The Betrothed is an inextricable thread in the fabric of Italian culture, one of the most influential works in the Italian literary canon, and required reading in Italian schools. Published in 1827 but set two hundred years earlier, it is considered the first iteration of the historical novel; Edgar Allen Poe declared it “a work which promises to be the commencement of a new style in novel-writing” in 1835. But, until now, it has remained relatively unknown to U.S. readers.
The novel is the story of two young lovers, forced to flee their village after a dangerous, powerful man threatens their marriage and their lives. But Manzoni draws on historical events to weave a much wider tapestry: He brings to vivid life Spanish occupation during the Thirty Years’ War, the bubonic plague, famine, politics, religion, poverty, class tensions, and a colorful cast of characters, all of which provide an unforgettable portrait of Italian life and society. But within Manzoni’s epic tale of seventeenth-century Italy, readers will spot powerful echoes of our modern day: the consequences of government negligence, entrenched divisions of wealth and privilege, a country gripped by panic as an unstoppable illness spreads.
Michael F. Moore’s superb new translation turns a welcome, accesssible, and engaging spotlight onto Manzoni’s enduring legacy and his timeless literary masterpiece.