Natura Morta: A Roman Novella
White peaches, red broom, pomegranates tumbling down the escalator steps: with these delicately rendered details, Josef Winkler’s Natura Morta begins. In Stazione Termini in Rome, Piccoletto, the beautiful black-haired boy whose long eyelashes graze his freckle-studded cheeks, steps onto the metro and heads toward his job at a fish stand in Piazza Vittorio Emanuele. The sights and sounds of the market, a mélange of teeming life amid the ever present avatars of death, is the backdrop for Winkler’s innovative prose, which unfolds in a series of haunting images and baroque, luxuriant digressions with pitch-perfect symmetry and intense visual clarity.
Reminiscent of the carnal vitality of Pasolini, and taking inspiration from the play between the sumptuous and fatal in the still lives of the late Renaissance, Natura Morta is a unique experiment in writing as stasis, culminating in the beatification of its protagonist. In awarding this book with the 2001 Alfred Döblin Prize, Günter Grass singled out Winkler’s commitment to the writer’s vocation and praised Natura Morta as a work of dense poetic rigor.
“Magnificent. A poetic study of the transience of being. A deeply sensuous book.” — Marcel Reich-Ranicki
“A hypnotic novel.” — Edmund White