Review Blog

Apr 27 2016

A very normal man by Vincenzo Cerami

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Translated by Isobel Grave. Wakefield Press, 2015. This is an English translation of Un Borghese piccolo piccolo, 1976. ISBN 9781743053713
(Age: 17+) Highly recommended. Themes: Revenge; Italian Society; Purpose; Hope and hopelessness.
A Very Normal Man is a translation of the first novel of Vincenzo Cerami who is also renowned for his co-authorship of the screenplay for Life is Beautiful (La vita e bella) with Roberto Benigni. With the same deft touch, he lightly deals with a harsh topic as he tiptoes through the tragedy of a normal life that sinks to extreme measures to grasp at retribution for a terrible family disaster. At the beginning of this carefully crafted story we enter the humble circumstances of the central character and his less than stellar career as a civil servant. His pre-retirement drudgery is brightened by the prospect of providing more for his son than was possible in his own life. In order to facilitate this rise above drudgery and relative working servitude he is enticed to explore a position within the local Masonic charter and the reader sees the implicit corruption that follows. On the brink of hope for his son, tragedy falls and the 'Normal man' sinks into functioning despondency and a whirlpool of despair that drags him down and plants the smallest of seeds of revenge into the heart of the simple man. From this point the black tragedy of the normal life takes on a secret existence that is almost quirkily humourous, and yet is in essence, darkly evil. The heart of this story is to reveal the very easy path that a normal or average man might take in becoming the worst kind of man. There is irony in the title that this is not a 'normal man'; even though to the world he is a small, insignificant, 'good' man. To the reader who is capable of self-examination, there is an opportunity to consider their own hidden potential. The characterisation within this text is subtly revealed, but incredibly powerful.
The translation of this text has brought this cleverly crafted story to our attention and this is worthy of study, despite its macabre aspects, and the journey into Italy in the period post- 1969, with its potential for corruption at even the most basic level is intriguing.
Highly recommended for Mature readers aged 17+ (predominantly an adult novel, but accessible by younger readers.) Note: some macabre detail included - a 'black' text!
Carolyn Hull

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