The ghost and the metal.

When I am spending few days by my own, the perception of absence and presence changes and reveals a different density to my senses, which look altered, out of habits.

The two categories seem to mingle and be intertwined, as absence is related to a presence (mine and others’ one as well in terms of rooms and spaces empty but still there and full of traces and remains), and my presence calls for others’ absence, as an amputate body feels the pain of the missing limb (in medicine the phantom limb sensation).

Marguerite Yourcenar in “Fires” explains with tremendous lucidity this feelings of love and complicity, despite the “not being there” or because of the “being there” of someone:

Absent, your face expands so that it fills the universe. You reach the fluid state which is the one of ghosts. Present, your face condenses, you achieve the concentration of the heaviest metals, of iridium, of mercury. This weight kills me when it falls on my heart.

Regarding the book I agree with this review.

The ghost and the metal.

Una fine, un inizio e Catullo

La pagina finale de L’affaire Moro di Sciascia è una citazione da Ficciones di Borges:

“A distanza di sette anni, mi è impossibile recuperare i dettagli dell’azione; ma eccone il piano generale, quale l’impoveriscono (quale lo purificano) le lacune della mia memoria. C’è un indecifrabile assassinio nelle pagine iniziali, una lenta discussione nelle intermedie, una soluzione nelle ultime. Poi, risolto ormai l’enigma, c’è un paragrafo vasto e retrospettivo che contiene questa frase: «Tutti credettero che l’incontro dei due giocatori di scacchi fosse stato casuale». Questa frase lascia capire che la soluzione è sbagliata. Il lettore, inquieto, rivede i capitoli sospetti e scopre un’altra soluzione, la vera.”

indexDove non arriva la politica può la letteratura. Sciascia “rivede” e interpreta a caldo (agosto 1978) il sequestro Moro. La soluzione è quella scelta dalla Dc e sostenuta dal Pci (la linea della fermezza), divenuta fiction, perché ostinatamente recitata fin dal primo istante, la soluzione vera non esiste, ma si può trovare nella realtà dei fatti, ignorata dalla politica ma interpretata dalla letteratura.
Borges e Sciascia parlano anche di pensiero laterale?

***
L’università di Rebibbia di Goliarda Sapienza inizia così:

“A sirene spiegate (o io sono diventata una criminale molto importante, o loro – sono quasi le dieci –hanno solo fretta di tornare alle rispettive case), percorriamo la città che mi appare
piú sontuosa e immensa.
La vicinanza di quei carabinieri dai corpi scattanti già protesi alle loro vite private allenta la morsa dei nervi che, ora comprendo, era solo paura della loro forza fisica. Un’altra volta ho provato quel terrore d’essere fra uomini ostili. Quel poco di sicurezza che la donna crede d’avere, tutta la superiorità che a volte t’attribuisce un amante, l’amico, il figlio, spariscono davanti all’inferiorità muscolare – semplicemente muscolare – avvertita in mezzo a due o tre uomini che non hanno piú bisogno di fingere rispetto, ammirazione, pietà perché sei
femmina e piú debole.”
L’osservazione sulla inferiorità muscolare della donna (detenuta) finisce con il mostrare la superiorità della scrittrice e poi della letteratura.
***
E Catullo tutto. Non solo per l’amore, ma per la comica volgarità e l’insulto, che bene stanno in poesia. Da declamare ad alta voce per ridere, sfogarsi poi iniziare la giornata accordingly. Il ventitre di centosedici carmi (due ore di lettura) parla di Furio, povero in canna, con due genitori avarissimi:
Furio, perché mai non dovresti essere felice?
Non sudi, non hai una goccia in più di saliva,
nè un poco di catarro o di moccolo al naso.
E a tutta questa pulizia aggiungine un’altra:
hai il buco del culo più pulito di una saliera,
in tutto l’anno non caghi nemmeno dieci volte
e la fai più dura di fave e ciottoli,
tanto che se la stropicciassi fra le mani
non ti potresti sporcare nemmeno un dito.
Tutte queste comodità non disprezzarle,
Furio mio, non considerarle una sciocchezza
E smettila di chiedere, come di consueto,
quei centomila sesterzi: sei già ricco abbastanza.*
*trad. adattata da qui
Una fine, un inizio e Catullo

(I say a little prayer for) Agnes Martin

“Beauty is the mystery of life. It is not just in the eye. It is in the mind. It is our positive response to life.”

