Regular readers of Three Monkeys will know that we have a soft-spot for the Italian literary collective Wu Ming, the people behind novels like Q and 54 (which is very much on our ‘to-review’ list). Wu Ming I (there are five of them) has just published a thoughtful piece where he attempts to define what he calls ‘the new Italian epic‘. Its characteristics:
1. Ethical commitment to writing and storytelling, which means: a deep trust in the healing power of language and stories.
2. A sense of political necessity — and you can choose between the broader and the stricter sense of the adjective “political”.
3. The choice of stories that have a complex allegorical value. The initial choice may not even be intentional: the author may feel compelled to tell the story and later on understand what he was trying to say.
4. An explicit preoccupation for the loss of the future, with a propensity to use alternative history and alternative realities to force our gaze into imagining the future.
5. A subtle subversion of registers and language. “Subtle” because what’s important is not language esperimentation in and of itself; what’s important is telling your story in what you feel is the best possible way.
6. A way of blending fiction and non-fiction that’s different from the ones we’ve gotten used to (e.g. Hunter S. Thompson’s “gonzo journalism”), a manner that I dare describe as “distinctly Italian”, which produces “unidentified narrative objects”.
7. Last but certainly not least, a “communitarian” use of the Internet to – as Genna himself put it – “share a hug with the reader”.
Several books published in Italy in the past few years share all or many of these features. Each one is peculiar, and sometimes, if we judge by immediate appearances, a novel doesn’t resemble the next in the slightest: different styles, different plots, different historical backdrops, seemingly different genres. And yet, if we go down deep enough, we’ll see that all these books are in resonance with each other.
Amongst the books he puts in this category is Roberto Saviano‘s Gomorrah (also soon to get a Three Monkeys review). Saviano’s book, a non-fiction novel has topped bestseller lists in Italy for well over a year now and has been turned into a succesful play and now also a film (it’s Italy’s contender for the Best Foreign Film Oscar).
One strange thing has been the relative lack of headlines, certainly in the English speaking world, regarding the fact that Saviano has been living under police escort since October 2006. His novel has not been appreciated by the Camorra crime families that are the subject of the book.
It may not be as juicy a threat as Sherry Jones’ Jewel of Medina, but it’s a very real one, and Saviano deserves solidarity from the English speaking world as well (a search using his name on the international site of PEN produces nothing).
Enough moralising – get yourself over to Wu Ming to read the full Italian epic piece>>