A Poetics of Resistance: Narrative and the Writings of Pier Paolo Pasolini 9780838635858, 0838635857

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A Poetics of Resistance

Self-portrait by Pier Paolo Pasolini. Reproduced with the permission of Gar­ zanti Editore, Milan.

A Poetics of Resistance Narrative and the Writings of Pier Paolo Pasolini

David Ward

Madison • Teaneck Fairleigh Dickinson University Press London: Associated University Presses

& fm # VII*

© 1995 by Associated University Presses, Inc. All rights reserved. Authorization to photocopy items for internal or personal use, or the internal or personal use of specific clients, is granted by the copyright owner, provided that a base fee of $10.00, plus eight cents per page per copy is paid direotly to the Copyright Qearance Center, 222 Rosewood Drive, Danvers, Massachusetts 01923. (0-8386-3585-7/95 $10.00 + 8* pp, pc.]

Associated University Presses 440 Forsgate Drive Cranbury, NJ 08512 Associated University Presses 25 Sicilian Avenue London WC1A 2QH, England Associated University Presses P.O. Box 338, Port Credit Mississauga, Ontario Canada L5G 4L8

The paper used in this publication meets the requirements of the American National Standard for Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials Z39.48-1984. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Ward, David, 1953A poetics of resistance : narrative and the writings of Pier Paolo Paolini / David Ward, p. cm. Originally presented as the author's thesis (doctoral— Cornell University). Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 0-8386-3585-7 (alk. paper) 1. Pasolini, Pier Paolo, 1922-1975— Criticism and interpretation. I. Tide. PQ4835.A48Z96 19% 858'.91409— dc20 95-4297 CIP


To my mother Phyllis, and to the memory of my father Reginald Francis

Contents 1. Introduction Beyond Narcissism: Critical Directions 13 A Poetics of Resistance 19 2. The Friulan Novels: Atti impuri, Amado mio, Il sogno di una cosa Pasolini's First Time: Atti impuri and Amado mio 26 Pasolini's Second Time: Il sogno di una cosa 47 3. The Roman Novels I: Ragazzi di vita Passione e ideologia: Passion and Ideology 52 Ragazzi di vita: "E mo?" 58 4. The Roman Novels II: Una vita violenta and Petrolio Una vita violenta: "Non vojo esse più Tommaso" 75 Pasolini's Last Time: Petrolio 88 5. Empirismo eretico: Language, Literature, Film Theory Ninetto's Scream: "He-eh, he-eh, heeeeeeh!" 115 Back to the Future 120 "Cinema," "Film," and the "Geniale mente analizzatrice" 127 Michelangelo Antonioni and Roland Barthes 139 Narratives of Knowledge, Narratives of Death 144 6. Journalism, Theater, Dialogue Journalism: From Dialogue to Chaos 149 The Six Verse Tragedies: Breaking the Silence 155 "II Manifesto per un nuovo teatro": The Events of May 1968 166 Appendix: "The Manifesto for a New Theater" Notes Bibliography Index

Acknowledgements Giving thanks is itself a thankless task. As well as sounding hol­ low, public thanks run the risk of overlooking important contribu­ tions, especially in the case of a book like the present one, which began life more than seven years ago as a doctoral dissertation in the Department of Romance Studies at Cornell University. My initial thanks, then, must go to my thesis supervisor Anita Grossvogel, and my two readers Phil Lewis and W. Wolfgang Holdheim. My thanks also go to Beverly Allen and Robert Har­ rison, who both offered valuable comments on early versions of chapters three and four, and to my friends, the then graduate students Disa Gambera and Gina Psaki, whose advice gave me more encouragement to continue with the project than they them­ selves perhaps realize. The bulk of the manuscript's passage from dissertation to its present form as a book took place while I was an assistant profes­ sor in the Italian Department at Wellesley College. There I was fortunate enough to find a supportive presence in Rachel Jacoff, and a fellow Pasolini scholar in Maurizio Viano. During this pe­ riod I also received insights from a number of Italianists who either read or listened to sections from the manuscript, most no­ tably Millicent Marcus, Rebecca West, Margie Waller, Ben Lawton, Lino Micciché, John Welle, and Patrick Rumble. Welcome editorial advice on sections of chapters five and six was offered to me by Bart Testa and Zygmunt Baranski respectively. This book would not have been possible without the resources of the "Associazione 'Fondo Pier Paolo Pasolini'" in Rome. My sincerest thanks go to Laura Betti and Giuseppe Iafrate for all the assistance and patience they have given and shown me over the last few years. Finally, my thanks go to my wife Eugenia Paulicelli, who has given me endless and firm support, especially in the final stages of the book's preparation. *



Permission has been granted to reproduce material by the following: 9



Garzanti Editore: Pier Paolo Pasolini's Le ceneri di Gramsci (1956), Passione e ideologia (1959), Il sogno di una cosa (1962), Transumanar e organizzar (1971), Scritti corsari (1975), Atti impuri/Amado mio (1982), Teatro (1988), I Dialoghi (1992), and Petrolio (1992). Quartet Books Ltd.: Pier Paolo Pasolini's A Dream of Something, translated by Stuart Hood. Carcanet Press Ltd.: Pier Paolo Pasolini's A Violent Life, translated by William Weaver (1968); The 'Ragazzi', translated by Emile Capouya (1986); and Lutheran Letters, translated by Stuart Hood (1988). Norman MacAfee: Pier Paolo Pasolini: Poems, translated by Nor­ man MacAfee with Luciano Martinengo (New York: Random House, 1982). Indiana University Press: Pier Paolo Pasolini, Heretical Empiricism, edited by Louise K. Barnett, translated by Ben Lawton and Louise K. Barnett (1988). Wayne State University Press: The Hidden Italy: A Bilingual Edition of Italian Dialect Poetry, edited by Herman Haller (1986). ANMA Library: translation of Pier Paolo Pasolini's "Le ceneri di Gramsci," translated by John Meddemmen, from Pier Paolo Pa­ solini: The Poetics of Heresy, edited by Beverly Allen. Georges Borchardt, Inc.: Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, volume 1. Copyright 1976 by Editions Gallimard. English trans­ lation copyright 1978 by Random House. Reprinted by permis­ sion of Georges Borchardt, Inc. University of Toronto Press: previously published material by David Ward, in Pasolini: Contemporary Perspectives, edited by Patrick Rumble and Bart Testa (1994).

A Poetics of Resistance

1 Introduction Beyond Narcissism: Critical Directions According to Greek mythology, Narcissus is offered the gift of eternal life on condition that he does not look at his own reflec­ tion. In other words, if he does not know himself. The precondi­ tion is important: for to know oneself is to know oneself as other, and thus to understand one's own mortality. Narcissus' failure to recognize his image as other than himself is his failure to acknowl­ edge that he, like all of us, belongs to the temporal order. Pier Paolo Pasolini's inclusion of a Narcissus figure (Narciso) in the opening poem of his collection Poesie a Casarsa (Poems in Casarsa, 1942)— "Jo ti recuardi, Nards, ti v£vis il col6ur / da la sera, quand li ciampanis / a sunin di mu&rt" (I remember you, Narcissus, you had the colour of the evening when the churchbells toll)1— has offered critics a hermeneutical framework in which their readings of his writings have often spilled over into a reading of Pasolini himself. Narcissus becomes the figure of Pasolini's reluctance to come into the real world, and in Alberto Asor Rosa's words, go beyond his "powerful exclusive subjectiv­ ity" and his tendency to "place himself at the centre of the world and to stay there in a painful and often unsatisfied desire for the absolute."2 The early Pasolini is engaged in an impossible search for an undifferentiated wholeness whose faint echoes he finds in the dialect of an Edenic Friuli. For both Asor Rosa and Gian Carlo Ferretti, the first critics to dedicate detailed studies to Pasolini in the early 1960s, his Friulan poetry was the product of an adolescent voice whose visible shortcomings were always to compromise the later achievements of his maturity. Both critics divide the early years of Pasolini's artistic career into a distinct "before" and "after." The turning point occurs between 1947 and 1949 with Pasolini's second collec­ tion of poems, L'usignolo della chiesa cattolica (The nightingale of 13



the Catholic Church, 1958),3 written no longer in dialect but in lingua, in standard Italian. For both critics the switch from dialect to Italian is the vital step in Pasolini's passage from adolescence to maturity. The teleology they trace frees Pasolini from the Edenic nonworld of Friuli his first poems had celebrated and introduces him to the recognizable, historical world of economic, social, and political forces. At issue for both critics is the move away from contemplation and toward analysis, from a poetic idiom that sings the praises of the peasant world toward one which understands it and knows the processes by which it was formed. For both critics, Pasolini's first useful engagement with the real world of historical and po­ litical forces can only take place when the errant years of his dialect poetry are put behind him. The decisive events that mark the watershed between the "before" and the "after" are the War, the formative experience of the anti-Fascist Resistance movement and his exposure to Marxism. Both critics agree that Pasolini's private drama in a Friuli resistant to historical forces can only have value when transferred into a broader, public context. Of such a passage, which will lead to the poem cycle Le ceneri di Gramsci (Gramsci's ashes, 1957),4 Ferretti has written: w e have . . .

a p riv ate c o n tra st w h ich b eco m e s a stag e in a m o re

general crisis. Pasolini will, that is, increasingly situate his personal crisis in a historical context, between visceral "passion" and new Marxist rationalism, between a "religion" of the unconscious and col­ lective political commitment.5 Implicit in both critics' analyses is the conviction that Pasolini's dialect poetry is an elision of the serious business of the postwar world, an ideal, impossible space where the pressing questions of ideology, temporality, and subjectivity can be finessed. Both critics deny any cognitive respectability to the Friulan poems. The subject which emerges from these texts is a non-subject, unable to understand the world around him or know it as other than it is, a self which enjoys "an eternal infancy."6 More recent studies, on the other hand, have found a surprising sophistication in these same early texts. Rinaldo Rinaldi's book-length study, for example, argues that Pasolini's dialect poetry, far from being the product of an adolescent who has yet to grow up, displays a degree of insight that his early critics entirely overlooked. Unlike Asor Rosa and Ferretti, for Rinaldi there is no decisive turn in the story of Pasolini's artistic apprenticeship. If for the former critics Pasolini's

1: Introduction


sense of self finds expression only in poems like "Lingua" (Lan­ guage) and "La scoperta di Marx" (The discovery of Marx) con­ tained in Usignolo, for Rinaldi the same process by which the self comes of age is already under way in Casarsa. The dialect poems, in fact, tell the story of a self's discovery of its selfhood and the alienation that immediately comes with it. Far from a replete self, content in the plenitude of its Eden, the figure that emerges from these poems is already a desiring subject, already separated from its origins, which now exist only as fading memories: We discover that the mirror image of Casarsa gives birth not only to the subject but also to memory: in the image the subject finds itself but also immediately recognizes a difference. In a continual turning back on itself it begins to measure the distance that separates it from the Eden it has just abandoned. . . . Pasolini's narcissistic mirror be­ comes on each occasion a time machine, superimposing on the pres­ ent image another from the past, which brings together with the presence of the subject the absence of the origin, combining a con­ quest and a loss.7 For Rinaldi, the early dialect poems tell the story, not of a sub­ ject unable or unwilling to enter the symbolic order, but the story of a subject in the making, who is already acutely aware of the irreversible split on which subjectivity is constructed. Pasolini's dialect poetry is not an adolescent stage leading to maturity, but an attempt by a self already aware of its status within the symbolic order to cope with its sense of alienation. Far from being a prelude to a later, more authentic engagement with the world of language, historicity, and subjectivity, these poems are already written from within the symbolic order. There is, then, for Rinaldi, no "before" or "after" in Pasolini's development, no "first" of dialect and "then" of lingua. Rather, there is only an "after," which is already under way in the Casarsa collection. Both dialect and lingua are part of the same process, which aims at exploring the possible spaces within the symbolic order where the self's immediate sense of loss and alienation may be mitigated. In fact, as Rinaldi points out,8 Pasolini's first writings, Diarii (Diaries), were in lingua, not dialect. Nor does the chronology of the passage from dialect, the private language of noncommunication, to lingua, the public language of social inter­ change, hold up. As Rinaldi again points out,9 among Pasolini's early writings is a dialect play, Turcs tal Friul (The Turks in Friuli), a didactic text whose message is addressed to an audience of specific listeners. Pasolini's returns to dialect in later writings are



not signs of a regrettable lapse on an otherwise purposeful path of development, as Ferretti suggests: "In the subsequent develop­ ment of his research Pasolini will never be completely able to overcome his contradictions . . . and will always have to come to terms with his infantile dreams."10 For Rinaldi, rather, such re­ turns are the result of precise stylistic choices which were to lead Pasolini to investigate the expressive possibilities of poetry and prose in both dialect and lingua, as well as those of cinema, the­ ater, journalism, and art. Far from a narcissistic subject obsessed with the plenitude of its own image, the subject that emerges from these early poems is one that has always already experienced loss: The simple narcissistic scheme is modified and complicated, as the self-image that the subject perceives moves painfully backward in an elegiac colour of time. The present of the Subject at the very moment of birth becomes at once past, within the image: and the image in which the Subject recognizes itself becomes that of the lost paradise . . . here in the foreground is that already sad child, while the true happiness of Origin moves further into the background in the lost figure of Casarsa, holy city, Edenic city, remote against the sky.11 The early poems, then, become a self-conscious staging of the subject's formation, its entry into language and its perception of its own alienation. A self-conscious metaliterary operation, the poems are the story of their own coming into existence: "a story of the entry into literature told already from within literature itself."12 In another study, like Rinaldi's, published at the beginning of the 1980s, Stefano Agosti similarly shifts critical attention away from the earlier Marxist critics' concern with extratextual referentiality. In his brilliant poststructuralist analysis of the poem "Gram sci," Agosti finds the text's richness in a deconstruction of discourse that puts the notion of referentiality under strain. For Agosti, Pasolini's striving for a "total diction of reality/' "a total rendering of the event" through which discourse becomes an "analogon" of reality clashes violently with the syntactic limits of the formal properties of language to result in the "suspension and errancy of the signified."13 In particular, his analysis focuses on a section of the poem which describes Italy's coastlines: . . . Come capisco il vortice dei sentimenti, il capriceio (greco nel cuore del patrizio, nordico

1: Introduction villeggiante) che lo inghiottì nel deco celeste del Tirreno; la carnale gioia dell'avventura, estetica e puerile: mentre prostrata l'Italia come dentro il ventre di un'enorme dcala, spalanca bianchi litorali, sparsi nel Lazio, di velate torme di pini, barocchi, di giallognole radure di ruchetta, dove dorme col membro gonfio tra gli stracd un sogno goethiano, il giovincello aodaro . . . Nella Maremma, scuri, di stupende fogne d'erbasaetta in cui si stampa chiaro il nocdòlo, pei viottoli che il buttero della sua gioventù ricolma ignaro. Ciecamente fragranti nelle asciutte curve della Versilia, che sul mare aggrovigliato, deco, i tersi stucchi, le tarsie lievi della sua pasquale campagna interamente umana, espone, incupita sul Cinquale, dipanata sotto le torride Apuane, i blu vitrei sul rosa . . . Di scogli, frane, sconvolti, come per un panico di fragranza, nella Riviera, molle, erta, dove il sole lotta con la brezza a dar suprema soavità agli olii del mare . . . *

(. . . How well I understand the vortex of feelings, the whim [Greek in the heart of the patrician, Nordic holidaying] which swallowed him up in the blind sky-blue of the Tyrrhenian; the carnal joy of adventure, ecstatic



A POETICS OF RESISTANCE and puerile; while prostrate Italy as within the stomach of an enormous cicala, opens out white beaches scattered in Latium with its veiled herds of pines, baroque, of yellowish clearings of ruchetta, wherein sleeps his member swollen in the rags a neoclassical dream, the young lad of Ciodaria . . . In the Maremma, dark, with its amazing trenches of erbasaetta where stands out clear the nut-tree, through tracks that the herdsman fills unwittingly with his youth. Blindly fragrant in the dry curves of Versilia, which on the sea tangled and blind, the dear stuccos, the light inlay of its eastertide countryside completely human, spreads out, darkling on Cinquale unwound under the torrid Apuane, glassy blue on rose . . . With reefs, landslides, disarrayed, as in a panic of fragrance, in the Riviera, soft, steep, where the sun struggles with the breeze to give supreme lightness to the oil of the sea . . . )14

Seeking a description that would do justice to reality in all its scope and eventfulness, Agosti notes how Pasolini overloads the immediate referent of these verses— "i bianchi litorali" / "white beaches" (which I have underlined for convenience)— with a bar­ rage of attributes: "sparsi nel Lazio" / "scattered in Latium," "Nella Maremma, scuri" /"In the Maremma, dark," "Ciecamente fragranti nelle asdutte // curve della Versilia" / "Blindly fragrant in the dry // curves of Versilia," "sconvolti . . . nella Riviera"/ disarrayed . . . in the Riviera." Obsessed with capturing the ex­ perience of the totality of the coastlines in language, Pasolini wants to say more about his referent than the grammatical struc­ tures and strictures of language will allow. The result of this at­

1: Introduction


tempt to speak the entirety of a burgeoning reality is a textual "undecidability" as it becomes increasingly difficult to locate the original noun to which the series of attributes refer. The immedi­ ate connection between the attributes and their referent becomes unstable and, as the temporal continuum of language unfolds, more and more distant.15 The innovative readings and critical vocabulary of both Rinaldi's and Agosti's studies have invigorated Pasolini criticism and shown how receptive Pasolini's texts are to readings that go be­ yond the purview of the earlier work of Marxist critics. Unfortu­ nately, neither Rinaldi nor Agosti has seen his efforts recognized sufficiently by the critical community. One reason for this may be that both studies were published in the early 1980s, a period that saw a lull in Italian interest in Pasolini. These were also the years that saw the epicenter of interest in Pasolini shift from Italy to the United States, and to a lesser extent to Great Britain.

A Poetics of Resistance One of Pasolini's most quoted remarks concerns the connection between death and montage: "Death effects an instantaneous montage of our lives."16 By this remark Pasolini meant that after death the ambiguities inherent in interpreting the ongoing, everchanging nature of life are replaced by the clarity that comes from the stability of death. If, however, we apply Pasolini's remark to the many critical studies of his own life and work after his murder in 1975, we immediately discover its limits. Nothing, in fact, illus­ trates these limits better than the sheer volume of critical activity Pasolini has recently attracted. Evidently, for the international critical community, Pasolini, even twenty years after his death, is anything but a closed book. Alberto Moravia made what was probably the first attempt to sum up Pasolini after his death when he described him as, above all, "a civil poet."17 Although certainly responding to important facets of Pasolini's life and work, the limit of this first definition has been laid bare by a series of studies that have approached his writings and films from Marxist, psychoanalytic, poststructuralist and phenomenological standpoints.18 In the 1980s the United States saw by far the biggest explosion in Pasolini studies. Helped by the film retrospectives organized by Laura Betti and the "Associazione 'Fondo Pier Paolo Pasolini/" interest in the poet/novelist/ filmmaker has reached enormous proportions. Hardly an aca­



demic conference goes by without papers or sessions dedicated to Pasolini; articles on Pasolini are frequently to be found in aca­ demic reviews both within and outside the field of Italian studies; his works, including his letters and the unfinished, posthumously published novel Petrolio (Oil, 1992), are immediately translated; and a mammoth, eight-hundred-page biography has also recently been published.19 To the best of my knowledge, no less than six book-length stud­ ies either entirely or in part dedicated to Pasolini have been pub­ lished by U.S.-based scholars since 1987, as well as two volumes of collected essays.20 In general, studies by U.S. or U.S.-based scholars have tended to treat Pasolini more sympathetically than did his earlier Italian or British critics. The hostile reception af­ forded Pasolini by the Italian academic community in the late 1960s and early 1970s at the hands of Antonio Costa, Umberto Eco, and Emilio Garroni found echoes across the channel in the pages of Screen, in the person of Stephen Heath, and in the British Film Institute's collection of essays edited by Paul Willemen.21 The lukewarm British reception of the 1970s continued into the 1980s with the Italianist's special number marking the tenth anniversary of Pasolini's death, which included Christopher Wagstaff's "Real­ ity into Poetry: Pasolini's Film Theory," the first critical attempt in English to make sense of Pasolini's eclectic film writings.22 The editor of that collection, Zygmunt Baranski, was also author of another critical piece, "Pier Paolo Pasolini: Culture, Croce, Gramsci," published in 1990.23 We can gauge the difference between Pasolini's U.S. reception from his Italian and British ones by the shift in value given to the term heresy. In the 1970s Antonio Costa, writing in the British Film Institute's collection, could speak of a "semiological heresy" that rendered Pasolini's ideas of no value "for the development of a scientific semiology of cinema."24 But to Costa's negative use of the term, three more recent studies by U.S.-based scholars have responded with a positive use of the same term in the titles of their works. For Beverly Allen, editor of the collection of essays The Poetics of Heresy, one of the first significant U.S. forays into the world of Pasolini studies that brought to an English-speaking public some of the best continental European scholarship, for Naomi Greene, author of the book Pier Paolo Pasolini: Cinema as Heresy, and for Giuliana Bruno, author of the essay "Heresies: The Body of Pasolini's Semiotics," Pasolini has become an interesting object of study precisely on account of the same heretical status that had caused him to be outlawed to the backwoods of intellec­

1: Introduction


tual life in the 1960s and 1970s.25 To be sure, studies like Bruno's and Teresa de Lauretis's "Language, Representation, Practice: Re­ reading Pasolini's Essays on Cinema,"*6 have set themselves the specific task of rescuing Pasolini from the margins to which he had been consigned in the 1970s. But another reason for Pasolini's success in the 1980s among U.S.-based scholars and public alike may be found in the North American political culture's inability to express a homegrown, charismatic figure of opposition. It may well De true that the absence of such a figure can be ascribed to the U.S. mass media's reluctance to give newspaper space or air time to intellectuals like Noam Chomsky or Edward Said, who would both fit the description. Still, in the absence of such rallying points, for some U.S.-based scholars, Pasolini is of interest pre­ cisely because he is seen to be the radical figure of opposition currently lacking on the U.S. political scene.27 But the perception of Pasolini as a revolutionary has come as something of a surprise to some Italian Pasolini scholars. U.S. studies of Pasolini, in fact, have tended to overlook the suspicion with which most of Pasolini's political pronouncements were greeted by the Italian Left and Right alike. Far from being a radical figure of opposition, Pasolini has been considered by some Italian scholars as an anachronism on the cultural scene who was of little value to the contemporary political issues of his years. One influential Italian critic who has consistently drawn attention to what, in his eyes, are the deep ideological flaws in both Pasolini's films and novels is Lino Micciché.28 Tracing a line of continuity that stretches from his Roman novels, through his early films, and onto the Trilogy of Life (The Canterbury Tales, The Decameron, Arabian Nights) and Salò, Micciché argues that Pasolini's entire oeuvre, with one or two exceptions, is subtended by a pervasive ideology of death. Micciché, in fact, prefers to group the Trilogy of Life and Salò under a new heading, the Tetralogy of Death. Neither his Roman novels nor his films have any value as his­ torically accurate representations of subproletarian life or de­ nunciations of a sociological condition. Unpermeated by and impermeable to historical processes, the world of Pasolini's sub­ proletarian Roman ghetto— the borgata— for Micciché has no his­ torical or social value and serves only as a pretext for Pasolini to illustrate his ideology of death.29 Pasolini cannot be considered a revolutionary, continues Micciché, because he harbors a deepseated hatred for history, contact with which leads to certain death. Pasolini, he writes, is unable to "historicize the past, and to live the present."30 The value of Pasolini's films lies not in their



status as historical documents, but in their poetry, in the poetic truths to which films like La ricotta, La terra vista dalla lurn (The earth seen from the moon), Che cosa sono le tiuvole? (What are clouds?) and La sequetiza del fiore di carta (The paper flower se­ quence) give voice. Miccich£'s tendency to use "history" as a blanket term to indi­ cate everything that Pasolini rejected and rebelled against obfus­ cates two questions that I would like to keep separate and that deserve to be examined in a more nuanced way. Miccich6 col­ lapses into the single term history, first, the idea of history as the course of bourgeois history and, second, history as historical consciousness. If by Pasolini's hatred of history Miccich6 means only his hatred of the bourgeois course of history, then I could not be in fuller agreement. If, however, by this he also means that Pasolini was not interested in investigating old and developing new forms of literary and cinematic representation and gauging their relation to ideological questions in order to find a way into history on his own terms, then I think that he is off the mark. For it is precisely in Pasolini's relation to the forms and modes of representation available to him that we find his richest engage­ ment with history. To return to the question of history as bourgeois course of his­ tory: when Tommaso, the hero of Pasolini's second Roman novel Una vita violenta (A violent life, 1959), enters the arena of bour­ geois history by moving from the borgata to public housing, get­ ting a job, a girlfriend, planning to marry, and developing a political consciousness, he simultaneously embarks on a course that will lead him to his death. As Micciche remarks, the fate of Ettore in Pasolini's film Mamma Roma, which is very much the cinematic counterpart to Life, is entirely similar to Tommaso's. Pasolini's conviction that entry into the social order is the equiva­ lent of death marks his greatest divergence from the ideology of hope that had characterized Italian neorealism, the genre with which Pasolini, like all intellectuals and budding artists of his generation, had grown up. Neorealism always left its audience with strong glimmers of hope that the social aspirations of its underclass subjects would at some point coincide with social real­ ity in a happy ending. For Pasolini, neorealism told a fairy story, which encouraged a falsely optimistic sense of hope about the course of history. As Pasolini put it in a newspaper article: "Hope . . . was the ideological category . . . which presided over com­ mitted neorealism . . . in truth, it was an irrational, pre-Marxist

1: Introduction


leftover: it posited a future which was immobile and less than metahistorical, an unreliable palingenesis of m an."31 In its essence, Pasolini was to write on another occasion, the raw material of the novel is made up of the "continuous happen­ ing of adventures" that is life: "that wonder at things happening that is the sense of the novel."32 Concomitant with the increas­ ingly technologized state of Italian society in the 1960s, the codes of representation that governed literature had turned life into a phenomenon that is "completely predictable and normal."33 Pa­ solini's project, as I examine it in the present study, is twofold: on the one hand, he apprehends and reacts against the poverty of conventional narrative codes, exposing the ideological and on­ tological repercussions of that poverty; and, on the other, he elaborates new forms more adequate to the task of narrating the unpredictable, nonlinear history of those adventures still lived by marginal groups, but which has been pushed out of sight by the hegemony of conventional narrative. For Pasolini, this more authentic history is inseparable from an experience of everyday reality that is poetic in its essence. To resuscitate a poetic dimension to life and our narrations of life is, in Pasolini's eyes, to challenge the hegemony that realist narrative had established on Italy's postwar literary scene. As early as his experiments in narrative during the 1940s, Pasolini seems to have understood that "narrative form is the primary aesthetic code developed to convey bourgeois and counter-revolutionary val­ u es."34 If, as I think Micciche tends to do, we separate the histori­ cal from the poetic, we run the risk of misunderstanding that central to Pasolini's project is the attempt to bring the two to­ gether in such a way that the one may attend to the inherent limits of the other. The central importance Pasolini ascribes to history and the de­ velopment of a historical consciousness has been the subject of Keala Jewell's recent study The Poesis of History: Experimenting with Genre in Postwar Italy, which also deals with the poetry of Attilio Bertolucci and Mario Luzi. For Jewell, the poetry of all three writ­ ers sets out to "reconceptualize the relations of history and po­ etry," dispelling "the critical cliche that 'civic' verse must be narrative and realist."35 In practice, this entails delving back into the history of forms of literary representation like, as in Pasolini's case, the elegy and sepulchral verse, to find out which are "irrevo­ cably dead, which are alive but exhausted, and which were ripe for resurrection."36 Far from a poet who eschews history, the Pa­ solini that Jewell identifies through her indepth readings of his



poems "Gram sri" and "L'Appennino" (The Appenine) is ob­ sessed with the recovery of a proper historical consciousness with which to stand up more effectively to the challenges posed by history. Through indepth analyses of his early Friulan novels, the Ro­ man novels, the posthumously published and unfinished Petrolio, his essays on language, literature, and film theory, as well as his journalistic writings, verse tragedies, and "Manifesto per un nuovo teatro," I have studied the question of narrative as it is articu­ lated in various stages of Pasolini's artistic career. I have found that, for Pasolini, narrative form is the primary vehicle through which we gain knowledge of the historical and phenomenological realities of the world that surrounds us. I have also found that Pasolini is acutely aware of the ideological limits of conventional narrative codes and how they prescribe an interpretation of reality according to prior preinterpretive schemes. What I have called Pasolini's "Poetics of Resistance" involves him in a series of experiments with narrative form that either mine the past of Italy's literary tradition from as far back as Dante and Petrarch to Manzoni in order to find models, or to develop new, unprecedented narrative forms. From my analyses, I find an underlying tension which pervades the entirety of Pasolini's writings. The tension in question is between, on the one hand, narrative's epistemological function to give us knowledge of the world and the causal processes by which it has been constructed and, on the other, narrative's performative function to reformulate the past, redescribe the future, and create worlds of which we have no previous direct knowledge. In his theoretical writings, Pasolini terms these two functions "Film" and "Cinema" respec­ tively; in his verse tragedies, "Enigma" and "M istcro." In what follows, I trace the unfolding of Pasolini's experiments in narrative up to his "Manifesto per un nuovo teatro," the text with which, it seems to me, he comes closest to accommodating both episte­ mological and performative demands. I place the "Manifesto" in the context of Pasolini's controversial response to the attempt at student revolution that culminated in the events of May 1968. Deeply aware of how bourgeois hegemony had extended its scope even to embrace the students' purported revolution, Pasolini sees in the dialogue between text and public that his "Manifesto" theo­ rizes a forum for the informed debate the political and ideological crisis of those years necessitated, but to which left wing Italian culture had not attended. Already prey to the pessimism that was to mark his final years,

1: Introduction


it was to such a forum that Pasolini delegated his last hopes for the imaginative leap he felt was crucial if new, more effective modes of protest that escaped the bounds of bourgeois hegemony were to be elaborated. Against the everextending scope of Power, Pasolini posits the necessity of an alternative poetics, a poetics of Resistance.

2 The Friulan Novels: Atti impuri, Amado mio, II sogno di una cosa The Desire to possess her is a wound And it's naggin' at me like a shrew But ah know that to possess her Is therefore not to desire her — Nick Cave, "From Her to Eternity"

Pasolini's First Time: Atti impuri and Amado mio Written in the mid- to late-1940s, but published in a single volume only in 1982, seven years after his murder, Pasolini's first short novels, Atti impuri (Impure acts) and Amado mio (My beloved), like his dialect poems, are set in the Friuli of his late adolescence and early twenties, that is, in the last years of and the period immediately following World War II. Of the two texts Atti seems at first glance the more autobiographical. Its central character shares the same name as its author, even if we only learn that once in an aside well into the text. There are also strong parallels with Pasolini's own Friulan years, where he spent the war as an evacuee. In fact, the geography, the setting, and the storyline of Atti, which trace the involvements of Paolo with a series of adoles­ cent boys from his village, some of whom attend the temporary school in which he teaches with his mother, seems to be the stuff of the first scandal in Pasolini's life. He was charged in 1949 with "corruption of minors and obscene acts in a public place," was forced to leave his post, was expelled from the Communist party on the grounds of "Moral and political indignity," and fled under cover of night to Rome with his mother.1 This, however, is not the case. The texts came first. Written and revised between 1946 and 1949, according to their editor, Concetta d'Angeli, both short 26

2: The Friulan Novels


narratives predate and, to some extent, anticipate the events that were to lead Pasolini to flee. The atmosphere of some sections of Atti could not be further from the traumas in Pasolini's political life and sexual identity that were soon to follow. Commenting on the novel, Enzo Golino speaks of the feastlike world of the text where time is infinitely suspended: "But what is a feast, this secular and religious celebra­ tion of the values of existence, if not a suspension of Time, a parenthesis in the course of life, a happy moment isolated in the brutal flow of the everyday?"2 This description certainly holds true for some sections of the text. But the voice that narrates these idyllic moments often has a far more troubled tone. The novel tells us of the joys of an eternal Sunday, but the voice that tells us this knows when the working week begins and the starker realities that come with it: Sunday mornings, almost by a common and tacit agreement, were pervaded by an inconceivable happiness. . . . Then the Mondays and the Tuesdays came back . . . and the joys of the Feast, the beats of the heart, the countryside engraved on a shining sheet of zinc, seemed fixed in the picture of a past that had nothing to do with present time, except perhaps as it raised the peacock crest of its dis­ tant perfection.3 Much of the tension that runs through Atti comes from its attempts to capture this feastlike atmosphere within an as yet undeveloped narrative structure. The text's fragmentary nature, its internal inconsistencies, its chaotic time frame, its false and abandoned starts, its narrations of the same event in differing ways all point to its extremely experimental, explorative nature; the text's references to (among others) Foscolo, Gozzano, and Pascoli, the narrator's references and displays of his own notes, all make the reading of Atti a distinctly self-conscious and metaliterary experience. If, as Rinaldi has suggested, we are to pursue the Pasolini-as-Narrissus connection, it can only be insofar as the self of these early narrative works— the narrating voice— is one that watches itseif, but more important, watches its own apprentice­ ship, its own first steps in the world of language, structure, and symbols.4 If there is one text to which Atti turns as its major precursor, it is Dante Alighieri's La vita nuova, probably Italian literature's most self-conscious record of a text's and an author's process of formation. As well as containing a reflection on memory, a great deal of crying and sighing on the part of the protagonist, we find



other resonances in Atti that recall Dante's early work: the figure of Dina, for example, who offers to act as a screen lady so that the real object of Paolo's love will not be known. But before we push the Dante-Pasolini analogy too far, we need remember that Pasolini's Beatrice is a little boy. Or better: a series of little boys. If in the economy of Dante's libello the alternative to Beatrice that the Donna gentile represents has to be rejected because she is not the unique event that Beatrice is, for Pasolini, Nisiuti, the beloved to whom the majority of the narrator's attention is given in Atti, can be and is replaced by others;5 by Bruno or Gianni or Severino or Donino or the idealized "blond boy"; or, as in Amado mio, Iasis's place in the heart of Desiderio, the protagonist, can be challenged by Chini, or Leonido, or Giuseppe, or Evelino, or Armando. Both Atti and Amado, as Pasolini tells us in his preface, are also confessions of his own homosexuality. The "difficult questions" to which Pasolini refers are probably the cause of their thirtyyear delay in publication. To read the text, though, as a shocking narrative of gay confessions seems to me both inaccurate and reductive. For one thing, there is nothing in the text that would shock even the most uptight of contemporary readers. Indeed, to a great extent, Atti is less about homosexuality, if by that we mean an already codified set of sexual practices, than about a prephallic, androgynous pansexuality, a stage prior to entry into the sym­ bolic order. The book tells of an imaginary stage made up of sweet kisses and warm embraces between a slightly older partner and a number of young boys, or, as Pasolini often calls them here, "angels." Alberto Arbasino and Nico Naldini have both sought to define a broader, perhaps surprising, historical context for these two texts. In his review "Peccati e brillantina" (Sins and haircream), Arbasino maps out the social space for bisexuality which existed in the Italy of army-barracks towns and in postwar Rome. Today's strict codification of gayness into clothes, spaces, patterns of be­ havior, topics of conversation, he writes, marks the "end of indi­ vidual originality, of regional characteristics, of local flavor."6 Naldini, who is Pasolini's cousin and attended the school in which Pasolini and his mother taught, evokes "the great homo­ sexual phantasm of our youth." Today, on the other hand, the situation has changed dramatically: "The erotic energy of the peasant world was all around us in the form of innumerable phys­ ical apparitions, each with an aesthetic individuality like unique pieces of natural art . . . it is no longer with us, objectively it is no longer there, it has disappeared.

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Rather than an already named and codified homosexuality, the sexuality of the encounters among males we find in Atti has not yet been deflected into definable categories. That moment of definition cannot, however, be deferred indefinitely and when it comes, when what we conventionally call an "adult" sexuality emerges, the spell is broken: the pansexuality of the prephallic falls now into distinct categories that can be labeled hetero- or homo- or bisexuality. The joy and vitality of both Atti and Amado, which make for such an invigorating reading experience, are found in the pages where we are granted entry into Paolo's and Desiderio's private worlds of infatuations, courtships, kisses, and cuddles, often unrequited, almost always unconsummated loves for their adolescent beloveds. On the evidence of the two early Friulan novels, Pasolini might have called this stage of prephallic sexuality pure joy and happiness. It is in this sense that we could best call this innocent, playful sexuality, freed from names and categories, freed from the separation of the sexes, by another term that here takes on its broadest meaning: gayness. Inevitably, the spell gets broken in a number of ways: by the arrival on the scene of a wounded Partisan fleeing from the Nazis (a displaced version of Guido, Pasolini's younger brother, who was to die in the Resistance), whose blood and agony come from a historical and political world that lies beyond the village of Castiglione and Friuli; and by Dina, a woman who falls in love with Paolo. The text accompanies the breaking of the spell by a switch from metaphors of virginity to metaphors of aridity and desertification. Dina's infatuation with Paolo is, on one level, the invasion of an external conventional reality, here figured as heterosexuality, into the world of an only loosely codified sexuality. Yet, at another level, Paolo's rejection of her advances also acts as an anticipation of the far more political use to which Pasolini was later to put his own homosexuality: as an emblem of nonbelonging. Or better: as an emblem of his own refusal to belong to any one of the sexual categories sanctioned by conventional mores, including that space that was to be opened up in the 1960s and 1970s by the Gay Liberation Movement. This is perhaps an appropriate time to spend a word on the political role Pasolini assigns homosexuality. Actually, as I men­ tioned earlier, in the entirety of Pasolini's artistic career, codified homosexuality does not act as a disruptive force. Rather, sexuality in general, a sexuality freed of conventional ties to institutions and societal norms, performs this function. In the film Teorema,



perhaps Pasolini's strongest affirmation of the disruptive power of an uncodified sexuality, the nameless outsider, played by the British actor Terence Stamp, belongs to none of the conventional sexual categories: he is at one and the same time both homo- and heterosexual, neither homo- nor heterosexual, something more than bisexual. The use to which Pasolini puts both his own homo­ sexuality and the representation of the pansexuality of Atti is bet­ ter understood, I think, as a metaphor, or as Gerald H. Storzer puts it, as a "paradigm," for that kind of sexuality, as yet undisci­ plined and uncategorized, that melts the glue with which societal norms are held together and acts as a lever to put pressure on the weak links of social systems, on their points of least resistance.8 For Pasolini, the political valence of homosexuality is contin­ gent on its ability to resist being included in societal codes and practices, even those codes and practices elaborated by the gay community itself. Pasolini's deeply held suspicion is that any con­ tact with conventional systems of codes and practices will empty homosexuality of the essential otherness that is its true political force. Homosexuality, then, can only be "useful" if it destroys society's existing codes and norms, not if it contributes to an expansion of those norms in the direction of a greater tolerance. Pasolini was convinced that any tolerance shown by bourgeois society to those who contest its norms was purely nominal, a hypocritical sham. Arguing against those movements that aim to integrate the outsider into society, Pasolini is at his most radical and integralist. Homosexuality should not allow itself to be out­ manoeuvred and used as a pretext to claim tolerance by what can only be, in Pasolini's view a falsely tolerant bourgeois society. We get a glimpse of this stance in Pasolini's response in August 1968 to the case of Aldo Braibanti, a gay, ex-Partisan professor of phi­ losophy, accused of plagiarizing a younger lover. The case soon gained notoriety as the judge's heavy sentence and invocation of a previously never-applied Fascist norm exposed the homophobia that underlay the whole scandal. In the course of the ensuing national debate, two participants, Alberto Dall'Ora and Enzo Forcella, spoke of Braibanti as a "sick man" and a "sick man who can be cured."9 Pasolini intervenes on this last point. If the sick man is to be recuperated, he asks, into what is he to be recuper­ ated and at what cost? Into existing society, he answers, at the cost of conforming to that society and becoming useful to it. O f the Braibanti case, he writes that society allows homosexuals to "come out of the ghetto only insofar as they can somehow be utilized by society."10 As we shall see in Pasolini's Roman novels,

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when his characters become useful to society, they meet their deaths. For Pasolini, whenever sexuality is classified into hetero- or homosexual categories, that is always a moment of loss. In Amado, we find an example of how an external "grown-up," heterosexual sexuality vulgarizes and breaks the magic of the adolescent syn­ thesis. In the following passage, Desiderio, has gone down to the river with his friend Gil to find Iasis, the boy with whom he is in love: But that day on the banks of the Tagliamento . . . there was a nasty surprise for the two friends. . . . Thirty or so boys, including all their friends, were standing around listening to what a group of four boys, who no-one had ever seen before, had to say. From how they spoke it wasn't difficult to understand that they were from the correctional center, in San Vito, the biggest village in the area. It was also clear from their vulgar manner and the way they made fun of the others, that once they had arrived at Marzins they had immediately imposed themselves on the entire "beach/' and they, the outsiders, had taken over the poor natives, who with unbounded admiration were all ears in listening to them. One of them especially gave the impression of having installed him­ self on the beach as if it was his unquestionable right to be considered the head of the whole company. So much so that Desiderio tacitly baptized him "Emperor of the Place." . . . At that time the boys, and above all the Emperor of the Place . . . were making fun of the younger kids, who had gathered around the edges of the group straining to hear. A little earlier, in fact, they had been speaking of a certain miraculous potion which when taken was supposed to satisfy all carnal desire. "What an invention," the Emperor said, "I need a glass of that right now. This dick of mine doesn't give me a second's peace. There's not a single woman that I don't want to have. I have to go to the brothel every day. What I wouldn't give to have a month's peace. When you're walking along the street, or you're at work, or with your friends, it's always there, and that's that. (161-62) The "city" boys who invade the protected space of Desiderio and his friends bring with them a new vulgar four-letter word sexuality which has an enormous attraction for the village boys. Although the passage from innocence to experience is presented as an inevitable stage in development, as the attraction of a differ­ ence, this episode also acts as a reverse gloss on two important



aspects of Atti: namely, the text's resistance to the symbolic order that the Emperor, the maker of the law brings; and, at another level, its resistance to the conventions of narrative structure. The question of "having" sex, which the Emperor's remarks raise, is also one which torments Paolo, though for entirely differ­ ent reasons. The rapture of Paolo's relationships with his beloveds lasts until the relationship is consummated, until, that is, he "has" the boy possesses him. The rapture lasts until and includes the first time and then rapidly degenerates. Paolo's first love in Atti is called Bruno, a boy of plebean origin— "a little animal-like" (46)— with whom he loses his virginity. Bruno introduces Paolo to a different and new sexual order, which is as wonderful as it is short-lived. Before meeting Bruno, for Paolo "boys had basically been until then sexless Angels: I had never seen them" (47). Paolo's first time with Bruno is a miraculous experience. It trans­ ports him into a new and wonderful world to which he had thought he could never belong: "The spell was broken: the mir­ acle had happened even for me, the miracle I had thought would always be denied m e" (48). Elsewhere the same first time with Bruno is described in the following terms: "That was my first love rendezvous. No-one who has a so-called normal existence can imagine the miraculous sense I gave to what was happening to me. I really felt a sense of the Incredible split into two different moments" (52-53). And once more, this description of Paolo's first time with Bruno: "It was perhaps this move that made me lose my head so that my desire, when we finally lay down between two thick bushes, could free itself of its self-consciousness, and I was almost able to experience the plenitude of letting myself go" (54). When the act is repeated, however, its miraculous quality quickly dissolves. As their affair goes on, soon Paolo and Bruno's lovemaking is "without the slightest love" (49); and a little later when they try to begin the affair again the sex between them is "precarious and difficult, a real disappointment" (49). It is at this point that the metaphors of aridity and desertification take over from those of virginity. In the last section of the text Paolo gives this afterview of the joys of his now lost adolescence: "But in '43, still a virgin in body, not fully aware of myself, I had been able to stage a play, go looking for something outside or inside me. Now I am a completely explored desert, I am all consciousness: there's no longer any way to save me" (120). In this quotation we find clues to the real terms of Pasolini's valorization of virginity. Virginity is the equivalent of the possibil­

