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The Catholic School
Cover of The Catholic School
The Catholic School
A Novel

A semiautobiographical coming-of-age story, framed by the harrowing 1975 Circeo massacre

Winner of Italy's most prestigious literary award, the Strega Prize, Edoardo Albinati's Catholic School is a powerful and thoughtful exploration of contemporary Italy.

Three young well-off men, former students at Rome's prestigious all-boys Catholic high school San Leone Magno, brutally tortured, raped, and murdered two young women in 1975. The event, which came to be known as the Circeo massacre, shocked and captivated the country, exposing the violence and dark underbelly of the upper middle class at a moment when the traditional structures of family and religion were seen as under threat.

It is this environment, the halls of San Leone Magno in the late 1960s and the 1970s, that Edoardo Albinati takes as his subject. His experience at the school, his reflections on his adolescence, and his thoughts on the forces that produced contemporary Italy are painstakingly and thoughtfully rendered, producing a remarkable blend of memoir, coming-of-age novel, and true-crime story. Along with indelible portraits of his teachers and fellow classmates—the charming Arbus, the literature teacher Cosmos, and his only Fascist friend, Max—Albinati also gives us his nuanced reflections on the legacy of abuse, the Italian bourgeoisie, and the relationship between sex, violence, and masculinity.

A semiautobiographical coming-of-age story, framed by the harrowing 1975 Circeo massacre

Winner of Italy's most prestigious literary award, the Strega Prize, Edoardo Albinati's Catholic School is a powerful and thoughtful exploration of contemporary Italy.

Three young well-off men, former students at Rome's prestigious all-boys Catholic high school San Leone Magno, brutally tortured, raped, and murdered two young women in 1975. The event, which came to be known as the Circeo massacre, shocked and captivated the country, exposing the violence and dark underbelly of the upper middle class at a moment when the traditional structures of family and religion were seen as under threat.

It is this environment, the halls of San Leone Magno in the late 1960s and the 1970s, that Edoardo Albinati takes as his subject. His experience at the school, his reflections on his adolescence, and his thoughts on the forces that produced contemporary Italy are painstakingly and thoughtfully rendered, producing a remarkable blend of memoir, coming-of-age novel, and true-crime story. Along with indelible portraits of his teachers and fellow classmates—the charming Arbus, the literature teacher Cosmos, and his only Fascist friend, Max—Albinati also gives us his nuanced reflections on the legacy of abuse, the Italian bourgeoisie, and the relationship between sex, violence, and masculinity.

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About the Author-
  • Antony Shugaar is a writer and translator. Aside from Giorgio Faletti's A Pimp's Notes, his recent translations include books by Simonetta Agnello Hornby, Silvia Avallone, Nanni Balestrini (with an NEA translation fellowship), Fabio Bartolomei, Massimo Carlotto, Giancarlo De Cataldo, Diego De Silva, Marco Mancassola, Gianni Rodari, and Paolo Sorrentino. He is the author of Coast to Coast and I Lie for a Living and the coauthor, with the late Gianni Guadalupi, of Discovering America and Latitude Zero. He has published with the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, and online with the New York Times, among other publications. He is currently at work on a book about translation for the University of Virginia Press.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    June 24, 2019
    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.

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