Zeno's Conscience by Italo Svevo
(Everyman's Library Classics & Contemporary Classics)

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The modern Italian classic discovered and championed by James Joyce, Zeno’s Conscience is a marvel of psychological insight, published here in a fine new translation by William Weaver–the first in more than seventy years.


Italo Svevo’s masterpiece tells the story of a hapless, doubting, guilt-ridden man paralyzed by fits of ecstasy and despair and tickled by his own cleverness. His doctor advises him, as a form of therapy, to write his memoirs; in doing so, Zeno reconstructs and ultimately reshapes the events of his life into a palatable reality for himself–a reality, however, founded on compromise, delusion, and rationalization.


With cigarette in hand, Zeno sets out in search of health and happiness, hoping along the way to free himself from countless vices, not least of which is his accursed “last cigarette!” (Zeno’s famously ineffectual refrain is inevitably followed by a lapse in resolve.) His amorous wanderings win him the shrill affections of an aspiring coloratura, and his confidence in his financial savoir-faire involves him in a hopeless speculative enterprise. Meanwhile, his trusting wife reliably awaits his return at appointed mealtimes.


Zeno’s adventures rise to antic heights in this pioneering psychoanalytic novel, as his restlessly self-preserving commentary inventively embroiders the truth. Absorbing and devilishly entertaining, Zeno’s Conscience is at once a comedy of errors, a sly testimonial to the joys of procrastination, and a surpassingly lucid vision of human nature by one of the most important Italian literary figures of the twentieth century.

 (Book Jacket Status: Jacketed)


About Italo Svevo

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Italo Svevo is the pseudonym of Ettore Schmitz (1861-1928), a Trieste businessman who won literary recognition late in life as the model for Leopold Bloom in James Joyce's Ulysses. William Weaver has translated the works of Umberto Eco, Primo Levi, Italo Calvino, and Roberto Calasso, among others. He is a professor at Bard College. His translation of Calvino's If on a Winter's Night a Traveler is available from Everyman's Library.
Published November 6, 2001 by Everyman's Library. 496 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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A gritty English version by Italophile Weaver (Open City: Seven Writers and Rome, 1999, etc.) resurrects one of the indispensable 20th-century novels: the work of a prosperous businessman (whose real name was Ettore Schmitz), it’s a majestically ironic in-depth portrayal, in his own reluctant wor...

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The Guardian

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Zeno tells five interrelated stories: the story of his last attempt to quit smoking cigarettes, the story of the death of his father, the story of his marriage, the story of his mistress, and the story of his doomed business partnership with the husband of his wife's sister.

May 20 2006 | Read Full Review of Zeno's Conscience (Everyman's...

London Review of Books

This prospect is made more acute by the way Svevo writes his novel: it is told in the first person, by Zeno Cosini, a Trieste businessman now in his late fifties, who has been asked by his psychoanalyst to write an account of his early life.

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