2: The Friulan Novels


ity of discovery, of exploration, of finding something new, some­ thing not yet known. The theatrical metaphor ("stage a play") within the major metaphor of virginity alerts us to the previous uses of the same figure in Atti. On the one hand, as above, the staging of oneself, understanding oneself as other, is part of the creative process of self-discovery that a continued state of virgin­ ity makes possible; on the other hand, when Paolo rejects Dina's amorous advances, he recites a false part that has already been scripted: "I behaved with her like a character in a play who al­ ready knows his future" (22). The references to the theater also call to mind the play— 1 faticiulli e gli elfi (The children and the elves)— Paolo writes and stages with his schoolchildren, in which he plays the part of Oreo, the bad father. To be sure, we can read Oreo as a surrogate for Pasol­ ini's own inability to deal with his sexuality, just as we could read the play's duel between the good uncle-figure and the bad fatherfigure as a sign of a more complicated inner torment. On the other hand, the events of the play itself—some boys rescue the elves from their father by revealing to them a good world which can be reached through play— also point to the same kind of reversal that other sections of Atti suggest: the reestablishment of a state of virginity. To see how this happens we need to go back to Bruno. The relationship Paolo and Bruno have soon deteriorates after the miracle of their glorious first time and they begin to drift apart. As Paolo observes Bruno, now from a distance, he sees "the secret reestablish itself: the secret of sex as 'innocent beauty,' the secret of a distracted virility, peopled by idols that enchanted it in a world totally different from the one of my love" (49). Bruno here, it seems, recovers his virginity and with it the possibility of once again experiencing the marvel of another first time ("the secret reestablish itself: the secret of sex as 'innocent beauty"'). Paolo, however, is now irredeemably excluded from this process ("a world totally different from the one of my love"). In other words, Bruno remains part of a cyclical regenerative process which, as it were, renews itself and allows him to reconstitute the virginity he lost in the course of an earlier cycle and thus opens up the possibility of a new start, another first time; Paolo, on the other hand, is trapped in a linear process which, his virginity lost once and for all, precludes any possibility of renewal and starting again. Paolo, though, resists, insofar as he can, the linear process by attempting to recreate in his various encounters with his be­ loveds the sense of discovery he had had during that glorious first



time with Bruno. The series of boys to whom Paolo is attracted is less a sign of promiscuity on his part than a sign of his ongoing, and increasingly desperate attempts, to find a way of experienc­ ing once again the magic moment of another first time with a different bey. But Paolo also knows that the first time simultaneously marks a beginning and an end. Paolo both desires and fears the experi­ ence of the first time because he knows that once experienced it can never be repeated. In his first meetings with Nisiuti he is both "burning with desire to have him" (93), and struck by the "terror of never being able to have him" (74). But as Paolo gets ever more curious to experience the mystery of the boy's sex, and as his initial sweet kisses on the cheeks turn into passionate kisses with the tongue, and the hand that had softly embraced Nisiuti's face now explores between his legs, he begins to figure himself as a Satan, an evil tempter; "[Nisiuti] felt . . . the weight of my evil" (93). Atti's editor, Concetta d'Angeli, has made the text, which still may seem erratically disjointed, much more coherent than the original manuscript. In Pasolini's original, there were far more boys than now appear in the published text. Working on the prin­ ciple that the many names refer to the same group of four or five boys, the editor has done bemused readers an undoubted service by standardizing the names originally given to the Friulan boys who people Pasolini's original manuscript. There is, however, a price to be paid for this textual cohesion. We lose sight, for exam­ ple, of the extent to which the giving of new names to what is probably a relatively small number of boys is part of Pasolini's same project to recreate a state of virginity. By renaming the boys, Paolo attempts to recreate them as new selves with new possibili­ ties of starting again. Both Atti and Amado give us examples of reconstituted virginit­ ies, of new starts. O f Nisiuti, who also partakes of the cyclical order to which Bruno belongs, Paolo says: "he had once again started loving me with the intensity and virginity of before" (91). And of his friendship with Benito (who shares Mussolini's first name) in Amado, whom Desiderio renames Iasls (but not, it seems, for political reasons), we learn: "it still had the virginity of that first Sunday" (145). Extending a metaphoric state of virgin­ ity far beyond the moment of its actual loss is a process that cannot be infinitely sustained, of course, and the narrative voice of Atti, commenting in his diary some three years later on the events of 1943 and 1944, the sections that open and close the text,

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is one of a defeated self, unreconciled to his position in a desert of time where starting again is no longer feasible. From this standpoint, Amado appears to be less pessimistic than Atti. In the course of the former text we find a number of rebirths, all concerning the on-off Desiderio/Iasls affair, which are entirely similar to the attempts at reconstituting a state of virginity we have followed in Atti. For example, when Desiderio sees Iasis again after a long absence, their meeting is "like a resurrection, clear skies after the storm" (170). Such rebirths are predicated either on absence or abstinence (or both), or on death. All three conditions prepare the way for a new beginning, but it is perhaps the death of the old that gets privileged in Amado. This is the sense of the scene in the Caorle movie theater. Before it can be reborn, the love Desiderio and Iasis feel for each other must die a brutal death on a nearby beach, where a recent tide has de­ posited "an enormous and disgusting tip . . . bodies of dogs, of cats, of birds, unrecognizable carcasses, bleached skeletons that shone like silk or silver under the sun" (186). The outdoor movie theater, where their love reblossoms, is a place of ambivalence: an escape from the death of the garbage tip and a return to a time when the contours of things have not yet been definitively drawn. The scene itself is situated between the vibrant reality of the crowd screaming vulgarities at Rita Hayworth, who as Gilda, slipping off her long glove, sings "Amado mio": "that indigenous, collective and almost folkloristic eroticism, that breaks down and refracts itself in the crowd of unknown people dressed for the festa as if in a prism" (191); and the flickering "reality" of the screen in the form of Gilda, her breasts like "a whore's and a sister's— ambiguous and angelic— stupid and mysterious" (192). Amid this ambiguity where sisters cannot be distinguished from whores, the love of Desiderio and Iasis reaches a new "sweet climax" (192). This happy ending, however, is less definitive than it seems. The final lines of Amado are given over not as one might expect to Iasis but to a new boy, Armando. Previously we have learned that there are two distinct races of boy in the village of Caorle: "one blond, with a halo of golden hair, short profile, the face already delightfully somewhat lined; the other brown haired, a big head, a round badly designed mouth. . ." (191). Iasis belongs to the second group, Armando to the first: "He belonged to Caorle's brown-haired type, with his big head, fleshy mouth . . . a real wild boy" (192-93). Armando, then, is something new, the other side of Iasis, everything the blond boy is not. The new



beginning, the rebirth on which Amado closes focuses not so much on Desiderio's newly reborn love for Iasls, as on Armando. We can surmise that Desiderio's love for Iasis is likely to go the way of other consummated loves and degenerate into a series of repeated and loveless sexual encounters, as happens in the final section of Atti with Bruno, as well as Severino and Donnino, the other boys with whom Paolo attempts to start again. Rather than with Iasls, Amado suggests that it is with Armando, to whom Desiderio promises he will return the next summer, that the more authentic new beginning will be forged. Armando is a promise of new experience, a "summer night" in the movie theater "that made Desiderio's heart bleed for all the unseen Sum­ mers" (191). It is on the as-yet-unfulfilled promise of Armando, and not on the already fulfilled promise of Iasis that the final lines of Amado focus as Desiderio makes his return to "the inside of one of those stupendous Caorle houses which look like an embroidered mosaic" (194). Amado closes, then, on a picture of the unpossessed Armando, whose possession is deferred into the as-yet-undisclosed future of next summer's balmy nights. In other words, the possibility of Desiderio possessing Armando is kept alive by the temporal deferment of that possession. Possession, then, remains at arm's length, on the horizon of expectancy. Near enough to arouse De­ siderio's thirst, distant enough to not quench it prematurely. Parallel to the exploration that Atti and Amado conduct into the area of a nonpossessive sexual practice, we find an equally intense exploration into the possibility of a nonpossessive narrative prac­ tice. It could be said that Paolo's attempts to reestablish a state of virginity and Desiderio's attempts to start again are matched by both texts' attempts to elaborate what I shall term a virgin narra­ tive. By this I mean a nonpossessive narrative order that, on the one hand, performs the conventional function of narrative by gathering up events into coherent wholes, but which, on the other, avoids possessing or violating the events it organizes and leaves their integrity intact. As we shall see, in their attempts to elaborate such a narrative practice, both texts continually criss­ cross the thin line that divides narrative's epistemological and performative functions. By epistemological function I mean narra­ tive's ability to draw sense from discreet, unprocessed events by ordering them into a string of coherent causally related events; by performative function I mean narrative's ability to create mean­ ing and "make something happen in the real world."11 The ideal

2: The Friulan Newels


narrative form that I believe both Atti and Amado work toward combines the rigor of narrative's epistemological function with the creativity of its performative function. Narrative's epistemological function is of interest to Pasolini because it grounds his daily experiences of the Friuli he recounts in a lived and known reality; on the other hand, he is aware that in giving events order by having them conform to preestablished interpretive schemes the unique and unprecedented nature of those events gets lost. This is why narrative's performative function is of interest. As an es­ sentially creative moment, it gives Pasolini the chance to experi­ ment with those new, untried narrative forms that would do better justice to the unique nature of his Friuli experience than the tried and tested forms of conventional narrative. Yet, he is also aware that by "creating" the events of Friuli he risks losing the sense of their lived reality, their ontological specificity. Atti then, can be seen as one of Pasolini's early attempts to negotiate his way around these twin functions of narrative form. An example of the ideal narrative is supplied by the stuttering peasant Mariano, husband of Ilde, the couple in whose house Paolo and his mother lodge. Ilde and Mariano are the ideal and idealized happy couple of Atti. Finn presences, salts of the earth, they are "immersed in things" (65), their lives in perfect step with the rhythms of the seasons. Mariano tells a story which, significantly, we never get to hear, a story of such delicacy that it verges on the untellable, an experience which strikes the narrator so deeply that to remember its details would be to destroy its diaphanous whole. Mariano's is a story that "ends" only when language— with the dots that follow "repeat it," "fields," and "ahead of him"— consigns itself to silence: The most beautiful things were the stories Mariano told us. . . . I'll never forget a story he told my mother, Nisiuti and I one evening while we were sitting on the step under a sky peppered with summer stars: how did the story go? so diaphanous and soft on the lips that it's impossible to repeat i t . . . an owl which went "plop-plop" under the moon in the fields . . . Mariano, in who knows what evening of his youth, going along the Boreana road on a cart and, at the end, a little bird (wren? a titmouse?), mysteriously following him, now flying around him, now ahead of him. . . . (65) Idealized and sentimental as this moment may appear, it also acts as a model narrative toward which the many experimenta­ tions of Atti aim. The text's many narrative explorations set out, as it were, to try to fill the spaces that the dots in Mariano's story



leave blank. The fragmentary nature of the entire text acts as an immediate clue to the many forays into the world of narrative technique the text makes. The critics who found fault with the chronological inconsistencies of Ragazzi di vita (The Ragazzi, 1955), Pasolini's first Roman novel, would have had a field day with this text. Schematically, it is organized in the following way: two sections, the first and the last, written in diary format prob­ ably after the six central sections, which tell the stories of Paolo, Bruno, Gianni, Nisiuti, Dina, etc. Thus: Section 1: Dated May 1946, it describes the events of spring and sum­ mer 1945: Nisiuti, his illness, and Dina; Section 2: Undated, it describes the events of June and July 1945: Nisiuti and Dina, Paolo's school play; Section 3: Undated, it describes the events of January to May 1943 and the summer of that year: Bruno and Paolo lose their virginity; Section 4: Undated, autumn 1945: Nisiuti and Gianni; Section 5: Undated, March (1945?): Nisiuti and Gianni; Section 6: Undated, March (1945?): Nisiuti and Gianni; Section 7: Undated, August 1944-April 1945: Nisiuti and Dina; Section 8: Dated February and November 1947, events of spring 1945: Nisiuti, Severino, Donnino. Different in tone and content from the six central sections, the diary entries that open and close the text mark the failure of the narrative project. Paolo's love for Nisiuti has by now degenerated into "an invisible monster" (15). The voice we hear now is far more alienated, wracked with guilt for having deceived Dina and corrupted Nisiuti, of whose recent illness Paolo considers himself the cause. Indeed, at no other stage in Atti does Paolo's sense of guilt about his own sexuality take on such violent and self-hating tones. Nisiuti's illness becomes a kind of divine retribution, a plague visited on him as punishment for the sins Paolo has inflicted. With this acute sense of guilt we also find a massive emphasis on the passing of time and death. Section 8, for example, opens thus: "I'm 25 years old, the age at which Gozzano said good-bye to his youth. It's three years since I first saw Nisiuti on the bridge over the Vila, two and a half since he gave himself to me in that terrible shack, more than a year since I dared think for the first time that my love had ended. . . . Evening is already ap­ proaching. Viluta is empty. My mother has gone to the cemetery" (110). Time is now perceived as the process by which the years, months, and days succeed one another on their way to death. In

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contrast, the heyday of Paolo and Nisiuti's love is an eternal pres­ ent, regulated by the cycle of the seasons, in which Nisiuti re­ mains "an angefic body, brought close to me by an inexplicable and amazing fate" (122), a present in which "only the two of us exist, us and our unending dialogue" (122). Theirs is a dialogue that exceeds the normal boundaries of language: "an unending, surprising discourse" (123), and becomes pure expression: "our words lost all sense, they became pure song, pure promise" (122).12 Paolo and Nisiuti's love is experienced so intensely that it pro­ vokes a crisis of representation. The failure that these concluding pages mark is the failure to tell the story of this love, to "capture" it in language: "What Nisiuti felt in those moments is very clear to me although it's impossible for me to express it" (123). To ex­ press this love in language would be to reduce it to an ordinary, everyday thing, to deform and humiliate it. As the following pas­ sage suggests, to commit their love to language would be to bind the boundless: In the Spring of '45 there was not a single minute that was not taken up by him, his image or his body. Even in the rare moments in which my mind was elsewhere and I didn't think about him directly, I lived in a state of wonder, of naked expectation. But then I would never have dared speak or write of my love: I believed it immobile and boundless. Now that I humiliate it by speaking about it I see how human, earthly, even predictable it was, even though it remains in the past, to the back of me like an island of light. (120) To know this love as other, to possess it in language, to have it, as it were, and confine it within narrative structures is at the same time to lose it: "O f course, knowing it all, knowing it to be mine, takes away from love the delirious desire of the first months, and gives it an affectionate and fraternal tone" (121). Memory also becomes a deforming lens: the act of recalling those halcyon days has something of the monstrous about it, a prison house which not only separates the remembering/writing self from those days but makes a travesty of the experience at the very moment it is evoked. The crisis and limit of representa­ tion is that it is a deathly, negative act that destroys the unique­ ness of the moments it describes, rendering it vague, lifeless, unremarkable: Now from this autumnal prison . . . is it not illicit and monstrous to think back to my amorous adventures not as part of myself and lost


A POETICS OF RESISTANCE in the perfumed vistas of an old Spring? But I have decided to write today of the happiest period of my life; in my spontaneous memory it gets confused with the innocent splendor of the moon that drank in the fields between San Pietro and Viluta. This memory is the most deformed one of all my affair with Nisiuti; I couldn't say if those evening walks happened before . . . or after May. I no longer remem­ ber if they were repeated often or just three or four times; nor do I recall if Nisiuti had already been mine or not. . . . (121)

Failures or not, the series of narrative experiments that the six central sections contain nevertheless make for by far the most exhilarating reading. It is in these sections that we find the vitality of the text rather than in the opening or closing sections. On a number of occasions the text can be seen groping its way toward an as yet undefined and untried narrative form. Section 7, for example, opens with three attempts, which are set off in quota­ tion marks, to describe the landscape around Castiglione. Here the narrative voice breaks off its description to comment on its own discovery of le mot juste; "sparkle": "O n those mornings everything sparkled; ah, what a heart-rendering and absolute meaning that verb had for me!" (95). Later in the same section we find more false starts, this time concerning Nisiuti, once again marking the crisis of representa­ tion that he provokes. One of the false starts reads: "T f I look him in the face, my senses drown in that mortal rose color. . . . I don't want to die as long as this body seems a dream to me. . . / The 'rose' that Nisiuti is to me is all a part of my life, delicate, inexpressible" (99). The search for modes of representation ade­ quate to Nisiuti's mystery spills over into other fields, drawing and music. In the same section, Paolo's sudden decision to dedi­ cate himself to the latter is dictated by the need to find an ade­ quate form to express "the wrathful pathetic song of the nightingale, full of pauses" (104). The standard terminology and tonalities of music are unable to give voice to the "pathetic sweet­ ness . . . this exasperating ingenuousness . . . this order in the midst of passion" (105) he hears in the nightingale's song. What is needed, Paolo says, is a formal revolution within music itself, a new language and set of terms better able to approximate the secret tones of the nightingale: "I would change all the terminol­ ogy. Instead of Adagio, Allegretto, with Brio etc., I would invent new names. Here, for example, Tormented . . . Languishing . . . with Brutality. . . . I would bring in new 'out of tune' notes and I would invent new signs for them" (105). And in a similar move

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toward a new, untried form, in Amado Desiderio tries to capture Benito, his beloved, this time on a sketch pad. As we have seen, Nisiuti represents a gauntlet thrown down to the representational capacity of language that the text takes up a s an aesthetic challenge. Once again the question of possession is crucial. At times the narrator himself possesses Nisiuti, invades his consciousness, interprets him, and speaks on his behalf. In this example, the verbs "understood," "dared," and "felt" (which I have underlined) all come from a narrator who superimposes them on Nisiuti's consciousness as his own interpretation of the boy's thinking process: He was not able to take his eyes off me while I was conversing with his family: and although he wasn't part of those conversations he understood that he was tied to me by something special, an attention, a curiosity, almost a complicity that the others didn't even notice. Although he didn't dare even consider the thought, he felt that among his brothers, cousins and other boys from Viluta I had a special look for him which was charged with protection and sympathy. (77) In the course of the text, however, there are other experiments in narrative that point to a less heavy-handed and possessive practice. The quotation below is what seems to me Atti's most successful experiment at elaborating a narrative order that gathers together discreet events into a comprehensible series of causal relations, yet avoids preinterpreting events by imposing an exter­ nal order of its own. The following long passage is set in Ilde and Mariano's house, where Paolo and his mother have rented a room above the kitchen, from where Paolo listens to and smells the sounds and odors emanating through the floorboards from below: The dialogues between Gianni and Dde were works of art. I didn't miss one of them because, as I've said, our room was above the kitchen and the floor was so uneven that in many places it was possi­ ble to push your whole arm down through the gap. In the morning while I was still buried in the torpor of my bed and the work of my brain had led me to obsessive details, Gianni came into the kitchen shouting. Every morning he had something to laugh about with that limpid but also slightly malicious gayness of his. I first heard his fresh, agitated but still fragile words in the courtyard full of light; then, with a push the door opened and those words now approaching my ears came over me like a light hail storm. His chattering was counterpointed by the false wisdom of Ilde who, while never aban­ doning her teacher-like tone, could also never resist for long the temp­


A POETICS OF RESISTANCE tation to lapse into a childish tantrum: (Ilde was a child). As I was saying, his chatter filled the kitchen underneath and filled me, invisi­ ble, like a rain of petals and silver clusters. His voice drew for me a sharp picture of him, as if immersed in a morning shower, where his gestures were those of a swimmer. Then, suddenly, the breeze of his words mixed with his laugh dropped away: he had gone out. Immediately he came back in preceded by a cry of wonder, this time accompanied by the dry and terse sound of a spoon against the inside of a saucepan, or by knives rattling together in the drawer which had been opened by the violence of the child's hand. In the meantime, through the cracks in the floor came the pungent and fabulous aroma of the morning fire that Ilde was stoking among the sighs of the iron chains hitting one another discourteously Other unmistakable noises announced that the milk had boiled, and in fact Gianni fell silent as he poured it out for himself with the ladle while at the same time emitting one or two tenuous cries when the milk burned his fingers. I heard his spoon hit against the ribbed bottom of the dish and the chair move under his knees as he ate. . . . After pushing the ladle away from him, which left a wake of noise behind it on the table that for me was both painful and distant, Gianni went out, perhaps for good. A leaden curtain fell on his excited conversation, on his un­ couth wonders which together with the smoke of day break had in­ sinuated itself into my room along with echoes of who knows which shining exotic mornings, sung by roosters lost in chicken runs in­ vaded by the perfume of cyclamens. That tender and arresting aroma disappeared the moment the door closed on Gianni, whose no less playful expressions languished now in the high sun of the morning. Something else attracted him and I heard his steps go toward a point distant from me and almost out of my imagination. (57-58)

This whole wonderful passage, in which Pasolini struggles to commit the totality of the experience he has witnessed into lan­ guage, is played out on the simultaneous presence and absence of its referents: Ilde, Gianni, and the morning ritual in the kitchen below. Shielded from first-hand access to what is happening be­ low by the floorboards, Paolo nevertheless has contact with those events through the sounds and smells that reach him through the cracks. It is on the basis of what he hears and sees, combined with what he already knows and expects, that Paolo constructs his narrative of Gianni's entrances and exits, the boiling and pour­ ing of the milk, breakfast, etc. Gianni, then, is both absent and present: present enough to be the recognizable referent of Paolo's narrative; but also absent insofar as he is invisible, not entirely present to Paolo. It is his disembodied voice, as it comes through the cracks in the floor, that creates Paolo's picture of Gianni: "His

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voice drew for me a sharp picture of him ." It is Gianni's material absence, or perhaps the absence of his full presence, that allows Paolo to tell a story that approximates the delicate, diaphanous quality of the story that Mariano will tell later in the text. At the same time, however, the passage also suggests pitfalls of a different order. Shielded from the real Gianni in flesh and blood below, the "Gianni" Paolo's narrative creates seems to take on an existence independent of the real one. Similarly, later in the text, Paolo imagines the absent Nisiuti at work in the fields: "He bent down to fix the pump or to do some other unexpected job. From my balcony I imagined him in that gesture, in his greenblue tunic, bending down" (97). Although in both cases the ac­ tions Paolo matches to the sounds, smells, and images that filter through to him are guided by plausibility, by experience, and by what he knoivs of the daily actions of Nisiuti and Gianni, these two passages point to a dimension of narrative that we have not yet encountered: the performative. Up until now my analysis of Atti has been concerned with the negative side of the epistemological dimension of narrative, how once something is "known" or possessed through narrative ordering it loses its mystery. We now meet the other side of the coin: the possibility that narrative might create or perform events, that "Gianni" and "Nisiuti," far from characters out of Paolo's history, might be creatures of Paolo's narrative. Two of the metaphors on which Paolo draws to narrate the events below in the kitchen suggest that what is happening is a performance. The first is a metaphor drawn from the theater: when Gianni goes out the leaden curtain falls; the second is from music: Ilde's false wisdom counterpoints Gianni's chatter. In both of the last examples a gap either temporal or spatial is opened up between the narrating subject and the objects of its narration: Gianni and Nisiuti. It is precisely this gap which Paolo's narrative fills and which makes a nonpossessive narrative mode possible. But it is also this gap between text and referent that pushes the narrative into a new performative domain. This is not to say that Gianni and Nisiuti are mere creatures of a selfreferential text. For one thing, Paolo's narrative stops when the curtain comes down and Gianni, the text's referent, goes out of earshot. Without Gianni present in some guise the text cannot go on. Nevertheless, the question of the epistemological status of the narratives that Atti produces is one which the text itself debates. Indeed, on closer analysis we can find shifts in emphasis within the text to and fro between epistemological and performative functions. In one case, on the same page, there are critiques of



both functions. The text bemoans the epistemological shortcom­ ings of narrative because it impoverishes the intensity of events: 'T h ere is such a sense of the absolute and the unique in our friendship that by going back to it I would risk wasting the de­ tails" (18); however, a few lines earlier, we are alerted to the short­ comings of narrative's performative function. Here Paolo, reflecting on the distorting power of memory, asks himself if what he has just remembered is representation or performance: "I knew I was dreaming. I still think of that radiant perfume, of the inex­ pressible perfection of those branches and of those rose bushes. I was at Gradisca, then; in the house where I lived when I was nine years old. Is it memory that has made it so happy?" (18). The major difference between Atti and Amado is the latter text's acknowledgment of the dangers of the performative dimension of narrative and consequent attempts to control it. Amado is far more of a metaliterary experience than Atti: almost every page is peppered with quotations, references, literary and film allusions to Gide, Goethe, Tommaseo, Kafka, Dostoyevsky, Nievo, Eliot, Augustine, Petrarca, and even Rita Hayworth, to name only the best known. The series of literary allusions plunges Desiderio's experience into an already mediated world of previous textualizations. Unlike Atti, where Paolo struggles to find adequate lan­ guage to express himself and write his own story, Amado shows the experiences of the protagonist as aligned alongside those of past authors whose texts interpret Desiderio. In other words, by saying "this formulation of experience is like my experience," De­ siderio finds already-made narratives that allow him to know and express himself. Amado, then, is very much an intertextual project whose many literary allusions act as a frame within which Desid­ erio constructs his own narrative. The very last lines of Atti already hint at the turn that Amado will take. The text closes with two quotations from the poet Ugo Foscolo: "Guilt is purified by the fire of passion, and modesty embellishes the confession of lust" and "As soon as passion be­ gins to take on the omnipotence of fate, and behaves as if it were the only divinity of life, all traces of indecency, infamy and guilt fade away" (125). Both quotations have a reassuring function. They act as authoritative statements which put passion in a good light and absolve guilt. They place Paolo's own strong sense of guilt in a wider, shared context, giving it a dignity and justifica­ tion that the text he had attempted to write had been unable to give him (or so Paolo seems to fear). Amado goes further in this direction. Its many literary allusions are designed to create a his­

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tory or background against which the specifics of Desiderio's ex­ perience will seem less unique and, therefore, more easily narrated through those previous texts. In Amado the most striking literary presences are those of St. Augustine and Francesco Petrarch, even if the latter is never men­ tioned by name. Chapter 3, for example, contains a replay of the experience Petrarch narrates in "The Ascent of Mont Ventoux." In place of Francesco's favorite text, St. Augustine's Confessions, which he carried everywhere with him, Desiderio carries his Tommaseo. Just as Francesco opens the text at random and finds a passage that miraculously interprets him (as Augustine had done previously on opening Paul's Epistles and finding an equally miraculous passage which led him to conversion), so Desiderio's eyes fall on verses that seem to encapsulate him entirely: "Those verses seemed made with the special purpose of moving him about his own unhappiness with greater abandon. They were the sobs of his crying, sudden discoveries of the immensity, but also the beauty, of pain" (166). From Augustine (and before him, Alypius) on to Petrarch and Desiderio, we have a quotation of a quotation of a quotation, within whose authoritative boundaries Desiderio places his own narrative.13 I am no longer alone, he appears to be saying; these illustrious people have been here before me. The many references to literary texts, in fact, construct a precursorship which legiti­ mates and sanctions his entire project. Nowhere is this clearer than in the role that Petrarch plays as guarantor of Amadcfs per­ formative poetics, those moments, which as we have observed in Atti, when the text creates its own world. If, as in the passage I have quoted above, Petrarch is present as an allusion, he is equally present as the precursor and guarantor of the poetics of absence which the following passage illustrates. Here, in a passage punc­ tuated by question marks, Desiderio, after recalling a section from Augustine's Confessions, figures himself as a novelist who tells the story of the absent Iasis (just as Paolo had done with Gianni in Atti): And in the meanwhile as an inventor of a novel full of happenings, silent sacrifices, heroic decisions, he flew with his imagination into His kitchen, where everyone was eating among a gang of delicious younger (?) brothers, a winged sister (?) and a father who had just come back drunk from a game of bocce (?). At the back of the kitchen was the black, grey fireplace, older than a church; over there, the cupboard with two dozen photos stuck in the glass: dead relatives


A POETICS OF RESISTANCE with moustaches and living relatives in their Sunday best, friends of the sister with bulging breasts and out of place hats, the cousin who was a soldier in the Bersaglieri and a group of conscripts. Will they eat in an orderly manner or will it be a place of confusion? The second hypothesis is more likely: the sister, who lives on air, is in her room where she is trafficking with certain ideas that run through her head, the little brothers eat with the ladle on their knees, some on the steps, others outside in the courtyard; a twelve-year old (oh heaven!) is eat­ ing next to Him, on the long bare table with the sacramental salad bowl in the middle, and the black pitcher toward which the little ones reach because they too have worked with the vines and deserve some. He, the elder brother (?), is eating a little too seriously; he has his dignity to defend. He knocks back his glass of wine, and goes down into the street where his companions in their shirts are waiting for him, without asking why they are so happy, on their way with their entire soul to the festa, like fireflies on the water. (133-34)

This passage, and the one from Atti I quoted earlier, once again packed with details that stretch the grammatical bounds of lan­ guage, seem to me the high points of the experiments in narrative these texts carry out. Less about Gianni or Iasis than about the process of making narrative itself, these texts are experiments in language, explorations into the creative powers of the imagina­ tion. Both passages run the fine line between performance and epistemology, crisscrossing it continually, never settling defini­ tively on one side or the other. The equivocal status of the narra­ tive itself is signaled by the five question marks that punctuate the passage and that restore the text's provisional, interrogative status and draw it back from becoming a definitive statement. Indeed, it is from its equivocal status that the text gathers its strength and vitality. And yet Pasolini seems uneasy about allowing language the poetic autonomy that gives the above passage its resonance. A little later in the same chapter there is another strange passage, which will bring us back to the question of literary authority. If, as in the passages above, the performance is circumscribed by the familiar and the plausible, here we find a more typically Petrar­ chan moment in which the figure of Iasis is conjured out of noth­ ing by the song of the nightingale, just as Francesco had conjured up Laura out of nothing in his Rime: "But the song of the nightin­ gale was an explosion. Dragged out of his infantile laziness, out of his confusion, Desiderio found himself once again awake and face to face with Him. And he couldn't, he simply couldn't tolerate the song of that little nightingale closed in by the acacias, lost

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and ingenuously in love, that made him think of Him too much. . (135). Here, then, the poetics of absence is pushed to a new limit: Iasis is nowhere, yet he appears before Desiderio, created out of the song of the nightingale. In the Italian tradition the godfather and guarantor of such a poetics, on which all of the above quota­ tions rely, is Petrarch. Implicitly, it is to Francesco that Pasolini turns for his legitimation of a poetics that does not want to be a slave to its referents. But that turn for legitimation is also a cry for help, a sign that Pasolini is not altogether comfortable with the poetics of absence around which both Amado and Atti move. In fact, his next excursion into narrative, II sogno di urn cosa (The dream of a thing, 1963), a novel which deals at first hand with the social and political realities of postwar Friuli, will mark a return to much more traditional notions of referentiality and nar­ rative coherence.

Pasolini's Second Time: II sogno di una cosa Pasolini's second novel, Dream, is a perfect illustration of the point I made in the previous section: namely, that for Pasolini the second time is always a falling away from the glories of the first time. After the narrative experimentation of Atti and Amado, Dream comes as a deep disappointment, a sorry excuse for a novel. Gone is the energy, vitality, anxiety, and joy that the firstperson narrator brought to Atti, here replaced by a bloodless, anodyne third-person narrator severed from the flow and passion of the narrated events. If the two earlier texts had derived their interest from their series of experiments in narrative, in Dream the experiments come to a halt as the text settles into the most conventional of classical narrative modes. The most explicit pre­ cursor text for Dream is Alessandro Manzoni's I promessi sposi (The betrothed). Apart from an almost identical, detached, and omni­ scient narrative voice, we find other Manzonian echoes: peasants who are intimidated in their dealings with the authorities by their inability to express themselves in standard language; a character called Cecilia who is reduced to silence and becomes a nun; and the presence of an eternal and immovable natural backdrop against which the small-scale political and social activities of the protagonists are destined to flounder. The choice of such a conventional narrative mode seems to have been a conscious decision on Pasolini's part. The basic text



of Dream exists in earlier, much more personal and confessional redactions which reveal a different direction: one, for example, features the twin figures of a homosexual priest and a Communist party activist (whom we could choose to see as two sides of Pasol­ ini himself); another contains a section in the form of diary en­ tries made by the priest. The final redaction jettisons all this.14 But what it gains in conventionality and internal coherence it loses in tedium and predictability. The text's entry into the exter­ nal world of social and political forces, which was the main reason for its enthusiastic reception on publication, becomes little other, it seems to me, than a parody of history. The expeditions that Nini, Milio, and Eligio make into Yugoslavia in the hope of find­ ing social justice in Communism, and into Switzerland in the hope of finding work, rehearse in even more pathetic tones the well-worn Manzonian theme of innocents abroad whose fate is sealed once they take the fatal decision to distance themselves from their origins. Nor does the supposedly increased politicization of the charac­ ters ring true. The political manifestations that make up the sec­ ond half of the text are described in the same terms as the festa atmosphere of the first half; and the arguments that the peasants bring to press their case against the landowners for social justice owe more to an appeal to the common humanity both parties are assumed to share than to the emergence of any sharply defined and developed political consciousness. Against the backdrop of immovable things the attempts by the peasants to develop a politi­ cal voice with which to make their presence in the social fabric felt are seen as hubristic acts of arrogance. As an antidote to the ultimately fruitless chaos and disorder their protests provoke, the text offers the stability of a natural order whose rhythms have been crystallized into those of the village, San Giovanni, and the sound of the church bells. The peasants' protests are a temporary and insignificant interruption of something much vaster and more permanent: "In the village, however, there was a deep sense of tranquillity, almost of composure in which the steps, the voices, the songs of the striking workers seemed to drown and take on a temporary meaning hardly scratching the old peace of San Giovanni."15 And a little later, after the police have gained control over a political protest, the tolling of the church bells takes the form of a voice that comes from the very heart of things, a reminder of the fragility of all things human:

2: The Friulan Novels


At that moment the bells began to ring for the evening service, and their noise was as strong as everything all around was silent: but this was now the silence of every evening, the evenings of San Giovanni, Casarsa, San Floreano, Covaro, of all the villages around. In the inter­ vals between the tolling of the nearby bells you could hear other bells, identical to these, but strangely fragile, incomprehensible, almost magic, as if their distant stuttering came up from the heart of centu­ ries past. (150-51; 146-47) For Eligió, the character who goes furthest in the process of politicization by becoming the spokesperson for the peasants, politics is the primary cause of his downfall. In a preview of what will happen to Tommasino in Life and also anticipating the final sections of "Gram sri," Eligio's acquisition of a political voice, a consciousness that relocates him in a new world of conventions and symbols, is closely followed by his lapse into incoherence, then silence, then death: "he . . . said a few unrecognizable words . . . in truth, he didn't say anything, and mixed together a few confused syllables, with a kind of sigh or yawn, as if that effort were intolerable" (213; 204-5). Silence, this time through volun­ tary self-exile into the closed world of the nunnery, is also Cecilia's fate. But unlike the protagonists in Atti and Amado, Cecilia's vir­ ginity and silence are not so much indices of the possibility inher­ ent in first things, than of finality, of the death of things; not the beginning of an exploration into the unknown, but the renuncia­ tion of all exploration. If the natural landscape of Castiglione and the young boys Gianni and Nisiuti were the virginal blank pages on which Paolo and Desiderio could write their own stories and recreate their beloveds and their loves, Cecilia is the blank page of death, an empty space, a nonhuman presence devoid of possi­ bility, whose life has been taken over prematurely by the rhythms of death. Dream is a deeply pessimistic text which appears to offer no way out. At the other extreme from Cecilia, Pia, who is her bad other, also offers no alternative. Pia is a woman who in saying no to silence and virginity has so fully entered the world of symbols and conventions as to be totally possessed by them. In a fashion very similar to the character of Silvana in Giuseppe De Santis's Riso amaro (Bitter rice), which came out the same year Dream was written, Pia has become a product of the magazines she reads, the films she sees, the Hollywood myths she inhales. If, unlike Cecilia, she is not a void, she is a page on which a story of her times has already been written. Pia, in fact, is a caricature of the



codes she inhabits, which inhabit her and have taken her over: "O n the balcony Pia looked at him, holding Grand Hotel, with those big black eyes, open and pitiful, which seemed to say: Come on home, Lassie" (172; 168). Many of Pasolini's novels, films, and verse tragedies end in deaths of varying sorts. Dream is no exception. We find a clear parallel between the conventionality of the symbolic order and death, which will become a constant in Pasolini's work in all fields. To enter the world of conventions is at once to become victim of it, to lose oneself and one's potential for uniqueness (Pia) or to die (Eligio); to stay out of it is to consign oneself to nonbeing (Cecilia). For Pasolini, the step from the imaginary world of infinite possibility into the clearly cut world of conven­ tions and symbols is always a step in the direction of death. What makes Pasolini so controversial, especially in the Marxistdominated cultural climate of Italy in the 1960s, is that he includes the development of a political conscience in this latter category. As we have seen, Eligio is led to death by his development of the beginnings of a political consciousness. In the next chapter we will see how the same fate awaits Tommaso, the central character of Life. The concluding lines of Pasolini's poem "Gramsci" also point in this direction. They bemoan the loss of vitality, the impos­ sibility of regeneration as the price paid for the narrative voice's acquisition of a place in the course of history. Here, the narrative voice observes the inhabitants of Testaccio, one of Rome's lively proletarian quarters, from a distance that marks his separation from the rebirth of the myth that is continually enacted and reen­ acted by the subproletarians, happily losing themselves and their consciousness in the flux of life: É un brusio la vita, e questi persi in essa, la perdono serenamente, se il cuore ne hanno pieno: a godersi eccoli, miseri, la sera: e potente in essi, inermi, per essi, il mito rinasce . . . Ma io, con il cuore cosciente di chi soltanto nella storia ha vita, potrò mai più con pura passione operare, se so che la nostra storia è finita?16 (It is a dim hum, life, and those lost in it serenely lose it, if their hearts are filled with it. Here they are,

2: The Friulan Navels


the wretched enjoying the evening. And potent in them, the defenseless, through them, the myth is reborn . . . But I with the conscious heart of one who can live only in history, will I ever again be able to act with pure passion when I know our history is over?)17 Shifted into an urban setting, the self-regenerating myth ("the myth is reborn") in which the Roman subproletarians partake is a later elaboration of the same cyclical process by which the Friulan adolescents regained their virginity in Atti and Amado. There, just as here, we find a narrative voice locked into the course of history which he knows will lead to death ("if I know that our history is finished"), cut off. from the "brusio" of life, jealously observing those still privileged enough to enjoy the full-hearted passion of regeneration. Dream also bears the mark of death borne by the narrative voices of the Friulan novels and Gramsci. Dream is not only a novel about conventionality and death; it is also a text whose conventionality vis-a-vis narrative form constructs its own death mask. After this, by far the weakest of all Pasolini's prose writ­ ings, some ten years later Pasolini will put the life and selfregeneration of the Testaccio subproletarians into the urban set­ tings of his two Roman novels Ragazzi di vita (The Ragazzi) and Una vita violenta (A violent life).

