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Anthological Excerpts: The Antibo
Valentina Brunettin | 25-03-2008 | ENG
(Translated by Anamaría Crowe Serrano)
Antibo as in Antinous and Bo: two stories, two characters who come together. Valentina Brunettin was just 17 when she decided to take inspiration for her first novel from the love between the Emperor Hadrian and the youth Antinous, with a wink to Marguerite Yourcenar. And it hit the bull’s-eye: L’antibo made it to the top of the list at the Campiello Giovani competition in 1998.
In the parallel love story between the young Bo and his teacher, we have the dreams and hopes of a society that has always been proud of its greatness and settles accounts with its evils, starting with individual misfortunes.


Melanie used to always sing a song.
It was Charade from the Bee Gees. She didn’t know what a disco was, what the buzz or the dizzy bubble of adolescence was. Like me, she was born in the wrong era.
“We should have been born earlier, somewhere else, among nobility and courtiers. We should have taken the future into the past” she would declare tying up her hair with a black ribbon.
Two weeks ago I received a letter from her. She got engaged to some guy called Robert who she affectionately refers to with an angular “R.” As if she wanted to write reams but had very little time or space to do so. As if she wanted to tell me everything in no time at all. Robert wants to qualify as a lawyer. Robert wants to work for a legal practice. Robert wants to get married and have three children: a boy and two girls. Robert wants to drive a cool sports car and take his darling family on holiday to Miami.
Robert wants to sleep with his wife by his side, every night. Robert wants to bring her breakfast in bed and, putting his tired arm round her shoulders, he wants to watch the TV soap with her.
Melanie says she’ll be his wife. Robert wants to marry Melanie.
I’m happy for her, for her heart that used to burn with love for stray kittens and the little mice in the loft.
By now her hair is surely longer and her hips have probably blossomed into fleshy rotundity. Robert already loves Melanie. Robert already makes love to her. Robert will never cheat on her.
Today I must write to her. I have to reply to her monothematic letter.
This is how I started: Dear Melanie, thank you for your lovely letter which got here safely and which I received with pleasant surprise. First and foremost I’d like to say how happy I am to hear about your engagement and to know that Robert is a great guy…
A prickly thought goes round in my head, bounces off my better judgement and rushes into mischief. Bounces once again before it arrives at sadness… Melanie doesn’t know that Robert will sleep with a different woman every night, he’ll hit his spoilt children and leave her during July in the stifling Chicago heat, while he flies to Las Vegas with his usual lover.
All of us can see the future, like wizards, clairvoyants. Time invariably proves us wrong, but dreaming is so delightful, and not just at night.
… and I’m sure he’ll make you very happy. You’ll always be together. His plans seem really fabulous and you can be sure he’s bound to bring you happiness. Today in school I studied an author called Ariosto for the first time, who wrote a…
Note
Valentina Brunettin
L’antibo
Marsilio, 1999
pp. 176, euro 6.20