The small Tuscan town of Castelluccio is preparing for its annual festival, a spectacular pageant in which a leading role will be taken by the self-exiled English painter Gideon Westfall. A man proudly out of step with modernity, Westfall is regarded by some as a maestro, but in Castelluccio – as in the wider art world – he has his enemies, and his niece – just arrived from England – is no great admirer either. At the same time a local girl is missing, a disappearance that seems to implicate the artist.
But the life and art of Gideon Westfall form just one strand of Nostalgia, a novel that teems with incidents and characters, from religious visionaries to folk heroes. Constantly shifting between the panoramic and the intimate, between the past and the present, Nostalgia is as intricately structured as a symphony, interweaving the narratives of history, legend, architecture – and much more – in a kaleidoscope of facts and invention.
“Buckley is a mighty creative force” The Sunday Times
“By its poignant conclusion, this affecting, inventive novel is enough to make you hunt down Buckley’s previous works if this is the first time you have come across him.” The Sunday Herald
Guardian Readers’ Books of the Year
“But my book of the year is Jonathan Buckley’s breathtakingly clever novel, Nostalgia (Sort of Books). Set in a small Tuscan town it puts before us not only the expatriate protagonists but also the town itself, its history, its local residents and their life histories, all interspersed with scholarly digressions. Wonderful.” [Charles Boardman]
“My favourite book of the year is Nostalgia by Jonathan Buckley (Sort of Books). It is impossible in a few words to do justice to the scope and depth of this multilayered novel, except to recommend it as warmly as possible. It is set in Castelluccio, a small town in Tuscany, the home of an ageing English painter, Gideon Westfall. Through many diffuse strands, which include documentation of Westfall’s work, Buckley paints a comprehensive picture of the town’s people, history, geography and mythology in a classic evocation of place.” [John Shields]
The composition of Nostalgia. A note by Jonathan Buckley
Nostalgia is not a conventional narrative. It does not proceed in a straight line from commencement to resolution, by means of the tightly plotted interactions of its protagonists. Containing many stories, and many pieces of information, both factual and fictional, it might at first sight appear to be an extended exercise in digression. And digressive novels such Don Quixote and Tristram Shandy are among the books I most admire, as is Walter Benjamin’s encyclopaedic Arcades Project, a book which, like Nostalgia, is an assemblage of texts with a tight geographical focus. But Nostalgia is in fact tightly structured. As the numbering of its sections might suggest, there is a plan to the way it proceeds. And if one is looking for analogies for the way in which this book has been constructed, it might be useful to think in terms of music.
I have a particularly strong interest in the ‘classical’ music of the last century. Kurtág, Sciarrino, Lachenmann, Nono, Ligeti, Grisey, Feldman, Xenakis and Schoenberg are some of the composers to whose work I listen most frequently, and many of their works are rich in incident while being underpinned by a mathematically rigorous structure. Nostalgia similarly is profusely detailed, but the details are applied to a pre-determined framework. The book is not intended to be a puzzle – I’m not challenging the reader to work out the principles that preceded its composition. But I hope that in the process of reading it will become apparent, at some point, that the apparent diffuseness is nothing of the sort.
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