You have to be away from Italy to see Italy. Or maybe just slightly displaced within its borders—on one of the islands, for example. I was in Favignana a few years ago, and late one afternoon, on an old rented bicycle, I came to a cliff behind the island’s little cemetery. I sat up there, gazing at the distant coast of Sicily, until I lost any sense of time. Someone had told me—or maybe I had only imagined it—that what one saw from that point was the part of the Sicilian coast where, a century and a half earlier, Garibaldi’s Thousand had disembarked, and where their first encounter with the army of the Bourbons had taken place. In Marsala, then Calatafimi. It was a hard-fought battle, whose outcome was for quite a long time in doubt, because the soldiers were on the heights and were firing down on the Garibaldini, who had to gain the ascent, inch by inch, among the bodies of their fallen comrades. They didn’t stop, they didn’t surrender—in fact, they counter-attacked with bayonets, even though the armies were hugely disproportionate and the undertaking must have appeared hopeless. Finally, they got to the top, and, by the sole fact of having sustained that first clash and reached the summit, they were able to free or conquer half of Italy.
“Did all this really happen on the other side of that stretch of sea?” I wondered, looking at Sicily, the coast veiled in a faint mist as the light fell and a few boats drifted about noiselessly. And I asked myself what it is that, at times, takes place in the minds and bodies of men. Why is it that these bursts of liberty and courage are unleashed, and then everything seems to disappear into a void, for years, for centuries? The rocks, the earth are all that remain, remembering nothing, or remembering only other wounds, other traumas. How is it possible that, at times, amid such inertia, this selflessness, this daring, is unleashed? And other decisive moments of our Risorgimento came to mind. Events in Naples, Rome, Venice, not to mention the extraordinary uprising of the people of Milan, the city where I live, where I walk. What happened, what could happen on those same streets that I wander every night, amid the masses of a well-bred population, amid the faces, young and old, of a cowardly, obtuse bourgeoisie, used to putting their heads in the sand and staying there? In those same houses and in those same streets, wrested inch by inch from the powerful Austrian army by an armed populace, in yet another Italian revolt betrayed, even then, by servility, by the defense of small interests, minor interests, by fear of the radical, of freedom. While—Carlo Cattaneo tells us in his book on the insurrection of ’48—the streets were filled with barricades built with all kinds of things, furniture generously thrown out of windows, carriages turned on their sides, rocks, which would withstand even cannon fire, granite paving stones held together with chains, bales of drygoods, carts, dormitory beds piled up by seminary students, fighting alongside the others. And stacks of tiles arrayed on the edges of the roofs, and piles of rocks on the windowsills, waiting to be thrown. Bridges destroyed, underground channels burst. A dense smoke veiled everything, it was day and seemed night. Columns of flame rose behind the massive outline of the Castello, where, in the Piazza d’Armi, the Austrians, barricaded in, were burning the corpses of their soldiers and some of the captured insurgents—alive or dead—on piles of straw, furniture, and carts. And in the end there were ruined streets, smashed furniture, walls riddled with cannon shot, shattered granite loggias, bodies lying here and there, half buried; and women who, with their own hands, had ripped up cobblestones and loaded weapons on the barricades moved through all this horror, while from the city’s sixty bell towers the bells tolled joyously in the now liberated streets.
Did it all really happen? In what city, country, parallel universe?
