t e s t a m e n t

2-4ortese.gif (1556 bytes)

Anna Maria Ortese
tr. Henry Martin

        2-4dropa.gif (321 bytes)t the beginning of the First World War — the period in which I was born — social discrepancies, in Italy as in many other parts of the world, were not, I believe, as painful as they are today. Above all, they were not so conspicuous. My family, a total of nine persons which included six children, lived a highly modest life, practically in poverty, in the south-central region of the country and was surely no stranger to economic hardship, but we didn’t really notice it. At least the children didn’t. So even in spite of having been born into very uncomfortable circumstances, often sad, and marked above all by a great void of culture and security, I wasn’t aware of it, and perhaps didn’t suffer from it, up until adolescence. And at that point, the center of my life came to be occupied by other problems, which quickly coalesced into a single problem: the problem of self-expression. The primary problem of survival — the universal problem, so to speak, which was to tarry at my side throughout the whole of my life — flanked this second and equally serious problem, making it sometimes more intricate, and at other times more simple. There were even moments when I managed to believe that self-expression was my only problem; but then I’d be forced to admit that the other problem remained as well. Both of them, now, like Poe’s famous raven, have taken up permanent residence on the threshold of my life. My life has become their home.
        But what is the nature of this problem of self-expression which can prove so strong as to vie with the problem of survival itself, and for all of a span, by now, of forty or fifty years? Today we are wary of discussing such things, since they don’t seem sufficiently “democratic”—as the phrase currently runs. And yet if democracy is ever to prove its worth as the tool most suited for creating a certain happiness, I believe that the problem of self-expression—the problem of achieving a true individuality—may well have to occupy the very first place, and I mean within the lives of people in general.
        Self-expression: a child most usually achieves self-expression by drawing, playing, fantasizing, and running, and even by inventing another “I” which offers protection from the world. Adolescents are apt to turn their attention to the ins and outs of much more sophisticated techniques, desiring to translate the act of self-expression into the production of something concrete they can call their own. If such adolescents have been blessed with adequate education, their efforts will be crowned with success, and the creative “I” will experience harmonious growth. But this period in which the adolescent wants to give autonomous form (autonomous and therefore new) to what she or he feels is highly delicate, and things can go quite wrong. The world can overwhelm such a boy or girl with its own cultural models; or models may prove to be wholly lacking, as is typically the pitfall in highly impoverished societies. The adolescent runs the risk, in the first case, of being brainwashed and enslaved; or, in the second, of being set adrift into a course of distorted development. The present-day world of childhood and adolescence is full of such boys and girls—captive to society’s values in the wealthy countries, and abandoned to their own devices in the poor ones.
        To dwell at greater length on this situation would not be easy, not now. But if I want to reach some personal understanding of the mystery that drives the curious destiny of a certain kind of writer—the writer who comes from nowhere, and then returns into nowhere without having achieved what he or she desired to achieve, even in spite of having dedicated a large part of his or her life to this precious enterprise—I have to remain aware of the gravity of this situation: the situation of the adolescent who searches for a means of self-expression by way of education—a means of self-expression and thus a means of growth—but who cannot find it. Because education is itself impossible and unavailable. Because the one specific world in which he or she lives has no such thing to offer. Such young people are thus thrown back on their own resources: they don’t give up the struggle (it’s a battle for survival no less than for self-expression), but their achievements never fulfill their potential. Not by far. And finally—at the end of a life—they have to accept the perception that circumstance has shown more muscle than their own determination, and has greatly hampered their capacity for self-expression, and their growth as well. That’s what I want to talk about. But first, before proceeding, I have to return for a moment to what I understood at fifteen years of age—and still today understand—by “self-expression,” which centers, for me, on the written word.
        I don’t want to dwell on any deeply personal view—or, worse, on any self-satisfied interpretation—of the meaning of self-expression. So I do better to focus on self-expression in terms of its value as a mode of “intelligence,” rather than as linked to the life of the feelings; I do better to confront its concern with the logic of things, and to skirt the vanity of finding oneself, like a mirror, in the midst of them. I have used the word things. And as a curious faculty peruses and presents us with things in their countless number, manifest variety and endless mutability, this word fills up, little by little, with a special air or meaning. Its meaning is involved—as far as I myself am concerned, or as far as my experience can fathom—with what I’d refer to as “strangeness.” And there you have it. If I had to offer a definition of everything that surrounds me—things, in their infinitude, and the feelings through which I grasp them, by now throughout half a century—I could hinge it on no other word: strangeness. My writings reflect the desire—indeed the painful urgency—to render this feeling of strangeness.
        For adults—or among highly cultivated peoples—the whole world is the world of the obvious, of the commonplace. They apply their labels to everything—pricing and, whenever need be, describing the merchandise. This is a field, this is the ocean, this is a horse, this is your mother, this is the national flag, these are two boys. But for children, or adolescents, and for a certain sort of artist as well—less often for writers—that’s not the way things stand. Wherever they go, everything shines with a light that betrays no origins. Everything they touch—that flag, that horse, that ocean—is vibrant with electricity and leaves them wonderstruck. They understand what adults have ceased to understand: that the world is a heavenly body; that all things within and beyond the world are made of cosmic matter; and that their nature, their meaning—except for a dazzling gentleness—is unsoundable. Children are moved to tears by everything they touch or see pass by, and they vainly appeal to reason or their elders for explanations of the why and how of so much magnificence: those elders (including parents and teachers) are usually no more informed and attentive than so many inkwells. The child is alone. And the child’s approach and descent to the earth and the so-called real-life world is often, finally, a collision. A moment of impact and ecstasy. The possession of a means of self-expression—a means of self-expression and an education in its use—might mean at such an instant to find oneself provided with a cushion or a parachute. It might bring the ability to engage with the world—the world of reality—in the way that’s right and proper for the human soul: through the exercise of creativity. Otherwise, when children connect to the outside world solely by way of the objects supplied by the marketplace, they remain exposed to an inward anxiety; in spite of possessing everything, they experience an internal void that turns frequently into bitter dissatisfaction, and anger. Because their education, their birth into the world, took place without the aid of their own creativity and sense of invention. Such a child finds everything already made. And the already made—by others—will be found to be utterly destructive, like a faceless wall. So it’s something that the child in turn will want to destroy, once having seen it to stand in the service of imaginative and creative amputation. I have always thought that the world’s greatest problem—the problem on which its peace as well, no matter how relative, may very well depend—is to allow its children to enter the so-called adult world as persons who themselves create, rather than appropriate and destroy. Creativity is a form of motherhood. It educates; it makes us happy; it makes adulthood something positive. Not to create is to die; and before dying, to grow irremediably old.
