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Aldo Busi: Seminario sulla gioventù (Seminar on Youth)

You know that anyone who writes a book called Bisogna avere i coglioni per prenderlo nel culo [You Need Balls To Take It in the Arse] is probably not going to be writing Jane Austen-style prose. His flamboyant and exhibitionistic personality and his very open promotion of homosexuality have garnered him a lot of publicity and a lot of sales. He made his name with his first two novels and this one is avowedly autobiographical. The hero, Barbino, was like Busi, born in a small town in Northern Italy. His mother wanted a girl and this leads to a lot of conflict. His father is a drunk, who spends most of his time in bars. Barbino wears women’s clothes and grows up gay. He heads off to Milan (where the great poet, Eugenio Montale, is one of his protectors). He earns his living by working in a bar and as a homosexual prostitute. He then heads off to Paris, where he learns French, takes up with another protector, this time a woman, Arlette. But Arlette wants to tame him and he does not want to be tamed so he is off to England where he also has little success. It is not a bad novel and certainly not too shocking (not as shocking as Genet, for example). As a form of Bildungsroman, it more or less works and remains worth reading.

Publishing history

First published 1984 by Adelphi
First published in English 1988 by Carcanet
Translated by Stuart Hood