A fantastic and philosophical vision of the apocalypse by one of the most striking Italian novelists of the twentieth century.
From his solitary buen retiro in the mountains, the last man on earth drives to the capital Chrysopolis to see if anyone else has survived the Vanishing. But there’s no one else, living or dead, in that city of “holy plutocracy,” with its fifty-six banks and as many churches. He’d left the metropolis to escape his fellow humans and their struggles and ambitions, but to find that the entire human race has evaporated in an instant is more than he had bargained for. Meanwhile, life itself—the rest of nature—is just beginning to flourish now that human beings are gone.
Guido Morselli’s arresting postapocalyptic novel, written just before he died by suicide in 1973, depicts a man much like the author himself—lonely, brilliant, difficult—and a world much like our own, mesmerized by money, speed, and machines. Dissipatio H.G. is a precocious portrait of our Anthropocene world, and a philosophical last will and testament from a great Italian outsider.
About the Author
Guido Morselli (1912–1973) was a novelist and essayist. After serving in the Italian Army, he began writing reportages and short stories while living abroad. He wrote several works of fiction, among them Past Conditional, Divertimento 1889, and Roman senza papa (Rome Without the Pope), though none were published during his lifetime. NYRB Classics published his novel The Communist in 2017.
Frederika Randall (1948–2020) was a writer, reporter, and translator. Among her translations are Ippolito Nievo’s Confessions of an Italian, and for NYRB, Guido Morselli’s The Communist. She received the National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship for Translation and the PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant, and with Sergio Luzzatto, the Cundill Prize. She finished her translation of Dissipatio H.G. shortly before her death in Rome in 2020.
“Just as Morselli, tragically overlooked in his lifetime, was destined to be hailed as one of contemporary Italy’s most iconoclastic writers, so was this novel, his last, destined to be translated, at the end of her long and distinguished career, by Frederika Randall. I can think of few works of literature more appropriate for our acutely isolating and endangered times.” —Jhumpa Lahiri
“I recently had a chance to read a wonderful book, Dissipatio H.G., written by an Italian, Guido Morselli, who subsequently killed himself. I think it would make a highly interesting subject for a film, and you would certainly be the ideal director.” —Letter from Marcello Mastroianni to Andrei Tarkovsky
“This is a powerful, erudite meditation on existence and the terror of loneliness.” —Publishers Weekly
“Caustic, lonely and obsessive, the novel offers a richly speculative portrait of early Anthropocene resignation.” —Dustin Illingworth, The New York Times