3 The Roman Novels I: Ragazzi di Vita Passione e ideologia: Passion and Ideology1 There can be few figures on twentieth-century Italy's intellectual and cultural scene who have documented their artistic itinerary more fully than Pier Paolo Pasolini. In addition to his activity as poet, novelist, filmmaker, journalist, artist, etc., he also authored numerous essays and articles on many aspects of Italian and Eu­ ropean cultural life. Originally published in specialist reviews and journals, these writings have gradually been collected into vol­ umes, one of which— Passione e ideologia (Passion and ideology, 1959)— contains the essays written from 1951 to 1958, the years around the publication of his "Roman" novels Ragazzi di vita (The Ragazzi) and Una vita violenta (A violent life). As well as a critical survey of the major authors of nineteenthand twentieth-century Italian literature, Passione also serves Pasol­ ini as a pretext for a project of self-definition through which he stakes out a space for himself vis-a-vis Italy's two dominant post­ war literary movements: neorealism and posthermeticism. Many of the essays collected in Passione were originally published in Officina (Workshop), a Bologna-based literary review whose edi­ tors numbered Pasolini, Roberto Roversi, and Gianni Scalia. Writ­ ing of the Officina group, Scalia has characterized its position within Italian literary culture in the following terms: against hermeticism (and post hermetidsm). . . and against neoreal­ ism . . . against the ontology of literature . . . against, that is, the autonomy or self-sufficiency of literature, against the twentieth cen­ tury poetic "tradition" . . . but also against the ontology of "reality," against, that is, "commitment," the presumed topicality, narrowly synchronic, or better journalistic style of neorealism. . . . To reiterate the language of Officina: against the ontology of "poetry" and against the ideology of "reality."2 52

3: The Roman Novels I


For Pasolini and the entire Officina group, the limit of both neorealism and posthermctidsm lies in their inability to make a decisive break with the compromised practices that had character­ ized pre-Fasdst literary culture. Two of the essays collected in Passione— "Osservazioni sull'evoluzione del '900" (Observations on the evolution of the twentieth century, 1954) and "La libertà stilistica" (Stylistic freedom, 1957)— are especially interesting be­ cause they put a political spin on the limits of both movements and their failure to elaborate a genuinely anti-Fascist cultural prac­ tice. If such a practice was to become genuinely anti-Fasdst, Pasol­ ini argues, it has to separate itself from the language, ideology, and literary modes of both the Fasdst and pre-Fasdst periods. In this regard both neorealism and posthermetidsm (which in the following quotation are jointly termed "neoexperimentalism") are found to be lacking: We have seen how this neo-experimentalism implies acceptance of previous stylistic features: deliberate in the posthermetidsts, involun­ tary in the neorealists. The former adapt those features to the novelty and greater freedom of their passion; the latter adopt those features to express a content that is only surreptitiously new, insofar as the hymn-like, prophetic, fraternalizing tone remains basically lyricalreligious, and only expresses a generic and intuitive renewal of ideas and so cannot avoid taking up the features of a long overcome twen­ tieth century style ["novecentismo"].3 At issue for Pasolini is the question of establishing a new posi­ tion within ideology from which literature can contribute to a cultural project which owes nothing to the practices of pre-Fasdst Italy. Ideology is above all a way of interpreting the world, and to interpret the world anew, old ideological practices have to be identified and discarded, new ones elaborated. This, of course, is easier said than done, as a number of essays in Passione are at pains to point out. For Pasolini ideology is at its most powerful when it is at its most invisible. His critique of the neorealists ("involuntary in the neorealists . . .") suggests, in fact, that the practitioners of this allegedly new genre were unaware of the extent to which their activity was still governed by the ideological practices (and their literary equivalents) that they had unwittingly inherited from their precursors. These inherited practices had prevented them from gaining full purchase on the ideological bind in which they found themselves: "Even style is a form of possession . . . and is characterized by the typical lack of aware­ ness of the fact of possession . . . which comes when acquired



through belonging to the dominant class" (489). What innovations posthermetidsm and neorealism promised were ultimately only "already tried and tested acts of daring . . . not one single inven­ tion, no matter how scandalous and abnormal it may have been, was not foreseen . . . the unusual was always and in all cases reined in by the norm" (486-87). At one stage in the early 1950s Pasolini thought Marxism would provide a new cultural grid which would rupture the continuities the neorealists and posthermeticists had failed either to identify or displace. Pasolini's rela­ tionship with Marxism has been one of the most discussed aspects of his work. As I pointed out in the introduction, a first phase of study saw Pasolini's turn to Marxism as the decisive moment in his career. Recent studies, however, have revealed a more complicated picture. According to such studies, Pasolini's Marxism and his debt to Gramsci take second place to the more marked presence of elements of Crocean aesthetics.4 By turning to a close examination of the two essays he included in Passione, we will see that Pasolini's adherence to Marxism is less conven­ tional than some of his earlier critics believed. In the 1954 essay, Pasolini writes of Marxist thought as an al­ ready existing potential "new culture; or better, a new interpreta­ tion of reality" (330). By the time the essay "Stylistic Freedom" was published three years later, however, the picture has changed. The background to this latter essay is Pasolini's contention that for a member of the bourgeoisie, like himself, it is difficult to adhere fully to a new ideology like Marxism. Intellectuals like Pasolini find themselves in a midway position between ideologies: although they have turned their backs on bourgeois ideology, they are not yet entirely committed to the tenets of Marxism. This is why Pasolini can write: "None of the 'official' ideologies . . . possesses us" (488). Pasolini presents his "no longer bourgeois/ not yet Marxist" position in defensive terms, as an inevitable tran­ sitional phase in a process that will lead to eventual full adherence to (or to use his terms, possession by) the principles of Marxist thought. As with the Friulan novels discussed in the previous chapter, the question of the possession of the subject, this time by ideol­ ogy, is at issue. The discrepancy between the 1954 and the 1957 essays is less surprising if we go back to the earlier one, where on closer scrutiny it becomes clear that Pasolini's endorsement of Marxist thought falls somewhere short of unequivocal commit­ ment. We should note that Pasolini places emphasis not so much on the beneficial results that will come at the end of the bourgeois

3: The Roman Novels I


intellectual's transitional phase as on the transition itself. In other words, the difficult transitional phase and the self-questioning it necessitates in the bourgeois consciousness becomes as important as the end result of the process itself. On closer inspection, it transpires that the break with the cultural practice of the past is made possible by the "crisis in society and the individual" (330), which results when a new ideology erupts into a consciousness previously encrusted by the sedimentations of an old one. The productivity of the position Pasolini elaborates in this essay comes not from the new certainties that would result from full adherence to Marxism, but from the crisis that the move toward the new ideology brings about. Marxism, then, is of interest to Pasolini not as a totalizing ideology which will provide ultimate interpreta­ tions of the world. For Pasolini, rather, the new ideology plays an important role as an element of rupture that, first, exposes the lines of least resistance within dominant bourgeois ideology and, second, uses the innovative world view it generates to pro­ duce what he calls a "new poetry/' by which he means a genu­ inely anti-Fasdst literary practice which avoids the traps into which neorealism and posthermeticism had fallen. Referring to such a position, he writes: To us who, every day, live this situation of unmade choices, of dramas unresolved out of hypocrisy or weakness, of false tolerance, of discon­ tent for everything that gave even an uneasy sense of plenitude to the generations which came before us, seems sufficiently dramatic to produce a new poetry. (330)

And in the later essay, we find that Pasolini's declaration of ideological independence also puts the emphasis less on certaint­ ies than on those elements which rupture previously held convic­ tions. Here again he underscores the "contradictory," "negative," and "problematic" moments of an ideological position that de­ mands "an on-going, painful effort to keep oneself on a par with a reality one does not possess ideologically, as would be the case for a catholic, a communist or a liberal" (488). Taking shape in these pages is Pasolini's perception that any rigidly held ideological position is destined to degenerate into a series of dogmatic statements which offer themselves up as the single interpretive key with which to understand the complexity of the world. It is important to underline here that Pasolini is not seeking an extra- or supraideological position from which he can have unmediated access to the world. Rather, his concern is to



foreground a productively deconstructive position within Marx­ ism by underscoring the disruptive effects that a new ideology, like Marxism, can have on the pillars of bourgeois ideology and the bourgeois self. Pasolini is ideologically canny enough to know that things speak only through the sentences that a position we take up within ideology allows us to formulate. But to avoid replacing the sedimentations of one orthodoxy with those of another, Pasolini is aware of the need to prevent the potentially disruptive vocabu­ lary of a new ideology from atrophying into a set of standard terms. On two occasions Pasolini uses the same metaphor to ar­ gue against this "perspectivism": that of the periscope and the horizon. The position that would be offered by complete adher­ ence to an ideology is rejected because it would reduce "the world to its visual angle, making the horizon fit the periscope" (348). The alternative these essays propose does not abolish the idea of the subject position within ideological discourse made possible by the periscope, for Pasolini makes it clear that this is not an option. Rather, what he proposes is a subject position that is aware of its status as ideological construct, but whose constitutive element is an acute awareness of the incumbent danger of ideo­ logical sedimentations that turn a potentially subversive new ideology into an orthodoxy: "abolish at its origins any form of "perspectivism/ in a critical process, an on-going struggle against its latent tendentiousness: always striving to make the periscope fit the horizon and not viceversa" (490-91). In the weekly column he edited for the Italian Communist party weekly Vie tiuove (New paths) in 1962, Pasolini again foregrounds how Marxism can be used to rupture the supposed hypostasis of bourgeois values. In this instance, he draws attention to how a Marxist historiography can revise bourgeois representations of the past and lead to a joyous discovery of the unknown. A Marxist-inspired historiography is a tool with which to discover a past different from the past "possessed" by bourgeois ideology. It also marks a turn from possession of life to love of life: The bourgeoisie does not love life, the bourgeoisie possesses it. And this means cynicism, vulgarity, lack of real respect for a tradition which they understand as a tradition of privilege and crests. Marxism, because it is critical and revolutionary, means a love of life, and with this the regenerating, energetic, loving revision of the story of man and his past.5

3: The Roman Novels I


What, then, is the difference between possessing life and loving it? To possess life is to deny it the possibility of being reinter­ preted, to love it is to give it this possibility. Against the deadness and ideological duplicity of high school history text books, Marx­ ism opens up new interpretive vistas on the past: "The stupid history studied . . . in high schools once again finds all its truth, and therefore its strength and beauty, its still inexhausted ability to rediscover, if studied through Marxist methodology."6 Pasolini's emphasis in these last quotations falls on how Marxism can con­ tribute to the joy of discovering the unknown for the first time, rather than on how Marxism can replace bourgeois ideology. More than an end in itself, Marxism remains for Pasolini a means to experience the discovery of a regenerated, energetic past that bourgeois ideology had obfuscated. It is the joy of discovery and the eruption of the new into the sedimented arena of the old that interests Pasolini, at least as much as the truth value of the discovery itself. Pasolini suspects that ideologies tend toward orthodoxies. His project, as he expounds it in Passione, is to situate himself on the rifts in civil and literary society that new ideological formulations open up, but without ever committing himself fully to a single position within that ideology. In other words, Pasolini is willing to stay within Marxism as long as the task it sets itself is that of deconstructing dominant ideology. When, however, Marxism establishes itself to such an extent that it begins to reconstruct an alternative orthodoxy, Pasolini is quick to proclaim his ideological independence. At the same time, pressed by the hostile reception, that as we shall see, his first novel had met earlier at the hands of Marxist critics, he also perhaps feels the need to cushion this position against possible attack and present it defensively as a stage in a historical process by which the bourgeois intellectual inevitably passes from one ideology to another: Marxist thought. . . exists inside us [members of the bourgeois avant garde], regardless of whether we adhere to it or deny it. It exists in our very powerless adhesion or powerless denial. It doesn't matter whether we can't or don't want . . . to be communists, when we find ourselves faced with this new, implicit social and moral metre, this new way of configuring the past, this new perspective on the future . . . it acts inside us: that is, even us the bourgeoisie, who remain what we are with the violence and inertia of a psychological state determined by history. (330)



Ultimately, however, it is less the end result of the process by which Marxist thought reinterprets the world and makes possible a new vision of the future that interests Pasolini as the rethinking of fundamentals that the crisis provoked by a new ideology brings about: "a crisis in society and the individual . . . a new way of configuring the past, this new perspective on the future." A little earlier in the 1957 essay Pasolini writes of his ideological independence in these terms: "This is an independence that costs us dear: how much we would like . . . to have chosen" (488). This, it seems to me, is an overly defensive act of contrition after the fact. Pasolini is always reluctant to make the kind of unequivocal choices which he here claims to regret not having made. Not to have made such unequivocal choices bears on the question of recognizability that has given Rinaldo Rinaldi the title of his sec­ ond book-length work on Pasolini, L'irriconoscibile Pasolini (The unrecognizable Pasolini). His title is drawn from the final para­ graph of Pasolini's posthumously delivered address to the 1975 Congress of the Partito Radicale (Radical party), read a few days after his death and now collected in Lettere luterane (Lutheran letters). It is in the Radicals' refusal to be like others that Pasolini locates their greatest deconstructive asset. Their strength, he says, is to "continue simply to be yourselves." To be yourselves means "to be constantly unrecognizable . . . continue unafraid, obstinate, eternally contrary: to demand, to will, to identify your­ selves with all that is different— to scandalize and blaspheme."7 All of the above are qualities that could also describe the posi­ tion of Pasolini himself. In the same years as he wrote the essays collected in Passione, Pasolini was also engaged in stage two of his narrative project: his two Roman novels. To see what happens when Pasolini's ideological independence encounters the urban novel, that most ideologically charged of all literary genres, let us now turn to Ragazzi di vita, the scandalous, blasphemous text which goes out of its way to be as unrecognizable as the genre will allow.

Ragazzi di vita: "E m o?" After being forced to leave his home and teaching job in Friuli, Pasolini settled with his mother in Rome, where he was to live for the rest of his life. Rome's borgate (ghettoes) and borgatari (ghettodwellers) were to supply the inspiration for the two works of fiction— Ragazzi di vita and Una vita violenta— that first brought

3: The Roman Novels I


him notoriety and branded him as a scandalous presence on the Italian cultural scene. Pasolini has spoken of these two novels in sociological terms, almost as if they were a continuation of the postwar neorealist project with which he had taken issue in Passione. From this standpoint, the novels are a record of his discovery of the borgate that had sprung up on the edges of Rome during the economic boom of the mid-fifties and early-sixties and which had transformed Italy from an agricultural to an industrial society. In an interview with Marc Gervais, Pasolini makes clear the kind of stake he has in both novels. His aim, he says, was to bring the forgotten and overlooked subproletarian classes into existence by including them, for the first time, in the discourse of literature. Through the representation of their marginal lives, the borgatari would be able, thanks to the mediation of the Pasolinian narrative, to come into existence: Everyone— critics, the bourgeoisie, even the communists—were con­ vinced that the subproletarian world didn't exist any more. And what was I supposed to do with these twenty million subproletarians? Put them in a concentration camp and destroy them in the gas chambers? The attitude towards the subproletariat was almost racist, as if it were made up of people who belonged to a world that didn't exist any more. They were thought of as a closed book. Yet, poor devils, they really did exist.8

The crux of the Pasolinian narrative project, as it is articulated in the interview, is to give the borgatari a subjectivity by including their life stories in the previously closed world of literature. To bring the borgatari into literature means bringing their life stories within the bounds of literary convention. For the life stories, then, to be recognizable as such and accessible to a reading public, some accommodation need be worked out between the existing codes of representation that have thus far excluded them and the life stories themselves. It is at this very basic level that the transparency of the neorealistic project which Pasolini articulates in the Gervais interview shows its first sign of strain. It becomes immediately clear that both Roman novels have an antagonistic relationship with the conventions of literary and, in particular, narrative practice. Indeed, many of the difficulties both texts pose for the reader, whether or not that reader is a native speaker of Italian, stem from their refusal to play according to the rules and accept the conventions of narrative form. Pasolini's reference to the "finished book" as the category into which the borgatari and their existences had been consigned and



forgotten focuses attention on his own project to develop a new narrative form— a new book—in which space for these neglected subjects would be found. But Pasolini's reference to a finished book and the new book yet to be started also bears on a broader question which problematizes this project: the meeting of old and new produces such moments of textual tension that for one critic Ragazzi becomes illegible in any traditional sense.9 We could think of these two kinds of book as, first, a conventional narrative now deemed inadequate to the task at hand (the representation of new subjects and life stories) and, second, a new narrative exemplified by Pasolini's two Roman novels. But the new never replaces the old in as unproblematic a manner as the above might suggest. Pasolini's project to write a new book raises important questions about the relationship between, on the one hand, the recognizability of old forms and their ability to meet expectations and, on the other, the potential unrecognizability of new forms and the extent to which they may be incoherent. The playing off of the old against the new that the announced project requires acts as a reminder of the limits of narrative innovation that Christopher Prendergast has described in his The Order o f Mimesis.10 How far can narrative innovation go beyond the boundaries of convention before it falls into the realm of the unrecognizable? What kind of compromises must an anticonventional narrative make with convention and expectation in order to guarantee that the text be recognized as material that we as readers are called on to read? There are, in fact, within Ragazzi two mutually antagonistic texts at loggerheads: a "neorealistic," mimetic text, which aims to be an accurate and true imitation of the extratextual referent constituted by the borgatari and which accepts the conventions and expectations that literature, language, and readership bring into play; and another more "performative" text, which is suspi­ cious of conventions and resists them by refusing to obey the rules of what is believed to be an impoverished and ideologically duplicitous narrative form. At the source of the tension between these texts are the two contrasting demands that Pasolini wants Ragazzi to satisfy: one pedagogical, which requires that the text establish a working dialogical relationship with the reading pub­ lic; the other political, which requires that the text work to undo the order and control that narrative exercises over its subject mat­ ter. From a pedagogical standpoint, the text's function is to inform the Italian reading public of the mid-1950s of a reality that had escaped them because it had found no place in the codes of repre­ sentation of the day. But to what extent is the text's pedagogical

3: The Roman Novels I


function contingent on acquiescence to the same codes of repre­ sentation that have practiccd the exclusion Pasolini seeks to rectify? If, with Catherine Belsey, we agree that realism is "a predomi­ nantly conservative form" which is "ultimately reassuring, how­ ever harrowing the events of the story, because the world evoked in the fiction, its patterns of cause and effect, of social relation­ ships and moral values, largely confirms the patterns of the world we seem to know,"11 we can also recognize that Pasolini's brand of realism does not fit this pattern. Realism creates its air of reas­ surance not by copying reality tout court but by drawing on signi­ fies from signifying systems with which we as readers are presumed to be familiar. The cultural situation of the reader is matched by the recourse the classic realist text has to signifying systems drawn from that same general cultural area. Now, this clearly does not happen in Ragazzi. The signifying systems on which Pasolini draws are alien to the average reader, Italian or otherwise. With his use of borgata-bred subjects, a borgata code of behavior, low-register Italian and Roman dialect, dialect expres­ sions— some of the scandalous elements of these texts which led to some of his many courtroom battles against the censors— Pa­ solini moves away from the reassuring situation of the average reader and toward a semiclosed world of which readers have had little or no previous experience. On first encountering it, Ragazzi is an intimidating experience, especially for the non-Italian reader, who may easily be scared away by the text's use of dialect and low-register Italian. Yet, a little perseverance is rewarded by the surprising friendliness of a text that first offers itself up to the reader as hostile. The reader soon discovers that, outlandish as it may appear, the text is never so outlandish as to compromise his or her ability to have access to it. Ragazzi, ultimately, is not a closed experience. There is a double movement at play which accentuates the text's difference and nonconventionality as well as bringing it back within the bounds of the conventional and the expected. This double movement can be illustrated by examining Pasol­ ini's decision to include Roman dialect in the linguistic fabric of both novels. Insofar as it is an attempt at approximating the way the actual historical subjects of the borgata speak dialect may be seen as part of a neorealist project. But this gesture toward a new reality has an unexpected side effect which compromises the outcome of Pasolini's pedagogy. The use of dialect risks turning the text into a hermetically sealed experience to which the major­



ity of readers who have no knowledge of the regional dialect in question have only limited access. Originally intended as a way of pulling down the wall of words between reality and our percep­ tion of it that he describes in an interview with Jean Duflot, Pasol­ ini's use of dialect has the effect of erecting a new barrier that is entirely similar to the one he wished to replace: The literary language that the writer uses to write a poem or a novel or an essay consists of a conventional symbolic system. What's more, all language, whether written or spoken, is defined according to a certain number of historical, geopolitical, or if you prefer, national (regional) limits. . . . I believe I can say that writing poems or novels was for me a way of expressing my refusal of a certain Italian or personal reality, at a given moment of my existence. But these poetic or novelistic mediations built a kind of symbolic wall, made of words, between life and me. . . . Perhaps the veritable tragedy of all poets is to apprehend the world only metaphorically, according to the rules of a magic which limits their appropriation of the world. For me, dialect was one way of approaching the people of the earth more carnally, and in the "Roman" novels the people's dialect allowed me the same concrete and shall we say material approach.12

Pasolini, however, is always acutely aware of how dialect's more carnal approach might also have the unfortunate side effect of creating another wall between his texts and their readers. In fact, he takes decisive steps to avoid the danger that his dialect novels and poems languish in the isolation of a sparsely populated lin­ guistic outreach. This is a characteristic of all Pasolini's work with dialect. Earlier, the addition of prose translations to the dialect poems of La meglio gioventù (The best youth, 1954),13 a collection in Friulan dialect written between 1941 and 1953, is also aimed at avoiding the linguistic marginalization the texts might otherwise meet. The same sort of gesture which leads a potentially private language into the realm of the public is also present in the two Roman novels. The gesture is most visible in the short glossary of Roman dialect terms he includes at the end of both Ragazzi and Life. But, as Pasolini admits himself, such assistance is hardly necessary.14 At a practical level, the Roman dialect of both Ragazzi and Life poses fewer problems than might appear and ultimately does rela­ tively little to mar the comprehension of even readers, like me, who have little or no knowledge of 1950s subproletarian language and culture. This understanding is possible because extended use of dialect is confined almost entirely to the dialogical interchanges

3: The Roman Novels I


between the borgatari which are completely phatic in nature and do nothing to define character, describe setting, or advance plot. Here is an example from chapter 1 which takes place in a swim­ ming pool along the banks of the Tiber: "Li mortacci sua," borbottò Agnolo fra i denti: e si rovesciò sul capo la camicetta, togliendosela senza più aspettare. . . . "Be?" urlò il bag­ nino, uscendo da dietro il banchetto, "mo?" . . . Gli altri giovanotti che indugiavano chi nudo, chi con gli slip penzoloni, chi pettinandosi davanti allo specchietto, chi cantando, se li guardavano con la coda dell'occhio come per dire: "Ammazza quanto so' gajardi." . . . Orazio in persona era uscito dal reparto centrale dove stava il bare, con la sua gamba paralitica e la sua faccia chiazzata di sangue. "Li mortacci vostra," urlò, "quante vorte devo da dì che nun ce se pò stà Ili che se rompe 'a ringhiera?"15 ("Up yours," Agnolo muttered. He pulled his shirt over his head without waiting any longer. . . . "Well?" roared Giggetto, coming out from behind the counter. "How about it?" . . . The other boys hanging around, some naked, some in sagging bathing trunks, some combing their hair in front of the mirror, some singing, looked around out of the corners of their eyes as if to say, "Get a load of me, will you?" . . . Orazio himself issued from the centrally located bar, with his para­ lyzed leg and his blood-red face. "Damn you," he yelled, "how many times do I have to tell you? You can't stay here, breaking the god­ dam railing.")16

Once readers have cracked the code of the various "Mortacci vostra" (Up yours) and "Ammazza" (Damn you) which pepper the texts, they realize that the serious business of the novels takes place elsewhere and in a variety of Italian that is far more acces­ sible to the average reader. Dialect acts, then, more as a way of adding local flavor to the text than as an accurate transcription of the way the actual borgatari speak. In fact, Pasolini plays here another version of the double game: he uses dialect to draw atten­ tion to the difference represented by both the borgatari and the linguistic fabric of his own text, while at the same time never allowing its use to hamper readers' access to it. The use of Roman dialect complicates and delays, but only briefly, the interaction between text and reader. The gap it seems to open up is never allowed to yawn so wide as to be unbridgeable. As well as being brought into the text through the dialogues of the borgatari, dialect is also brought into the text through the interventions of the narrative voice. Although speaking a fairly standard if low-register Italian, the narrative voice's contributions



to the text are peppered with dialect expressions. Here is one of my personal favorites from the first few pages of Ragazzi: "Alvaro, con la sua faccia piena d'ossa, che pareva tutta ammaccata, e un capoccione che se un pidocchio ci avesse voluto fare un giro intorno sarebbe morto di vecchiaia" (Alvaro, a youth with a bony; pushed-in face, and a big head that would make a louse die of old age before it could finish the round trip [7; 14]). This unusual narrative voice serves several purposes: first, it injects some welcome moments of comic relief into what is other­ wise a dour text; second, it once again adds local flavor to the text's linguistic fabric and enables it to identify itself as different from the standard Italian of the narrative voice of classic realist texts; and third, it allows the text to suggest its difference without that difference ever seriously compromising its accessibility to a wider audience. The role of the narrative voice in both Pasolini's novels, but especially Ragazzi (on which I shall now concentrate my atten­ tion), is worthy of special note. Rather than from dialect, it is from the narrative voice's reluctance to do its job— narrate— that the reader's major difficulties arise. These difficulties, in fact, pose far trickier obstacles than the ones posed by the use of dialect. The strangeness we encounter on first approaching the text comes from the narrative voice's refusal to acknowledge our presence as outsiders coming into a new environment and to share with us the kind of welcoming background information we expect a kind host or a conventional narrative voice to supply. The host of this party, in fact, does a great deal to keep his guests on the edge of things and nothing to introduce us to the new people who have already arrived. Beginning with the first paragraph, as we shall see shortly there are several moments of textual tension which prevent the narrative from being the seamless, transparent experi­ ence typical of the classic realist text described by Belsey. In fact, readers are immediately plunged into a local and marginal world with whose codes they are likely to have little familiarity. The narrative voice does not immediately make available to the reader the temporal and spatial coordinates necessary to establish the patterns of cause and effect that enable us to make sense of a given situation. Unlike his counterpart in a classic realist text, the narrative voice of Ragazzi is not a deus ex machina. The narrative voice shares the same temporal coordinates and linguistic space as the characters whose stories he tells. He hardly acts as a mediator between text and reader and is of very little immediate help to

3: The Roman Novels I


the reader uninitiated in the local customs of the borgata. It is from th e narrative voice's deeply embedded position in the fabric of these stories that the reader's sense of unfamiliarity comes. This is the main reason why the various plot lines of the text are hard to follow. Given the objective difficulty of following the twists and turns of the various stories it tells, it may be useful to give a brief summary of Ragazzi. Since an account of all the many events in the novel would take up too much space, what follows is a chapter-by-chapter breakdown of the most important events in Ragazzi and the temporal frame in which they occur: Chapter 1. 1943: German occupation of Rome. Riccetto's confir­ mation and first communion; a crowd loots a warehouse. Ameri­ can occupation of Rome: Riccetto and Marcello steal money from a blind beggar; they steal lead piping from a nunnery, sell it, then lose the money in a card game; Marcello, Agnolo, and Riccetto rent a boat and row down the Tiber; Riccetto rescues a bird in difficulty in the water. Chapter 2. Summer 1946: Riccetto tries to learn a card scam from some Neapolitan tricksters; he works with the gang until their arrest and expulsion from the city; he finds the money the gang members have hidden and then goes to the coast resort of Ostia with some friends; they have sex with Nadia, a prostitute, who steals Riccetto's money; Marcello is seriously injured and later dies when a school building collapses. Chapter 3. 1946: Riccetto and Caciotta steal and sell some arm chairs; they sleep in Villa Borghese with some others they have met; they wake up to find their shoes have been stolen; Riccetto and Caciotta pick the pocket of a woman on the bus and meet Amerigo. Chapter 4. 1946: Amerigo takes Riccetto and Caciotta to an illegal card game; Amerigo plays with Riccetto's money and loses; Ric­ cetto meets Lenzetta, with whom he goes to Elina, a prostitute; Alduccio, a friend of Lenzetta, tells Riccetto that Amerigo died while resisting arrest at the card game; Amerigo's funeral. Chapter 5. 1947: With the help of an old man, Riccetto and Len­ zetta steal some iron from a building site; in return Riccetto and Lenzetta help the old man steal some cauliflowers for his wife and four children; they go to his house and meet his daughters;



Riccetto gets engaged to the youngest of the old man's daughters and gets a regular job while still taking part in small-time thefts; he and three others decide to steal some iron so he can buy his fiancee a ring; they are disturbed by the night guard and Riccetto runs away; after walking the streets all night he is caught and beaten up while trying to steal a piece of cheese; Riccetto goes home, where he is arrested and sent to jail for three years. Chapter 6.1950: Along the banks of the Tiber, Begalone and other borgatari go swimming; Begalone torments il Piattoletta by steal­ ing his clothes; some of the borgatari tie Piattoletta to a pole and set fire to him. Chapter 7. 1950: Alduccio and Begalone go to the center of Rome; they try to pick up two girls but then are themselves picked up by a gay; Riccetto arrives, goes with the gay to Donna Olimpia, the Roman quarter where he spent his youth; he abandons the gay there. Riccetto meets one of his old friends, who tells him what has happened to his fellow borgatari while he was in jail; Alduccio and Begalone go to a brothel; Alduccio goes home, ar­ gues with his mother and attacks her with a knife. Chapter 8. 1950: The police look for the borgatari responsible for burning Piattoletta; Genesio, a younger borgataro, intends to swim across the river to prove himself the equal of the bigger boys; he swims with Riccetto to the opposite bank but is carried away by the current when he tries to swim back. As this barrage of events shows, on a macrolevel the reader is bemused by the many narrative threads which begin, gesture toward development, but are then often left hanging without resolution. The reader also experiences something similar at the microlevel of the sentence. If we turn now to the opening para­ graph of Ragazzi, we can see in some detail how the reticence of the narrator to narrate in a conventional way opens up a gap, albeit fairly short-lived, between text and reader. The temporal subordinate clause we encounter on the very first page of the novel, "Riccetto . . . looked like a kid roaming around down by the Tiber when he's out to make a pick up,"17 is particularly reveal­ ing. Like all temporal subordinate clauses ("when he's out to make a pick up") it relates the sentence of which it is a part to a prior and contextually wider set of sentences or expectations of likely sentences already in place in the reader's experience or

3: The Roman Novels 1


lexicon. The temporal subordinate clause, which introduces what Jonathan Culler has called "a modest inter textuality,"18 relies on a set of presuppositions with which the reader is assumed to be familiar. The sentence thus establishes an intersubjective or intertextual relation with the assumed reader. It makes, in other words, appeal to a commonly held set of beliefs, presuppositions, sentences, texts, in short, the déjà lu of the reader. In the above sentence the clause presupposes and bears on knowledge of the codes of behavior of the pischello, the up-and-coming borgataro who prostitutes himself to make a living. This, though, to say the least, is knowledge the average reader, whether Italian or foreign, is unlikely to have. The text, then, does not immediately code the reader as its equal or welcome him/her into its world; it keeps separate the borgataro horizon of experience from that of the reader. The effect is to introduce the reader into a textual world whose dominant codes and practices do not match those of the reader's.19 There are many other ways in which the text produces a similar sense of disorientation in the reader. We are only told toward the end of the novel, for example, that "Il Ferrobedô," the title of the novel's first chapter, is the Roman pronunciation of the Ferro-beton iron factory. On first encountering this and other place names, "il Ciriola," "il Parco Paolino," "il Monte di Splendore" (all inte­ gral parts of the borgata itinerary), we can surmise from the fugi­ tive context what they and their function in the economy of the text are: we can work out that "il Ciriola" is a swimming pool, for example. But faced with a narrative voice that all but renounces its mediatory role and that is unforthcoming with information, the onus remains on the reader, who is required to produce a hy­ pothesis which is only validated or confuted at a later stage.20 Often the narrator presumes that the reader shares his detailed foreknowledge of life and events in the borgata. When he tells us, for example, "But there were four Germans" (2-3; 8) and "But a German came and chased them away" (3; 9), we can infer that the Germans are soldiers and the scene takes place in Nazi-occupied Rome. However, no prior indications have been given that this section of the novel (published in 1955) is set in the period of World War II when Rome was under German occupation. Indeed, in the novel's next episode we find a reference to Americans, presumably part of the Eighth Army: "They had gone into busi­ ness with their Ferrobedô stock, and had kept it up when the Americans came" (8; 14). As in this case, where we are given no indication of how great the temporal gap between the two epi­



sodes is, the text is always reticent about signaling the passage of time, and it is hard to monitor immediately and with any accu­ racy the temporal space that separates the various episodes. The text is also an example of the elliptical and fugitive use of deixis. In Ragazzi, deictic markers like "now," "then," "here," "there," whose function is to anchor the text in a specific and identifiable spatio-temporal context, often refer, instead, to a tru­ ant context that the unforthcoming narrative voice has done little to define. Textual instances like "11 sotto" (down there), "11 in mezzo" (there in the middle), "11 su" (up there) and "11 presso" (near there), of which the text is full, bear on a familiarity with the topography of the borgata that neither the text nor the narrator has supplied the reader. What we have observed at the level of the sentence in the open­ ing pages of Ragazzi can also be observed at the broader level of narrative structure. In place of a conventional linear narrative of development we find a disjointed text where the normal patterns of cause and effect do not operate. The events in the lives of Riccetto and his fellow borgatari have a sequential logic only inso­ far as they are contiguous. The events of the text do not flow from, into, or beyond one another toward some future fulfillment. Nor is there any sense of a master narrative or linear trajectory that would project the lives and events the text narrates onto an unfolding and progressive temporal continuum. In its place, we find a series of vignettes which, beyond mere juxtaposition, have no causal relation to what has happened before, nor do they act as causes for future effects. In this sense, the comment "E mo?" (Now what? [93; 99]), made by Riccetto in the chapter that gives the text its title, may be seen as an emblematic moment. He has just left an illegal card game, where by pure chance he has avoided arrest by the police, and wanders the streets of the borgata before taking a bus to the Prenestino, another Roman quarter. There is no intentionality to Riccetto's actions: he does not leave the card game in order to avoid arrest; nor does he take the bus in order to go to the Prenestino for any specific purpose. In fact there is nothing there for him to do: "He took a look around, hitched up his pants, and recogniz­ ing that there was nothing there for him, he philosophically burst into song" (93; 99). Similarly, the borgatari never earn or steal money in order to satisfy long-term needs, still less do they steal it in order to save it, which is probably considered a criminal offence within the codes of borgata life. Whether from robberies or from the selling of stolen goods, money is there only to be

3: The Roman Novels 1


consumed immediately in food, sex, or the latest fashions and haircuts. In Ragazzi, money has a very short shelf life and does not pave the path to future stability. Indeed, in chapter 2 the money Riccetto has stolen is immediately stolen back as a prosti­ tute lifts it from his back pocket while they are having sex on the beach at Ostia. If money is, as the text tells us, "source of all pleasure, all satisfaction in this cockeyed world" (85; 83), it is only because in the world of Ragazzi the needs it satisfies are immedi­ ate and do not stretch beyond the time frame of the present.21 The aimlessness of Riccetto's life that his comment above would seem to suggest should not, however, be taken as a sign that his and the existences of the other borgatari are boring. Quite the opposite is the case. Their aimlessness, in fact, is a sign of their greater freedom from the impoverished and impoverishing codes of modern-day society. The vitality of the lives of these "ragazzi di vita" lies in their nonbelonging to a master narrative of history which organizes their experiences in a prefigured direction. Ric­ cetto's aimlessness has the effect of freeing him from any sense of expectation about the direction his future may take and opens him up to the possibility of new and unprecedented experience. The absence of causal links between the experiences Riccetto undergoes in the novel turns him into a character who has no past and who lives entirely in the present. The presentness of the novel's events is emphasized by Pasolini's repeated use of the preterite tense in his descriptions of the comings and goings of the borgatari, which has the effect of underlining the isolation of each event and its lack of causal ties with what has gone on before and what is likely to happen after. Riccetto and his comrades live time, but without, as Paul Ricoeur has put it, that sense of temporality that organizes individual and isolated happenings into "an intelligible whole which governs a succession of events in any story."22 In this sense, Riccetto has something in common with the cate­ gory of person that the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche called creative forgetters. These are people who succeed in freeing themselves from the bind the past has put on them and their futures by creatively forgetting the promises they have made. Past promises predetermine future action, and it is only by forgetting those promises that we can see the future for what it is and not a projection or willing forward of what our past demands.23 Insofar, then, as his present and future are not figured as continuations of an already established linear narrative in which his past partakes,



Riccetto succeeds in reinventing himself and after each experience faces up to his future as if it were the first day of a new life. Their lack of connectedness with past events is why the borga­ tari are not presented as products of the objectively squalid envi­ ronment in which they live. Apart from one or two nostalgic recollections of past thefts and other "bravate," we know very little about the sociological backgrounds of the many characters who people Ragazzi. What little background information we are given about the characters is never offered as a causal explanation of their present conditions. Although we learn that Alducdo's father is a wife-beating drunkard, we are given no clue to suggest that he is the cause of his son's lifestyle of petty crime, male prostitution, and chronic but voluntary unemployment. This is not because Pasolini has little interest in the real mechanisms that govern the sodal order, but because he does not want us to think of the borgatari as deviant products of a sodety whose glue is coming unstuck. He is less interested in pointing out how con­ temporary sodety produces monsters as in using the borgatari to suggest the kind of vital life we could live if we succeeded in severing all our ties with a castrating sodal order. To think of the borgatari as deviant products of a collapsing system is also to admit the possibility that in a revised and improved form the sodal order can regain its health. For Pasolini, the sodal order, even when it works at its best and at its healthiest, is life threaten­ ing because it prevents us from developing a mode of living in which we, like the borgatari, are open to the full experience of the phenomenal world in which we live. Severed from any causal relation with their pasts, the lives of the borgatari are not the product, even in a deviant form, of a failed sodal order. Rather, their every experience is the latest in an ongoing series of self­ generated new beginnings. For Pasolini, the place of such eternal and infinite possibility is Rome,24 a dty where nothing is discounted and anything can happen, where even dogs can talk: "O f Zinello's two dogs, the male was the smaller and skinnier. . . . But the bitch was a terror. Skinny, black sharp-nosed, scabby-tailed, slant-eyed, she stood motionless as a statue. . . . Tt seems to me like you're pushing it just a little,' she appeared to be thinking, and she stopped. . . . And a moment later, 'Why, you little jerk!' she howled, losing her patience suddenly" (171-72; 175-76). On more than one occasion the dty itself is described as a place of tautness and expectancy, an event waiting to happen: "All Rome was one droning rumble . . . the atmosphere there was as charged as a land mine" (2; 8);

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"The air was as taut as a drumhead" (15; 21); "The air was as taut and reverberant as a drumhead" (191; 195). Looming over the dty, the sun, moon, and stars give to Rome the sense of another world beyond the contingenries of everyday life, a world whose mys­ teries lie beyond the horizons of conventional expectancy. When the wind blows, for example, it is described as a primordial act, as if it blew for the first time in the history of things: "Rags of cloud were shredded and pounded by the wind, which must have been blowing up there the way it did when the world began" (147; 151). As time passed this acute sense of the possibility of things was, however, to change. Pasolini's critique in the early 1970s of the wave of postboom consumerism that had engulfed even the subproletarian classes is based on his perception of the ontological impoverishment it has brought to their lives. The anthropological genocide and process of "omologazione" (standardization) of which he speaks in Scritti corsari (Corsair writings, 1975) and Lettere luterane deprived Italian youth of the possibility of original­ ity: now all of Italy, regardless of class and region, looks the same, dresses the same, talks the same. Italy and Italians, in other words, have become predictable, no longer Nietzsche's heroic and noble poets, but fallen, meek, and submissive subjects. Much of Pasolini's pessimism in the mid-1970s comes from his perception of the ever-diminishing space for resistance to the homologizing social order. In the 1950s, however, that space had not yet been significantly encroached upon. In Ragazzi, at least, whenever the social order threatens to enter the lives of the borgatari it is actively resisted. At one level this is apparent in the borgatari's refusal to get a job, settle down, and get married, all things that Tommaso, the central character of Life will do. A spe­ cific example of resistance to homologizing codes of social behav­ ior is supplied by the encounter Riccetto and Lenzetta have with an old man whom they help to steal cauliflowers as thanks for his help with their thievery. The two borgatari go to the old man's house, where they meet his wife and daughters. In the course of the presentations, which are the only formal moments of the entire novel, we learn that the real names of Riccetto and Lenzetta are, respectively, Claudio Mastracca and Alfredo De Marzio. Most of the borgatari in Ragazzi are identified only by their nicknames. Their adoption of new names is a small act of creative resistance to the social order that named them in the first place. By renaming themselves, and by dispensing with family names and any refer­ ence to their legal origins, the borgatari sever the link their names



establish with their past and the prevailing system. When Riccetto and Lenzetta come into contact with that social order, as they do in the presentation scene above, they are forced by weight of circumstance to revert back to their original family names. Yet, the whole scene is played out in highly comic tones, and while it is in progress there is little suggestion that the two borgatari have been sucked back into the rigidities of the dominant culture. The very last moments, however, of what has been up to now a pantomime suggest a different, more tragic story. On leaving the house, Lenzetta makes an explicit connection between the social order to which he has just been exposed and death: "Two or three owls took flight, hooting. Lenzetta, listening to them abstractedly, his thoughts a mixture of the fine-young-fellows-role they had played, the Bifoni family and death, felt his knees go weak, and he stood still for a moment, and as if withdrawn in contemplation" (141; 146). Lenzetta seems to have a kind of pre­ monition, a glimpse of how his existence as Lenzetta, and not Claudio Di Marzio, outside the constraints of the social order is about to end. His attempt at resistance to this process of homolo­ gation consists of a fart with which he seeks to explode the rules of the social order and exit a situation he feels is threatening his integrity: "Then he lifted his knee to his belly and loosed a fart" (141; 146). Lenzetta, then, one might say, in the face of an oppres­ sive social order, gives political dignity to the act of farting. Yet, the final sentence of this episode serves as a reminder that the space for resistance that Lenzetta has here exploited is already being reduced. Lenzetta's fart, we learn, had to be forced "because it didn't come from the heart" (141; 146). Not a fart from the heart, a heartfelt fart, not an act of full blown resistance but, perhaps, the first sign that the battle is lost and that this act of resistance is only a last-ditch effort at delaying the agony. The problem, however, with the otherworldliness of Ragazzi's representation of the borgata experience is that it may be bought at too high a price in terms of recognizability. By wanting to sever the borgata he has represented in Ragazzi from the world with which the reader is likely to be familiar, Pasolini runs the risk of severing the bond that unites text with human knowledge. At one level this is exactly what Pasolini's project sets out to do: disorient and undermine, for a moment, the reader's automatized expectations of wholeness, development, logical coherence, clo­ sure, unified world view, etc., those characteristics that we have come to expect from a classic realist text, and put before us a

3: The Roman Novels I


world, which by its very existence radically challenges the prem­ ises on which social, and literary, conventions are built. But Pasolini here skates on thin ice. The strangeness and differ­ ence that Pasolini would like us to recognize in the borgata are bought at a price that risks compromising the verisimilar. Unless the initially strange can be translated back into something not too dissimilar from the familiar, unless a sufficient level of vraisem­ blance can be established, there is the risk that the characters and events of the strange world of the text remain so strange that the text fails "to make us believe that it conforms to reality" and in­ stead conforms to "its own laws."25 In other words, the text's grounding in a reality with which we are familiar or believe plau­ sible ultimately guarantees its intelligibility. If that intelligibility comes under threat, the text risks losing its connection to its extratextual referent and becoming a work of pure fiction. This is a direction in which Pasolini doesn't want to go. The almost obses­ sive logging of street names, names of Rome's suburban quarters, bus numbers and routes, cinemas, etc., that allows us to follow the meanderings of the borgatari on a street map, reminds us that Pasolini wants to establish a very real connection between his text and the city. Clearly, the Rome Pasolini gives us in Ragazzi and Life is not a city born of fantasy but one of historical fact.26 As Jonathan Culler has pointed out, one can always construct a context which naturalizes the strange, no matter how bizarre or otherworldly the text may be. The danger, which seems to me inherent in Pasolini's practice, is that the context we construct to make sense of his strange text, to bring it within modes of order we recognize, may be so bizarre that it opens up a gap between the Rome of his text and the Rome of the empirical reality on which it is supposed to be based. Given the strangeness of the events Ragazzi recounts, the context we may be forced to construct could even be one in which we feel the author to be engaged in a radical critique of the mimetic powers of language, or an affir­ mation of the world as a linguistic construct severed from any referential relation to extratextual reality. The issue, however, is not so much that of swapping the in­ vraisemblable for the vraisemblable, but of finding enough common ground within the former for it to be recuperated sufficiently within the latter so as to be at once plausible, while also remaining strange enough to be stimulating and ultimately revelatory. The trick, then, would be to find a way of establishing a fruitful ten­ sion between the referential and the self-referential, a mode of coexistence in which the two extremes, while still in functional



opposition, would also interpenetrate and establish a mutually implicatory relationship. Giorgio Bàrberi Squarotti has written of Pasolini's failure to achieve this contract. He chooses to read both Ragazzi and Life not as attempts at evocations of the borgata but as the result primarily of an intellectual operation. Pasolini's is "a world of figures, actions, motives that has all the extreme and arbitrary violence, all the impurity, scandal, fury and vices of excited inventions and intellectual folly, of infernal reactions of the mind."27 Pasolini, he continues, is not engaged in any mimetic operation: his use of dialect is far from historically accurate, "and does not signal an effective hook onto reality . . . it creates rather a series of actions and reactions that are purely linguistic."28 For Bàrberi Squarotti, the borgata as a referent is not prior to the text, but the text prior to a borgata that Pasolini creates as "the neces­ sary historicized moment of his writing."29 But to read the text as primarily a literary moment, as Bàrberi Squarotti does, is not to dismiss the text. The two Roman novels are at their best, he continues, when most literary, "where they concern themselves with individual and private questions," at their worst when they touch on the social, "where they concern themselves with public questions."30 To read the novels as essen­ tially self-referential textual experiences is, of course, a perfectly legitimate activity. But for Pasolini, to have constructed a world where text may have taken priority over events, where text per­ forms events, and becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, the intralinguistic nature of his work is a danger area. For one who has claimed to have a vital attachment to the ontological reality of things in the borgata, and who chides the Italian avant-garde for their ivory-tower attitude, their flawed notion of the selfsufficiency of literature and their consequent lack of love for the world, to achieve only an elaborate fiction, a reality of writing, would be, to say the least, a disappointing result.31 In a shift similar to the one between Amado/Atti and Sogno, Pasolini's next novel, Life, seems to take steps to correct this danger by dedicating itself much more closely to historical and social concerns. But this is not to say that the novel does not reserve a surprise or two.