This summer, in Portugal, I thought about Italy a lot. From Porto, with its smell of sardines grilling, I went along the road that skirts the wide mouth of the Douro, past the abandoned houses of the center, with their windowpanes broken and the azujelo tiles of their façades blackened, past the sloping squares, the suspension bridges. And the bright-colored apartment buildings on the outskirts of the cities, the highway that runs through eucalyptus forests. And then Coimbra, and the magnificent old university with its tricolor roof tiles, the toothless old men and women wearing antiquated clothes. The crazy candy-box castle of the Templars of Tomar. Lisbon, and its beautiful Angolan girls with their erect bearing, silken shoulders. The vast half-deserted beaches of the south emerging unexpectedlybetween tall overhanging cliffs. The wind. The surfers on the big freezing waves, locked in their black rubber uniforms. Every so often I thought of Italy. What is happening in our country? Why did it happen? Even if only a decade ago we had been made to look at photographs of certain faces, who could have imagined that soon afterward those faces would have been popularly elected to the government? Hard, rapacious, vulgar people, hidden behind rubber masks, who rose to power by means of enormous corruption machines that can buy everything, and who go on television to dupe the credulous, and use advertising knowingly and cynically. This untethered political bureaucracy, a frightening mixture of cowardice and arrogance, is accustomed to living with its own petty cynicism for sale to the highest bidder. The worst of the worst that, from the north to the south, the country has managed to produce has been voted in to power. The economic is the unique, dominant perspective. A perspective that evidently can easily include and interact with forces that in the recent past appeared to be opposed to one another, liberalism, post-Fascism, post-secessionism, false clericalism; spineless forces, without stamina, without radicalism of spirit, accompanied by their bands of well-dressed politicians and journalists, who look deodorized but whose breath stinks of bleach, bands of good boys brought forth by the usual, big, very big old whore who is their mother. The successor to the horror of Communism is the complementary horror of the imperial economic metastasis dominant today. One hears talk of nothing but money, in the newspapers, on the street. Almost everyone is talking about money, always and only about money, young and old, each in his own way, directly or indirectly. What has happened? People have always talked about money, but never the way they do now! It’s as if nothing else existed. But if only this counts, if disposing of a wad of bills is the only thing that gives a person value, independent of the way in which it was gained, if with money one can buy everything, even the political power—keys in hand—of an entire country, why should we be amazed if young and old, men and women, try to make money by every means and with every part of their mind and body? Of what use is the hypocritical preaching of the professional moralists, if the general perspective that favors and promotes this state of things is never called into question? I feel like laughing—and also like vomiting—when I hear those faces now citing, for their own purposes, Pasolini, whom in his time they would certainly have loathed. I don’t even dare imagine what Pasolini would say today about those figures and faces, about the shit that surrounds us!
Behind them are the castes of the wealthy, obtuse, egotistical, without vision, the eternal parasites feeding off this country and selling the spoils to the highest bidder, at cut-rate prices. A petite bourgeoisie (or what used to be called that, anyway) that, diffuse and drugged, fearful, ignorant, blinded, no longer has the tools to understand what is happening, and doesn’t even understand who it’s actually getting screwed by. And meanwhile, more and more, the broad-scale growth, national and international, of an invisible wretched mass of humanity, in various ways made beggars, made slaves, and starved, resistant to every definition and classification, which now extends globally, and whose condition is dramatically worse compared with that of the poor who once lived in the rings of misery surrounding the first great vertical cities. Among those who might have the tools and the knowledge to explain what is happening, none can do so completely. They tell only a part of the truth, if it’s all right, and only from their own point of view. You have to go and hunt for truth in the trash, in the gossip, in the words of those who say only part and are careful not to say the rest, those who look with only one eye and never get to the bottom of things, because most of them belong to the same systems or to mirror images of those systems, broad-scale, national and international, in plain view or hidden, with their servile political personnel. Not even the newspapers tell the whole truth. There are journalists who risk their lives to document war and others who can’t manage to tell the whole truth about what is happening in our country, for example, even when they know perfectly well what it is. Because the newspaper machines have bosses and, according to the bosses, can tolerate only a certain percentage of the truth, the part that’s useful; at most they can do a little balancing act, and those who don’t play the game don’t pass, don’t get ahead, don’t have a career. Our situation is grave if it’s easier to risk death on distant battlefields than to fulfill one’s professional duty of informing us how things really are at home! While that horrendous thing which television has become continues to drug us, to deaden us. The majority of the population live with their heads in that terrible bright-colored jam of shit. Which consolidates consent by means of a subservient politico-advertising machine. Faces are put on display for the voters, so they have to vote for them. This killer castration machine to which the only “reasonable” reaction should be total rejection, not skirmishes over the use of ever smaller spaces within it. The only reaction—I don’t mean the most radical but the minimum—should be to yank these infantilizing devices out of our houses and pile them up in public squares!
And then there’s the political opposition, with its ignorant, small-minded, isolated leadership, hitched to other carts and other alliances, both national and international, in plain view and hidden. Incapable of uttering simple, clear, scorching words that might open people’s eyes. Leaders incapable of moving, perhaps literally, one way or the other, whether because they’re being guarded or being blackmailed. People who have been wrong about everything and so have their backs perennially covered and yet make a show of knowledge. Puppets moved by puppeteers invisible to the majority, which is compelled to vote only for front men, for pawns. While things move to another place, and sometimes all we have left is the media results of hidden struggles going on in that other place. What kind of terrible country do we live in, sheltered under the thin crust of its vanity, its cynical lack of substance?
