The title of Tarchetti’s tale “The Letter U” the subtitle of which is “Manuscript of a Crazy Person” refers to the letter assigned to a patient in a mental hospital. The author gives this vowel a meaning that goes far beyond its graphic symbolism, attributing to the letter “U” all the faults that led him to be locked up in a psychiatric ward and to be progressively cut off from human society.
"The Letter U" is part of an anthology called “Fantastic Tales” that is divided into two sections: “The Fatalists” and “Thoughts.” “Fantastic Tales” written between 1867 and 1869, is a good example of the literary rigor and experimentation that characterizes Scapigliati’s work, with its strong vein of social and political denouncement that is joined to his predilection for the horrid and the macabre (a metaphor for corruption).
“Scapigliatura,” the literary and artistic movement named for this writer, has gained new validity today due to its polemical stance against a ruling class of corrupt politicians who no longer cares about upholding ideals of liberty and social equality. The poetry of Tarchetti and Scapigliati gets its vigor from the sub-strata of people at the margins of society: the homeless, “nomads,” foreigners and free thinkers who are often treated as if they were mentally ill.