Canongate, £12.99 Order at a discount from the Independent Online Shop
Book review: Let the Games Begin, By Niccolò Ammaniti, trans. Kylee Doust
Fame, and the fury it attracts, drive a devilish Italian tale
Friday 30 August 2013
The title of Niccolò Ammaniti's new novel reminds us either of the opening of the Olympics, or of fantastic, but cruel, entertainment in the Coliseum of ancient Rome. The public obsession with celebrities and VIPs of dubious origins – a musician, a supermodel, a property tycoon, a rather confused writer and even a satanic sect of losers - is at the heart of this story, positioned half-way between Big Brother and the parties hosted by a disgraced Italian politician.
Ammaniti, author of I'm Not Scared and Me and You, introduces us into a fictional universe which very much resembles contemporary society – in Italy or elsewhere. Most of the story revolves around a super-party to be hosted in the chic venue of Villa Ada in Rome by Sasà Chiatti, a property tycoon who wants to show off his wealth and use it to improve his networking.
Unfortunately, the "devil" is watching: a dubious satanic sect led by the frustrated Mantos, who lives a double life. This father of twins, constantly criticised by his next-to-perfect wife, finds his happiness in pseudo-satanic rites, during which his everyday identity is forgotten thanks to theatrical costumes he wears with all the solemnity owed to his "real" master, Satan himself. He leads "The Wilde Beasts of Abaddon", composed of Zombie, Murder and Silvietta, who becomes their vestal after surviving a rite of sacrifice. Social misfits who find refuge in a virtual world, they are self-delusional and dangerous, to themselves and other people.
The sect decides to interfere with Chiatti's grand plans and turn them into a publicity stunt. Bad luck comes to this diabolically helpless lot: the sabotaged electrical system explodes; floods and mud inundate the villa and its guests. It looks like a final divine intervention, triggering real change: an unforgettable event indeed.
This is a wonderfully ironic and entertaining book, thanks to its lively cinematic dialogues and constant references to current society. We are projected into a circus of vaguely familiar events, and the finale offers hope for true social, political and personal development through radical change.
Game of Thrones
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Caitlyn Jenner car crash: Driver who died in collision sued by surviving passengers for $18.5m
- 2 Pictures show young Palestinian girl biting Israeli soldier trying to detain boy during West Bank protests
- 3 Watch the Supermoon live: How to see the brightest Moon of the year tonight
- 4 Hulk Hogan wants to be Donald Trump's running mate in the US Presidential election
- 5 Blood Moon and Supermoon: September to bring brightest – and dimmest – full Moon of the year on same night
Game of Thrones season 6: Jon Snow theorists believe Ned Stark's son may have a twin sister
Edinburgh Fringe 2015: Monty Python-inspired Australian Sam Simmons wins comedy award with 'very silly' show
Game of Thrones season 6: Director promises most exciting premiere yet 'starts off with a bang'
Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Online toy marathon to launch new film
Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet: Technician quits after social media row with actor's fans
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
'Women only' train carriages: Jeremy Corbyn unveils radical move to tackle public harassment
Black holes are a passage to another universe, says Stephen Hawking
Iain Duncan Smith 'should resign over disability benefit death figures', says Jeremy Corbyn
Stock up on canned food for stock market crash, warns former Gordon Brown adviser
Tony Blair attacks Jeremy Corbyn's 'Alice In Wonderland' politics