It’s all rotten. A country that makes a mockery of itself, attributes to itself sentiments it doesn’t possess. Sentimental, but without sentiments. Moralistic, but without any morals. Hypocritical and corrupt to the bone. Even the so-called cultural world is for the most part the same, although it believes itself to be better. It is no less corrupt than the political world, has no reason to look down at the political world. Here, too, the same systems, the same bribes. The only difference is that here the bribes take another form. The same servility, the same cowardice. The same methods, the same bosses. Behind them, crowds of ass-lickers and other petty bosses, waiting to become, in turn, big bosses. Petty careerists who hide behind the veil of ideology, of theory. They seem to be reproducing everywhere. I know, I’ve seen them in action. I still bear the marks of lashes from their whips on the skin of my back. They had better not come and tell me now that they’re different from what they are, that they’re different from the others, that I, too, should join them, that they’re the good guys. Everywhere the same mechanisms, the same shit. It’s all rotten! I am not speaking of what can still occasionally emerge from the remnants of the fabric of society, from its tensions and illusions, which are, in turn, played by another, bigger, parallel game; I don’t place that in a single bundle along with the rest, I don’t despise it, in fact I feel close to it, in my way.
One day in Lisbon, in the enormous Praça dos Restauradores, I saw a man who didn’t have a face. He was sitting on the ground asking for alms, he was a beggar. But no one dared approach him, out of horror. I’ve never seen anything like it. I couldn’t believe my eyes. His whole head and face were a single violet mass of dozens and dozens of bloody excrescences, enormous exposed ganglions, like gigantic hemorrhoids, that cascaded one over the other, all over everything. So that at first I thought it was some ghastly rubber hood that the man had made and had put over his face like a mask to crush the emotional defenses of passersby. There was nothing except that frightening cascade of bleeding dumplings. No hair, no eyes, nose, mouth, only that blind mass of flesh worn hideously out in the open.
It was very hot, in those days; the stores kept the air-conditioning on at the maximum and the doors open, so you could feel cool gusts coming from inside when you passed. Some hours later, when I had to pass that way again, I again encountered that man. Now he was standing. To my enormous astonishment I saw that he was drinking from a big plastic bottle hanging around his neck. To do this, he had lifted up, with one hand, the whole bunch of bloody ganglions that came almost to his chest, while with the other he stuck the neck of the bottle in an opening that was evidently in there. I managed to see, in the very brief instant that I was able to look, that there was also an eye—at least, something that made one think of an eye—placed very low, where the chin usually is.
Sometimes, when I am overcome with horror at these rubber masks that govern us, I reach the point of wishing that the mass of blood that was the ultimate head would appear here, among us, on television, in the foreground of the screen. Your “monster” head amid the other real monsters that the people of my country think they can look at without horror. Bring your beauty into our houses! Come and talk to us—if that blood clot of a head of yours is able to emit sounds—you who know what life is! Come and tell us what we should do!
I had brought with me Walt Whitman’s “Democratic Vistas.” I read it from time to time, in those days, during pauses in my travels. What happened to so-called “democracy” in our country and in the world? What remains, today, of the potent illusions that this idea of democracy aroused at its birth? What does this stuff that they are serving up now have to do with democracy? If the voters are no longer able to know whom they are really voting for, and what is actually there behind the faces, where is democracy? The “people” can no longer know what’s there because even the mechanisms that distribute information are one way or another, directly or indirectly, subjugated. The information is manipulated, the game is rigged. This logic of the purely economic dominion, imposed by the power of the technology at our disposal, is leading into disaster our relationship as a species with the only planet that we have available, and that we are squeezing like a lemon with an obtuseness that none of the other species that we allow ourselves to consider less intelligent has ever given evidence of. Endless masses of persons who must only devour and consume goods and multiply financial riches shift here and there like swarms of locusts. They can no longer truly influence anything, they can only “choose” between two or more different versions of the same game. Listen instead to the sort of mad illusions that this dream of “democracy” was able to inspire in the beginning.
For, I say, the true nationality of the States, the genuine union, when we come to a mortal crisis, is, and is to be, after all, neither the written law, nor (as is generally supposed) either self-interest, or common pecuniary or material objects—but the fervid and tremendous IDEA, melting everything else with resistless heat, and solving all lesser and definite distinctions in vast, indefinite, spiritual, emotional power.
Yet Whitman didn’t conceal the way things really were then, in pages that could have been written today—except that today the result would be infinitely more devastating, because it is multiplied by the superior power now available to the system.
