Book Of The Month: Cleopatra Goes To Prison
Like Cleopatra – the Egyptian one – Caterina is adept at juggling lovers. But whereas Cleopatra’s affairs were all wrapped up in the upper political echelons, Caterina’s are distinctly low rent. Every Thursday she visits her boyfriend Aurelio in Rebibbia prison in Rome. He is in custody following a raid on his nightclub and being held under suspicion of pimping out the strippers who worked there. After visiting Aurelio, Caterina hooks up with the policeman who arrested him. Awkward – or so you would think, but Caterina has an endearing blitheness that carries all before her. Claudia Durastanti is one of the rising new voices in Italian fiction and it’s easy to see why. In this novella, which explores Rome’s underclass, she deftly draws the relationships between the protagonists – often in a single, usually pointed phrase – and her spare prose skilfully evokes a demi-monde of cheap hotels and run-down apartment blocks. It’s also packing plenty of mordant wit and Dedalus should be applauded for making it the first work of Durastanti’s to be translated into English.