She has been quite a woman. I do not know but the artist seems to me the natural outcome of her beautiful and thoughtful gaze, someone who knows, reconciled and disaffected at the same time.

agnes martin 002

Looking at her paintings, her square grids, I see the woman, she comes out from her pale colours divided by hand-drawn lines, from her spiritual canvases, as prayers told in the silence of empty houses, or recited in the middle of naturalistic and deserted landscapes.

I know I love her… already, abruptly, like prayers or songs heard by pure chance in our routinary life. It must be something in her eyes, perhaps that life of hers, which transpires entirely from this picture. As if she collects all in that gaze, a wisdom beyond certainty and doubt, something unconsciously achievable and elusive, still there on her body and her look as a tangible ghost.

Ongoing exibition till 11 October, Tate Modern

(I say a little prayer for) Agnes Martin

Some kind of Italy II: Sandra and the yellow bra fuori le mura.

Let’s imagine a yellow bra and a t-shirt hanged to a wire along a canal just outside the old walls of Pistoia (less than five minute to its vibrant medieval centre).

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What else? Aristophanes’ frogs that keep you awake the whole night – but somehow you want to stay awake – until their croaking suddenly ends with a final orchestral touch of Mr Arturo Frog-scanini, and the final applause we reserve to the show, from under our thin blankets, behind Venetian blinds, waiting the dawn, which mysteriously invites to dream more than the darkness does.

The house of Sandra and Guama, an improbable terraced-house of the periphery, faraway so close to the beautiful heart of Pistoia, just fuori le mura.
While Sandra, who teaches art, shows us his pupils drawings, I get aside for a moment and feel the freshness of this thick walls, banally thinking how hard happiness is detectable among all the noise and rubbish we overproduce.

Outside then, and here we are dentro le mura the heat of the market: the Tuscan language, so elegant with its aspirated phonetic and exactitude, those ladies, possibly housewives, with their disenchantment and irony, perhaps ill-concealed wisdom.
And you, you, occasional visitor, go where the ladies go to buy fruits and vegetables! Go where they chat with the guy at the stall, will you find good quality and bargains.

And while saying goodbye, the image of Sandra, wearing a black dress, a smile of gratitude, pretending to smoke a Cuban cigar: she looked south-American, and this place no more in the town, not yet in the countryside and the summer wave of heat. Goodbye Habana!

Some kind of Italy II: Sandra and the yellow bra fuori le mura.

Some kind of Italy: Mario, Jacopo and the cherry tree.

Inclined as I am to a chronic indolence, I should enjoy those Italian moments, by my own, by my parents-in-law, by the shadowy side of the green, while I am eating cherries.
And I do enjoy them (moments ans cherries), with a sort of intimate delay (should I say I did?), writing down disorderly sketches of my Italian journey.

A different inclination, more courageous, endured the cherry tree since 1994, when a tremendous lightning – out of a memorable storm – hit its log.

Grandpa Mario planted the cherry tree when Cristiana, first of his six grandchildren, was born. Mario, ninety years old, gently and slowly is now heading to his tree, to me and Jacopo, his great-grandchild.

Walked by his daughter, with the aid of a cane, a bit stooped and with humid blue eyes, Mario is looking at Jacopo, somehow lost in his thoughts… thoughts, we can only guess.

The cherry tree stands still and proud of his red fruits’ abundance, as a green border to the north edge of the courtyard.

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Mario directs the gaze to the cherries. Instantly the tree looks back to him (the late spring gales vanish silently through its branches). They talk for a little while together, whispering to each other an intimate language, he lifts his walking stick to the closest bunch of cherries.

Then they depart from one another. We all now look at that slow motion separation, then at that void.

We have just been attending a goodbye ceremony.

Some kind of Italy: Mario, Jacopo and the cherry tree.

Vacuum cleaner

Those are possibly the most snobbish lines in the whole Latin Literature I have ever happened to read:

quidquid enim in excelso fastigio positum est, humili et trita consuetudine, quo sit venerabilius, vacuum esse convenit, (Valerius Maximus 2.6.17): whatever is highly placed must be prevented from becoming low and common in order to preserve due reverence.

No comment, but that sentence should be the motto par exellence of being snob.

Vacuum cleaner

Fifty shades of White (Other)

Hard those days to be back on track. Not yet British (citizen), fully and forever Italian, I honoured the electoral night with my political curiosity and stood awake all night long. In the last two decade I failed to cast a winning vote in every single Italian General election (local included), I would have failed even here, if I’d have the chance to vote.

According to several applications, the ones I constantly fill up, I still am (and my children) a White Other as opposed to White British, fully legally here but not entitled to vote. White Other: it has always made me laugh.