I say we had best look our times and lands searchingly in the face, like a physician diagnosing some deep disease. Never was there, perhaps, more hollowness at heart than at present, and here in the United States . . . .The spectacle is appalling. We live in an atmosphere of hypocrisy throughout. The men believe not in the women, nor the women in the men. A scornful superciliousness rules in literature. The aim of all the littérateurs is to find something to make fun of. A lot of churches, sects, &c., the most dismal phantasms I know, usurp the name of religion . . . The official services of America, national, state, and municipal, in all their branches and departments, except the judiciary, are saturated in corruption, bribery, falsehood, mal-administration; and the judiciary is tainted. The great cities reek with respectable as much as non-respectable robbery and scoundrelism . . . . In business, (this all-devouring modern word, business,) the one sole object is, by any means, pecuniary gain. The magician’s serpent in the fable ate up all the other serpents; and money-making is our magician’s serpent, remaining to-day sole master of the field. The best class we show, is but a mob of fashionably dress’d speculators and vulgarians . . . . It is as if we were somehow being endow’d with a vast and more and more thoroughly-appointed body, and then left with little or no soul.
Pride, competition, segregation, vicious wilfulness, and license beyond example, brood already upon us. Unwieldy and immense, who shall hold in behemoth? who bridle leviathan? Flaunt it as we choose, athwart and over the roads of our progress loom huge uncertainty, and dreadful, threatening gloom. It is useless to deny it: Democracy grows rankly up the thickest, noxious, deadliest plants and fruits of all—brings worse and worse invaders—needs newer, larger, stronger, keener compensations and compellers.
Good heavens! And everything seen with such lucidity, at the very start!
Now we have reached the point where “leviathan,” having devoured its adversaries one by one, is beginning to devour itself. All life has to be regained and reinvented. At the end of all this—assuming but not conceding that there really can be an end—the work to be done, the amount of debris that others will have to shovel will be so enormous that such an effort will be made only if something is born, if something is triggered that we today can’t even distantly imagine.
Is it only an illusion, a dream? Of course it’s a dream! And so?
There is one thing, an episode of many years ago, that keeps coming to mind. Among the many huge, epochal events that have taken place in the past decades and with which we happen to be contemporary, there is one thing that, more than others, has stayed with me, and which I can’t forget. I am thinking of the death of little Alfredino Rampi, more than twenty years ago. It’s as if at times, at certain terrible critical junctures, something happens that allows us to see in an instant what is going on right before our eyes, what state we’re in. In recent years I’ve returned often to that incredible story, which seems to me to reveal, like few others, the face of this country and of this era. And I imagine, in moments of despair about what surrounds us, that it is happening now, that it is still happening, that it is continuing to happen without interruption. And that, standing around the edge of that hole which the child fell into are not men of that time but men of today, standing around that open wound. And that, in the background, behind the people who did their best and who would do their best now, too, who gave and would continue to give their souls, are the big shots of today, with their entourage of servants and flunkeys posing in front of the TV cameras.
But let’s take a step back. Here’s how I see it . . . It’s still night, or a little before dawn, anyway. A stretch of countryside deserted except for three or four pigs wandering about, grunting. I know that generally pigs are shut up in a pigsty, but here they are free, I don’t know what to do about it. On the other hand, there are so many pigs running free, these days! They nose the ground in search of anything edible, with their soft, round, blunt snouts. Every so often, they scatter, then draw close again, depending on where their search leads them. Suddenly one of the pigs, insistently sniffing something on the ground, gives a loud grunt. The others head for the spot. They grunt louder and louder, all together, their snouts poking into what is evidently an opening in the ground. Their massed backs seem shaken by a sudden tremor. A man passes by, a laborer going to work before dawn. Attracted by the grunting, he approaches them. He realizes that something has happened. He kicks them aside. There’s a hole, almost entirely hidden by grass, perhaps the mouth of an artesian well. He kneels at the edge, sticks his head in. An instant later he pulls it out, because it seemed to him that he heard a voice crying from within the earth, a small voice. He runs to give word, to the nearby houses, the farms. The news spreads. People begin to arrive. More and more arrive. But I don’t want to drag this out, because here, too, there would be a lot of things to report. Conjectures. Telephone calls. In the poorest hovels, in the palaces. Stories of persons, of animals, of objects. Editorial offices of newspapers, television newsrooms, political headquarters. How many stories there would be to tell, just at the starting point! And a film might come out of it—on our country and our times. Stories that intertwine. People who wake suddenly, alone or entangled with another body. Meanwhile, more and more people gather around the hole. Police, firefighters. Cars arrive, longer, roomier, with smoked glass. By now it’s broad daylight. The first cars arrive from the newspapers, the white vans equipped for television broadcasts. The news has spread far and wide. There is a child down there, thirty meters below the line of the horizon! Someone starts talking to him through a megaphone, sticking it in the hole in order to be heard more clearly. Occasionally the child answers, in brief sentences. His parents arrive (those of the child of today, I mean, of my imagination, because I don’t want to bring new suffering to those who have already had such a dose). They, too, speak into the hole using the megaphone. The correspondents for the various television stations arrive, the TV news anchors, the makeup artists who get them ready for live broadcasts. The cables for the equipment, the spotlights have been set up around the hole.
