The Eye Stone

Written by Katherine Gregor (trans.) Roberto Tiraboschi
Review by Jeanne Mackin

Imagine the world before eyeglasses, before microscopes and magnifiers, before the invention of all those things that aid weak eyes; the world as it is experienced by people completely dependent on what the eyes alone can take in. This is the world of Tiraboschi’s novel. It is described on its cover as “The First Medieval Noir about the Birth of Venice.” The key word is “noir.” Tiraboschi’s literary vision about early medieval Venice is dark, bleak, gritty, and violent. The group of islands that would later be joined by bridges is already home to a colony of glassmakers, ruthless and competitive men ruled by greed and superstition. Edgardo d’Arduino is a cleric/copyist who is going blind and in a desperate search for a legendary magic stone said to restore vision—and also to find a serial killer.

This reader wondered if the translation was quite as adept as it could have been and if Tiraboschi really included all those sentence fragments in the original language. Quite a few words are left untranslated, requiring a glossary at the end of the text, and some nimble finger-jumping back and forth between text and glossary. Mostly, though, the insistence on all things unlovely, all things cruel in this world, gave me pause rather than impetus to read enthusiastically. The darkness is a perfect metaphor for losing sight, for dwelling in superstition, but this world could have benefited from some contrast, some hint of at least the possibility of light and goodness.