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Otto Gabos (artist and writer)

Kappa Edizioni

It’s hard to talk about a story which describes the life of a young guy from Cagliari, in Sardinia, during the mid 1970s, in a time influenced by the euphoria from winning the national soccer championship by the Cagliari team, comics and the discovery of sex. It’s hard and also a bit embarrassing because the author of this review – being of the same age as Gabos -lived the same kind of life in those years as the protagonist of Gabos’ story. Therefore, it’s inevitable to feel somehow familiar and involved with the places and the people (despite their different names) described in the story. In "Loving the Alien" (title of a song by David Bowie), Otto Gabos, whose name in real life is Mario Rivelli, gives life to Oberdan, a Sardinian guy who has moved to Bologna, his alter ego. Oberdan, who lived in Cagliari in 1975, is a typical young guy of that time. He is going though a phase in life when he’s bothered by raging hormones. His first hair has grown above his lip, he has confused ideas about the opposite sex because of some misleading reading and has to deal with the reality of his time. He’s living the phase in life in which everybody feels awkward, a bit isolated and incredibly clumsy and inept (in Cagliari slang, "un soggetto", a nerd).
Gabos/Oberdan recalls events of his life at random, suddenly shifting from past events to his current life, from reality to dreams and vice-versa. He recalls the major events in his life (his Subbuteo games, his collection of super-heroes comics) which are the same as his entire generation, a generation which doesn’t have to deal with the "dark years" of terrorism. At that time his main concerns in life were to wear a Lacoste T-shirt and wear out his blue jeans because "they look better when they’re worn out".
Gabos shows himself to be a mature artist: as he always delivers clever, well-articulated and highly readable cartoons. However, his writing doesn’t reach the same level as his art. To make things more complicated, this long flashback to growing up in Cagliari has been included into the "Camminatori" saga, which the author has been developing for a few years.
The occasional reader may find the story complicated from the beginning, as no introduction is given. Finally, the story breaks up into many other micro-stories with no real main plot, capable of supporting all the sub-plots. The missed "landing of the aliens from Venus", of which reference is made to in the story, was also reported by the Sardinian press in 1975. This should be the main story, which works as the background to the protagonist’s story. However, although this link is highlighted to the reader a few times, it never really works out. The landing of the aliens seems to anticipate a spectacular ending which doesn’t happen and as a new event is introduced, the story abruptly ends.
However, a positive is that the story is lightly narrated and successfully describes the teen-ager’s crises with the right amount of irony and tenderness. Finally, I’d like to point out a curious coincidence: the flying saucers are also mentioned in another autobiographical story by another Sardinian author: Bepi Vigna. His personal memories are somehow introduced in one of the stories of the Nathan Never series "L’estate dei dischi volanti" (The summer of the flying saucers, published a little while ago on the science fiction album Almanacco della Fantascienza).