A parody of the medieval Lives of the Saints, Ermanno Cavazzoni’s Brief Lives of Idiots offers us a perfect month of portraits of idiots drawn from real life, from overly realist writers to fringe-belief obsessives, punctuated every seventh day with a litany of suicides–failed, foolish or fatal to others. This roll call extends the ridiculous to melancholic extremes, introducing us to such exemplary fools as the father and husband unable to recognize his own family, the Marxist convinced that Christ was an extraterrestrial, the would-be saint who finds a private martyrdom through the torturous confinement of a pair of ill-fitting leather oxfords and the man who failed to realize that he had spent two years in a concentration camp. This is a display of myriad idiocy, discovered and achieved by hook or by crook, be it through paranoia, misapplied methodology, religious hallucination or relentless diarrhea. But Cavazzoni engages in neither finger pointing nor celebration. If saints can be counted, idiots cannot: idiocy is ultimately the human condition.
Ermanno Cavazzoni (born 1947) is the award-winning author of many fantastic and absurd tales. He is a professor at the University of Bologna and a member of the literary group OpLePo, an Italian spin-off of the OuLiPo.