Although it took me some days to finish this book, I enjoyed every bit of it (except, maybe, the political stuff). It is such a dense prose that I couldn't read more than a chapter at a time, as it claimed quite an effort from my brain cells. I had to dwell on a lot of paragraphs in order to understand the meaning, and I must confess that, sometimes, I didn't quite get it. Yet, there was such beauty and philosophy in Circle in the grass
that I feel I must read this book again, in the same manner - small doses, time to ponder, because too much of it will make my head explode.Circle in the grass
is a story about passionate love, art and politics, with deep introspects about human condition, poetry, love, relationships. There are some strong characters here, whose inner and outer lives are followed in turns, and there are also amazing fable-like stories from parts of Italy.
And yes, above all there is Rome, with its winding streets and compelling architecture, which will stir a deep melancholy for those who have visited this wonderful city at some point in their lives.
In 1978, Hanna Piccard, a Dutch journalist, comes with her two cats to work in Rome and there she meets Joe Kurhajec, a Vietnam-veteran turned sculptor. Through him she comes to know Andrea Simonetti, a divorced poet who lives with his 13-year-old daughter, Leda.
Soon, a tormenting love sparks between Hanna and Andrea, despite the fact that they are so different. The novel follows their love from the awkward beginning, through the difficult time they have to adapt to each other, till the final stage (which I won't spoil). While Hanna is more action-oriented, jealous, suspicious and deeply engaged in their affair, Andrea is contemplative, distant and sometimes cruel, fearing the loss of individuality (or at least this is how I got it).
Meanwhile, Andrea is working on his very long poem, in which one of the characters is inspired by his employer and friend Zucarelli, the head of the museum where Andrea works as an art historian. And how I loved when, towards the end, Zucarelli denies the role that it was attributed to him in the poem and chooses the fate of the hero instead...
Hanna, Andrea, Leda and Zucarelli take turns in expressing their inner world in this novel, through voices and personalities which are quite distinct. Leda is creative, intelligent and almost as contemplative as her father. She gradually leaves her childhood behind and has her first crush, on a stranger.
The political background is also of importance - Italy is under threat of terrorism from the Red Brigades and the events culminate with the abduction of Aldo Moro, ex-prime-minister. There are some well-spoken words about the trajectory of the consumerist world and about why people are revolting - politics has never been my cup of tea, yet it was interesting to read Oek de Jong's ideas on the subject.
For more experienced readers, Circle in the grass
may even earn 5 stars. Such a pity this book is so little known...
EDIT: Apparently, this book is not translated into English and it is such a loss! This book deserves a wider audience, it is a truly great novel.