Who reads novels collects problematic and narcotic positions. One of the best comes at the end of science fiction The new world by Aldous Huxley (1932), when the Savage, a key character, tells Governor Mustaf Mond that his level, comfortable realm, in which happiness induced because it is obligatory, repels him. The other, faithful to ideology, rolls his eyes: In short, he provokes, you claim the right to be unhappy. Well, yes, the Savage replies, I claim the right to be unhappy.
This ambition to a mottled, imperfect and therefore life own, free, the historical fuel of many dystopian tales, and as such it also peeps out into the new Candido conceived by Guido Maria Brera and the collective I Diavoli for The Ship of Theseus – closer to Huxley than to Voltaire’s original; more akin to We by Yevgeny Zamyatin who in the reworking of 1977 (Candido, or a dream made in Sicily) signed by Leonardo Sciascia. On the other hand, if Candid, or optimism (1759) was a rationalist response to Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz and what would later be identified as panglossism – the belief of living in the best possible world – a rewrite dated 2021 could only cross with dystopia and update the problem: having accepted the importance of unhappiness, it will be a question of being able to admit it publicly, and therefore of knowing how to use it.
Brera steals her sweet-tempered boyfriend from Voltaire and puts him on a bicycle, rethinking him as a rider. The background of the novel, in fact, is no longer the castle of Baron Thunder-ten-tronckh, in Westphalia, but an unnamed Milan that struggled to rise from the post-pandemic crisis, and in which: a) everything is controlled by the algorithm at the base of the social network city network, essential for doing anything; b) the money has been replaced by social health, food and recreational credits. Not a bad challenge, for the literary patron of optimism.
Candido lives with his mother in an excluded neighborhood, that is, on the outskirts, lapped by the oil slick of gentrification. He has a best friend, Spillo, deputy to make him the realist contradictory, and a virtual girlfriend, Cunegonda, who seems to understand him on the fly, anticipating his needs and desires. To further illuminate things, then, there is faith in the verb of Pangloss, the official philosopher of the city, who repeats from mini, medium and maxi screens: All is well, all is well. Everything goes in the best possible way. And Candido believes it. For a lifetime. Finch, the victim of an injustice, finds himself forced to choose between admitting his suffering and blind faith in the system. What to do in the face of such a contradiction?
Anyone who understands the novel as a method of knowledge which shows us the interconnection of each with all, and of all with one (the definition of the sociologist Gabriella Turnaturi), will agree that, for today’s writers, it is almost impossible to ignore the figure of the rider. The reasons, both civil and formal, oscillate between the desire to give voice to a central but extremely suffering category of our economy and that of exploiting its undeniable evocative power. The delivery man on a bicycle, in fact, encompasses alone four very important dimensions for the contemporary novel: city, body, anecdotal of the fleeting encounter and, above all, a question of class.
Candido, which explicitly and sincerely dedicated to riders, arrives at the bookstore a few days after the news that the Milan prosecutor has urged some companies (Uber Eats, Glovo, Deliveroo and Just Eat) to regularize 60,000 messengers with collaboration contracts – and to recognize them, that is, the status of employees. From now on, companies will have to resort, at a minimum, to the so-called co.co.co. (i.e. coordinated and continuous collaboration contracts), in order to guarantee riders the payment of contributions, the right to periods of vacation and sickness and the most elementary safeguards in the field of workplace safety.
In the time of the novel, the question is not yet resolved: With the liberation from collective agreements, explains a character, we have been able to transform employees into self-employed workers, and therefore into entrepreneurs of themselves, thus succeeding (…) in creating a society of equals, where everyone is an entrepreneur. But to Guido Maria Brera the slight delay (disguised, however, by perfect timing) will not weigh. Also because, with Candido, equally fulfills a double desire: on the one hand, to clarify one’s position with respect to the world of books, on which he faces with the very popular, persuasive The devils (Rizzoli, 2015) and in which, now, it begins to move to the rhythm of the narrative of denunciation; on the other hand, to use his unusual but authoritative perspective as an entrepreneur / ex-banker / writer to sound an alarm, and to affirm that the current economic system is depriving young people not so much of secure work, but of what anthropologist Arjun Appadurai called it the ability to aspire. We are the first generation from which not only the future has been taken away, but the very possibility of being able to even imagine it has been stolen, says a girl, another rider, from Candido. But he – inebriated by Pangloss’ slogans and his own benaltrism – replies like this: What are you saying? We are really lucky (…). Think of how many do not have work.
I know The devils, dragging the thriller towards an exotic sinking in the world of finance, it offered the idea that economics was the science to focus on to predict the future, Candido a future outlines it directly: metropolis plagued by the pandemic and citizens subjugated by gig economy. Of course, the tone of the narration is deliberately popular, explicit, parable, but at the same time indebted to the most distressing dystopias on silent coercion (after Huxley, especially The circle by Dave Eggers), a mixture that makes the novel able to speak to almost anyone without disregarding their desire for knowledge and suffering. The final message, in fact, is clear and powerful: just as sadness is the most authoritative of humanity’s hallmarks, dissatisfaction is declared the best engine to drive towards equity.
The new Candide is not only optimistic, but aligned, moralist, critical of anyone who does not show gratitude for the crumbs: a pawn of the vertical feeling of blame towards young people (ma promising), of the poor (ma healthy), the unemployed (ma alive). You are already breathing, it implies: what else do you want? And it is almost impossible, meeting him in the midst of the pandemic, not to think of the sentence of the Russian philosopher Nikolaj Berdjaev that Huxley, again him, opens at The new world: Utopias appear much more feasible today than previously believed. And we are currently faced with a much more distressing question: how to avoid their definitive realization?
Narratives for today. The collective born from the 2014 book works on the web
The collective I Diavoli (idiavoli.com) a narrative laboratory born on the web to expand the universe of the novel of the same name by Guido Maria Brera from 2014. It experiments with multiple forms of writing ranging from fiction tofact fiction, from narrative reportage to pop non-fiction. Inform by telling the formula that gives the sense of an online production activity and beyond, which tells the great events of this time.
March 7, 2021 (change March 7, 2021 | 19:53)