If You Kept a Record of Sins


Translated from by

Published: 3/2/2021

ISBN: 9781939810960 eISBN: 9781939810977

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Book Description

A sly, prismatic novel that Jhumpa Lahiri says “accumulates with the quiet urgency of a snowstorm,” by Andrea Bajani, whom Michael Cunningham calls “a true original.” If You Kept a Record of Sins records the indelible marks a mother leaves on her son after she abandons their home in Italy for a business she’s building in Romania. Lorenzo, just a young boy when his mother leaves, recalls the incisive fragments of their life – when they would playfully wrestle each other, watch the sunrise, or test out his mother’s mysterious, mythical invention. Now a young man, Lorenzo travels to Romania for his mother’s funeral and reflects on the strangeness of today’s Europe, which masks itself as a beacon of Western civilization while iniquity and exploitation run rampant. With elliptical, piercing prose, Bajani tells a story of abandonment and initiation, of sentimental education and shattered illusions, of unconditional love.

Andrea Bajani’s haunting portrait of a mother-son relationship accumulates with the quiet urgency of a snowstorm. The impact is shattering, pure. With themes of distance and dislocation at its heart, this celebrated novel by one of Italy’s most talented young writers now resonates in English thanks to Elizabeth Harris’ limpid translation.
Jhumpa Lahiri

If You Kept a Record of Sins is written with grace and calm control. It deals with loss, especially the loss of a mother, with a chiseled sense of truth. Each image and each moment are captured with exquisite emotional accuracy. The connection between the past and the present is dramatized with skill. The protagonist is, like the author himself, someone on whom nothing is lost.
Colm Tóibín

Andrea Bajani’s If You Kept a Record of Sins is a beautiful, original, and deeply moving work of art.  It would be a gift at any time in history and is all the more so now, as the world moves through one of its darker periods.
Michael Cunningham

Lorenzo travels to Bucharest to bury his dead mother. While there, he discovers that the trauma of their separation has lasted his entire life. The incredible emotion achieved here can only be described as magical, emanating from the novel’s sober, reserved tone; from its resigned voice that neither judges nor condemns; from its nostalgic bursts of memory of a childhood both happy and sad. A short, stoic novel, of a realism reaching toward hallucination and a squalor leading to despair, a love letter and a requiem for an absent mother—Andrea Bajani’s If You Kept a Record of Sins is an unforgettable book. Together with the author, we wait, enthralled, for the break of dawn, when all the lights will go out.
Mircea Cărtărescu

One of Italy’s greatest writers, here in a translation that captures the ruminative beauty of Bajani’s words. An elegy, a requiem, a reckoning, a broken portrait of an absent mother, If You Kept a Record of Sins is a jewel of a book. You will hold it to your heart when you are done.
Andrew Sean Greer, winner of the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Less

Every search is a search for oneself. In Andrea Bajani’s novel, the search for the lost mother reveals not only the true protagonist of the story, but a scathing portrait of Western culture and its greed and selfish lust for power. Bajani has written a wise, lyrical, beautifully stylized book that clings for long in the reader’s memory. I couldn’t put it down.
Alberto Manguel

What do you say to the dead, especially if the one who died is the one who bore you? This is the question Andrea Bajani wrestles with in this beautifully rendered letter from a son to his estranged mother. The story is woven together around a handful of central mysteries. . . and the way is marked by a handful of enigmatic images: an egg you can climb inside, a palace you can see from the moon, a river you cross to take a photograph on the far bank, a photograph you will leave for your son, which will tell him all he needs to know.
Nick Flynn

One of the Italian authors whose work I follow closely. His writing is ambitious and has an undeniable literary energy.
Enrique Vila-Matas

Writing such as this makes me happy again, and it gives me comfort, because it is itself a form of resistance.
Antonio Tabucchi

Part of a brilliant new generation of Italian writers that includes names like Paolo Giordano, Elena Ferrante, and Mirko Sabatino.
Fernando Hernández Urías, Chilango

Bajani is confirmed as a keen and sensitive traveler, one of the best Italian writers of the moment.
Francis M. Cataluccio, Il Sole 24 Ore

Without a doubt one of the most powerful voices from the generation of authors born in the 1970s.
Guadalupe Nettel, Revista UNAM