Posts Tagged ‘jonathan anderson’
Everything and the opposite of everything has been said about Pier Paolo Pasolini (1922-1975). Not twice in the dust and twice on the altar, as Manzoni wrote of Napoleon, but thousands of times in the dust and on the altar, whether right or wrong, very often attacking his polemical diatribes, exploiting his obvious contradictions, changing his words. He was certainly a leading figure of Italian culture in the fifties and sixties, and did everything he could to stir the stagnating waters of a dead-end artistic, social and literary climate lacking authentic drive. When he arrived in Rome it seemed as if everything was limited to Neorealism, with absolutely nothing outside of it. He tried to make significant contributions but, as more than one critic has observed, instead of going beyond those premises he remained bogged down in them, and instead of renewing current language and ideas, he yielded, especially in the use of dialect and in his narrative, to long “quotations” that did nothing to resolve the prevailing confusion and carried no elements of renewal.
Yet Pasolini has been read as a prophet, although some railed against him, warning that he was a reactionary masked as a revolutionary, notwithstanding his ties to Ferenczi.
It would be sheer folly to draw a somewhat credible portrait of Pasolini in two pages, but it seem justifiable to raise some doubts about his “immensity” as a writer, also because, twenty years after his death, we should rightly begin to assess his lasting power no longer in terms of myth and blind enthusiasm.
It might seem reductive and even shocking, but I am convinced that he will endure only because he wrote his poetry in Friulian. Everything else will become part of literary and artistic history, despite an idolatry that for a long time has stripped him of his truest purposes by focusing on those aspects that appealed to an ideological or prejudicial reading.
In dialect, Pasolini is able to give things to us stark and bare in their purity, with a clear and precise diction, with no ambiguity or vagueness to blur meaning. The poet, as he wrote to De Gironcoli, found the way to enclose “infinity in the subject” and therefore is able to pursue at will any shadow or light that runs through it, also because his language has become an “absolute language, nonexistent in nature.” This is a note that Pasolini wrote in 1954 for the poems of La meglio gioventù, even if he developed an idea already expressed in 1942. It is evident that this is the concept of “language of poetry” which later gave rise to so many discussions and even today finds either acceptance or harsh opposition, often unmotivated.
Pasolini did not embark on the adventure with dialect just out of a whim to go against something or a weariness for poetry in Italian. In a certain sense, he was called to that adventure first of all by the primordial sounds that provided the necessary purity of style to write without dispersing anything that the word had as poetic, historical, and human experience. In his numerous writings on dialect poets, Pasolini also gives some clues to his own choices, for instance “the system of oppositions between instinct and mannerism, which would mark unmistakably” his “literary work.”
It would be very interesting to follow Pasolini in his constant relationship with his writing in dialect. We would realize, for instance, that his insistence on the years of his stay in Friuli is a way of finding at every occasion something of himself immersed in the peasant civilization to which he would have liked to belong, in order to nurse the wounds that instead remained open, as spectator of a world from which he had been essentially excluded. It is true that he entered his “linguistic uterus,” but he would never find a perfect inner harmony, the total and serene union with the “rustic life of the ‘belfry’.” In the final analysis, “the Friulian poems are the result of a creative verbal process applied to his own experiences to make them utterable beyond their obsessive limits.” Even if they do not open the new season of neodialectality, these poems are nonetheless the highest mark of an ethical and literary consciousness that was able to go beyond Decadentism and Pascoli, creating a new semantic level that was to affect other experiences. Pasolini’s dialect poetry was not a local sketch nor was it born to preserve memories, but it came to be in order to decipher the present using the distant past, with the exact aim of avoiding the equivocation of naiveté..
In the roughness of Saturday night
I’m glad to watch people
outside laughing in the open air.
My heart also is made of air
my eyes reflect the joy of the people
and in my hair shines Saturday night.
Young man, I’m glad with my miserly
Saturday night, I’m happy with people
I am alive, I am happy with the air.
I am used to the evil of Saturday night.
We who are poor have little time
for youth and beauty:
you can do well without us.
Our birth enslaves us!
butterflies shorn of all beauty,
buried in the chrysalis of time.
The wealthy don’t pay for our time:
those days stolen from beauty
possessed by our fathers and us.
Will time’s hunger never die?