Snow, Dog, Foot by Claudio Morandini, translated by J Ockenden – review

Published by Peirene Press

Publication date – 15 Februrary 2020

Source – review copy

The icy oblivion of the alps seen through the eyes of hermit. Available to pre-order in February or receive straight away by subscribing. 

Adelmo Farandola doesn’t like people. In summer he roams the valleys, his only company a talkative, cantankerous old dog and a young mountain ranger who, Adelmo Farandola suspects, is spying on him.

When winter comes, man and dog are snowed in. With stocks of wine and bread depleted, they pass the time squabbling over scraps, debating who will eat the other first.

Spring brings a more sinister discovery that threatens to break Adelmo Farandola’s already faltering grip on reality: a man’s foot poking out of the receding snow.

Adelmo Farandola lives alone on a mountain side, venturing into the village in the valley rarely and then choosing to speak as little as often. He has made his trip for supplies in readiness for the winter months when the snow makes the steep path impassible.

The reader meets Adelmo as he makes this trek down from his cabin. He tries to speak to as few people as possible but is confused when the shopkeeper tells him he has already been. He believes she is playing a trick on him and buys more provisions before taking the lonely walk back up the mountain. This time however he is joined by a dog, who does all it can to rebuff Adelmo’s calls to go away. It appears that he had already been for his supplies. From nuisance to companion the change is both gradual and abrupt. So too is the voice of the dog, from barks to human words, the only other creature Adelmo has ‘conversations’ with. That is except for the ranger, who the old man has seen spying on him but now approaches cautiously, trying to engage Adelmo in chat. Again, as the story progresses the reader becomes more aware of the reason for the ranger’s calls.

There are some descriptions that will make the reader wince. The shopkeeper insists on the door remaining open when Adelmo visits. It’s not until later that the reader realises it’s to dissipate the stench that emanates from Adelmo. Descriptions of his lack of hygiene are enough to make the stomach turn but are also another indication of the decline of Adelmo.

Then the winter comes and Adelmo and dog are cut off from the outside world. The cabin, covered in snow, the white creating darkness. Soon supplies run out and Adelmo is reduced to dire circumstances to sustain his hunger. When the snow melts so do some of the last tethers on Adelmo’s mind. A foot is revealed in the snow and Adelmo has to decide what to do when the remainder of the snow retreats.

Snow, Dog, Foot is the story of the decline of a self-isolated man considered merely eccentric by the few people he interacts with. The only one who shows true concern is the ranger, and for that he seems suspicious in the faltering mind of Adelmo. For a book with few pages it leaves much pause for thought. Just like the snow on the mountain, this is a slowly devastating read.

A considered, impacting story, it is easy to see why this has been a best seller in the author’s native Italy.

About the author

Neve, cane, piede, first published in 2015 is Claudio Morandini’s sixth book. The novel is a literary phenomenon; a top-five Italian bestseller, it won the Procida-Elsa Morante-Isola di Arturo prize in 2016 and has been translated into French, Spanish and Turkish. It appears here for the first time in English.

About the translator

J Ockenden is a translator, journalist, broadcaster, poet and winner of the 2019 Peirene Stevns Translation Prize. After entering the prize with a translation of the first chapter, J was awarded a writer’s retreat in the Pyrenees, where the work was completed. This is J’s first full-length literary translation.


4 Comments Add yours

  1. LizScanlon says:

    I am intrigued! 🧐

    Liked by 1 person

    1. janetemson says:

      It is a story that leaves the reader thinking.


  2. This sounds a powerful and disturbing read. Peirene are such an interesting publisher!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. janetemson says:

      They are. Their stories are all so diverse but are easy to identify as Peirene.

      Liked by 1 person

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