Home > About reading, Literary Escapades, Personal Posts > Literary Escapade: Turin, Italy

Literary Escapade: Turin, Italy

February 23, 2020 Leave a comment Go to comments

I missed my weekly post last Sunday because I was visiting Turin. It’s a great city to visit, great food, beautiful building, exceptional Egyptian museum and impressive cinema museum. However, this is a literary blog, so I’ll focus on the literary elements of my stay. I haven’t read Italian books for the occasion (book buying ban, remember?) but I will. According to my tourist guide, I should look for:

  • The House on the Hill by Cesare Pavese (La maison sur la colline) I’ve never read Pavese, it could be a good start.
  • Family Lexicon by Natalia Ginzburg (Les Mots de la tribu) This one’s about a Jewish family in Turin from 1920 to 1950. (Btw, Primo Levi was from Turin too)
  • The Watcher by Italo Calvino (La Journée d’un scrutateur) I’ve read books by Calvino, pre-blog but not this one.
  • The Two Cities by Mario Soldati (Les Deux Villes) I don’t think that Soldati’s books have been translated into English. I’ve already read The Ophans’ Father and I remember I liked it.
  • Scent of a Woman by Giovanni Arpino (Les Ténèbres et le Miel) I’ve already read A Lost Soul by Arpino and I enjoyed his style.
  • The Sunday Woman by Fruttero and Lucentini (La Femme du Dimanche) This one is crime fiction, I’ll look for it at the giant bookstore set up for Quais du Polar.
  • The Tattooed Colleague by Margherita Oggero. (La Collègue tatouée), not available in English. This one is more recent (2002), I’m tempted to read about today’s city.

Apart from the last one, all these books date back to the 20th century. If anyone knows a book set in contemporary Turin, please leave a recommendation in the comments.

Since I can’t read in Italian, I didn’t buy any books during my trip but I still had look at bookshops. There’s the international one, Luxembourg. I’ve seen other independent bookstores in the city.

On the via Pô, there are bouquinistes, like in Paris.

Sorry for the French word but according to the dictionary, the English way of saying bouquiniste is secondhand bookseller. I’m sorry guys, but you really need to find affectionate words for bookish stuff. The word bouquiniste is not as cold as secondhand bookseller, which is a matter-of-fact way to describe the activity. In French, bouquiniste implies that a libraire (not a retailer, but a booklover who happens to sell books) is trading secondhand books with love.

Everything was in Italian, so there was no need to spend time browsing through the books. It’s only frustrating to find a book you’d like to read, just not in Italian. Since I couldn’t buy book, I came home with bookish stuff, too bad captions were in English. For once, Italian would have been better.

Last but not least, I visited the Royal Library. (Reale Biblioteca)

Impressive room full of books in glass cases. I glanced at the covers: old books in Italian, French, English and German. There were mostly books about geography, history, politics, science but also statistics. See the number of books that were at my eyelevel: can you imagine that I manage to drop my eyes on French books about fishing?!!!!

It’s starting to feel like it follows me wherever I go. 😊 But no, still not ready to buy a fishing pole.

In case there wasn’t enough things to love already with the food, ice creams, coffees, art and whatnots, Turin people seem to have a thing for my beloved Mafalda. A bookstore was selling Mafalda tote bags and of course, I brought one home.

How could I resist, right? Then I saw a dress with Mafalda patterns and greeting cards.

I tell you, Mafalda rocks!

I had a wonderful time in Italy, and this was only the book part. Next Literary Escapade will be about the publisher Gallmeister. And while I go gallivanting in Italy, my pile of TBW grows and I haven’t read or commented on bookish blogs.

  1. February 23, 2020 at 12:12 pm

    Sounds like you had a lovely time! The library is stunning. You are so right – we definitely need a word in English that is equivalent to bouquiniste, which is a much richer word than second hand bookseller.


    • February 23, 2020 at 6:01 pm

      It was great and yes, the library is incredible.
      We should all brainstorm to invent bouquiniste in English, just like French Canadian invest French words to translate English ones with no equivalent.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. February 23, 2020 at 2:21 pm

    That’s a beautiful library…


    • February 23, 2020 at 6:01 pm

      Yes, it is. I love visiting these old libraries.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. February 23, 2020 at 4:50 pm

    Yes, that Biblioteca, I love it.


    • February 23, 2020 at 6:02 pm

      Everyone falls in love with this library.


  4. February 23, 2020 at 5:00 pm

    Sounds like a lovely escapade, and I do like the list of Turin books.


    • February 23, 2020 at 6:03 pm

      There are more books available in French than in English, due to the proximity between the countries and the languages, I suppose.


