Some critiques of the novel “Sentieri di notte” (“Paths of the Night”)

Giovanni Agnoloni

Giovanni Agnoloni – Sentieri di notte (Paths of the Night)

 

Paths of the night is a book in which we can find, combined in perfect harmony, such different but attractive perspectives as those of Futurism, science-fiction, heroic fantasy, thriller and noir novels. This makes every single page of it a true pleasure for the most demanding readers.
Yet, most of all, it is good and clever literature. A deep reflection on certain dark regions of the human species (the lust for power, the almost eternal desire for manipulation, deceit as a way to gain supremacy over the others, etc.), and yet a reflection based on some of the so-called technological ‘modernities’ that should supposedly make human beings more free but, as we can see in the book, very often become the most effective manner to turn us into slaves without even a chance of noticing that.
In this novel, fear and ethics, as well as love, fidelity and death…, that is, the essential values that make us ‘human beings’, are the elements enlightening the devastating Fog that equally obscures our planet and our soul.”

Amir Valle, writer and journalist (from the cover of the novel’s Spanish edition)

“Your book (…) is a tour de force of imagination. You have peered deeply into the future of science, artificial intelligence and technology and imagined a dystopian future in which large technology firms (…) wield far too much power over the lives of people. The book illuminates many of the dangers of the times in which we live. At the same time, I enjoyed the philosophical, often spiritual qualities of the writing itself. Often time, the characters find themselves at important moral and philosophical crossroads in their lives, thanks to your careful plotting. Your book reads in many ways like a modern-day 1984.”

Richard Merli, American writer and editor-in-chief of the literary magazine “October Hill”, in an e-mail sent to the author

“Giovanni Agnoloni’s first novel [Sentieri di notte] certainly is a thriller inspired by the futuristic poetics of Connectivism, but also – and mainly – a spiritual research, (…) a quest. Although marked by moments undoubtedly inspired by action cinema and containing adventurously intense pages, the book cannot be read without considering its characters of keen spirituality and moral tension.
Agnoloni is mainly interested in building an exploration plan of the Self, as well as in completing it not only through a personal meditation on the world, but also through a collective event that may trigger such meditation in the subjects involved in it.”

Giuseppe Panella, literary critic and professor of Esthetics at the ‘Scuola Normale di Pisa, on the literary blog Poesia, di Luigia Sorrentino (RAI’s – Italian public television’s – literary blog)

“Agnoloni’s book falls within Connectivism, the only avant-garde movement produced by Italian literature over the recent years. (…) What I strongly feel I should point out about it is that this is not a mere ‘science fiction book’, but literary science-fiction inspired by the best tradition, that of Philip K. Dick and Stanisław Lem.  (…)

A naive reader might read the novel (…) as a pleasant story in Blade Runner style. Why not? This is a possible interpretation level. You may read Paths of the Night as a compelling story or as a problematic text. Agnoloni urges us to read with a subtle structural solution, in Conrad’s style: almost the entire novel, in fact, consists of its characters’ monologues, so that the story, in the end, can be “recomposed” from the intersection of their different points of view. (…) But Agnoloni’s writing is so transparent that the “assembly” of those narration blocks is realized with a discretion that (…) does not prevent us from enjoying the engaging aspects of the plot.”

Giorgio Galli, literary critic, on the literary blog La lanterna del pescatore

Sentieri di notte [Paths of the Night] – it’d be useless to deny it – is a book contaminating various genres. What is more, it contaminates genres with mainstream fiction. However, I’ve never liked talking about ‘contamination’, since this would equal to saying that genres are ‘sealed’. I’d rather define it as a contemporary novel, however vague this definition may be – that is, a novel of the new millennium, which can no longer disregard whatever “high” has derived from decades of history of genres like science fiction, noir, fantasy, “spiritual” literature, “research” literature or whichever label you may choose for it. And in this endeavour Giovanni succeeds with a style that I would define perfect (coherently with my idea, according to which perfection exists, but is not only one), which means refined but simple, concise but lyrical. The poetical and spiritual dimensions (like those originating from genres) are never ‘overbearing’, and the recipe (I often compare novels to dishes) has all ingredients in the right quantities. Let’s consider that this is his first novel, and normally, by experience, I know that an author can only improve with time. Therefore, we can say that this a well-accomplished book.”

Lukha B Kremo, award-winning author

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“According to Italo Calvino, writing benefits from “weight subtraction”. In fact, he claimed to have always aimed at lightening the structure of short-stories and novels. That’s a lightness that must not be mistaken for superficiality or inaccuracy. The point is not ‘cutting’ for the sake of it. Agnoloni, too, obtains such lightness pursuing ‘language precision”, which turns weightless and ‘hovers on things like a cloud”. These images, lightly evoked, do not therefore imply lesser intensity. It rather is quite the opposite”.

Emanuele Manco, journalist and writer

“Giovanni Agnoloni’s experiment is a sort of bridge towards mainstream literature; a bridge, however, created not by subtracting, but by adding, since Giovanni has inserted more genres into the plot: sci-fi, fantastic, thriller and spy story, apart from waves of holistic philosophy and spirituality. All of this, enveloped in a distinctly decadent and Central European halo: here, the abyssal specters of Nazism are still moving around, creating Chinese shadows, while the future of the planet is involved in the disquieting hegemony of IT multinational corporations.”

Sandro Battisti, award-winning author and co-founder of Connectivism, on the blog “HyperHouse”

“The sci-fi aspect is deliberately evanescent, or ‘anthological’: there’s a collection of topoi of genre literature (the perfect android, the almighty multinational corporation) that is useful for creating the outline of a background, or a meta-scenery. (…) thus, the author aims at producing echoes in the reader’s mind: but it is evident that it’s not to that – the IT or socio-political details – that he mostly pays attention. The world of Sentieri di notte is the world as is now, or how it could maybe become a little further on in time; a simplified skeleton in which what really counts is the solitude, the sense of loss of oneself and the authenticity of individuals’ desires. The merger and subsequent switching off of the energetic networks is just an ‘igniter’ (…)

The true story, in this novel, is the second-level design: the quest leading to the Source (…).

It’s in this very rare form of “hybridization” that we find a true novelty. Bildungromans, spiritual quests, allegoric stories, typically use fantastic, horror or at most fantasy traits, whereas here the author has accomplished a bold experiment: that of adopting metaphorical elements, but also their scientific/sci-fi physicalness.”

Denise Bresci, writer

“Although Agnoloni’s writing assumes some philosophical notions that surely are not within everyone’s reach – for instance, Jung’s archetypes – it flows well and can arouse the same interest and suspense that could derive from the reading of a good ‘noir’ novel with a ‘sci-fi like’ setting”.

Franca Santoro, cultural blogger, on the literary blog “Ver Sacrum”