Text by – VITO PUGLIESE
Translation by – GIULIA CUCARI
Forty years ago, Italy was defeated. It was the 2nd November 1975, 40 years ago.
The Death anniversary of one of the most outstanding figures of the Italian literature –and maybe the global one too – bitterly occurs again.
Bitterly, a specific date falls during All Soul’s Day, marking a gigantic step in our National History. Pier Paolo Pasolini – Italian intellectual, director, thinker, writer and poet – died forty years ago.
Today, years after one of the most brutal –and never denied – political assassination ever, our Government celebrates the working-class suburbs poet with an awkward delay, as it is drenched in blood, silence and mystery.
Pier Paolo Pasolini was born in Bologna on March 5, 1922. After a life studded with complications, he and his never-too-much-loved mother move to Rome during the ‘50s, renting a room in Piazza Costaguti. The mother is a waitress, while the son rolls up his sleeves publishing some articles and correcting local newspapers’ draft trying to get in touch with the working world – still not a univocal one.
What made Pasolini unique was his eclecticism: he was a proper scholar of expression. Not intellectualistic Queneau-like, but a pragmatic one, just like a scientist who has to examine every side of its experiment’s matter when in front of it. Cinema, dramaturgy, theatre, screenplay, novel, poetry: every tentacular and chameleonic shape a word could take was his property.
The years spent in Rome are those that made him the Pasolini we all know. Here he created some of his long lasting friendships such as the one with Sandro Penna (who matched his intensity and feelings), and Sergio Citti, a house painter who will eventually become one of the greatest Italian directors of the ‘60s, who taught him the Roman dialect and earned the title of “living dictionary” (coined by Pasolini himself).
He will then get to know authors such as Carlo Emilio Gadda, Attilio Bertolucci and Oriana Fallaci.
His need for money –“the compelling, hateful urgency of the 150.000 (lire)” -brought him to accept not only some jobs as a teacher, but also the Giosuè Carducci Prize for his work “La meglio gioventù”; later on, Pasolini will begin his literary and cinematographic projects.
In 1955, “Ragazzi di Vita” was published: it was a sublime, coarse novel about the life of young people in the working-class suburbs, where Pasolini used to hang out. Christian Democrats immediately stated that the novel was obscene and pornographic, and even Antonio Segni (founder of the party) asked Milan’s Court for a trial – which eventually ended with an absolution of all charges.
After “Ragazzi di Vita”, Pasolini worked on a more introspective evolution of it writing “Una Vita Violenta”, and then kept on creating other works.
Between criticisms, threats, faint supports and arrogant attempts to get in its way, the whole work of Pasolini still has an impact on us nowadays.
Some grasp its merely descriptive and sadly realistic essence, while others struggle to ruin it since they haven’t understood it – or maybe, they’ve understood too much.
As a modern reader, I honestly believe that the latter include those who murdered the author – not physically, of course. I’m talking about those who planned his death. Those who, being so cunning and yet so amoral, dared to obstruct the research of a thinker who was, above all, a human being – even if a thorny one.
Anyway, I don’t want to seem trite; but I do think that, nowadays, we have the right to know. We have the right to know what was happening in a cointry devastated by a puritan and moralistic moderation that led people to be such falsely tolerant. People were polite and well-dressed to hide their violent, beastly souls. They were ready to lie in front of a mirror. Wolves disguised as lambs. Such a calm and heavy situation brought Pasolini to investigate and examine all those sinister, hidden layers of politics that people just don’t see, both in the past and during the present – since they’re even more impenetrable.
The political class of that era, while wearing a Christian moderation, was willing to reach compromises in order to maintain its power, compromises which left the population unaware of the nightmare it was living in. It was a labyrinth made of voices, faces and shadows out of which only a few could escape. Not only was Pasolini one of them, he also recreated with rigorous precision the architectonic scheme of that labyrinth in his novels – which were considered indecent by conformists. He understood which the strongest powers in the Nation were, and was this close to raise awareness in the masses. Moreover, he almost imported a concept to which we Italians are not accustomed: the Revolution.
He was the instigator of the masses. Before that, Pasolini was the one who knew them, even too well. Those masses whom the government –or, as Furio Colombo used to say, the situation – relegated to the shapeless suburbs inside grey, drab buildings of the Ina Casa (a government plan created in order to build residential areas all over Italy). Pasolini was the secret lover and greedy observer of them.
Is it possible to say that we still have a civil poet in Italy? Being a civil poet means getting your hands dirty, failing in order to taste the insecurity and will to emerge which lie at the bottom of the aggressiveness and dangerousness of mankind. A civil poet is someone who, through and existential lens, observes the motions of society figuring out its directions, variables and most of all its causes.
Pasolini reached the places where the situation couldn’t get: the suburbs and the gloomy, grey, unremarkable working-class district. He was a poet uninterested in middle-class houses with TVs, little bathrooms, kitchens that started to see the first sparks of technology, and encased sofas. He used his expressive strength and controversy in order to reveal the educated, priggish and Christian tension, which lay under the nice terraced houses of the residential districts – uncovering all the hypocrisies and brutalities that ruled the social units of the bourgeoisie.
The authority blinks it eye to those families that go to church every Sunday, work, make babies, own a lake house, eat fish on Friday and don’t ask themselves any question. It is convenient to monitor generations of men with common features: they are all averagely kept up to date, as well as educated and well-read, with the tendency to obedience, following the rules and not being curious. What is not convenient, instead, is a homosexual who thinks repeatedly, asks questions, looks for the answers and explores the world of the outcasts where all the abominations of society occurs in order to go back to the civil world and talk about them.
To make a long story short, the authority doesn’t open its doors to anyone slightly unusual. To be honest, no one would. An unusual person necessarily and involuntarily leads you to debate, to do a bit of soul searching and, most of all, to uncertainty. How do you rule a world made of uncertainty and people with different virtues? That’s right: you don’t. You cannot. And in the end, you won’t be able to do so even in a balanced, dull one.
If I were to use a punchline now, I would like to quote Moravia’s word during the funeral of Pasolini, during which –overcame with emotion – he stated that poets have been murdered, though they should be sacred.
Italy is a country were poets are killed. Even if it is difficult and cathartic to say, it is a land for those who don’t ponder and prefer to blindly respect fatherly orders. It is easy to obey your father and follow the rules, to behave and trust the clues you are given. It is a descending paved way with no obstacles. If you do not obey, you’re being disrespectful and rude: this is what we’ve been taught since we were kids. Nobody tells us that misbehaving is way more difficult than obeying and therefore more satisfying. Nobody introduces us to the noble art of saying “no” to those who tells us what to do. They teach us that we should avoid rebels, since breaking the rules requires no intelligence. The result? We are caged in our education, not knowing our limits and living our life as hunchbacks, oppressed by fear. The weight of convention leaves us breathless and condemns us to mediocrity and oblivion. If only we could break all this, willing to live life to the fullest without caring about the strictness of habits and traditions, Pasolini’s lesson would be learned and his words would vibrate in the air like pure dewdrops.
When young people will start disobey their fathers, there will probably be a chance for Italy.
Oriana Fallaci said that a light was turned off on that long, tragic night at the seaplane base of Ostia, where Pasolini was murdered. I would like to add that it was turned off on purpose, with the seal of approval of a population that –for some reasons- has always considered darkness very useful.