Publisher: Giulio Einaudi editore
La pecora nera
“The mental asylum is an apartment building for saints. These poor foolish crazies are saints beneath their Chinese sheets, their mass-produced shrouds. The nun is a saint; the nightlight on her bedside table makes her glow like an ex-voto. The doctor is the biggest saint of them all. He’s the head saint. He’s Jesus Christ.”
Thus Nicola recounts his thirty-five years in the “electric asylum.” Reality and fantasy clash in his disordered mind, resulting in unpredictable revelations. This book and the theatrical monologue of the same name are the fruit of the nearly four years Ascanio Celestini spent traveling through Italy listening to and recording stories about psychiatric hospitals. Thanks to the oral histories and recollections of nurses, doctors, and patients, he realized not only that the institution of the mental asylum is still in function—despite groundbreaking 1978 Italian legislation geared toward the gradual and total dismantling of this system—but also that the anguish and fears of the “crazies” are still very much alive within us all. And it is for this that the phantasmagoric stories told in this book are capable of moving us to laughter and to tears.