He remains a controversial personality in Italy due to his blunt style and the focus of some of his works on taboo sexual matters, but he is an established major figure in European literature and cinematic arts. His murder prompted an outcry in Italy and its circumstances continue to be a matter of heated debate.
Pasolini was born in Bologna, traditionally one of the most politically leftist of Italian cities. He was the son of Carlo Alberto Pasolini, a lieutenant in the Italian army, and Susanna Colussi, an elementary school teacher. His parents married in 1921, Pasolini was born in 1922 and named after his paternal uncle. His family moved to Conegliano in 1923 and, two years later, to Belluno, where another son, Guidalberto, was born.
In 1926, Pasolini's father was arrested for gambling debts. His mother moved with the children to her family's house in Casarsa della Delizia, in the Friuli region. That same year, his father Carlo Alberto, first detained and then identified Anteo Zamboni as the would-be assassin of Benito Mussolini following his assassination attempt. Carlo Alberto was persuaded of the virtues of fascism.
Pasolini began writing poems at the age of seven, inspired by the natural beauty of Casarsa. One of his early influences was the work of Arthur Rimbaud. In 1931, his father was transferred to Idria in the Julian March (now Idrija in Slovenia); in 1933 they moved again to Cremona in Lombardy, and later to Scandiano and Reggio Emilia. Pasolini found it difficult to adapt to all these dislocations, though he enlarged his poetry and literature readings (Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Shakespeare, Coleridge, Novalis) and left behind the religious fervour of his early years. In the Reggio Emilia high school, he met his first true friend, Luciano Serra. The two met again in Bologna, where Pasolini spent seven years completing high school. Here he cultivated new passions, including football. With other friends, including Ermes Parini, Franco Farolfi, Elio Meli, he formed a group dedicated to literary discussions.
In 1939 Pasolini graduated and entered the Literature College of the University of Bologna, discovering new themes such as philology and aesthetics of figurative arts. He also frequented the local cinema club. Pasolini always showed his friends a virile and strong exterior, totally hiding his interior turmoil. He took part in the Fascist government's culture and sports competitions. In his poems of this period, Pasolini started to include fragments in Friulan, a dialect, now officially recognised as a minority language he did not speak but learned after he had begun to write poetry in it. "I learnt it as a sort of mystic act of love, a kind of félibrisme, like the Provençal poets."