Review: Time On My Hands, By Giorgio Vasta (Trs by Jonathan Hunt)
Tiny terrorists take the road to revolution
Sunday 23 June 2013
One of the mysteries of our economic slump is the lack of any seriously threatening radical response. Despite punitive rents, stinging student fees, and endemic unemployment, politicians have little fear of direct reprisals from youth. It was not so a generation ago, neither here nor in mainland Europe.
Giorgio Vasta's debut novel is set in the Sicily of the late 1970s. Its main characters are very young indeed – a trio of 11-year-old boys. The lassitude of Palermo is stifling, but their imaginations have been caught by wider events. The kidnapping of the former Prime Minister Aldo Moro by the Red Brigades has stunned the populace and it remains transfixed by the revolutionary communiques at the centre of an ongoing media storm.
Despite their tender years the boys are ideologically inclined. They pore over the communiques and their language of apocalyptic transformation. They decide to shave their heads and to adopt new names: Comrades Nimbus, Radius, and Flight. They invent stylised, coded body language for themselves, and elect to take up physical training in order to ready themselves for action. Nimbus is our narrator, but it is Flight who emerges as a pitiless autodidact to dominate the others. Soon they begin to plan incidents of terror, indifferent to bourgeois moral concerns. In due course an abduction of their own is on the agenda.
Vasta's novel is ambiguous in its deployment of its youthful cadre. They are convincingly imbued with the subversive outlook of boys and yet the intellectual depth of their political stance means they are not entirely credible as children. Rather, they are an elastic metaphor for febrile adult anxieties.
Vasta is confident enough to opt for a slow, steady build-up to the novel's main action. He sets out an engagement between Nimbus and the world around him that manages to be both intense and alienated. This includes an unsettling portrayal of Palermo's poverty, with crippled cats, heat, and swarming slums.
Time On My Hands can be seen as a politicised Lord of the Flies. It bears comparison with Lindsay Anderson's classic film if..., in the ways it recasts the radical struggles of the 1960s and 1970s with juvenile participants. This is sophisticated, fascinating fiction.
TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success
tvU2’s latest record has been accused of promoting sex between men
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Which country would be hardest to invade?
- 2 The man who filmed the Freddie Gray video has been arrested at gunpoint
- 3 How the language you speak changes your view of the world
- 4 Royal baby girl born: Duchess of Cambridge's second child will be a princess thanks to Queen
- 5 Uploading pictures to find out how old you are gives Microsoft the right to post them wherever they want
Daredevil, Netflix, TV review: Marvel wins first fight in bid for television domination with Charlie Cox's superhero vigilante
London art exhibition features portrait of Iraqi migrant shot dead in Iraq after being refused UK asylum
Grace Dent on TV: Peter Kay's Car Share made me genuinely LOL
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
London Marathon: Best running songs from Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar to 'Uptown Funk'
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
Indonesia executions live: 'Hysterical' families heard prisoners being shot dead by firing squad
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: SNP and its activists 'openly racist' towards the English, Farage says
EU exit would hit UK economy much harder than neighbouring countries, study finds