Certain novels are of a place. In the case of The Day of Judgment, that place is Sardinia. Or more specifically, the small city of Nuoro, Salvatore Satta’s home in his youth. I was lucky enough to read this book while travelling through Sardinia and even took the opportunity to visit Nuoro. The small world depicted by Satta is still there, maybe because Sardinia really is its own place, much like Sicily, even if it has been absorbed into Italy. There is something in the soil and seawater and rough-hewn mountains that gets into the veins of the local citizens. Satta knew that all too well and breathed so much life into the characters in this posthumous (and unfinished) book.
Granted, the world of The Day of Judgment is pre World War II, before the fascists but right as socialism begins to creep into Italy and the rest of Europe. So Nuoro has still retained some of its agrarian roots including the constant obsession with land ownership, which builds wealth for some but destroys others. Told as reminiscences from his youth, Satta revives the ghosts from the graveyards of Nuoro and delivers a cast of characters who betray themselves with their own ambitions and beliefs. With a great ear for satiric twists and an effortless flowing style to his writing, Satta weaves together these sad and ironic tales into a beautiful canvas. You walk away feeling as if the author told you the stories while sharing a bottle of cannonau, the dark and dry wine of Oliena just south of Nuoro.