The first day passes. New machinery is brought in, to excavate another hole, to be connected by a tunnel to the one the child fell into. But the work is halted because it might cause a landslide in the muddy ground and bury the child in his hole. New voices are constantly taking over. The VIPs begin to arrive. They stop near the hole. TV lights are positioned for new takes. The new arrivals have all gathered now around the well, while others continue their feverish work. Reporters, television hosts, presenters of auctions, of quiz shows. But yes, let’s also get one of our literary people in there! They’ll be good, too, around that hole! And then television evangelists, circus acrobats, jugglers tossing their clubs in the air, mimes blowing up balloons into vaguely genital shapes, tightrope walkers. And singers, too, to cheer up the child, who is surely bored down there by himself. Italians, but also folks from other countries, because by now the news has spread around the world. They all shout into the well, using megaphones, microphones, sticking their heads inside. Someone takes advantage of the presence of the TV cameras to whip open his raincoat. He is immediately taken away. A tenor afflicted by a jutting jaw sings a song from an opera. A well-known imitator of voices does a takeoff on him in front of the TV cameras. An American singer kneels on the ground and sings in playback one of his well-known songs; his head and his long neck are in the hole so that he can be heard better, and he wiggles his protruding ass. Other politicians arrive. The president of parliament sings a Neapolitan song accompanied by an obese guitarist. The president of the country hoists the national flag on a staff beside the hole. Finally even the Pope arrives, in the Popemobile.
At night it begins to rain. A violent shower. The people run away, and for a while the hole remains deserted. The pigs come back. Grunt now and then. They go away, and return again. They poke their snouts in and grunt two or three times down the funnel of the well. One of them places his feet on the wet muddy back of another, mounts her in the rain, emitting long shrill, sharp cries, in the glow of the spotlights left there by the television crew.
What’s happening down there in the meantime? The child hears the voices speaking to him, calling from up at the top, not just voices but loud voices, amplified by megaphones and other acoustic instruments, and by the hole itself, which is like an echo chamber. But what exactly is he doing? Well, I imagine that he’s not actually stuck in the earth, trapped, but that he can move easily down there, because little outcroppings of rock and other uneven places allow him to go up and down as he likes, placing his feet as if on rough steps. Sometimes he climbs upward, rapidly, like a little monkey, when he hears a particular voice, his mother’s, for example, or that of some girl or boy he used to play with. He goes up so easily and so far that at times he even gives the impression that he could get out of the well by himself, if he wanted to. Instead, each time, just at the crucial moment, he stops. He stays there for a few seconds, then he goes back down, to the point where he landed when he fell. In fact, sometimes even farther down, because he is being called not only from above but also from below. He hears voices calling him from down below, from a deep part of the hole, from which he seems to see a faint glow emanating. But a second later he hears someone calling again from above. And up he goes, in four leaps, almost as far as the distant mouth of the well.
“Who are all you people?” the child asks from below.
Voices, big voices, answer one after another:
“Here I am, I’m the President!”
“Here I am, I’m the other President!”
“Here I am, I’m the Pope!”
The child asks:
“What do you want from me?”
“To get you out, by Jove!” they answer.
“Why should I come out?” asks the child.
“Because it’s much nicer outside!” the voices answer.
“Why is it much nicer?” the child asks.
“Because it’s much nicer!” they answer in chorus.
The child remains undecided for a moment. Then he starts down again.
“Come out! Come out!” the voices call, growing fainter and fainter. “Down there you’re all alone! Up here there are so many of us!”
The child returns to the point from which he began climbing.