Will I never be British? (I mean in possess of a citizenship, I know I will never belong to the race of white British, unless paying taxes here and having a passport would instantly transform my DNA). Considering the risk this country could run of loosing voluntarily (the grip with) the EU, I might face the likely possibility of being an unwelcome guest.

Therefore that White Other could become more than a statistical difference or a date useful to prevent discrimination as it was conceived to be. It could be a sign of being European, or better said, of being non-British.

Fair enough! last Thursday results were to my White Other’s eyes a self-inflicted wound. It is a mystery to me how a large part of England (intentionally for non-Scotland) could support a bunch of rich Etonians sloany snobbish post Victorian growth-money-economy fetishist (supported and praised by English tabloids – such Daily Mail: This was your victory!!!! – I am wondering if Mr Berlusconi is now an English tycoon called Murdoch?).

Should I start with the economy? with the reasons why the economy is growing?  deflation, low fuel price, cheap import (weak Euro/Dollar), super exploited workers (included white British and white others, the Europeans), low wages (how happy Mr Sport-direct is with his army of zero hour employees) and the Bank of England which secures the buying of Government bonds (=debts). All the package with an impending house market bubble to come.

FullSizeRenderOr should I try an anthropological interpretation of the recent Election results? If so, a few questions first:

How the victims could love their executioners? (ok there is a specific syndrome, but is it applicable to masses, i.e. eleven million?) As the turkeys love Christmas (see here).Is this a way “to desire one’s own fear”?

This outcome (and the next to come policies) might be the consequence, the apex of our “‘consumerist society’, and that its most devastating impact was on the young, whose very humanity was progressively being degraded. Broken by capitalist nihilism, lured by pseudo-transgressions to embody the lowest servile nature, flattened into grinning existential conformism, the youth was being enlisted into a new form of fascism. A kind of fascism that resides within the heart of the individual, rather than stopping at the level of the uniforms worn by black shirts. A form of pure fascism, without flags and parades, a form of pure fundamentalism, without churches or god. But this anthropological mutation didn’t just happen in Italy. Generation after generation, the English youth has been broken inside, lured into its own subjection, flattened into conformism to the point of enthusiastically desiring its own fear. Generation after generation, decade after decade – and now both the young, the grown ups and the old all share the same mutation, the same existential degradation. In the secret of the polling station, they vote for the misery of their neighbour, for the deportation of the supplicants, for the enslavement of the orphans and the poor, even for they own enslavement“.

Is Federico Campagna‘s (above) statement  too tough? (it is a bit, even for Fratyricon) Or enough provocative to understand that “it is time to start working very seriously on a progressive response to the coming flood of anti-european propaganda, running up to the EU referendum. It’s the last, thin barrier between this temporary nightmare and the coming of an eternal Millennium in which England (without Scotland) floats alone, forever Tory, forever nationalist, forever monarchic, forever neoliberal. Realistically, the last chance to protect even a basic level of workers’ rights, human rights, financial and environmental regulations from the conservative onslaught in this country, is to hold onto the UK’s European membership. This struggle must begin now!”

Can we save England? We, the white others? or should we simple stay at the fence, trainspotting Mrs Economy, goddess of profit and growth, hoping that a few crumbles fall into our wombs?
I have a feeling… that maybe Scotland will save England.

A must read on what happened, but especially on what has still to come here k-punk.org/abandon-hope-summer-is-coming.

Fifty shades of White (Other)

Walking in the debris (a counter Architecture?)

Rome, roughly 1430: Poggio Bracciolini, free of public duties and cares – he was working for Pope Martin V, temporarily out in the countryside for reasons of health – went on a visit to the abandoned parts of the city with his friend Antonius. By looking at the collapsed buildings, the ruins of the ancient city, they were turning over in their mind the amazing and at the same time devastating effects of fortune, which allowed first the rise and then the mighty fall of so great an empire.

When they finally reach the Capitol Hill, struck by the view, Antonius says: So what is an even more amazing and bitter spectacle, cruel fortune has so changed its (the Capitol’s) appearance and form, that it now lies prostrate, stripped of its ornaments, like some enormous corpse rotting and corrupted on every side.

Another dramatic walk is the one taken by Caesar. After beating Pompey in the massacre of Pharsalus, Greece, in August 48 BC, he resolves to go on a pilgrimage in the plain of Troy. The fictional poetry of Lucan describes Troy’s remains as:

He (i.e. Caesar) walks in the places which bear the memorable name of burnt Troy
and searches for the great vestiges of Phoebus’s wall
by now sterile woods and rotten trunks of oaks
weight on Assaracus’ palace and the temples of the god
are clutched by tired roots, while bushes coverall the Pergamon: even ruins have perished.

