Survival skills for wintry weather: The Year without Summer & Snow, Dog, Foot

These two recent reads explore physical and psychological survival, or otherwise, in extreme weather conditions. The first is a historical novel about the devastating human, climactic and economic consequences of a volcanic eruption in Indonesia. The second is a translated novella about vulnerable hermit overwintering in the Italian Alps. If you choose to read either of these, you won’t be disappointed.

(…) When Adelmo Farandola scrambles down the mountain to stock up on provisions to see him through the winter, the proprietor of the village shop is surprised. According to her, he was there only a week earlier: is she toying with him or is he is losing his mind?
Adelmo doesn’t much like people. He isn’t particularly fond of the old dog that attaches itself to him on the wearying walk back up to his isolated cabin. He certainly isn’t keen to converse with the young ranger who tries to befriend him. In the summer, when tourists come knocking, looking to buy honey or cheese, he chases them away with stones.
Winter brings snow, walling him into the cabin and blocking the light. It brings hunger, confused memories, discussions with the dog. But Adelmo’s more resilient than most, having battled hunger and freezing temperatures in caves and tunnels as a fugitive in the war. If he’s mad, it must be from the incessant noise of the overhead cables in the village where he lived as a child. Yet even he’s nonplussed at the sight of a human foot uncovered by the melting snow.
Claudio Morandini’s sixth novel, first published in Italian in 2015, is a beautifully compassionate story of an old man estranged from society gradually becoming estranged from himself. Whether due to dementia, psychosis or social isolation, the author perfectly encapsulates how his attempts to safeguard his shreds of sanity pitch him deeper into the muddled maelstrom of his mind. Thanks to Peirene Press for my review copy. A rare five stars from me.

(Anne Goodwin, Annecdotal)

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