Set during the post–World War II years in the Rome of the borgateoutlying neighborhoods beset by poverty and deprivationThe Street Kids tells the story of a group of adolescents belonging to the urban underclass. Living hand-to-mouth, Riccetto and his friends eke out an existence doing odd jobs, committing petty crimes, and prostituting themselves. Rooted in the neorealist movement of the 1950s, The Street Kids is a tender, heart-rending tribute to an entire social class in danger of being forgotten.
Heavily censored and criticized, lambasted by much of the general public upon its publication, The Street Kids nevertheless had a force and vitality that eventually led to its being considered a masterpiece. This new translation comes from Ann Goldstein, the acclaimed translator of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels.
|Publisher:||Europa Editions, Incorporated|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.70(d)|
About the Author
Pier Paolo Pasolini was born in 1922. He was an Italian film director, poet, writer, and intellectual. Throughout his life he exhibited extraordinary cultural versatility and became a highly controversial figure in the process. While his work remains controversial, since his death in 1975, Pasolini has come to be seen as a visionary thinker and a major figure in italian literature and art. American literary critic Harold Bloom considered Pasolini to be a major 20th-century poet and included his works in his collection of the Western Canon.
Ann Goldstein is an editor at The New Yorker. Her translations for Europa Editions include novels by Amara Lakhous, Alessandro Piperno, and Elena Ferrante's bestselling My Brilliant Friend. She lives in New York.
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And behind the Mazzini monument ... Popular song
It was a very hot July day. Riccetto, who was supposed to take his first Communion and be confirmed, had gotten up at five; but, heading down Via Donna Olimpia in his long gray pants and white shirt, he looked more like a guy going out in his Sunday best to pick up girls along the Tiber than like a communicant or a soldier of Jesus. With a group of boys like him, all in white shirts, he arrived at the church of Divine Providence, where at nine Don Pizzuto gave him communion and at eleven the Bishop confirmed him. But Riccetto was in a big hurry to get out of there: from Monteverde down to the Trastevere station it was a single solid sound of cars, of horns honking and engines laboring up the hills and around the bends, filling with a deafening roar the outskirts of Rome, already burning in the early-morning sun. As soon as the Bishop's short sermon was over, Don Pizzuto and two or three young seminary students led the boys into the courtyard of the recreation center to have their pictures taken: the Bishop walked among them blessing the boys' families, who knelt as he passed by. Riccetto felt a gnawing inside, right in his middle, and decided to skip out on them all: he left through the empty church, but at the door he ran into his godfather, who said: "Hey, where you going?" "Home," said Riccetto. "I'm hungry." "You're coming to my house, you bastard," his godfather shouted after him, "there's the lunch." But Riccetto paid no attention and ran off over the sunbaked asphalt. All Rome was a roar: only up on the hill was there silence, but it was charged like a mine. Riccetto went to change.
It's a short distance from Monteverde Vecchio to the Grenadiers' barracks: you just pass the Prato and cut between the apartments under construction on Viale dei Quattro Venti: avalanches of garbage, buildings not yet finished and already collapsing, big muddy excavations, trash-littered slopes. Via Abate Ugone was nearby. The crowd coming down from the quiet paved streets of Monteverde Vecchio was headed in the direction of the Grattacieli: the trucks, too, were already visible, endless columns, along with jeeps, motorcycles, tanks. Riccetto joined the herd thronging toward the warehouses.
Ferrobedò, down below, was like an immense courtyard, a fenced pasture set in a hollow, the size of a town square or a cattle market. There were gates all along the edge of the rectangular enclosure: on one side were ordinary small wooden sheds, on the other the warehouses. With that herd of people, all shouting, Riccetto traversed the length of Ferrobedò and arrived at one of the sheds. But there were four Germans who wouldn't let anyone pass. Next to the shed door was a small overturned table: Riccetto loaded it onto his back and ran toward the exit. Just outside he met a kid who said: "What're you doing?" "Taking it home," Riccetto answered. "Come with me, stupid, let's go get the good stuff."
"I'm coming," Riccetto said. He dropped the table and someone passing by took it.
