Italy is undoubtedly the Western European country where LGBT rights are even more precarious. Same-sex marriage does not exist, nor is it on the immediate political agenda, and the law on de facto couples, in force since 2016, prevents registered persons from adopting. The absolute power in the country of the Catholic Church, which reaches all ideologies and has great social penetration, is undoubtedly the cause of this historical delay. A delay that of course extends to literature.
Two excellent novels, both non-fiction, by Italian authors have been published in recent months. The data is ambivalent. On the one hand, it may seem that LGBT literature is gaining space, readership, and prestige. (Both novels were finalists for the Strega Prize, perhaps the most important in Italy). But on the other hand, it must be considered that the issues dealt with in both continue to be painful and tragic: HIV and the misery that exists in certain experiences of homosexuality.
“Bazzi recounts what it was like to grow up in this world and discover he was gay, always looking to Milan as a paradise the desire for which made him feel guilty“
Fever It is an autobiographical book. Jonathan Bazzi, born in 1985, discovered in 2016 that he was HIV-positive. “Three years ago my fever came up and I couldn’t get rid of it” is the first sentence of the book, in which he explains how pulling the threads from those inexplicable symptoms of the disease came to discover that he had been infected. Infected besides in a mysterious way, because her boyfriend was not and he was faithful to her since their meeting.
In alternating chapters, the author tells us about the process of detecting the disease, his hypochondria and the gradual adaptation to his new life as an HIV-positive person: the normalization of HIV after the initial panic.
In the other interspersed chapters, he evokes his childhood in the outskirts of Milan, in a city whose definition makes it very clear what it was: “The Bronx in Northern Italy: the city of junkies, workers, camels. The hanged, the criminals, the people controlled by the social workers”. Bazzi recounts what it was like growing up in this world and discovering that he was gay, always looking towards Milan as a paradise the desire for which made him feel guilty. This dream of downgrading and roots that we love and hate at the same time is present in Fever with a calm look, always a little melancholy.
the other book, the city of the living, reconstructs a criminal act that occurred in Rome in March 2016. One of his brutal and improbable acts that shakes the consciences of society and stirs up the most established beliefs. Two middle-class youths, Marco Prato and Manuel Foffo, pounded and tortured Luca Varani, a twenty-three-year-old boy who, although heterosexual, prostituted himself for money.
“The crime shocked all of Italy and sparked a homophobic campaign that claimed, in short, that two evil homosexuals had murdered a poor heterosexual boy.“
Marco and Manuel barely knew each other. They had first seen each other on New Year’s Eve that year, three months before. They had shared a very long session of cocaine and sex, during which Manuel, who also considered himself heterosexual, had let Marco give him pleasure. Marco was a transvestite and intended to change sex. He used drugs regularly and had attempted suicide. Apparently he lived his homosexuality with disinhibition and joy, but it was clear that there was an unhealed scar in his unbalanced personality.
The crime shocked all of Italy and sparked a homophobic campaign that claimed, in short, that two evil homosexuals had murdered a poor heterosexual boy. And Manuel, one of the two monsters, was able to assimilate his sentence better than his reputation: “Prison, he said, he could bear that, life was a terrible idea, but he could face it. On one point, however, he felt totally at the mercy of events. “The thing is, now everyone thinks I’m a fag.”
Nicola Lagioia, the author of this breathtaking book, It is not limited, far from it, to chronicling police crime, but enters all the moral, social and existential abysses that open before him. He reflects, for example, on the position of our secrets in the technological world in which we live: “We are talking about Luca Varani’s WhatsApp found on Marco Prato’s mobile phone, thousands of pieces of information — sms, WhatsApp, conversations, chronologies, geolocations – capable of destabilizing at any time the private life of any person, information to which, fortunately, we did not have access for the part that touched our affections, and which the large computer companies kept on their servers like bombs without glow “.
Also consider, of course, about the little we often know about the people around us. Luca’s girlfriend had never imagined that he could prostitute himself with men. Manuel’s parents never imagined that their son could do what he did.
“the city of the living It has a kind of relationship with the books of Bret Easton Ellis. It would be a chance to Psycho Italianwith all the shades“
Lagioia also plunges into social conflict: two young men of good family, established, and a poor young man, of modest origin, who has something of a good-natured thug in search of subsistence.
And of course, Lagioia enters fully into the analysis of the social ills of our time. Although there is no stylistic connection, the city of the living It has a kind of relationship with the books of Bret Easton Ellis. It would be a chance to Psycho Italianwith all the shades. Evil —with capital letters— as a result of existential boredom, the need to accumulate exciting experiences. Murder as a recreational act.
Fever Yes the city of the living They are two extraordinary books (two non-fiction novels) that deserve to be read. For literary reasons and also for reasons of the heart, because after all, literature is always the mirror of our conflicts. of our doubts. Of our miseries.
An extra-literary question remains to be resolved: will a homosexual literature based on the natural and not on pain or tragedy prevail in Italy?
Author: Jonathan Bazzi. Title: Fever. Editorial: Randon House Literature. Sale: All your books.
Author: Nicholas Lagioia. Translator: Xavier Gonzlez Rovira. JTitle: the city of the living. Editorial: Random house literature. vent: All your books, Amazon, Fnac and Casa del Libro.