Review by Frank Plowright
Deadly Dalliance collects half a dozen short stories originally produced for European anthology magazines from the mid to late 1980s. Ranging between three and ten pages, they’re beautifully drawn in Vittorio Giardino’s clear line style, and share themes of deceit and dissatisfaction.
There’s a lyrical eroticism to individual stories, occurring in holiday destinations across the globe, each featuring a relationship in need of termination or spicing up, but when read one after the other there’s also a repetitive and predictable quality. Remote and beautiful landscapes offer new opportunities, and these require some shedding of previous partners. Those inclined to work themselves into a froth about material not conforming to a narrow moral viewpoint are spoiled for choice with multiple starting points for their indulgence. Should it be the nudity or the casual extra-marital sex? Or perhaps the ethical redundancy or the consistent self-serving agendas? They provide a broadly cynical worldview when gathered, actually somewhat at odds with Giardino’s liberal sympathies elsewhere. As distanced vignettes they all work, although on one occasion Giardino confesses to lifting his mood and a major plot element from an Ernest Hemingway short story.
Artistically, this is a stunning collection. Giardino’s cast are all beautiful unless the plot calls for an everyman (the history teacher in Capri), yet all visually distinct. His settings are evocative and busy, and the landscapes stunning. Most stories contain an image that could double as a postcard. If there’s a poor page of Giardino art it was early enough in his career never to have been translated into English.
Deadly Dalliances is ultimately inconsequential, very nicely drawn, passes the time, but simultaneously predictable and hollow. A footnote, not a masterwork.