Books: Waiting for Marco

VENETIAN RED (503 pp.)—P. M. Pasinetti—Random House ($4.95).

Her eyes are an ageless blue, but the ancient Signora Partibon is dying. Life flickers in her like needlepoints of sunlight refracted on a palazzo ceiling from the Grand Canal. She grips the hand of her grandson Giorgio and thanks him for his visit ("Now the whole family has come"). But Giorgio, incorrigibly honest, utters a long-banished name: "One of your sons, Marco, is not here." In a paroxysm of coughing, the old lady dies.

Waiting for Marco is like waiting for Lefty or Godot. In this first novel it represents a messianic yearning...

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