twelve o’clock, April 9, 2021 – 09:29 am
“La compassione” by Guido Trombetti, between years of lead and literature
of Marco Demarco
Lhe war more “structurally conditioning”, the terrorists said, is that between the “imperialist bourgeoisie and the international proletariat”. They meant that class differences – differences in wealth, culture, lifestyles – could only be erased with blood, so that even behind a sentence like this, apparently harmless, there was actually a strategy that was as absurd as it was murderous.
Guido Trombetti, now a columnist and writer rather than a former rector of Federico II, met those who reported this concept in a leaflet and, jumping from theory to practice, and paying all the judicial price, shared its extreme meaning. From this experience he then drew a story “in large part true, in a small part fictional” and entitled it Compassion, (Albatros edition). It was the seventies, the “lead years” and Naples too fell into that terrible season. The protagonist is a posillipina from a good family sentenced to the maximum sentence for participation in an armed gang and for the murder of a public security officer. The terrorist’s sister and brother one day let Trombetti, at the time dean of the mathematics faculty, know that that woman, although never declared herself repentant or dissociated, would probably have accepted help to resume her studies. And they confess that it would have been a relief for them too to know that she was involved in a project, or projected into some idea of the future. The principal does not disappoint them, on the contrary, and proposes himself as a tutor. Thus begins a relationship that is not easy, essentially epistolary, except for a few rare meeting for the exams, with the student forced in prison. She was “very thin, a tangled ball of twine.” He was a professor until then immersed in ordinary administration. What emerges are the memories of the professor, offered in an essential way, deliberately devoid of the historical context, usually reconstructed with difficulty, then falsely exhibited as spontaneous. Precisely for this reason it is difficult, especially for those of a certain age, not to experience them also as part of a collective memory. The prof tries to dissolve the student’s initial mistrust by inviting her to read not only Gogol’s stories – and that’s okay – but also Mortally wounded of the very bourgeois La Capria. And what choice could have better revealed all his embarrassment in taking the first steps between prisons, cold talks and inexorable gates? Can you suggest a book about the sea, diving and beautiful days to those who were born between Mergellina and Marechiaro and ended up in isolation? However, the “editorial” strategy works. After those books many others follow, by Stendhal, Conrad, Fenoglio. And in the story, with the passage of time and with the arrival of other characters, as well as Mathematical Analysis and Geometry I and II, we often also speak of the films of Rosi, Scorsese, Coppola, Tarantino and of course Ken Loach , the most sensitive to social issues.
Between ups and downs, intertwined with other events and other unpredictable encounters, the relationship between the professor and the terrorist therefore goes on, transparently revealing the contradictions of a Naples that is not at all pacified and dangerously unequal. Trombetti says in the introduction to tell his story only for the pleasure of sharing it, without edifying purposes. But the reader is left with more than a story, perhaps the belief – or perhaps the illusion – that all conflicts, even the highly conditioning ones, even those that shake a still very unequal city like Naples, can ultimately be resolved with the search for other. With a common imagination, with literature, study, cinema; in essence, with intersubjectivity, the philosophers would say, because no one is perfect and by virtue of this imperfection we are all different, inevitably led to complete ourselves in the exchange of emotions, knowledge, creativity. The many quotes that punctuate the story, after all, are nothing more than messages in a bottle intended for readers. A way of saying that we have read the same novels, we have seen the same films. That we are grass bent by the same wind (Elias Canetti, in the text).
April 9, 2021 | 09:29