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From the Archives: “Resistance Is Futile” by Walter Siti

2015/5/22 — 12:24

【Text by Patty Nash】

In this ongoing series, a look at fiction from our January 2015 issue translated by Antony Shugaar

What is “autofiction?”

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I don’t know. I really don’t. “Autofiction” belongs to the category of words I’ll habitually skim over in lieu of context clues. (Also in this category: “antifiction,” “matron literature,” “ergodic literature”—any ideas?). Critics toss around categories such as these so flippantly, practically taunting their readers to look them up on Wikipedia, but unless I get the sense that the term is particularly operative, I am likely to continue reading.

I came across “autofiction” more recently: after reading the incredible excerpt from Walter Siti’s Resistance is Futile from our latest issue(translated from the Italian by longtime blog contributor/superstar translator Antony Shugaar). In his translator’s note, Shugaar says that Siti’s “approach is called autofiction” and that “Siti seems to swing it over his head recklessly like a heavy gold chain.”

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I’m intrigued. But first and foremost, I’m intrigued by the excerpt itself, because Resistence is Futile is incredible. Written in increasingly circular retrospect, the story’s more a taut deferral of linearly cruel memory than anything resembling realist fiction, but that’s not to say it isn’t visceral, gutting, utterly material, and wrenching, as it recounts the youth of an unfortunately corpulent young boy, Tommaso.

The boy’s fat—that’s because he was a slow eater as an infant—and worse still, even that’s because the mother may or may not have “somehow been jinxed, conceived under a bad star” after she “got it stuck in her head that the child had been generated the very night that her husband came home drunk (and as far as that went, nothing out of the ordinary), cursing and washing the blood off himself.”

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