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The New Yorker: "The chill of suspicion and incomprehension..."

Date: Nov 23 2009

“The chill of suspicion and incomprehension came between me and humankind when I was sixteen,” Bilenchi’s spare, dark bildungsroman begins. Following an unnamed teen-ager’s initiation into adulthood in Tuscany in the Fascist years, it is a series of episodes of alienation, narrated in a frank, flat voice. In a sickeningly swift eighty pages, the protagonist becomes aware of the petty and vicious nature of his fellow-townspeople, of his increasing estrangement from friends and family, and of his first grotesque (if fascinating) stirrings of sexuality. Manipulated and dominated by the adults around him, he concludes that “it wasn’t possible to live among other people if all of a sudden they could attack one another with such ferocity.” Most coming-of-age novels illuminate the tumultuous inner world of adolescence; Bilenchi’s reveals the brutality of the adulthood that surrounds it. ♦