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Romano Bilenchi’s classic coming of age story, never before published in English, is set in northern Tuscany in the 1950s. The small hill towns and rolling Tuscan countryside provide a suggestive and constantly changing backdrop to a story that is thoroughly Italian in its particulars—its smells, sounds and sights—but universal in its themes. Here, the changing seasons stir both the vibrant hues of Bilenchi’s Tuscany and the many moods of his young nameless protagonist. But the abiding atmosphere in this tale is, as the title suggests, wintery. Following the death of his beloved grandfather, a chill has descended upon the teenage narrator of this classic tale, leaving him estranged from friends, family, and eventually even from nature itself— although always vivid and animated, the natural splendor of central Italy becomes increasingly harsh and hostile throughout this story. The protagonist’s growing awareness of his own and others’ sexuality leads to a series of difficult, confusing encounters that push him even further within himself. Each small awakening, each intimation of the adult world, with all its alarming ribaldry and vulgarity, drives him further from his kind. His reluctant journey into the adult world culminates in a seemingly innocent erotic adventure that, when discovered, will possess all the destructive potential of a natural disaster and at the same time all the potential for rebirth of a new spring.
Romano Bilenchi was born near Siena, Tuscany, in 1909. He was a member of the Italian Resistance during the Fascist period and in the years following the end of WWII became an active member of the Italian Communist Party. Winner of the prestigious Viareggio Prize in 1972, he published over ten novels and several collections of short stories and essays in his lifetime, and was close friends with some of the major figures of his age, including Eurgenio Montale and Ezra Pound. Bilenchi died in Florence in 1989.