Paola Mastrocola
L'esercito delle cose inutili (The Army of Useless Things)
A novel, Einaudi, February 2015, 212 pages

Premio letterario Basilicata 2015

“With her understate writing, Paola Mastrocola brings the readers into an other world, where they cry and laugh as if they were talking about something that they concerns.”
La Stampa

“The author enjoy making a fool of a intellectual family, that constantly admire and show off its intelligence.”
la Repubblica

A tender philosophical fable, deep and appealing. Paola Mastrocola shows us masterfully how whatever is old, worn out, marginal and eccentric can be moved by a mysterious energy to follow the road less travelled, where the useful and useless can turn each other around and become something new.

“So that morning in November, while I was wondering around for who knows how long, it happened that I met that someone. And I can tell you that, holy smoke, if I had gone right instead of left I wouldn’t have met him. So? All this must somehow mean something. I went left and what happened is what happened, the story I’m telling you now.”

Here’s where Paola Mastrocola’s new novel takes off from, to drag us quickly into an elsewhere inhabited by donkeys, books, tightrope walkers, coffee grinds, poets, postage stamp peelers and other amazing creatures. It’s the country of useless things, according to Raimond the donkey, who in his youth was a stalwart beast of burden, but now has become old and useless. And there are the letters of Guglielmo, a young boy who isn’t quite understood by his family – even though he is distractedly loved – and a victim of the usual bullies in school. Guglielmo’s parents adopted Raimond the donkey at a distance (this can be done even in real life) and they made a Christmas gift of him to their son. Now Guglielmo is writing to Raimond, confessing his secrets to him, the injustices, both large and small, the desires and dreams. It’s incredible to say, but he has no one else to talk to.
Raimond learns how to read and transforms his rage into action. He understands that he can still be useful and sets off on a comeback. An army moves together with him in a spectacularly epic finale.

Paola Mastrocola

Paola Mastrocola - © Basso Cannarsa

Paola Mastrocola was born and lives in Turin. She has a very special voice among Italian contemporary writers and bestseller authors. She is the author of La gallina volante (2000, Premio Calvino), Palline di pane (2001), Una barca nel bosco (Premio Campiello 2004), La scuola raccontata al mio cane (2004), Che animale sei? (2007), Più lontana della luna (2007), La felicità del galleggiante (2010), Togliamo il disturbo. Saggio sulla libertà di non studiare (2011), Non so niente di te (2013), L’esercito delle cose inutili (2015), La passione ribelle (2015), Lanno che non caddero le foglie (2016), L’amore prima di noi (2016), Leone (2018), Diario di una talpa (2020), La saggezza del lupo (2020), Se tu fossi vero (2021), Il danno scolastico (con Luca Ricolfi, 2021). Her books have been translated in France, Germany, Spain and Latin America, Portugal, Turkey and Japan.

“With her understate writing, Paola Mastrocola brings the readers into an other world, where they cry and laugh as if they were talking about something that they concerns.”
La Stampa

“The author enjoy making a fool of a intellectual family, that constantly admire and show off its intelligence.”
la Repubblica

“A fable with ironic, disenchanted, and even sarcastic tones.”
Avvenire

“That’s the upside-down world, as often happens in Paola Mastrocola’s books: a donkey reading David Copperfield, Oliver Twist and Don Quixote, a wise child and his intellectual but useless parents, unable to listen to their child, unnecessary objects and people that become indispensable, vital.”
Il Foglio

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