        Such pure if difficult happiness is often found among children who live—without great strain—in poor communities, but surrounded by fundamentally loving people. They escape the immediate embrace of the feeling that the essence of human community lies in profit and loss. Such notions remain at a distance from their souls, and they are meanwhile able to live through days that are charged with joy and meaning; for a good stretch of time they swim outside the sway of the currents that end in the whirlpool of economic conditioning, escaping all false social obeisance to the things and interests of the marketplace. They’ll encounter these violent forces at fifteen or sixteen years of age, when already they’ll have sufficient strength; and not everything within them will come away shattered or damaged.
        I had five brothers, and none of them, it seems to me, showed any particular inclination to the arts. But one of them—he went to a naval academy and then died in the war—wrote a very beautiful, very limpid story when he was twenty years old; its subject was a smuggler who had been arrested. He also wrote a poem on the mysteries of the stars. Another of my brothers—already an adult, and quite unhappy—turned to painting for a number of years and worked in bright, glowing colors. When a psychological crisis led him to set this activity aside, he became unhappy once again. Concerning my other brothers, I remain largely in the dark, since they were scattered here and there by the war and rarely—those who survived—came back home. But traces of a kind of nostalgia for a state of youthful creativity remain to be seen in several of them, and it strikes me that this need, if only they had developed it in time, along with the rest of the faculties that belong to living in the world and understanding it, might have changed their lives.
        Even if my own life isn’t what one thinks of as a totally realized life, I have to think of myself as fortunate; because I have sometimes managed, in the course of at least some fifty years of adult life, to reach the luminous shore—I think of myself as eternally shipwrecked—of a form of self-expression and creativity that find their never swerving goal in the hope of capturing and fixing—if only for an instant, meaning the span of time encompassed by a work of art—the marvelous phenomenon of living and feeling.
        And there’s nothing romantic, and no self-indulgence, in my use of the word “marvelous.” Of all the words that might be employed as descriptions of life and the feeling of being alive, “marvelous” is surely the most pedestrian word I know. This feeling is better approached by words like “ecstasy,” by terms like “ecstatic,” “fugitive,” “inscrutable.”
        My first such emotions were aroused by the evanescent beauty of the face of a child who lived next-door to us. I was struck by the purity and chestnut sweetness of his gaze. A “phenomenon.” Of that much I was sure. But how could I render it? A few pastels came to my aid. And if I saw, having hidden the drawing in a closet, that a person who absentmindedly opened the closet door betrayed a moment of surprise and an inkling of having been moved, I understood that I had reached my goal of grasping and expressing the flow of life. I drew and drew, like so many adolescents, but only faces: mysterious, childlike faces. Confronted with something that spoke of adulthood, I could draw—I could capture—nothing. The emotion set off in me by very young faces was not of course the only emotion I encountered: all the phenomena of nature—principally the wind—struck me as fluid, unsoundable faces of the power of nature. Flowers as well, naturally enough, and grasses, the sun, Sunday mornings, the lunar nights with many clouds that pass before the moon. Or little shards of glass that sparkled on the ground in some gloomy, silent street. Everything struck me as containing a warning and a message. Such things were more intense and secret than feelings, and they couldn’t be rendered—at least I couldn’t render them—with pastels. So I had to turn to the pen. But that pen was completely unpracticed. My intellect—though at most I should say my sensibility—hadn’t at all been schooled to the use of writing. I hadn’t been educated. As with many girls of the time, my education had come to a close with elementary school. So from adolescence until about the age of twenty—the period in which I first encountered this problem of expressing myself through writing—I never indulged the illusion that I might be able to solve it. But I constantly circled around it, and I did learn something.
        2-4dropi.gif (245 bytes) had left school when I was just about thirteen—after a woeful experience at an institute for vocational training—and my family had afterwards given in to my request to enroll me at a private school for the piano. It was run by a relative. The plan was for me to earn a diploma, to pass the examinations at the conservatory, and then to find pupils to whom I myself could give private lessons. These studies continued for three or four years—I studied music, a fact that still surprises me—and then I broke it all off quite abruptly. Another terrible passion, a terrible event, had found its way into my stock of experience, and there was no way at all to give it expression through those sheets of music. It’s an event that merits brief mention.
        In addition to all the unsoundable faces and events that daily erupt from life—these things I ardently desired to capture and fix in all their beauty and evanescence—I had also come to understand that life is charged with a number of cadences, or properties, of which the nature is equally unsoundable. One of them, for example, lay in the immensity, somnolence, and peacefulness of space. I had had that experience in Libya, between nine and thirteen years of age, perhaps: the way nature, as sand or sky, knows the immobility and endless extent, within immobility, of dream. Then, while crossing the sea to return to Italy—a two day voyage—I was struck quite intensely by the duplex motion which derived, on the one hand, from the ship that cut its way through the dark blue waters, and, on the other, from the waters themselves: they were never the same blue waters of only a moment before, but still they presented themselves as such. So the same place, I thought, doesn’t mean an identical time and situation. This doubly articulated mechanism—the workings of life and place inside the mechanics of time—cast a shadow across my path. The ship was moving and kept on moving while I stood still and observed the very same sea, and meanwhile the ship’s situation had changed: it lay in a different but apparently identical place. And the place it had been in before—yesterday’s place—had irretrievably disappeared. So, the problem was time itself: the problem of the places and dimensions into which things passed. The very fact that things passed! And once and for all, it seemed. So, from a logical point of view, everything that happened—if its second, ulterior state lay in its existing no longer—was necessarily illusory. This quality of time, its practice of forming things and then of canceling them out, acted profoundly on my mind, no less than those forms themselves. I saw it all as a great enigma. Time consumed itself; and what happened to the forms in which every moment of time gave proof of itself?
        One of these forms—to return to the fact that prevented my continuing to study music—was one of my brothers, whom to tell the truth I didn’t know well. He too hadn’t wanted or been able to study, and for the last two years he had been at sea as a crewman on some ship. Now, one January evening, we received the news that he was dead—in a distant place, on the shores of a distant sea—and would never again return to Naples and the life we lived as a family.
