The Sadness of Antonioni

A Novel

By Frank Lentricchia

Subjects: Fiction, Italian American Studies, Film Studies
Series: Excelsior Editions
Imprint: Excelsior Editions
Paperback : 9781438439129, 255 pages, August 2011

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An American adventure in the Antonioni vein—visually rich and emotionally mysterious.


Part Mafia murder mystery, part novel of ideas, but most of all a love story, The Sadness of Antonioni follows Hank Morelli, a young assistant professor of film who is obsessed with Antonioni's L'Avventura. As he embarks on an unlikely romance with a Wendy's cashier, he is also drawn into the mystery of his grandfather's underworld connections and tempted by his department chair and his department chair's mysterious girlfriend, Nadia, to take part in a monstrous film project they are planning. Haunted throughout by the terror of time's raw present without exit, The Sadness of Antonioni is an American adventure in the Antonioni vein—visually rich and emotionally mysterious—in which an unlikely young couple navigates the difficult waters of their relationship, each suffering the remnants of a violent past that must be resolved if they hope to stay together. Heartrending and unsparing, yet with a persistent comic vein, this is Frank Lentricchia's seventh and most ambitious and disturbing novel to date.

Frank Lentricchia is Katherine Everett Gilbert Professor of Literature at Duke University. He is the author or editor of many books of literary criticism and theory, as well as seven novels, including The Italian Actress and The Music of the Inferno, both also published by SUNY Press; Lucchesi and the Whale; and The Book of Ruth.


"…a strikingly rich-looking book … The shifts in point of view… are masterfully handled for each section of the novel, with the effect of cinematic … montage and temporal looping, all already previewed, comically, in Morelli's opening seminar. It is such poignancy and humor throughout the novel, working so well together … that raises this novel to the level of a major meditation upon the dance of time that each of us performs until the end. " — American Book Review

"Antonioni is famous for making movies in which nothing happens, but plenty of things happen in The Sadness of Antonioni, which is both funny and sad, both a love story and a murder mystery, both an academic novel and a Mafia novel. It is a portrait, at once satirical and affectionate, of an Italian-American film professor devoted to pure form on the screen who finds himself entangled in the messy content of unsparing life. It is a novel I much enjoyed and admired. " — Gilberto Perez, Sarah Lawrence College

"By turns hilarious and heart-wrenching, The Sadness of Antonioni follows film professor Hank Morelli from his beginnings as brilliant young turk to his indomitable last days as a gray (though still colorful) eminence, in the process drawing a riveting portrait of contemporary American life, its joys and its puzzlements. A compelling, provocative novel that once again confirms Lentricchia's standing as one of America's most consistently interesting novelists. " — Gustavo Pérez Firmat, author of The Havana Habit

"Frank Lentricchia—provocative and profound—is a masterful alchemist at work, here combining anxiety and the academy, absence and memory, sin and redemption, love and desire. The Sadness of Antonioni is a melancholy reflection on nothing less than life, death, beauty, art, and immortality. " — Stanislao G. Pugliese, author of Bitter Spring: A Life of Ignazio Silone