What Hell Is Not

Pages: 368
Subject: Fiction, Translated Fiction
Imprint: Oneworld

What Hell Is Not

Alessandro D'Avenia

Translated by Jeremy Parzen
A heart-rending story of deprivation and resilience in mafia-run Palermo
9781786072757 (24 Jan 2019)
RRP £12.99 / US$24.95

The Book


A heart-rending story of deprivation and resilience in mafia-run Palermo

‘Take away love and you will have hell, you used to say to me, Don Pino. Give love and you will have what hell is not.'

Federico is a privileged teenager from Palermo. He is preparing to spend a summer learning English in Oxford when his teacher, Father Pino, asks him to help out at a youth centre in an area of Palermo dominated by mafia and misery. To his parents' dismay, Federico decides to follow Father Pino into the darkness of Palermo's alleyways.

Far removed from his familiar surroundings, Federico begins to learn from the incredibly tough lives of the children who attend the youth centre, and also from Lucia, a beautiful girl full of courage and light. Then one day, Father Pino is murdered by the mafia, and the hope for Palermo and its beauty are entrusted to Federico's young hands.

Alessandro D'Avenia, himself a student of Father ‘Pino' Puglisi at this high school, draws a powerful, unforgettable portrait of an extraordinary and contradictory city, of a society suffocated by silence yet capable of incomparable acts of courage.

Additional Information

Subject Fiction, Translated Fiction
Pages 368
Imprint Oneworld


About the Author

Alessandro D'Avenia teaches Ancient Greek, Latin and Italian Literature at a high school in Milan and is a regular contributor to the newspaper Corriere della Sera, writing on the subjects of literature and education. His debut novel, White as Milk, Red as Blood, was translated into twenty-two languages and turned into a film. Together with his second novel, it spent three years on the Italian fiction top ten bestseller list, selling more than one million copies in Italy alone. What Hell Is Not is his third novel.

Jeremy Parzen studied Italian at UCLA. He is a translator, blogger, musician and wine writer. He lives in Houston, Texas.


‘A mature work that looks the theme of evil and violence in the eye.'

- Libero

‘The dark story of Father Pino's passion and death is a long shriek of grief, but it is not in vain: it is also a hymn to love that becomes beauty.'

- Antonia Arslan, author of Skylark Farm