Romantic adventures; the Free Cinema movement; and an 18th century duel

This week’s TLS (March 29) is a special issue devoted to European culture which includes three very informative pieces on Italian writers. David Robey reviews the first two volumes of the eventual four volumes on Emilio Salgari (1862-1911) by Ann Lawson Lucas. Salgari’s adventure romances, Robey suggests, all contain the defining features of the genre: ‘heroes of exceptional strength and prowess and heroines of remarkable beauty; idealised passionate love; plots made up of travel, chance events and physical conflict or struggle’ (features generated exclusively by Salgari’s imagination and his life in the library stacks since he never left Italy and had to spend all his time writing). Then Anna Coatman reviews the English translation of the lively London diaries of the film director Lorenza Mazzetti (she announced ‘I’m a genius’ when she first arrived at the Slade School of Fine Art from work on a potato farm and the Slade’s director invited her to come back the next day). She became one of the founders of the Free Cinema movement (‘Perfection is not an aim. An attitude means a style. A style means an attitude’) along with Karel Reisz, Lindsay Anderson and Tony Richardson. Finally, Joseph Farrell describes the duel (‘Pistols for two and coffee for one’) fought, or at least performed, in 1766 between Giacomo Casanova and Count Franciszek Branicki. Branicki was the more seriously wounded but the duellists continued to exchange good wishes daily for their respective recoveries.

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