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by Pier Paolo Pasolini, translated from the Italian by Stuart Hood

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Theorem is the most enigmatic of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s four novels. The book started as a poem and took shape both as a work of fiction and a film, also called Theorem, released the same year. In short prose chapters interspersed with stark passages of poetry, Pasolini tells a story of transfiguration and trauma.

To the suburban mansion of a prosperous Milanese businessman comes a mysterious and beautiful young man who invites himself to stay. From the beginning he exercises a strange fascination on the inhabitants of the house, and soon everyone, from the busy father to the frustrated mother, from the yearning daughter to the weak-willed son to the housemaid from the country, has fallen in love with him. Then, as mysteriously as he appeared, the infatuating young man departs. How will these people he has touched so deeply do without him? Is there a passage out of the spiritual desert of modern capitalism into a new awakening, both of the senses and of the soul? Only questions remain at the end of a book that is at once a bedroom comedy, a political novel, and a religious parable.

Additional Book Information

Series: NYRB Classics
ISBN: 9781681377643
Pages: 208
Publication Date:


Written in tandem with his 1968 film of the same name (Teorema), Pasolini’s resonant parable examines the spiritual bankruptcy of the bourgeoisie through a strikingly effective blend of brief vignettes, scenarios, and plangent poetic utterances....[his] spare lyricism complements and transcends his playfully detached framework of data, corollaries, and appendices, resulting in an affecting and captivating interrogation into the earthly and the sublime.
—David Wright, Library Journal

Pier Paolo Pasolini...wants to tell us the tale of a miracle in the desecrated modern world. The mysterious and attractive young man who comes to visit the bourgeois family is a god, and [Theorem] recounts what miracles occur when a god appears in the lives of mortals.
—Alberto Moravia

Theorem...evinces [Pasolini's] seemingly irreconcilable allegiances to Marx, Freud, and Jesus Christ.
—James Quandt

Pasolini…undertakes both a sensual odyssey and an incisive critique of the lack of social conscience of the Italian bourgeoisie in his 1969 novel…This is a penetrating exploration of existential meaning.
Publishers Weekly

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