We The Italians | Italian books: Heart

Italian books: Heart

Italian books: Heart

  • WTI Magazine #161 Mar 18, 2023
  • 116

Heart – Cuore in Italian – is a book published in 1886 and written by Italian novelist Edmondo De Amicis (1846 – 1908). Before becoming a writer, he served in the military in 1866, which would later give him inspiration for one of his works. He wrote poems, novels and books about travel, gaining ultimate fame with his most important piece – Heart.

The book has been translated into almost every language and it recounts a year of school in the life of third elementary class boy named Enrico Bottini against the backdrop of the protagonist’s family, teachers and life.

The story unfolds right after the unification of Italy and, through the main character, it depicts the hopeful yet difficult reality of that period of time. Enrico is ten years old, live and attends school in Turin and the readers get to know and discover his life through the thoughts and the events he writes down every day in his notebook; these are about his school life, his teachers, his classmates and the other kids in the school, but they also include the stories that Enrico’s teacher shares with his students every month and the messages the young protagonist receives from his father, mother and sister.

De Amicis’ book is one of the biggest success in Italian literature as it counts forty editions within the year in which it was published. “Cuore is above all a brilliant narrative gimmick that reads individual and social life in a precise point and in a concrete historical situation, that of the moment in which the book was written, or rather the post-Risorgimento years”. It had a big impact on different generations of Italian readers and students, not only the youngsters but also the adults, increasing its popularity and appreciation throughout the years.

Heart made its author one of the most read in Italy, who received praise for his literary style from the way the book is written to the narrative techniques used to develop the story. The book was also rendered in different movies and adaptations and even though it has been published more than a century ago, it still resonates with contemporary reality, and it still is widely popular and well-known. It maintains its educational purpose and civil commitment that allow the readers to become passionate about the story and be moved by it.

The book was indeed written after the Italian war for independence and as previously mentioned Edmondo De Amicis did serve in the army as sub-lieutenant who fought in the siege of Rome in 1870.

It then gained international popularity and appreciation to the point of being translated into more than twenty-five languages and becoming part of the UNESCO Collection of Representative Works.

Like every book and every story, this one too is strongly connected to the time in which it was written and published, to the experiences the author himself but also the whole population was living in a very important moment for the history of the country. As with every book, it tells a story beyond the story itself, it provides a message that goes past the written words.

In fact, Heart “was written to foster juvenile appreciation of the newfound Italian national unity. The book is often highly emotional, even sentimental, but gives a vivid picture of urban Italian life at that time”.