Narrated against the vivid backdrop of Naples in the 1960s, The House on Via Gemito has established itself as a masterpiece of contemporary Italian literature. Translated by Oonagh Stransky.

The modest apartment in Via Gemito smells of paint and white spirit. The living room furniture is pushed up against the wall to create a make-shift studio, and drying canvases must be moved off the beds each night. Federí, the father, a railway clerk, is convinced of possessing great artistic talent. If he didn’t have a family to feed, he’d be a world-famous painter. Ambitious and frustrated, genuinely talented but full of arrogance and resentment, his life is marked by bitter disappointment. His long-suffering wife and their four sons bear the brunt. It’s his first-born who, years later, will sift the lies from the truth to tell the story of a man he spent his whole life trying not to resemble.

The House on Via Gemito was longlisted for the International Booker Prize 2024, announced on March 11 2024.

The International Booker Prize 2024
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Europa Editions
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Portrait of author Domenico Starnone

Domenico Starnone

About the Author

Domenico Starnone is an Italian writer, screenwriter and journalist.

More about Domenico Starnone
Portrait of translator Oonagh Stransky

Oonagh Stransky

About the Author

Oonagh Stransky has been a translator of Italian literature for over 20 years.
More about Oonagh Stransky

What the International Booker Prize 2024 judges said

‘The House on Via Gemito is a marvellous novel of Naples and its environs during and after the Second World War. The prism for this exploration is the relationship between the narrator and his railway worker / artist father – an impossible man filled with cowardice and boastfulness. His son’s attempt to understand and forgive his father is compelling; we are held through the minutiae of each argument and explosion, each hope and almost-success.’ 

Group photo of the International Booker Prize 2024 Judges; Romesh Gunesekera, Natalie Diaz, William Kentridge, Eleanor Wachtel and Aaron Robertson.

What the critics said

Tim Parks, Washington Post:

‘It is 450 pages of vivid, fluid, richly detailed drama, tormented and hilarious. Originally published in 2000, two years after his father’s death and more than a decade before the other translated novels, it shows us the crucible in which the author’s later style was formed: Coolness and control are defense mechanisms learned in the long struggle with his father … The novel gains with length. As drama and detail accumulate, we share the boy’s difficulty in finding a steady position vis-à-vis his father … Starnone’s prose, ably and fluently translated by Oonagh Stransky, is compelling without being showy. He nails down his father in what could seem a tremendous act of revenge but is also a moving celebration of the man’s achievement and a profound consideration of artistic vocation.’


‘Expansive and winding … Every character, including Federí, is a full-fledged human being filled with desire, regret, resentment, bitterness and hope. At the same time, the Neapolitan setting comes equally alive. Federí married his wife, Rusinè, in the midst of the Second World War, and the confused aftermath of that war, as Italy struggled to regain standing, is beautifully described. Starnone, it seems, can do no wrong. A complexly structured masterpiece that doubles back on itself in order to move forward.’

Lily Meyer, NPR

‘His warring desires to destroy his father and banish his father’s violence from his own psyche are, by far, the most interesting parts of the book … Sadly, Starnone gives young Mimí much less time on the page than he does Federí … He has to retell his father’s lies in detail, investigating each one, in order to take their power away; he has to do the same with his memories of Federí abusing him and his long-suffering mother Rusinè. Psychologically, the process makes absolute sense, and is moving to behold. But in a more streamlined novel, Mimí’s liberation might move the reader more.’

Christopher Sorrentino, The New York Times

‘For its first appearance in English, The House on Via Gemito (which won Italy’s prestigious Strega Prize in 2001) has been well served by the translator Oonagh Stransky, whose rendering is as vivid as it is lucid, managing to place elegantly descriptive passages side by side on the page with elaborately pungent Neapolitan insults, reproducing many of the latter in dialect, allowing the long compound words to convey their hostility and contempt on their own.’

John Domini, Brooklyn Rail

‘He never fails to fish out just the right detail to ensure that his latest somersault sticks the landing … This balance of ferocious intensity and cool observation gives us the plot, insofar as there is one.’