What if you were God, going about your godly business—arbitrarily bestowing blessings and havoc upon humanity’s billions and enjoying the glorious handiwork of your cosmos—when, quite literally out of the blue, you started paying closer attention to a lanky geneticist named Daphne who works in a provincial Italian city? Well, of course you would have to write about it. Unfortunately, no language can ever adequately express God’s quandary of having fallen head-over-incorporeal-heels in love with a human. Therefore, the whole literary enterprise is a bust from the get-go. It’s a delightful, strikingly current, infectiously readable bust.
The irrational pull of erotic love has never had a funnier incarnation than the one in I Am God, the latest novel by satirical Italian author Giacomo Sartori. The deity’s infatuation with Daphne drives him crazier and crazier, until he must—no, I won’t spoil it for you. Besides, it’s just too embarrassing for poor ol’ God, as it never was for that serial sexual predator Zeus.
In composing Sono Dio (the original title sounds so much better), Sartori pulls out all the stops in a long tradition of first-person confessions by the Creator, beginning with the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount. In the radical spirit of those biblical pronouncements, the words coming out of this God’s invisible mouth are altogether unnerving and explicitly reproachful to any belief system, whether orthodox or atheistic. Transcending mere blasphemy, Sartori refuses to take the Lord’s name in vain. Every little chapter of I Am God forces the reader to decide whether laughter or outrage is the proper response.
There’s a grand tradition of Italian artists (Dante, Michelangelo, Verdi) who shock us with their new and unsettling images of God. In his modest and profound way, Sartori belongs in this terrific company.