4 The Roman Novels II: Una vita violenta and Petrolio Una vita violenta: "Non vojo esse più Tommaso!" Pasolini's second Roman novel Una vita violenta, received a heart­ ier critical welcome than Ragazzi. Gian Carlo Ferretti, for example, one of the first critics to write at length about Pasolini's poems and novels, took exception to Ragazzi on account of its "stylistic equivocations, its intellectualistic and unhealthy complacency . . . its lack of narrative development. . . the uniformity and anonym­ ity of the cast of characters, its lack of a central character, and so o n ."1 In Ragazzi, he continues, Pasolini "idolizes . . . a world untouched by historical forces . . . and limits himself to conte­ mplating it in a series of vignettes."2 For Ferretti, Life marks a decisive move in the opposite direction, toward the world of his­ torical and social forces, away from the mythical world of the borgatari: "W hen Pasolini finally comes to terms with society, working within its poetics and overcoming from within his popu­ lar m yth . . . he comes close to new and interesting conquests."3 In a similar vein, Alberto Asor Rosa finds in Life an important stage in both Pasolini's literary and political development: Life is situated at a higher level of complexity than the other novel. In the period of time between Ragazzi and Life Pasolini takes a decisive

step in the development of his thematics and his ideology. . . . As concerns his ideology, this means he makes a decisive commitment to Marxism. As concerns his literary choices, it means he elaborates a kind of narrative discourse which has a story at its center. That is to say, an axis, a nucleus of basic interests around which the dispersed fragments of his observations gather and so appear more determined by a thesis or by a precise intentionality. As concerns his political stance, it means he adheres unreservedly to the Communist Party.4 75



Both critics applaud Life over Ragazzi because in it they find a more recognizable and conventional narrative structure. Set in a precise spatial and temporal context, Life obeys the patterns of cause and effect with which we are familiar; its narrative voice is more "user friendly"; and Tommasino, the central character, un­ like Riccetto, undergoes a political conversion which sees him move from a neo-Fascist allegiance to militancy in the Communist party. What both critics identify as the major strength of Life is its narrative of emancipation inflected toward a Marxist political agenda. Tommasino, then, becomes an example of how, through politicization of the subproletariat, the borgatari can be recuper­ ated as productive agents into the discourse of civil and political society. Both critics' preference for Life is posited on what they see as Pasolini's conversion to the conventions of a recognizable narrative form and character development. As a novel, Life is a far less problematic reading experience than Ragazzi, and as a character Tommasino, much more so than his compatriots of the former novel, embraces the opportunity he is given for both the political and personal improvement that is contingent on his en­ tering the arena of history. What both critics' preference over­ looks, however, is how Pasolini's deep resistance to emancipatory narratives, whether or not they are turned to the illustration of a Marxist agenda, still makes its presence felt. We have seen earlier how, for Pasolini, the strength of Marxism as an ideology lies in the disruption it brings to sedimented patterns of thought, not in how it establishes new ones. As Umberto Eco has noted, Pasolini is more interested in the spontaneity of the subproletariat than in its organization.5 To change the borgatari from unproductive subjects outside history into productive subjects within it is, Pasolini fears, to put their spontaneity and openness to experience at risk. From this stand­ point, Life is a text with a sting in its tail, which works to undercut the progress of Tommasino's political itinerary. The recovery of Tommasino into history, into the recognizable world of social and economic forces, is, as we shall see, presented as a first step into a historical order that will bring him only death. In general, Marxist critics have not been sensitive to the nega­ tive gloss Pasolini gives to the coming of a political consciousness to the world of the borgatari. They have paid little attention to what in the late 1950s and early 1960s was perhaps the most controversial aspect of Life: its paralleling of Tommasino's develop­ ment of a political consciousness with that of a bourgeois con­ sciousness.6 Tommasino's trajectory of ideological development

4: The Roman Novels 11


toward militancy in the Communist party is accompanied by an­ other trajectory which leads him toward the bourgeois ideals of self-improvement, long-term planning, personal relationships, job, house, and marriage, ideals almost totally alien to the borgatari of Ragazzi. In fact, Riccetto's brief engagement to the daughter of the thief he met in the cabbage patch in chapter 5 acts as a prelude to his arrest and three-year jail term. As we shall see, Tommasino's drift toward bourgeois respectability will have a similar result. In addition, then, to mounting an attack on bourgeois ideals, Pasolini also finds space in Life to subject the Communist party to negative treatment. To be sure, Pasolini is not at his most subtle here: the Communist party section Tommasino joins is situated next to a pigsty, and as he arrives a group of party officials are engaged in a fund raising scam. The snorting of the pigs accom­ panies the distribution of the money they have just siphoned off from party funds. And when Tommasino gets his party card he sees it as his passport not so much to a new world view as to a guaranteed full belly: "H e was signed up, paid what he had to pay, and finally he was able to have his slice of the pie: he put the card in his pocket, ready to struggle for the red flag, too."7 This, however, is not to suggest that Pasolini collapses all distinc­ tions between ideologies and posits their inevitable degeneration into varying forms of corruption. We know from Pasolini's own political activity that he thought of himself as a Marxist and main­ tained a commitment to and consistently declared his vote for the Communist party. With the paralleling of the two itineraries, Pasolini draws attention to how the original visionary drive of Marxism has been dimmed by buying into the same progressive view o f history that bourgeois ideology had long appropriated for itself. Pasolini's suggestion is that unless Marxism take steps to develop an alternative history of its own that goes beyond rehashing the bourgeois notion of history as progressive narrative it will not have the antibodies it needs to defend itself against the encroachments bourgeois ideology was already making into the nonbourgeois world of the borgata} In Life, in fact, Tommasino is exposed to both Marxist and bourgeois ideology, but neither leads him anywhere. As well as suggesting what has gone wrong with Marxism, Life also hints at what can be done to put it right. In one of the concluding pages to "L'eterna fame" (The eternal hunger), the chapter in which the newly converted Tommasino dies a watery death, we read this description of the red flag: "Only in that old



red cloth, all soaked and filthy, that Tommasino flung in the cor­ ner, in the midst of that crowd of poor bums, there seemed to shine a little bit of hope" (318). The verb shine ("brilluccicare") helps us here to pinpoint the alternative Marxist strategy toward which Pasolini is working. Not only is this verb used to describe the sodden red flag and its twinkling promise of hope for the future, it is also used on two other occasions. First in Ragazzi, to describe the magical vision of a moonlit vegetable garden where Riccetto and Lenzetta go to steal some cauliflowers: The moonlight bathed the entire plot, which was so large that the walls on the far side were out of sight. The moon was high in the sky by this time; it had shrunk in size and appeared not to want to have anything to do with the world, absorbed instead in contemplating what lay beyond. It was as if it were now showing the world only its backside, and from that silvery rear end a great light streamed down, suffusing every object. At the end of the garden the light shone ("brilluccicava"] upon the peach trees, willows, cherries, and elders, springing up here and there in clumps as hard as wrought iron, twisted and insubstantial in the white dust. Then it raked the garden itself, making it glisten, or else coating it with a gleaming patina, shining on the curved shapes of beets and stalks of greens, half-lit half in shadow, and on the yellow lettuce beds and the green-gold plots ot leeks and endive.9

The second use of the verb comes in Life to describe the stars "shining all alone" above Tommasino's shack in the ghetto and which provoke in him a repressed tear: The sky above was cloudy and whitish: only here and there a clear path could be seen, much darker. In one of those patches, just above the roof of corrugated iron and tarred paper of Sora Adele's shack, at the tips of some shredded clouds, there were a few little stars, shining all alone ["brilluccicava"]. And around that wretched pile of huts there was a silence, a peace, a solitude that were frightening. After a little while, without even realizing it, while he stood there alone and downcast, Tommaso felt something like a tear rising in his throat. But he promptly swallowed it again. (125; 128)

In the first case, the vegetables appear transformed out of their base nature and take their place in a higher order of things where their otherness, given to them by the moonlight, can shine forth; while in the second case, amid the silence and solitude of the starry night, Tommasino experiences a brief but frightening mo­ ment of revelation in which he seems to establish fleeting contact

4: The Roman Novels II


with a level of existence beyond his own. Used in both of the above cases to indicate an otherwise absent sense of otherness and m ystery that insinuates itself into the lives of the borgatari, the verb "brilluccicare" also acts as a clue to the mode of political activity Pasolini is seeking to articulate. The use of the same verb to describe the ray of light that shines through the sodden and beaten-up red flag suggests that the new politics here being out­ lined would supplement the analytical rigor of a conventional Marxist practice with a recognition of the transcendental elements present in the phenomenal world. It is with such elements that the borgatari (and, with them, peasants and other marginal groups) still maintain intuitive contact. For Pasolini, that contact is contingent on the exclusion of such marginal groups from the narrative of history. Their exclusion means that they have been able to maintain an openness to such forces which those swept along by history's obligatory sense of progress have long since lost. A sketch of what such a renewed ideological practice might look like is offered by Uccellacci e uccellini (Hawks and sparrows), perhaps Pasolini's best film. In the closing scenes, before walking into the sunset of a new future beyond the frame of the film, both Ninetto and Totd, the film's protagonists, assimilate the teachings of their guide, the annoying Marxist crow, by eating it. In the present stage of history marked by the tangible signs of the prog­ ress made possible by the economic boom— airports, autostrade, the construction of satellite towns— the ideology embodied by the crow has become exhausted and a new mode of political militancy needs to be elaborated. Marxism is not rejected tout court, but selectively bought into as an integral part of a self-regenerating, ongoing ideology under whose aegis Ninetto and Tot6 can set out on a new path. The sexual encounter both protagonists have with the prostitute Luna, whose name means "M oon," just before consuming the crow, also suggests that in order to have valence as the dawning of a new age to supplant the old age, the end of which is signaled by footage from the funeral of Palmiro Togliatti, the leader and cofounder of the Italian Communist party, the reason of ideology must be accompanied by some recognition of the presence of transcendent forces.10 For Pasolini, the limit of history is that its emphasis on evergreater progress and emancipation privileges the rational over the mysterious and overlooks those irrational elements at play in reality which he wants to valorize. By prefiguring a future of guaranteed social and material progress the narrative of history



has induced a state of shortsightedness in those carried along by its course. Pasolini fears that we will soon lose sight altogether of those moments of transcendence that reality offers up to us be­ cause we deem them irrelevant and unproductive to the present course of history. It is at this point that Marxist and bourgeois ideologies intersect insofar as they are both based on parallel no­ tions of progress. Pasolini suspects that the Marxist narrative of progress, which is achieved by turning nonproductive subprolet­ arian subjects into productive and organized members of the pro­ letariat, is too close to the bourgeois narrative of history for comfort. Once subproletarian subjects set out on the road to­ wards the improvements in social and material status that the Marxist narrative of history promises, they will soon find themselves overtaken by the bourgeois narrative. This, in fact, is what happens to Tommasino in Life, and with disastrous consequences.11 Marginal groups are of interest to Pasolini precisely because their nonparticipation in the narrative of history has given them no sense of future expectation. As such, they remain open to the possibility of the unexpected and unforeseen. In general, the borgatari are not swept along by the homologizing laws of either the bourgeois or Marxist versions of history. They still perceive the inkling of contact with a higher, more mysterious reality that makes its presence felt to them through the elements of nature. For the most part, however, they maintain only an unconscious, intuitive awareness of that contact. In Tommasino's case, it is only on a couple of occasions— his choked-back tear under the starry sky; and, as we shall see, the sound of the church bells as he lies in his hospital bed— that he is able to formulate the vague and tragic premonition of the death that awaits him. But when the borgatari either leave their marginal world and enter the narrative of history, as does Tommasino in Life, or attempt to subvert the order of the borgata, as does Genesio in Ragazzi, they are made aware of the force of the natural elements in the most tragic of ways. In Ragazzi, for example, Genesio is swept away by the cur­ rent of the river Tiber; and Tommasino dies after an apocalyptic storm breaks over Rome. Both novels, then, end in watery deaths. In both cases the vic­ tims are characters who have attempted to work change either in the borgata or in themselves. In this sense, change, whether per­ sonal or political, is looked on with suspicion by both texts. In Life, for example, Tommasino's development of a political con­ sciousness and his other attempts at self-improvement are only a

4: The Roman Novels II


prelude to his premature death. The steps that he, and Genesio, take away from their origins, even in the direction of selfimprovement, are represented in the novels as false moves, imme­ diately punished by death. The huge storm which gathers over Rome in the final chapter of Life, "L'Eterna Fame/' leads Tommasino to his death. At this point in the novel Tommasino appears to be on the right track. His experiences have seemingly transformed him: he has a job, he plans to marry and settle down, he has recovered from an attack of tuberculosis, he has joined the Communist party. As he says of himself: "Non vojo esse più Tommaso" (I don't wanna be Tommasino any more!) (195; 197). But in leading Tommasino to his death, the violent storm undermines the new identity he has attempted to construct for himself outside the codes of borgata life. The storm itself is described in apocalyptic terms. At first some­ thing is sensed in the air: "And yet there was something in the air: som ething mysterious you couldn't understand very well" (283; 282). Then clouds begin to gather over Rome, the first claps of thunder carrying ominous warnings of what is to come. Like armies, the clouds prepare themselves for the attack: The clouds, which had thickened and huddled at the back of the sky, had now begun to swell again: white as cream, they had glided overhead, massed together again, so light they looked like brides in their wedding dresses, or dark and stripped like piles of garbage blown by the cold wind. In the end, they had clogged up the whole sky again, one cloud above, one below, one little, one big, one grey, one dark, one white, and all sticky, filthy, cold. In one patch of sky the sun was still shining, but it looked godforsaken, because a smoke that wasn't fog and wasn't clouds ran under that scab that covered the sky, in waves, black as a damned soul. Then one part of all that pile of clouds, big and small, of smoke, became an even grey, towards Rome. It was earth-coloured, and like rubbed earth it spread out, looming over the city: from there came a first thunder-clap that rum­ bled even in your bones. (297; 296)

The thunder strikes Rome at its very foundations. But at the same time the clouds— one big, one small, one dark, one white— retain a sense of distance and otherness. Their force is that of an invader who remains distant and indifferent, cruel and cold. Fi­ nally a sinister cloud, described in terms of judgmental chaos and apocalypse, hangs over the borgata: It was still light. You couldn't tell where the light came from, maybe the world had been turned upside down, and up above you could


A POETICS OF RESISTANCE see the mouth of hell from which the flames came down. The sky was all black around the edges, but in the middle there was a kind of gap in the clouds, a bit of pale blue and from there, like the walls of a well, the clouds were illuminated by an orangey glow that spread all around. But a dark steam was passing in front of all that radiance, a vapour that the sirocco drove at top speed, and it became thicker and thicker and so low it touched the tops of the six or seven big new buildings of Pietralata. Soon that black smoke became a real cloud, that filtered the light dripping like blood from the centre of the sky, and dimmed it, scattering it over Pietralata like the ashes of death. (302; 301)

It is difficult not to read these final pages of the novel in terms of a dreadful settling of accounts. The world has gone awry, the natural elements take their revenge. Although Tommasino is al­ legedly different at this stage of the novel, this difference does not spare him from the ravages of a storm which strikes at the heart of the borgata. Indeed, it is Tommasino's difference from his fellow borgatari that seems to single him out for special treatment. The storm suggests that there is little one can do when faced with the great, alien immensity of an unpredictable natural order which follows an unfathomable logic the keys to which we do not possess. Earlier, Tommasino had experienced another moment of selfawareness, which like the twinkling star episode, is caused by the perception of an external presence: the chiming of the church bells he hears from his hospital bed. This time, though, differ­ ently from the first episode when he repressed the tear, Tommas­ ino gives himself over to the desperate message the church bells bring. Their regular chiming is a mark of stability in a world whose shifty contingency has been brought home to Tommasino after an attack of tuberculosis led to his brush with death. The church bells also become the sign that destiny cannot be outdone and that time will inevitability lead the self toward death. Again the sound seems to come from beyond, from "l'aldil&": Then something changed: he felt that outside it wasn't all dark any more, that a faint light was whitening the air. Or else it was an impres­ sion: maybe it was only the Permolio burning more brightly, with its jet of flame flickering in the middle of the sky. You couldn't hear a voice, a sound. But, then, slowly, some bells began to ring. The tolling came weakly, muffled, as if from a distance, beyond the pavilions and the gardens, maybe on the Portuense, from the church next to Vigna Pia or from

4: The Roman Novels II


some new church that had been built around there, at Casaletto, or Corviale, or at Santa Passera. . . . It was a sound Tommaso had never heard: or maybe he had heard it when he was a little kid, and now he didn't remember. It seemed to come up from the bottom of the earth or from some point above the early-morning clouds, where the sky is just taking on colour and already seems the light of a good and happy day. It was the sound of Matins. It still wasn't clear whether it was a sign of celebration for the returning day or whether it was announcing a misfortune, a death. Maybe it was both things mixed together, cancelling each other out as they mingled, and that sound was only a sound, repeated, faint but constant. Tommaso couldn't make out what it meant, because he had no words for it, no way of understanding; he had never paid any attention to these things, no­ body ever talked to him about them: it was as if they didn't exist. But now it was there, and loud, that sound, dong dong dong dong, pass­ ing through all those sleeping neighbourhoods, that old air which was beginning to brighten, barely from within, as if from itself, be­ coming grey and cleansed, rediscovering all the things around: walls, trees, buildings, streets. And it had to be ringing for someone: for the priest, who made it ring, for the sacristan, for some old woman, for the workers on some night-time job, coming off work at that hour, for those who had to catch a train for somewhere. B u t . . . how to say it? . . . it seemed that those bells, that mysterious dong dong dong dong that re-announced the life of every day, were saying instead no, that everything was in vain, that all were alive but already dead, buried, lost souls. And at the same time the smell of mud, of rain, of coffee, as if borne by the tolling of those bells, began to be perceptible all around, giving a sense of calm and of freshness. (226; 226-27)

Like the elements of nature, the sound of the church bells in­ vades the world of Tommasino and supplies a moment of oth­ erness and potential for self-awareness that is entirely lacking in the borgata. But otherness can never be totally lacking, never totally absent, suggests Pasolini, it can only be repressed, as Tommasino does with the tear, but never indefinitely. Deeply im­ bedded in the fabric of borgata life there is something other, some­ thing mysterious and different which eludes the borgatari, but which they can never escape entirely It is to this higher level of things that the borgatari have some kind of instinctive attachment, but which they themselves are unable to articulate. The closest encounter a borgataro is likely to have with this higher order of things is when he attempts to subvert the codes of borgata life.



We have seen what happens to Tommasino in Life. Now let us see what happens to Genesio in Ragazzi. Ragazzi, in fact, offers another illustration of what happens when the borgatari attempt to rebel against the order of the borgata. There are striking similarities between the deaths of Tom­ masino in Life and Genesio in Ragazzi. Both die in the concluding chapters of the novels, both die watery deaths, both see their attempts at differentiating themselves from the other borgatari end in tragedy. We have already seen how Tommasino may be consid­ ered different. In what way is Genesio different? Most important, he is younger than the other protagonists of the novel. He belongs to a group that has not yet been included in the ranks of the elder borgatari and must wait his turn before being accepted. In place within the borgata there is a kind of hierarchy according to which, as time passes, younger borgatari are inducted into the circle of the elders. Riccetto is a prime example of this process. He recalls a time when he too, like Genesio, belonged to the younger group: "He remembered how it used to be when he was like them, how it was when the big boys from the housing projects used to gang up on him, and he used to go around with Marcello and Agnoletto, and everybody ignored him or scorned him ."12 But as time passes Riccetto becomes one of the "grossi" and is admitted as one of the fully fledged borgatari. This is not the case with Genesio. He is not content to wait for his time to come and seeks to overturn borgata hierarchy. Despite his age he attempts to prove himself equal to the elder borgatari by swimming across the river— "going to swim across today/'13 he announces. To pit himself against the river is the rite of initiation that will prove him a fit member of the circle of elder borgatari. However, in the course of the chapter, it has already been made clear that Genesio is not yet ready for this step and that his right­ ful, and by borgata standards, natural place is still with his younger brothers. For example, we are told that Genesio has only just started to use the borgata equivalent of the "F"-word, a dis­ tinct disadvantage for an aspiring borgataro: "It was the first time he had ever said the whole phrase like that."14 Elsewhere his authority over his brothers is undermined: "His younger brothers . . . always did what he said, though not at all out of fear, and occasionally, while following instructions most respectfully, they still took the liberty of kidding him a little."15 Genesio's bid to prove himself ends, as the title of the chapter "La Comare Secca" (The old hag or grim reaper) predicts, in tragedy as he is swal­ lowed up by the rushing current of the river.

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Despite the dramatic events recounted in the last two chapters of both novels, neither "La Comare Secca" nor "L'Eterna Fame" end in as dramatic a fashion as one might expect, given the nature of the deaths of Genesio and Tommasino. Rather than being dra­ matic and apocalyptic, the tone of the concluding segments of both chapters suggests in its measured, unruffled prose the inevi­ tability of the tragic end which has befallen both borgatari who have attempted to disassociate themselves from their origins. If the deaths are tragedies, they are tragedies that are unavoidable and destined to be repeated in the future. Genesio's death, for example, is followed by silence and indifference, as if it were part of the normal pattern of events: "There wasn't a soul around at that moment. There wasn't even a car going by, or one of the old buses that ran through that section. In the enormous silence, all you could hear was a tank, lost somewhere beyond the playing fields in Ponte Mammolo, plowing up the horizon with its roar."116 Tommasino's death is also described in terms of inevitability and tragic submission to a greater reality over which we have little hold. Tommasino becomes an innocent victim, punished for a crime he did not know he was committing: "But then, when night came, he felt worse all the time: he had another fit, coughing blood, coughing, coughing, unable to catch his breath, and it was goodbye Tommaso" (322; 320). Change, then, when it points in the direction of the mainstream social order is always regarded with suspicion as a false move which betrays the fundamental nature of the borgatari. But Life also suggests that a borgatarcfs fundamental nature can never be changed by the superficial temptations of history. Tommasino's new socially and politically respectable self, for example, is seen as a thin mask destined to fall away and reveal his unchanged and unchanging true nature. There is one episode in the final chapter of Life in which we discover that Tommasino, despite his move toward mainstream respectability, remains much the same borgataro as before. In this scene, we see Tommasino, short of money, hustling in a Roman cinema, where he threatens and robs a homosexual. This episode has often surprised critics.17 It has usually been interpreted in one of two ways: either as weak char­ acterization in that a changed and different Tommasino reverts back to supposedly forgotten past ways; or as an example of how Pasolini is unable to resist the temptation of depicting the most outrageous and despicable side of low-life. But this is not, I think, all that is at stake in this scene. At this point in the novel Tommas­ ino claims to have differentiated himself from the other borgatari.



Yet, despite this difference, his social and existential situation has hardly changed and certainly not improved.18 As before, like his companions, he is short of money: soon, like his companions, he will die a premature death. Despite his newly acquired political consciousness and his adoption of new values, there has been no substantial change in the actual circumstances of Tommasino's life or in his hopes for the future. The description of the inside of the cinema where Tommasino goes hustling is of interest here. The passage in question concerns the lifting of a stone to reveal a heap of squirming worms: ''Under the bright light, the room looked like a stone when it's been lifted up and you find it was covering a pile of worms: one coiled around the other, moving and crawling all around, twisting their heads and their tails, half-crazed, struck by the light like that" (274; 274). The analogy between the moviegoers and the twistings and turnings of the worms lends itself to a number of readings. First, the gesture of lifting the stone reveals a reality that had previously been hidden. The surface tranquillity that the stone's presence would guarantee is seen as a sham, a superficial and oppressive attempt to control a reality that ultimately resists con­ trol. The stone, then, acts as a mask which cannot hide the press­ ing and chaotic reality under the surface. The gesture of uncovering also has a parallel in Tommasino's reverting to his old ways. The new identity he has attempted to forge for himself can now be reinterpreted, if we follow through Pasolini's suggestions, as a superficial mask which is not strong enough to hide the original and authentic Tommasino of the borgata. For Pasolini of the 1950s and early 1960s, a given identity forged in the borgata can never be fundamentally altered, much less jettisoned. It can be masked by the adoption of codes which belong to other orders and narratives but never removed. The only authentic mode of being, the text suggests, involves main­ taining real contact with origins, where one lives close to the things that manifest their real essence even in seemingly unlikely urban settings like the korgata. It is hardly surprising that Marxist critics have found it difficult to accept these facets of Pasolini's novels. Pasolini wants to see the reality of the borgatari and the borgata as an essence, as an unchangeable and unchanging origin, intimately linked to the earth, its spiritual energies, and its inherent possibilities. The borgata Pasolini represents is not, in the first place, a historically formed condition, nor are the borgatari either products of the bor­ gata or of capitalism; nor are they victims of circumstance. Rather,

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their situation is a free-standing condition existing in and of itself with little or no reference to historical causes. Ragazzi has been criticized on this point more than Life, but the same elements that contest the feasibility of changing unproductive subjects into productive ones by including them in history are also very pres­ ent in the second of the two novels. Even though the political and social context is more to the fore in Life, it is depicted as having no emancipatory effect on the direction that the lives of Tommasino and the other borgatari take. In fact, on the contrary, it is the road to their ruin. Although I have been arguing that the borgata is depicted as essentially an unchanging place, I do not want to lose sight of the important differences between the borgata we find in Ragazzi and the one we find in Life. The main thrust of Life is to problematize and question the emancipatory narrative on which Tommasino embarks. By doing so the text acknowledges the in­ evitability of that narrative's entrance even into the closed world of the borgata. There are already signs of the beginnings of this process in the concluding chapters of Ragazzi: after he is released from jail Riccetto is a changed character who in non-borgataro fashion even develops a sense of memory and nostalgia for a past the likes of which he will never be able to relive. By the time Life comes along, this process has been accelerated. Time has passed between the two novels, and with it the pres­ ence of history has come to take a stronger grip on the conscious­ ness of even these most liminal subjects. That Tommasino, for example, is a different order of borgataro than the cast of Ragazzi is made perfectly clear. If we take seriously the self-image the borgatari have of themselves— "semo bulli, belli, ballamo bene, rubbamo bene, mettemo bene" (We're a smart bunch, all right: we can dance and we can steal and we can fuck good, too!) (60; 65)—we get some idea of how Tommasino no longer fits the clas­ sic mold.19 This self-description excludes Tommasino: far from being "bello" and "bullo" his ugliness and awkwardness are con­ sistently underlined. He can't dance, his stealing is violent, nasty, and directed against innocent bystanders (whereas Riccetto seems to have a code of behaviour that would exclude gratuitous violence), and last, as his gropings with Irene and his failure to seduce his high-school teacher in chapter 1 testify, he is no sexual athlete. Tommasino finds himself in a midposition between two changing orders. He is no longer the fully fledged borgataro, the genuine article like most of the characters of Ragazzi, but neither is he the achieved bourgeois. Suspended between two worlds,



Tommasino does not belong to either. Yet his ties with the borgata, with his essence and origin have not been entirely severed, nor can they be.20 In a letter to Marco Pannella, writing of the condition of Italian youth, Pasolini defines the predicament of the likes of Tommas­ ino: "those hundreds of thousands of young people who suffer the loss of values from one culture and have not yet found the values of a new one (as we think of it); they either accept ostenta­ tiously and violently the values of a consumerist culture (which we reject), or else they accept the values of a merely rhetorical progress."21 Tommasino is caught up in such a process of at­ tempted redefinition of status. He is certainly different insofar as he expresses the desire to change. Hardly anyone in Ragazzi wants or even thinks about change. As Pasolini makes clear in the letter, these unhappy borgatari, having failed to find a niche in any new order, have no longer the place they once had in the old order. Yet, even these liminal borgatari are always subject to the pull their borgata origins exercise over them. Or better: Life enjoins us to question the extent to which a borgataro, whose origins are forged in the ghetto, can ever be anything other than a borgataro. Life, in fact, makes the suggestion that a borgataro, even a displaced borga­ taro like Tommasino, can be no other than he is: once a borgataro, always a borgataro.

Pasolini's Last Time: Petrolio Though written during the period of Pasolini's long residence in Rome, and partly set in the same city, Petrolio (Oil, 1992) is not strictly speaking a Roman novel. In place of characters drawn from the borgata we find here a central character drawn from the managerial classes, a moderately left-wing Catholic who works for ENI, the Italian State-controlled oil company; and in place of Pasolini's lively dialect-enriched, low-register Italian, we find a flatter, generally more prosaic style which is almost devoid of the direct speech that characterized the two earlier Roman novels. Petrolio is, however, Pasolini's last novel. Published posthumously in the autumn of 1992, seventeen years almost to the day after his murder, Petrolio marked Pasolini's return to the novel form he seemed to have abandoned with the publication of Life. I have chosen to break with strict chronological order and include Pet­ rolio in this "novel" section of the work for the following reasons: first, because I do not want to credit this incomplete and unedited

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text, whose publication in the form we have it today would cer­ tainly not have been authorized by its author, with what I believe is undue importance as some kind of "final testament" (despite Pasolini's own description of the text as "a kind of 'summa' of all my experiences"22); and secondly, because the question of narra­ tive form which invests almost every one of the text's 547 pages is handled, it seems to me, in a clearer and more coherent manner in Pasolini's theoretical writings of the mid- to late-19605.23 I pro­ pose, then, to consider Petrolio as, on the one hand, a continuation of the series of experiments in narrative form that had led him from Atti to Life; and, on the other, as an actualization of and introduction to the next chapter's discussion of the questions his theoretical writings raise. Even allowing for a good dose of Pasolinian hyperbole, the evidence we have from interviews and anecdotes suggests that Pasolini set great store by Petrolio. He had planned it as a mam­ moth two thousand-page undertaking which, as he says in the same Stampa sera interview, would keep him busy for the rest of his life, would name names, be sexually explicit, and cause a scandal.24 But apart from those of a few politicians caught in de­ cidedly uncompromising positions at a reception, the text hardly names any names. On occasion, Pasolini does speak of "an in­ tellectual," or "a politician," or "a Communist from the Central Committee" among the guests at a cocktail party and describes them physically.25 The reader well-informed of the ins and outs of Italian political and cultural life of the early 1970s could no doubt reconstruct who these characters are based on, but it would hardly be worthwhile given their relatively minor status in the novel.26 To the best of my knowledge, none of the politicians named, some of whom are still active on the political scene today despite the twenty years or so that have passed since the text's writing, has been offended enough by their depiction in Petrolio to be tempted to sue. The characters of Bonocore and Troya, two of ENI's top-flight executives, are a little more recognizable. Bonocore is Enrico Mattei, the ex-partisan who was the first president of Italy's newly created State Oil Company; Troya, whose name is a thinly dis­ guised version of one of the Italian words for prostitute, is Eu­ genio Cefis, who took over the company when Mattei was killed in a mysterious plane crash that became the subject for Francesco Rosi's film II caso Mattei. Like Rosi, Pasolini harbors doubts about the circumstances of Mattei's death and in one of the text's inter­ calated notes hints that Cefis may have been involved in a conspir­



acy that was an early sign of the turn to the right that Italian politics took in the early 1970s: "Troya(!) is about to become Presi­ dent of ENI. This implies the elimination of his predecessor (the Mattei case, to be shifted chronologically ahead of time)" (117-18). These episodes, which take up the early pages of Petrolio and then fade into the background, take on more topicality for the contemporary reader because it is now generally accepted that under Cefis's stewardship, the State Oil Company ceased to be controlled by its managers, as it had been under Mattei, but fell into the hands of Italy's rapacious political parties. In other words, this was the moment when corruption in the shape of the huge kickback scandal that has rocked Italy's political foundations found its first systematic form.27 The text of Petrolio as we have it today is a redaction based on the 521 or 522 pages— the Einaudi edition cites both figures at different times— of a manuscript that Graziella Chiarcossi found among Pasolini's belongings immediately after his murder. From a dated outline of Petrolio that was included with the manuscript, we know that Pasolini had his initial idea for the novel in the spring or summer of 1972. Pasolini had ordered the pages of the manuscript into "Appunti" (Notes), which he numbered from 1 to 133. Some notes, although numbered, have been left as blank pages; others contain an undeveloped outline. Whenever a series of notes has some narrative coherency it is given the same num­ ber and the addition of either a letter (71, 71a, 71b, etc.) or of "bis," "ter," "quater," etc. The numbering, however, is often not sequential: there are different versions of notes marked with the same number; at times the chronological order is followed errati­ cally or not at all, while at other times it is broken. The manuscript of Petrolio also alerts us to those sections where Pasolini had planned either revisions, additions, or alternative dictions. These plans are marked in one of two ways: either by Pasolini's editorial intervention in the body of the manuscript, or by pages, some of them dated, intercalated between the notes, suggesting new narrative sequences, clarifications and/or addi­ tions. As these intentions are signaled typographically either by symbols or by smaller-type characters, and given the already pro­ visional nature of the manuscript, the reading of the text becomes a less than smooth experience. The editors, however, can hardly be blamed for this. Had Pasolini been able to return to work on the manuscript there is no doubt that the final version would have borne little resemblance to a seamless, user-friendly narrative. According to his intercalated notes, Pasolini had plans to inter­

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rupt Petrolio with long, untranslated quotations in Greek (140-54) and Japanese (528). The text, in fact, goes out of its way to present itself as anomalous when compared to a conventional narrative. The opening page, for example, is left blank with a footnote ex­ plaining: "This novel does not begin" (9); on other occasions, as we shall see, the narrative voice is at pains to point out that what s/he is writing is not a novel. And in the "Nota progettuale" (Project note) written in the spring of 1973, which opens the volume and takes the form of a series of instructions to a hypo­ thetical editor of the manuscript, Pasolini seeks to accentuate the already fragmented nature of the text. Included alongside the manuscript, he writes, should be some personal letters, but whose authenticity is in doubt; also to be included are letters from friends who have read the manuscript but who express dis­ cordant opinions on its value. The "critical edition of an unpub­ lished text" (3) will also be illustrated and draw on documents and oral histories pertinent to the Italy of the 1970s. These docu­ ments are to be intercalated with the manuscript in such a way that the fiction remains indistinguishable from the fact: "The frag­ mentary character of the whole book means that certain 'narrative pieces' are perfect, but we can't be certain, for example, if they are based on real facts, on dreams or conjectures made by one of the characters" (4). In the light of these objective difficulties, and the meandering, self-referential, and often incongruous nature of this text,28 it might be useful to provide a summary of the novel's main narra­ tive strands. In what follows, I have divided the text into ten sections, on the basis either of breaks in the sequential order of the notes or on the beginning of a new narrative sequence. For the purposes of this summary, I have ignored both the interca­ lated notes and those self-referential notes in which Pasolini muses on the question of narrative form: Section 1: Author's guidelines for a critical edition of Petrolio, cor­ responding to pp. 2-3. Section 2: Comprising notes 1-34 ter, corresponding to pp. 9-138. (Notes 12-16 are missing; notes 20-30 are announced in a sin­ gle, one-page entry but do not appear; notes 22, 22a, 22b, 22c [which appears twice], 22d are entitled "II cosidetto impero dei Troya"). Set in 1960/61: At his home in one of Rome's residential quar­ ters, Carlo Valletti observes his own suicide in a visionary day­


A POETICS OF RESISTANCE dream; two beings, Tetis and Polis, argue over his body; Tetis cuts into Carlo's body with a knife and pulls out a fetus which immediately grows into an exact replica of Carlo; the dead body also comes to life; Tetis travels to Sicily to look for a woman to whom he wants to confide a secret; the woman, who is a writer, refuses to listen to him and, even after fifteen years, the secret is not divulged; introduction of Carlo I, a middle-aged Catholic intellectual of moderately left-wing views who works for ENT, a state-controlled oil company; introduction of Carlo II, or Karl, who is identical to Carlo I, except that the latter rejects the social conformity of the former; the Secret Services decide to follow Carlo ITs daily movements; he goes back to Turin, his home town, to visit his family; he has sex with his mother in their home and in the toilet of a house where a party is being given; masturbating at every possible opportunity, Carlo II walks the city streets obsessed by the possibility of new sexual conquests; in the course of his stay he has sex with his mother, his grandmother, his sisters, the maid, the maid's fourteenyear-old daughter, her friends, prostitutes, etc.; he dreams he is tied to a rotating wheel; meanwhile in Rome, Carlo I pursues his career; he goes to a reception held by a Signora F., where he is entrusted by his ENI bosses with a mission to the Middle East; introduction of Troya, vice-president of ENI, who also has a vast private economic empire whose ramifications end in an entity indicated as "?"; story is told of man who, when offered power by a demon (who turns out to be God), asks to be made a saint.

(Note 35 is missing.) Section 3: Comprising notes 36-37, corresponding to pp 139-55. (Notes 36-36n are entitled "Gli Argonauti.") Carlo's journey to the Middle East on ENI business retold in note form as journey of the Argonauts; Pasolini's intention to narrate this story in Greek. (Notes 38 and 39, announced on separate page (139) under heading "Gli Argonauti," are missing.) Section 4: Comprising notes 40-43, corresponding to pp. 156-88. (There are two different versions of "Notes 41, 42 and 4 3 ," the second series coming after the first one. This section also includes an unnumbered note 30.)

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A series of stories: (1) Tristram, a British journalist, who buys a female slave in the Sudan; (2) Sardar, an Indian waiter, whose face suddenly breaks out in spots, pus, and blood; notes on original plans to divide text into parts called "Project" and "M ystery". (Notes 44-49 are missing.) Section 5: Comprising notes 50-55, corresponding to pp. 189-229. (Note 53 is missing.) Carlo II goes out in search of "Rita," his idealization of the kind of sexual encounter he desires; he sees a truck full of Commu­ nist party youth on their way to a demonstration; as a result Carlo II changes sex; on the grass in the Casilina section of Rome, Carlo II has repeated sexual encounters with a series of young men. (Notes 56-57 are missing. Notes 58 and 59 appear out of order after note 67.) Section 6: Comprising notes 60-67, corresponding to pp. 230-319. Set in 1972: Carlo I comes back from Middle East in a climate of political tension; death of the left-wing editor Gian Giacomo Feltrinelli; wave of neo-Fascist activity in industry and political life; Carlo I discovers Carlo II/Karl has disappeared and at­ tempts to find him but without success; Carlo I begins to have contacts with right-wing political groups and, without ac­ knowledging it, finds himself caught up in right-wing political circles; at a dinner hosted by a right-wing politician before the general election of 7 May 1972, Carlo I changes sex; he has a vision of his father; after the elections, a new, more right-wing government is formed; Italy undergoes a general political move to the right; at a dinner with some right-wing Christian Demo­ crats in a Roman restaurant, Carlo I meets Carmelo, a young hat-check boy; they arrange to meet and have a long sexual encounter; afterwards Carmelo goes away with two compan­ ions; after a long drive to the coast, they murder him; they take a boat and arrive in an unidentified town; Carlo I wakes up at home the next day and determines to see Carmelo again; he goes back to the restaurant but doesn't find him.


A POETICS OF RESISTANCE (Notes 58-59, and different versions of notes 60-65, including two different "Notes 64," appear out of order after note 67; notes 68-69 are missing.)

Section 7: Comprising notes 70-74, corresponding to pp. 320-88. (There are two different "Notes 70"; notes 71-72g are entitled "D Merda.") Set in 1973/74: Carlo I goes to the Colosseum and has a vision; the journey of II Merda and Cinzia, his girlfriend, through a Hell, the circles of which are dominated by a Model; all aspects of life are governed by various Models; at the end of the journey there is a Nazi cross. (Notes 75-80 are missing.) Section 8: Comprising notes 81-84, corresponding to pp. 389-97. (There are two different versions of note 82; note 83 is missing.) Carlo I reverts back to being a man, but makes arrangem ents to be surgically castrated.

(Notes 85-89 and 91-96 are missing; a different version of note 100 appears out of order after note 90) Section 9: Comprising pp. 399-457.





(There are two different versions of "Notes 102" and "Notes 103," which appear after note 103a and before note 103b; notes 98-103 are entitled "L'Epochfc.") Carlo goes to a reception to celebrate the public holiday to mark the founding of the republic, hosted by the Italian head of state at the Presidential Palace; away from the main group of politi­ cians a group of intellectuals tell one another stories. Section 10: comprising notes pp. 461-537.




