the book of my life
NoonAugust 19, 2022 – 08:43
A 1977 novel that makes us reflect on the meaning of narrating reality and ideas
from Eduardo Cicelyn
I made up my mind to tidy up the home library to see if the book of life is hidden somewhere. Ambitious and bankrupt project. I accumulated an indiscernible paper heritage on the shelves of the great corridor of Palazzo Firrao, until the space is finished and I realized that the alternative locations, bathrooms and closets, have also put the visual faculties of memory out of place and use. Finding any book has become a challenge. For a long time when I want to reread something I let chance, the glance, the carelessness of the cleaning lady bring me to attention one title rather than another. Wanting to consult a text, precisely that text, I would have to awaken dowsing skills by feeling wood and paper to be attracted by sounds and rhythms of remote thoughts, hidden theoretical plots, conjectures and intellectual sensations that, like Ariadne’s threads, lead me into ancient labyrinths and interrupted paths, guiding the eye and the hand from volume to volume between the furthest shelves. In my head it’s not like things are different. Much confusion and many words suspended in the air and in other remote places.
In short, I must admit, my books, those that formed me and those that those who remember them most, have enjoyed an autonomous and disordered life for a long time. Leaving them alone in the places they have occupied over the years is my personal way of hoping to discover sooner or later a new direction and meaning in the cartography of forgotten worlds, inhabited by old fantasies. Sometimes, however, also full of reality, indelible traces of lived experiences, as I realized when looking among those who gave me thought. And so in the end one a little more important to me I think I have found it. Small, modest, with a title that is not at all high-sounding. A book from 1977, a crucial year for my generation, a year of political and cultural revolts in which we had grown up and a little dissatisfied with the future that was already looming full of shadows and disappointments.
Written by a German named Botho Strauss, it is a melancholy and bleak novel: it is entitled La dedication. It tells of a man left by his girlfriend who spends her days trudging between television and desk. In front of the TV she tries to stay in the flow of the outside world, sitting down she writes with the idea of understanding what happened and continues to happen to restore order in the inner world. Looking for some truth. Everything he puts on paper has in mind to allocate it to the woman who is gone, because it is a matter of giving a direction to things, of being precise, of repairing a fault. He writes a lot, many scattered pages that he collects in a folder with the idea of delivering them in the right order to the person he will be able to read and understand. The day of the long-awaited meeting and the delivery of the manuscript finally arrives. They are seen in the street, fleetingly. Out of breath, he hands her those precious sheets and leaves almost happy, full of hope. He believes he has done his job to him. He has regained the attention of the woman still loved. The writing he has dedicated to her will heal the fracture of time and meaning caused by her abandonment. They say goodbye. She catches a taxi on the fly. She reaches her destination. She gets out of the car, pays the fare, closes the door. There is traffic. You have to be careful and hurry. In the excitement of the moment the briefcase remains forgotten on the seat.
Here, writing is all wasted time. A spin around in circles. It does not arrive, it does not resolve, it does not fix. You can put all of yourself into it and believe that there is only what has taken shape thought, worked, written with care and dedication, but life goes in a completely different direction, flows and is lost in a thousand streams. The separation between life and writing for the writer and for anyone who writes is an irremediable rift. Not being able to say what happens, rather the feeling that what happens is the unspeakable is the salient fact of every separation, even if it is love. In fact, the very act of writing produces the most tangible laceration between reality and language, that is, between life and thought. Yet how can we live something intensely, if we do not try to give it a shape, an idea, a meaning, in short, at least a little bit of truth? I’m not a writer, but I’ve been a writer all my life. I worked as a journalist and other professions that have always led me to write something. I have never worried about the truth, deep down hoping to be able to find it by chance among the words that I spread and continue to spread here and there. Also I hate the tradesmen of writing.
Those who write for work in the best of cases will end up like good reporters and commentators, those who adhere to reality with a good dose of intelligence and then maneuver it with ease, turning it here and there, as if it were something of their exclusive property. The more brilliant and informed they are, the better they adapt to a poor idea of the truth that they dribble with each other, sitting on opposite banks of the same river, where everything flows and they don’t even notice it. From that 1977 book and from the experiences that followed, I learned that it makes no sense to resist long in the ideas that are professed from time to time and that are often forgotten. Life goes on and on in ever-changing directions and folds. Any reflection, if necessary, must be born in the contingency of facts and feelings, putting things together as they present themselves in the act of writing, not by bias or to chase the clamors of current events, vice versa to break the established order. good reasoning and facts. One who writes dedicating himself believes that if an idea is good it does not necessarily have to be true, as long as he has the strength to come true in the heads of the writer and the reader. Therefore he will do everything to organize a story and make sense of himself or, to be more honest, of the life that goes away, lost on the street, on an illegal scooter, in a bar, in the editorial office of a newspaper, in a theater, in an art gallery and, in the last two years of lockdown, sunk into the armchairs of the house. This is what those who at some point start writing do. This at least I try to do. To find between the lines, in a decent sentence, in the right rhythm of a page, a glimmer of life that is still possible. Or at least something that makes my personal loneliness original. It’s not my real job, so I know that many of the things I write will stay forever on the computer, the taxi of our wasted time. I’ll make up my mind.
19 August 2022 | 08:43