After a while—I couldn’t say how long, because down there you lose any sense of time—he begins to hear another voice, calling him from below, from that dimly glowing point deep down.
“Who are you?”
“Here I am, I’m God!” the voice from below answers him.
“God who?” asks the child.
“God God!” the voice answers.
“But isn’t God up high?”
“Who said so? No, no, I’m here! Don’t you see the light?”
“Yes, I see it! Where does it come from?”
“From the center of the earth. You come down here, too!”
“Because it’s much nicer here!”
“Why is it much nicer?”
“Because it’s much nicer!”
The child doesn’t answer.
“Come down!” the voice says again. “You’ll be free down here!”
The child thinks about it for a while.
“Free from what?”
The child remains undecided for an instant.
“Will I be able to pick my nose?” he asks.
“Even better than that! You won’t have to, because there won’t be a nose and there won’t be anything to pick and there won’t be anything anymore!”
“But I like picking my nose!”
The child is still for a moment, then slowly he begins to climb back up.
“Come down! Come down!” the voice goes on calling him. “It’s cold where you are! It’s warm here! And then there are so many of us!”
The child returns to his spot. He stays there for a while, listening to the loud voices that go on calling him from above and from below. He feels cold, colder and colder. If he pricks his ears, he hears some very faint sounds nearby. There must be microscopic creatures that live in the earth, crawling around with their soft little bodies, their tiny feet in constant motion.
“It’s so cold down here!” the child lets the words escape, rubbing his chest and shoulders with his hands.
“Of course it’s cold! Naturally!” says a very thin little voice nearby.
“Who are you?” asks the child.
“I am an ant.”
“Why is it so cold?” the child asks.
The ant tells him why it’s so cold at that point, how the various strata of the earth are formed, he tells him about the radioactive processes that take place within it, of the release of energy through the gravitational condensation of the primitive nebula, of many other things that I am not up to getting into at the moment.
“I’m cold, ant!” the child says again. “Aren’t you cold?”
“No, I’m burning hot!”
More time passes, who can say how much. The child dozes off a little, because even underground you have to sleep now and then. When he wakes he hears another infinitely faint noise nearby.
“Who are you?” asks the child.
“I’m an earthworm.”
“I can’t see you.”
“And I can’t see you, either!”
“Because I don’t have eyes.”
“You don’t have eyes? Then how can you see where you’re going?”
“I don’t have to. The earth goes inside me!”
“Oh really? And you stand still?”
“No, I go inside the earth that goes inside me!”
The voices continue to call him, from above, from below. The child stopped listening a while ago. He’s not even rubbing his chest and his shoulders anymore. He sits there, in the dark, in the cold, in his place.
“It’s cold here! Why don’t you climb up?” the earthworm says to him.
The child doesn’t answer.
And sometimes, when it all really seems too terrible to accept, I reach the point of imagining that, at a given moment, while the child is still talking softly to the earthworm, a slight, narrow-shouldered man unexpectedly starts to descend from above, head first, a good, brave man, with a rope tied around his feet, who’s been assigned to grab the child and haul him back up out of the well. The little man descends through the earth like a probe, upside down between the narrow walls, his eyes wide open in the dark. Ten meters, twenty meters, down he goes. And suddenly, stretching out one arm in the darkness, the man manages to intercept the child’s small arm, to grab the hand that the child raised instinctively when he heard him coming down. The man grasps the little hand hard, tightening his grip, before shouting to the men at the top to pull on the rope.
At this point, however, I imagine not that the man’s hand loses its grip, because of the mud covering the child’s small body, which is what seems to have happened the other time, the first time; but that, on the contrary, it’s the child who intentionally detaches his hand from the man’s. It’s hard to get to the end of this story, but if one could see down there in all that darkness, one would in fact make out the child’s hand as, one finger after another, it lets go of the big hand, releasing its grip, and abandoning the man to his destiny. In the cold, in the silence, in the darkness. Arms haul up the man attached to the rope, and he rises to the surface empty-handed, alone.
“You didn’t go up?” the child’s new friend whispers to him, in the darkness.
“No, I’m staying here, with you,” the voice of the child answers him, in the darkness.
Translated from “I Maiali.” From Patrie impure: Italia, autoritratto a più voci, edited by Benedetta Centovalli (Milano: Rizzoli, 2003). Copyright © 2003 by Antonio Moresco. By arrangement with the author. Translation copyright © 2005 by Ann Goldstein. All rights reserved.