Original title: Cattivi

Publication Date:

January 2015



Original language and publisher

Italian | Einaudi

Territories Handled

English (North America), Netherlands

Territories Sold

English (UK) (Seagull Book)
Germany (Zsolnay)
France (Éditions Denoël )
Spanish (Spain) (Malpaso Ediciones)
Theatrical Rights (Theater Der Keller Cologne (Germany))


Literary Fiction


Original title: Cattivi


“One of the most beautiful books on prison condition and, more widely, on human condition” – Internazionale
“Maurizio Torchio transforms the accuracy of the description into an emotion capable of bursting into the thoughts and heart of the reader” – Il Sole 24 ORE
“An incredibly brilliant writer” – Il Messaggero

Cattivi by Maurizio Torchio is the story of a man sentenced to life, a prisoner who was initially given two years and two months for kidnapping. When, during a transfer, he kills the guard in the courtyard with thirty-five stab wounds, his sentence is transformed into life imprisonment, into the “neverending sentence”, represented in the computer data by the metaphysical end date “99/99/9999”. This false eternity will be spent by the prisoner in solitary confinement, the prison’s prison. In the ‘Hole’, the pit of solitary confinement, the world shrinks – the horizon narrows, while what’s outside appears less and less real. We learn more every year about the damaging effects of this unquestionably cruel and unusual punishment, which leaves prisoners with no human contact, sometimes for years at a time, and nearly always leads to lasting trauma.

In Cattivi Maurizio Torchio takes on the daunting task of narrating this most isolating experience, one in which the captive is not only cut off from society in the walls of a prison, but from human contact itself. Within this closed world seemingly out of time, the prisoner still yearns for human contact. Ultimately, this desire is a form of hope, reminding us that ineluctable human qualities survive even in the most inhumane spaces.

Among the characters of the book: Toro, Commander, Piscio, “those of the higher floors”, the guards or jailers, the N’s etc. Not even one of them has a name: being bad implies the cancellation of one’s identity. Everything happens in the name of discipline and following the model of a Kafkaesque-inspired penal settlement. Yet, prison is a mirror of society: the mechanisms that regulate life on this side or beyond the bars are not so different:

“Isolation is prison’s prison. Because every place has to have a prison. If you’re already in the hospital and you feel worse, what do they do? They put you in intensive care, which is the hospital’s hospital. It’s the same thing if you’re in prison and they want to punish you: there has to be a place. There must always be something to take away from you, otherwise everything comes to a halt. Sometimes they give you things so you’ll be afraid of losing them”.

Marketing Information

  • Full English, French and German translations available.