With the kid he went back into Ferrobedò and pushed his way into the warehouses: there they grabbed some coils of rope. Then the kid said: "Come over here and get the nails." So between rope, nails, and other things, Riccetto made five trips back and forth to Donna Olimpia. The midafternoon sun was hot enough to crack the stones, but Ferrobedò was still full of people vying with the trucks that sped along toward Trastevere, Porta Portese, the Mattatoio, San Paolo, deafening in the burning-hot air. Coming back from the fifth trip, Riccetto and the boy saw a horse and cart near the wall, between two sheds and they went over to see if they could pull a fast one. In the meantime, Riccetto had discovered a cache of weapons in one of the sheds and had slung a machine gun over his shoulder and stuck two pistols in his belt. Like that, armed to the teeth, he mounted the horse.
But a German came and chased them out.
While Riccetto was trekking with his coils of rope up and down between Donna Olimpia and the warehouses, Marcello was up at the church of the Good Shepherd with the other boys. The pool was swarming with kids swimming, splashing. Others were playing ball in the dirty fields around the pool.
Agnolo asked: "Where's Riccetto?"
"He went to take Communion," Marcello shouted.
"Damn!" said Agnolo.
"He must be at lunch at his godfather's now," Marcello added.
Up at the pool of the Good Shepherd no one knew anything yet. The sun beat down silently on the Madonna del Riposo, Casaletto, and, behind it, Primavalle. When the boys came back from swimming they passed through the Prato, where there was a German camp.
They stood watching, but a motorcycle with a sidecar came by and the German in the sidecar shouted at the boys: "Rausch, infected area." Nearby was the military hospital. "What do we care?" Marcello shouted; meanwhile the motorcycle had slowed down, and the German jumped out of the sidecar and gave Marcello a punch that knocked him sideways. His mouth swollen, he turned like a snake and, fleeing down the hillside with his friends, blew the German a raspberry: laughing and shouting as they made their escape, they reached the barracks. There they ran into some other friends. "So what are you up to?" said the others, who were grubby and unkempt.
"Why?" asked Agnolo, "What's there to do?" "Go to Ferrobedò, if you want to see something." They rushed off and, arriving, immediately headed amid the din toward the machine shop. "Let's take apart the engine," shouted Agnolo. But Marcello left the machine shop and found himself alone in the uproar, right by the tar pit. He almost fell in, and would have drowned like an Indian in quicksand, when he was stopped by a shout: "Hey Marcè, look out, hey Marcè!" It was that bastard Riccetto with some friends. So he joined them. They went into a warehouse and looted cans of fat, drive belts, and scrap iron. Marcello carried home a hundred pounds of stuff and threw it in a small courtyard, where his mother wouldn't see it right away. He hadn't been home since morning: his mother thrashed him. "Where'd you go, you worthless brat," she scolded, hitting him. "Swimming," said Marcello, who was slightly twisted and thin as a cricket, trying to protect himself. Then his older brother came and saw the stuff in the courtyard. "Dope," he shouted, "he stole it, the bastard." So Marcello went back to Ferrobedò with his brother, and this time they lifted automobile tires off a freight car. Night was already falling and the sun was hotter than ever: Ferrobedò was more densely packed than a fair, and you couldn't move. Every so often someone yelled, "Run, run, the Germans are here," so that the others would flee and they could steal everything themselves.
The next day Riccetto and Marcello, who had gotten a taste for it, went down together to the Caciara, the big market, but it was closed. A large crowd of people was wandering around, along with some Germans, who walked back and forth shooting into the air. But it was mainly the APAI, the Italian military police, who were blocking the entrance and being real pains in the ass, not the Germans. But the crowd kept growing, pressing against the gates, arguing, shouting, cursing. The assault began, and even the scumbag Italians gave in. The streets around the market had been black with people, the market empty as a cemetery, under a pounding sun: instantly, as soon as the gates opened, it filled up.
