Italian director, screen writer, essayist, poet, critic and novelist, was murdered violently in 1975. Pasolini is best known outside Italy for his films, many of which were based on literary sources - The Gospel According to Saint Matthew, The Decameron, The Canterbury Tales. Pasolini referred himself as a 'Catholic Marxist' and often used shocking juxtapositions of imagery to expose the vapidity of values in modern society. His friend, the writer Alberto Moravia, considered him "the major Italian poet" of the second half of the 20th centrury.

"In neorealistic film, day-to-day reality is seen from crepuscular, intimistic, credulous, and above all naturalistic point of view... In neorealism, things are described with a certain detachment, with human warmth, mixed with irony - characteristics which I do not have. Compared with neorealism, I think I have introduced a certain realism, but it would be hard to define it exactly." (from Pasolini on Pasolini by Oswald Stack, 1970)
Pier Paolo Pasolini was born in Bologna, traditionally the most left-wing of Italian cities. Pasolini's father was a non-commissioned officer, moving from one garrison to another. His family originated from Fruili, a region in the North-Eastern part of Italy where a local language, Friulano, Rhaeto-Romanic dialect, dominated. Later Pasolini adopted as his way of expression the crude language of the Roman suburbs. Most of his childhood Pasolini spent at Casarsa della Delizia, his mother's birthplace northeast of Venice. During this period he became deeply involved with the dialect of the region.

I was twenty, not even - eighteen,
nineteen... and I had been alive for a century,
a whole lifetime
consumed by the pain of the fact
that I would never be able to give my love
if not to my hand, or to the grass of ditches
or maybe to the earth of an unguarded tomb...
Twenty and, with its human history and its cycle
of poetry, a life had ended.
(from 'A Desperate Vitality', trans. by Pasquale Verdecchio)
In 1937 Pasolini returned to his native city and studied art history and literature at the University of Bologna. He published articles in Architrave, the politico-literary monthly of the students, and began writing poems in Friulian. Pasolini's first collection of poems, POESIA A CASARSA, which he printed at his own expense, appeared in 1942. It reflected his intense love for 'maternal tongue', Friulian landscape, and its peasants. The poems also showed his knowledge of the poetry of Giovanni Pascoli, on whom he later wrote his thesis, and Eugenio Montale. Pasolini's early Italian poems, L'USIGNOLO DELLA CHIESA CATTOLICA, date from this period but appeared in 1958.

Pasolini joined the Communist Party as a young man - in his works he often explored ideological problems, but his relationship with Communism was questioning - like later the attitude towards him by his party members. The mutual schism led to his expelling from the party for alleged homosexuality. However, Pasolini regarded himself as a Communist to the end of his life.

From 1943 to 1949 Pasolini worked as a teacher in almost total obscurity. His essay on Pascoli and Montale, showing his skills in close textual analysis, appeared in 1947 in the Bolognese review Convivum. An essay on Giuseppe Ungaretti, written in the years 1958-51, was later included in PASSIONE E IDEOLOGIA (1960). In 1949 Pasolini moved with his mother to Rome, where he wrote poems and novels of slum life. The first two parts of a projected trilogy, RAGAZZI DI VITA (1955, The Ragazzi), composed in a mixture of Italian and Roman dialect, and UNA VITA VIOLENTA (1959, A Violent Life), established Pasolini's reputation as a major writer. In these works he depicted with neorealistic approach subproletarian life and the awakening of social awareness. Both novels were translated in the 1960s into English. Tommaso, the protagomist in A Violent Life, is a homosexual, who with his friends lives in a world without hope. After being released from a prison, he gets an opportunity to change his purposeless existence. "But this novel is a great deal more than the sum of its political ideas. It is not devitalized by or dependent on Marxist philosophy. Tommaso's story has its own profound and cumulative power; his world boils with life created by Pasolini's relentless use of dialogue and vivid detail." (Anne Rice in The New York Times, November 3, 1985)

During his career Pasolini published nearly ten collections of poems. Many critics, such as Alberto Moravia, considered him one of the most important contemporary poets in Italy, who gave voice to the post-war generation. With Moravia Pasolini travelled in the 1960s in Africa, making preparations for a film about 'black Oedipus', but the idea was never realized. He also built with Moravia a house in Sabaudia. According to Moravia, Pasolini honestly believed that the lowest proletariat would save the world with all of its freshness, uncorruptness, and originality. "Pasolini was, in his own way, a follower of Rousseau," Moravia wrote in Vita di Moravia (1990).

