Moreno Giovannoni’s collection of tales – populous and baggy, earthy and engrossing – offers not a history but the lifeblood, the living memory, of a small town in northern Italy called San Ginese, or more specifically a hamlet in its shadow called Villora. Villora is the point of departure and return for generations of Sanginesini, and the locus of the tales told.
The tales begin with Ugo, who relates them in an Italian diminished by long years in Australia and thus transcribed by a translator not unlike Giovannoni. The reader learns that ‘all the tales are true’, and that while we might find a map or image of the town (one is sketched at the front of the book for convenience, if not proof), we will never find the Villora of the tales. Ugo confides, ‘Just as migrants do not ever truly arrive at their destination, so those who remain behind disappear and become untraceable’, and that, finally, if left unwritten, the people and events recounted ‘would have faded into boundless oblivion’.