        At first this piece of news turned our house into a place of infernal turmoil, which later, however, gave way to a strange silence. Such silence always follows a death, even the deaths of pets, and it strikes me as resulting from a kind of collapse of the soul. Something has been amputated. A part of the soul has taken its leave forever. And the soul reacts by entirely ceasing to listen to the noises, sounds and voices of surrounding nature, no less than to its own. This silence, I believe, is of the very same nature as the great and distant azure of the vault of African skies—or of the skies of other vast continents—and it holds the same mute rumble of the sea that falls away behind a ship. So, beyond its azure vault—its happy soul—these are the world’s most patent events: time—the eternal flow and vanishing of everything; and this is the response of nature and the soul: the sudden voicelessness, the stricken creature’s collapse into itself. So there’s a very great truth in Dante’s depiction of a soul suddenly wounded and deprived of a part of itself: he tells us that Calvalcanti, believing his son to be dead, cried out “What? What did you say? He had had? Does he live no longer?” and then collapsed into the burning arc, never to reappear again.
        This silence, at least for me, in my never ending solitude (my mother could look for succor in her Christian faith, my brothers had school, my father had his office) lasted for several months, and I saw no way of getting out of it. Finally one day, indeed one morning, suddenly, I thought that—if nothing else, since it was killing me—I could describe it. So I sat down at my table and wrote a free-verse poem of about a hundred lines, entitled “Manuele”, in which I talked about this silence to the sailor’s ghost. That was my first poem. And since I wasn’t—later—to write very many poems, but mostly stories, it also counts as my first attempt at writing: my first attempt to couple the written word to a calm frame of mind and to use it to render—aesthetically to render—something atrocious, and above all else inscrutable. Life is an apocalyptic phenomenon—apocalyptic and beguiling; and it is so intense and so averse to every form of examination or analysis, from no matter what point of view—it counts as no less than a synonym for the unsoundable and ungraspable—that it can only be rendered by a contrary frame of mind: by an attitude of admiration, by a contemplation of its very immensity, and of what for us is its ferocity. Affliction requires that we take up a musical instrument—in this case verse—and attempt to sound a first few calm and smiling notes: it’s only within that calm, and by means of that smile, that we’ll be able to imprison the horror we have suffered. Think, for example, of a mirror. That cold, elegant and utterly motionless surface can capture the shudders of a wind-blown tree, or a great green beast of a wave as it rises up to scud along the surface of the sea. No sea could reflect the sea, nor a tree a tree. The nature and the tragic spirit of things can only be reflected in something of an utterly different, contrasting nature. In something endowed with what we refer to as aesthetic quality. The quality of the mirror, which stands in opposition to what it reflects, and is therefore able to encompass it. If you want to capture a stormy sea, or the horrors of a war, stay calm; your own pained silence is charged with a distance, and you must place that distance between these things and yourself.
        2-4dropt.gif (279 bytes)hese thoughts arise on their own, and surely in disorder, but I have no other way of turning a personal and therefore limited experience into something universal, and therefore clear to everyone. The fact that it’s a part of my personal history would itself be of no importance if it weren’t accessible to others.
        After writing these verses—a total of three poems—I decided to send them to a literary magazine which I had often noticed at the kiosk not far from our house. (This experience too—submitting the results of one’s first uncertain attempts at self-expression to the judgment of a learned authority—is both inevitable and educational.) Then I waited for a reply. And here I was lucky. Because the person who received and opened my letter—the director of the magazine—was a spirit of superior elevation. In other words, he was one of the deacons of the great Temple of Aesthetics, and he knew it to be the forge in which the human soul assumes its proper shape. He felt a very great love for the human soul, but like the saints and great theologians he never saw its growth and salvation as divorced from the observance of religious Law and Rule. He saw faith and obedience to the great tables of Aesthetic Law as fundamental. This was the only route through which the human soul could find salvation. He published this long piece of writing (I won’t dwell on my joy, I had known no equal joy) and offered me as well a few suggestions; but his comments were always so detached and apparently marginal as to stay at a distance from both praise and disfavor (and at the time I was largely unaware even of the use of the apostrophe). His discretion has always made me think of him as a true educator.
        My life, from that day forward, changed radically, since now I had an instrument with which to express myself. I also had something to which to aspire, a compelling goal: the approval of my invisible teacher. I spent about a year on this kind of work: setting all the commotion which life aroused within me into free hendecasyllabic verse, and seeing it grow instantly calm and turn into something different (a formal feeling). The experience was full of joy and liberation, even if the poems themselves were nothing special. But I was training my hand, teaching my fingertips to write, and in my boundless nothingness as a girl who had no future, this also, if not quite simply, seemed to hold the offer—I dare to say—of a place in society.
        At this point, the editor of the literary magazine (which was printed in a far-away city) asked me to try to write a story—a story in prose—for a weekly publication with which he was also connected. This was my entrance examination to the much-loved school of writing (no matter how laxly I may have followed its courses). I immediately wrote the story “Redskin,” and he published it, accompanied by a few words of praise, calling no attention to its defects.
        2-4dropi.gif (245 bytes)’d run the risk of going astray in numberless rivulets of narrative, of memory and observation, if I didn’t stick strictly to the facts. My promotion (quite the proper term) to literature, or at least to its introductory courses, also earned me a higher level of respect at home, and surely I couldn’t ignore the salutary change that took place in my mother as she dwelt on the thought that perhaps her difficult daughter was acquiring a profession. This was also the period in which the director of the magazine introduced me—in French, a language I had studied a bit, alone, but which in any case I understood—to two of the stories of  Katherine Mansfield: “Prelude” and “On the Bay.” I found myself to be looking up at peaks that shone in the sun. Such beauty was wholly new to me. I’m not quite certain if he introduced me to the work of Katherine Mansfield because of first having read a lengthy story of my own—“The Solitary Light”—or if instead I wrote “The Solitary Light” in the wake of having read these stories. Aside from Katherine Mansfield’s greatness, and from all her fully accomplished art, there’s a certain similarity between these two ways of seeing things—on the part, on the one hand, of Katherine Mansfield, and on the other hand, of that nameless girl: a gilded atmosphere, uncertainties that might belong to dreams, a sense of ineffability, of the tender inexplicability of things... and as well, I’d add, of the soul’s befuddlement and constant trembling and loss of itself. As far as everything else is concerned, the difference was enormous and has never ceased to be: in terms not only of aesthetic results—on her part deservedly famous, on my part no more than uncertain—but also as a question of the very nature of the experiences involved. Mansfield belonged quite clearly to a cultured, bourgeois society, highly developed and pan-European, and she was able to connect interior experience to the worlds of physical and social reality; whereas for me the worlds of physical and social reality remained entirely unknown. I couldn’t avoid the sad realization, bit by bit as I tried to move ahead, that I found it ever less possible to recognize things for what they truly were and to call them by their proper names: my intelligence, since it hadn’t been equipped with the arms of knowledge and factuality, withdrew into the merely contemplative, the emotive, to the point of going astray. So a certain sense of the coldness of life became my only world, and expressing it my only goal: a goal already outstripped by the narrative canons of the past, and with me they therefore took on an air of weary repetition.
