The best Italian literary bedfellows
It is interesting to note that one of the most sexually explicit classic works, Lady Chatterley’s Lover (1928), was written by D.H. Lawrence during his visit to Italy. The novel, which was only published for the first time uncensored in 1960 and soon gained notoriety because of its storyline about the love affair between an upper-class woman and a working-class man. Italian literature has a number of great – and often controversial – works where sex is viewed as a natural part of our existence as well as a driving force that subverts the established order. Here are just a few of my favourite racy Italian novels, which will look great on any bedside table…
PLEASURE (Il Piacere – 1889) by Gabriele D’Annunzio. A bit like Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray, Andrea Sperelli lives his life as a piece of art, seeking nothing more than pleasure and beauty. He loves two women: one more as a celestial being, an angel; the other passionate, impulsive and fierce. The message throughout the novel, from this Roman dandy is: “If you love art, you love sex”. Until 2013, the only English translation was still heavily censored – a relic from the prudish Victorian era.
SODOMIES IN ELEVENPOINT (Sodomie in Corpo 1988) by Aldo Busi. A journey between Morocco and Tunisia becomes an opportunity to reflect on the nature of power and desire: “Travels, like sex, like writing, have not been told, or described, or theorised, they should be neither filmed to draw images to transmit over: travels have just to be done”. Busi’s writing is loaded with witty and wise observations on life, as well as detailing numerous erotic encounters. He is one of the most prominent voices among his Italian contemporaries, although his marvellous prose has been overshadowed by his provocative TV appearances
Good sex in words? Mmmm, that’s hard…
Ben Okri, winner of the prestigious Man Booker Prize in 1991, has just been awarded a rather dubious accolade, Earlier this year he was named the winner of the Bad Sex in Fiction Award, held by the Literary Review, for his latest novel The Age of Magic. The best/worst passage begins: ‘When his hand brushed her nipple it tripped a switch…’ Clearly, even some of the world’s best novelists struggle to write about sex in a way that isn’t completely cringeworthy. Every year the Literary Review selects a shortlist of 10 books – that aims to draw attention to “poorly written, perfunctory or redundant passages of sexual description in modern fiction, and to discourage them”. This year the list included Haruki Murakami’s work. Contemporary Italian fiction would have plenty of potential winners. The ubiquitous Fabio Volo, for instance, is a master of ridiculous, but bestselling, sex scenes.
Fifty Shades of boredom
Not again! It’s the same old story: a poor, innocent, beautiful girl meets a dashing, rich older, man; they begin an affair which culminates when the fiendish man falls in love with the poor girl and marries her. Thanks to their love she becomes a princess, and he becomes a devoted – and angelic – lover. Cinderella, Pretty Woman, The Princess and The Frog? No -Fifty Shades of Grey. The international bestseller written by the London based ex-TV executive E. L. James, is a love story, featuring rough sex, BDSM and an unintentionally ironic dialogue. It isn’t clear which of the two protagonists are more ridiculous –the 21-year old woman who is more naïve than my little cousin, or the 26-year old man who speaks with the condescension of an 80-year old man. Or is the story itself, a soft porn chick lit stuffed with outdated expressions like “Holy Cow!”, corporal punishments and myriad regrets. Congratulations must go to Ms James, however, who has been able to create a publishing sensation and now also a Hollywood movie – from her London kitchen. To be honest though, erotic fiction and desperate housewives deserve better than this.