Saturday, May 7, 2011

Senso and other stories by Camillo Boito

Senso and other stories by Camillo Boito (1836-1914) is yet another in the fabulous Decadence from Dedalus series. Boito wrote these tales over a fairly lengthy period, from the 1860 to the 1890s.

They’re not decadent in the gloriously overheated Huysmans style, but there are some nest little stories of sexual and aesthetic obsession. A Body, Buddha’s Collar and The Grey Blotch all in their various ways fall into this category. There’s a definite hint of the gothic as well, and he had a gift for elegantly twisted and cynical endings. The title story was the subject of a celebrated movie adaptation by Visconti. It’s a tale of a woman exploited by her lover, and of her revenge. A Body involves a beautiful woman, and two men who lust after her perfect body in very different ways. It’s both a supremely decadent tale of sensual and aesthetic desire and an effective little horror story. Vade Retro, Satana sees a priest tormented by his hunger for a fallen woman, or at least a woman he regards as fallen, since he seems to consider any woman who isn’t a pious virgin to be a fallen woman. Christmas Eve is another tale of obsession, while Buddha’s Collar exploits Boito’s considerable talent for rather black humour. The Grey Blotch is a fine story of lust, self-disgust and guilt.

Boito was an engineer, architect and art historian as well as being a writer of fiction. He is another superb writer rescued from obscurity by Dedalus. Highly recommended.

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