There are very few novels you will come across in your life – that are huge in scope. That literally takes the breath of the reader and is not shy or apologetic about it. It is also about the magnitude of some novels that almost make you wonder if such authors exist anymore or can there be works of this nature ever produced again. “The Art of Joy” by Goliarda Sapienza is one such classic.
Very few books have left me stupendous – literally dumbfounded at times, without anything left to say. What “The Art of Joy” also does ironically is make you think of your voice and your opinions. Goliarda’s protagonist is so strong and yet so weak, that any of us can identify with her and yet emerge our own person. I also think that somewhere is the underlined intent of the book.
Modesta is everything a woman is – weak, powerful, giving, restraining and yet wanting it all. She blends into the plot, with the history of Italy as the plot unfolds. It is a memoir of sorts and yet it is as hidden as it could get. There are spaces in-between that shine through and will dazzle the reader. There are times when the writing just takes you by storm. The story of Modesta and Italy are superbly portrayed. There is no separating the two.
What I am most surprised is that the book was rejected by various publishers, before it could get published in 2005 and deserved recognition at last. Modesta’s story is one to reckon with. “The Art of Joy” spans through the entire century – the history of the twentieth century, with the figure of one lone strong woman.
There are so many linear plots to the novel and yet there wasn’t a single time I was tired reading it. It felt that I had to go on and on or else I would not be able to sleep. Modesta’s hopes, desires and her aspirations become yours. She is able to be her person and voice in a society that is patriarchal and driven by what men think and feel.
“The Art of Joy” cannot be classified in any genre and yet I will call it literary fiction. It is one book that I think everyone must read at some point in their lives. This book should be cherished and perhaps reread. This is what the value is. A marvellous read.