Lee Langley

A cabinet of curiosities: You, Bleeding Childhood, by Michele Mari

A world of private fetishes, obsessions, childhood memories and literary passions is dazzlingly revealed in 13 short stories

Michele Mari. [Getty Images]

Michele Mari is one of Italy’s most eminent writers. A prize-winning novelist, poet, translator and academic, he is hardly known to anglophone readers, but that is about to change. You, Bleeding Childhood, a collection of 13 stories written over a period of 30 years, offers a portal into Mari’s surreal, unsettling world: a place of childhood memories, obsessions and a passion for literature and science fiction.        

Mari inhabits Borges’s labyrinthine territory. His prose style shares the gleaming formality of Nabokov, but he’s his own man, nonchalantly mixing high and low culture: the literary canon and classic comic books, Dante and pulp. The book gains something in translation: an afterword by Brian Robert Moore, who provides the English version, gives us a lucid, elegant tour of the author’s mind and oeuvre.            

For Mari, childhood is an open wound, and the past is evoked with tenderness, as in the midnight adventure of a group of schoolboys bent on rescuing a priceless football. Or the predicament of a boy desperate to find an honest response when his domineering father gives him a book he has just read – a dilemma the boy solves with a hilarious, punctilious comparison of differing translations – each in its way a new book. One brief tour de force follows the path of a bullet circling the Earth – a metallic Ariel penetrating trees, bricks, houses and cliffs before finding its target.

As a boy, Mari loved tales of fantasy and seafaring adventure and he has translated Edgar Allan Poe and Robert Louis Stevenson. He’s at his most playful in ‘Eight Writers’, where a man subjects his best-loved literary heroes to a ruthless process of elimination.

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