Andrea Pazienza, the disengaged genius of 1977 higher education movements

Seldom I heard about Andrea Pazienza, a very famous cartoonist (at least among some Italian circuits). All those times I heard about him as a genius fall into heroine. True. He was even compared to Caravaggio. True (I guess it is not exaggerated). He was not just a cartoonist or a living Dada experiment: he was an artist in its utmost definition, despite he defined himself, at the age of 29, “a good talent who believed to be a genius and later realized to don’t be so” (this is the postscript of «Pompeo», a story based on himself and his relation with heroine). His technique is amazing. Embarrassing is even the divide between his capacity to look at phenomena and his naïve look at the world. As I said: an artist. What an artist, is if not a person with some outstanding skills in his/her field looking at things with disinterest and intimate honesty?


He is famous for the affectionate spoof of the former Italian President Sandro Pertini. His understanding of that persona goes to the heart of a generation and to a political soul: in the 80s Pertini was a living myth, an example of honesty (despite being Socialist! Because he was an old socialist!). He represented Italian people with accuracy, but at the same time he was too far from the cultural movements of those times. Pertini was outdated. A partisan was not anymore the ideal of an Italian boy or girl in the late 70s or 80s albeit Pertini was astonishingly strong to rebuke some young leaders of those years (the Red Brigades, communist terrorists). Pazienza saw Pertini as the leading fellow.

Less frequently Pazienza is discussed as the witness of the famous 77 movement, whose epicenter was in Bologna. To this regard his «Le straordinarie avventure di Pentothal» (The extraordinary adventures of Penthotal) is a masterpiece. Usually I hear of this work as a description and a witness of what that movement was. I would say two words about this.

In a world of leaders, so-called leaders and intellectuals, the young Pazienza described what the massive Italian higher education became: a horde of middle class sons and daughters that embodied the ritual of being lefty. A plethora of petty bourgeois’ (often petty-minded) cohorts that pretended novelties, claimed fantasies, fell into a whirlpool of no-sense as the only possible sense-making. Having made already the Italian version of the French ‘68 and its sexual liberation, having already invented the red and black terrorism to cope with a singular presence of both Communist Party and CIA, having already smoked pot, the 77 movement needed the post-modern abyss of nothingness to express its inadequacy.


—-Translation: Man: “If there could ever exist the bottom, for my case” Mickey Mouse “Come on, and the future? It is all depending by you” Man: “Future, bleah, I get tired to even think about it”

Pazienza told the truth as it was: mass higher education is alienating and not aggregating; it is not lefty, it is an apparent joyful Nietzsche oblivion into lax hedonism; it is not about the independence of youth, the 77 movement is the declaration of impossibility by young generation to have a role and a decent identity in society as completely adults. It is not about fighting bourgeoisie and capitalism, it is about nostalgia of one’s little welfare. It is not about the future, Marxism, trends, anti-violence; it is nihilist, esthetically horrible, and extremely violent, especially and above all by means of self-destruction (and only as a matter of rituality against police). It is a triumph of impotence in the perspective of the shining and prosperous 80s.


Pazienza in «Le straordinarie avventure di Penthotal» tells the contradictions of a country that was trying to absorb the mass higher education through the original and basic fears and frustrations of the fuori sede (“nonresidential”, the student from abroad the city). By telling the truth, the truth of a mass of lonely twenty y.o. people he ratifies the end of the 70s by mocking the several collectivistic set-phrases. Not due to a complex of superiority. On the contrary, Paz was a free thinker, very lightly moved.

Pazienza deserves to be translated into English and to be read worldwide.


——Translation: “Dear mummy, dear daddy, I am back forever. I quit with jokes, with drugs and with bad fellowships. I am here to remain here with you, to ask for the money to go to the cinema, to be waken up every morning, I am here to let you buy for me the clothes you want and to dress pressed shirts. The nightshirts! I want my tiny tidy room and to have new good friends, to come with you to the beach, but only if I behave like a good guy” “Do you remember. It was summer time in the countryside and you put me cherries as earrings”


One thought on “Andrea Pazienza, the disengaged genius of 1977 higher education movements

  1. I wholly agree with your last sentence: Pazienza deserves to be translated into English and to be read worldwide.


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