        These words refer to all of my stores of the period before the war, and as well to a few that were written later—the stories that went into the volumes which appeared in 1937 and 1948, entitled ANGELICI DOLORI and INFANTA SEPOLTA. All of these thirty or so stories, including the ones I didn’t publish, were attempts—at first quite happy, but then ever more neurotic and tortured—to render my sense of ecstasy and wonder on first encountering the world, and then the distress of seeing this world turn ever more into a desert where nothing seemed to hold a meaning or move towards any destination: a world of ghosts and monsters. And the first of these ghosts was that little girl who had made those observations on the ship and the area of yesterday into which that ship had to pass. This child was instinctively devoted to musing and contemplation, and to taking possession of ever more rare and singular emotions; and this world already withered by war, this world in which the civilization of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries no longer existed, and where a new and very sinister civilization was coming to the fore, had truly ceased to have a place for her. Even more than in her narrative style, her desperation is clearly seen in the subjects to which she turned her attention: gracious spirits, solitary youths, God himself—in the guise of a handsome young man, but rather lifeless; or again in the places of which she wrote: places outside of time, poorly illuminated streets, abandoned gardens, prisons, deserts. Much as in De Chirico’s universe (though I wasn’t to meet De Chirico until a somewhat later date) or among the French Surrealists, the world was no longer inhabited, and everything concerned with the human being had already turned into memory and regret. The whole of livable time, in my first bizarre stories, was something that belonged to the past—even while remaining present—and was seen from a place outside of it. The chance to live within it would never occur again.
       2-4dropi.gif (245 bytes)f one stops to consider that these stories were the whole of my reality on the eve of the war, throughout those four long years, and afterwards as well, one will see how hostile my mind had become—“hostile” is the word I have to use—to what one currently refers to as existential experience, or the actual world. I rejected it simply by saying nothing about it. Of this there can be no doubt.
        So, the tragedy of my life (a euphoric expression, so ingenuous as nearly to amuse me, since life is always tragic, even the lives of a blade of grass or a single atom, and nothing truly escapes this tragic dimension, which lies in being “swept along,” irresistibly) lay in my almost immediate discovery that everything—even people, faces, books—was only void and appearance: images, of which the freedom and material substance were totally illusory. A single thing was truly alive, and nearly counted as separate and distinct from the life of matter: pain and painful emotion (which I also understand to include love and joy). So I quickly discovered that I had to do battle for something—for life—which in fact was an abyss and a sense of hopeless loss. I was very much aware of that, but this awareness didn’t relieve me of my task. Writing was my battle; and my instrument for writing, for the constant task of fixing the fluid and ecstatic, consisted of an idiom that can only be described as infantile, when compared to the regular arms of even an ordinary writer My vocabulary was quite restricted; my knowledge of grammar and syntax almost rudimentary. My acquaintance with genius and the masters of the written word was limited to only a very few—poets, like Poe—whom I had encountered at used book stalls. A desperate undertaking; and yet I had no choice: if I didn’t write, I could only return into nothingness.
        These were the years just before the war. And it was now that I opened my eyes and saw the true conditions in which my family lived: a wretched house, dilapidated furniture, debts. That, sadly, was the truth of the matter. And soon, since I hadn’t studied or learned a trade, I could only look forward, at the age of twenty-two or twenty-three, to finding myself in the streets.
        So it came as a great relief—no matter how surprised I was, and no matter how much it felt like stealing—to receive a proposal for the publication of all of my first stories in a single collected volume: a proposal from Massimo Bontempelli, the writer who had succeeded my first patron as the editor of the literary magazine. I accepted, and it all came about immediately. I myself had nothing to do with it (at the time there weren’t a great many people who wrote) and I also received a prize, in money—five thousand Lire—with which I could help my father to bring a bit of order, at least momentarily, into our household’s disastrous finances.
        My recall of these days and occurrences, now so remote, isn’t sufficiently clear to allow me say if I was finally happy. But I don’t think I had enough time. Events ran one right after another, just as the cars of a train follow the ones before them, now in a tunnel, now out in the open light. But the stretches of open light were ever more brief, fleeting, finished in a flash. Then suddenly the start of an endless darkness. The war. That’s the way I remember the war.
        Our house was destroyed during one of the very first bombings, and I found myself, in the course of those four or five years, with a mutilated family (brothers dead, or missing, or prisoners of war) as we wandered all throughout Italy, all the way to the Veneto, where we lived on the island of Burano. Before the war—a year or two before it began—I had already spent a year in Venice, working as a proofreader for a newspaper. The war turned my thoughts to Burano as a place without bombs. After our house in the district of Naples’ port had fallen—a rented house, and already decrepit on its own account—it struck me as sensible to take my parents and other relatives there. We lived—part of us—in the house of the village street cleaner, but the place was safer and more amenable than anywhere in Lazio, where, as I later learned, true horror was taking place.
        And this word: horror. My experience, up until that time, may indeed have prevented me from seeing its meaning in anything other than social or historical terms, but still it was the last great word I learned to apply to the universal framework in which we live our lives.
        Space; azure skies; dream; then time (yesterday’s absence, the shifting position of the human ship); then the sudden disappearances of human beings; then silence. And now, finally, horror: those recurrent periods of generalized slaughter—folk against folk, man against man—that then unfailingly find their termination in a peace in which the only thing no longer possible is justice for the dead, which is to speak of their resurrection.
        In a short span of time—that’s what fifteen years amount to within the space of a life—I had made the acquaintance of almost everything that defines our existence as human beings: the beatitude and impossibility of seeing it endure; wonder and the struggle to express it; the majesty of fully achieved expression and the immaterial greatness of literature; and the gulf that divides them from explanation, and from all our daily confusions. Over there, every beatitude—but like the light of a star already exploded. Over here, the miserable frenzy of the fall which has already happened, of existence as the already devastated dream.
