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Boys Alive

Boys Alive

by Pier Paolo Pasolini, translated from the Italian and with an introduction by Tim Parks

Regular price $16.95
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Boys Alive, published in 1955, was Pier Paolo Pasolini's first work of fiction and it remains his best known. Written in the aftermath of Pasolini's move from the provinces to Rome, the novel captures the hunger and anger, waywardness and squalor of the big city. The life of the novel is the life of the city streets; from the streets, too, come its raw, mongrel, assaultive language. Here unblinkered realism and passionate lyricism meet in a vision of a vast urban inferno, blazing with darkness and light.

There is no one story to the book, only stories, splitting off, breaking away, going nowhere, flaming out, stories in which scenes of comic debacle, bitter conflict, wild joy, and crushing disappointment quickly follow. Pasolini's young characters have nothing to trade on except youth, and the struggle to live is unending. They loot, hustle, scavenge, steal. Somehow money will turn up; as soon as it does it will get spent. The main thing, in any case, is to have fun, and so the boys boast and vie, the desperate uncertainty of their days and nights offset by the fabulous inventiveness of their words. A warehouse heist, a night of gambling, the hunt for sex: The world of Boys Alive is a world in convulsion where at any instant disaster may strike.

Tim Parks' new translation of Pasolini's early masterpiece brings out the salt and brilliance of a still-scandalous work of art. 

Additional Book Information

Series: NYRB Classics
ISBN: 9781681377629
Pages: 224
Publication Date:


Episodic and unpredictable, this novel...move[s] effortlessly between scenes of everyday life and moments when characters find their lives in extraordinary danger...It’s no easy feat to evoke both the exuberance of young men coming of age and the stark state of post-World War II Italy; Pasolini, in Parks’s translation, does a striking job of it.
—Tobias Carroll, Words Without Borders

Yes, Pasolini says in Boys Alive, this is a life of crime, but our world is one of criminality, whether or not you are willing to see it...the heart of Boys Alive is not resentment or even rebellion but a quiet faith in life itself and the almost incomprehensible powers that sustain it. In living so close to the raw material of life—pain, desire, fear, and hope—Pasolini sees in these boys’ chaotic existence every reason to reject the cheap optimism of bourgeois consumerism.
—Jack Hanson, The Nation

Pasolini’s debut novel.... given a new translation by Parks, foreshadows his focus as a filmmaker on restless and sometimes dangerous young men struggling to survive the mean streets of postwar Rome. As Parks reveals in his illuminating introduction, Pasolini 'confessed' that the novel has no plot....Pasolini’s fans will find this eye-opening.
Publishers Weekly

In [Boys Alive] Pasolini presented, in prose of an often incomparable beauty, the view from the bottom of the human heap. No one else has done it with such fervour or such grandeur. It was his religion to do so.
—Paul Bailey, The Guardian

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