulled on by the air of the American South that drives him relentlessly towards a border that exists somewhere between reality and dream.
By Raja Sharma *****
I would like to dwell upon one significant thing and that is the fluent and smooth style of Guido Mattioni. The lines seem to be compelling the reader to softly and silently move along because the description is simply mesmerizing. I felt as if I were gently introduced to another America, a kind of absorbing panorama. Hats off to Guido Mattioni. A gem of a literary creation. Very rare to come across in this fast paced otherwise insipid world of literature which is so much deteriorated with all that crap which is published in the name of Literature.
If you are sick of reading the usual stuff, this book will touch you like lulling zephyr.
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