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Viaggio in Italia del dottor Dapertullo: Attraverso vizi (e virtu) degli intellettuali.

If Remo Ceserani's tale of a "voyage to Italy through the vices (and virtues) of its intellectuals" is less than Swiftian in its savagery, this is perhaps because the author is a card-carrying member of the mandarin class whose excesses are lampooned in it. Like an Italian David Lodge, Ceserani describes some of the more grotesque members of his profession through a series of send-ups of the pompous, the fatuous, and the silly. The portraits he presents us for delectation, however, are the handiwork of a satirist who both knows his targets well and sympathizes with their follies and idiosyncrasies.

The characters who populate the novel are public intellectuals busy in the universities, in the publishing industry, and in the media - often in all three. Ceserani characterizes them as "writers-for-sale who always line up on the winning side, silly academics puffed up like inflated balloons, thinking minds that should be critical but constantly betray their duty instead." Among the powerful figures he pillories are academic barons inspecting their fiefs, media stars, editors, and other intellectual entrepreneurs caught in the act of doling out posts to their cronies or mistresses, horse trading for spots in prestigious learned societies, and solemnly awarding literary prizes.

They are presented to us in a story that Ceserani filters through a foreigner, a Dottor Dapertutto from Berlin who is accompanying his academic master, the learned Professor Kari Friedrich Palimpsestus, on a journey of instruction to (mostly northern) Italy. In addition to possessing a mighty wit, "Doctor Uniquitous" has an aura of brimstone about him suggesting ties to a netherworld both more venerable and diabolic than the intellectual universe he visits in Italy, a country where it always seems to be raining but where at least the food is good and abundant. Toward the end of their journey the bewildered Palimpsestus and his devilish Boswell fetch up in Pisa, Ceserani's home city and an intellectual center known for its blending of traditional scholarship with the very latest in information processing. The book indeed is imagined as a series of computer files disseminated to Dapertutto's devilish cohorts as well as to us, his slightly less diabolical readers.

Though certainly biting, the satire in Viaggio in Italia del dottor Dapertutto is finally more amiable than bitter, the product of a writer who is above all amused at the grotesque goings-on he faithfully chronicles. His entirely successful tour de force is so snappily written, fast-moving, and erudite as to lead one to hope that he will one day turn his narrative talents to - why not? - a novel of a more conventionally serious nature.

Charles Klopp Ohio State University
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Author:Klopp, Charles
Publication:World Literature Today
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 22, 1997
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