domingo, 1 de diciembre de 2019

The Street Kids

The Street Kids [Ragazzi di vita] (Europa Editions, 2016)
by Pier Paolo Pasolini [translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein]
Italy, 1955

I knew this was going to be a tough slog in a way when, near the end of the first chapter, Marcello gives Riccetto a hard time for rescuing a swallow that'd been drowning in the river during their swim: "'Why'd you save it,' Marcello said to him.  'It was fun to watch it die!'"  What I didn't know going in was how unpredictable and vital the young Pasolini's prose would turn out to be.  The faces of two older neighborhood boys, for example, are likened to "exhibits from a museum of criminals, preserved in oil" (39); a fat woman and her companion are described in terms of two different types of cooked fish--"her face like a boiled fish, and beside her an ugly little nobody, maybe her husband, with a face like a fried fish, poor devil, who was sobering up" (112); and elsewhere, this slice of life from the Via Taranto where "the fresh breeze, which would make a face go white and blue, like fennel, every so often shook the rows of sleepy, consumptive trees that, on either side of the street, rose with the façades toward the sky over San Giovanni" (141).  In short, I loved taking in all of Pasolini's painterly exuberance even if The Street Kids' Rome, or at least the poverty-ridden "apartment blocks, the evacuees' houses, or the skyscrapers" on the city's postwar periphery (182) = more the canvas for a crucifixion than such loving brushstrokes might lead you to believe.  An Old Master in the age of Italian neorealism!

Pier Paolo Pasolini (1922-1975)

4 comentarios:

  1. This sounds as if it captures the atmosphere of city in a very representative way, painting a picture that is visceral and evocative. By coincidence, I've just finished watching Saverio Costanzo's TV adaptation of Ferrante's My Brilliant Friend. A different Italian city, but some potential similarities in terms of themes...

    ResponderEliminar
    Respuestas
    1. Thanks for the reminder about the Ferrante TV adaptation, Jacqui. Had totally forgotten about that but am now interested in it again. Pasolini was indeed "visceral and evocative" in my opinion. Had only known him previously through a couple of his films, so this was a great introduction to another side of him.

      Eliminar
  2. Hello Richard! Thanks for writing about this, as I'd made a mental note to be on the lookout for it after learning a while back that Ann Goldstein's new translation would be forthcoming. Like you I mostly know Pasolini from his films, though I've dipped into his writing. "The Street Kids" sounds like it would make a perfect companion piece to "A Violent Life," which I read a few years ago. "Roman Holiday" these books are not.

    ResponderEliminar
    Respuestas
    1. My pleasure, Scott, and I trust A Violent Life will be my next (literary) Pasolini unless I go with some nonfiction by him. Really enjoyed the power of his language here and the sense of place he evoked in between the casual wife-beatings and the collapsing housing projects and such.

      Eliminar