‘Un marziano a Roma’ (‘A Martian in Rome’) by Ennio Flaiano, translated by Philip Balma and Fabio Benincasa

Ennio Flaiano was a journalist, writer, and screenwriter who chronicled like no one else the restlessness of Italian society in the 20th century. As a screenwriter he is famous for being among the authors of La dolce vita by Federico Fellini; Fellini considered directing a film adaptation of ‘A Martian in Rome’ too, but the project fell through. Meanwhile, Flaiano’s short story became a popular stage play, and later a TV adaptation filmed in the 1980s by another director.
The story centres on Kunt, an alien from Mars, who lands with his spaceship in Rome near Villa Borghese. Initially, his arrival creates a sensation among citizens and the media: everyone wants to see him, greet him, talk to him, interview him. The event is so significant that Kunt is even received by the Pope. However, after some time the Romans get used to seeing the alien around, and begin to ignore him. No one cares about Kurt anymore, the novelty of his arrival is soon forgotten, and the Martian wanders sad and alone through the streets of the city. By the end of the story, people are openly mocking him, to the point that he decides to leave.

First published in Diario notturno, Rizzoli, 1956. Collected in The Penguin Book of Italian Short Stories, edited by Jhumpa Lahiri, 2019