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Latest Review: "La Superba" by Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer

The latest addition to our Reviews section is a piece by Anna Alden on La Superba by Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer, published this March by Deep Vellum Publishing.

Summer is in full hazy swing here in Rochester, but luckily we have a handful of great interns at Open Letter/Three Percent this summer, who are going to be helping us out with handfuls of great projects and terrible jokes, including Anna—who is about to start her senior year at the University of Rochester in English Literature.

Here’s the beginning of her review:

Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer’s La Superba is appropriately titled after the Italian city of Genoa, where, after escaping the pressures of fame in his own country, the semi-autobiographical narrator finds himself cataloguing the experiences of its mesmerizing inhabitants with the intention of writing a novel himself. Written in three parts, the novel narrates Ilja’s days as a Dutch foreigner in Genoa, describing the beautiful city which both frustrates and enthralls him. Unlike his own country, which runs systematically and smoothly, Ilja praises Italy for its “improvisation,” causing Italians to be “the most resourceful, resilient, and creative people I know.”

Often holed up in a bar enjoying an aperitif and claiming to write poetry, Ilja assumes the role of careful observer, creating caricatures and recording the stories of those around him. As a foreigner himself, Ilja presents us with a character who is simultaneously within and without— though he has seemingly mastered the Italian language, and purchased nice Italian suits beyond his means to traipse around the city in, Ilja is never fully integrated into the Genoese world he adores. He even identifies with tourists, describing their behaviors in connection to himself: “Incomprehension and insecurity are written all over their faces as they hesitantly wander around the labyrinth. I like them. They’re my brothers. I feel connected to them.”

For the rest of the review, go here.



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