Heir to the FIBA button factory in Lombardy, Augustus is profiting from Italy’s postwar industrial boom. Yet the dreamy young man is far from your stereotypical industrialist. He is less interested in making money than in talking to the birds in the surrounding garden and in making love to a beautiful factory worker named Palmira. But when the money-hungry Palmira schemes to have him institutionalized, Augustus finds a new love among his fellow mental patients, flute-playing flower child Serafina. Can Augustus and Serafina find a way to break free and express their love of each other and of nature in this crazy world?
Newly translated into English, Giuseppe Berto’s charming 1973 novel Oh, Serafina! was one of the first works of Italian literature to deal with ecological themes while also questioning the destructive effects of industrial capitalism, the many forms spirituality might take, and the ways our society defines madness. This translation includes a foreword from literary scholar Matteo Gilebbi that provides biographical, historical, and philosophical context for appreciating this whimsical fable of ecology, lunacy, and love.
About the Author
GIUSEPPE BERTO (1914–1978) was born in a small town in Veneto, Italy, and went on to author numerous screenplays, short stories, and novels, including The Sky is Red, written during his time as a P. O. W. in Texas. A controversial author in postwar Italy, Berto was nevertheless the recipient of the Viareggio Prize and the Campiello Prize, and his work has drawn more critical attention in recent years.
GREGORY CONTI has over 25 published translations, including works by Emilio Lussu, Rosetta Loy, and Paolo Rumiz. His most recent translations include two books by Stefano Mancuso: The Incredible Journey of Plants and The Nation of Plants. He has lived in Perugia, Italy, since 1985.
"A madcap, modern-day St. Francis who talks to the birds, Augusto is committed to an institution by his wife at a time when mental health care rested on marginalization and segregation. There he falls in love with Serafina, another outcast, in this lighthearted fable that is sometimes pointed, but never caustic." — Anne Milano Appel
"Entertaining, profound, and timely, Giuseppe Berto’s Oh, Serafina! shows the marvels hidden in worlds that, despite their apparent marginality, teem with vitality and poetry. Perfectly attuned with the novel’s spirit and rhythm, Gregory Conti’s elegant translation prompts the rediscovery of this jewel of Italian literature." — Serenella Iovino
“Oh, Serafina! is a bizarrely beautiful fable for the ages. Thanks to the deft work of translator Gregory Conti, this tale of industry, lust, mental illness, and ecological sensibility is a most welcome addition to the small but growing canon of Italian environmental literature available in translation.” — Monica Seger
“Fifty years ago, Giuseppe Berto wrote his fable of ecology, lunacy, and love against the backdrop of the industrialized Italy of his day. But books, fortunately, outlive their occasional contexts. In Gregory Conti's flawless translation, Oh Serafina! shines as a tale that belongs even, if not especially, to our own time.” — Federica Capoferri