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(Notes 108-9 are missing; note 128c appears out of order after note 129c; there are two different versions of note 129; notes 110-20 are entitled "I Godoari"; notes 121-24 are entitled "La nuova periferia.") Beginning of Part 2 of text: Carlo I goes back to Turin by way of Pisa; aftermath of a bomb that explodes at the Turin train station; Carlo journeys through a savanna that degenerates into a waste land before becoming a city; there is a Fascist demon­ stration; Carlo's penis returns; plans for an anti-Fascist party to celebrate the new Turin prefect, an ex-Partisan; plans for sec­ tion of text in Japanese; Carlo constructs a hermitage. In the spring/summer of 1972, Pasolini gave some indication of what his original intentions for Petrolio were with an outline of the direction the novel would take. As well as confirming the general shape of the text as we have it today, Pasolini's outline also gives an idea of how the text would have continued. The outline, which is included in the Einaudi edition (541-43), goes something like this: A and B are a man and his double; B is the negative side of A, a cultivated member of the bourgeoisie who works in the oil industry; between them they have a perfect agreement, a true balance; while A is on official business in the Middle East, B remains in Rome and changes sex; B no longer seeks sexual encounters with women but with men; in these encounters he experiences the abolition of limits; he has sex with twenty men in a field; as they leave the twenty men are killed; A comes back from Middle East to find B missing; A now engages in the same erotic activities as B had done; but as a public figure, A cannot continue in this way; choosing to be a public figure, and denying the part of him to which B attended, he becomes more right wing; A too becomes a woman and has sex with a young Sicilian fascist who is devoured by a Monster; A, once he, like B, has experi­ enced the abolition of limits, overcomes the self-restraint that had prevented him from being B and makes plans to have sex with twenty men; as they go home, one of the men—it is unclear whether he is a fascist or an anarchist—throws a bomb in Rome's Termini Train Sta­ tion causing many deaths; the others, inspired by Monsters like those which devoured the earlier Sicilian fascist, follow him; B misses the sense of security he got from A; he looks for him but finds his apart­ ment empty; he castrates himself and takes A's place in the petrol company office which is now controlled by fascists; the fascists try to set up B with a woman so that they can make fun of him; but while B defends himself, the Monsters bring a pestiferous plague of boils


A POETICS OF RESISTANCE onto the fascists turning them into pus-ridden masks; meanwhile, A has gone to live in the country where he has perfected the techniques of a religion he discovered on his business travels in the Middle East; he becomes a saint and has God send an angel to visit B in his office where he and the fascists work; the angel heals the fascists turning them back into human beings and B back into a man; to the question "What to do now?" they decide to carry on as before.

Compared to the original outline, the published text, even allowing for the fact that it comprises a little over a quarter of Pasolini's intended two thousand pages, remains surprisingly faithful, a sign perhaps that Pasolini's plans for a mammoth work were subsequent to his original idea. The published text differs in the following ways: first, the devouring monsters have been eliminated (this was probably just as well); second, it is less clear that Carmelo is murdered; third, A's sainthood and the plague of boils visited on the Fascists take the form of the two stories about the intellectual and Sardar included in the sections I have called 2 (pages 128-37 in the text) and 4 (pages 173-77); and last, the terrorist bomb thrown at the train station is only hinted at in the published text. On this last point, Pasolini has anticipated history in the uncanniest of ways. While the outline speaks of a bomb at the Rome train station, in the body of the text there are references to the aftermath of a bomb at the Turin train station. One of the intercalated pages contains unrealized plans for two notes enti­ tled "The Bomb" and "Vision of the Massacre" (455) and also suggest Carlo's direct involvement in the financing of the atrocity (475). But most striking of all is another intercalated page that sets the bomb in Bologna (546), thus anticipating the actual neoFascist bomb at the train station in August 1980 which killed over eighty people and remains today Europe's most costly terrorist outrage in terms of lives lost. The intense debate provoked by the publication of Petrolio saw the participation of almost all of Italy's major intellectual figures. As well as considering the ethics of publishing an unfinished manuscript, the debate also bore on how the text, written in the early 1970s, had been able to predict events of the 1980s. Unlike all Pasolini's previous novels, Petrolio deals head on with Italian political and social questions like terrorism and corruption that have become topics of contemporary discussion. In a generally dismissive review, Franco Fortini finds Petrolio to be "extraordi­ nary and harsh, even necessary" as a means of understanding Italy between 1960 and 1980.29 Fortini is not only referring to the

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bomb planted at the Bologna train station. He is also referring to two other scandals that have emerged in recent years and which Petrolio anticipated. First, the overlap between the public-funded, state-controlled sector and private industry, which has produced Italy's rampant political corruption, only recently exposed by the Mani pulite (Clean Hands) operation. Troya is the vice-president of ENI, but he is also at the head of a vast private empire, which Pasolini takes eleven pages to trace to a mysterious company that can only be called "?". For Troya, there is no difference between public and private industry: "Troya's true power is in his private empire, if these distinctions are possible. Troya has always coher­ ently linstinctivelyl acted under the sign of the Misto [a mixture of private and state-run public enterprise]. There is then no dif­ ference between what is his and what belongs to the public" (98). The second scandal that Petrolio anticipates bears on the suspicion that right-wing members of the Christian Democratic party, in collusion with reactionary sectors of the Secret Services, had joined forces with neo-Fasdst terrorist groups to create the socalled strategy of tension. This involved planting bombs in public places— squares, banks, trains, and train stations— and creating the conditions for a state of emergency which could then be seen to justify extreme, perhaps militarily led, political solutions. The recent discovery of the existence of Gladio, an underground, semi­ secret, anti-Communist army controlled by the Italian Secret Ser­ vices, which had been put together in the early 1950s with U.S. support and funding, has led some political commentators to suspect that members of this group, either acting individually or on orders, may have been involved in plotting the strategy of tension. The possible involvement of Gladio has added plausibility to the idea mat such a strategy was aimed against the Italian Communist party, which in the early- to mid-1970s enjoyed great public support and put itself forward as a party ready for govern­ ment, a scenario which frightened many conservatives. Though often difficult and tense, Pasolini's commitment to the Italian Communist party was ultimately firm. In his last public address before his murder, at the Radical party's annual confer­ ence in 1975, he declared himself a Communist who was proud of the party's heritage. For Pasolini, however, the Communist party was the party of the poor, the humble, and the disenfran­ chised. This is the kind of party we find represented in the sod­ den red flag of Life. In Petrolio we find a similar scene. Here, as a character called II Merda (The Shit), his arm held tightly around the waist of Cinzia, his girlfriend, in a debased version of the



Orpheus and Eridice myth, makes his way through the rigidly codified hell that contemporary society had become, the only sign of resistance comes from the Communist party. In a hell, where all aspects of life— dress codes, haircuts, as well as ideas of dignity, tolerance, love, and family— are controlled by a series of govern­ ing models, there is also a "Scene of Reality which survives blink­ ing before it disappears for ever." This is where we find the Communists who with their dirty fingernails and greasy overalls maintain some vital contact with first things: "They are happy. Light splashes from their eyes. . . . Poverty and the injustice against which they fight do not discourage them. . . . The Com­ munist Party is not a great clean, uncorrupted party; it is a great dirty Party: but it is made dirty by workshop grease, iron, rust, flour, dry fish, blood and dust" (376). What angered Pasolini, however, was how the Communist party had betrayed these origins. Over the years the party had ceased to be the voice of the disenfranchised and had taken on many of the bourgeois values it had originally been set up to fight. In a typically Italian process known as "trasformismo," the party, either by accident or by design, had been unable to prevent the ideals of the anti-Fascist Resistance movement from being co­ opted by the future governing classes and so emptied of their revolutionary content. Troya, for example, whose family back­ ground is Fascist, understood the importance that an anti-Fascist political passport would assume in the postwar period. The figure par excellence of political corruption, Troya harbored motives for participating in the Resistance movement that were opportunistic and not ideological. It is in the Resistance, in fact, that he laid the groundwork for his future career successes (97). In a similar vein, Pasolini spares us none of his irony in describ­ ing the sophisticated "Anti-Fascist Party" held in Turin to honor the first anti-Fascist prefect to take office in a major Italian city. For Pasolini, however, the ideals that the cocktail party was sup­ posed to commemorate have become so diluted and respectable that they can now be celebrated at a bourgeois social event. The ideals of the Resistance have now entered what Pasolini called "il Palazzo" (the palace), the command center from which power is dispensed, but as a now innocuous and no longer revolutionary force which has lost contact with its roots. In the background of the cocktail party there is a Fascist demonstration. The demon­ strators, however, are not the old-style Fascists of the 1920s or 1930s. Instead, they are an anonymous mass which "swarmed along those old streets without the least physical prestige. They

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were distressing and disgusting" (503). These neo-Fascists, in Pa­ solini's eyes, are victims uf the aggressiveness of a consumer soci­ ety that has drained them of all vitality and by so doing has left them easy prey to right-wing ideologies. The great failure of Italy's anti-Fascist tradition has been in its inability to understand that a consumer society creates conditions fertile for the rise of neoFascism. This is why Pasolini feels justified in writing: "The true Fascists were now the anti-Fascists in power" (503). Pasolini iden­ tifies these conditions in anti-Fascist political culture's contribu­ tions to the state's "achievement of well-being and consumption" (502), for people "who were by now stuck in the orbit of the anxiety of well-being, corrupted and destroyed by the extra one thousand lire that a 'developed' society had slipped into their pocket. They were uncertain, grey, frightened men" (503). Pasolini is perfectly serious in positing a causal link between the advance of a consumerist ethic in Italian society and the possi­ bility of the rise of neo-Fascism. In Nico Naldini's biography, he is on record as having said: "This enormous mass of people has formed the SS troops. The SS are not a German product, they are not part of a German model, but a bourgeois model. . . . I realized that I'm feeling for Italy now the identical racist hate I felt for Germany. This means that it's not a question of racism, it is a political and social fact. Italy resembles Hitler's Germany."30 Pasolini does not argue the case for this hypothesis, nor does he bring any evidence other than anecdotal to back up the causal link he wishes to establish. Based largely on what he saw with his own eyes, Pasolini's theory of the rise of neo-Fascism seems to me to be almost entirely intuitive. For Pasolini, the fact that the young Italians of the early 1970s looked less attractive and sexy than their counterparts of the 1950s was an important clue in monitoring the effect consumerism and neo-Fascism was hav­ ing on the body of the Italian population. Convinced that neoFascism had a psycho-sexual origin, Pasolini seems to have been influenced by Wilhelm Reich, whose theories had found some favor in Italy in the early 1970s. Reich's ideas began to fall out of favor, however, when it was recognized that they were of little use in explaining why vast sections of populations in Italy, Ger­ many, and France gave their tacit and silent support to Fascism. But for Pasolini, the fact that the new generations appeared less appealing than previous ones and had lost their natural erotic charge was of vital importance and was a sure sign of the negative turn Italian society had taken. If Pasolini does not argue the case for the origins of the rise of



neo-Fascism, with Petrolio he does suggest how the inevitable drift toward the Right might be halted. By returning to Carlo, we find that redemption can be found in a return to the genuinely erotic dimension that the novel's central character experiences through his alter ego, Carlo II. As we may recall, Carlo I delegates his erotic activity to Carlo II. According to the previously mentioned outline of 1972, Carlo I "loses his sense of balance" when Carlo II is no longer around to perform the "low services." Although he attempts to emulate Carlo II in his absence, Carlo I's public position does not allow him fully to satisfy his erotic needs and he goes back to his former lifestyle. Pasolinis outline establishes a firm causal link between Carlo I's abandoning his erotic activity and his move toward involvement in right-wing politics: Carlo I "moves a great deal to the Right, almost as far as an implicit alliance with the Fascists" (542). As we have seen, in the actual novel that alliance takes the specific form of involvement in the strategy of tension. Pasolini's outline is also of help to us in understanding how Carlo's sexual adventures serve the redemptive purpose of rescu­ ing him from the limits of his rigidly codified public life. Against the social limits of his bourgeois existence, Carlo's erotic adven­ tures enable him to experience the abolition of all limits and the loss of identity: "He falls headlong, along this path, into limitless­ ness, into anonymity" (541); "Along this path he reaches limit­ lessness, anonymity" (542). A few years earlier, in an article wrritten for Nuovi argomenti, entitled "I sogni ideologici" (Ideologi­ cal dreams), Pasolini had complained of the ontologically impov­ erished condition of our daily lives, which were now governed by a series of rigid, externally imposed codes. These have had the effect, he continues, of reducing our daily existence to a poor "quality of life" which denies us access to any experience of the authentic. The dominance of such codes means that our appre­ hension of reality is drastically impoverished and that even if some authentic experience were to present itself to consciousness, unaccustomed to such experiences, we would not recognize it. He writes: "If we look at it pitilessly, our life is nothing more than the application of the rules of a 'quality of life' typical of our times. It's like a paranoid system. Nothing is incoherent. The authentic is lacking, because even if something happens which leads us close to an experience of the authentic (deep or unex­ pected), that is nothing other than what our 'quality of life,' aware of its own violence, allows us to perceive as contradictory or emancipatory."31 In place of an experience of the authentic, we

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now lead our daily lives according to a series of pretexts that fill the void we have before us. Speaking of the sense of loss this condition brings about, figured here as a passage from an inno­ cent dream to a horrible one, Pasolini continues: "When living began to be taken over by or translated into any one of many possible interpretations of reality, a horrible dream has taken the place of an innocent dream; a dream made up of pretexts, excuses for living in order to fill the void has taken the place of a dream made up of visions. Reality, then, began to appear as a void (while it is evident that it is a whole). The years, the days, the minutes began to demand, to ask to be 'filled/ that is to say, to be experi­ enced, lived as fulfillments of certain rules."32 I have quoted these passages at length because many of the key terms— "void," "quality of life," "pretexts" (which I have underlined in the passages that follow)— occur in the descriptions of Carlo we find in Petrolio. Regarding the absence of Carlo II (or Karl as he is known in some sections of the novel), Carlo I asks himself: "What to do? What to do while he delegated his real existence to Karl? But this had a sense as a pretext, a practical way to fill the void" (236). And while reflecting on his desire to see Carmelo, one of his lovers, again: "Everything that separated him from the moment he saw Carmelo again was, for Carlo, 'the void.' The gestures and the words with which he was supposed to fill that void disgusted him" (308). And finally, comparing Carmelo's physical apprehension of reality to his: "But the fact is, this body— Carmelo's body— experienced a different 'quality of life/ a different social universe" (316). One way of establishing contact with such new universes is through sex. The crucial role Pasolini assigns erotic activity in Petrolio is nothing new in his work. But unlike Atti and Amado, where erotic experience becomes a metaphor for a journey of discovery into the infinite wealth of reality, erotic experience in Petrolio takes the initial form of a violent exorcism that brutally introduces the subject to previously unimaginable horizons. It is not enough to rediscover, as it were, the joys of sex. First, to get back in touch with the pithy reality, the sedimented barriers that separate the bourgeois body and consciousness from first things need to be violently swept away. The firmest parallel with Pasol­ ini's previous work is with Teorema. But whereas in the film the erotic and ultimately destructive charge that the visitor brings to the bourgeois family is an intrusion that comes from outside the family itself, in Petrolio Carlo actually seeks out and offers himself up to such experiences. But exactly how do Carlo's erotic adven-



tures lead him to experience the abolition of limits and loss of identity which until now had been foreign to him? The text itself helps us here by signaling that notes 51, 58, 82, and 127 are the four fundamental moments of Petrolio, which on these occasions Pasolini calls a poem and not a novel: "First Fundamental Moment of the Poem" (194). Linking the four notes is their concern with the sexual metamorphoses of both Carlo I and Carlo II from man to woman and vice versa. Carlo's first experience of limitlessness, then, is in the shifting of the lines that mark the boundaries of sexual difference. But, as Pasolini makes clear, there is more at stake here than a simple exchange of sexual identities. For Pasolini, Carlo-as-man's erotic experiences are not the opposite of Carlo-as-woman's, but another incompara­ ble order of experience entirely. Carlo experiences the abolition of limits in what John Shepley in his review calls his "suspended state of grace" between sexes.33 Although after his first metamor­ phosis Carlo is biologically a woman because he has a vagina, he is still nominally a man (he keeps his name), and apparently continues dressing like a man. His sexual encounter in the Casilina fields cannot be "classified" as an encounter between a manturned-woman and a group of young men. Rather, the encounters are between Carlo in a suspended state of sexual identity and the young proletarian men. In true Pasolinian fashion, the uncorrupted proletarians have no cause to worry about their sexual identity. For Carlo, though, to be suspended between the lines that demarcate the sexes is part of the necessary process of abol­ ishing limits and going back to origins. Note 51 deals with Carlo II's metamorphosis into a woman and occurs after he has observed some trucks carrying groups of young Communist activists to a demonstration. Carlo is immedi­ ately drawn to the vitality and erotic charge of the young Commu­ nists and their "basic happiness to be alive" (191). He is also attracted by the bulge in their pants: "where the swelling of their members jutted out, but now neglected, buried and forgotten as they sang their virile song of struggle. This song seemed sus­ pended and detached, like a spirit, on that pedestal with their line of bodies cut at the same height as their sexual organs, poor, humble, equal, but at the same time aggressive and glorious like their owners" (192). The young Communist boys are about the only group to come out of Petrolio with any credit. Their visionlike appearance on the Roman streets is a turning point which, the text makes very clear, results in Carlo II's first sexual metamorphosis: "But with the

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announcement of a new youth something (irreversible! had hap­ pened deep down inside him" (193). If Carlo's first experience of limitlessness comes with the erasing of the lines that demarcate sexual difference, his second comes with the sheer number of sexual partners and repeated sexual acts that Pasolini describes in two episodes involving Carlo I and II as women: Note 55, "II pratone della Casilina" (The Casilina fields) and note 62, "Car­ melo: la sua disponibilità e la sua dissoluzione" (Carmelo: his willingness and his dissolution). It was these two episodes, one mirroring the other, that caused one critic, Nello Ajello, to speak of Petrolio as an "immense repertory of authorial dirt."34 To be sure, Pasolini spares us few details in the fifty or so intensely and beautifully written pages in which he describes how Carlo U services and is serviced by a group of nine young Roman proletar­ ians, and how for Carlo I the sex he has with Carmelo, a hatcheck boy he has picked up at a restaurant, "was above all some­ thing infinitely superior to what he imagined" (287). The sex, though violent and hard, as the young men penetrate Carlo's woman's body and have him swallow their sperm, coming in his mouth almost until he vomits, is always consensual. Carlo offers himself up to the young men. He knows that this is a rite of passage, an initiation into a foreign world where the limits of his domestic, codified existence will collapse around him. The boys on the Casilina are, for Carlo II, as he watches them depart, "gods from the Lower Regions ["Inferi"]. . . divine, protective guardian Spirits, but at the same time humble, subordinate, faithful as dogs" (289); and for Carlo I, his evening with Carmelo was "cer­ tainly a miracle. Like a feeling of glory which animated his entire body" (308). The word miracle occurs on a number of occasions in these two episodes: while he is having sex with Gianni, one of the boys on the Casilina, the narrative voice tells us that Carlo II's "heart was in turmoil, because his dick always came to him in the form of a miracle" (208); and when Carlo I takes Carmelo's penis in his hand, "he held in his hand his naked sex: the full miracle had happened" (288). These miracles endlessly repeat themselves because of the sheer excess of Carlo's multiple sexual partners and multiple and repeated sexual acts. The repetition of the encounters seems to short-circuit their temporal sequentiality and recreate them as one in a series of single, unconnected acts, each one unique and unprecedented. This, I think, is what Pasolini means when he calls them miracles. Carlo, then, escapes the limits imposed by the temporal continuum and experiences infinity, an eternal pres­



ent. In this sense, insofar as it erases prior conceptions of tempo­ ral limits, sex initiates Carlo into a new order of experience, where despite its repetition each sexual encounter is a new encounter. Of Gianni's penis, the narrator tells us: "That huge member, soft and hard at the same time, that filled his mouth, was like the first one Carlo had ever tried and felt. And it would never be different from this, even if instead of there being twenty boys, there were a thousand. That powerful, hot, soft and hardened little stake, which had penetrated inside of him, was a true and proper miracle. To see it happen was, for Carlo, once again, des­ perately new" (224). And for Carlo I, his sexual acts with Carmelo know no limits: "Sex alone could fill a life and give it sense. The acts and the words of sex could be infinite, always new . . . and each time this would be an unsettling miracle to be experienced . . . with your heart in your mouth" (309). Though both miraculous, Carlo I and Carlo II's sexual experi­ ences are not identical. For Carlo I, sex with Carmelo represents a far greater revelation than sex on the Casilina for Carlo II. The difference lies in the same question of possession we encountered in Atti and Amado. Carlo's third experience of the abolition of limits comes when, instead of possessing another body, as he had done as a man, he is himself possessed by Carmelo's body. Even though he has metamorphosed into a woman, Carlo I remembers what it was like to be a man and possess a woman's body. This kind of sexual act is circumscribed within precise limits— it has a beginning, a duration, and an end— and so can be easily in­ scribed within a utilitarian and economic logic: "To possess a body implies the limits of that body. And also an almost economic value. . . . The possessed body is an entity you hold in your arms. . . . It is like an instrument that when you've finished using it you put it away for another time" (318). If, on the one hand, possession confirms limits ("possession of some thing fatally lim­ ited. You cannot . . . possess everything" [318]), on the other, to be possessed leads to the abolition of those limits. But possession is not the simple opposite of being possessed. To be possessed opens the subject to an order of experience entirely different from that of the possessor: "If you possess you do not communicate . . . with those who are possessed, because those who are pos­ sessed have an experience that is incomparable" (318). Carmelo's possession of Carlo I, then, introduces the latter into a realm of experience where both the normal finite limits of the penis and those that define selfhood are annulled: "If you are possessed

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you lose the awareness of the form of the penis, of its limited perfection, and feel it as an infinite and formless means through which Something or Someone takes control over you, reduces you to a possession, to a nothing which has no other volition than to abandon itself to that different Volition which lannuls your (319). Taking shape in these pages is a scheme that plays off one set of terms against another. To the extremes of "possession" and "being possessed," we could add another set of terms which come from Petrolic/s second note 42, entitled "Precisazione" (Specification). This is one of the notes in which Pasolini reflects on the form his novel is taking and attempts to define it in terms of the narrative tradition. He distinguishes his text from the great bourgeois narrative tradition and its concern with what he here calls "dissocazione" (181). Connected to "disassodation" are the negatively coded terms order, limitedness and legibility, to which we could add possession. Petrolio, Pasolini tells us, is not concerned with "disassodation," but with the "obsession of identity and, at the same time, its shattering" (181). Connected to this obsession with identity and its smashing are the positively coded terms limitless, disorder, and illegible, to which we could add being possessed. One of Pasolini's sometimes annoying habits, especially when he is dealing with theoretical issues, is to pepper his texts with a series of positively and negatively coded terms, play one set off against the other, and proclaim his texts to be illustrations of the positive pole. At times, what actually lies beneath Pasolini's terms turns out to be less substantial than the often grandiose way in which they are presented would suggest. At other times, it is not at all clear what he means by his terminology. This is one of those cases. Going back to the text, it transpires that Pasolini evidently wants to divorce his novel from the conventional narrative of a tradition he sees headed by Cervantes: "Disassodation is nothing other than a conventional motive (and a homage to the great bourgeois narrative tradition initiated by Cervantes)" (181). By lining up "disassodation" with conventional narrative form, and in turn playing this off against the shattering of identity, 1 under­ stand Pasolini to be referring to the way he thinks a bourgeois narrative tradition, although taking on as one of its privileged themes the crisis of individual subjects, has always held back from ever putting into doubt the ultimate unity of the subject. If I'm right in my reconstruction of his thought, Pasolini's dis­ missing of an entire narrative tradition begs a series of questions



which space does not allow me to answer here. But rather than dwelling on Pasolini's understanding of the merits and demerits of the bourgeois narrative tradition, let me redirect attention to what I think underlies this section of Petrolio; and namely, Pasol­ ini's wish to define his novel in terms of Roland Barthes' theories of the "lisible" (readerly) and "scriptible" (writerly) text. Pasolini's references to "legibility" and "illegibility" offer us strong clues to the Barthesian influence on Petrolio. Note 42, in fact, can be read as Pasolini's gloss on Barthes' S/Z. To claim that a text is "legible" is not, in Barthes' terms, to praise it. Legibility implies that a text is imbued with a sense of clarity, order, and finality that for both Pasolini and Barthes are synonymous with death. The text ceases to be a living organism that produces new meaning and limits itself to an uncritical repetition of its readers' "déjà vu, déjà lu, déjà fait."35 The text's self-limitation, its legitimation of the Given make it entirely legible and politically conservative. A limitless text, on the other hand, of the kind Pasolini wants Petrolio to be, is illegible because as an unfinished, living organism it cannot be pinned down to any fixed meaning. The illegible text does not so much contain meaning as produce it in its interactions with its readers. In Barthes' terms, the former text is "readerly" insofar as its meaning can be unproblematically consumed by a devouring reader. The latter kind of text is "writerly" insofar as it calls on the reader to participate in the generation of the text's meaning. The reader's activity, then, is creative in much the same way as the writer's. Producing meanings, the reader "writes" the text in the act of reading it. In the second half of note 42, Pasolini goes on to complicate his gloss on Barthes' "readerly" and "writerly" texts by coun­ tering what he had written in the first half. The conventional novel, he goes on, can also be thought of as "illegible," just as the nonconventional novel can be thought of as "legible": "But the opposite is true: that is, founded on the first motive (disassoci­ ation), the order of the novel has also been founded on the sym­ bolic/allegoric idea of which the novel consists. This is what makes it illegible. It is from the second motive (obsession with identity) that those tastes of life and concreteness are born and which make legible the pedantic, vertical, unhuman. . . ." (181). These remarks are followed by two lines of dots. Conventional narrative is, then, both legible and illegible. By this, I think, Pasol­ ini is again going back to Barthes' S/Z.36 If the conventional novel is reassuringly straightforward and comforting insofar as it guar­ antees stability to the conservative reader, and is therefore legible,

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to readers such as Barthes or Pasolini that same text produces feelings of nausea which render it illegible. As to the legibility of the nonconventional novel, I am less certain what Pasolini means. My best hunch is that he wants to return to the nonconventional novel a pedagogic function. The "tastes of life" that the abolishing of narrative limits reveals to the reader serves to read reality for what it is and not as the reactionary novel would have us read it. But beyond my attempts to explain this section of Petruliu, other broader issues are here at stake. Apart from the anecdotal evi­ dence that suggests Pasolini's penchant for affirming the opposite of what was taken to be consolidated knowledge, 3 :mere may be two other reasons why Pasolini complicates note 42, it seems to me unnecessarily, by making contrasting statements: first, be­ cause he is unwilling that his text be contained within the limits of any theoretical elaboration, even a friendly one like Barthes' which privileges Petrolids most striking aspect, its illegibility by conventional standards; and second, because he wants to draw attention to the fragmentary, unsettled, even contradictory nature of his narrative, which Pasolini would like to believe has no prece­ dents, even theoretical ones. A long meditation on the writing of narrative, Petrolio is by far Pasolini's most deliberately selfreferential and metaliterary text. More than any of his other nov­ els, in fact, Petrolio lays bare the bones of the skeleton on which the narrative is composed. As well as a number of notes that draw the reader's attention to the formal aspects of the novel—note 4, for example, is entitled "What is a Novel?"— hardly a page goes by without some reference to terms like code, convention, their cognates, or synonyms which, the narrative voice reminds us, govern the writing of a novel. As author of the text, Pasolini tells us he has been forced to obey "the rules that preside over the exposition of my story" (89). Unlike the narrators in Pasolini's previous novels, the narrative voice of Petrolio directly addresses readers, often offering us justi­ fications for certain directions the novel is taking, or encouraging us to reread earlier notes where clearer explanations to given issues may be found. Included in the Einaudi edition is a letter Pasolini wrote but never sent to Alberto Moravia in which he underlines how this new narrative voice is Petrolids distinguishing feature. Whereas, he writes, in conventional novels, the narrator disappears, delegating to a given character the task of establishing a link with readers, in Petrolio, Pasolini "in flesh and blood" di­ rectly addresses the reader. In so doing, he continues, he turns the novel into an object that he places at mid-distance between



himself and the reader: "I have turned the novel into an object not only for the reader, but also for me, and I have spoken about it (as you can do alone when you write)" (544). Postponing a discussion of this last point to chapter 6, where I examine Pasolini's proposal of theater as a dialogical space where text and audience interact, what I would like to draw attention to here is the first part of the quotation: Pasolini's contention that Petrolio, different from conventional novels, is a vital space in which he as author can exist "as myself, in flesh and blood" (544). The connection Pasolini makes here between his novel and his vitality is borne out by other statements about Petrolio we find in the text. In an early note, number 6, where he first brings up the question of legibility and illegibility, Pasolini writes of how it is "m y duty as a writer . . . to found ex novo my writing," and a little later, how "I live the genesis of my book" (48). Elsewhere, he describes Petrolio as "un romanzo a brulichio," distinguishing it from "un romanzo a schidionata" (418). The term brulichio, which indicates the seething, swarming motion usually associated with ants, is not new to Pasolini. He had al­ ready used this term or its synonyms (brusio in Gramsci) to de­ scribe the perpetual, contradictory motion of the proletarian life he had attempted to capture in his Roman writings. By this term, Pasolini means a narrative form which is sensitive to what Gian Carlo Ferretti in his review of Petrolio has described as the "boil­ ing, lava-like river of the 'lived'."38 The latter, negatively coded term, however, is new. By schidio­ nata Pasolini means a narrative form that follows the progressive, cause/effect logic here represented by the "schidione," the long metal spit on which chunks of meat are impaled to make a shish kebab. It is likely that Pasolini found this latter term in the writ­ ings of the Russian formalist critic Victor Shklovsky, author of A Theory of Prose, which includes his well-known essay on Laurence Sterne's Tristram Shandy.39 More than any other of Pasolini's written texts, even Amado, Petrolio is full of explicit and implicit references to critical and literary works, many of whose authors are listed on a page con­ tained in the original manuscript (and now reproduced as the frontispiece). Shldovsk/s description of Tristram Shandy and its many digressions, retreats, and advances, its displaced preface, its habit of putting causes after effects, its debunking of linear temporality and "lack of 'connectedness',"40 qualify it as a strong precursor for Pasolini's own "romanzo a brulichio." Of the many texts whose echoes we hear through the pages of Petrolio, Lau­

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rence Sterne's antinovel, along with Dostoyevsky's The Demons, is one of the strongest. Note 20, for example, is entitled "Carlo— as in a novel by Sterne— left while he is going to a Reception," and on another occasion, Pasolini's diagrammatic representation of the ENI business empire looks like a homage to Sterne's famous visual representation of the colonel brandishing his stick (117). Pasolini may also have read Carlo Levi's introduction to the Einaudi edition of Tristram Shandy where he writes: Shandy does not want to be born, because he does not want to die. Any means, any way is good to save himself from death and time. If a straight line is the shortest way between two fatal and inevitable points, digressions will lengthen it; and if these digressions become so complex, tangled, tortuous, so fast that we lose track of them, who knows if death might not find us, that time might get lost, and that we can stay sealed up in our changeable hiding places. If a man's time, an event's time is destined to come to an end, we can double it, multiply it by infinity, superimpose it and confuse it with other times, bring it, as far as is possible on the written page, to that stage of endless contemporaneousness that is alone and true and eternal To come out of ourselves in the first person is still a way of refusing death.41

To be sure, Sterne's association of conventional narrative with death, and unconventional narrative with life finds strong paral­ lels in Pasolini's own attempts to elaborate what he calls on at least two occasions "a form": "my decision: which is that not of writing a story, but to construct a form . . . which consists of 'something written'" (155); "I am not writing a true story, rather I am making a form" (452). To get a better idea of what he means by this "form" let us turn to the section of the text where he distinguishes between "romanzo a brulichio" and "romanzo a schidionata." Within the "macro"-narrative of Petrolio there are a large number of "micro"-narratives. True to its debt to Tristram Shandy, the linear motion of Petrolicfs narrative often digresses into peripheral issues. One of the reasons the text runs to more than five hundred pages is that it is often interrupted by long bouts of storytelling. Indeed, if all the stories promised in the intercalated pages had actually been written, the novel would probably have exceeded even the planned two thousand pages. The terms "romanzo a schidionata" and "romanzo a brulichio" are mentioned in one of a series of stories told by a group of intellectuals who have taken refuge in a corner during a reception held by the Italian head of state in the Presidential Palace to



celebrate the founding of the republic. Carlo, bored with the chitter-chatter and talk of corruption, walks through a "blinding bar­ rier of light" (406) almost into another world and listens to the stories that the intellectuals tell one another to pass the time. The third of the stories concerns a character called the "God of Saulo." The crucial themes of death and life are introduced immediately: "I came from death," says the narrator, "And I had just come crying in to a wonderful Garden" (413). His story, which we can choose to read as an allegory of Pasolini's own experiments in narrative form, is of great interest precisely be­ cause it is a metanarrative which tells the story of the narrator's attempts to tell the story of the "God of Saulo." As will become clearer shortly, the narrator's story, made possible by a series of mutilations, oscillates between the extreme poles of death and life to find its only resolution in the fleeting suspended instant in which the self is conscious of both the one and the other. In fact, the section of Petrolio in which these stories appear is entitled "L'Epochd," a philosophical term meaning suspension of judg­ ment on the reality of things. The God of Saulo, whose story is entitled "Story of a Thousand and One Characters," is a unique entity whose scope goes beyond any attempt to contain him: "His uniqueness was linvisiblel, sim­ ply because the eye was unable to embrace all of it" (413). Having come from death, the narrator is welcomed and reborn in the god's garden. But as soon as he experiences the totality of being in the Garden, the "almost suspended and etherial Place" (414), the god throws him out. The analogy, of course, is with the fall from grace in the Garden of Eden. In this instance, the narrator's eating from the tree of knowledge is represented by his decision to become a narrator and tell the story of this god. But as soon as he looks at the god with a narrator's eye, he sees him differ­ ently: "As soon as . . . I started looking around me for the first time I saw him. He was a . . . poor, sorry, miserable monster" (413). It is on this character that the narrator chooses to base his story. But because one character is not enough to tell a story, he creates another by cutting the god in two. It now becomes much easier to describe the two characters that the narrator has created: one is a lively, middle-aged, Southern man; the other is an over­ weight, Southern woman of about the same age. At this point, the narrator realizes that the two characters are nothing other than representations of the inner tensions of a sin­ gle character and puts them back together to form once again the God of Saulo. The resulting whole, however, is but a shadow of

4: The Roman Novels II


the original god: "The only thing I got was a vague version of the mythical first character, the God of Saulo" (415). After further dismembering the god, the narrator plants his body parts, "bury­ ing them like seeds in the earth" (415). The body parts/seeds grow and soon become a crowd of characters, each of whose members has "'something' of the first character" (415). Although each separate member is incomplete and stunted vis-a-vis the original whole, they all nonetheless contain "a potential totality" (416). The separate members, however, present themselves in the form of chaos: "They were, in other words, Disorder" (416). Against this chaos, the narrator offers himself as a figure of intelli­ gibility who brings order. At the same time, he also realizes that to confer onto himself the role of narrator figure is to privilege only a part of the uniqueness that he is: "I was not able to embrace my uniqueness" (416). By offering himself as the bringer of order to chaos, the narrator operates on himself the kind of mutilation he had operated on the god: "From that whole I was incumbent, as it were, within myself, I cut out a part. . . . Finally, the figure of myself as antagonist, came out, more or less elaborated and refined. And here I am. You can see me . . . but this is only a part of me . . . to conclude, I also created a split, a dualism of m yself" (416-17). But because of this cut the narrator is now able to give order to the chaos and legibility to his novel: "And with this give order to the world (and legibility to my possible novel)" (417). This, however, turns out to be a result that the narrator resists: "I didn't want this easy Don Quixote-like bourgeois dualism. I didn't want the contradiction to slide smoothly in to a synthesis, and by a peaceful process, even if 'a schidionata,' along the unilinear path of history. No, no, let me repeat this. The historical cannot coin­ cide with the lived, unless we want to tell ourselves lies" (417). Two fears lie behind this last remark: first, that the resolution of contradictions into syntheses effected by the narrator figure is ideologically suspect insofar as it presumes the existence of a lin­ ear, progressive course of history ("peaceful process"), which for Pasolini is an illusion; and second, that the forms of understand­ ing that the narrator figure constructs, the historical (storico), give us only impoverished and truncated versions of lived reality (vissuto). Not only that, the order that the narrator figure brings tends to suggest itself as a kind of transcendental order and sup­ plant the inherently disordered "brulichio." Returning to the story of the God of Saulo, we get an idea of how Pasolini works towards the elaboration of a narrative form



which avoids these pitfalls. Having reached the above conclu­ sions, the narrator undoes what he has thus far created by dis­ membering both himself and Saulo, and once again planting their body parts. In place of the two neatly divided halves of the previ­ ous dismemberment, this time the two resulting crowds do not lend themselves to the possibility of sliding into a synthesis. Rather, they more closely approximate the "inextricable IGordian knotl" (417) on which the narrator bases his "romanzo a brulichio" (418): "M y crowds are the two crowds of reality: they are contemporaneously two and one" (418). We might call the actual form this projected novel takes as a "soft" narrative that gives provisional form to the elements of the "brulichio," but then allows that form to dissolve and return to the chaos from which it has emerged: "My next manipulation derives from this. As I was saying, the mosaic construction of my characters who are taken out of the 'brulichio' only to be put back into it" (418). This "soft" narrative serves two purposes: it gives sufficient form to the elements of the "brulichio" for us to recognize the shapes of, for example, "a young man with blond hair . . . a young man who is emaciated and a little hunchbacked, with dark hair" (418); it also is a form which recognizes its own provisional nature and the inherent limits of its own process of construction. But, Pasolini continues, even a "soft" form is nevertheless a form, and this in turn leads to the construction, no matter how provisional, of a new order. And it is through the narrative frame supplied by this new order that lived reality begins to take form in the image of the historical. In other words, lived reality comes to our consciousness already filtered through and formed by the modes of representation available at a given historical moment. This, I think, is what Pasolini means when he says that the "lived wanted arrogantly to institute itself as the historical." The com­ plete quotation runs thus: "Well, my novel. . . was about to take form. . . . Form: this, alas, is the word. This form had its own internal laws which instituted it and maintained it laimed first at instituting it, then at maintaining itl. . . . And all this recreated a new order. If the historical did not coincide with the lived . . . here now the lived wanted arrogantly to institute itself as the historical" (418-19). It is at this point that the narrator abandons his project. He gives two reasons: even acting on as "soft" a level as possible, "on the mild and intellectual cognitive and expressive level" (419), he remains guilty of mastering reality, of possessing it: "brutally and violently, as happens with every possession, every conquest" (419). In turn, his possession of reality leads to

4: The Roman Novels 11


a desire for death at the very moment of giving birth: "Die in my creation: die as one actually dies while giving birth; die as one actually dies, coming in the maternal womb" (419). Putting the manuscript aside, the narrator travels to his parents' hometown on the coast in Calabria. He enters the sea with the intent of committing suicide by drowning, but finds himself in­ stead in a zone midway between the death he is looking for and rebirth. In a passage where we hear the echoes of the last line of Giacomo Leopardi's "L'Infinito" (The infinite) the narrator, sus­ pended in the moment between life and death, between form and formlessness, describes the vision that is the story he had wanted to tell: What a vision of supreme beauty appeared before my eyes! The light down there was diffuse and at the same time full of the sweetest flashes and vortexes, and transparent shadows which Idrewl all around an immense heavenly landscape. . . . Everything around me was warm and softly luminous: breathing was wonderfully easy and light. I rose and fell in that immensity, blissfully I made slow turns around myself. I couldn't say if I was swimming. Rather, my slow quivering in there was like flying without wings. . . . Here, my story is all here. (420)

Drawing attention to this story in a review article, Stefano Agosti finds in it Pasolini's most articulated attempt to create a narrative form that resembles a "vital organism . . . which matches life itself." He identifies a basic structure based on two opposite pulsions: "a pulsion towards death" and "a pulsion to­ wards a state-before-origins."42 Within these two poles, Pasolini creates the space in which he can give free rein to the subject of his text, the "brulichio," or as Agosti puts it "the vital order," "that immense digression that is life ."" The basic structure, on which Pasolini constructs this organism, is repeated in various forms throughout the text. The pulsion toward death, for exam­ ple, is represented by Carlo's erotic encounters on the Casilina and with Carmelo, and by the journey west (toward the setting sun) described in the section after the bomb at the Turin train station;44 the pulsion toward the time before origins is represented by Carlo's incest with his grandmother, mother, and sisters, and the journey east (toward the rising sun) described in the section entitled "Gli Argonauti" (The Argonauts). To Agosti's examples, I would add two more: Carlo's change into a woman after seeing the truckloads of Communist boys represents the pulsion toward the time before origins; while his change back into a man after



witnessing the Fascist demonstration, and his consequent return to the routine of life ("As soon as he was back in possession of his penis . . . Carlo immediately thought about how to get his place in the world back" [507]), represent the pulsion towards death. For Agosti, the many repetitions in the text, like the repetitions of the basic structure but also the repeated sexual acts on the Casilina and the many stories told or planned in the course of the text, have the effect of postponing closure into an infinitely deferred future. The result is wnat Agosti calls an "inchoate na­ ture of the expressive position,"45 which turns the text into a se­ ries of beginnings or suspensions without end: "Each representation . . . is always a beginning, and for that reason, it is also a deferral or suspension of every conclusion."46 Petrolio, then, is Pasolini's attempt to develop an open-ended narrative form which allows "the theoretically unlimited prolifera­ tion of additions."47 Agosti's comments lead us into a considera­ tion of the question of "suspended sense" that had occupied Pasolini intensely in the mid- to late-1960s. In those years, the "suspended sense" of his "cinema of poetry" and new theater as a place of open-ended dialogue had been at the very center of his attention. From this standpoint, Petrolio is a continuation of Pasolini's research into narrative forms sensitive to the inchoate nature of things that he had begun to theorize in the film section of Empirismo eretico. But with an important difference. In his film writings, Pasolini deals not only with the limits of narrative form, but also with its necessity. It is to these writings that I now turn in the next chapter.