At the market there was nothing, not even a cabbage stalk. The crowd began to move through the warehouses, under the shed roofs, into the stores, because it wouldn't stand for coming away empty-handed. Finally a group of kids discovered a cellar that seemed to be stocked: through the bars you could see piles of tires and bicycle tires, oilcloths, tarpaulins, and, on the shelves, whole cheeses. The news spread immediately: five or six hundred people hurtled after the first group. They broke down the door and charged in, crushing each other. Riccetto and Marcello were in the middle. They were swallowed up by the suck of the crowd and, their feet barely touching the ground, carried through the door. They went down a spiral staircase: the crowd was pushing from behind, and some of the women, half suffocated, were shouting. The staircase was overflowing with people. A thin iron banister gave way and broke, and a woman fell, screaming, and hit her head against a step at the bottom. Those who were outside continued to push. "She's dead," a man down in the cellar cried. "She's dead," some women began yelling, terrified; it was impossible to get in or get out. Marcello kept going down the stairs. At the bottom he jumped over the body, rushed into the cellar, and filled a bag with tires; so did some other kids, who were taking everything they could. Riccetto had disappeared, maybe he had made it outside. The crowd had dispersed. Marcello jumped over the dead woman again and ran home.
The military police were at the bridge, Ponte Bianco. They stopped him and seized the tires. But he didn't leave; he sat down by himself with his empty sack, discouraged. A little later Riccetto, too, came up to Ponte Bianco from the Caciara. "Well?" he said. "I took the tires and they stole them," Marcello answered, his face dark. "What are these assholes doing, why don't they mind their own fucking business," cried Riccetto.
Beyond Ponte Bianco there were no houses; it was all an immense construction site, at the end of which, on either side of the gully, deep as a stream, through which Viale dei Quattro Venti passed, Monteverde extended, like flaking plaster. And Riccetto and Marcello sat in the sun in a bare, blackened field nearby, watching as the military police robbed people. After a while, though, the group of kids with their sacks of cheese reached the bridge. The soldiers moved to stop them, but the kids wouldn't budge and began to argue violently, and there was something in their faces that made the soldiers think it was better to forget about it: they let them keep their cheese and even gave back what they'd stolen to Marcello and to the others who'd come over angrily. Skipping with satisfaction and calculating what they would earn, Riccetto and Marcello set off for Via Donna Olimpia, and the others scattered, too. At Ponte Bianco, with the soldiers, all that was left was the smell of garbage heated by the sun.
* * *
One Saturday, when the boys were tired of playing on the packed dirt below Monte di Splendore — a rise of two or three meters that cut off the view of Monteverde and Ferrobedò, and, on the horizon, the line of the sea — some older boys sat themselves near the goal with a ball at their feet. They formed a circle and began to play, striking the ball with their insteps so that it skimmed the ground, with no spin: straight, clean shots. After a while they were all sweaty, but they didn't want to take off their good jackets or their black- or yellow-striped blue wool shirts, because of the casual and lighthearted mood of the game. But since the kids who were standing around might have thought they were crazy playing in that sun, dressed like that, they laughed and made fun of themselves, so as to check in the others any wish to tease.
Between passes and blocks they chatted. "Boy, you're down today, Alvà!" cried a dark kid, his hair soaked in brilliantine. "Girls," he said then, doing a bicycle kick. "Fuck off," Alvaro answered. His face was bony, which made it look dented, and his head was so big that a flea would have died of old age before it got all the way around it. He tried something fancy, hitting the ball with his heel, but he missed, and the ball rolled away toward Riccetto and the others, sprawled on the dirty grass.
Red-headed Agnolo got up and lazily kicked the ball back to the older boys. "He doesn't want to get tired out," shouted Rocco, referring to Alvaro. "They're gonna have tons to carry tonight."
"They're doing pipes," Agnolo said to the others. Just then the three o'clock sirens sounded at Ferrobedò and at the more distant factories, down toward Testaccio, the Port, San Paolo. Riccetto and Marcello got up and without saying anything to anyone went down along Via Ozanam, and slowly, in the summer heat, walked to Ponte Bianco, to catch the 13 or the 28 tram. They'd started by selling the stuff they got from Ferrobedò, had continued with the Americans, and now they were back to picking up cigarette butts. It's true that Riccetto had worked for a while: he'd been hired by a guy who serviced jeeps in Monteverde Nuovo. But then he'd stolen five hundred lire from the boss, and the guy had fired him. So they spent the afternoons doing nothing, on Via Donna Olimpia, on Monte di Casadio, with the other boys who were playing on the low sun-bleached hill and, later, with the women who came to spread the laundry on the brown grass. Or they kicked the ball in the open space between the Grattacieli and Monte di Splendore, joining the hundreds of boys who were playing in courtyards invaded by the sun, on the parched fields, along Via Ozanam or Via Donna Olimpia, in front of the Franceschi elementary schools, which housed evacuees and the homeless.
