Friday, 20 July 2007

the force of the past

am in the process of finishing sandro veronesi's the force of the past but found myself coming back to the following passage in chapter 4

imagining we were one of those happy,absolutely ghastly little families of self-sufficiency freaks, who rebel against massification by rejecting details rather than fundamental principles, and so they don't have television, don't give each other Christmas presents, and hold football, sliced pizza, and sweatshirts in contempt. actually there is something heroic about these families that has always fascinated me: their attachment to supremely irrelevant values (alternative medicine, holidays in June, Nordic skiing, organic fruit) in whose name they stagger departures, plan, save, spend, and travel around Europe with discernment, in a strenuous waste of intelligence that ferries them from a form of consumerism that is barbarous and chaotic to one that is far more Christian and logical, albeit no less voracious

the passage is part comic, part ironic, veronesi's gianni recognises himself in the description and at the same time i recognise the same thought modes around me, a bourgeoisie that i should belong to, even as i can't and don't, as if i'm left standing at a bus stop watching an expected bus depart and being secretly glad about it.

the book is about memory, about the construction of identity, self deception and, a little, betrayal and reading it i'm again forced back to burns great lines

o wad some Power the giftie gie us
to see oursels as ithers see us

even if he doesn't, in this poem at least address what to do with the question of what shapes how these others see us. but at least it's a starting point

there's far too little italian fiction in translation (the edition i have fails to even credit a translator!) even in these days when there's more available than ever. it seems that english language readers are as resistant to translated works as they are to subtitled films

for me, somewhere in the language, i find myself constantly coming back to a friend i never met, imagining us on a beach somewhere in the north of italy, picnic basket open, children and grandchildren running about, the bright sunshine, talking about calvino, as if it's only possible to appreciate the natal self through reconstruction in another language

No comments: