The story sets in a baroque, evocative Catania, vividly described by this
sicilian author whose works reveal a sharp observer of social manners.
Fascism is at the top, the war at the gates. Antonio Mangano - the leading
character - is a cultured, sensitive and beautiful young man, lazy and passive
towards life. Women seem to be furiously attracted by his beauty; and he
loves women, and can not love them: he is impotent. This is not only a
physical condition, but an impotence of the soul, oppressed by a narrow-
minded society that doesn't allow his mind to breath - it is a trap from which
the man is not able to tear himself off. He keeps his heavy secret, hides
himself from a conformist middle class vowed to the worship of virility, seen
as the only standard to qualify a man. Antonio marries an enchanting woman
he deeply loves, but the marriage is annulled and the secret comes out,
bringing shame on the whole family: one night Antonio?s father braves the
bombs and gets to the whores? quarter to defend his proud as a male and
All the characters are skilfully described, and very interesting is the figure of
Antonio?s uncle ? an undeceived intellectual, behind which the author
conceals himself with his irony and scepticism.
A bitter story of moral, social, political failures and of a slow, increasing
psychological prostration, that seems to have no way out.
It deserves mentioning the movie directed by Mario Bolognini in 1960, with
Marcello Mastroianni as a touching, fascinating protagonist.