The City of the Living

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From Nicola Lagioia, winner of the Strega Prize for Fiction, a spellbinding literary thriller based on the true story of one of the most vicious crimes in recent Italian history. An intoxicating novel that takes readers on a surprising journey into the darkest corners of contemporary Rome and of the human soul.


In March 2016, in a nondescript apartment on the outskirts of Rome, Manuel Foffo and Marco Prato, two "ordinary" young men from good families, brutally murdered twenty-three year old Luca Varani. News of the seemingly inexplicable crime sent shockwaves through Rome and beyond. What motivated such extreme violence? Were the killers evil or in the grip of societal evils? Did they know what they were doing? Or were they possessed? And if the latter, possessed by what?


Based on months of interviews, court documentation, and correspondence with the killers themselves, The City of the Living is not only a fast-paced, revelatory thriller in the style of Lisa Taddeo's Animal, it is also a descent into the dark heart of Rome--a city that is unlivable and yet teeming with life, overrun by rats and wild animals, and plagued by corruption, drugs, and violence. Yet, the Eternal City is also a place that, more than any other in the world, seems to inspire a sense of absolute freedom in its inhabitants.


Proceeding in concentric circles, Nicola Lagioia leads us through a maze of betrayed expectations, sexual confusion, inability to grow up, economic grievances, crises of identity--progressively tightening the focus of the analysis to locate the breaking point after which anything is possible. As hypnotic as Erik Larson's Devil in the White City, an heir to Truman Capote's In Cold Blood, and destined to cast on spell on fans of the Morbid podcast, The City of the Living is Nicola Lagioia's most gripping, bestselling, and critically acclaimed novel to-date. Razor-sharp, unputdownable, devastating, it is the story not only of a crime but of human nature itself; of the tension between responsibility and guilt, between the drive to oppress and the desire to be free; of who we are and who we can become.



"This documentary thriller is psychogeography at its most perceptive, an insightful socio-economic analysis of Italy -- and an attempt to understand what human beings are capable of doing to each other and to themselves."--Anna Aslanyan, Financial Times


"I don't think it's possible to praise this book enough."--Molly Odintz, CrimeReads


"The City of the Living is fiction at its best--fiction that breathes life into the facts of reality... As only literature can, Lagioia shows us that the fine line that Foffo and Prato walk, surrounded by the great misery and the ever dimmer splendor of Rome--of the entire world--is the same line we all walk every day."--Domenico Starnone, Corriere della Sera


"An of the banality of evil."--Kirkus Reviews


"A magnificent panorama of Rome, dark and rotting... Unlike bad journalism, literature knows no monsters, because 'monsters' are comforting, something we humans can never become. Instead, the world of Lagioia's book is deeply human: a world where parents don't know their children, where fresh young love is based on a lie, where dark passions unfold with cold, geometric precision. That world is our world."--Walter Siti, Domani


"Reading some books can be an experience as extreme as the story they tell... This is the case with Nicola Lagioia's The City of the Living, a journey into the horrific murder of Luca Varani and into the decadence of Rome, a 'dead city, inhabited by the living.' A city from which Lagioia is on the run--psychological and emotionally as well as literally... The book turns into a painful therapy session--for the author and for each of us."--la Repubblica


"Before I started reading, I wondered how Lagioia would be able to tell such a terrible, ambiguous, twisted story without being crushed by the weight of moral responsibility. The degree of the suffering inflicted on Luca Varani is almost impossible to imagine. How to write anything other than a long condemnation of his killers? It was a difficult task, but Lagioia succeeded. He found the words to tell the darkest of stories, and allowed us to enter into the minds of the killers. Not in order to forgive them--that's not up to us--but to finally be able to see them."--Antonella Lattanzi, La Stampa


Publisher: Europa Editions
Pub date: October 03, 2023
432 pages
Format: Hardcover