This post is also available in: العربية

Italian Novel, Dissipatio H.G, written by the famous Italian author Guido Morselli, tells the story of an apocalyptic event in which all of humanity suddenly vanishes, leaving a single man as the world’s only witness.

Dissipatio H.G has now been published in English in a translation by late Frederika Randall, a journalist who turned to translating Italian after experiencing health problems caused by a fall.

The plot begins with a botched suicide attempt: the unnamed narrator, a loner living in a retreat surrounded by meadows and glaciers, walks to a cave, on the eve of his fortieth birthday, intent on throwing himself down a well that leads to an underground lake.

Not suiciding near the well, the protagonist goes home, lies dressed in bed, annoyed at the last-minute change of plans, picks up a gun, considering it an easier solution, brings it to his mouth and pulls the trigger, twice. The gun doesn’t work. He falls asleep.

Typically, stories about the near-extinction of humanity dramatize the process of decay, with lessons on the fragility of civilization, and how easily a sense of community is shattered when people become desperate.

But Morselli forgoes the drama of depopulation, reducing the genre’s basic premise to its essence and its aftermath.

His protagonist is not someone who cherishes social relations but a loner who has long since social-distanced, and flirted with self-annihilation. One of the questions Morselli seems to have had on his mind is: How alive was everyone in the first place?

A sudden, invisible phenomenon that has emptied the streets of cities and villages, leaving our protagonist in existential limbo; very similar to current life during the coronavirus pandemic. Each phase of the quarantine seems represented in this slim novel, from the short-lived pleasure at nature’s reclaiming of old ground to the vague impulse to take notes and the growing pointlessness of grooming.

The ironic tone is characteristic of Morselli’s books, but there is a nervous edge to the joke. Only someone well versed in loneliness could produce such a ruthlessly realistic account of an isolating catastrophe, tending to its false starts and its interruptions, its strange mixture of anxiety and tedium. In the end, that experience had a price.

Source: The New Yorker