It’s a while since I reviewed or even read some non fiction, so I have been eagerly anticipating this fascinating Blog Tour Review of An Author on Trial by Luciano Iorio.
This is the story of Giuseppe Jorio, the father of our author. An Italian school teacher and writer , working post and pre World War Two, Jorio’s first novel La Morte di un Uomo (Death of a Man), published in 1939 was well received.
However the work he truly laboured over was an account of his passionate and extramarital affair, conducted and concluded before the birth of his son. Il Fuoco del Mondo (The Fire of the World) was the novel into which Jorio poured his heart and soul. The passionate affair that had been conducted with a younger woman called Tina, led to an unwanted pregnancy and a back street abortion. Stricken by these events Jorio changes his mind about wanting children, was reconciled with his wife and as a consequence his son Luciano was born.
Il Fuoco del Mondo, Jorio’s third novel, was rejected by his publisher. Finished and submitted after the war, the publisher recognised what it’s author didn’t; a growing conservatism and level of censorship from the Christian Democracy party, openly fuelled by the Vatican. When Jorio decided to self publish, he was arrested, his book seized and he faced charges of obscenity.
So began a six year battle to clear his name and defend his book. It was a battle which would encompass five trials, as the case was thrown backwards and forwards from the Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court. Jorio was the first author to be convicted of obscenity in pre-war Italy and the only one to be handed a prison sentence.
The case hinges on whether this book could be classed as ‘a work of art’ and therefore exempt from the rules surrounding obscenity. It is clear through the personal papers, letters and diaries bequeathed to his son after Jorio’s death this novel was considered by the author as his masterpiece. To have it dismissed publicly as nothing more than obscenity was something Jorio never recovered from either professionally or privately.
Some years after the trials Jorio published his book in a ‘purged’ version, with all words consider obscene cut out. Accompanied by a pamphlet detailing his struggle Jorio called this work ‘Umana.’
As his son takes us through his father’s life a portrait emerges of a committed writer, but also a torment and difficult man.
Luciano himself admits that his relationship with his father was often difficult and towards the end of his life somewhat fractured. Luciano seems to struggle to come to terms with the fact that his existence is often seen by his father as a direct result of Tina’s abortion.
Luciano is honest about his father’s short comings and shows us a picture of a man who was a times self absorbed, without being self aware. Through his father’s writing Luciano is trying to find a place, a peace and understanding.
A short, but fascinating book highlighting how art can fall prey to circumstance and politics. And how much of one’s heart and soul a writer pours into there work.