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Ocean Sea


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About the Author

Alessandro Baricco has won numerous literary awards in Italy and France. He lives in Turin, Italy.


Baricco's first novel since his international best seller, Silk (LJ 10/1/97), this delicately written work is filled with stirring allegorical imagery but still has more heft than its stylishly slim predecessor. A group of characters meet at a seaside hotel that appears to be managed by a few prescient children. One guest, a young woman with a mysterious depressive illness, has come for an ocean cure that will either kill her or save her. A professor studying the scientific aspect of things observes the ocean's edge, while an artist paints seascapes using sea water as his medium, producing a series of white canvases. The dreamlike scenes are feverish and fitful, sometimes annoyingly incomplete, sometimes shockingly violent. A particularly horrifying episode involving a life raft is told twice, like a recurring nightmare. Is this a meditation on the sea, on revenge, on life and art? It's hard to say. Though beautifully crafted, this work will probably not be to most readers' taste.‘Reba Leiding, James Madison Univ., Harrisonburg, VA

"Ocean Sea has the air of a long-established classic."--Salon

"Alessandro Baricco is a novelist who weaves words into a fabric as delicate as Venetian lace."--Chicago Tribune "The remarkable Baricco is artistic kin to his compatriot, Roberto Calasso. Both are originals; both weave patterns of myth and human story and the airy and earthly connections between them." --Los Angeles Times

Italian writer Baricco, who wrote this novel before the highly regarded Silk, again delivers a work whose spare, lyrical language and enigmatic episodes culminate in a tale of love and revenge. This story of obsession is a meditation on the sea‘its seductive surface and erotic depths with the power to heal or destroy. Mirroring the ebb and flow of the ocean, Baricco's cast of characters complement each other. In 19th-century France, six people are drawn, each for distinct reasons, to a seaside hotel‘inhabited only by four precocious, spiritlike children. Researching his scientific book, An Encyclopedia of Limits, Professor Bartleboom seeks the point at which the sea ends; painter Plasson is determined to find where the sea begins. Ann Deverià has been sent by her husband to repent her adulturous ways, while Elisewin, a young, sickly girl, experiences her first love and finds her health restored. Father Pluche, the priest who accompanies Elisewin, discovers the meaning of life; a secretive sailor, Adams, searches for death. For each person, the "sea is a place where you take leave of yourself" in search of his or her mystery; yet each character's story of love, betrayal, murder or redemption is revealed to be inexorably entangled with the others' while the sea bears silent witness to their destinies. It is only through the ripples of Adams's vengeful act that each person realizes his or her destiny. Baricco's prose stylistically echoes his central metaphor: his sentences undulating, breaking and subsiding, a mood that translator McEwan maneuvers beautifully. At times this feat is accomplished masterfully; at others the author's hand is all too apparent, eclipsing the delicate mingling of his intriguing characters with their vengeful and poetic twists of fate. (Feb.)

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