In LE CENERI DI GRAMSCI (1957) Pasolini returned to ideological debate. He took as his starting point the theories Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937), a political leader and the cofounder of the Italian Communist Party, who spent in fascist prisons the last ten years of his life. Pasolini accepted the rational arguments of Gramsci, but was tormented by his attraction and revulsion for the world he observed.

In addition to writing scripts, Pasolini worked in the 1950s as an actor. In 1961 Pasolini made his debut as a director. His first film, ACCATONE, a re-working of his own novel A Violent Life, centered on the life of a pimp in Rome. Franco Citti, the then amateur actor, played the eponymous hero. The theme of prostitution continued in Pasolini's homage to Anna Magnani, MAMMA ROMA (1962), which portrayed Rome's underworld realistically. Magnani played a prostitute who has to go back on her profession.

International fame Pasolini gained in the mid-1960s. IL VANGELO SECONDO MATTEO (1964), a straightforward re-telling of the New Testament story, was based on words and scenes from St Matthew's Gospel. The Catholic Church helped to finance the film and it received the Special Jurt Prize at the Venice Film Festival. Two years before Pasolini had been accused of blasphemy over his satirical sketch in RoGoPaG (1963), a film directed by Rosselini, Godard, Pasolini and Gregoretti. However, Pasolini once said: "For years I thought that an addressee for my 'confessions' and 'testimony' existed. Only now do I realize that he does not exist." IL DECAMERONE (1971), THE CANTEBURY TALES (1973) and IL FIORE DELLE MILLE E UNA NOTTE (1973) were based on medieval tales and celebrated the world of simpe joys and sexuality. EDIPE RE (1967) was an adaptation of an ancient text of Sophocles. TEOREMA (1968) was a dissection of the bourgeois family. Using non-professional actors with professionals, Pasolini attempted to combine realism with revolutionary concepts, sex, violence, and sadism. With the gay liberation movement the community of homosexual novelists grew internationally, and along with Pasolini from it emerged such writers as Christopher Bram, James Purdy, Allan Hollinghurst, José Lezema Lima, Reinaldo Arenas, and Yukio Mishima.

In the 1960s Pasolini's interest in language drew him to semiotics, although his concern with dialect marked his work from the first collections of poems. One of these early influences was the modern novelist Carlo Emilio Gadda, whose experimental novel That Awful Mess on Via Merulana, written in a mixture of Italian, Roman, Venetian, and Neopolitan dialects, appeared in a Florentine review 1946.

Pasolini has presented his approach to cinema in a number of essays. His opposition to the liberalization of abortion law and criticism of the radical students made him unpopular on the left. From PORCILE (1969) Pasolini's films became increasingly controversial. His last film, SALÒ O LE 120 GIORNATE DI SODOMA, set in the last years of WW II in Italy, linked fascism and sadism. The film was banned virtually everywhere.

Pasolini's creative productivity did not stop in films. He wrote several tragedies in verse and published in 1971 a new collection of poetry, TRASUMANAR E ORGANIZZAR. In 1972 his critical writings were collected and published under the title EMPIRISMO ERETICO (Heretical Empiricism). He also contributed to the Milanese newspaper Corriere della sera. On morning of 2 November, 1975, his body was discovered on waste ground near seaside resort of Ostia. A young male prostitute was tried and convicted for the murder in 1976. Pasolini's massive unfinished novel, PETROLIO, was published in 1992.