Seta (Silk)

Seta (Silk)

Friday, December 28th, 2012

Seta (“Silk” in english) is the title of a book by Alessandro Barrico. I read a passage from it in an Italian class in Bologna and promptly bought the book. It’s a short book that I found just short of poetry in some ways. I read it in Italian but you don’t need to. It is available in english from Amazon and a $10.99 ($4.20 used).

In short it is a story of Hervé Joncour, a frenchman whose business is buying and selling the eggs of silkworms who is forced to venture to the what at the time is almost beyond the edge of the world, Japan. There is a mysterious love as part of the story as well as fascinating views into both societies more than 150 years ago.

 …It was 1861. Flaubert was finishing Salammbo’, electric light was still a hypothesis and Abraham Lincoln, on the other side of the war was fighting a war whose end he would never see…

Imagine the trip from France to Japan, a virtually unknown world at that time.

… He crossed the border near Metz, traveled through Wurttemberg and Bavaria, entered Austria, reached Vienna and Budapest by train, and continued to Kiev. On horseback he traversed two thousand kilometers of the Russian steppe, crossed the Urals into Siberia, and traveled for forty days to reach Lake Baikal, which the people of the place called: the sea. He followed the course of the River Amur, skirting the Chinese border to the ocean and when he arrived at the ocean he stopped at the port of Sabrik for eleven days, until a dutch smuggler’s ship carried him to Cape Teraya, on the western coast of Japan. On foot, taking secondary roads he went through the provinces of Ishikawa, Toyoma and Niigata, entered Fukishama, reached the city of Shirikawa….

At least those parts, that I found in the “Look inside” feature on Amazon match my own translation (pretty easy ones to translate) so  I hope that the rest is accurate to the beauty of the original.  I do hope that someone will have read it and will post a comment or will read it and come back and comment. Enjoy.



4 Responses to “Seta (Silk)”

  1. AntonyM Says:

    a bit off subject — where did you study in Bologna? I was there last Sept/Oct at and enjoyed the time very much… conversation, meals and daytrips, all while learning Italian.

  2. Joe Says:


    I went to ALCE in Bologna. I went for two months in the fall of 2011 (September to November) and 3 months in 2012 (April through June). I would highly recommend the school and noticed that you had visited there last fall. On my first trip I walked up to San Luca. I’m not sure that I would have done it if I’d realized how far it was. I did a blog post on that adventure. Probably October of 2011. I love Bologna and look forward to returning for at least two months later this year.


  3. Peter Says:

    Hi Joe,

    My kids came for cities next the the Amur river in Eastern Russia about 1,000 miles from the sea of Japan. Scott is from Leninoski, on the river itself.


  4. Joe Says:


    You certainly know more about all of that than me. Sounds like it’s really in the middle of nowhere.


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