Into the Centre of the World
Original title: Al centro del mondo
“Alessio Torino is one of those writers who can create a myth out of one tiny corner of the world. In his work, I can feel the South of Flannery O’Connor and Cormac McCarthy, earth, blood, violence, madness. And even a God, somewhere” – Paolo Cognetti
“People talk about mystery, but they don’t know what it is: they only know the lies they try to protect themselves with. Nature, on the other hand, knows people’s secrets, and scatters them to the wind. Few people can listen without words: Alessio Torino is one of them” – Andrea Bajani
“A novel of ancestral beauty, written in a superb style” – Marco Balzano
“Alessio Torino will end up affirming himself as the best writer of his generation, with a powerful and harsh writing even more powerful than his ancestor from the Marche Region, Paolo Volponi … looking even in the direction of WIlliam Faulkner” – Goffredo Fof
Damiano Bacciardi lives with his grandmother, Adele; his grandfather, shut away in a silent attic; and his Uncle Vince, also known as Gorilla, in Villa La Croce, which the town has renamed “Villa dei Matti” (House of Madness), on a main road running through the hills of Marche, in the Centre of Italy. The honey produced there is famous for getting women pregnant; there is also a legend about the oak tree where Damiano’s father hanged himself, which came back into leaf after ten years.
Damiano is a boy troubled by fierce bouts of malaise and constant underlying anxiety: he hears nature, hears the flight of swallows, the buzz of the bees, the rolling of the seasons, and he knows how to spot the presence of the Devil and recognise evil in people. Uncle Vince plots to sell their home to out-of-towners, anyone who makes a decent offer; and whoever it is, Damiano imagines them with the demonic face of Trump, as seen on tv. For a while, he shares the mad exuberance of a painter who calls himself Teo Van Gogh and tours the markets with his paintings. Damiano knows that he must defend Villa La Croce, that he must defend the memory of his unhinged family, and the beauty – the sometimes limpid, sometimes monstrously wild beauty – of the natural world in which he grew up, along with the nightmares, delusions and waves of poignant sweetness, especially when a dangerous buyer arrives from overseas.
Al centro del mondo reawakens an unknown Italy, dug into the recesses of a province on the edges of historical time, where the figure of Damiano Bacciardi looms as the last in a dynasty of out-of-step characters, somewhere between foolish innocence and the generous obsessiveness of Asperger’s syndrome.
- Under option: Germany
- Winner of the International Literary Prize Mondello