A VIOLENT LIFE by Pier Paolo Pasolini


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This is not a new work but the second American edition of the Weaver translation first published by Cape in London in 1968, of a novel that came out in Italian in 1959 when its poet-critic-filmmaker author was cutting a swath through the demotic in more ways than one. (It was first published in the US by Garland, in 1978, now out of print.) Bold, delicate, outrageous all at the same time--artistically, sexually, politically--Pasolini's life included the powerful poetry of ""The Ashes of Gramsci,"" the film of The Canterbury Tales, the supposedly pornographic novel Ragazzi di vita (1957), Communism, guilt, aggressiveness, and intense homosexuality leading to his death (by murder?) and leaving the un-ironic line, ""All the world is my unburied body."" Tommaso lives in a hovel in the Trastevere with father, mother and two baby brothers. Thirteen, he bribes schoolmate Lello to let him have a turn with the homosexual teacher, but the teacher ignores him and, furious, Tommaso reports him as a faggot to the police. With a bunch of pals and in a spirit of Fascist camaraderie and zeal, he goes on to rob gas stations, steal cars, beat people up, close down a dance hall. He lives his life of assertion and assault almost faster than he ages. The older the gang becomes, the more violent its acts, but the episodes make the figures Hawk, Greasy, Zucabbo, Shitter, Zimmlo more sympathetic too by portraying their constant bickering, posturing, complaining, shifting, desiring. The book is constructed much like a film, focusing on Tommaso but tying him to his gang and the gang to the Rome around them. ""The Battle of Pietralata,"" a police raid which nets most of the gang, is vivid in its depiction of brutality and poverty and melodramatic in its handling of crowd scenes and consequences. After a couple more purse snatchings and slicing up a rival gang member, Tommaso himself gets two years in the slammer: ""Time you've had a good shit,"" his buddies say. He returns to the same world that occasioned his life of violence, the same family, same pals. Finally, sick with TB, he takes up old ways, even shakes down queens. In a terrible flood in a section of Rome he heroically rescues women and children; the next day, sicker than ever, he coughs up blood and soon dies. Characterization is skimpy; women are stock figures; the whole is far more cinematic than novelistic--all broad and done in chiaroscuro. Its moral, like its manner, is dated, but some of the scenes are so sharply defined that you don't have to wait for the movie.

Pub Date: Oct. 28th, 1985
ISBN: 1857549635
Publisher: Carcanet