        All that remained was life itself—no longer any literature—and what a life!
        2-4dropi.gif (245 bytes) was ever more repulsed by reality—the mortal spoils, rather than the essence of the real—and my desire to find refuge in words was ever more intense and ever more desperate. But writing demanded conditions—a minimum of economic security—which had nothing to do with my own.
        On returning to Naples in 1945, I found myself in precisely the future I had once foreseen. I was homeless. The generosity of a few friends kept me going (otherwise I wouldn’t now be alive and able to write these memoirs) but only when the going was roughest. I see myself for example as I hunted for a furnished room, recoiling at its gloom and the roaches; or while making an evening meal of a couple of doughnuts and a glass of wine, thanks to contributions from a couple of friends; or sitting in the kitchen of a well-to-do family, once they had finished lunch, consuming the plate of food they had set aside for me. I see myself in pawn shops, relieving myself of a typewriter or other personal objects. Or in the streets of old Naples, on a morning lit by a melancholy sun, as I bargain with a vendor for a new typewriter ribbon, for a portable: a session of bargaining that ended in a brawl. Or I am sweeping out an office (the seat of some sort of political organization, of which the time knew so many) and taking excited exception to quite legitimate observations on the dust I hadn’t removed. Or I am here and there throughout the city climbing endless stairs, trying to make a living as a bill collector. Then, suddenly, I’m getting onto trains for Milan, for Reggio Calabria, for Rome. Or I’m all in a desperate tither while boarding the packet boat for Palermo; I remember the kindly face of the unknown captain, and the help he was good enough to give me.
        All of that lasted for five or six years, and now remains in my memory as a kind of inferno, but I don’t really know if it was, since I was very strong. This was also the period, even while continuing from time to time to write a tale or two, in which I turned my attention to journalism. Again I had a bit of luck. A few of my longer, and I think more attentive, pieces on the city of Naples earned me the attention of Luigi Einaudi, who was then the President of the Republic, and he came to my assistance in a great many ways: with money, by supplying me with train tickets, and above all by arranging for the Olivetti Corporation to invite me to live as their guest in Ivrea for two or three months. It was there that I completed nearly all of the final work on my third book: IL MARE NON BAGNA NAPOLI., which dealt with precisely this subject, with the conditions of life in southern Italy in the period after the war—conditions which made themselves apparent in the postwar period, but which came in fact from a long way back: no less (according to me) than from a tradition of Nature worship, which I attributed to the people of Naples.
        2-4droph.GIF (239 bytes)ow ingenuous. I now reject this thesis, or at least any need to talk about it. Never again, today, would I affirm that Nature in any way harms us. I simply accept the perception that life at the level of nature—like the lives of domestic animals—is impossible for the human being; and that any attempt to adopt such a form of life—as in part it was adopted in Naples, and partly inculcated by an unreformed church—will lead to our certain undoing. Yet even if this book was grounded on a faulty thesis, it nonetheless had said something new, revealing an Italy that stood deprived of that spirit of charity or mutual assistance which truly forms the basis of civilized life and its institutions; and since at the time we weren’t so sensitive to flaws and shortcomings, it enjoyed quite favorable reception. And I suddenly—living alone in Milan, my family a thing of the past—I suddenly found myself (as the saying goes) almost famous. Famous, but still with no money, since books didn’t get sold in large numbers of copies. I sold something like seven or eight thousand copies of this book, but I had already asked for several advances and nothing more was due to me. So I had to continue to make do as best I could. There was still no question, for quite some time, of being able to set up a home of my own, and I continued to live in furnished rooms. And when I finally took an apartment—taking on as well a rent contract—I was quick to lose it: my sporadic earnings couldn’t cover all the bills.
        This was the point when my mind began to dwell on another of the sadder sides of human life; I began to grasp the gravity of owning nothing while living in the midst of a system based on the privileges of property. I began to grasp the way life slowly falls apart in the effort to please or satisfy the proprietors—including the owners of newspapers—always painting a pleasant picture of their systems. There was no possible meeting ground, no possible comparison between these squalid, beautiless exercises and true writing, true Self-Expression, which seemed to me to embody the freedom, the absolute freedom, of the human mind. For a moment I had fondly imagined that writing conferred the right to write again, but now I saw that this again, if writing didn’t turn into a source of money, was destined to decorate the banner of still another fond Illusion. Courage, in a certain sense, abandoned me. I was like a badly injured soldier who then had found bandages with which to dress his wounds; but then they wound him again; and now he can find no other bandages, and dies from loss of blood.
        I was doing advertising. And between one job and another, for this or that product, I wrote a series of melancholy “pieces” (melancholy and without great vigor, as I now remember them) on the real conditions of life in Milan, as seen through my immigrant’s eyes. I saw a city where everything was for sale, where everything was decked with a price tag, and where the tasks of art and writing—the contemplation and definition of the world—enjoyed no further hopes. Art and writing lay crushed beneath the weight of foreign fashions that found their strength, quite precisely, in the vision they offered of vast, foreign markets. I thus became aware of what it can mean for a nation to find itself mortgaged to the great cosmopolitan markets and to have no further space or freedom in which to pursue a road of its own. Too many concessions to money—when the problem of survival appears to be the only one, presenting itself, moreover, not only as a question of survival, but also of successful competition with the keener survival techniques of more prosperous peoples—mean the loss of all hope for those who find their work in the field of self-expression. The field narrows down to masquerades and conformity.           
        2-4dropi.gif (245 bytes) had nothing that was any longer salable, other than clichéd slogans. In as early as 1960, freedom of expression in Italy was only apparent, and in fact a thing of the past. The actual life of the country already lay in the hands of the mass media, which daily undermined it and made it incapable of understanding language—that language of “symbol” which in fact is the language that literature speaks. Symbol was the language in which I spoke, and no one any longer could direct attention to a thing like that. Attention waned, and the market vanished.
        Just before leaving Milan—a step I had finally understood I had to take—I dashed off a story, in the space of a month, which was intended as sarcastic and amusing, but which turned out instead to be quite delicate. Il Cappello piumato. I never saw it as a full-fledged book, but there were ways in which it was dear to me. It was only some twenty years later that I managed to see it published. At a time when people could see it, somehow or another, as making a political statement. The political—close on the heels of the vapid and salacious—is nowadays, here in Italy, the surest route to acceptability. And perhaps that’s somewhat unfortunate.
