A friend of the poets Ezra Pound and Eugenio Montale, Bilenchi wrote this starkly impressive tale of adolescent alienation in his eighth decade. It doesn’t ring any less true for that.
Growing up in northern Tuscany in the 1950s, his teenage narrator finds himself struck by “the chill of suspicion and incomprehension”, as he tentatively feels his way into adulthood. Sex and death are inevitable preoccupations. What Bilenchi captures best, however, is a paralysing introspection threatening to destroy all happiness. What happens to his damaged hero in later life? We never find out. But the question hangs over the book like a shadow.