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Bomarzo – Manuel Mujica Láinez

Bomarzo is a novel by the Argentine writer Manuel Mujica Láinez, written in 1962 and later adapted by its author to an opera libretto created by Alberto Ginastera, which premiered in Washington, DC, in 1967.

It is set in the mysterious and surreal Italian Renaissance city and palace of Bomarzo and refers to the morally and physically deformed pier of Francesco Orsini, Duke of Bomarzo.


Summary and Synopsis

Towards the north of Rome, quite close to the town of Viterbo, there is a sacred forest called Bomarzo, even better known as the Park of the Monsters, a very peculiar place that contains many statues and sculptures carved directly from the natural stones that They represent deformed and mythological monsters that were built following a specific design, as Duke Pier Francesco Orsini has apparently ordered.

The story focuses mainly on the figure of this mysterious duke, a historical figure who lived in the 16th century. In a palace that has the same name, in the whole center of an environment with all the characteristics of being tragic, our history unfolds, which gives us an excellent and extensive account of a good part of the history of the Italian Renaissance.

The most outstanding feature of the protagonist of the novel is his novel. Despite his wealth, great fame and his title, Duke Pier Francesco Orsini does not see himself in the capacity to enjoy any of these luxuries, being despised by his own people, including his parents, who have a great deal for him. deep resentment. Almost immediately, you can feel empathy for this unfortunate character, who decides to isolate himself from the world and feels very excluded.

All the beautiful and ethereal of the landscape, of the time, the art and all the intellectual atmosphere that was developing in Italy at that time are greatly contrasted with a character whose distinction is his deformity and who, despite his incredible artistic genius, stands out. trapped in the irony of the time he had to live, which judges him by his deformity in a beautiful and elegant world whose ideal is perfect beauty.

The Duke of Orsini, after the death of his companion and wife, decides to turn his art mainly to portraying monsters in the garden of the city where he lives, next to his lonely palace. He has at his disposal a wide number of personalities to be inspired by, above all, taking the illustrious characters of his noble family, where they are included from popes and religious people, to royal figures and medieval knights.

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The moment in which Pier decides to conceive for the first time one of his hideous sculptures, and to make El Parque de los Monstruos in general, occurs when the Duke passes by the works of a handful of painters who are commissioned to portray lives of his ancestors who advise him that he himself should portray the life of his ancestors.
This novel contains an extensive biographical journey of the life of the poor duke, whose figure is used as the central axis through which the author makes an analysis of the Renaissance period and the Italy that was developing at that time, and at the same time, opens the way to express, in a rather subtle way, reflections of the human race and its prejudices.

In this novel, Pier Orsini serves as the main narrator and protagonist, where he speaks openly from his remote and marginalized position as a deformed man, presenting the vision of a harmful and cruel world, superficial and without love; a world that contains an enormous loneliness and where isolation is one of the main elements and they let us see his internal conflicts and the revelations that are obtained from so much loneliness, such as his dissertations in philosophy.

The betrayal, the abominable acts, the use of a double standard in a time where both revolution and helplessness prevail, which are also very present elements in the work.

Genre: Historical novel

Despite the fact that Bomarzo is an extensive and well-documented historical novel, it is not the type that overwhelms, bores or exhausts the reader at any time with some kind of excess of erudition, on the contrary presents it in a way that can be delight with the thought of the time.

Through a masterful narrative, Manuel Mujica Láinez outlines a very eccentric and peculiar profile of loneliness, fear and intrigue, but at the same time of a strange freedom. In the middle of a setting that evokes fantasy and magic, this story shows the differences that exist in power and in the society in which it is found and also tells key historical moments such as the coronation of Carlos I of Spain or the Battle of Lepanto.

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Film adaptation

Bomarzo the book, achieved great fame, after the wonderful story of the Orsini family, a film called Bomarzo came out in 2007, which is based on the book. It was produced and recorded under the direction of Jerry Brignone, and was recorded mostly in Italy.

At the beginning of the film we see that some characters from Argentina arrive in a car to Bomarzo and you can appreciate the current life of the inhabitants. And you can also see images of the duke Pier Francesco Orsini in the 16th century who felt bad about the weight of his hump and the memories of the garden that I create with sculpted stones, which was called Mount Sacro or the park of the monsters.

The duke strolls through the garden with his astrologer Silvio de Narni, who brought him the drink for immortality that his horoscope promises, when he remains alone he takes it and realizes that he was poisoned and there he dies and the events of his life with the news of Bomarzo.


As an example of historical fiction, Bomarzo can be as twisted as its narrator. The events of the novel are deeply grounded in empirical and historical events, but they use the tools of fiction to fill the space around those outlines, a kind of negative spatial exercise with history.

It is as if Mujica had taken what is known about the Italian Renaissance and skated it with a shiny, viscous black liquid, creating a work as “jarring” in relation to the high points of the Renaissance as the monster park with the “comforts uniforms ”of the time.

Despite the participation of the novel in some of the most important events of the period, many performed in a sumptuous and indelible way: the coronation of Charles V, the Battle of Lepanto, the scientific and philosophical revolutions of the time, the artistic ascents from Cellini and Michelangelo: Bomarzo offers a haunting look into the darkness of this glorious age.

Pier Francesco’s keen intelligence and appreciation of art and beauty, his search for love and recognition, constantly merges with elements of the strange, grotesque and sordid, of vice, crime and violence, his garden becomes a rock distillation, subtly coded to commemorate this life, a landscape to be read as one wandered through its aberrant features.