You, Bleeding Childhood
Long before the latest vogue for autofiction, Michele Mari, one of Italy’s most beloved authors, cast his mind back to the days of his own childhood, and found it crawling with monsters.
Raised on comic books and science fiction, the young Mari constructed an alternate universe for himself untouched by uncomprehending grownups or sadistic peers. Compared to the horrors of real life, Long John Silver and Cthulhu made for positively cuddly company; but little boys raised by beasts may well grow up beastly – or never grow up at all. Waking or sleeping, the obsessions of Mari’s youth seem to colour his every adult thought. You, Bleeding Childhood stands as his first attempt to catalogue this cabinet of wonders.
Cult classics since their first publication, these loosely connected stories stand as the ideal introduction to an encyclopedic fantasist on a par with Kafka, Poe, and Borges.Read an Excerpt
Domenico Starnone gave the following answer in response being asked by I-Italy, ‘If you were to give a book award to a living Italian writer, man or woman, whom would you pick and why?’:
‘Many of my friends, men and women, are good writers whom I’ve been following for years and for whom I have high regard and affection. It would be difficult for me to give an award to this one rather than that. But I want to name a writer I don’t know personally, and yet I’ve been reading his books with pleasure because they are outside the box. I’m referring to Michele Mari.’
‘If you were to give a book award to a living Italian writer, man or woman, whom would you pick and why? Many of my friends, men and women, are good writers whom I’ve been following for years and for whom I have high regard and affection. It would be difficult for me to give an award to this one rather than that. But I want to name a writer I don’t know personally, and yet I’ve been reading his books with pleasure because they are outside the box. I’m referring to Michele Mari.’
‘The greatest living Italian writer.’
‘Michele Mari has written only beautiful books. The most beautiful of the beautiful is the short story collection You, Bleeding Childhood.’
‘The charm that Mari exercises on his readers, from the most devoted to the most distracted, is incredible . . . More than anyone else, Michele Mari represents today a model of writer that seems on the point of disappearing – fully literary, lofty, in short, twentieth-century.’
‘Emotion, anger, nostalgia: but also affectionate humour, indulgent sympathy [in] a work that masterfully combines elegance and irony, psychological acumen and an understanding of form, eclectic culture and emotional vulnerability. [The work of a child] who developed an unstoppable passion for adventure books, for comics . . . [who] cultivated a fetishistic relationship with thought, with the imagination; but also with a stubborn self, wounded by the intensity of his perceptions.’
‘Michele Mari's mythology is that of the great darkness of Romanticism, even if he contemplates the oceans and the far places of the Earth from the safety of his library. I don't know if he is devoured . . . by an obsession, or if he is deeply enchanted . . . as by a vision he had in a dream . . . [But] he loves the darkness: crisscrossed by lightning, furrowed by thin trails of light. Around that night, his skillful rhetoric builds an endless echo chamber, in which his one voice resounds with the manifold voices of literature itself.’
‘The world of Michele Mari is a world where monsters and tutelary gods (interchangeable?), where sixteenth-century literature and classic sci-fi pocket paperbacks coexist in sinister harmony; where writing is exorcism and never punishment: the only way to escape the quotidian . . . Mari is one of those writers who feed on their own obsessions, know how to paint them with words and phrases, to arrange those phrases into novels embodying those same obsessions.’