A very positive critical reception greeted the debut book by Alberto Ravasio, born in 1990, The sex life of Guglielmo Sputacchiera (Quodlibet, 2022). The salient aspects of this bubbly and bizarre short novel are three. First of all, a “gimmick” of transparent Kafkaesque matrix: one morning the protagonist discovers that he is unexpectedly “transsexualized”, his body has assumed feminine forms.
Secondly, the fantastic motif is set within an ostentatiously contemporary scenario: we are in the province of Bergamo, in a town (or village) often defined as “dirt”, always the same as itself, yet in fact involved in a widespread , a degraded urban reality that knows fringes and waste, but not alternatives. Finally, the story – actually rather slender, even if the ending does not disappoint at all – is narrated with a whimsical and original stylistic air: on the basis of a very spoken and brisk language a series of jumps, leaps and jumps are grafted, with unusual adjectives, metaphorical surges, lexical inventions and neologisms, which testify to an inspiration that is anything but naïve.
Stylistic expressionism, metaliterary references, rooted in current events: on these elements Ravasio builds a light-hearted and amusing story, with now farcical, now tragicomic connotations, which says a lot about the image that a young man of today can have of the society that surrounds us. And in fact the generational figure represents one of the greatest merits of the work. Under trace, The sex life of Guglielmo Sputacchiera declines a precise accusation against the immediate ascendants (let’s call them, if you want, boomers).
To pronounce it is a friend of the protagonist, named Guido Copropago: «As children we were fattened with desires. And when we grew up, they told us the money was out. ” A very effective way of expressing a truly epochal unease: for the first time, after perhaps two or three centuries, in the advanced West a generation has experienced an ineluctable, humiliating social decline, not opposed by any revolutionary perspective (no matter how articulated and plausible).
To be struck, indeed, shocked by the metamorphosis – on the back cover, a joke inspired by one of the most proverbial Gospel passages: «My God! God you don’t exist, why did you transsexualize me? ” – is a thirty year old well aware of the squalor of his own existence, and immersed in (or submerged by) an apathetic, disenchanted resignation. Former philosophy student who never graduated, unemployed, disengaged, socially dysfunctional, he still lives with his parents (their part unhappy, and more alone than ever, although cemented by a surrendered lack of love); and, having never met a woman in his life (“he had only been inside a vulva in the role of a spermatozoon”), he feeds on online pornography.
An unexpected shock comes from a chat he frequents under the name of Carmela Pene, where, via algorithm, he comes into contact with the Negro, a sort of parody of the “male fucker” (“Sexual golem, with a pissed off and monolithic cock, like the rocky faces of Easter Island “). The fatal transformation occurs shortly after.
We will not follow Guglielmo Sputacchiera in his frantic attempts to recover the lost sexual identity; we will only point out, in passing, the tasty encounters first with the general practitioner, Dr. Casoncelli, then with the psychologist of a clinic, which triggers a flashback on the first love (“and other misfortunes”, as the title of a chapter sounds) , finally with a holy man of the valleys who knows how to express himself only in a rather rudimentary dialect; without forgetting his friend Guido Copropago, a former rebel who put his head in place early (“or in the waste bin”), meeting a destiny we do not know if more dull or desolate, and complementary to that of the protagonist : «Having entered the factory as a generic thing, he soon found himself betrothed to a good girl in lipid entropy, father of noisy foursome twins and a lifelong borrower».
On the other hand, the beautiful cover deserves a mention, with a drawing signed by Gianluigi Toccafondo: a grayish male face with a triangular structure, with an intense pink phallic nose that plunges towards the red tip of a small mouth, and a forehead so flattened as to evoke a mirror deforming: the eyes are reduced to two recessed and torpid slits, almost hidden by the eyebrow arch, in line with the lowered ears, like a dog in punishment.
Apart from metamorphosis, the most stringent reference to Kafka – as Daniele Giglioli saw well – concerns the letter to his father which introduces the finale. After trying to hide what had happened, Guglielmo Sputacchiera resolves to talk about it to his mother, considered by all to be mentally ill, who instead reveals herself to be the bearer of a form of disillusioned, tolerant wisdom about her.
Then she decides to leave for the big city (obviously, Milan): and leaves her father a confession that is almost the collective auto-da-fé of a generation that has grown up inert and sated like a pet, without leaving the home of parents who were eating her in the meantime. the future. And yet, no hatred towards her father; rather. Which opens the way to the surprising conclusion, not unaware of the drama of the Six characters pirandelliani, with the web in the role of Madame Pace.
A kind of dis-character, Guglielmo Sputacchiera. The surname certifies the vocation to degradation, and indeed the adaptation to a pejorative bending of the psychic and material conditions of existence, and therefore not deserving of anything other than sarcasm and contempt. However, it is perhaps no coincidence that in the famous baptismal name it is contained (Wil-helm) the root of the word “will” (and this must be said without a priori discarding the possible reference to the homonymous pre-alpine hill on the Brescia side of Lake Iseo, Monte Guglielmo, Italianization of Gölemfrom “top”, culmen).
Is there a hope of redemption for Ravasio’s hero? Surely, if he exists, he must go through all the flaws of his bad luck Bildung. In the first place a decomposed sexuality, in which the crisis of masculinity, the permeability and the uncertainty of gender boundaries, the compulsive and hallucinatory onanism, the impulse to dissipation converge.
But a relationship with the parental figures also has considerable importance, encrusted with misunderstandings and misunderstandings, aridity and misunderstandings, mutual disappointments, yet the custodian of a residual possibility of understanding, at least in terms of mutual, mute compassion. From the knowledge of others, a construction or acceptance of oneself may begin, no matter if it is late, partial, controversial.
Ravasio has talent, wit and a good pen. Not everything in this novel is flawless: sometimes the comedy allows itself some too easy hyperbole. But The sex life of Guglielmo Sputacchiera it is a book that amuses and makes you think, and which in substance has nothing trivial or gratuitous. It is not cheap.