        The 1960s were already underway. I moved to Rome and wrote a brief novel, entitled L’IGUANA. A book that was charged with scorn and rebellion. Rebellion in its style, since I suddenly abandoned all superficial realism; and scorn in its pretended equanimity in the face of human folly, and of the folly of the notion of class. A gentleman travels to an island—he’s very rich and can go wherever he pleases—where he makes the acquaintance of a monster. He accepts it as something quite possible, and would like to effect its reintegration—presuming it to have suffered some sort of a fall—into human, or indeed bourgeois society, which he sees as the summit of virtue. But he has made a mistake: this monster is truly a monster, and indeed discloses the soul, at its purest and profoundest, of the Universe—of which the gentleman has lost all knowledge, if not for the knowledge that it’s merchandise, that all of it can be given a price tag, that stars can be leased and bought and sold, and so on and so forth. The story didn’t come to a happy ending (it concluded with Nature in a state of revolt), and after a bit of thought I changed it, adding another which was lighter and more serene, thinking that this might save the book from disparaging remarks on the part of silly critics, and thus might give it a chance on the market. But it didn’t sell in any case. One thousand nine hundred and ninety copies in five years hardly amounts to a book’s having sold.
        2-4dropa.gif (321 bytes)nother regrettable aspect (though surely it has its justifications) of the economics of publishing—aside from the huge promotion campaigns set up for the marketing of vacuum-cleaner books—is the use that publishers make of books, without any need to ask anyone’s approval, when once it’s established (when they have established) that it’s difficult to sell them. Such books can get passed on, en bloc, to various clubs and remainderers, with a truly risible percentage for the author. You then know nothing more about that book. Maybe you receive a check for sixteen thousand and fifty Lire in rights for a whole year. In short, the book—often well known and in demand—ends up, with no further involvement of the author, as an object of private exchange between two or three or any number of publishing companies. It travels a road of its own, of which it’s presumed that the author has no need to know the various stations, or markets. You could say that the author can’t so much as send an occasional postcard to his or her creature. The book by now is the property of a business concern (the publishing house) that can use it as it best sees fit, for the whole of a lifetime, employing it for any purpose at all, or otherwise for simple retransformation into kitchen rags—by pulping it.
        2-4dropt.gif (279 bytes)here were so many things I had understood, and so many things that no longer made any difference to me. Once the IGUANA was over and done with—it’s still in circulation and still gets sold, but brings me no hint of money, thanks to the former receipt of a few advances—I returned to Milan and wrote an ironic little book: the irony lay in the schoolboy style I used for narrating sad and insignificant events. I had lost all belief in the printed page! POVERI E SEMPLICI. But the book was very easy reading, and therefore did fairly well, for a couple of years, even winning a prize; and I have to admit I have never forgotten it, even if it’s not a book in which I recognize myself. Perhaps there was something good in it. I imagined that it might perhaps have given me a little money and made my life a little easier; that it might have offered me a little stability, and above all a house: this, by now, was my only dream. But that’s not the way it worked out. Once again I had to return the advances received from the publisher in the course of several years (including the advances for two other books of stories which had found no market at all) and quite soon I again found myself staring into the face of slim probabilities of physical survival.
        This was the moment—towards the end of 1960s—when another publishing company, of imposing proportions, sailed up to the flanks of the small, tarred, and much-patched hull of my old Florentine publisher, clearly intent on boarding maneuvers. I myself, it seemed, was the booty they had in mind. And a part of me was already willing to make its peace with the notion of leaving Florence—or what Florence meant in the publishing world, with its grace and good form, as a place where culture was still untouched by mammoth business interests, a place that still consisted only of culture, but tremendously poor—in favor of Milan. For money! I felt an enormous need for rest, that was the whole of it, for a place where money might be found: a place that offered a truce, by means of money, to the body and the weary soul. I imagined that the moment had come to get busy—strange isn’t it?—so as finally to be able to rest. I fondly believed that this sort of rest was permitted to all writers, which is not at all the way things stood. The law demands—it is nothing less than a law, and a highly mysterious law—that precisely the weariest never find repose, and that the battle cry of life resound unceasingly around their heads. “Stunned,” wrote Coleridge, “by that loud and dreadful sound.”
        This was the state of mind—stunned by dint of living in an endless hell of emotions, reactions and images that uninterruptedly followed one another, and also needful of a means of survival—in which I readied myself, in March 1969, to write my most recent book, PORTO DI TOLEDO.
        2-4dropm.gif (494 bytes)y plan with PORTO DI TOLEDO, initially, was to write a free and happy “introduction” to my early stories, the stories in ANGELICI DOLORI, which I had been planning to suggest that my publisher in Florence reissue. But the question of where and with whom to publish the book rapidly ceased to interest to me, and my mind turned entirely to the narrative experiment itself: the experiment of reproposing a former world—the old—while mixing it with the new, which instantly bathed it in a different light, and subjected it to commentary. The old consisted of a few of the stories and poems I had written during the period of the literary magazine. As little by little I reached an understanding of the relationship between life and expressive dream which at the time had lain beneath them, I recalled and wrote about the real events of the period in which I had thought them up. And it’s clear that this commentary held very little “criticism.” Whatever might appear to be a criticism of my own work was simply a new imaginative event. (I seem, in fact, to have no doubt that all true criticism, of art as of the world, has to take up a place on the outside, and never on the inside, or as an act of participation.) So, to say that I was “criticizing” or writing a commentary on my expressive efforts of the 1930s amounts to nothing more than a turn of phrase. Rather than criticize, I was only involved in reliving that time of hopeless shipwreck (so hopeless, perhaps, as even to have held no desperation) and my appeal to abstract judgment was only a way of pulling it back more clearly into view. (Rather than to any true judgment, I appealed to a figure of judgment, which in fact opened out into an act of ulterior participation.) This second part of the book—this second part which embraces and winds in and out among the older writings—was therefore the real book, and I can add that affection and disgust for that period of time and the special way in which I then expressed myself (in the 1930s) were nearly all that TOLEDO hoped to formulate.
        This plan, from my own point of view, was quite clear, and I’m certain that proper surroundings would have led to achieving the results I was aiming for. I could have counted on finding fluency by flowing ineffably back and forth through memories of writing and the life attached to it. But the actual surroundings in which I was living at the time—1969 and the following years—unleashed a level of aggravation that affected not only my former mode of expression—in yesterdays’ stories and poems—but equally the mode of expression I was working with today, which is to speak of my oppressed and enchanted reappraisal of those former times. The whole of TOLEDO, half-way through it, turned into something else: I ceased to be in control of the operation.