Not just a recount and a premonition of the Roman civil war, just fought and still to be fought… but even the overwhelming nature here appears sterile and noxious, and memory and humanity are annihilated by the ruin of the ruins.

I (im)perceptibly shudder at the sight of ruins, relics, rarities, rubbish, uninhabited places, hidden treasures and abandoned objects: as my/our humane nature calls for restoration and rescue, the same humanity leaves behind, ignores and destroys.

Like the young J. G. Ballard, who happened to visit with his father the nightclub of the British compound in Shanghai abandoned year earlier after the Japanese occupation: the gaming rooms are “covered with broken glasses and betting chips” and on the floor “ornate chandeliers cut down from the ceiling tilted among the debris of bottles and old newspapers. Everywhere gold glimmered in the half-light, transforming this derelict casino into a magical cavern from the Arabian Night tales.**

Is there, in those micro or macro ruins, something that leads us to discover an (un)buried truth on our destiny or less ambitiously on our sense of collection-ism and antiquarian-ism?

Our obsessive compulsive (dis)order might be related to the unknown ruins displayed in front of us; an anticipation of decay and death, a somehow intrinsic salvation by saving and polishing the relics, the most useless, the most vulnerable.

Or more cannily a subtle fascination can be found as Ballard wrote, drawing a conclusion from that recalled image of the casino, which “held a deeper meaning for me, a sense that reality itself was a stage set that could be dismantled at any moment, and that no matter how magnificent anything appeared, it could be swept aside into the debris of the past.”**

GCK

We should long for an Architecture of the Ruins, of the Debris, an imaginative (non)discipline which leaves the sites as found, which perhaps could project in bi- or tri- dimension what does non exist anymore on the map,  ultimately a counter Architecture.

Or maybe, more generally an IN-HUMANIST discipline, as Robinson Jeffers calles: a shifting of emphasis and significance from man to non-man.
We would have nothing to invent, as the in-humanism is already there to be discovered… for instance there in the ruins.

Poggio Bracciolini, De Varietate Fortunae, 1447, translation distributed in UCL Latin Epigraphy class, 2014.
On ruins etc the outstanding work on literary history and criticism by Francesco Orlando,
Obsolete Objects in the Literary Imagination. Ruins, Relics, Rarities, Rubbish, Uninhabited Places, and Hidden Treasures, Yale Press, 2006 recently re-published in Italy, as reviewed at www.doppiozero.com/materiali/parole/orlando-gli-oggetti-desueti. Lucanus, De Bello Civili, IX, vv 964-969, as commented in Orlando, p.221.
**J.G. Ballard,
The Miracle of Life, London 2008 p. 58-9, also quoted and commented by John Gray, The silence of the animals, London 2013, p.122, and on R. Jeffers’s Inhumanism p.199, from R. Jeffers, The double Axe and Other Poems, New York, 1977, p.xxi On Ballardian Architecture see here www.ballardian.com/ballardian-architecture-inner-outer-space.
Photo by Gayle Chong Kwan, The Golden Tide, 2012, courtesy of the artist, here the link to the whole work

Walking in the debris (a counter Architecture?)

Mare nostrum

Mare nostrum è espressione romana, dell’imperialismo romano.
Una volta conquistata e distrutta Cartagine, il mare, l’unico conosciuto o quasi, divenne cosa dei Romani, nostro.

La prima volta che compare come mare nostrum è, guardacaso, Cesare all’inizio del quinto libro della Guerra Gallica.

Ai tempi dell’Impero il Mare Nostrum era percepito (dal marinaio e da qualunque abitante) e amministrato (dall’ufficiale, dal burocrate) secondo la divisione Occidente e Oriente, non secondo la divisione Nord Sud. L’Africa (dall’attuale Marocco a gran parte della Libia), la Spagna, la Gallia e l’Italia era Occidente, la Grecia, la Siria, l’Egitto era Oriente

Il nome Mediterraneo arriva dopo: nel Medioevo, un nome che non denota una qualità del mare (come nero o pacifico), ma piuttosto un luogo delimitato, “interno”, un confine: le terre attorno definiscono il mare. La terra è il significato e il significante del mare.

Nomi, nomi, che saranno mai i nomi? Rose che appassiscono, tempo che passa, persone che raccontano storie, storie di nascita, di separazioni, di avventure e di morte. Ogni nome una storia: banale, banalissimo.

Il Mediterraneo non è più nostro o lo è ancora? ah quanto lo vorremmo un Mediterraneo di pacifiche nuotate, pulito, di viaggi in barca o crociera, acque dove non si muore mai, acque che stiamo a guardare come Telemaco o Penelope usavano guardare il mare.