5 Empirismo Erético: Language, Literature, Film Theory Ninette's Scream: "Hé-eh, hé-eh, heeeeeeeh" In his last meeting with the writer Paolo Volponi, Pasolini spoke of his plans for Petrolio. The language of this new novel, confided Pasolini, would be devoid of any trace of dialect, even from the speech of popular characters: "There will also be some popular characters, who will be almost inarticulate . . . but no longer speaking dialect, because dialects are finished by now."1 In fact, almost entirely missing from Petrolio are any resonances of the dialect, low-register expressions that had characterized Pasolini's Roman novels and had in part given them their notoriety Ten years before Petrolio, in an article he had written in 1964, which now opens Empirismo eretico (Heretical empiricism), his second volume of collected essays, Pasolini had already identified the reason for the absence of dialect from the literary scene as a change in the social and cultural climate. The linguistic crisis of those years, he contends, was a reflection of the broader crisis Italian society of the 1960s was going through as a result of the almost total hegemony exercised by advanced-capitalist bour­ geois culture. Starting with a review of how the prose styles of a series of contemporary Italian writers can be situated either above or below a hypothetical line representing standard bourgeois Italian, the essay "Nuove questioni linguistiche" (New linguistic questions), goes on to lament that the lively period of experimentation with dialect forms in the 1950s has reached its end. With the Italian literary scene dominated by the avant-garde movement that showed no interest whatsoever in dialect, the resulting crisis of the 1960s was, in Pasolini's eyes, the result of a prior crisis that had invested the postboom Italy of those years and whose reper115



eussions were to be felt right up to the 1970s. Indeed, in this essay we find an early use of the term omologazione (homologation or embourgeoisement) that was to become key in Pasolini's jour­ nalistic writings of the following decade: "In short, it can be said that in the past no fundamental linguistic fact ever had such a power of homologation and modification on the national level and with so much contemporaneity. Neither the Latin archetype of the Renaissance, nor the bureaucratic language of the nine­ teenth century, nor the language of nationalism. The techno­ logical phenomenon, like a new spirituality, permeates language from its roots to all its extremities, all its phases, and all its particularities."2 Pasolini's diagnosis of why the 1960s represents a falling away when compared to the 1950s touches on the following points: first, the language of science and technology has taken over from Latin as the major influence on Italian prose style: "The osmosis of critical language has no longer been with Latin . . . but with the language of science" (15; 12); second, the sites of production of language are no longer the universities but company headquar­ ters: "The creative centers, processors, and unifiers of language are no longer the universities but companies" (18; 15);3 and third, language has been given over almost exclusively to its communi­ cative function at the expense of its expressive one: "Communica­ tion prevails over every possible expressiveness" (16; 13). For Pasolini, the current state of language is the result of no ordinary crisis. This time, he continues, something unique and unprecedented has happened. Unlike the traditional paleoindustrial bourgeoisie, the new Northern-based neocapitalist bourgeoi­ sie and their ruling technocracy have ushered in a new age of European-style capitalism which has extended its sphere of in­ fluence over the entirety of Italian society. Whereas pockets of resistance in outlying areas and urban ghettoes had until now remained beyond the scope of the influence of the early industrial bourgeoisie, the new advanced bourgeoisie had become for the first time in the history of Italy "a truly hegemonic social class, which, as such, is truly the unifier of society" (20; 17). As a result Italy has also gained another first, the national language it had never had before: "Therefore, in some way, with some hesitancy, and not without emotion, I feel authorized to announce that Ital­ ian has been born as a national language" (20; 17). But far from the national language Alessandro Manzoni and others had dreamed of, the new national language marks "an impoverishing of that Italian that has been up to now so lavish of its own riches,

5: Empirismo Eretico


its availability of forms, so much so as to make the heads of all of us a marketplace of competing linguistic forms" (22; 19). The other crisis that the age of technological neocapitalism has provoked concerns the political role of the intellectuals and the demise of their mandate. Both "New Linguistic Questions" and an essay written a year later, "II 'cinema di poesia'" (The "cinema of poetry"), conclude with a call to arms that seeks to resuscitate the role of the intellectual by redirecting his/her attention to an engagement with the formal qualities of literature and cinema. In the final paragraph of the former essay we find these words: "The aim of the struggle of the man of letters will be linguistic expres­ siveness, which will radically coincide with the liberty of man with respect to his mechanization" (23; 20); while the latter sug­ gests that the cinema of poetry partakes in a project that "dis­ cusses and modifies its own structures and that, in the case in point, once again ascribes to poets a late humanistic function: the myth and the technical consciousness of form" (187; 185). Both of the above statements bear on the common question of restoring to the intellectual a political dignity and usefulness that the age of technology would appear to have ruled out. By working at the level of form to develop new literary and cinematic tech­ niques, intellectuals can make us aware of the chaotic, irrational elements which underlie the apparent fixity and homogeneity of technologized society.4 For Pasolini, this means above all elaborat­ ing new stylistic means by which literature and cinema can disin­ ter the world's poetic substratum that the prosaic age of technology has obfuscated. But when we compare the strong words of these two rallying calls to Pasolini's actual elaborations of the stylistic means through which elements of poetry can, as it were, be injected into the prose of everyday life, they seem somewhat disappointing. At issue in both statements is the ques­ tion of the "libero discorso indiretto."5 Free indirect discourse is what Pasolini himself had practiced in his Roman novels where the narrative voice was embedded in the linguistic reality and culture of the borgata characters. The narrative voice not only re­ ported their direct speech in quotation marks, but also spoke itself as the borgatari themselves spoke.6 Drawing on films by Mi­ chelangelo Antonioni, Bernardo Bertolucci, and Jean-Luc Go­ dard, Pasolini's "Cinema of Poetry" sketches out the cinematic equivalent of the tree indirect discourse he had earlier employed in literature. If in literature, free indirect discourse was a question of lan­ guage, in cinema it is a question of vision. In his film II deserto



rosso (The red desert), Antonioni adopts the position of one of his characters, the neurotic Giuliana, and uses her eyes as a pretext through which to see and present her abstract vision of a shifty formless world. For Pasolini, films made according to the more conventional prosaic techniques of what he calls the cinema of prose, are betrayals of the real poetic essence that lies at the heart of reality. The cinema of poetry frees the underlying poetic es­ sence and allows us access to the other, more authentic, deeply poetic film, "the one that the filmmaker would have made even without the pretext of the visual mimesis of his protagonist— a film whose character is completely and freely expressive/expressionistic" (183; 182), which flows below the surface of films made ac­ cording to conventional narrative codes. Earlier, Pasolini's essays in the "Lingua" (Language) section of Empiricism had been characterized by the same desire to disinter an underlying and fast disappearing poetic origin to language and reality. These essays lead in two directions: on the one hand, Pasolini wants to update his theories and measure them against the latest developments in semiotics, especially the work of Ferdi­ nand De Saussure; on the other, he wants to argue the case for the nonarbitrary nature of the signifier and find in its origin a biological necessity. Given that the arbitrariness of the signifier is at the very center of Saussure's semiotics, Pasolini has to turn himself into something of a tightrope walker to keep either of these two contrasting lines of argument from causing him to lose balance. Pasolini's way of negotiating this problem is to posit the idea of a pregrammatical phase in which signifiers had a biological necessity. Only later, in a subsequent codified phase did they become arbitrary: Saussure, opposing "langue" to "parole," thus seemed to have in mind the institutions or linguistic systems of civilized human, or at any rate already human, groups; on this side of the stage of purely animal phonation. . . . That is, language in the moment [it was] being formed from individual signs of the interjective kind, which [type] is mysteriously analogous to real feelings stimulated by real facts and things—conditioned reflexes—was not and is not an arbitrary ab­ straction, but a coherent physical whole of necessary signs. (70; 68) It is clear, however, that it is not the advanced stage of language analyzed by Saussure in Pasolini's reading of him that is of inter­ est, but the former stage. Pasolini would probably have been the first to disclaim any rigorous scientific merit for his conclusions. In fact, on more than one occasion he reminds his readers

5: Empirismo Eretico


that he is writing "en poète" and not as a scientist. Although at times writing "en poète" may seem like an easy alibi for sloppy, unworked-out thinking, Pasolini uses the term as shorthand to indicate that he is not basing his conclusions on empirically tested evidence, but on intuitions, feelings, and personal experience. Indeed, Pasolini's argument for the nonarbitrary origins of signifiers is drawn entirely from infant and adolescent experience and observation of his friend the actor Ninetto Davoli, who appeared in many of his best-known films. Seven pages into the essay "Dal laboratorio (Appunti en poète per una linguistica marxista)" (From the laboratory [notes en poète for a Marxist linguistics]), Pasolini interrupts his thus-far fairly academic discussion of Gramsci's oral language with an unex­ pected two-page excursus on his own physical response to the word "rosada," which he first heard as a teenager from the mouth of Livio, the son of neighboring peasants: "Livio certainly spoke of simple and innocent things. The word 'rosada' spoken on that sunny morning was only an expressive peak of his oral vivacity" (59; 57). Pasolini is worried about the negative effects of including such a magical word as "rosada" in a classification of signifiers whose meaning, according to the well-known Saussurian scheme, lies only in their phonetic difference from other signifiers. Pasolini fears that the word's resonances, which run deep into his origins, will be lost: "There is no sign, however arbitrary, that, without a break in continuity, across tens of millennia, may not be led back to utterance, that is, to the biologically necessary oral linguistic expression" (59; 58). Once more drawing on personal experiences, Pasolini recalls the reaction of Ninetto to his first sight of snow in the Abruzzi town of Pescasseroli. As in the previous case, Ninetto's scream of delight comes from the very center of his soul and links him in a mysterious bond to the historical origins and beyond of his Southern Italian culture: "'H è-eh, hè-eh, heeeeeeeh.' In short, a shout that does not have a written equivalent, A vocalization due to a memoriel which joins in a continuity without interruption the Ninetto of now at Pescasseroli to the Ninetto of Calabria— mar­ ginal area and custodian of Greek civilization— to the pre-Greek, purely barbaric Ninetto, who strikes his heel on the ground as the prehistoric nude Denka now do in the lower Sudan" (69-70; 67). Pasolini's deliberately unscientific and subjective investigations of language were destined to be received skeptically by the scien­ tific community. But it was only when he shifted these same con­ cerns from the field of linguistic theory to that of cinema that



Pasolini bore the full brunt of professional reprobation and was branded, and not for the only time, a heretic.

Back to the Future Giuliana Bruno has recently noted that the late-sixties and early-seventies were the worst possible time for Pasolini to put forward his theory of the written language of reality, for which he was to gain a certain notoriety in semiotic milieux.7 This was the time when semiotics was striving to establish itself as a sci­ ence and any suggestion that signification came from anything other than linguistic and paralinguistic conventions— as Pasolini did— was tantamount to heresy. Both Umberto Eco, who includes Pasolini among the last of the pansemiotic metaphysicians, and Stephen Heath detect in Pasolini's work the fatal flaw of a lurking Godlike principle of intelligibility which gives ultimate meaning­ fulness to the apparent shiftiness of signs.8 In a series of remarks that might well have had Pasolini the amateur semiotician as their addressee, Eco suggests that those who hold a Heideggerian "voice of being" theory of language would do better to give up on the semiotic project entirely. Not because, he continues, they would be wasting their time, but because they might discover that the principle of intelligibility on which they posit their theory is nothing other than "a prior Culture which has fixed the same rules of interpretation and has taught us, by convention, to recog­ nize as a Voice that which was chance, fact of nature, or uncon­ scious mechanism of our educated mind."9 Had his remarks referred only to developed language systems, Pasolini could probably have found some common ground with Eco. But for Pasolini, to think, as Eco does, that all signification can be explained by a theory of semiotic convention is unaccept­ able. According to Pasolini, the great limit of the present state of semiotics is its refusal to investigate the master code of reality, the code of codes, which subtends all semiotic activity, "the most UNDERLYING of a ll. . . the one which concerns sensory percep­ tion" (279; 277). When Pasolini argues for the need for semiotics to turn its attention to a semiotics of reality itself, he is encourag­ ing the likes of Christian Metz and Eco to extend the range of their research into an area that had previously been declared offlimits. Pasolini has something of a field day in suggesting why semiotics has been reticent to go in this direction. Turning the tables on those critics who wanted to fend him off as a cultural

5: Empirismo Eretico


and historical anachronism, Pasolini accuses semiotics of being the expression of a bourgeois culture which is afraid to recognize in the phenomenal world a latent meaningfulness that far exceeds their codes and categories. For Pasolini, Eco becomes the latest manifestation of a bourgeois, secular, intellectual tradition which has dressed itself up in modern revolutionary garb. Eco's work, he thinks, gestures toward an appraisal of the master code of reality, but always pulls up short, refusing to take what, for Pasol­ ini, is that interesting and vital last step: "One therefore has the impression that your book was written on the brink of an abyss. You do not lean out beyond that edge. You nearly touch it and then you back off, after having glanced at it absentmindedly" (279; 277). The thrust of Pasolini's rejoinder to Eco's objection that he re­ duces cultural phenomena to natural ones is to say that, far from confusing nature with culture, he has all the time been concerned with cultural phenomena: "All my chaotic pages on this topic . . . tend to bring Semiology to the definitive transformation of nature into culture" (279; 278).10 By this Pasolini means that because reality is already a meaningful language, which speaks and communicates messages, it is therefore always already cultural.11 But if reality is already a coded language— the code of codes— there must also be a coder behind it all. That coder, admits Paso­ lini, is either God, a God figure, or reality itself: "Let us suppose therefore . . . that a God exists. Let us transform nature into cul­ ture in the only way that is possible in advance" (280; 278-79).12 By positing the presence of a coder or principle of intelligibility behind reality, Pasolini turns the language of reality into the lan­ guage of God, or as he puts it here so as not to offend the ultra­ secular Eco, B: Now, because it is irritating to speak of God among secular people, let us limit ourselves to calling God Brahma, and let us shorten this to B. The existence of B. . . . causes the statement "reality is a language" to no longer be apodicitic and unmotivated, but [to be] in some way sensible and functional: "reality is the language of B." (280; 279)

Our perception of the pink glow in the morning sky which tells us the day is coming is not the result of cultural conditioning, nor "a sign recognizable through learning" (282; 281), but the work of God/reality/B: "It is B., it is B., dear Eco, who says to himself, through the pink imsign of the light and through your



looking eyes, that a new day is breaking. And at this level the Urcode must be identified by the semiologists" (282; 281). Beyond the playfulness, the thrust of Pasolini's rejoinder is that Eco, like all secular intellectuals, is afraid to come to terms with the vibrant and shimmering meaningfulness of the phenomenal world. Eco's project, as seen by Pasolini, is reductive, foreshorten­ ing the infinite possibility of the language of reality into a series of compartmentalized codes. In sum: for Pasolini reality is inherently meaningful, a book we are invited to read: "the book of the world, the book of nature; the prose of pragmatism, the poetry of life" (263; 261). The world is a book whose meaningfulness cannot be reduced to single, specific meanings without foreshortening the generalized sense of meaningfulness that it contains. As such there is a basic am­ bivalence about reality and, consequently, about those signs which pick up and approximate its meaningfulness in literature and film. In an interview with Oswald Stack, Pasolini states: A tree photographed is poetic, a human face photographed is poetic because physicity is poetic in itself, because it is an apparition, be­ cause it is full of mystery, because it is full of ambiguity, because it is full of polyvalent meaning, because even a tree is a sign of a linguistic system. But who talks through a tree? God, or reality itself. Therefore the tree as a sign puts us in communication with a mysterious speaker.13

Roberto Turigliatto has written of the mystery and ambiguity inherent in Pasolini's pansemiotics as a tension between presence and absence. Presence, because Pasolini never seriously doubts the ontological priority of reality; absence, because the latent meaningfulness of reafity can never be entirely grasped or pos­ sessed. Pasolini's model, it turns out, is one neither of presence nor absence but "a mythical model, that goes beyond this opposi­ tion . . . the myth of reality is certainly not its presence. Rather, it is the index of a never overcome absence, which reveals a desired, yearned for presence."14 There do come occasions when reality no longer completely withholds its enigmatic essence and reveals itself in a shimmering moment of meaningfulness and "poesia." Pasolini calls such mo­ ments "the natural poeticity of life" (53; 52).15 One such moment involves the poplar trees which one day bespeak their presence to Pasolini: "The purest language in the world, in fact the only one which could be called LANGUAGE and that's all, is the lan­ guage of natural reality. For example, one of the rows of poplars,

5: Empirismo Eretico


of the green fields, and of the Lambro, which 'spoke' to me near Milan in the last scenes of Oedipus" (250; 247). Or again, this time outside a Roman trattoria: At times reality itself is poetic. The other evening we were talking about these things in an open-air restaurant, with Moravia and other friends, when a mandolin player arrived (not seen on the sly) and began to play his mandolin. Well, it was such a poetic thing that everyone in his heart felt lost and had to force the emotion back into himself, to intellectualize it and express it. In that moment reality as nonarbitrary language— that is, a mandolin player as an iconic symbol of himself—that is, once again, a mandolin tune as living syntagma— was poetic. (255; 252)

Ultimately, then, for Pasolini the world is not a place of chaos. Nor is the order that we make out of chaos only the fruit of conventionalized mechanisms of perception. Behind the apparent disorder of everyday life there is a language of reality that is trying to make itself known to us, despite bourgeois culture's diminished ability to apprehend it. The disaster of our times is that we have become so accustomed to living life according to a series of con­ ventionalized codes that we have not only forgotten what authen­ tic experience feels like, but we have forgotten that we have forgotten. Although these thoughts reach a theoretical elaboration in the writings of the late-sixties and early-seventies, their beginnings can be found in the Roman novels. The storm episode in Life, for example, is no chaotic, senseless manifestation of the disordered nature of the world. The storm singles out Tommaso for punish­ ment because by attempting to become other than he is, he trans­ gresses the natural law of the borgata. As I argued earlier, we are invited to read the storm episode as a dreadful settling of ac­ counts. The storm may bring chaos to the borgata, but, far from being chaotic, the storm itself is single-minded as it deals out retribution. By way of contrast, if we turn for a moment to the figure of the wind in Claude Simon's novel Le vent (The wind), we find two different views of nature, one radically chaotic, the other ordered. Simon's novel is concerned with the recounting and reconstituting of a narrative that has been viewed from many sides, none of which is entirely reliable or trustworthy. So chaotic and unpredict­ able is the world that any one point of view is, by definition, partial and prone to constant revision, updating, and addition. The character of the notary, for example, akin to the narrator of



a classic realist text, offers himself as the voice of reason and order. But the coherence and finality of his point of view is constantly challenged and undermined by other events and voices in the noveL The character of Montes, the malin génie; is the madman whose idiosyncratic view of the world subverts the cohesive calm of the notary's narrative. The space within which these points of view are worked out is, given the unredeemable chaos at the core of the world, open rather than closed, always enacting challenges to the surface coherence and stability of any narrative. Instability lies at the heart of the novel; in the background, ever present, is the wind. David Carroll, in his book The Subject in Question, comments thus: The uncontrollable force metaphorically connected to this instability, there from the beginning, unchartable and erratic is . . . the wind: "Through the window I could see the two stunted palm trees in the courtyard tossing in the wind's sporadic gusts. Always the wind." More fundamental than sense, form and order, the wind blows with­ out purpose, formless and senseless: "and naturally this godforsaken wind, the saraband of papers, leaves and whirling rubbish hustled along by the March squalls, the indefatigable, permanent gale cease­ lessly galloping down the diaphanous sky, growing wild, intoxicated with its own rage, its own useless power, devoid of sense." The wind is always there, not as a presence, something to be seen, understood, controlled—i.e., not as a form— but as a disruptive and differentiating force wearing away the integrity of the present, carrying with it the debris of the past, continually disordering and reordering.16

Carroll is concerned to show how in Le vent any one point of view is incapable of fully embracing and accounting for the insta­ bility at the core of the world, that there is always a something more which escapes and remains outside, an always-unaccounted-for residue of meaning. Any point of view may be seen therefore as an attempt to organize events according to a preformulated narrative and impose an artificial and arbitrary form on reality, a reality so inherently chaotic as to always resist such a move. The "truths" that do result from this model can only be partial, provisional, self-contradictory. The wind, the figure of the instability and chaos inherent in the world, is that element which defies any attempt to impose form and sense. Whereas Simon's chaotic narrative would abolish the possibility of any authentic and verifiable hierarchy of discourse and move towards a textual space of endless deferrals and infinite dissemi­ nation of meaning, in Pasolini we find a more controlled narra-

5: Empirismo Eretico


tive. By positing an overarching mastercode, the language of reality itself—"the first and foremost of the human languages" (199; 198)— above and beyond the various integrating and second­ ary codes, Pasolini reins in any tendency toward what Eco has called an "unlimited polysemy." At work, in its place, is a hier­ archy, governed by the master code: deferral, then, is never end­ less; polysemy is never infinite dissemination. A further example of Pasolini's belief in an ultimate principle of intelligibility is found in one of his most well-known newspaper articles, "La scomparsa delle lucdole" (The disappearance of the glowworms), published a few months before his murder. Here, the language of reality, in the shape of the glowworms, speaks. It tells us that the consequences of the present course of history are an ecological disaster. In the artide, Pasolini argues that the Italian political scene has changed: from a stage in which oldstyle values were operative, we are now in a consumerist stage, which he calls new Fasdsm. Each stage— the before, during, and after— is punctuated by the presence, gradual disappearance, and final absence of the glowworms: present when the values of Church, country, family, obedience, disdpline, order, thrift, and morality were operative; absent now that a consumerist ethic has taken over. Pasolini invests the presence of the glowworms with great, al­ most epoch-making significance. Consequently, their absence is more than a casual coinddence. Ten years earlier, just as the con­ sumerist trend was taking over, something crudal happened: About ten years ago "something" happened. "Something" that was not there before and was foreseeable not only at the time of the "Politecnico," but not even a year before it happened (or even, as we shall see, while it was happening). . . . I'll call that "something" which happened about ten years ago the "disappearance of the glow­ worms."17

The weight of significance attributed to the disappearance of the glowworms suggests that Pasolini is not thinking purely in terms of causality: we have polluted the atmosphere and there­ fore, as a result, the glowworms have been obliterated. Rather, Pasolini is suggesting that the glowworms have withdrawn or retreated from Italy. Or better: they have not simply been elimi­ nated by poisons, but have dedded to deprive Italy of their pres­ ence. Their withdrawal is motivated by a prindple of judgment. Their presence is a prize they award us, their absence a punish­



ment they inflict. The presence of the glowworms, in other words, stands for a society still in vital contact with original values; their absence signifies a radically perverted society which goes against the values of "an archaically agricultural and paleo-industrial Italy."18 Remarks like the above were to cause Pasolini a great deal of trouble. They opened the door to charges that he was anachronis­ tic, reactionary, nostalgic for a precapitalist world of happy peas­ ants in primordial contact with nature. It cannot be denied, of course, that one of Pasolini's distinguishing traits is his enduring interest in past and/or marginal societies. Yet, it takes a great deal of naiveté to suggest that Pasolini considered the past in terms of a model which could be "applied" to the present as an antidote to its ills. Noone has written more intelligently on Pasolini's re­ turn to the past than the Friulan poet Andrea Zanzotto. Arguing that it is "absurd to think of a Pasolini dreaming of a return to a peasant civilization taken as a block, or even as a pre-eminent indication,"19 Zanzotto shifts attention from the past as historical fact onto the past as a metaphor for a new beginning, a "first dawn. Infinitely far back and always in the future," "a revolution­ ary force which is in the past."20 In the same way, he says, Pasol­ ini's loyalty to the Italian Communist party bears on his conviction that it was the only viable space where "the seed for a different structure" could be cultivated.21 Not a space for "young people . . . as who-knows-what entity or category, but as the many diverse and unforeseeable singularities among them, a pole of a 'coming' ethical-pedagogical discourse, an active pole, not passive."22 Zanzotto's comments help us to identify a side of Pasolini, which to some of his critics must come as something of a surprise. Pasolini's interest in myth, for example, need no longer be consid­ ered only as the recovery and reproposal of past cultural models, but as a way of gaining access to a new and unprecedented future. As Gianni Vattimo has recently remarked, the rediscovery of myth, one of the characteristics of the postmodern condition, is also a rediscovery of narrative. As the etymology of the word suggests, myth is inseparable from narration. Myths only exist insofar as they can be retold time and again. Opposed to the analytic rigor of scientific thought, "mythical knowledge, insofar as it is essentially narrative [is] a form of thought which is more appropriate to certain ambits of experience."23 The return to a new consideration of myth, continues Vattimo, is part of postmodern culture's attempts to elaborate new narra-

5: Empirismo Eretico


tive models as alternatives to the discredited idea that human history is a unitary and progressive narrative of emancipation. In the face of cultural and technological revolutions, the appearance on the world stage of a plurality of previously excluded voices and races, and the ecological disasters that advanced capitalism has produced, the idea of a master narrative of history centered on the ideal of the experience of the bourgeois European male has become increasingly problematic. With the comments of both Zanzotto and Vattimo in mind, we can also see Pasolini's turn to myth in a new light. In opposition to the homologizing narrative of history, Pasolini identifies in myth the possibility of an alterna­ tive and more fertile narrative structure which is "relevant and able to produce a new history" posited against life-denying monumental history.24 If myth is a return to the past, it is a return to a past in order to create a future that remains virgin territory unencumbered by the bourgeois narrative of history. One of the words Pasolini uses to describe this new narrative mode is "affabulazione" (fabulation), which is also the title of one of his six verse tragedies. It is to these that I turn in the next chapter. Before that, however, we need to return to Pasolini's theory of "film" and "cinema" to see how they prepare the ground for the dialogical format his new theater will take.

"Cinema/' "Film ", and the "Geniale mente analizzatrice" Up to the essays published in 1966 and early in 1967, the bulk of Pasolini's theoretical writings had made the case for a "cinema of poetry." Unlike its antagonist, the conventional narrative of the "cinema of prose," the former alerts us to the "deeply oneiric quality" (169; 169) that lies at the essence of reality and that films made according to Hollywood-style practices had almost com­ pletely ignored. Starting with "Osservazioni sul piano-sequenza" (Observations on the long take),25 an essay first published in 1967, the picture begins to change as Pasolini apprehends the limits of the "cinema of poetry." At first, though, Pasolini assigns the "cin­ ema of poetry," later renamed simply "cinem a," an accretive func­ tion: by reproducing the language of reality "cinema" plays a central role in the formation of consciousness. "Cinema," then, is the name Pasolini gives to the process by which an unreflective consciousness develops into a reflective one:



The language of reality, as long as it was natural, was beyond our consciousness: now that it appears "written" through cinema, it can­ not fail to demand a consciousness. The written language of reality will cause us first of all to know what the language of reality is, and it will end up finally by modifying our idea of it—at least trans­ forming our physical relations with reality into cultural relations. (235; 231)

In other essays, however, this positive accretive function as­ cribed to "cinema" is seen in a more negative light as its political and epistemological limits become clearer. In one of a series of shifts back and forth between competing terms, Pasolini aban­ dons "cinema" and goes back to the "cinema of prose," the cin­ ema of narrative and montage which he previously disparaged and which he now simply terms film. Two of the most striking characteristics of Empiricism are, first, the variations that key terms like cinema of poetry, cinema of prose, cinema, and film undergo; and, second, the antagonistic relationship that exists between them as at different times either cinema of prose/film or cinema of poetry Icinema becomes the privileged term. These two characteristics are merely the most outward sign of an instability that runs throughout Empiricism and which problematizes any interpretive account on the reader's part to recuperate the text in univocal terms. It is with the repercussions of Pasolini's shuttling to and fro between a theory of "film" and a theory of "cinem a"— which turns Empiricism into an unstable but nonetheless rich text— that I will be concerned in these final sections of the chap­ ter. But first, some definitions. Whereas film is the conventional artifact we see at movie theaters and rent at video stores, cinema for Pasolini means the reproduction of the entirety of the language of reality in "written" but unedited form. It is the record of the entirety of our actions twenty-four hours a day made possible through the mediation of an infinite number of cameras which film our every move from every conceivable angle. As it makes its first appearance in Empiri­ cism, cinema is an entirely hypothetical idea whose key element is an uninterrupted, infinite long take which is brought to an end only by death. Cinema, then, as it follows the actions of a man as he goes about his daily life, is: a virtual eye that will follow him; an invisible camera that will not lose one of his actions, even the slightest, and ideally will reproduce them—that is will write them dnematographically. No matter how infinite and continuous reality is, an ideal camera will always be able

5: Empirismo Eretico


to reproduce it in its infinity and continuity. As primordial and arche­ typal concept cinema is therefore a continuous and infinite long take . . . a reproduction of reality as unbroken and fluid as reality. (22930; 225-26)

Elsewhere the same idea is phrased like this: "Cinema is an infinite long take . . . it is the ideal and virtual, infinite reproduc­ tion made possible by an invisible camera which reproduces as such all the gestures, the actions, the words of a man from his birth to death" (249; 245). Pasolini is initially drawn to "cinema" because it seems to offer an antidote to the wornout "symbolic and arbitrary system which is the system of 'lin-signs.' Which, in order to reproduce reality through its evocation, must, by defini­ tion, suspend it" (229; 225). Striving for what Stefano Agosti has called "a total diction of reality,"26 Pasolini finds in "cinema" a m eans of gaining immediate purchase on reality without the me­ diation that verbal signs and written language necessarily in­ volves. In placing a kind of wall between reality and our access to it, verbal signs ("lin-signs") do little to approximate reality's life-affirming essence.27 As his references to continuity and infinity suggest, Pasolini's real goal is to find a mode of representation that would match the immediacy he sees in reality itself. In 1966-67, when he writes "Battute sul cinema" (Quips on the cinema), "cinema" would be his answer: "Expressing myself through the language of cinema . . . I constantly remain within the bounds of reality, I do not suspend its continuity" (229; 225). But here, even at the moment of one of its strongest formula­ tions, the theory of "cinema" begins to reveal its limits. Pasolini's realization of its inadequacies seems at least in part to have been occasioned by his encounter with the films Andy Warhol was making in New York. Although by the way Pasolini describes "cinem a" it is clear it cannot exist practically, but only hypotheti­ cally, it approaches its nearest concrete form in the uninterrupted long take on which Warhol's cinema was based. In Warhol's mara­ thon films of men sleeping, eating, and getting a haircut, Pasolini came face to face with their "long, foolish, inordinate, unnatural, mute long take[s]" (245; 241). And he saw, perhaps to his horror, what his "cinema" might look like when turned into actual films. The picture of reality that Warhol's films offered was nothing like anything Pasolini had imagined his "cinema" to be and per­ formed none of the functions it was supposed to. Instead of trig­ gering off a moment of enhanced possession of self, of greater



and intensified perception of the vibrancy of reality, Warhol's cin­ ema rendered it boring, insignificant, lifeless: the "long take would be constituted by an extraordinarily boring succession of insignificant things and actions" (244; 240). The boredom induced by Warhol's films is, however, just the outward sign of a deeper epistemological problem. Set up with the aim of reintroducing us to the phenomenological density of reality, "cinema" in its practical form in Warhol's work turns real­ ity into something that is not worth the effort to know. What comes out of "cinem a," far from being vital and interesting, is now "something absolutely without interest, completely irrele­ vant. . . . The hypothetical long take thus reveals, by represent­ ing it, the insignificance of life as life" (244; 240). Pasolini's perception of the limits of "cinema" is similar in many ways to the limits of the mimetic poetics he had outlined twenty years earlier in his essay on Italian dialect poetry, "La poesia dialettale del novecento" (The dialect poetry of the twentieth cen­ tury), that is now the opening essay in Passione. The two moments are linked, for example, by their reliance on mirror metaphors to illustrate the enhanced perception of reality that mimetic poetics and "cinema" were supposed to afford. Turning briefly to a sec­ tion of this essay, we find this parenthetical remark in which Pa­ solini takes issue with the realism of the Sicilian author Nino Martoglio: "(as if the tape recorder, and not the mirror, were the tool that the dialect writer carries with him as he goes around the back streets of his casbah.)"28 As offhand as this comment might be, it bears directly on a question that will find strong echoes in Pasolini's later reflections on narrative where he devel­ ops a theory of realism based not on chronicling or copying but on enhanced repetition. Here the "tape-recorder" stands for a realism that limits itself to recording the events of reality. In con­ trast, the mirror stands for a qualitatively different engagement with reality which aims at intensifying our perception of its es­ sence. To use the tape recorder and not the mirror as a means of mediating reality results in a desiccated replica of things, one in which essence, here identified as mystery, gets lost or misrepre­ sented: a reality, then, "deprived of that fantastic quality in which the mystery of life is translated."29 As the distinction suggests, Pasolini's championing of the mirror over the tape recorder as a metaphor of representation bears on a notion of realism not as literal transcription, but as reflectivity or specularity.30 Unlike the tape recorder, the mirror does not limit itself to producing a dou­ ble of reality. It can be considered a superior means of reproduc­

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tion and representation only if we understand the prefix re of both terms to mean intensification of perception rather than m ere copying. In the essay "Q uips," Pasolini tells us that the turn from an oral culture to a written one had an effect similar to that produced by the mirror. Opening up the possibility of a reflective conscious­ ness, the advent of writing "'revealed' to man what his oral lan­ guage is, first of all. Certainly this was the first movement forward in the new human cultural consciousness born of the invention of the alphabet: the awareness of oral language or, more simply, the awareness of language" (235; 231). Pasolini seems originally to have envisaged a similar role for his hypothetical "cinema." Ju st as the move from oral to written culture opened up new horizons, so "cinema" would lead to a heightened possession of both self and reality. In the same essay, he draws again on the mirror metaphor: In short, what happened to me is what might happen to an individual who becomes involved in research on the functioning of mirrors. He places himself in front of the mirror and observes it, examines it, takes notes; finally, what does he see? Himself. What does he notice? His physical and material presence. The study of the mirror brings him fatally back to the study of himself. This happens to whoever studies cinema. Since cinema reproduces reality, it ends up bringing us back to the study of reality. But in a new and special way, as if reality had been discovered through its reproduction, and as if certain of its expressive mechanisms had been revealed only through this new "reflected" situation. Cinema, in fact, by reproducing reality gives testimony to its expressiveness, which could have escaped us. (232; 228)

But when Pasolini goes on to develop this line of thinking in his cinema essays, he soon discovers that the cognitive mode that corresponds most closely to the mirror is not "cinema," but a new term: film. Contrary to what his earlier writings may have suggested, the infinite, uninterrupted long take is of little use when we need to interpret the details of reality. From a theory of "cinem a," Pasolini now makes a first turn toward a theory of "film ." The tension which persists between these two terms is laid bare most explicitly in the essay "Observations." If "Quips" tells us what Pasolini's unmediated "cinema" might look like, "Observations" offers us an insight not only into the strengths of "film ," but also its limits. The initial concern of the essay is hermeneutical and concerns



an event that was still topical in 1966, the time of writing: namely, the assassination of John F. Kennedy. The essay, in fact, attempts to tells us what must happen if we are to answer precise questions like: Who killed Kennedy? What happened that day in Dallas? Suppose, Pasolini suggests, we had not one but an infinite num­ ber of 16mm films of Kennedy's death; suppose that the event had been recorded as "cinem a," that we had films that recorded the events of that day from every standpoint and not just from the single one of the tourist whose actual 16mm film provides our sole visual record of the moment of the Kennedy shooting. What would result is footage taken from every conceivable angle: from Kennedy's, his wife's, the assassin's, other spectators', the bodyguards', from the grassy knoll Pasolini imagines a situation in which we as spectators find ourselves in a room where all the footage filmed from all the different angles is projected. If, then, we were to view all these bits of footage, which would make up as complete a record as possible of those events, would the truth of that day then present itself to perception? Surprisingly per­ haps, given all his groundwork, Pasolini says no. We would be faced with such a barrage of unprocessed raw events and happen­ ings that we would not be able to make any immediate sense of them. Broaching the problem of the epistemological limits of "cinem a," he says that to process the wealth of heterogeneous information we receive— these examples of "maimed, incomplete languages, practically incomprehensible" (239; 235)— we must call on a narrator figure, an editor, a kind of super detective, which he calls "a genial analytic mind" (239; 235).3* Pasolini does not provide a detailed job description for such a figure, nor does he give any examples. If I understand him cor­ rectly, however, he envisages something like a conventional omni­ scient narrator, a figure who quite literally takes control over a mass of heterogeneous information and works this material into coherent and plausible narrative form. It would be wrong, I think, to consider Pasolini's genial analytic mind as only a literary device. Pasolini's apprehension of the necessity of such a figure is a re­ sponse to the need we have to understand the causes and predict the consequences of the sometimes atrocious and scandalous events we encounter in the course of our everyday lives. The Kennedy assassination is one such event which even today, thirty years after it took place, and despite the efforts of the Warren Commission Report, the New Orleans' District Attorney Jim Gar­ rison's alternative account, and Oliver Stone's recent film JFK, remains the subject of intense speculation. All three of the above,

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in fact, serve very well as concrete examples of the task Pasolini delegates to the genial analytic mind. In his terms, the task that all three set themselves is to coordinate the various events of that day into "a placement in relation to itself and to the objective world" (239; 235). In other words, the genial analytic mind's task involves a process of selection and combination that aims to weave the most crucial and significant moments of a given event into narrative form "by choosing the truly meaningful moments of the various subjective long takes and consequently finding their real ordering (239-40; 235).32 It is, then, in the narrated and segmented work of "film," and not in the uninterrupted long take of "cinem a" that Pasolini locates the means by which the world can be knowable in any firm sense. There is nothing very innovative about Pasolini's valorization of the epistemological necessity of the narrator figure. Indeed, the way he sets up the "genial analytic mind" as a principle of intelligibility, and the unperturbed way he seems to accept the security and authority of this knowing, masterful subject leads him into theoretical dilemmas. For example, an important political question attends the invention of the "genial analytic mind": who chooses the events deemed significant and according to what cri­ teria? There is some evidence to suggest that Pasolini thinks such events to be so self-evidently significant and outstanding that any rigorous justification of their choice is superfluous.33 But reading Pasolini more generously, we could take this as a moment of hyperbole in a text written as a manifesto in which Pasolini over­ states his case for effect. Because he wants to sing the praises of the rigor of "film ," what results may be less a theoretical dilemma than a by-product of a rhetorical ploy. At any rate, as we shall see, Pasolini returns to the question of narrative order which "film" raises in a far more critical vein. To leave the issue of narra­ tive per se aside for a moment, what turns out to be new about "Observations" is that his valorization of the narrator figure marks a considerable departure from the other linchpin of his theory, the "continuous and infinite long take" (229; 225). A glance backward at Pasolini's two Roman novels reveals that the turn from "cinema" to "film" replays a turn that took place about a decade earlier in the interval separating Ragazzi from the more conventional narrative form of Life. As we have seen, the second of his two Roman novels, like "film ," is a more stable and coherent textual space than Ragazzi or "cinem a." But Pasolini's conversion to a more conventional narrative practice is, however, far from definitive. As soon as he completed Life, he abandoned



novel-writing for at least a decade in favor of cinema. And al­ though Pasolini's discussion of the merits of "film" and "cinema" develop in more formal terms some of the questions he had al­ ready raised in his novels, we also discover from essays like "O b­ servations" and "Quips" that his return to the narrative practice he now calls "film" is far from being his theoretical resting place. As we read on in Empiricism, we find that in "Observations," the essay which had initially outlined the strengths of "film ," he almost immediately attends to the constraints imposed by con­ ventional narrative and soon goes back to a consideration of the merits of "cinem a." At different phases of Pasolini's career one or the other seemed to offer a feasible answer. When he writes "Observations," for example, when we need to know what hap­ pened in Dallas, "film" seems to correct the shortcomings of "cin­ ema." But, in a move that is characteristic of his theorizing, as soon as "film " is posited, its flaws are immediately exposed. It is important to underline, however, that the revisions in Pa­ solini's thought on narrative order are all internal They come, that is, from within the body of Pasolini's own writings. One of the reasons I refrained from pursuing the critique of the masterful subject, to which Pasolini's valorization of the "genial analytic mind" leaves him open, is that he develops the critique himself. In fact, he discovers that the underside to the epistemological rigor that narrative guarantees is the oppressive hold narrative structure takes over both our perception of the world and its potential for semiosis. We can follow this development in Paso­ lini's thought by noting, first, the kind of events over which Pasol­ ini is willing to grant the narrator figure control; and second, how metaphors of death consistently punctuate Pasolini's references to narrative order. Signs of discomfort with the textual stability and epistemologi­ cal certainty afforded by the genial analytic mind are already present in the essays that initially valorize "film ." On closer in­ spection, these texts reveal that the only matter over which Pasol­ ini is willing to grant the narrator figure control is that of past events: "Only the events which have taken place and are finished can be coordinated among themselves and thus acquire a mean­ ing" (239; 235). Pasolini's examples make this clear. Once all the evidence is in on events such as Kennedy's death, Stalin's crimes, Manfredi's life, Lenin's "great poem of action in writing" (200; 198), they can be entirely knowable. To be knowable, an event must be finished and no longer subject to change. No late event, like Manfredi's last-minute conversion on the bridge in Benevento

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(another of Pasolini's examples), or a moment of genuine remorse, moments that are always possible as long as life goes on, can cast a retrospective light on events and thus demand their reinterpretation.34 If it were not for his later interest in mythical and medieval texts, whose vitality and essence reside in the retelling of their narratives, on this score one could accuse Pasolini of a singularly ingenuous hermeneutics. He suggests on several occasions that once all the material pertinent to a finished event has been col­ lected, then that event may be completely knowable. He is unwill­ ing, it would seem, to accept a hermeneutics based on the further elucidations of the truth as the result of the ongoing fusion of the horizons of the past (the "finished" event) and the present. In this way, myths, although "finished" as stories, relive and grow as they meet the horizon of the present in which they are told. O n the other hand, the primitive hermeneutics which emerges from these essays may once again be only a by-product of Pasol­ ini's hyperbolic mode of argumentation and which causes him to shuttle to and fro between extreme positions. Against the radical life of the present which can never be completely knowable, he posits the radical death of the clear-cut and finalized past. The concern with preserving the possibility of future significa­ tion within narrative structures bears directly on Pasolini's think­ ing about events still in progress. Given the inexhaustible potential for signification which inheres in reality, this possibility can never be discounted. Unknowable in any definitive sense while still in progress, these events resemble a chaos: "While Stalin lived he found himself in a continuum—undecipherable, approximate, mythical, and at the same time violently physical, ambiguous, and mendacious" (253; 250). This is, however, far from saying that they are devoid of meaning. Before having any specific single significance, events have a general sense of mean­ ingfulness. "Suspended and unrelated" (239; 234), theirs is a meaning that gestures toward some future fulfillment. Events in progress, then, form the raw material of a project-towardmeaning whose aim is to interpret the meaningfulness inherent in the events and weave it into narrative form: "Like every mo­ ment of the language of action it is a search. A search for what? For a placement in relation to itself and to the objective world; and therefore a research for relations with all the other languages of action with which others, together with it, express themselves" (239; 234-35). It is at this point that the repressive underbelly of the "genial



analytic mind" becomes apparent. This leads to a new turn in Pasolini's thought, this time back to a consideration of "cinem a." Pasolini's critique of "cinema" started out by ascribing a positive role to the narrator figure as creator of order out of chaos. If, however, we attend to the metaphors of death which punctuate these pages we find the beginnings of a new but no less hard­ hitting critique, this time of "film ." Whereas past events can be thought of as dead, events still in progress are alive. To discipline them into a narrative order is to bring foreclosure to their process of becoming. To bring narrative order to ongoing events is, then, to bring a premature end to the possibility of future signification. Or more bluntly: to bring narrative order is to kill events before they come to fruition. For Pasolini, the cut of the film editor's scissors is as homicidal as the metaphor suggests: "Editing is thus very similar to the choice which death makes of the acts of a life, placing them outside of time" (253; 250). Pasolini's apprehension of the violence entailed in narrative echoes a recent trend in French critical theory. For Jacques Der­ rida, Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari, and others the plot that narra­ tive form organizes takes on a far more sinister shape as one of the primary means by which a repressive orthodoxy is imposed on the heterogeneity of daily life. Narrative, writes Derrida, is a primary means of social control, "a matter for the police": "The narratorial voice is the voice of a subject recounting something, remembering an event or a historical sequence, knowing who he is, where he is, and what he is talking about. It responds to some 'police,' a force or order of the law. . . . In this sense, all organized narration is 'a matter for the police,' even before its genre (mys­ tery, novel, cop story) has been determined."35 While never ignoring its political ramifications, Pasolini's cri­ tique of narrative bears more on the ontological impoverishment that narrative order forces on our perception of the world. The positing of "cinem a," in fact, may be seen as Pasolini's attempt to establish a loose form that avoids the violence inherent in his notion of "film " and returns us to the pregrammatical phase he had explored in his earlier writings on language in Empiricism. In recent years, Pasolini's notion of "cinema" has received the bulk of the critical attention directed at his film writings. Noone has done more to tease out the ramifications inherent in this notion than the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze. In the course of his two-volume work, Cinéma I: Limage-mouvement and Cinéma II: Limage-temps,36 he finds in Pasolini's "cinema" a liberating and greatly misunderstood move back to a state of "preliminary condi­

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tions,"37 where the free-standing image and not narrative order is the privileged term. For Deleuze, Pasolini's emphasis on the dreamlike quality and physical sensations of "cinem a," which he first articulates in his essay "The 'Cinema of Poetry/" resists the hegemony of symbolic language systems and returns the self to first things, "the first signifiable, preceding every significance."38 As Pasolini himself had earlier suggested in his polemic with Eco, Deleuze finds in "cinema" an antidote to the repressive sy sterna tidty of semiotics: "Hence one understands the ambiguity running through semiotics and semiology: semiology, inspired by linguis­ tics, tends to endose the 'signifier' and to cut language off from the images and signs which constitute its elementary matter."39 Indeed, it is back to this "elementary matter," which lies be­ yond the scope of a sdentific semiotics, that "cinema" is supposed to lead us. Sometimes Pasolini calls this elementary matter poeticity. Instead of allowing us to perceive "the natural poetidty of life" (53; 52), narrative form imposes an external preformed order on the phenomena of the world. Rather than fulfilling its epistemological mission to gather up the potential for signification that inheres in the poetidty of things, narrative imposes an order of its own on the phenomena of reality. Narrative preinterprets events by ordering them into a set of typifications according to which we expect the world to conform by virtue of repetition and familiarity. In so ordering events, a life-affirming heterogeneous present ("cinema"), whose potential remains untapped and also unknowable in any certain sense, is exchanged for a life-denying past ("film "), which in figuring the present according to the typi­ fications of the past denies it the possibility of autonomous semiosis. As Pasolini's investigations into the strengths and limits of "film" and "dnem a" develop, points of contrast with some of his earlier statements emerge. The discovery that both verbal and visual expression are tied to similar rules of narrative, for example, necessitates revisions in some of his earlier distinctions that had been made in "The 'Cinema of Poetry.'" (To the best of my knowl­ edge, Pasolini himself does not draw attention to these contrasts, but they are, I believe, implidt in his later essays that discuss "film" and "cinema.") His initial move from the novel to dnema was founded on the qualitative difference he believed existed be­ tween the "lin-segno" (linguistic signifier) and the "im-segno" (visual signifier). Unlike "lin-segni," which are easily dulled by convention and overuse, "im-segni" have a freshness and vitality that open up new vistas of expression. However, the conclusion



he comes to in "Observations/' that narrative organization of both verbal and visual signifiers, as repressive as that ordering might be, is always necessary if we are to know the world, implies a reconsideration of the initial radical difference he claims exists between the two types of signs. Pasolini's critique of narrative order leads him back to a consid­ eration of the merits of "cinema." It should be underlined, how­ ever, that there is little sense of linear development in Pasolini's thought as it shuttles between the two terms. As I have already suggested, we find a decisive turn toward "cinema" in "Observa­ tions," the 1967 essay that initially valorizes "film ." It is here, for example, that we encounter the death metaphors that accompany Pasolini's comments on narrative order: "This narrator transforms the present into the past" (240; 235). Yet, for Pasolini, not even death can be given unequivocal meaning. As a further sign of the lack of linear development in his thought, as we shall see shortly, Pasolini gives the death metaphor both positive and negative connotations. As with the question of past events, at issue for Pasolini in his return to the merits of "cinema" is the question of safeguarding the possibility of future expression. Reality's potential for infinite semiosis is better safeguarded by the presentness of "cinem a" than by the ordered pastness of "film ." The former is the privi­ leged space of creativity, "the mystery of the act of creation" (227; 223), while the latter is a space governed by reason where "every­ thing is coldly defined . . . by the organizing intelligence" (227; 223). Against the ongoing life of "cinem a," whose continuity is guaranteed by the absence of a narrator figure, "film " is associ­ ated with pastness, history, and death: "This is the way a life becomes a story" (254; 251). As long as the long takes that form the basis of Pasolini's "cinema" remain unprocessed, they are shorn of any sense of temporality and exist only in the present, devoid of any certain meaning to which we can unequivocally pin them down: "the language of action is therefore the language of the nonsymbolic signs of the present, and yet in the present it has no meaning, or if it has, it has it subjectively, that is, in an incom­ plete, uncertain and mysterious sense" (239; 234). It is this mystery, this "poeticity," the sense of a presence per­ ceived as an absence that gets lost when narrative form, turning the present into the past, turning "cinema" into "film ," is im­ posed on the language of reality. From a valorization of "film " as

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a corrective to the limits of "cinema/' we come back to "cinema" as a corrective to the violent constrictions of "film."

