twelve o’clock, April 6, 2021 – 7:33 pm
The memory of a staging by Sartre and the “political” meaning of the school
of Antonio Naples
Fabrizia Ramondino entered the classroom wrapped in her black cape. It was very cold that day in February 1972 and she also had a big black headdress that hid her face. It is a long scarf, also black.
Petite and with her hoarse voice, she took a seat in front of the desk and called some of us. She made a small gesture with her hand to tell us to come towards her. He took a freshly printed volume from Oscar Mondadori from his folder and handed it to us. Now that book is in my hands: Deaths without a grave e Dirty hands, translation into Italian of two plays by Jean Paul Sartre on the resistance written immediately after the end of the war.
We had talked about it a few days earlier. Often the discussions in French became political discussions, and slipped into Italian. In those years the myth of resistance was not in question, “revisionism” had not yet begun and none of us had any doubts on which side of the fence it should stand. Still, the discussion had become heated all the same. The story of a group of French partisans waiting to be tortured by other Frenchmen in the service of the Nazi occupiers seemed to us an atrocious story. Fear, betrayal, conflicting feelings such as love and hatred, in a few pages – as dry as they are cruel – had suggested a debate, which no one expected. It was at that moment that Ramondino had the idea of staging it. He proposed it to us with his mischievous smile. “An Italian translation has just come out,” he added, “it would be very nice if a first-year class represented it on the occasion of the next April 25 ».
He kept us unaware of the controversy that the drama had aroused in France. And evidently we did not give much weight to the story, present in the book, that Simone de Beauvoir made of the “premiere” in November 1946 (“at the moment when the former collaborators began to raise their heads”) and the violent reactions received both from the right than from the left. De Beauvoir recalls that the Communist writer Ehrenburg accused Sartre “of making his characters of the resistance cowards and traitors.” Sartre was a heretic, and this must have been enough for our young and cultured French teacher to test those arrogant pupils of his, so precocious in declaring themselves to the left and with clear ideas.
For the rehearsals, Ramondino made her house available in the historic center, on the first floor of a noble and very shabby building in via Tribunali. A house full of books and people. For many of us the discovery of another world. He had a lot of fun assigning parts. He had only known us for a few months but he had already understood everything about us. To Rosaria the role of Lucie, to Mario that of Jean, partisan leader and companion also in Lucie’s life. To Gianni that of Henri. So I got the part of Canoris. The most experienced robust Greek partisan, who had already known prison in his country and who was trying to instill hope among his fellow sufferers. To understand, the only one who under torture did not even scream. The one to which according to Beauvoir “Sartre himself is right, because he aims at the result”.
I finally found the book in one of the boxes I’ve been dragging for years. I reread it very carefully. Slowly, handling it with care. Each page was linked to an episode from that extraordinary period of my life. A face, a name, a joke, often the memory of a laugh. It is difficult to re-read something so intimately linked to that phase of life that is so important for the formation of your feelings. So as soon as I finished reading, I no longer remembered the story, and I had to reread it a second time.
Then I wondered if it was a book to give to 15-year-olds. Here, I said to myself, one of those books intended for the preventive censorship of some wise parent. Imagine then a teacher. To remove any doubts, I looked for my classmates and tried to ask them how they thought. They too no longer remembered the plot but they told me that they often remember those days with emotion. The tragic end of the maquis evidently it has not upset the life of any of us.
Finally, I tried to reconstruct why we never managed to represent it in the school theater. I remember that no one really took us seriously, apart from the French teacher. The headmaster of the high school, a well-known member of the PCI, continued to take his time and find excuses. After all, Sartre was not liked not only by the French Communists. After April and the Easter holidays, the school year declined rapidly, between demonstrations and last questions, towards the end and then nothing more was done.
This memory of Fabrizia Ramondino is only a small missing piece. I noticed that his experience as a teacher in the popular schools of the historic center has recently been discussed. Almost everything has been said about her career as a successful writer, and we only discovered it after a few years. We talked about it among ourselves with the classic pride of someone who could say he had her as a friend and teacher. Of having spent time in his kitchen discussing politics, between scenes to rehearse. Of having breathed the years of ’68 thanks to her. Of owing to her the merit of having loved French, of having made a busy theater, of having understood everything at fifteen years of Sartre and of the resistance, but also of how life can reserve difficult tests.
This episode also serves us adults to remember what our children are missing. School cannot and will never be a world without relationships. Indeed, wanting to be sharp school is relationships, otherwise it is not. Rosaria, my classmate engaged in the role of the leader’s partisan girlfriend and sister of the youngest of the group, who later became a good teacher, recently gave me news of all the other class members she stayed with – unlike me. – in contact and we remembered Fabrizia Ramondino. He remembered everything from that youthful experience and made fun of me for my role, so serious, that it then stuck to me and never left me. And so I was reminded of Canoris’s final line: “The world and what you do in the world, your companions and what you do for them” (second act, third scene).
April 6, 2021 | 19:33