Alfonso - Review I Repetto

October 6, 2014

Leonardo da Vinci said, ‘simplicity is the ultimate sophistication’. Félix Calvino’s poignant first novella Alfonso, published in December, proves that beauty and sophistication are born of simplicity; beneath the surface of its apparently simple, gentle narrative lies a depth of honesty, tenderness and wisdom that resonates with the heart and ensures the tale's echoes will be felt long after turning the last page.

Set in the 1960s, Alfonso is the story of a young man who flees his impoverished Spanish village to begin a new chapter in Sydney, carrying in his suitcase a fervent desire for love, and a dream of a stable life. Over many years, Alfonso labours to master English, purchase and renovate a house, and foster close bonds of love and friendship. But it is the powerful undercurrent of Alfonso’s inner transformation that propels the narrative, as he struggles to navigate the murky waters of fear, superstition and cultural conflict that threaten to turn his dreams into an endless mirage.

Calvino's style is light and nuanced; he paints his story in watercolours, creating images no less vivid for the gentleness of his brushstrokes. Calvino gracefully illustrates his thoughtful characters so that their souls shine from the spaces between his carefully placed words. His elegant prose evokes the tones and hues of a forgotten era, when the Opera House was not yet complete, and the rhythms of life were simpler.

Alfonso is a soulful, beautifully written work that charms and captivates with the warmth and authenticity of its voice. Imbued with the subtle shades and seasons of a young man’s cultural and personal journey, this simple story captures nothing less than the beauty of life. 

Review by Natalie Repetto