Michelangelo Antonioni and Roland Barthes It is in the context of Pasolini's interest in the semiotic potential of signifiers that Michelangelo Antonioni and Roland Barthes be­ come two of the heroes of Empiricism. With his films II deserto rosso (The red desert) and Bloiv-up, Antonioni not only provides concrete examples of what the cinema of poetry might look like, but also illustrates the limits of Pasolini's "genial analytic mind." Barthes, on the other hand, acts as an authoritative critical figure around whom Pasolini can wrap his own theorizing and to whom he can turn for intellectual support. Pasolini is drawn to Barthes on account of the switch in empha­ sis he finds in Barthes' work from the denotative to the connotative function of language. Of particular interest to Pasolini is Barthes' elaboration of the notion of a suspended sense which "transcends the signifieds" (138; 136). Suspended sense acts as an antidote to "film" insofar as it leaves space open for the play of signification. Quoting Barthes: "Meaning is such a fatality for man that art, as freedom, seems to endeavor, today in particular, not to generate meaning, but on the contrary to suspend it; not to construct meanings, but to not fill them exactly," Pasolini finds in these words a job description for the new role of the intellectual in the age of technology: "'To suspend the meaning': here is a stupendous epigraph for what could be a new description of the commitment, of the mandate of the writer" (139; 136). The refer­ ence to the writer's mandate or commitment is important here because it maps out the specific space Pasolini is trying to claim for his own ideas. Although rejoicing in the greater space for play and poeticity that Barthes' theorizing has opened up, Pasolini is always quick to discipline the autonomy of signifiers. In the very same essay where he valorizes the idea of suspended sense, he returns to the theme of the moral duty of the writer to harness his/her talents to the analysis and denunciation of the real world: "It seems to me, in short, that in any case a 'reality7 to be evoked is not lacking and, on the contrary, that it is guilty not to do so. And since that reality speaks to us every day with its language, transcending our signifieds— in an as yet undefined 'sense' . . .— it is as well, it seems to me, to bend our signifieds to it!" (140;



138). And in a later essay, we find the following comment on Barthes' remark that cinema's reliance on montage makes it a metonymic art: "If I wanted to bring Barthes' clever intuition back to my theory (so barbarically sketched out), I would say: 'It is not cinema which is a metonymic art, it is reality which is metonymicf" (233; 230). Pasolini wants to buy into Barthes' ideas, but not at any price. What the above quotation suggests is that Pasolini is at pains to hang onto notions of poetidty and suspended sense, but always grounding them not in language but in reality itself. For Pasolini poetidty is a property of reality, not of sentences about reality. Elsewhere too he is at pains to keep the gap between world and word from getting too wide. Perhaps Pasolini's most Barthesian essay is "La sceneggiatura come struttura che vuol diventare altra struttura" (The screenplay as a "structure that wants to be another structure"). Here Pasolini speaks of the screenplay as a text which defers its meaning to the film yet to be made: "The sign of the screenplay refers to the meaning according to the normal path of all written languages, and in particular of literary jargons, but, at the same time, it hints at that same meaning, forward­ ing the addressee to another sign, that of the potential film" (190; 18889). Suspended sense is the result of deferring fulfillment of meaning from the moment the screenplay is read to the moment the film based on the screenplay is seen. But Pasolini is always concerned to limit the free play of the signifier and restrict its autonomy. Meaning may be suspended, but not infinitely de­ ferred. In the same essay Pasolini draws the analogy between reading a screenplay and reading symbolist poetry: "While we read, we thus integrate in this manner the aberrant meaning of the spedal vocabulary of the poet, following two paths, the nor­ mal sign-meaning and the abnormal sign— sign-as-phoneme— mean­ ing" (191; 189-90). Here, importantly, there is only one deferment of meaning. There is in these pages a strong sense of Pasolini's valorization of the elusiveness of meaning, but never its abolition or free dissemination. As we have seen, Antonioni's The Red Desert helps Pasolini to define the terms of his dnema of poetry. Another of Antonioni's major films, Blow-up, is just as useful as an illustration of the limits of the genial analytic mind. I should point out, however, that I have no record of Pasolini having seen Blow-up before elabo­ rating his theory, nor of Antonioni having read the essay in ques­ tion before making it. Yet, both film and theory cross paths in significant ways. In Blow-up, for example, we could call what Pa­

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solini calls "cinema" the series of unprocessed photographs and blow-ups that Thomas, the photographer, takes in the park. "Film " would be the narrative order into which those photo­ graphs and blow-ups thought the most significant are organized in order to tell the story of what happened that afternoon. The "genial analytic mind/ responsible for organizing the photo­ graphs into a coherent narrative, would be Thomas himself. More than Pasolini's genial analytic mind, who acts in the respectable cause of knowledge, Thomas wants to know what went on in the park, his desire dictated by a mixture of curiosity and power. In fact, the opening scenes of the film immediately code him as an authoritarian presence: he is seen, for example, to be in control of his own signs as he disguises himself in the flophouse; the voyeuristic sexuality of his romp with Verushka draws attention to his detachment and self-imposed exile from the world of everyday things; and his treatment of the models underlines the control he wishes to maintain over the signs with which he works and makes his living. The story of the film, in fact, tells of the crisis of Thomas's detachment and the extent to which he can control his signs. Specifically, his ability to control signs comes into question when he realizes he is unable to verify the truth status of the narrative he has constructed. In pointing out the identical prostrate position occupied by Thomas after his orgy with the teenage models and the body he at that same moment identifies in one of the distorted blow-ups, John Freccero has suggested that Thomas here discovers what Pasolini also knew: in understanding the intrinsic connection be­ tween narrative and death, he also comes to realize that his art, his own constructs have the mark of death upon them. Just as important: in making the discovery that his own art is necessarily implicated in the finitude of things and that the dead body is, in Freccero's words, "the metaphoric embodiment of Thomas' art,"40 he is also confronted with his own implication in a temporal proc­ ess which can only end in death. Thomas's camera is the instru­ m ent with which he mediates between the heterogeneity of the world and the creation of a coherent narrative order. The scene in the park where Thomas goes without his camera is a continu­ ation of the earlier scene of recognition when Thomas sees the body in the blow-up. Not only is the body the "metaphoric em­ bodiment of his art," but it is also a figure for the unmediated realization of his own finitude. There is another scene immedi­ ately following his return from the park where once again Thomas, after kicking the airplane propeller he has bought is



confronted with a specular image of himself reflected in a mirror, but which he ignores. These two Narcissuslike scenes, where the price Thomas pays for coming to know himself is the loss of his assumed control over the flux of things, is a turning point in the film and leads to the final scene where Thomas's centrality is erased as he disappears from the center of the frame. I earlier outlined what common ground Barthes and Pasolini share, as well as what separates them. Let me do the same with Antonioni and Pasolini. Going back to the "film"/"cinema" dis­ tinction, we find that Antonioni is far more willing to investigate the radical heterogeneity of signification contained in "cinem a." In Blow-up, for example, Antonioni's exploration of the possible significations contained in the as-yet-unprocessed photographs is signaled by the free panning movement of the camera, a scanning back and forth motion. This motion mimics Thomas's scanning of the blow-ups to establish plausible causal connections, but also alerts us to the wealth of possible untapped significations they contain. By contrast, once Thomas has established the narrative, the meandering camera is replaced by a series of short, sharp cuts, which mimic the sequential logic of the causal sequence. Antonioni had already begun such an exploration of the signi­ fying potential of things outside the constraints of causal logic in his earlier Desert. Here, Giuliana's so-called neurotic vision of the world is an approximation of what the world might look like if things and objects were stripped of their referential function and could be perceived as pure form, shape, or color. What is im­ portant to Pasolini is that in so doing, Antonioni establishes an alternative subject position from which to narrate the events of the world: no longer from that of an authoritarian omniscient narrator like Thomas or the genial analytic mind, but that of a marginal subject who can offer us a new vision of what the world looks like. For Antonioni, in the new world to which Giuliana has access, the conventional patterns of cause and effect are no longer operative. One of Antonioni's comments helps us here. Of Desert, he has said: "It is too easy to say, as some critics have, that I am accusing the world of industry, factories etc., of turning the peo­ ple who live there into neurotics. My intention was to point out the beauty in this world, where even the factories have an extraor­ dinary aesthetic beauty."41 Antonioni is not making an antiecological case for the liberating effects of petrochemical plants. Rather, he is inviting us to short circuit the link that would locate the cause of Giuliana's neurosis in the industrial environment in which she lives. Against the conventional sequence: "Giuliana

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sees the world differently because she is neurotic/' he suggests the possibility of another: "Giuliana is neurotic because she sees the world differently/' where the unconventional and terrifying vision of the formlessness of the factories and objects shorn of their referential function, reduced to pure form "causes" Giuliana's neurosis. The question as to which of these two explanations has the greater epistemological weight is, in Antonioni's terms, moot. The film itself offers very little to help, refusing in any substantial way to give us evidence— in the form of flashbacks, say— that would account for Giuliana's mental state. There is some earlier mention of a car accident Giuliana had, but even this piece of information is of little help as it could be interpreted as either the cause or effect of her present condition. Antonioni and Barthes: in 1980, the city of Bologna granted Antonioni its most prestigious honor, the "Archiginnasio d'oro." Invited to commemorate the event, Barthes wrote a short but extremely beautiful essay in which he spoke of the qualities of "fragility," "tenuousness," and "attentiveness" in Antonioni's films.42 These are the qualities to which Pasolini's notion of "cin­ em a" aspires, but never reaches in practice. Although Pasolini wrote at length about a theory of "cinem a," his actual films are characterized by heavy editing: That is why I avoid the long take: because it is naturalistic and there­ fore . . . natural. My fetishistic love of the "things" of the world makes it impossible for me to consider them natural. Either it consecrates them or it desecrates them violently, one by one; it does not bind them in a correct flow, it does not accept this flow. But it isolates them and adores them, more or less intensely, one by one. In my rinema, therefore, the long take is completely substituted by editing. The continuity and linear infinity of that ideal long take which is cinema as the written language of reality becomes a "syn­ thetic" linear continuity and infinity through the intervention of edit­ ing." (231; 227)

Why does Pasolini, in practice, abandon the nonpossessive nar­ rative style that Barthes sees in Antonioni's films and Deleuze finds in his "cinema-in-potential"? One reason, as the above quo­ tation suggests, is that Pasolini was not patient enough. Unlike Antonioni, he was not willing to let reality unfold before his cam­ era and impress itself on his film. Pasolini wanted to devour real­ ity. For him, the camera was a reality eater, consuming things in huge bites.43 It was, as Pasolini himself admits, at the editing console, and not behind the camera, that he experienced the plea­



sure of filming: " I find at the moviola . . . an almost sexual plea­ sure at breaking the code, exhibiting something violated. It is a feeling that I also have when I write poetry, but the cinema inten­ sifies it to infinity."44 But there is also another reason why, in practice, Pasolini aban­ dons "cinema" for "film ." This has to do with Pasolini's growing apprehension of "cinema"'s ethical and political irresponsibility and "film"'s necessity. Recent studies of Pasolini's film theory, including Deleuze's, have almost completely ignored how "film " is valorized as an antidote to the limits of "cinem a." It is to a consideration of this term and its relation to "cinema" that I now turn.

Narratives of Knowledge; Narratives of Death We can trace the theoretical instability characterizing Empiricism by observing the shifts in the connotations which accompany their major metaphor, the figure of death. At times, it carries a positive connotation as a principle of order; at other times it car­ ries a negative one as order is seen to bring premature death to the ongoing process of signification. The metaphor takes on its negative connotations when Pasolini wants to emphasize the potential for semiosis inherent in signs. This is particularly characteristic of later essays like "Res sunt nomina" and "D non verbale come altra verbalit&" (The nonverbal as another verbality), but can also be illustrated by the short film Che cosa sono le nuvole? (What are clouds?). When, for example, Pasolini writes in "Res sunt nomina" of the "infinitely greater inclination toward polysemy" (260; 258) that the sign acquires when it is taken out of a communicative context ("film") and put into an expressive one ("cinema"), he is restating in more scien­ tific language the same idea contained in the earlier, far more dramatic statement: "To do cinema is to write on burning paper" (245; 240).45 In the short film What are Clouds?, the negative connotations of the death metaphor take the form of a critique of the process of naming. Here Tot6 explains to Ninetto, as bemused as he almost always is in Pasolini's films, that the externalization of the truth we hold unexpressed within us is tantamount to the destruction of that truth. Ninetto, who in the film, like Totd, is a puppet controlled by a puppet master, begins the exchange by asking:

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N inetto. But what is the truth? Is it what I think about myself, or what

people think or what that fella in there thinks? Totd. What do you feel inside? Think hard. What do you feel? N inetto. Yeah, I can feel something. Something's there. Totd. That's the truth, but ssshhhh never give it a name because as soon as you name it it's gone.*6

On other occasions, when Pasolini puts the emphasis on narra­ tive order and not semiosis, when he seeks to correct the natural­ ism of the uninterrupted long take through montage, the metaphor takes on positive connotations. In fact, the first meta­ phors of death we find in Empiricism are used in such a context as a corrective to the boredom induced by Warhol's films: "In my opinion the authors of the new cinema do not die enough in their works" (246; 242). Through its interruption of "cinema "'s infinite long takes, the metaphoric death that montage brings enables us to know the world and ourselves as other than it or we are. This is what Pasolini means when he writes: "Death effects an instan­ taneous montage of our lives" (241; 236); "so long as we live, we have no meaning" (241; 236); "It is only thanks to death that our life serves us to express ourselves" (241; 237); "so long as he has a future, that is, an unknown quantity, man is unexpressed" (240-41; 236). Elsewhere Pasolini is at pains to point out that his idea of death was aimed not at the afterlife but at better under­ standing the world around us: "But my idea of death, then, was a behavioral and moral idea; it was not concerned with the after­ math of death, but with the premise of it—not with the beyond, but with life" (252; 249). More dramatically, Pasolini also expresses political and moral reservations about "cinema" and the disengagement from the world it implies. At the heart of "cinema," in fact, Pasolini glimpses a deep immorality.47 The link between the immortality of "cinema" and its immorality is hinted at when he says that the passage from "cinema" to "film" is founded "on the abolition of time as continuity, and therefore on its transformation into a meaningful and moral reality" (253; 250). Although to live entirely in the suspended sense of the eternal present and its consequent escape from death may seem an attractive proposal, just as many of Pasolini's own innocent characters are attractive, such escape is ultimately unforgivable insofar as it leads to a retreat from the intellectual's commitment to the world. The ethical and political irresponsibility of "cinem a" can be illustrated by a short film, La sequenza del fiore di carta (The paper flower sequence), also some­



times known as II fico secco (The barren fig tree). In this film, Ninetto, his usual picture of perfect poetic innocence, a Cheshire cat grin spread wide across his face, walks blissfully down Rome's via Nazionale while, in superimposition, we see newsreel footage of the atrocious events of the late 1960s: African famine, atrocities in Vietnam. Oblivious to such things, Ninetto continues on his way until he is struck down by an angry, vengeful God who condemns him for his sin of irresponsible innocence: Tell me, who did my son Christ speak to if not to the innocent? and why? So that they could know. . . . Listen to me, Curly, listen to me. A nod of your head, a look up to the heavens would be enough. Listen to me, if you don't want to be lost. Innocence is a sin, innocence is a sin, understand that and the innocents will be punished because they no longer have the right to be innocent. I cannot forgive those who walk through injustice, war, horror and chaos with a happy smile of innocence on their face. There are millions of innocents like you all over the world who want to disappear from history rather than shed their innocence. And I have to kill them even if I know they can't help it. I damn them like the barren fig tree. Die, die, die.4*

Ninetto, one might say, is guilty of having committed poetry. He is guilty, that is, of being innocent, in a world where innocence is no longer an option. To be detached from the world, especially this world, even in the sphere of attractive poetic disengagement which is Pasolini's "cinem a," is now a criminal act deserving di­ vine punishment, even if it means that an attractive innocent like Ninetto gets punished. In perhaps its most dramatic formulation, we find in this short film fable Pasolini's apprehension of the immorality which runs through "cinem a." If our lives are to mean anything as examples to others, he writes in "I segni viventi e i poeti morti" (Living signs and dead poets), they must be brought out of the present­ ness of "cinema" into the pastness of "film ." The role he assigns to death, to interrupt life in order that it be understood as other, is both political and moral: we are under a political and moral imperative to know the world in order to be able to change it. As Paper Flower suggests, to ignore the real world of war, injustice, famine, and poverty is to be derelict in the duty which comes with being in the world.49 At some stage, then, sense must be drawn from the suspended sense of "cinema": "By living, every­ one of us (willing or not) performs a moral action whose meaning is suspended. Hence the reason for death. If we were immortal,

5: Empirismo Eretico


we would be immoral, because our example would never have an end; therefore it would be undecipherable, eternally suspended and ambiguous" (251; 248). The link Pasolini here establishes between immortality and im­ morality is a variation on an earlier formulation that appears on two occasions in the essays "Essere £ naturale?" (Is being natu­ ral?) and "Living Signs": "Either be immortal and unexpressed or express oneself and die" (247; 243) and "Either express oneself and die, or remain unexpressed and immortal" (251; 248). On both these latter occasions the emphasis falls not so much on the priority of one term over the other, but on the tensional relation­ ship which obtains between them.50 The same can be said of "film" and "cinema": when Pasolini speaks of unexpressed im­ mortality, he is referring to what he has previously termed "cin­ ema"; when he speaks of expressing oneself and dying, he is referring to "film ." The bias toward "cinema" we heard in Totd's remarks in Clouds? is deceiving; and so is the emphasis given to the value of death by God's words in Paper Flower. The question Pasolini attempts to answer in Empiricism never comes down to an unequivocal choice between, "cinema"'s presentness and po­ tential for ongoing semiosis over "film"'s pastness, order, and metaphorical death. Nor does the contrary apply. Rather, the question hangs on realizing that "film" looks good from the standpoint of the limits of "cinema" and vice versa. "Film" ap­ pears a viable alternative when it seems to correct the shortcom­ ings of "cinem a," while "cinema" looks equally good when it promises to preserve the potential for semiosis that "film" threat­ ens. The real issue Pasolini addresses is that "film" and "cinema" are both, at different times, answers to questions that are equally vital. At some stage "film" must be the privileged term if our political and ethical selves are to function; at other times "cinema" must be privileged if our equally important poetic selves are to have a role to play. The vacillation resulting from the ongoing renegotiation of these two key terms is part of a broader instability brought on by the shifting subject positions occupied by the narrative voices we hear in Pasolini's film writings. At times, attracted by the potential for semiosis inherent in signs, the voice we hear is that of the poet; at other times, aware of the necessity to know and describe the world, the voice belongs to a narrator figure or genial analytic mind. In Pasolini's theory both subject positions are equally re­ spectable and their functions equally pressing; each establishes a temporary supremacy over the other as circumstances dictate. But



the moment of supremacy for each passes as the limits inherent in their respective positions become apparent. The temporary hierarchy reverts back to the vacillation I have attempted to map out here. Pasolini's theoretical writings, then, remain an elusive "illeg­ ible" text, peopled by voices staking competing claims. They have, however, been the object of numerous critical attempts to stabilize and make sense of them. But they continue to elude stable unity and so remain unknowable in any unequivocal sense. Yet, if we choose to read the essays contained in Empiricism as a grouping of unstable texts, where distinct voices vie to make their separate reasons heard, we succeed in recovering at least one problematic moment in Pasolini's writing that has resisted all attempts to con­ trol his film theory: namely, his gesture toward the commutability of the signified we find in "Nonverbal": "In reality there is no 'signified': because the signified is also a sign" (264; 262). We are alerted to the problematic nature of this remark by the contrasting ways that two critics have recently treated it. For Christopher Wagstaff, such a statement stands outside the main thrust of Pasolini's film writings as "a theoretical oversight in his system ."51 For Giuliana Bruno, the same statement takes pride of place and serves as Pasolini's passport into the realm of post­ modernist and feminist thinking.52 Read from the perspective I have been here suggesting, that of a text which continually puts into question its own unity, the same statement need no longer be considered an exception or a pinnacle in Pasolini's theorizing. Rather, it would become a stage in Empiricism in which the voice of the poet, whose project is to push the semiotic potential of language to the limit, takes precedence over the equally powerful voice of the narrator figure. Neither culmination nor oversight, Pasolini's valorization of the semiotic potential of the sign is one more stage in an ongoing, multifaceted project that after poetry, prose, dialect, lingua, cinema, and theory will lead him into new areas, journalism and theater.

6 Journalism, Theater, Dialogue Journalism: From Dialogue to Chaos In common with many Italian intellectuals, Pasolini maintained a high public profile with his frequent contributions to daily newspapers and weekly magazines. His first long-term collabora­ tion came in the spring of I960, when he agreed to write a column answering readers' letters for one of the Italian Communist party's weekly magazines, Vie nuove (New paths). With one or two long breaks brought about by his filming commitments, Pasolini's collaboration with the weekly lasted for over five years, coming to an end in the autumn of 1965. His original intention was to recreate in the Communist weekly's columns the kind of dialogue with the public he had experienced as a guest speaker and lecturer on tour in a number of Italian cities. In his introduction to the new column, he writes: For my part, I have had some recent experiences of "dialogue" with a non-specialist public. And they were wonderful experiences . . . at Ancona . . . I proposed a "public press conference": the listeners were supposed to ask me the questions they wanted, and I was supposed to answer. . . . I was thinking that here in a corner of Vie nuove I could do something similar and, I hope, something similarly useful and vital.1

In the course of his long stint at Vie nuove, Pasolini's readers called on him to make pronouncements on a wide range of issues: Eastern European literature; the status of Gabriele d'Annunzio within the Italian literary tradition; contemporary political ques­ tions, including the feasibility of an alliance between Marxists and Catholics; requests for advice on finding work and whether or not to baptize a newly born child. "I dialoghi" (The dialogues), the title given to Pasolini's column, is, however, something of a misnomer. Rather than an exchange of opinions between equal 149



partners, Pasolini's encounters with his readers take the form of a question and answer session in which his interlocutors appeal to him as an authority. Writing in October 1964 to announce a new series of dialogues after a break of twenty-two months, Pasolini acknowledged how his status as authority figure had conferred on his column an air of officialdom (ufficialità) which had worked against genuine dialogic interchange. Although acknowledging the scope of the problem, the gist of Pasolini's answer is to deflect responsibility away from himself and onto his readers. It is they, he writes, who should recognize that Pasolini is embarrassed by such a role ("I do not want to be in a position of authority. I want you to know that" (324)), it is they who should make the neces­ sary adjustments to prevent his institutional position, which he likens to that of a chaired professor, from having damaging antidemocratic side-effects on their dialogue: "I don't want to be part of your mythology. . . . I ask you to be at your most demo­ cratic. . . . It is difficult to avoid being democratic in a ridiculous way when one is sitting in the Professor's Chair: and here I am, the author of a weekly column, pushed forward, exposed, quizzed on my opinions etc. etc. I risk finishing up in a Chair."2 Yet, even if he does relatively little here to pursue the question of the unequal power dynamic underlying his exchanges with his readers, Pasolini at least investigates possible remedies. In his second collaboration with a weekly magazine, all pretence at es­ tablishing dialogue with his readership is abandoned. In "Il caos" (The chaos), the column he wrote for II Tempo from August 1968 to January 1970, Pasolini was no longer limited to answering read­ ers' letters, but was free to choose his own subject matter. As he had done at the beginning of his second stint with Vie nuove, here too, writing in his very first column, Pasolini addresses the question of his own position of authority: "If, for better or worse, I have gained a little authority, I am here to call all of it into question."3 He is aware, then, of how his own authority is lodged inextricably in the very position he occupies within Italian culture: It can be said that my efforts are useless; that there are certain powers which, once reached, you have to keep; that there's no chance of resigning; and that I, having reached a certain minimum and arguable level of power and prestige . . . belong inevitably to an undifferenti­ ated AUTHORITY. . . . A young man who opens his eyes in the (cul­ tural) light can't help but see me as part of this paternal AUTHORITY that stands over him. And yet, I don't want to admit it.4

6: Journalism, Theater, Dialogue


But this is about as far as it goes. The distance that separates Pasolini's claim to want to undercut his position of power within institutions from his actual practice in "II caos" is enormous. The columns he writes soon become a pretext for a personal settling of accounts with the many figures on the Italian cultural scene who had taken issue with Pasolini on any number of questions. Rather than a place of dialogue, "II caos" became a private forum from which Pasolini defended himself against attack, attacking. We can also detect a more aggressive tone in those columns where Pasolini attends to his readers' letters. On these occasions, there is almost no pretence at establishing the conditions for dialogue. In its place, he tends to dissect his readers' letters, finding in them signs of the provincial, moralistic, and petit-bourgeois out­ look that, according to Pasolini, makes up the "implacable mental wretchedness of the average culture which surrounds m e."5 The tone of this last quotation is indicative of his growing disen­ chantment with the turn Italian society had taken by the late 1960s and early 1970s. The name he gave to the process of stand­ ardization which had massively invested Italy as the effects of the economic boom of the early 1960s began to make themselves felt was "omologazione" (homologation or embourgeoisement), a term which was subsequently to be one of Pasolini's contributions to the lexicon of modern Italian. The catastrophic effects of the process of homologation, as Pasolini saw it, were in its erasing of the regional, class and ideological lines that had previously insu­ lated the urban subproletariat and the rural poor from bourgeois Italy. For Pasolini, the tragedy of the imminent disappearance of the rural and urban subaltern classes was that any remaining possibility of using these marginal subjects to found a new course of history, alternative to bourgeois history, was eliminated. Up until his journalistic writings for Vie nuove, Pasolini had believed in an alternative course of history, to be led by young workers and intellectuals, tied to the spirit of the anti-Fascist Re­ sistance movement. Writing shortly after the political crisis of the early 1960s, the so-called Tambroni affair, when attempts were made to bring the neo-Fasdst Movimento Sodale Italiano (Italian social movement) into power as partner in a government coalition, Pasolini sings the praises of Italian youth's New Resistance, which has carried on the legacy of the earlier wartime movement: "This is why there is so much energy and enthusiasm in the young workers and why so much critical and rational rigor in the intel­ lectuals: the Resistance is giving its fruits."6 But by the time Pasol­ ini began his third period of collaboration with Corriere della sera,



II Mondo, and other dailies and weeklies in the mid-1970s, that alternative to bourgeois history seemed to him no longer possi­ ble.7 The result of the process of homologation was a leveling of subaltern and bourgeois histories to the advantage of the latter. Whereas there used to be two separate histories, now there is only one: Until today in fact, when we spoke specifically of fathers and sons we have always meant with unconscious racism bourgeois fathers and sons. History was their history. In my opinion the people had a sepa­ rate history, an archaic one, in which the sons simply—as the anthro­ pology of ancient cultures teaches us—reincarnated and duplicated the fathers. Today when we talk about fathers and sons everything is changed: if by fathers we continue to mean bourgeois fathers, by sons we mean both bourgeois and proletarian sons. The apocalyptic pic­ ture I have sketched above includes the bourgeoisie and the proletar­ iat. So the two factors ("storie"] have come together: and it is the first time in human history that this has happened.8 Thanks in part to the reformist social policies that had been enacted in Italy in the 1960s, by the beginning of the next decade the urban subproletariat and rural poor, who had been the raw material of Pasolini's novels and films, had almost entirely disap­ peared. In their absence Pasolini was increasingly forced to delve into non-European and noncontemporary milieux to find the sub­ jects he could no longer find in Italy In his films of the 1970s, particularly in the three films grouped under the title "The Tril­ ogy of Life," he turns for inspiration to the medieval England of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Italy of Boccaccio's Decameron, and the Middle East of The Tales of a Thousand and One Nights. But the counterside to these delvings into the past is a growing inability on Pasolini's part to deal in constructive terms with the many pressing contemporary issues addressed in the newspaper columns written during the final years of his life. This period also signals the failure of Pasolini's original intention of establishing a dialogical relationship with his readers. We can get an idea of how isolated Pasolini had become from the arena of political life by turning to "Gennariello," a series of articles he wrote between March and June 1975 and now republished in Lutheran Letters. A purported conversation with a mute, invented, fifteen-year-old Neapolitan boy, "Gennariello," in fact, is a monologue disguised as a dialogue. The fifteen-year-old boy is a relic of an Italian past that was deeply loved by Pasolini, but which in the 1970s existed no more. "Gennariello" is a pretext, a silent sounding board

6: Journalism, Theater, Dialogue


against which Pasolini bounces his own very personal diagnoses of the ills of Italian society without the fear of debate, contradic­ tion, or reply that genuine dialogue entails. The actual proposals Pasolini launches from his columns are both provocative and intransigent. Michael Caesar has suggested that Pasolini's controversial proposals to abolish state-run tele­ vision, abolish the obligatory Middle School, his warnings of an impending neo-Fasdsm, and championing of gay sex as a way of bringing down the birth rate are deliberate provocations calcu­ lated to disorient his predominantly left-wing readers' perhaps sedimented responses to such issues.9 Indeed, it would take the most literal-minded of readers to take Pasolini at his word on these points. The trouble was that the kind of sophisticated read­ ers Caesar's argument demands were in short supply, and rather than stimulate a radical reconsideration of left-wing positions, Pasolini's proposals were received by readers as subtle as Um­ berto Eco and Natalia Ginzburg very much at face value.10 Caesar goes on to argue that Pasolini's self-isolation during these years is part of a deliberate ploy to counteract the new forms power had taken in an increasingly consumerist Italy with a new opposition led by "the least compromised of the political forces currendy in play."11 This may well have been part of the plan, but in practice Pasolini's refusal to enter the political arena means that he stays out of touch with the realities of political life and how proposals such as his would impact on everyday lives. Rather than being the first moves in a dialectical process which gauges and refines the terms of political debate, Pasolini's proposals have an intransigent, fundamentalist air about them which beggars dialogue. As a result, the potentially influential space that Pasolini had carved out for himself within bourgeois institutions like the conservative daily Corriere della sera came to resemble less a posi­ tion from which Pasolini could launch his potent pointed darts12 than an Italian version of Hyde Park's Speakers' Corner: nomi­ nally a place of free speech where outlandish opinions can be voiced, but in reality a place of consecrated marginality to which eccentrics are exiled, their potential for making trouble neutered. Pasolini's remark that gay sex may be a remedy to counteract Italy's growing birth rate is made in the context of the mid-1970s debate on the legalization of abortion. His contribution to this debate is perhaps the most striking example of how he takes on a civil and political issue like the right to abortion from a predominantly personal standpoint, giving it a symbolic value that eclipses the issue's practical dimension. In Pasolini's initial



intervention, the most obvious interlocutor, a woman and her body, is entirely missing from his horizon. Pasolini's objection to abortion stems from his imagined state of happiness in his mother's womb: "In my dreams and daily life—which is common to all men— I live my prenatal life, my happy immersion in the maternal waters: I know that there I existed."13 Stated in the bluntest of terms, Pasolini's position sounds like this: Because I imagine my prenatal life to have been a period of extreme happiness, I do not want to deny that experience to others; therefore I feel justified in forbidding any woman from having an abortion. In later writings Pasolini amends both his initial position on abortion and his proposals to abolish obligatory schooling and television. On these last two points, Pasolini takes back his original proposals, which were to be read as "m erely a metaphor for a radical reform ."14 What he really meant, he goes on, was only a suspension or provisional abolition in both cases. By March 1975, two months after his first article against abortion rights, Pasolini's position on this question had also become more nuanced. Separating abortion as an ethical issue from abortion as a legal one, Pasolini maintains his opposition on ethical grounds, but comes down in favor on legal grounds: "Who is in favour of abortion? No-one evidently. One would have to be mad to be in favour of abortion. The problem is not to be for or against abortion but for or against its legalization. Naturally, as I am against abor­ tion, I cannot be for indiscriminate, total, fanatical, rhetorical abor­ tion. As if to legalize abortion was a joyful, peace-bringing victory. I am for a prudent and painful legislation" (24; 22).15 This position is not without merit. For one thing, it avoids collapsing the legal and ethical sides of the issue into one. In fact, this latter position may well be useful to current debate on abor­ tion rights. The reason why the contemporary debate in the U.S. and Europe often degenerates into a "dialogue among the d eaf" is, I think, that pro-choice campaigners tend to treat abortion almost exclusively as a legal issue, pro-life campaigners almost exclusively as an ethical one. Pasolini's separating out of the two issues may well be of help here in reaching a more informed level of debate. But although his more nuanced later position may be useful, it does not overshadow the reasoning that led him to his initial opposition. I am not here concerned with Pasolini's opposi­ tion to abortion. That is a right that cannot be denied him. I am concerned, however, with how Pasolini reached that position, which I find unacceptable and indicative of a broader failure on

6: Journalism, Theater, Dialogue


his part in the 1970s to engage fully with the political and social realities of his time. The picture of the intellectual and her/his role that emerges from Pasolini's journalistic writings of the 1970s is a dismal one: the intellectual is a marginal, fundamentalist figure whose activity is limited not to engaging with society, but to launching a series of absolute pronouncements which brook no compromise. At this stage of his career, I think, Pasolini went badly wrong. I find this last Pasolini particularly disappointing because, a few years earlier, he had investigated in far more fruitful terms the question these writings continually elide: the elaboration of a positive role for the intellectual in modern-day society. His six verse tragedies and "Manifesto per un nuovo teatro" (Manifesto for a new the­ ater) take the form of an extensive consideration not only on the necessarily marginal position of the intellectual, but also on how that marginality can be brought to bear as a reformist, even revo­ lutionary, force on society.

