A searing, dystopian parable that follows the intellectual Leonardo, a disgraced writer, as he navigates the collapse of society.
This remarkable book is the Italian author's first to be translated into English. Leonardo, retired from public life to his family home in a small village in Italy’s Piedmont region after his affair with a student, learns of the extent of social collapse in bits and pieces as it reaches his small community. He is not just retired, but retiring, preferring books to life. Until he is forced to migrate, in the company of his daughter, Lucia, and her half brother, Alberto, he clings to his former life, rereading Flaubert and Tolstoy. As the situation worsens, Leonardo thinks of his old life, and there are hints that his public humiliation at the hands of the young woman with whom he had an affair may be a kind of foreshadowing of what the world has come to now. If it is, Leonardo doesn’t see it. He tries to hide from suffering, and from causing suffering, until the situation has gone so far that everything he cherished must be renounced, including his idea of himself. When it comes, the sex is violent and the violence gruesome. “ ‘Stories of courage always come from the basest part of ourselves, poetry and profundity from the most arid part,’ in the words of an elderly writer [Leonardo] happened to meet early in [his] career.” Longo’s characters get in touch with the basest parts of themselves in order to preserve what is denigrated as “the most arid.”
Visceral and gripping.