A Carnal Contact with Reality: On Pasolini’s Novels

Daniel Felsenthal in the Los Angeles Review of Books:

PhpThumb_generated_thumbnailArguably most famous for the sordid details of his violent death, filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini wrote two novels during the 1950s — Ragazzi di vita (1955) and Una vita violenta (1959) — that are all but unknown in the English-speaking world. William Weaver translated both novels into English, yet Pasolini’s fiction is not as widely read in the United States as that of Italo Calvino and Alberto Moravia, his fellow Italians and friends. In 2016, Europa Editions reissued Ragazzi di vita(as The Street Kids) in a new translation by Ann Goldstein, providing an opportunity for American readers to reassess Pasolini’s literary reputation.

Weaver himself admitted, in a 2002 interview with the Paris Review, that A Violent Life (as he titled Una vita violenta) is the only translation of his career with which he is unhappy. The novel follows a boy, Tomasso, from his beginnings as a prepubescent “snot-nose” to his premature death by consumption at the age of 20, through a beleaguered Roman underworld dominated by a natural-feeling yet largely fantastical sexuality. Tomasso and his friends (named “Shitter” and “Stinkfeet” and less scatalogical things like “The Patient” and “Brooklyn”) are impoverished Romans living first in the Pietralata, a suburb of shantytown huts, and later in the homogenous, fortress-like high-rises that postwar Italy erected during its “economic miracle” — a phenomenon Pasolini would satirize in his neorealist masterpieces Accattone (1961) and Mamma Roma(1962). In the novel, Tomasso and his friends pursue romantic targets of either gender, commit repeated acts of violence and petty crime, and flirt with political allegiances.

More here.