Love, death and bereavement are the main themes of “Separate Rooms,” a special novel by the Italian author Pier Vittorio Tondelli. Special because in beautiful phrases, the fictional character Leo is described with visual integrity. After the death of his younger German friend, Thomas suddenly is left to fend for himself.
Thomas died of AIDS. You feel death, the helplessness, and the despair on every page. He is forced to think about his life and loves, which can be quite confrontational.
The love story is set in the 1980s, when the GLBT rights movement was still in its infancy and AIDS was the leading cause of death among gay men. The three-part novel is set in the past and the present, but that does not weaken attention. Skillfully, Tondelli deals with the question how long to grieve for a loved one and to what degree you let the love of your life change your life. The novel is food for thought from the very first page.
“Separate Rooms” undoubtedly can be seen as the magnum opus of Tondelli, who died in 1991. The sentence structure, atmosphere and characters in “Separate Rooms” touch me deeply. The question whether you can belong to or own each other in a relationship keeps haunting me. Attracting and repelling are undeniably part of love. The novel is a master piece that deeply impresses. Timeless, poignant, sometimes humorous, intimate and honest are the words that describe this book. A true achievement.
The English translation by Simon Pleasance was first published in 1993 by Serpent’s Tail and was reprinted in 2005 by Profile Books in London with a new introduction by Edmund White.
The dutch translation is available a.o. at Vrolijk G& L Books, www.vrolijk.nu