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Pier Vittorio Tondelli’s Rimini

Pier Vittorio Tondelli was born in Corregio, a small town in the Emilian half of Emilia-Romagna, and by coincidence also the home town of Luciano Ligabue who also chose to use Rimini as the backdrop/stage for his film From Zero to Ten.

Tondelli first achieved literary success with his novel Altri Libertini (which can be read as a collection of short stories though the author preferred to describe it as a novel of episodes) published in 1980 by Feltrinelli. Three weeks after its publication, the authorities ordered its sequestration for obscenity, following a complaint about both the blasphemy and strong images contained in the novel. The subsequent trial cleared Tondelli and his publishers, but his reputation as a transgressive author was cemented. The novel, amongst other things, was one of the first mainstream Italian novels to include, without ambiguity, homosexual relations.

Shortly afterwards Tondelli graduated, his thesis entitled “Epistolary Literature as a problem in the theory of the novel”. In 1980 he began working for the daily national newspaper, il resto di carlino, before being called up for his national service. During his national service he published a number of pieces in the Carlino entitled Il diario del soldato Acci [The diary of Acci the Soldier]. These would prefigure his next novel, Pao Pao

Pao Pao, Tondelli’s second novel, was inspired by his military service.Pao Pao also has a strong homosexual element. Tondelli was openly gay, but objected to being described as a gay writer, prefering to talk about general human themes.

Tondelli moved to Bologna in 1982, and started working on what he hoped would be his next novel – a novel which he planned to call un weekend post-moderno. He described the project thus: “Basically, there should have been five, six or seven parties – one in Firenze, one in Bologna, one in Milano, one in London – described with a song-like language, almost poem-like, very mixed, with no quotation marks on the dialogue, with a fairly strange language, … even its readability was very heavy, perhaps too much so”. The project was shelved, though, as the euphoria of the early eighties turned sour – in particular after the murder of art critic, and acquaintance of Tondelli, Francesca Alinovi in her Bologna appartment (Alinovi was commemorated famously by American artist Keith Haring). Instead, Tondelli started work on what would become Rimini

Rimini was published in 1985, by Bompiani. The switch of publishers and style led some to label the novel as a sell-out – something which Tondelli angrily denied. For him Rimini was to be seen as a “container’ of different stories … a fresco, perhaps a symphony, of the Italian scene in those years, and the various ways – emotional, dramatic and existential – of describing it”. The book was a huge commercial success (selling over 100,000 copies, and created yet more controversy. A planned feature on one of Italy’s main variety shows was cancelled, in what smelled, to some, of censorship.

Tondelli’s Rimini tells the story of a young Milanese journalist, Marco Bauer who, recovering from an unhappy love affair, is sent to work on his newspapers summer edition from the Riviera capital. He meets various characters, each allowing for a mix of literary genres and themes, and is soon caught up in political intrigue. The dominating style is that of the giallo, or detective novel, which is one of modern Italy’s favourite genres, having been used to great literary effect by authors such as the Sicilian Leonardo Sciasia, and more recently Umberto Eco (who was one of Tondelli’s lecturers in Bologna).

The mystery or detective novel allows the literary author a readily accepted popular form, which can then be subverted to investigate society at large. Italy is at once both the victim and suspected perpetrator of the crime.

After the success of Rimini Tondelli continued to exert a strong influence on Italian literary life, editing journals (for example Progetto Under 25
, a journal dedicated to young writers), and writing columns for diverse magazines.

Other books followed: Biglietti agli amici, Camere separate,0 Un weekend postmoderno. Cronache dagli anni Ottanta L’abbandono. Racconti dagli anni Ottanta, and Dinner Party

Returning from a trip to Tunisia in 1991, at the end of the summer, Pier Vittorio Tondelli was admitted to Hospital for an AIDS related illness. The writer re-embraced catholicism during his last months, and finally died on December 16th 1991. He is buried in his home town of Correggio, where a special archive dedicated to his memory has been set up in the town library.

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