Zontini, a world populated by faceless men and women

twelve o’clock, March 27, 2021 – 18:25

A successful and mature novel

of Mirella Armiero

The cover

«La happiness, pain, seemed only a misunderstanding, an old mistake that became fatal over time ». And if there is no more happiness or pain then all that remains is “The beautiful indifference”, the one that gives the title to this remarkable novel by Athos Zontini, Neapolitan, screenwriter and author of an interesting debut, “Orfancy », for the same Bompiani publishing house. This time the writer sets in motion a Kafkaesque mechanism by which Ettore, the distracted forty-year-old protagonist, wakes up one morning unable to see people’s faces anymore. Everyone has become like mannequins with a shiny egg instead of a face, an evident metaphor for an alienating contemporaneity. Ettore does not reveal his tragedy to anyone, he seeks a solution on his own, questions himself, distances himself from all his affections, starting with his wife, and dismantles the elements of his daily life piece by piece that prove to be extremely inconsistent. It is an “ordinary abyss” that the protagonist has been “dragging himself into for years.” And it is precisely that life, so useless, so empty, which constitutes the “trauma” from which Ettore’s illness arises. Only when the protagonist spasmodically eliminates pieces, shreds of experiences, of memories, does he finally feel, at least for a moment, alive and relieved. And so he happens to secretly throw away, one object at a time, the furnishings of his married life. He even gets rid of the sofa to discover that the void has “something comforting” in its place. With some possible echo of the Blindness by Saramago, Zontini’s novel is a strong and mature test, which questions itself with a certain dose of irony about the fate of contemporary man and his desperation. Starting from a surreal hypothesis, the narration is articulated with coherence and style and keeps the reader enthralled in the developments of the story. Only the open ending leaves some doubts, also because we would have liked to know, as happens when a book is successful, the fate of the protagonist even beyond the last pages.

March 27, 2021 | 18:25

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