        What surfaced now into the midst of my life—the life of a writer who lives in obscurity, or without the mothering protection of a provident and benevolent society, knows so many reversals!—was simply a question of noise. In this moment of fatigued disaffection for the outside world, I was living in Milan, in Via Mulino delle Armi. The room I used as my studio, the sort of studio I had always had, measured no more than a few square meters, and air passed freely through its narrow window (barely sixteen inches wide) only in the winter. Toward March, when I started to write, and well into April, this little window was always open, and sufficient air indeed flowed through it. But after the middle of April (I was then beginning the book’s second section, “Terra in lutto,” and the parts that follow) it had to stay shut, since all sorts of work were being done in the streets, and the building was also being renovated. Suffocation, and the nightmare was underway. I got up early, but that wasn’t enough. I tightened a scarf around my head (around my ears); again that wasn’t enough. This noise lay always at the edge of my thoughts, and as soon as it began, at eight o’clock in the morning, something inside of me snapped: my equilibrium snapped. That mirror I have spoken of was shattered. Unable to write, I only made notes. I said to myself, I’ll write later on, while working on the second draft. And that was the way—quivering with mental pain—in which I wrote that ghostly, unstable, stuttered and highly repetitive part of TOLEDO called “Terra in lutto.” That was the way I wrote it, since no other way was open to me. And I saw that the rhythm—in the shift from the first to the second section—wasn’t at all what I had planned on. Some sort of suture had remained unsealed. The second part of the book seemed displaced, I’d say, by several meters from the first; and it clearly revealed that here we were sailing on another boat: this was no comment on life as experienced yesterday: it was life as lived right now, with all its suffocation and delirium.
        The second part of my memories of TOLEDO thus seemed to be compromised, but I didn’t despair of being able to save it—if various conditions could be brought to bear on the second draft at the typewriter.
        That was the only goal of the life I was living then (a life, moreover, that knew no consolations) and still today I am able to imagine that I might have reached it, if destiny—my personal destiny, which I no longer guide, accepting instead that it guides me—hadn’t arranged things differently.
        I had to move—the reasons are already clear—and I moved from Milan to Rome; and there, during the first few months of the following year, I worked my way through the second typescript. I wasn’t able to work every day, and the best of days were at most a question of two or three typewritten pages—of a total of five hundred. No more than two or three pages, since then I’d begin to feel faint, and it made no sense to try to push on further. In any case, I had managed to set up a rhythm, no matter how laborious, when two new facts transpired and plucked me again away from it. My Florentine publisher discontinued my modest stipend—throwing me into desperation and forcing me to pass along to another company, to the one in Milan. And at much the same time—the new contract had just been signed—the apartment directly above my own was rented to people who were anything but tranquil. The world, yes, is full of people like that—in constant need of movement and parties, and without regard for neighbors—and surely there’s no point in belaboring any single case. But for me it marked disaster, and more so for TOLEDO.
        The project already had met with approval on the part of my new Milanese publisher, and just as the company’s editor was starting to ask—justly, I think, since I don’t have much experience with this sort of thing—that I show a bit more attention to the text (this now was the third draft) and establish firm control of form, no less than of the flow of experience, the anguished state of mind I had known in Via Mulino delle Armi presented itself again, and this time around I could see no hope. Or, to state things more precisely, the only hope I managed to descry, after several months of useless protest, lay in building a kind of hut in the center of my room (which luckily was a rather large room): first a compartment in which to write (at the then considerable cost of a quarter of a million Lire) and it required several months, but a place in which to write struck me as more important than a place in which to sleep; and then, the following year, a second compartment for a bedroom, which had shown itself to be utterly indispensable if I wanted really to write, and not simply to copy things out on the typewriter. It hardly needs to be added that the air in these two huts inside my room was very limited. The room had only a tiny window, covered by a screen. The whole situation had brought me to the verge, or nearly, of physical collapse, and I started to hear my publisher’s injunctions—the company was keeping an eye on my work—as still more noise; a noise that made me desperate, and I found it ever harder to obey. Finally, indeed, I no longer obeyed at all.
        The whole tragicomic affair found its culmination in year three: the third year of my living so absurdly in my Roman hut. My building, here again, as before in Milan, was thrown into the turmoil of renovation, for a whole pitiless year.
        This was also the year of the cholera epidemic, and all these sources of anxiety—the summer heat, the danger of cholera, the bricklayers, the dust, and my work necessarily set aside—wore away at me relentlessly. The things that the publisher had to say about my work fell on an ear that by now was utterly deaf to them. Such a horrid period! And laden with all the reasons for my having started out by talking of the writer who comes from nowhere, and then returns into nowhere. I had known no education and remained incapable of any appropriation of the physical and social world; otherwise I would never have sailed my boat onto such remote shoals: the shoals of my need for self-expression.
        But why talk about it? Now it’s all over. No matter the way that book got written, I feel that its pages—at least the first of them—allowed me to save, or at least to attempt to illuminate, the feeling of strangeness that lies in the way the world takes shape in the eyes of a child—a girl, in this particular case—who hasn’t been sufficiently apprised of its nature and structure. Its mystery then collapses on top of such children and destroys them. (Their sense of enchantment remains, but the look of the world turns grave.) It strikes me also that in the second part of the book (despite the unfortunate, irreparable cleavage dividing it from the first) I have somehow depicted the lengthy shadow or shadows of a destiny that meshes with the course of things in general (the war, the power of a few over all the creatures of the youthful world, the tardy perception of the rights denied to each of us, the subsequent lament). I haven’t offered much more than that, and what little I may have offered unfortunately lapses into illegibility, not only owing to my own almost convulsive mode of self-expression, but also to the ever more virulent phenomenon to which I referred above: to the ever greater loss of the knowledge of language, as a result of the workings of the mass media: a phenomenon, by now, which has even invaded the universities. It strikes me too that this loss of the knowledge of language—at the national level—derives from an even more grave and terrible loss of the vibrant sensation of being alive. In Biblical times, and up until not too long ago, this feeling was indivisible from all cognition of the life of the earth itself. One knew the implications of an apple, a horse, the setting and rising of the sun. Such things today no longer speak to us. How could we demand that language—that always new and never-changing symbol of the whole of our sublime and terrestrial world—now reawaken those images? Like the image, for example, of love! With the figure of the young bourgeois who approaches a separate and wholly unknown world—the world of the gates of the port, of the hovels of the poor, the world of the deformed—who approaches Damasa—I meant to say that love contains nothing real (as reality is currently defined). It consists wholly of the pain and splendor of incipient knowledge. It’s entirely a fact of hidden and majestic equilibriums, no different, for example, from those that accomplish the spectacle of springtime, the implosion of stars, or the way the stars appear before us, broaching incommensurable epochs. But none of that—in a culture now based on material objects (and such a culture, for the moment, is perhaps a necessity)—any longer means anything.
