One of the things I like about being in New York for a prolonged period is that I get to attend the weekly lunch meeting of the New York Institute for the Humanities. The fellows gather from 12 to 2 on just about every Friday during the school term--first for a free lunch (really!) at which you converse with the other people who happen to be seated around you, and then for a one-hour talk by either a fellow or, more often, a visitor. This past Friday our visitor was an Italian novelist named Claudio Magris. I am embarrassed to say I never heard of him before, and I should have: Richard Howard, who was sitting next to me, has been a huge fan of his writing for years, and so has Norman Manea, who introduced him. Magris's latest book is a novel called Blindly, recently translated into English and brought out by Yale. It focuses on an actual event in Italian history--a group of 2000 Italian Communists who went to Yugoslavia after the war, were eventually imprisoned by Tito, and much later came back to an Italy that didn't welcome them--but it also includes references to myth (Jason and the Golden Fleece), historical incidents from other geographical regions (a Scandinavian rabble-rouser who briefly proclaimed himself King of Iceland), a love-story, a series of encounters with a psychiatrist, and numerous moral and psychological questions that do not receive flat yes-or-no answers. I thought the whole thing sounded fascinating, and I instantly ordered it from Yale. If I finish reading it before this blogging month is over, I will report further.