Ponte Garibaldi, when Riccetto and Marcello arrived, jumping down off the bumper, was completely empty in the African sun: but under the pilings the Ciriola barge was teeming with swimmers. Riccetto and Marcello, alone on the entire bridge, stood there for a while, their chins resting on the burning iron of the parapet, and watched the people in the river, sunbathing on the float or playing cards or fishing. Then, after a short argument about their route, they got back on the half-empty old tram, creaking and scraping toward San Paolo. At the Ostia station they got off, to crawl among the tables in the cafés, around the newsstand and the stalls, or along the walkways in the ticket area, collecting cigarette butts. But already they were tired of it; the heat took your breath away and it would have been worse if not for that hint of breeze that came from the sea. "Riccè," Marcello said, half angrily, "why don't we go swimming, too?" "So let's go," Riccetto said with a shrug, his mouth twisted.
Behind the Parco Paolino and the gold façade of the basilica of San Paolo, the Tiber flowed past a big embankment covered with posters: and it was empty, with no bathing floats, no boats, no swimmers. The right bank was bristling with cranes, antennas, and chimneys, the gasometer standing enormous against the sky, and the whole neighborhood of Monteverde loomed on the horizon, above the putrid sun-burned slopes, with its old villas like small boxes disappearing in the light. Just below were the pilings of an unfinished bridge, the dirty water forming eddies around them; the shore in the direction of San Paolo was thick with reeds and brush. Riccetto and Marcello ran through the scrub and arrived at the first piling, on the water. But they swam closer to the sea, half a kilometer farther down, at the start of a wide bend in the river.
Riccetto lay naked in the weeds, his hands under his neck, looking up.
"Ever been to Ostia?" he asked Marcello suddenly. "What!" Marcello answered. "You don't know I was born there?" "Damn," said Riccetto, with a frown, staring at him, "you never told me, damn it!" "So?" said the other. "You ever been on a boat in the ocean?" Riccetto asked, curious. "Of course," said Marcello, knowingly. "So where?" Riccetto resumed. "Damn, Riccè," said Marcello, very pleased, "you wanna know a lot! How should I remember, I wasn't even three!" "I think you've been in a boat as much as me, idiot!" Riccetto said contemptuously. "Shit," the other replied quickly, "I went on my uncle's sailboat every day!" "Fuck off!" said Riccetto, clicking his tongue. "Oh, sti-i-i-icks," he said then, looking at the water, "sti-i-i-icks." Some debris was passing on the surface of the current, a smashed crate and a urinal. Riccetto and Marcello stood at the edge of the oil-black river. "I'd really like to go for a boat ride!" Riccetto said sadly, watching the crate that was heading toward its fate, swaying amid the garbage. "Y'know you can rent a boat at Ciriola, don't you?" said Marcello. "Yeah, and who's gonna give us the money," Riccetto said darkly. "Hey stupid, if we go for pipes, too," said Marcello, excited by the idea; "Agnoletto's already scared up a tire lever." "Okay," said Riccetto, "I'm in!"
They stayed until it got late, lying with their heads on their shorts, sweaty, dust-caked: after all, why should they make the effort to go. Around them were dry reeds and brush, but under the water there were pebbles and stones, too, and they entertained themselves by skipping stones on the water and when they finally decided to leave, half dressed, they kept it up, aiming at the other bank or at the swallows that grazed the surface of the river.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Street Kids"
Copyright © 2009 Garzanti Libri S.r.l., Milano.
Excerpted by permission of Europa Editions.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1 Ferrobedò 7
2 Riccetto 29
3 Night in Villa Borghese 59
4 Street Kids 81
5 Hot Nights 107
6 A Swim in the Aniene 148
7 In Rome 174
8 Lady Death 215