Come lo vorremmo un mare da attraversare, senza tempeste o guardare le tempeste da riva, poggiare i piedi su spiagge dorate, su scogli a strapiombo, il vento in faccia su battigie gratuite. Come è bella la vita davanti al mare o il mare d’inverno, che si fa fatica a capire, ma che ugualmente piace e vai a sapere perché.

Qualche anno fa Michelangelo Pistoletto ha creato il tavolo del Mediterraneo, un tavolo con la forma del Mare Nostrum, circondato da sedie diverse, diverse come le culture dei popoli che si affacciano sul mare. Come il negativo di una pellicola, non più la terra ma il mare diventa finalmente visibile, centrale, il tavolo a cui affacciarsi, sedere, parlare.

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Il mare in Pistoletto è uno specchio: guardare e guardarsi, parlare e parlarsi, mangiare, ascoltare, sentire.

I corpi che in slow motion cadono fino a toccare il fondo del mare sono appoggiati su quel tavolo, su quello specchio, sono sul tavolo del Mare Nostrum, sono sul tavolo del Mare Internum, del Mare in mezzo alle terre.

Li stiamo guardando. Che cosa ci stanno dicendo?
Che cosa ci stanno dicendo?

Mare nostrum

Cammelli senza filtro

Giorno infausto per la letteratura: i libri però sopravvivono anche alla morte dei loro autori. A meno che il Califfato, o l’enorme esplosione che Zeno profetizza, o l’oblio provvedano a fare scomparire Il Tamburo di Latta o I Figli dei Giorni.

Ma a spargere ottimismo potrebbero pensarci i cammelli, animali che resistono, lenti, infaticabili. Oggi infatti mi sono imbattuto in 22 cammelli, che Cesare cattura alle truppe del re Giuba poco prima della battaglia di Tapso, nel 46 aC. Sono quei ventidue cammelli i primi a comparire nella letteratura occidentale. Gli elefanti di Annibale hanno avuto più fortuna.

Conviene immaginarsi lo stupore della soldatesca e il sussiego dei generali romani alla vista dei cammelli la prima volta, forse ai tempi delle guerre puniche. Ma nulla sappiamo della reazione umana all’entrata in scena dei quadrupedi. La cavalleria credo sia stata anche più veloce della cammelleria, che forse fungeva da porta vettovaglie e non da forza d’urto bellica.

Tullio de Mauro fa risalire l’espressione truppe cammellate (sinonimo di claque, gruppi di pressione e leccapiedi al seguito di leader politici o presunti tali) al 1942, quando noi si avevano truppe arabe d’appoggio alla nostra avventura coloniale.  Gli inglesi in Medio Oriente avevano già nella prima guerra mondiale le loro truppe cammellate gli Imperial Camel Corps, ma senza la metafora della claque.

Camel - 4 soldiersIl nostro animale poi ritorna protagonista nel celebre versetto evangelico, Matteo 19, 24  (ma anche Marco 10,25 e Luca 18,25): “è più facile che un cammello passi per la cruna di un ago, che un ricco entri nel regno dei cieli”. I codici greci del vangelo hanno sia kamelos, cammello, ma anche kamilos, corda, fune. In aramaico, lingua nella quale, secondo alcuni studiosi, scrive Matteo – guarda caso – la parola gamal significa “cammello”, molto simile (anche graficamente) alla parola gamta: “corda”.

Il paradosso della corda che entra nella cruna dell’ago probabilmente suonava meglio alle orecchie dei pescatori, più avvezzi alle funi che ai cammelli. Però nella cultura talmudica un’iperbole simile esiste con protagonista un elefante invece del cammello.

Insomma, difficile districare il nodo. Di certo nella tradizione testuale il cammello ha avuto più fortuna della fune.
Il messaggio comunque non cambia: il ricco non entra nel regno dei cieli: cammello o corda che sia, l’iperbole rimane.

Il problema sta nel fatto che i Vangeli, scritti intorno agli anni 60, 70 dC, non sono in nulla diversi dall’Anabasi di Senofonte o dai Commentari di Cesare: si tratta di testi tràditi, copiati dall’originale che non esiste più, soggetti all’errore umano, del copista o dello scriba più o meno intelligente, più o meno distratto. Sono testi che hanno un apparato critico, da sottoporre a scelte critiche. (Dovrebbero stare negli scaffali della BUR per intenderci.)

I ventidue cammelli tunisini intanto si fanno una sonora risata.

Cammelli senza filtro