Savinio—composer, journalist, playwright, painter and younger brother of Giorgio de Chirico—died in 1952, and this, his final book, wasn't published in Italian until 1978.
The book is a collection of 28 brief newspaper bagatelles that the author composed under deadline in the final years of his life (the last was turned in to his editor a mere four days before he died). But these short pieces often transcend those origins. Wry, epigrammatic, and with a mordant and playful wit he doesn't hesitate to turn on himself, these pieces exemplify Savinio's sense that the mundane and the fantastic aren't separate spheres but that each is shot through with the other. Through the (largely sedentary and intellectual) misadventures of his alter ego Signor Dido, Savinio provides a series of gently comic, softly sardonic meditations on family life, art, class and the ravages of age. The pieces are urbane, allusive (especially to classical mythology), graced occasionally with divine nonsense and absurdity. Savinio deftly balances introspection and journalistic observation, and always behind them are a fierce intelligence and an awareness of vanity in all its guises.
There's no overarching narrative here, certainly, and this may be more a cabinet of curiosities than a major work, but being in Savinio's company provides a series of small, persistent pleasures.