The Lives of the Gods — Reviews

Publishers Weekly, 1992.

Savinio (1891-1952) takes liberties with classical myths, abuses footnotes in an almost postmodern fashion and includes a number of languages and heady allusions to unclothe humanity and civilization in this sly, cynical collection of surrealist short stories. In “Psyche” guests wander through “a sort of Musée Grevin, except for the fact that the figures are made of flesh instead of wax.” Here Psyche has been reduced to a pitiful exhibit, surrounded by her own excrement and etched with the graffiti of passing tourists. She tells her story, a revision of the myth, and claims that her father was “First Pornographer to the Ministry of Mercy,” the footnote wryly concluding that this is not a transposition for “stenographer.” The combination of classical allusions and multiple languages recalls the work of Ezra Pound, without that poet’s fascist bent. As in reading Pound, a few reference books and a dictionary may be useful (for instance, “The name ‘Pard’ . . . is nothing but an apocope . . . isn’t ‘Leopard’ basically a pleonasm?”). These modernized myths, written decades ago by the brother of Giorgio de Chirico, retain their relevance and sting.