Nearly 40 years after Vincenzo Cerami’s Italian novel Un borghese piccolo piccolo was published, Dr Isobel Grave, Cassamarca lecturer in Italian Studies at UniSA, has translated the classic into English for the first time, in a work titled A Very Normal Man, published by Wakefield Press.
Cerami is celebrated worldwide for his work on the 1997 screenplay, Life is Beautiful, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award.
Dr Grave believes Cerami’s ability to capture audiences and stay relevant in changing times is also reflected in his novel, A Very Normal Man.
“The film, Life is Beautiful, is a mix of the tragic and comic. That is the sort of blend that Cerami uses in this novel too, and it’s something I think works well,” she says.
“This book will speak to the age and country we live in. It is set in the seventies in Rome, and is about consumer society and the damage materialism does to relationships and values.
“That makes it sound very solemn and serious, but it’s also got a fairly racy style. It’s full of surprises, it’s confronting, it makes you think, and parts of it are very funny.”
With more than 20 years’ experience teaching Italian language and literature under her belt, Dr Grave worked to capture the angst, the humour, and the socially and politically-charged nature of the original with the help of a colleague and her editor at Wakefield Press.
“I translated the work straight through the first time, then I went back over it and picked out all the words or passages which didn’t sound right,” she says.
“I had a native-speaking colleague in Italy and we discussed the interpretation of many parts of the book – it would have been difficult to do this without his help.
“Then my editor and I spent a lot of time reviewing the manuscript and discussing the different versions. She was looking at it from the perspective of Australian readers and the sort of language they would respond to.”
The English translation of Cerami’s Un borghese piccolo piccolo, A Very Normal Man, was officially launched at UniSA last month. The book is available for purchase on the Wakefield Press website.
According to UniSA Professor of Psychology Bernard Guerin, his new book is spearheading a revolution in how the discipline of psychology must think about its subject matter.
In How to Rethink Psychology: New Metaphors for Understanding People and their Behaviour, he provides 11 new metaphors – some borrowed from physics, some from Zen – to rethink psychology and western philosophy.
Published by Routledge, Prof Guerin says the book is not an academic treatise on the philosophy of psychology, nor is it a final, pivotal foundation for thinking about people. Instead its aim is to explore and challenge how humans behave through using some new metaphors.
“I have been thinking critically about psychology and philosophy for some decades, and both disciplines need some major changes to their thinking rather than new logical arguments or evidence,” he says.
“I have approached this by providing new metaphors to assist readers with rethinking.”
But according to Prof Guerin, the end point is not just a rethinking. His next book, due out early 2016, will take readers through the practical skills needed to observe and analyse in new ways how humans behave.
While these philosophies and methods mirror his teaching at UniSA, Prof Guerin also wanted the book to find a wider audience than just academics and students; to write something that would be accessible to a thinking public as well.
“‘Re-think books’ about the ideas of science and medicine are common in the popular science sections of bookshops. But most psychology books are non-critical and I believe that is not as interesting as asking people to reconceptualise how they think about themselves and other people,” Prof Guerin says.
“My hope is that when readers finish the books they can start to observe things people do and say differently and be able to ‘think’ in these new ways.”
Prof Guerin’s following book will explore these ideas to find ways to rethink ‘mental health’.
How to Rethink Psychology: New Metaphors for Understanding People and their Behaviour is available now for purchase on Amazon.