The Fat Woodworker

Antonio Manetti

Translated, with an Introduction,
by Robert L. Martone & Valerie Martone

Il Grasso Legnaiuolo gives the flavour of Florentine intellectualism. It is the story of a beffa or jest — a trick played by Brunelleschi and his friends on the fat woodworker....

This picture of self-alienation, which is more terrifying and cleverer than anything in Pirandello, is told as a true incident, well known in its own time, which befell a certain Manetti degli Ammannatini....

The genius of Brunelleschi is the real hero of the tale; this genius, which found the way to calculate the vanishing point, could make a bulky man vanish or seem to himself to vanish, like a ball juggled by a conjurer, while still in plain sight.”

— Mary McCarthy, The Stones of Florence

Italica Press has published three books on the [Italian novella] tradition. One is a competent translation of the most famous and most brilliant of the novelle sciolte — longish novelle that were not part of collections —the story, called Il grasso legnaiuolo. Written by Antonio Manetti in the mid-fifteenth century, it commemorates a cunning practical joke engineered by the architect and builder Filippo Brunelleschi. Renaissance Comic Tales of Love, Treachery, and Revenge, edited and translated by Valerie Martone and Robert L. Martone, includes a wide-ranging collection of stories. Tales of Firenzuola is a reprinting of a well-regarded Victorian translation of the novelle of this important figure.

(James H. McGregor, University of Georgia
Speculum, Vol. 80, no. 1, January 2005, 171)

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