Before talking about coffee in songs and analyzing its presence on the big screen , it was literature and writers, both Italian and international, to recognize its potential, talking about this drink in stories or even whole books.
From the pages of Luigi Pirandello right up to the most recent titles, we are heading off to discover coffee in books: here are some tasty, aromatic reading recommendations, to be accompanied, of course, by a cup of your favorite coffee.
Coffee in Italian and international literature
The success of coffee, not just as a drink, but as a real social ritual, is deeply rooted in past centuries and has a profound connection with culture, especially literature.
Of the Italian authors, one that is definitely worth mentioning is Carlo Goldoni: from “La bottega del caffè” (The Coffee Shop) to “Le femmine puntigliose” (Wilful Women) , as in other comedies, he analyzes the role of coffee in the 18th century society.
In inventing his characters and plots, Goldoni never loses sight of what is happening in that historic moment when coffee was becoming increasingly popular and widespread among the middle classes.
The Literary Cafés
The union between coffee and culture, in the 18th century, is also easily identifiable in the presence of numerous Literary cafés in many European cities, places where intellectuals enter into heartfelt discussions, comparing opinions informally over a hot coffee.
In fact it was with the Enlightenment movement that the model developed that took culture out of traditional places and far away from elitist ideas.
Even in the following centuries these Literary Cafés were a great success: between the 19th and 20th centuries, among writers, James Joyce and Italo Svevo, for example, particularly loved these places and spent may hours in the Literary cafés of Trieste, also frequented by Kafka and the poet Umberto Saba.
Pirandello and The Man with the Flower in his Mouth.
The Sicilian Luigi Pirandello also identifies the social and narrative power of coffee, bringing it up at may different points in his work.
One of his lesser-known poems for example is called “L’ultimo caffè” (The Last Coffee) , while the famous drama “L’uomo dal fiore in bocca” (The Man with the Flower in his Mouth) is set entirely in a station café, where the protagonist starts up a conversation with another customer.
Right there, where tracks and different people’s destinies cross as they arrive and depart, the man with the flower in his mouth reflects on the value of everything around him and life itself, before revealing that he is himself near death.
Books and coffee: 7 titles not to be missed
Whether it is to tell the story of coffee, or use it as a narrative pretext for developing plots and making characters meet in novel, this drink can often be found in contemporary literature, through the voices of many writers.
Here is a list of book titles that we would recommend reading:
- Luciano De Crescenzo, Il caffè sospeso (The Suspended Coffee) . In Napoli the suspended coffee is a common custom and it is precisely this tradition that inspires the stories and anecdotes of this Neapolitan author, who imagines himself in conversation with ancient philosophers, talks about the history of some places in the city and deals with some of the most varied topics, always with irony and intelligence. Perfect reading to accompany a coffee.
- Steven Lee Allen, La tazzina del diavolo (The Devil’s Cup) . A journey round the world along the coffee routes. From the city of Harrar in Ethiopia, to the Red Sea, from Turkey to Vienna, the author recounts the stages of a journey which lasted a whole year along the coffee routes, asking himself what role this drink has had in the history of mankind.
- Carson McCullers, La ballata del caffè triste (The Dance of the Sad Café). This collection of tales by the American writer takes its title from one of the stories in it, The Dance of the Sad Café, in which the protagonist, Miss Amelia Evans, transforms her emporium into a Café where the inhabitants of the little town begin to meet. It is also there that her love story will start, in an unlikely way, with a guest who has only just arrived in the city.
- David Liss, Il mercante di caffè (The Coffee Merchant). At the time of the Jewish persecution in Portugal, a merchant who has lost his entire fortune, flees to Amsterdam. There he spends his time thinking about the day when he will once again be a respectable man and he won’t have to depend on his brother to survive; the opportunity arrives when he meets a Dutch woman who talks to him about a new product with excellent trade prospects: coffee, which at that time had not yet conquered Europe.
- Patrick Modiano, Nel caffè della gioventù perduta (In the Café of Lost Youth) . The novel by the Nobel Prize-winning author of 2014 revolves around Condé, a café in the Latin quarter of Paris, on the left bank. The young Louki, protagonist of the story, is analyzed and described via the looks of the various patrons of the Café, such as the investigator Pierre Caisley, Bowing, but also characters that really existed, like the writer Arthur Adamov.
- Diego Galdino, Il primo caffè del mattino (The First Coffee of the Morning) . Coffee is a daily ritual also and especially for those who own or work in a bar, like Massimo, who every morning arrives in his little bar, after having walked through the streets of his neighborhood, strolling past shops and boutiques. In his bar, the protagonist allows himself the first coffee of the morning, enjoying day after day, the taste and smell of it always with renewed joy. Until one day, thanks to the coffee itself, something happens to Massimo that will change the entire course of his life.
- Widad Tamimi, Il caffè delle donne (The Women’s Coffee) . The ancient ritual of reading coffee grounds in the bottom of the cup is taught to the protagonist of this book by the women in her family, in Jordan: a fascinating tradition that Qamar feels the need to rediscover many years later, when life throws her a tough challenge, to rediscover herself and realize that she can still be happy.
Do you know any other authors who have written about coffee in their books? Which are your favorites?