The Catholic School

Edoardo Albinati

Translated by Antony Shugaar
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06 August 2020
1480 pages

‘To be born male is an incurable disease’

In his acclaimed and prize-winning The Catholic School, Edoardo Albinati creates a world: a world of power, sex, violence and the threat of masculinity, of the power wielded and misused by men.

In Rome in 1975, three young men, former students of the prestigious boys’ school San Leone Magno, persuade two teenage girls to accompany them to the seaside resort of Circeo. Neo-fascist scions of wealthy families, the men proceed to rape and brutally torture the girls; one of them subsequently dies. The event, which comes to be known as the Circeo massacre, shocks and fascinates the country, exposing the violence and dark underbelly of the Italian upper-middle class at a moment when the traditional structures of family and religion were under threat.

Edoardo Albinati sets his remarkable novel in the halls and corridors of San Leone Magno in the late 1960s and the 1970s. His own experiences at the school, reflections on his adolescence, and thoughts on the forces that produced contemporary Italy combine to produce a unique blend of memoir, coming-of-age novel and true crime. Along with unforgettable portraits of teachers and pupils, The Catholic School reflects on the legacy of abuse, the Italian bourgeoisie, and the relationship between sex, violence and masculinity.

Winner of the Premio Strega

An important, at times magnificent book . . . An entirely original narrative . . . A pivotal moment in contemporary literature. Albinati's school is the world.

Corriere della Sera

In The Catholic School a thousand doors open on a thousand different themes . . . A powerful, multifaceted, acute, extreme book.

La Repubblica

The Catholic School is entirely unique: it meanders, it is merciless, it is very precise and yet lyrical, thoughtful and fiery, depressing and funny. In short, it is one of the best books I have read in recent years.

De Morgen