Altri Libertini is a collection of short stories that Pier Vittorio Tondelli wrote when he was just 25. The book sold more than 100,000 copies, and due to an obscenity charge, it created a stir in the early 1980s in Italy. The collection stands out for its crude and violent language, which however enhances beauty and freshness that has lasted even after thirty years. Altri Libertini is the tale of Tondelli’s youth, which his friends and peers populate.
A hyperbolic fauna of characters
The Postoristoro, the bar in the first story, is the gravitational center of the characters that swarm the novel’s pages: heroin addicts, transvestites, petty criminals, sad and defeated lovers. There’s the Emilia of the countryside and osterie, with its livid lights and fog, and the dreamed-of and coveted Northern Europe, a North where freedom translates into meanness and squalor.
A hyperbolic fauna lives between the pages. A burst of words and violence, that feels like a punch in the stomach, submerges the reader. Wandering through warm attics and squalid rooms, snowy fields, miles of flatland and red and yellow porches – half a Luigi Ghirri picture, half an Andrea Pazienza comic – the reader vibrates to the sound of Tondelli’s words, to the vividness of his images.
Everyone has a story to tell
Indeed, Tondelli, with Altri Libertini and his other books (from the kitsch humanity depicted in Rimini to the existentialistic lyricism of Camere Separate), shows that everyone has a story to tell and that there is no need to be born in a metropolis to be able to do so, in the same vein as William Faulkner or, more recently, Elizabeth Strout. He strongly reaffirms the need for eros of language, emotional writing that lasts and lives as long as the language lasts, as one of his teachers, Gianni Celati – another writer of the Emilia province – said, together with Louis-Ferdinand Céline.