  5. February 23, 2020 at 6:01 pm

    What a wonderful visit – very jealous…. And yes, we *do* need a better word for secondhand bookseller…


    • February 23, 2020 at 6:05 pm

      It was great. Like I always say, Italy is probably THE country where the French don’t complain about food.
      As I was saying in an earlier comment, we should brainstorm and invent a new word for bouquiniste. Or use the French one.
      That’s an idea: you all start using bouquin, bouquiner, bouquiniste, billet, libraire and coup de coeur. 🙂 The vocabulary of the French book lover.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. February 23, 2020 at 8:22 pm

    So envious of your visit. I need some Italian coffee, ice-cream, wine, shoes, bags, sunshine…. So not fair that one smallish country has so many good things….


    • February 23, 2020 at 8:58 pm

      That’s a good way to sum it up!


  7. February 23, 2020 at 9:10 pm

    Turin looks amazing in your photos and it sounds like you had a lovely visit. I remember reading references to it in Primo Levi’s writings, particularly in ‘The Periodic Table’. And didn’t Umberto Eco study and teach there for a time?


    • February 23, 2020 at 11:17 pm

      It was lovely and very informative.
      You’re right about Umberto Eco.


  8. February 23, 2020 at 9:32 pm

    Sounds like you had a fantastic trip. It’s a city I would to visit…one day, perhaps. And that list of Turin-related books is very interesting. I’ve read a different Ginzburg — Voices in the Evening, which I liked a lot, especially the second part. Happiness as such is on my TBR, but Family Lexicon is meant to be very good too. She’s definitely worth trying.


    • February 23, 2020 at 11:19 pm

      It’s worth visiting.
      Thanks for the recommendation about Ginzburg. I’d never heard of her. I love that tourist guides still have a page about literature and literary places.


  9. Vishy
    February 24, 2020 at 11:05 am

    Looks like you had a wonderful time! Beautiful pictures! Love the Mafalda bags! Loved what you said about bouquinistes 😊 Have you read Giorgio Bassani? I have heard Caroline recommend his books highly.


    • February 28, 2020 at 9:17 am

      Hi Vishy, sorry for the delayed answer.
      I had a great time and yes, the Mafalda encounters were fun and unexpected.
      I don’t know Bassani, I’ll look him up, thanks.


  10. February 28, 2020 at 4:07 am

    Thanks for sharing, and i love your Mafalda encounters!!
    I love Calvino, but didn’t know this book, thanks!


    • February 28, 2020 at 9:18 am

      Thanks! It was a fun few days and I didn’t expect to see Mafalda so often.


  11. February 29, 2020 at 12:14 am

    Of course bouquiniste is a lovely word – what is the related word for the book seller, I might have a big enough collection of Australiana to become one. Does the word also relate to the practice of selling from the streetside stalls which you have pictured and which I saw and bought from in Paris and Madrid.


    • February 29, 2020 at 11:32 am

      Bouquiniste is for second hand bookshops of any kind. So yes it applies to the stalls, like the ones on the pictures or in Paris.
      New books are sold in librairies by libraires.

      Liked by 1 person

      • February 29, 2020 at 12:14 pm

        Is the word for the shop and the person who runs the shop the same? I can see my (eventual) retirement running a Bouquiniste van (no canals in Aust. Hmm..I wonder if I could get a permit for a book barge on Perth Water)


        • February 29, 2020 at 3:13 pm

          You’d be the book trucker. Awesome.
          Crash course on French bookworm words:
          Un bouquin: a book, affectionate tone, colloquial
          Bouquiner : to read
          Un bouquiniste: a second hand bookshop. And the person who runs the shop.
          Une librairie: a book store
          Un libraire: a person who recommends and sells books in a bookshop
          Un rat de bibliothèque: a bookworm
          Un coup de cœur du librairie: a book recommended by a Libraire in a librairie. Usually there are little billets on books with the mention “coup de cœur du libraire”


          • February 29, 2020 at 3:43 pm

            Thanks. It’s late now, but in the morning I’ll make a printout and tack it up over my desk. For the time being I’ll have to stay un rat.

            Liked by 1 person

  12. February 29, 2020 at 10:13 pm

    Looks like a wonderful escapade, Emma! I agree about bouquiniste and the failure of the English language to realise that books are something different from cars or potatoes and should be treated as more than just a commodity.

    I’m intrigued by the sign above Luxemburg: “Libreria Internazionale” in Italian, but “The British Bookshop” in English.


    • March 1, 2020 at 11:02 pm

      It was great, I love Italy.

      I think we still have some respect about books that prevents things from deteriorating too much. (more about that in an upcoming billet)

      I’ve seen the sign “The British Bookshop” in other countries. I wonder if it’s not a network to spot the bookstores with books in English. I went in and they had books in French, English and Italian.
      They should do what the bookstore Bertrand does in Lisbon: in the section of books in French, they had translations of famous Portuguese novels among other novels. I would have like to see one of the books I mentioned before.


  1. January 2, 2021 at 9:02 am

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