A Minimal Unhappiness
Original title: Una minima infelicità
A beautiful mother, too beautiful for the normal life she is living, and a daughter that the mother has always kept at a distance, maybe for emotional reasons, maybe because she is too small, too “petite”, because Anna will never grow over one meter and twenty-five. “Una minima infelicità”, the debut novel by Carmen Verde, shines both in style and structure and illuminates a family portrait from within. Indeed, despite the cruelty towards her from her family and friends, Anna is delicate and resistant at once, while her world shatters piece by piece. – il Corriere della sera
Una minima infelicità is an obsessive and dense novel, with the confident pace of a classic. It is an atlas and encyclopedia of unhappiness, the writing is clear and rough and always pure. Unhappiness is minimal only in the title, but between the pages it is enormous indeed. – La Repubblica
I loved Carmen Verde’s book: she knows the geometry of secrets and how to enchant the reader. It has a fast and light pace, like a train going through the night with all the lights on. – Dacia Maraini
Una minima infelicità is a book full of obsession and sweetness, cruelty and pietas, where the attention to detail reveals a world both familiar and alienating. Precisely in that gap, Carmen Verde insinuates her accurate and evocative writing and her characters who have the moral balance and dark sensuality of those of great writers such as Némirovsky or Lispector. – Veronica Raimo
Anna and Sofia – the mother and daughter protagonists of A Minimal Unhappiness have all the characteristics to become genies of an Arabic fairy tale, so immense and vital that they seem to have just come out of their bottles: this is the fate of successful characters, bigger than the books that contain them, like Falstaff for example. Anna is so small that she necessarily has to look up to everyone. Also because, to deserve her mother’s attention, Anna must refine her gaze, focusing precisely on her mother as her only idol. Carmen Verde’s style is elegant and her novel is perfect and never judgmental. It finds its way to plunge into people’s lives, just like the best worldwide literature. – Leonardo Colombati
Anna, called Annetta, observes the photos of her family’s past and starts to recount her life through those fragments of time, now sepia, seemingly irrecoverable and yet still vivid and burning in memory. At the centre of everything, there is her: Sofie Vivier, Annetta’s mother, an elusive and inconstant woman, prey to small and big vices, who always tries to hold off the “minimal unhappiness” that seizes her, but ultimately ends up passing it on to her daughter.
Beautiful, restless, and elegant, Sofia is ashamed of Annetta’s body because it is scandalously small. The girl is so minute that it seems she cannot grow. Locked in the shrine of her home and in that child-like body, Annetta escapes the roughness of the outside world, to which she feels inadequate. However, when Clara Bigi, a cruel maid who imposes rigid and senseless rules, comes into the scene, Annetta’s life starts to crumble. Legitimated by Annetta’s father, Clara gradually takes control of the family’s domestic life and becomes Annetta’s guardian. Annetta feels trapped and the situation escalates at the sudden death of her father which marks her abrupt arrival in adulthood. At this point, Annetta decides to devote herself entirely to her mother, cultivating Sofia’s unhappiness like a gift rather than a condemnation.
Una minima infelicità is a breathtaking and staggering novel, written with strippedback, chiselled, simply magnificent prose, that is all the more powerful for its economy. Carmen Verde hypnotizes us with a debut that feels outside the chorus of the Italian literary landscape, a real gem from a new talented writer to watch.