Letters to the Heretics

Press Clippings[1]

“At this point, it is logical to wonder why and to what ends this operation was conducted. The political origin of the hoaxer seems to be the Right, but the diversion that has resulted from it could also play the game of the extra-parliamentary Left, and this would explain the reception of Letters to the Heretics among the alternative bookstores (another and more credible hypothesis would be that the book was leaked and that the bookstores have not noticed the hoax). (…) We might say that of the book that it will inaugurate a new type of ‘guerilla culture’ in which all attacks are permitted. (…) With Letters to the Heretics, we have reached a more audacious and advanced, more ambiguous and subtly corrosive stage (…) at the same time that the new attacks against goods and people are more frequent and worrisome every day.”

(Gazetta del Popolo, 8 November 1977.)

“Thus begins the hunt for the unknown author. And in certain cases, for the book itself. Once the news spread, the book became unfindable in the space of two days. New hoaxes are added to the first one. In Milan, the special envoy of a prestigious newsweekly [English in original] enters a New Left bookstore murmuring the word rhododendron with a conspiratorial air. ‘What did you say?’ ‘Rhododendron,’ she insists, awkwardly winking. Then she explains that ‘rhododendron’ is the password to obtain ‘the thing.’ There’s more doubt on the subject: maybe this woman is a cop seeking drugs. But the ‘thing’ is only Letters to the Heretics and the password ‘rhododendron’ got mixed in because the journalist was deceived by practical jokers.”

(L’Europeo, 18 November 1977.)

“Dear director,

“(…) Few among those who are interested in this satire have considered that, to know the identity of the author, it is necessary to read what he has written. From this fact have come such a torrent of opposing and contradictory suppositions that they have shaken the already weakened confidence of the ones who believe that they must seek out an indicator of the truth in the only place where it can be found, that is to say, the text itself. (…)

“Balestrini? The situationists? The famous Censor, that is to say, Gianfranco Sanguinetti? (…) I do not know, and, to tell the truth, this doesn’t interest me. The little that matters is what the book says. Not at all unseemly in its style, it is more the work of a cultured moralist than a subversive militant. The thesis is classically conservative: the heretics, the rebels, (in this particular case) the feminists, the [members of the] Radical Party, the homosexuals, the armed groups, the ecologists, etc., imagine that they are liberating the spontaneity and creativity of life, but in their actions they are actually collaborating with the Communist party in the perpetuation and perfecting of the existing social order. There’s nothing very new here: this is in the line of the ‘reactionary’ culture that has always hindered the advent of the ‘modern world,’ understood as the degradation and death of values (…)

“Thus the author is a sentimentalist, perhaps a cynic who has lost the revolutionary illusions of his youth (…)

“In short, he is a dilettante, in the non-pejorative sense of the term. Perhaps someone who, if not a dilettante, imagines that, today, he can expound his ideas freely and by hiding behind the refined literary ploy of anonymity? Who, if not a dilettante, would lose the thread of his ideological proclamations to ramble on in laborious digressions that betray his true convictions and break the unity and credibility of the pastiche?”

(Giulio Bollati, director of Giulio Einaudi Editore, extract from a letter published under the title “Identikit of a Forger” in Tuttolibri, the literary supplement of La Stampa on 19 November 1977. The full letter can be read here.)

“At Einaudi, everyone is convinced that the author is a man of letters, and not a politician, cultivated but disordered to the point of allowing his readers to divine his name between the lines. This is why Giulio Bollati di Saint-Pierre, director of the Nuovo Politecnico collection, went over the book with a fine-toothed comb, even if, officially, Giulio Einaudi Editore has declared that 'the thing leaves us perfectly indifferent.'”

(Panorama, 15 November 1977.)

“But in itself, concerning its contents, this ambitious satire is a poor work that doesn’t merit being taken into consideration (…) Where I am concerned, I confess that I haven’t understood it, and I feel I am right when I state that the opuscule will also remain inaccessible to the great majority of readers.”

(La Stampa, 7 December 1977.)

[1] Reproduced on the cover of the French translation, published in 1987.

To Contact NOT BORED!