        2-4dropf.gif (1094 bytes)ine. I feel at this point that there isn’t much more to say about the species of artist I have been describing: the artist who comes from nowhere and then returns back into it, having followed an erroneous path, outside the walls of the human, or social, city—where time is another.
        I finished TOLEDO in 1975. It had taken six years—between one desperation and another. It wasn’t legible. As soon as it appeared, it disappeared. Authors who haven’t made themselves legible don’t sell, and that was the way things ended up. The sale of the book never got off the ground, and it was even withdrawn from various bookstores. Once again I had no money, or nothing more than pocket change. So I abandoned my huts in the capital and left for Liguria before the year was out. At the start I lived in a house that was flailed by every wind—winds that were often quite terrible—and which stood in the midst of a landscape that showed not a sign of human life. The various trials I had recently experienced—as well as this condition of intolerable isolation—caused me to suffer from curious nervous disturbances. Every night—for a good half hour—I seemed to hear a group of little boys—a whole school class—running in a whirlwind up and down the stairs; yet everything was quiet. I would get up in a cold sweat and wander around the immense, silent terrace. Or, on seeing a fire in the woods on the high, surrounding hills, I’d be suddenly convinced that the war had resumed, and I seemed to hear gunfire and the screams of people in flight. One night, at about three o’clock—it was autumn, and raining—I was out on the terrace and saw a lightning bug hovering in front me, with its tiny lantern; and since it had been dozens of years since I had last seen a lightning bug, and remarking as well that now it was autumn, I believed myself to be in the presence—please pardon my effusive expression—of all that remained eternal of a kindly friend (in reality I had never met him) who had died a while before, quite obscurely, in Rome. He had written words of praise—for me, for TOLEDO—which others had then been quick to reject and refute. I seemed to hear singing. On another morning, a great rosy light shone from no apparent source into a gray November sky and shed its illumination on the mountains and the sea, the farmhouses, the steeple crosses, the villas that were scattered here and there in the dull green landscape.
        In short, I was no longer able to recover from a true and proper breakdown that exhausted all of my resources, and I attempted and finally managed (already it seemed an act of grace, as later, indeed, became the general rule) to find a new house. I moved into the center of town. But since this is a tourist city—only a few remaining postcards attest to what was once the peace of Liguria’s Levantine coast—I was confronted all over again with the mayhem of the cities I had abandoned: the eternal flow of traffic, the dire summer heat and cacophony, the loudmouths, the cranks, the fog, the nighttime crowds, the wailing sirens, the bands that blare their music all day long on Sundays and in the spring. Not to mention the insipid holidays with their high-flying fireworks—one might as well say bombardments—which hour after hour make the houses tremble, starting in May and recurring throughout the summer, and which kill, I imagine, so many birds.
        But winter is sweet and motionless; it is also poor, and therefore livable; and certainly in this city I was sure to accomplish something. But to begin with I had no money, and I had to finish revising a few older things (like CAPELLO PIUMATO). The slumps and magical impressions (magical and fearful) that had marked my arrival into the area were also to return. I was ill, too. And finally, here again, in this dilapidated building, urban money—the new money—was to make its appearance and demand its privileges. The old tenants were sent away; everything was sold; and again I was faced with a Renovation. Which for me is the name of a true and ghastly monster.
        This last year... I don’t even want to talk about it. I used a stairway which nearly had ceased to exist. Dust and detritus everywhere. A worker, one day, took to kicking at my door: he had said that he couldn’t do his work if it didn’t stay open all morning long, and I hadn’t been willing to put up with that. I not only had a run-in with the building’s owners, but finally clashed with the foreman as well. I told him he couldn’t keep his workers hammering for ten hours a day (rather than eight) and that otherwise I would kill somebody.
        Yes, I spoke these words without realizing it. They told me about it later, and my surprise and contrition were enormous, since I have never thought it permissible to raise a hand against another living creature, not even a mosquito. My run-ins with mosquitoes have indeed been very rare, no more than two or three. And now to hurl such words at a workman, me!
        Yet it happened. And if I laugh about it now, I don’t laugh broadly. This episode led me to think through a number of things; and a great, melancholy understanding of so many ills made its way forward. If I myself—a person already fatigued, and thrown off balance, and considerably subdued by my awareness of my nothingness—could react in such a grave and reprehensible way against a workman whose lust for activity interrupted my desperate need to think, and stood in the way of my attempt—as everything for decades has stood in its way—to express myself, what then will be the fate of the generations for whom this will or destiny of self-definition never finds realization at all? The enjoyment and consuming of goods which others have produced—things through which others have expressed themselves—seems a happy lot to people who have money. But it isn’t. Buying and enjoying are in no way essential; what’s essential is to make and think on one’s own. For the child of the slums, for the child of the great majority.
        And now I have truly finished.
        I’d like to be able to hope that my moral dilemmas will little by little find a resolution, and likewise those of the younger generations. So, I’d like to cry out to everyone—defying the din of hammers that sing their painful music from every point of the horizon—I’d like to cry out: let all human beings be creative, making something with their hands or their heads, at any and every age, and especially in early youth. Allow them to learn the mysterious laws of aesthetic structure and composition—all other laws can recede—if you are truly committed to freedom and a sense of community on this fast and fleeting meteor which is life itself, surrounded by all the absence of life (by all the bleak endurance) of which the rest of the Universe appears to consist. Make a place for aesthetics—and its laws—within this prison, this dullness, of human life. You will have made a place for freedom—the suspension of pain—for elegance, for tenderness.

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This story first appeared as “Dove il tempo èun altro” in Micromega 5/90, Rome, 1990. Copyright ©by Anna Maria Ortese. Translation copyright ©1997 by Henry Martin. Published by arrangement with McPherson & Company Publishers from A MUSIC BEHIND THE WALL, Selected Stories Volume Two.

Anna Maria Ortese’s “The Great Street” appeared in ARCHIPELAGO, Vol. 1, No. 1.

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