“Don Quixote” and Dante, wandering writing in the world

NoonAugust 6, 2022 – 08:50 am

“I don’t like one text but two: the work of Cervantes and the Comedy”

from Enrico Fiore

I am also part of the series «The book of my life». And I do this by taking a cue from the interventions of Viola Ardone (2 August) and Massimiliano Virgilio (3 August). I begin with the latter. Virgilio, before opting for The young Holden Salinger’s (sharply defining it as «antisocial» and «mysterious»), spoke of the difficulty of answering «with an adequate degree of certainty and without emphasis» to the question, precisely, «What is the book of your life?». And it immediately occurred to me that I have two books of my life, but in the sense that I am because I have never finished reading them. Thus it becomes easy to answer the question proposed by Corriere del Mezzogiorno: since, if a book identifies with your life, you must necessarily continue reading it without stopping, in the same way that you continue to live.

The first of the two books of my life is Don Chisciotte by Cervantes. And here I make a small premise: I have always believed that, in the universal history of writing, the decisive books can be counted on the fingers of one hand. And this is my personal classification: 1) the Bible, old and new Testament; 2) Dante’s Comedy; 3) all Shakespeare; 4) just Don Quixote; 5) by way of a look at the East, the Vedas, the very ancient Indian books of wisdom. Everything else, everything that was written later and is written today, rests on such foundations, raises buildings, more or less solid, more or less beautiful, which derive from them the projection. Now, as regards the Cervantino masterpiece, the thing went and goes on like this: I began to read it, in practice, when I began to read; and punctually, after having read a certain number of pages, I was and am forced to take a break, because what I had and I have read so far had posed and posed a series of problems to me, forcing me to reflections that I could not and cannot avoid. And when I stopped and I stop solving (or deluding myself to solve) those problems, I realized and I realize that, in the meantime, I had and have forgotten what I read previously. So I had to and must start over. And I am convinced, therefore, that I will die without having read it in its entirety, Don Quixote.

Of course, once again it is necessary to cite the unsurpassed analysis that Foucault carried out regarding the famous anti-hero of Cervantes: “Don Quixote is not the man of extravagance but rather the meticulous pilgrim who stops in front of all the signs of similitude . (…) He himself is made in the likeness of signs. Long graphism as thin as a letter, here it emerged directly from the yawning of the books. His whole being is nothing but language, text, printed sheets, history already transcribed. He is made of intersecting words; it is writing wandering in the world amidst the similarity of things ». Therefore, the utopia of the hidalgo of La Mancha is that of being able to restore the “ancient understanding” according to which writing was “the prose of the world” and words marked things; and his dream is that the signs of language regain value in and of themselves, beyond “the tenuous fiction of what they represent”.

In other words, Don Quixote – who embodies the fundamental crisis of the modern age – follows what is described in the fourth Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. (…) And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us “(John 1, 1-14). Since, let us think about it for a moment, we can interpret John’s words as referring, purely and simply, to life: to life that is not determined a priori by supreme wills and otherworldly decisions, but by continually and inescapably dirtying oneself with the impulses and decay of the here. and now; and to life that, in fact, pushes you forward for a while and then stops you and forces you to retrace your steps, nostalgia or memories, as we are a present made of the past. also poses the revolution: which is but a metaphor for life. Che Guevara led the Marxist revolution to victory together with Fidel Castro and became a minister in his government, but then left office and set out for new battles alongside the last of the world. And it is no coincidence that Don Quixote was referred to in the last letter to his parents: «Dear ones, once again I feel Ronzinante’s ribs under my heels; I get back on my way with my shield on my arm ». And further on: «Now a will that I have perfected with the satisfaction of an artist will support two limp legs and two tired lungs». In the same way, all in all, Wolf Biermann, the uncomfortable poet and songwriter from East Berlin who frequented Heine, Brecht and Villon together, expressed himself: «Maybe I’m wrong / and it only confuses you. / It may be that you hope / and that it has been lost for some time / – but I continue to relive / the dream of the Commune. / He brought Me into the world for this, my mother. / We have betrayed ourselves, / we have sold and deceived ourselves in everything / – but of all my dreams, the red ones / they are not dead and buried / together with our dead. / However easy or difficult it may be or will be / I continue our path, / with anger and nostalgia / – it may be that one day / everything will be achieved. / And I will not have reached / but a new beginning all over ». And the Portuguese Tiago Rodrigues echoes him today. The key-bar of his text Catarina ea beleza de matar fascistas (Catarina and the beauty of fascist killers) reads: «Whoever puts out a fire knows how things end: smoke and ashes and relief. Whoever sets a fire asks a question about the future: risk and uncertainty and hope ».

Now I come to the idea that Viola Ardone gave me. You talked about de The beautiful summer by Cesare Pavese on the sidelines of the fact that in 1994 he attended the Federico II course in Italian literature held by Vittorio Russo and centered, for the monographic part, precisely on the Piedmontese writer. And I had a very close relationship with Vittorio Russo, with the great and unforgettable Vittorio Russo, the last teacher of the University of Naples. It was he – here I am, with that, at the second of the two books of my life, the Commedia – to teach me to understand Dante and thus, as I have written several times, to grasp the thrill of perennial beauty. But this is not the point. It happened that one morning – coming as every morning from Castellammare, where I was living at the time, with the Circumvesuviana train, and took tram number one at the Corso Garibaldi station that would take me to the Neapolitan editorial office of “Paese Sera” – I saw that who knows what an unknown «metropolitan Indian», who evidently preferred hendecasyllable triplets to P 38, had decorated the entire harbor wall with the verses of Paradise, a proverbial fair of vices and scartiloffi. In this way, Charles Singleton’s very profound observation materialized: in the Comedy there is the representation of a “double journey”, “a double itinerarium ad Deum”: a “literal journey”, in which “the protagonist is determined”, is Dante, and an allegorical journey, in which “the traveler is any Christian: the homo viator … That this journey hic et nunc is a possibility open to all, remains the fundamental postulate and, for Dante, the doctrine on which he can construct the allegory of the Comedy… Nowhere in the work are these otherworldly things presented as a vision or a dream. These things happened, and the poet who made that journey in flesh and blood and experienced them is, now that he is back, a scribe who records them as they happened ». For his part, Vittorio Russo thus concluded his intervention in the context of the cycle of Classensi Readings held in Ravenna in ’79: «No one, I believe, today can dare to hope to find Dante only in the cloistered silences or in the half-light of libraries. You would risk meeting him in some style of Franco Fortini or in the last pages of Pier Paolo Pasolini, already steeped in despair and blood, or in the expectation of a bearded young man, or even, as has happened, in some red writings on the walls of the universities and the streets, and no longer be able to recognize it ».

6 August 2022 | 08:50

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