cover image The Catholic School

The Catholic School

Edoardo Albinati, trans. from the Italian by Antony Shugaar. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $40 (1280p) ISBN 978-0-374-11925-6

Albinati examines radical politics, religious poetry, and Hellenic philosophy, his country’s long dalliance with fascism, and even Alfred Hitchcock in an exhaustive manner that winds up bordering on extreme navel-gazing. Albinati’s centerpiece is the real-life murder and rape of two women by his near-peers at the all-boys school of San Leone Magno in 1975. To make sense of the crimes, Albinati revisits every aspect of his education and its aftermath, often in digressive detail, and too often he arrives at bromides (“The real problem with truth is whether or not to speak it”) or, for instance, the etymology of the Italian word for rape, altogether doing little to elucidate the questions of privilege and power that lie at the novel’s heart. Readers meet schoolmates including the precocious athlete Arbus, the vicious Max, and mentor Cosmo, whose unusual knowledge of classical literature provides the young with Edoardo with a path toward a goal in writing and out of the stultifying world of San Leone Magno. Still, this massive work winds up as less a new take on the nonfiction novel than an exercise in indulgence and solipsism. (Aug.)