Cover image for The bishop's bedroom
Title:
The bishop's bedroom
Uniform Title:
Stanza del vescovo. English
ISBN:
9781939931740
Physical Description:
159 pages ; 21 cm.
General Note:
First published in Italian as La stanza del Vescovo. Copyright © 1976. --Title page verso.
Added Author:
Summary:
Summer 1946. World War Two has just come to an end and there's a yearning for renewal. A man in his thirties is sailing on Lake Maggiore in northern Italy, hoping to put off the inevitable return to work. Dropping anchor in a small, fashionable port, he meets the enigmatic owner of a nearby villa who invites him home for dinner with his older wife and beautiful widowed sister-in-law. The sailor is intrigued by the elegant waterside mansion, staffed with servants and imbued with mystery, and stays in a guest room previously occupied by a now deceased bishop related to his host. The two men form an uneasy bond, recognizing in each other a shared taste for idling and erotic adventure. They soon set sail together, encountering old flames and making new conquests. But tragedy puts an abrupt halt to their revels and shatters the tranquility of the villa. What really happened on the dock? And who was the figure glimpsed cycling around the shore in the dark? --
Language Note:
Translated from Italian.
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Summary

"Piero Chiara's novel is at once a murder mystery and a lyrical study of desire, greed, and deception. The ending is simply stunning."
-- André Aciman, author of Call Me by Your Name

Summer 1946. World War Two has just come to an end and there's a yearning for renewal. A man in his thirties is sailing on Lake Maggiore in northern Italy, hoping to put off the inevitable return to work. Dropping anchor in a small, fashionable port, he meets the enigmatic owner of a nearby villa who invites him home for dinner with his older wife and beautiful widowed sister-in-law. The sailor is intrigued by the elegant waterside mansion, staffed with servants and imbued with mystery, and stays in a guest room previously occupied by a now deceased bishop related to his host. The two men form an uneasy bond, recognizing in each other a shared taste for idling and erotic adventure. But tragedy puts an abrupt halt to their revels and shatters the tranquility of the villa. A sultry, stylish psychological thriller executed with supreme literary finesse.


Author Notes

Piero Chiara (1913-1986) was a leading Italian author of the 20th century who won over a dozen literary prizes and whose work is marked by psychological depth, melancholy humor and a grasp of the essence of everyday life. The Bishop's Bedroom is the most celebrated of his many acclaimed novels.

Jill Foulston is the translator of novels by Erri de Luca, Augusto de Angelis and Piero Chiara. She lives in London.


Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Chiara's engrossing novel of loafing lotharios in post-WWII Italy hums with suspense. An wealthy 30-something unnamed narrator gads about Lake Maggiore in the summer of 1946 on his unusual sailboat. He meets Temistocle Mario Orimbelli, recently returned to Italy following his time in the army in Africa, who insistently invites him to dine. Orimbelli takes him to his eerie villa and introduces his chilly wife, Cleofe, and sultry Matilde, the widow of Cleofe's presumed dead brother. The two men take to drifting along the lake and picking up women to seduce. Orimbelli annoys the narrator by always seducing the one the narrator prefers and acting as if he cannot help it. When Matilde agrees to accompany them on a short journey, the narrator sees his turn to consummate his attraction, but Orimbelli claims he shares a strong, secret love with Matilde. As the narrator begins to cool on his friend, a shocking death sets in motion a tense cascade of suspicion and new arrangements. Chiara's atmospheric writing and aching descriptions of desire amplify the effects of the characters' dubious choices. Readers will be swept away by this lush, gothic-tinged mystery and its unscrupulous characters. (Nov.)


Kirkus Review

An unnamed sailor, stopping off in the northern Italian port of Oggebbio on Lake Maggiore in 1946, is drawn into the shadowy world of a villa owner who befriends him.The 30-ish sailor, who is returning to this area of grand old houses and lush gardens after having been a war refugee in Switzerland, is free and unattached. His new companion, Orimbelli, who invites him to stay in his villa, lives with his "schoolmarmish and snooty" older wife and widowed sister-in-law. While taking Orimbelli on recreational cruises to various ports and islands, the sailor becomes involved in a series of erotic adventures with women who join them along the way. Among them is a married woman the sailor regularly visits but whom Orimbelli can't resist seducing in the sailor's absence. "Maybe he wasn't a demonbut a poor man shaken up by the wars," the sailor rationalizes. "I knew it wasn't easy for himor me, for that matterto be any other way, or to be better." We learn that Orimbelli has an improper interest in his sister-in-law; he knows as she does not that her husband, who went missing during the war, is alive and wealthy in Ethiopia. First published in 1976 and made into a 1977 film starring Ugo Tognazzi, the late Italian novelist Chiara's brief masterwork turns insinuation into high art. Beneath the dead calm on the lake and the sensual tranquility of the surrounding villages, darkness lurks, as if the horrors of war went underground. "One can't escape here," says the sailor before attempting to do exactly that.A first-rate book that is both a moody suspense novel and a haunting allegory. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Booklist Review

Chiara (1913-86) was a popular Italian writer in the mid-twentieth century, but his work remains largely unavailable in the U.S. Happily, this hypnotic novel, a mix of thriller and mood piece on the nature of sexual attraction, has finally been translated into English. The unnamed narrator is idling away the summer of 1946, fighting vainly the postwar ennui by sailing on Lake Maggiore in northern Italy. Then he encounters the aristocratic Orimbelli, who invites the sailor to his villa for dinner. A friendship blossoms, as the narrator makes a foursome with Orimbelli, his older wife, and his widowed sister-in-law. The sexual tension crackles, as the narrator now a houseguest attempts to sort out his own attraction for the sister-in-law, as well as the dynamics of the three-cornered relationship between Orimbelli and the two women. Sailing interludes move the action to the calm but somehow ominous water, as the two men form dalliances with other women, which only delays the resolution of the tension awaiting at the villa. It's a quiet novel, but the suspense is as palpable as the unmistakable echoes of Patricia Highsmith.--Bill Ott Copyright 2019 Booklist