A wonderful Italian novel from the early 1960s. It is a brilliant satire on Italy’s “economic miracle” that occurred in the years following World War II. Some of the themes in this novel were also covered by Bianciardi’s contemporary, Pier Paolo Pasolini, only this book leans more towards the comedic side of these issues. The hint is already in the title, which in English would translate to “It’s a Hard Life”, a clear satire on the popular Fellini film, “La Dolce Vita” which was released around the same time as this book. Unlike the protagonist in Fellini’s film, the protagonist here has the opposite experiences, where life for him is a struggle against unsympathetic employers, unsympathetic conventions and poverty.
The protagonist is fired from his job at a mine after an explosion kills numerous miners, due to, for the most part, neglect on the part of management. He is intent on getting revenge and plots to blow up the headquarters of the mining company. He moves to Milan and gets involved with a woman named Anna, a leftist journalist, and takes on a job as a translator. Little by little, his plans fade away and the more and more he becomes ensconced in the “economic miracle” of the new Milan, his ideals fading away like vapor on glass.
The entire novel is a satyrical look of the modern age: advertising (particularly sex in advertising), capitalism, consumerism, etc, and it is brilliantly done, Bianciardi’s “tone” as a writer is not to dissimilar from his American counterparts at the time. (Thomas Pynchon comes to mind). I’m not sure how easy this novel is to find these days (I just happened to stumble on it at The Strand one afternoon) but if you can get your hands on it, I would recommend that you snap it up and read this. For those who are interested in post-War Italian history, this is one not to be missed.