The Six Verse Tragedies: Breaking the Silence In the sixth episode of Affabulazione (Affabulation), probably the best known and certainly most performed of Pasolini's verse tragedies, the Shade of Sophocles makes the following remark: "Man becomes aware of reality / only when he has represented it."16 His reference to representation as the enabling condition for knowledge signals a continuation of the concern with epistemological issues in Pasolini's thinking that had already come to light in the second half of the "Cinema" section of Empiricism. In con­ tinuing, "And nothing better than theater has been able to repre­ sent it" (236), Pasolini marks out the theater as the privileged space where the gap between reality and our attempts to appre­ hend it in language may best be bridged. First written in April of 1966, when Pasolini was confined to bed convalescing after an ulcer, greatly revised in the following years, but for the most part published only posthumously, Pasol­ ini's six verse tragedies represent an attempt to address the ques­ tion of bourgeois hegemony that the events of May 1968 had brought to a head.17 As such, the tragedies represent a turn in Pasolini's work toward the head-on involvement with the political realities of the period that his later newspaper writings avoided. As we have seen, Pasolini's critique of the narrative of history had initially focused on the ontological impoverishment it brings to



our perception of reality. In the verse tragedies, however, the nar­ rative of history is seen in more specifically class-based term s as one of the pillars on which bourgeois ideology has constructed itself. The overriding concern of these texts is to expose how sameness has established control over any possibility of differ­ ence. Sons, like the one in Affabulation, are called on to do nothing other than replicate their fathers; heirloom wedding rings, like the one in Calderon, are figured as identical links in a chain which guarantees the continuity of the past into the present and future.18 Revolutionaries, like the Son in Porcile (Pigsty), are forced to admit: "So I realized / that even as a revolutionary I was a con­ formist" (16) and come to understand that their assumed revolu­ tionary practice is only a masked and ultimately sanctioned protest supervised by power. The dialogue between Revolution and Capital, which concludes Bestia da stile (Beast of style), confirms that all activity— conformist or revolutionary— takes place under the aegis of Capital Ac­ cording to this scenario, Difference and Revolution are left to dream while Capital, enveloping all before it, goes ahead: "while you dream / about going forward / I go forward. Clumsily, I'll admit, like every / little schoolboy teaches us. / But also effec­ tively. / Both you in the abstract / and those who commit them ­ selves /in concrete terms for you, /objectively belong— although they may oppose it— to this good-evil" (681). But as well as denouncing the strong grip bourgeois ideology has taken over all areas of daily life, the tragedies also focus on the sites of possible resistance to this new Power, and on who the Resisters might be. Turning now to these texts in greater detail, we see how resistance is put into the care of a series of marginal figures: the Son in Affabulation, Pylades in the play of the same name, and the sadomasochistic couple in Orgia (Orgy). O ne of the themes that runs through the verse tragedies is how such characters can be drawn out of the margins and given a political role in civil society. For Pasolini, existence on the margins of soci­ ety brings valuable insights which can be useful in building a genuine oppositional practice. There are many silences in Pasolini's verse tragedies. O ne of his verse tragedies, Calderon, centers on this question. Pasolini is interested in breaking the silences to which potentially subversive characters have been consigned and giving them a voice and a forum in which to express themselves. Composed of three epi­ sodes that are repeated almost identically, Calderon tells the story of Rosaura, the protagonist, and her fall into aphasia. Agostina,

6: Journalism, Theater, Dialogue


one of the other characters, comments: "This poor woman no longer knows how to choose words / in this noble and luminous language, / which is able so well to distinguish / the 'caballeros' from 'las damas'!" (131). If the result of Rosaura's aphasia is the collapse of the bound­ aries between man and woman, for the couple in Orgy that is exactly the goal they set out to achieve by a series of creative acts of transvestitism. Outmaneuvering the Voices that led them into a world which has been previously named for them— "They called my nam e," says the woman, "and pointed out /all the things we needed and which surrounded us, / in that world" (115>—the two protagonists, the Man and the Woman, set out to recreate themselves. They aim, in other words, through transgressive acts of sadomasochism and transvestitism to undo the fixity of their assigned roles and rewrite their own bodies. They attempt, then, to rename their bodies according to a new order, a new vocabu­ lary. But they fail As Giuseppe Caputo has pointed out in "II sole nero: fra Pasolini e De Sade," (The black sun: between Pasolini and de Sade) self-creation for Pasolini has none of the "ethereal play" of de Sade's texts.19 In fact, the couple's attempts at self­ creation in Orgy have the hallmark of death upon them and lead them only to nostalgia for some plenitude they no longer have. A look at what causes their failure will enable us to see what Pasolini perceives as the limits of their project. Caputo is disappointed at not finding in Pasolini a more trans­ gressive figure, the kind that Harold Bloom and Richard Rorty have called a "strong poet," the person who gives birth to him/ herself. The strength of the strong poet lies in a creative act of self-overcoming, which Richard Rorty has described in the follow­ ing way: The drama of an individual human life, or of the history of humanity as a whole, is not one in which a preexistent goal is triumphantly reached or tragically not reached. . . . Instead, to see one's life, or the life of one's community, as a dramatic narrative is to see it as a process of Nietzschean self-overcoming. The paradigm of such a narrative is the life of the genius who can say of the relevant portion of the past, "Thus I willed it," because she has found a way to describe the past which the past never knew, and thereby found a self to be which her precursors never knew was possible.20

To be a strong poet it is necessary to be free of both hindsight and foresight. Strong poets are strong insofar as they are not constrained by the promises made in the past. The new vocabula­



ries which they invent and with which they redescribe themselves and the world around them are not fulfillments of past promises, nor are they a stage in a long-term process of discovery. Their new descriptions are not attempts to get language closer to the original essence of things. Rather, the strong poet's new vocabu­ lary "makes possible for the first time, a formulation of its own purpose. It is a tool for doing something which could not have been envisaged prior to the development of a particular set of descriptions, those which itself helps to provide."21 As Rorty points out, to take strong poets seriously is itself a strong move because it means accepting the idea of a dedivinized universe.22 It means putting aside notions of an eternal and fixed essence. These comments enable us to understand better the predicament of the Man and the Woman in Orgy. They fail not because they fail to recreate themselves, but because their act of self-creation does not enable them to retrieve their lost essence. Unlike strong poets, the couple in Orgy feel nostalgia for a past synthesis that exists for them now only as a fading echo of former times. Amid the anonymous Voices with which they grew up, they could also hear the faint soundings of another more authentic voice: "But inside our soul, in the meantime, what was happening? / THE UNSAID WORD WAS TRYING TO FIND ITS PLACE" (517). In Pasolini's unwillingness to break with the memory of a divinized world, here figured as the "unsaid word," Caputo finds "Pasol­ ini's judgment" on the creative aspects of sadomasochism, the master metaphor of self-creation, to be "atrocious and atrociously medieval" (46). I cannot dispute the substance of Caputo's argu­ ment. What I can do, however, is attempt to place what I think is Pasolini's case for a purposeful self-creation in a better light by pointing out the political questions which subtend it. To do this we need to turn to the verse tragedies Pilade (Pylades) and Affabulation. Pylades is the most topical of all Pasolini's verse tragedies. In the form of a thinly veiled allegory of post-World War II Italy, albeit in a Greek context, we can recognize the fall of Fascism, the hopes for postwar renewal, the restoration and reemergence of Fascism in its new guise as the business culture that has taken over the country. For such a culture to install itself so pervasively, bourgeois ideology— impersonated in Pylades by Atena, the god­ dess of reason— requires that we forget our past. Both Atena and Orestes, the country's new socialist leader and a blind follower of reason, are ideologically sophisticated enough to know that only by uprooting the memory of the past from the collective con-

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sdousness will they receive the uncontested assent they need to refound the country along truly new lines. This is the sense of the request Atena makes of the citizens of Argo: "She asks of you above all courage. / There is nothing more unnatural than forgetting: / and yet, she wants you to forget. / And what does she w ant you to forget? /Our Past" (285-86). Like Atena herself, the city of Argo must be severed from its origins, its history, and its capacity to put up resistance: "She has no parents / . . . She has n o memories: / all she knows is reality. / What she knows, the world is" (284-85). Pasolini's suspicion about forgetfulness is based on his apprehension of its political ingenuousness. Forget­ ting opens up a vacuum that is immediately filled by hegemonic power structures, here in the form of Atena's business culture. A figure of opposition neither Orestes nor Atena can contain, Pylades is often seen as a self-portrait of Pasolini himself. He alone sees that to remove the past from the collective consdousness is also to remove the possibility of any opposition to the new regime. Pylades' apprehension of the importance of the past— "th e Past . . . is the only thing / that we really know and love" (314)— is far from an exerdse in nostalgia. Rather, it turns the past into an ideological weapon that can be turned against the homologizing power structures of the present regime. Pylades' refusal to forget represents an opposition to the regime that can­ not be contained by power structures: his is "a diversity that causes scandal" (308). As a figure of opposition, Pylades cannot be tolerated within the walls of the city and is exiled to the mountains. The period he spends there is a period of self-questioning and self-creation. Away from the confines of Atena's "dragging us along a path that has been indicated once and for all," which Orestes follows, Pylades discovers the multiplidty of a freer life outside power structures, where "life always has a thousand paths" (315). But as we have seen with the Man and the Woman in Orgy, for Pasolini self-creation is never an end-in-itself, but is always done for-the-sake-of something else. In this case, Pylades' exile prepares the way for his return to the dty as a more effective oppositional force. He gathers an army of revolutionaries with which he attempts to take back the country. Pylades hopes to bring the fruits of his reflection to bear on the dty that expelled him. Self-creation, then, is an end-oriented process carried out in the service of recuperation of the newly created self as a more effective oppositional force back into the world s/he had left. Pasolini's creation of the character Pylades also illustrates how



purposeful self-creation can be put to political ends and turned to the service of recuperation. The classical figure of Pylades is something of a nonentity. The role Pasolini creates for him is far greater than any he had in Greek tragedy. Condemned to live in the shadow of Orestes, according to one Lexikon, Pylades has no perceptible meaning of his ow n." The only tragedy in which he plays a substantial role is Euripedes' Orestes, but even here he has no specific identity. In other plays he is almost entirely speechless. In the first episode of Pasolini's Pylades he appears but doesn't speak, and at the end of the second episode he exits muttering something that is only semicomprehensible. To the best of my knowledge, it is only in Pasolini's play that Pylades has a subjectivity of his own. The Pylades we find, then, is a creation of Pasolini. A subject has been created who can now offer a mode of opposition that was previously lacking or had found no mode of expression. Pasolini's creative act is to remove Pylades from his subordination in the shadow of Orestes, turn him into his own man, and give him a voice and a subjectivity he never had. If we follow the parallels between Pasolini's own life and the figure of Pylades, we see how Pasolini also creates an ideal role for himself in which his own difference and marginality do not remain uninfluential factors, confined to the edge of things, but are brought to bear on bourgeois ideology as a produc­ tive oppositional force. Yet, a closer reading of two moments in the text reveals how the stability of Pylades' narrative of growth gets put into question. As we have seen in Empiricism, by focusing on such moments of textual instability, which the tragedies themselves do nothing to hide, we see how Pasolini immediately problematizes his own conclusions. In this particular case, we see, first, how he is con­ cerned that the experience of exile may produce a self so severed from the real world to preclude the possibility of any beneficial return; and, second, how he fears that even if the new self returns to the world s/he will immediately be coopted by existing social and political practices. The first question is addressed during Pylades' exile in the mountains. One of the fruits of the reflective consciousness he develops there is the apprehension of his own nonbelonging to any of the categories in which human-kind is conventionally divided: And so, for the first time in history, I know there is a difference between men:

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but what's the point of knowing that? There are men—like me— for whom this difference remains ambiguous and undecipherable: they do not belong to any of the human categories of which we have finally become aware! But . . . man, in any case, thinks he is a man — innocently man, with nothing else added, man and that's all— only if he unknowingly belongs to one of the parts in which men are divided . . . And those, then, like me, who no longer belong to any of these parts? I mean, those who belong uncomfortably or knowingly? (171)

Pylades' increasing realization of his own uniqueness is accom­ panied not by the joy one might expect, say, from a strong poet. Rather, it is characterized by a deep sense of loss. The price which Pylades pays for the discovery of his unique difference, and the source of his regret, is his suspicion that there will no longer be any place for him in the community. This is a price he is unwilling to pay and leads him to envy the stability and sense of belonging of the unreflective consciousness, here figured in the peasant he meets while in exile: "That's why I would like to be this peasant / because his smallness seems immense to me. /(And his innocence seems to me to be knowledge / of his mysterious truth)" (333). The second question Pylades raises touches on Pasolini's convic­ tion that any contact with history leads to reification and death. He suspects that any order, no matter how alternative, new, democratic, or well-meaning is always already oppressive. The poem Gramsci expresses this fear: Pasolini is suspicious of Gramsci's attempt to give the subproletariat a voice and a subjec­ tivity. Thinking that there is more to be lost than to be gained from such an operation, he predicts that the subproletariafs first step toward proletarianization will lead only to its socialdemocratization, and with that the loss of its vital essence. The poem cycle's scandalous suggestion is that the subproletariat might be better off without a historical consciousness, that their move into the master narrative of history is the first step in the domestication of their subversive potential. Although the terms of this tension are more nuanced as the political and ethical necessity of elaborating a historical conscious­ ness becomes more acutely felt, the same tension is apparent in Pylades. On his return to the city after exile and subsequent defeat



at the hands of Orestes, Pylades expresses his paradoxical thanks that the new order he had attempted to install uid nut get exposed as just another variant on, and thus a continuation of, the old. His fear is that his victory would only have replaced an old monu­ ment with a new one. Referring to Orestes, his former childhood companion turned enemy, he says to Atena, the new ruler of the land: "Simply the idea of seizing power / (even if not as an end in itself) / is the most sinful of sins. . . . Orestes, in your name, knocked down a monument / and built another one: I was about to do the same thing, / but fortunately my monument will never be built" (400-401). This is one of the clearest and strongest formulations of a ques­ tion with which Pasolini grapples throughout his artistic career, and which comes to a head in the verse tragedies and his "M ani­ festo": how to find ways to intervene in the political and cultural debate of the day in order, on the one hand, to have one's say on vital issues and leave a mark by which one's contribution can be known and gauged, and on the other, to ensure that that mark never constitutes itself as an irremovable permanent monument. Pasolini's theater can be seen as an attempt to solve this question: to elaborate, that is, the contours of an order that is not so oppres­ sive as to be a Derridean "matter for the police," nor so formless as to slide into the unrecognizable or the realm of nonbelonging. The verse tragedies are rull of figures like Pylades. All of them to varying degrees are poets on the margin, but so far on the margin that they have lost any social or political function. The tragedies that deal with these characters begin to resemble an "unemployment office" for out of work poets, odd, wandering figures lost in their solipsism. Pylades in exile is certainly one; Julian in Pigsty is another, a character without a role who is re­ duced to nothingness "neither obedient nor disobedient. . . nei­ ther consenting nor dissenting . . . neither dead nor alive" (427-42); so too is the Jan (Palacn) figure in Beast of Style, as well as Sigismundo and Paolo in Calderon, the text that te st illustrates the self-perpetuating nature of Power that Pasolini's elaborations of the late 1960s sought to expose and contrast. Pigsty and Beast also illustrate how silence has taken the place of dialogue. Pigsty, for example, closes with these lines: "Sssssst! Don't tell anyone" (501), while many sections of Beast are composed of attempts at dialogue that degenerate into monologues, as one of the parties' lines are replaced by a sequence of dots: Karel's Spirit. I'm staying here because I have to speak to you.

Jan ............................................................................................................

Karel's Spirit. No, no, then I'll go away for ever. (626)

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The Shade of Sophocles' remark, with which I opened this section, offers theater as the privileged locus where language can come into its own and be taken at its word. As well as proposing to rescue marginal characters from their marginality, Pasolini's new theater also seeks to rescue language from the silence into which it has fallen. But what difference does putting language into a theatrical context make? For Pasolini there are two reasons. First, it returns language to its origins in oral communication, and therefore, in Pasolini's terms, poetry. In new theater, "the word experiences a double glory . . . because it is both written and spoken" (235). Against the written word, the spoken word of the theater texts regains a power of poetic suggestion that tran­ scends the boundaries of national languages. Even those who do not know the language can still feel the power of the verses of Greek tragedy: "in a play at the theater / maybe you wouldn't understand, / what Hercules says to his son when he asks him / to take him and his friends to the mountain top / and to burn him there, with his boy's hands? /Oh yes, somehow you'd under­ stand!" (234). The second reason is that, in Pasolini's eyes, the physical pres­ ence of the referent of discourse guards language against the major limit of "cinema": the solipsistic tendency that pulled it away from a concern with reality we have observed in Paper Flower. At the same time, the language of the theater avoids the heavy-handed finality which was the major limit of "film ." The­ ater is different because it grounds language in the physical pres­ ence of its referent. In theater, he says, language does not evoke an absent referent, but a present one. Herein lies its unique na­ ture: it is the space where signifier and referent are bound to­ gether. Pasolini, of course, here leaves himself open once again to the charges of logocentrism that Eco had leveled at him apro­ pos of his theory of cinema as the written language of reality. Yet, beyond their perhaps questionable status as hard science, Pasolini's thoughts on the specific qualities of language as it is spoken and written in theater have another value. Rather than the musings of a scientist, Pasolini's views on theater are of inter­ est insofar as they continue the investigation into the merits and limits of "film " and "cinema" begun in Empiricism. We shall see as we return to Affabulation, that to be scientific, for Pasolini, is not part of the solution, but part of the problem. The sense of the advice given to the Father by the Shade of Sophocles in Affabulation is pertinent in this context. To complete his attempts at evoking his Son, the Father is called on to see him as if he were in a theater, on stage: "it's necessary for / you to see



your son as if he were in a theater; it's necessary for you to com­ plete / the evocation of the word with his presence in flesh and blood . . . You have to see him, not only hear him; / don't just read the text that evokes him, / but have him here before your eyes. Theater / does not only evoke the reality of bodies with words / but also with those bodies themselves. . ." (236). Aug­ mented by physical presence and based on the dialogical inter­ changes of everyday life— "the word [in the theater of the word] is pronounced like the words / that two men at work exchange,/ or a band of kids, or girls at a wash-house, / or women at the market" (235)— the language of new theater offers a mediation between presence and absence: it aims to guarantee language's referential function insofar as it hooks on to the phenomena of the world (thereby fulfilling the function earlier ascribed to "film"), while at the same time not exhausting those phenomena of their potential for semiosis (fulfilling the function ascribed to "cinema"). In this sense, we can read Affabulation as an attempt at working through the vacillation of the earlier relationship be­ tween the terms "film" and "cinem a." In Affabulation these latter terms have been replaced by new ones: enigma and mistero (mys­ tery). The verse tragedy itself offers a concrete example of how Pasolini sees this process of mediation. The text sketches out a means by which the world can be knowable, but without the act of definition on which knowledge is posited exhausting phenom­ ena of their living presence, here called "mystery." The question central to Affabulation is the Father's attempts to know his Son. As long as the Father— a follower of "the cult of reason" (232)— thinks of his Son as an enigma which he is called on to solve, he will never be able to know him as the mystery he is. Long accustomed to dealing with enigmas, the Father's career has been built on his ability to solve them: "you have solved / your little enigmas / and so your life went forward / and your power grew" (231-32). This ontologically impoverished mode of treating the phenomena of the world has led to the Father's inabil­ ity to know his Son for what he is. To treat him as an enigma, as a problem to be solved and then possessed, is equivalent to an act of violence. It turns the Son into a foreshortened version of the mystery that he, along with all living phenomena, is. The same concern with death we noted in Pasolini's writings on the creation of narrative order also emerges here. Again, the Shade of Sophocles offers advice to the Father that bears on the question of possession: "But instead of contemplating him, you pursue him in order to seize him. / Ah, this is the old, damnable habit

6: Journalism, Theater; Dialogue


of possession! . . . But this /old habit of yours of possession will be your death" (237). To know his Son as the living thing he is, who "belongs to the order of mystery" (233), the Father realizes that he must engage another mode of cognition in which possession and completion play only a provisional role. He learns that if "my son is . . . reality, / it is a reality which escapes me" (237). In order to know that reality he must not "solve it, because it is not an enigma: / but know it— that is, touch it, see it and hear it— / because it is a m ystery" (237). In other words, he must think of his Son as a living mystery whose mystery can never be entirely knowable. T h is amounts to a radical shift in mode of being which the Shade of Sophocles doubts the bourgeois Father can fully make: "Damned reason! Here everything is explained. /1 thought I could com e here and help you, / but I see my words will be the cause / of a new madness that you will stage" (237). The same realization that the world is a mystery whose truth can never be entirely knowable is also told to Pylades in exile by the Eumenides as part of his process of self-discovery. They tell him that ultimate self-knowledge comes only when it is too late, at the point of death: The revelation will not be miraculous. It will happen slowly, from question to question, from answer to answer; the simplest things will remain misunderstood and unexpressed for months and months and will come to the light of consciousness after such a long and absurd struggle that they will no longer even give you pleasure but then you will have to search out its origins, work out its effects; and then follow new days of grey uncertain work, along with the anxieties of nausea and self-hatred And at the end, you must know this, at the very moment in which everything becomes clear, TIME WILL HAVE WORKED AGAINST YOU. And there'll be no reward for you, except the knowledge that someone else will have to begin all over again all your stupendous but old revelations. (173-74)



From question to question, from answer to answer, we move toward that final moment when we realize the transitory nature of our own existence, when time has worked against us. In spell­ ing out the painful terms of the process, the Eumenides remind us that our quest for knowledge is always already constrained within the boundaries of finitude. All the time, their voice acts as a constant reminder to Pylades that the dark shadow of death cast by their stark words haunts the revolutionary future he sets out to create. At once the limit of language and representation, death, the final mystery, is also the final paradox: unknowable and unsayable, death remains the ultimate experience, knowledge of which is denied us at the very moment that we come to know it. Returning the question of knowledge to a social and political context, Pasolini's "Manifesto for a new theater" puts a more opti­ mistic gloss on the harsh truth of the Eumenidies's statement. It is, then, to the "Manifesto" that I now turn.

"II Manifesto per un nuovo teatro": The Events of May 1968 Even though they took place more than twenty-five years ago, it is easy to forget that for many European intellectuals the events of May 1968 were of unique importance. Two and a half decades after the fall of the Fascist regimes, the experience of the Resist­ ance movements and the birth of a democratic Europe, a new eneration of radicalized students demanded that their father gures, Europe's postwar historical left, rethink the political posi­ tions and strategies they had elaborated in the immediate postFascist period. May 1968 was a time of great euphoria when, in the words of the filmmaker Marco Bellocchio, one of its Italian protagonists, "without knowing why, with no reason, new oppor­ tunities to change things which had seemed unchangeable were born."24 In Italy, the events of May 1968 came to a head with the occupa­ tion, and consequent street-fighting, of Rome University's faculty of architecture in Valle Giulia. A short while after the skirmishes between police and students, Pier Paolo Pasolini published a poem, "II PCI ai giovani!" (The Italian Communist party to the young!), in the left-leaning weekly magazine LEspresso that was to add a political dimension to the sexual, literary, and cinematic scandal that already surrounded the poet, novelist, and film­


6: Journalism, Theater, Dialogue


maker.25 The scandal was caused by Pasolini reversing the analy­ sis made by the overwhelming majority of left-wing intellectual opinion: instead of siding with the students against the police, h e sided with the police and attacked the students. The crux of Pasolini's polemic lies in his perception of the stu­ dent groups' ideological shortsightedness. Far from agreeing with the claim made by these groups that they had made a genuine break with the political order established by Italy's historical left, Pasolini viewed the events of Valle Giulia as the continuation of the old struggle between proletarian underclass and bourgeoisie. This time, though, the roles were inverted: the revolutionary stu­ dents were the bourgeoisie, and the police force, which was com­ posed mostly of Southerners, forced by fear of unemployment to do a job no-one else wanted, were the underclass. Rather than a turning point in the history of political action, the events of May 1968, according to Pasolini, were a ritualized form of protest, in which supposedly revolutionary students were called on to play assigned roles in a spectacle whose result was not the weakening of bourgeois power but its reinforcement. For Pasolini, the events and ultimate failure of the attempted May 1968 revolution were manifestations of the new, far more subtle control that bourgeois codes and practices had taken over all areas of political and social life. In the years following 1968, Pasolini dedicated a great deal of his time to denouncing what he saw as this new and, as he saw it, dangerous development, which he called simply "Power." In Calderon, Pasolini describes the new form Power has taken in a way which echoes Renzo de Felice's distinction between the two phases of Mussolini's Fascist regime: an initial coercive phase of crude violence, followed by a second, more sophisticated phase of respectability, figured as the passage from the "manganello" (the club) to the "doppio petto" (the double-breasted jacket).26 In the play, based loosely on La vida es sueno, Power, in the guise of an elegantly dressed gentle­ man, has reached this second phase: Manuel. You think Power is a dull monster . . . with a big flaccid belly . . . Basilio. And really? Manuel. He is extremely elegant. (135) For Pasolini, Power creates a system of control that has reached such a stage of sophistication that it almost goes unnoticed. It



has succeeded in masking its true oppressive nature so success­ fully that it no longer needs to exercise its domination through outright coercive means like violence or military threat. Rather, it dominates through consent, a noncoercive coercion which is at its most powerful when most invisible. As Pasolini saw it, the students' movement of 1968 failed be­ cause its participants were not sophisticated enough to under­ stand the subtle new form taken by the enemy against which it was struggling. Instead of attempting the difficult task of iden­ tifying the hidden ramifications of Power in its new guise, the student groups took the easier option of continuing to figure Power in its old form, as the kind of traditional oppressor they identified in the police force composed of the children of the Southern poor. According to Pasolini, the students were unable to see the trap that was being set for them and how Power would immediately coopt their protest and turn it to its advantage. On more than one occasion, Pasolini speaks of how Power tolerates a certain amount of protest in order to reinforce itself by showing it is able to resist and contain such protest. Thus, protest against Power works in the interests of Power. In "La poesia della tradizione" (The poem of tradition), from the collection Trasumanar e organizzar (Transhumanize and organize, 1971), Pasolini writes of the "unlucky generation" of 1968, whose "disobedience" has already been inscribed within the logic of an ultimate "obedi­ ence": "O h unlucky generation! . . . so you will understand that you have served the world against which with such energy 'you carried forward the struggle'. . . oh unlucky generation, and you obeyed disobeying!"27 In a television interview for the program "Controcampo," given in 1973, but reproduced only fifteen years later in the weekly II Sabato, Pasolini makes a similar point: "The bourgeoisie always creates a number of protests in order to go beyond itself and go forward."28 A little earlier in the same interview, he offers this damning analysis of the ingenuousness of the student groups: "If I can use a parable, I would say that this famous Power, this 'mind' which directs the destiny of the bourgeoisie, has in a cer­ tain sense programmed the 1968 revolution."29 And in his long interview with Jean Duflot given around the same time, he says of the '68 generation: "That's the crux of the problem: to fight neo-capitalism they use arms which in fact carry its trade mark and which are destined to reinforce its tyranny. They think they are breaking the circle and are only reinforcing it."30 The price Pasolini paid for such "political incorrectness" was a

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massive attack from all quarters. He was accused of being out of step with the course of history, of not understanding the newly created conditions of the class struggle which would make an alliance between students and workers possible, of being a pro­ vocateur in the service of capitalism, of having opportunistically sold out to the system.31 Had he lived, however, Pasolini may well have got some belated consolation from knowing that, in the aftermath of the failure of the May 1968 attempt at revolution, the subsequent reflection on its limits went some way to proving his analysis correct. In the wake of the developments in European thought that theorists like Louis Althusser and Michel Foucault elaborated in the early 1970s, we are now in a better position to see that Pasolini, far from being the anachronistic product of a bygone age he was assumed to have been in the late 1960s, was very much in line with these more nuanced forms of political and cultural analysis. Pasolini's perception of how Power absorbs supposedly opposi­ tional practices, for example, anticipates Foucault's argument in the "M ethod" section of the first volume of his The History of Sexuality, where the French thinker writes: "Power is everywhere; not because it embraces everything, but because it comes from everywhere . . . it is the name that one attributes to a complex strategical situation in a particular society."32 A s Jonathan Culler has recently pointed out, one of the prob­ lems raised by Foucault's definition of the all-encompassing na­ ture of Power is that it seems to offer no systematic way of organizing resistance.33 For Foucault, resistance can only be ran­ dom and sporadic: Where there is power, there is resistance, and yet, or rather conse­ quently, this resistance is never in a position of exteriority in relation to power . . . points of resistance are present everywhere in the power network. Hence there is no single locus of great Refusal, no soul of revolt, source of all rebellions, or pure law of the revolutionary. In­ stead there is a plurality of resistances, each of them a special case: resistances that are possible, necessary, impossible; others that are spontaneous, savage, solitary, concerted, rampant or violent; still others that are quick to compromise, interested, or sacrificial. . . . Resistances . . . are distributed in irregular fashion: the points, knots, focuses of resistance are spread over time and space at varying densi­ ties, at times modifying groups and individuals in a definitive way, inflaming certain parts of the body, certain movements in life, certain types of behavior . . . there is a plurality of resistances, each of them a special case.34



In a 1972 article, " I sogni ideologici" (Ideological dreams), published in Nuovi argomenti, Pasolini too seems to rule out the possibility of organized resistance. Speaking of the ontological deprivation the self undergoes when it is imprisoned in a world created by imposed codes and practices, which he terms the "Game of History," he writes: "What could life be without history? It would, of course, be unthinkable or unspeakable. What the hell else could I do in the morning when I wake up if not get up from a bed, read a few newspapers, have a few daily thoughts. In other words do everything that my quality of life recognizes and foresees, even as something surprising or absolutely unusual? I have no alternatives."35 This final statement, however, is to be taken, I believe, with a pinch of salt: a hyperbolic moment in Pasolini's writings where he overstates his case for rhetorical effect. Few intellectuals on the European scene can have been as dogged as Pasolini in seeking to discover and build viable modes of resistance. What makes Pasol­ ini different from Foucault is his exploration of the alternatives to the process of standardization. It is in such a context that I should like to consider Pasolini's "Manifesto for a new theater." In what follows, I argue that the "Manifesto" can be seen as Pasolini's attempt to create the kind of locus of resistance that Foucault seems to rule out. The dialogical theatrical space that the "M ani­ festo" proposes, where a text and a public composed of intellectu­ als engage in open-ended debate on specific problems raised by the text, can be seen as an attempt at establishing just such a locus of resistance. In making this claim, my approach to Pasol­ ini's "Manifesto" and verse tragedies is very different from that taken not only by Enrico Groppali's and William Van Watson's psychoanalytic studies of these texts, but also from Rinaldo Ri­ naldi's recent work. For Rinaldi, Pasolini's theater represents a moment of deep and irrecuperable pessimism, typical of the final years of his career, which was to culminate in the film Said. The traditional and beneficial cathartic effect of tragedy, Rinaldi ar­ gues, is no longer possible and the dialogical mode that the "Manifesto" theorizes as an antidote to the hypostasis of bour­ geois values turns out to be a self-referential monologue in which Pasolini talks only to himself. My reading of this text, and the place it holds in the corpus of Pasolini's writings, centers not on the extent to which it does or does not achieve what it sets out to do, namely, to create a genuinely dialogical space where intel­ lectuals can gather and contribute to political debate. Rather, my reading places the "Manifesto" in the context of a question that

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Pasolini had begun to investigate in the 1950s and 1960s with the essays that were later to be collected in the volumes Passione and Empiricism: the possibility of elaborating open-ended political and literary forms. In other words, my interest lies not in the merits of the single verse tragedies as performed on stage, which, as Watson has pointed out, have tended to be wordy and tedious on the rela­ tively few occasions they have been performed.36 Nor does my interest lie in whether the performance of the plays sets up an actual dialogue between text and public or what the results of such an encounter might be. My interest, rather, lies in the "Mani­ festo" 's theoretical valorization of open-ended, ongoing dialogue as a way of elaborating possible alternative strategies to combat the impasse against which the student revolutionaries of May 1968 had come up. To the best of my knowledge, Pasolini did not envisage any practical application for his "Manifesto" and the picture of a "new theater" it provides. None of the verse tragedies gives any indica­ tion of the conditions in which new theater's dialogue might take place, nor does the "Manifesto" itself indicate any one of the six texts as a blueprint for such an exercise. Rather than a plan for a specific course of action, the "Manifesto" takes the form of a call for greater thoughtfulness. Dispensing with the "scenic action . . . lights, scenery, costumes etc." (716) of conventional theater, Pasolini's new theater offers itself as an oasis of thought. Early in the "Manifesto," first published by Nuovi argomenti at the begin­ ning of 1968, we read: "Come to the performances of the theater of the word' writh the idea of listening more than seeing (this is a necessary constraint in order to understand better the words you will hear, and therefore the ideas, which are the real characters of the theater)" (716). The mistaken primacy of action over thought had been one of Pasolini's main criticisms of the tactics adopted by the student groups in May 1968. To act without first thinking, he states in the Duflot interview, is only to reinforce the deeply rooted codes of behavior that neocapitaiist Power has thrust into place in the bourgeois consciousness. Blind action, he continues, is ultimately a conservative move because it only confirms one of the linchpins of bourgeois ideology, the valorization of practicality and utilitarianism: "And here they are (the student groups), opt­ ing for action and utilitarianism, resigning themselves to the situ­ ation in which the system does all it can to integrate them."37 What would be potentially revolutionary, he suggests, is to re­ verse the priority of action over thought, and elaborate new, as



yet unidentified ways, of opposing genuine resistance to what, in the same interview, he calls the circle of bourgeois codes and practices. The "Manifesto/' then, as I propose to treat it, is Paso­ lini's contribution to an ambitious project whose aim is to prepare suitable conditions in which to elaborate genuinely disruptive modes of protest. Pasolini's perception of the limits of the students' tactics is mir­ rored in the critique of avant garde theater that opens the "M ani­ festo." In his introduction to the last of his verse tragedies, the posthumously published Beast of Style, Pasolini draws a connec­ tion between the current degraded state of Italian avant garde theater and the limits of the May 1968 movement. Referring back to the critique of the neo-avant garde movement he had set out in the essays collected in Passione, he finds the avant garde theater of the late-sixties equally as repulsive as traditional bourgeois the­ ater.38 Avant garde theater, he writes, is "the scum of the Neoavantgarde and of 1968" (598). As Pasolini had outlined earlier in the "Manifesto," there are two kinds of theater: a conservative, bourgeois theater, which he calls the "Teatro della Chiacchiera" (theater of Chatter), and the avant garde theater of protest, which he calls antibourgeois theater or "Teatro del Gesto e dell'Urlo" (theater of the Gesture or the Scream). It is important to remem­ ber that for Pasolini both kinds of theater, whether or not they confirm or claim to subvert bourgeois values, are ultimately prod­ ucts of the same bourgeois culture. In the course of the "Mani­ festo," the theater of the Gesture or the Scream is also termed antibourgeois bourgeois theater, to indicate a supposedly anti­ bourgeois theater, but which nevertheless comes from within the bourgeoisie and whose subversive impact is thus lessened. It is for this reason that Pasolini has little time for avant garde theater and rejects the idea that its form of protest has any real worth. He finds in both bourgeois and antibourgeois theater a common element: each of them represents for its respective audience a ritual confirmation of the already known. Bourgeois theater is a ritual in which the bourgeoisie mirrors itself, "more or less ideal­ izing itself, at the very least always recognizing itself" (718); while avant garde theater is a ritual in which the bourgeoisie . . . experiences the pleasure of provocation, of condemnation and scandal (through which, finally, it receives nothing other than the confirmation of its own convic­ tions). . . . The theater of the Gesture or the Scream . . . represents for the progressive groups that produce it and enjoy it as addressees

6: Journalism, Theater, Dialogue


nothing more than a ritual confirmation of their own anti-bourgeois convictions, the same ritual confirmation of bourgeois convictions that traditional theater represents for the average, normal public. (718-19) In both cases the negatively coded term is ritual ("rituale"). As we move on into the "Manifesto" 's sketch of what a new theater looks like, we find that the term ritual is gradually replaced by another, this time positively coded term, rite ("rito"). The new theater the "Manifesto" proposes is one that considers theater no longer as a bourgeois or antibourgeois ritual, but as a rite, a "CULTURAL RITE" (731). Pasolini does not help us a great deal with this terminology. The matter is complicated by the final pages of the "Manifesto," where he distinguishes the cultural rite he considers new theater to be from other kinds of rites— natural, religious, political, social, theatrical. As I understand him, how­ ever, for Pasolini ritual stands to rite as, in a Gadamerian sense, convention stands to tradition. Whereas the former terms indicate the reproposal and confirmation of what is already acquired and sedimented knowledge, the latter indicate an ongoing process of exploration and discovery of new ground.39 The parallels between the "Manifesto"'s critique of the two forms of existing theater and Pasolini's response to the student protests should, I hope, be clear: the ritualized form of both bour­ geois, but especially antibourgeois theater is the equivalent of the ritualized form of the student groups' protests. In fact, the metaphor that underlies all of Pasolini's writings on May 1968 is that of a play whose participants— the students— are called on to interpret preassigned roles. Antonio Prete captures this aspect of May 1968 well when he comments that the students "were . . . actors in a play in the Great Theater of politics: subjects from a script without director, or rather, subjects of a scattered, multi­ form mise en scène to which one can give the abstract name 'power.' Dream and staging of a difference."40 If what Pasolini means by ritual, the negative term, is fairly dear, what he means by rite is far less so. Pasolini certainly does not offer any precise indications as to what new theater's cultural rite might be or the results it might produce. His point, of course, is that, as yet, we do not know what those results may be and that it is precisely the task of new theater's dialogical format to elaborate such alternative strategies. All this, to an Anglo-Saxon mind, will sound very wishy-washy, as if Pasolini had whetted our appetites only to reward us with very little. Indeed, if we



consider the proposals made by the "Manifesto" in a purely prag­ matic light, we are certain to find it wanting. An approach that may be more productive is to consider the text in the light of some of the theoretical issues he had debated in the early- to mid1950s. By adopting such an approach, the apparent vagueness of what Pasolini means by cultural rite can be better understood as a stage in his research into the possibility of open-ended political and literary forms which, like dialogue, keep debate going. Pasol­ ini's aim is to elaborate forms, that will stimulate enquiry but at the same time avoid the sedimentation of thought to which rigidly held ideological positions are prone. We will recall that, for Pasolini, Marxism was at its most potent, first, as a tool with which to deconstruct the encrustations to which bourgeois ideology was prone; and second, as a new vo­ cabulary with which to reread the past and recast the future. It is important to stress at this point that a change in Pasolini's thinking takes place between the mid-1950s and the late-1960s. If, in the earlier period, he had held the view that the elaboration of an alternative ideological stance could dislodge bourgeois ide­ ology from its position of dominance, by the late 1960s, and par­ ticularly around 1968, he had become much more pessimistic. No longer one ideology among others, bourgeois ideology had installed itself so pervasively in the consciousness of all sectors of society that no alternative seemed possible. In his interview with Duflot, he says: "The bourgeoisie is winning, it is turning the workers and peasants into the bourgeoisie. In other words, neocapitalism and the bourgeoisie are becoming the human condition."41 By the late 1960s, bourgeois ideology, as Pasolini saw it, had extended its reach to such an extent that it had succeeded in masking its specific ideological basis and had presented itself in a new guise, as Power. Certainly, statements like the above left Pasolini open to all kinds of charges: that his hyperbolic mode of address obscured the strong points of his argument; that he did not understand the profound changes a society on the verge of a postmodern world was experiencing; that his claim to see the truth of a situation that had escaped all others was ultimately a form of intellectual arrogance. Yet, his perception of the encroach­ ment of Power, and the damaging effects it had on all aspects of both political and personal life, remains at the center of his atten­ tion in the verse tragedies.42 To get a concrete idea of Pasolini's perception of the hold Power has taken over both consciousness and our imaginative faculties

6: Journalism, Theater, Dialogue


we can return to the "Manifesto" and, in particular, to its opening paragraph. The overall aim of the "Manifesto" is to outline a new theater, different from both the traditional and avant garde the­ aters of the day. But, as the "Manifesto" immediately makes clear, to elaborate the new, we need to be creative enough to invent a vocabulary that distinguishes the new from the old. In other words, the creation of something new requires the kind of imagi­ native leap that is the traditional task of the poet. The opening paragraph of the "Manifesto," however, puts the possibility of making such a leap in doubt. How can we imagine a new theater w hen all our vocabulary and reference points are drawn from the world of traditional theater? How can we even expect a new the­ ater when our expectations of the new have already been coded in terms of the old? In the opening paragraph of the "Manifesto" we read: The theater you expect, even at its most innovative, will never be the theater you expect. When you expect a new theater, you necessarily expect it within the limits of the idea you already have. Besides, some­ thing you expect is in a sense already there. . . . Today, then, you all expect a new theater, but you all have in your heads an idea which comes from the old theater. (713) Any unprecedented innovation a new theater might bring is immediately brought back within the confines of the familiar: "But innovations, even the greatest, as you well know, are never ideal but always concrete. Their truth and their necessity are therefore miserable, annoying and disappointing: they are either not recognized as innovations or are discussed in such a way that they become once again part of old habits" (713). Innovations, then, are either not recognized as such, because we have no lan­ guage flexible enough to describe them adequately; or are diluted through the filter of previous sentences, old linguistic and con­ ceptual habits. Pasolini's point here is that the space for alterna­ tive interpretations of reality and constructions of the future that the new ideological vocabulary supplied by Marxism had made possible in the 1950s no longer exists. Going back to the previ­ ously quoted essays from Passione, we find that, for Pasolini, Marxist ideology offers the kind of new vocabulary which made possible the imaginative leap and reinterpretation of reality that the "Manifesto" rules out. Marxism is a "new . . . social and moral gauge" which makes possible a "new configuration of the past . . . a new perspective on the future."43



As I see it, the task that Pasolini gives to the "M anifesto" 's proposal of new theater as a cultural rite is the creation of the conditions in which the kind of imaginative leap that Marxism had made possible in the 1950s can once again be taken. The principle means through which Pasolini aims to do this is his proposal of theater as a place of dialogue. The dialogical relation­ ship set up between text and public is the defining characteristic of new theater. The kind of theater Pasolini has in mind is "first of all debate, exchange of ideas, literary and political struggle, at the most democratic and rational level possible" (724), "an ex­ change of opinions and ideas, in a relationship that will be far more critical than ritualized" (719). On two occasions, Pasolini underlines that the dialogue is open-ended ("a canone sospeso") (715; 719)— and aims to discuss the "questions raised or debated . . . by the text" (715), "without ever claiming to offer answers" (719). By this, of course, Pasolini does not mean that the dialogue goes nowhere, or that it is simply debate for debate's sake. What he is at pains to avoid, I think, is the kind of debate which, in­ formed by rigidly held ideological preconceptions, leads to fore­ gone conclusions and precludes the kind of imaginative leap necessary if new and more effective forms of protest are to be elaborated. The proposal of open-ended dialogue can be seen as Pasolini's most concerted attempt at elaborating the means to give form (albeit theoretical form) to the mobile ideological position he had first outlined in the essay "Stylistic Freedom." If open-ended dialogue between text and public is the form that new theater's cultural rite is to take, the question of who takes part in the dialogue and the precise nature of the issues to be discussed is far less clear. As to the second point, neither the "Manifesto" itself nor the verse tragedies give us any detailed indication. Both, however, are of some help in identifying the intended participants in the dialogue. The "Manifesto" defines them as the "progressive groups of the bourgeoisie" (714), "leftwing progressives" drawn from the "élites who have survived Crocean liberal lay culture. Another group is formed by radicals" (715). Although both Pasolini's debt to Croce and Croceanism, as well as his involvement with the Radical party in the final months of his life have been well documented, these definitions remain too vague if we are to identify the actual audience Pasolini envis­ ages.44 We can gather as we read on into the "Manifesto" that the members of these groups have an intellectual potential that is yet

6: Journalism, Theater, Dialogue


to be tapped because so far they lack the suitable forum that new theater proposes to create. It appears that the only forum cur­ rently open to such groups is the kind offered by the avant garde theater, the theater of the Gesture or the Scream, whose ability to work genuine change Pasolini questions. By drawing these groups away from avant garde theater, new theater aims to give them an alternative forum where their energies can be put to m ore productive use. In other words, new theater offers itself as a kind of rescue operation for intellectuals in search of a role. A s we have seen, the six verse tragedies have at least one com­ m on element: they are peopled by characters on the edge of things who seek ways to bring their presence to bear on society. We can also see that all of these characters, in one way or another, bear a striking resemblance to Pasolini himself. It is clear, in fact, that high on his list of priorities was the need to create for himself a possible niche within Italian society from which he could launch the insights he wished to bring to intellectual and cultural debate. Many of the activities in which Pasolini engaged, above all in the post-1968 years— his hyper-partidpation in round-table discus­ sions and debates, the columns he wrote for daily newspapers and weeklies— can be seen as attempts to give himself a voice in public debate. Indeed, nobody more than Pasolini fits his own description of the ideal audience/producer for his new theater: enlightened, secular, radicalized, left-wingers of bourgeois extrac­ tion and Crocean training. The open-ended dialogical form that new theater proposes can be seen as a response to the questions that the characters of the verse tragedies are unable to answer. The "Manifesto/ I have been arguing, is an attempt at breaking the silence, at providing the conditions in which to get the conversation going again. I say "attem pt" because there are a number of significant problems that Pasolini's valorization of dialogue raises, but does little to address. We need to ask, I think, to what extent dialogue is genuinely open-ended: whether, like all narrative structures, it gathers up a preinterpretive momentum of its own which leads it in a pre­ figured direction. If legitimate questions about the direction dia­ logue goes in can be raised, so too can similar concerns about where it comes from. Dialogue, in fact, has long been appro­ priated by the kind of bourgeois, humanistic discourse of which Pasolini dedares himself wary. As Edward Said has recently sug­ gested, the valorization of dialogue by the likes of Richard Rorty that has marked theoretical discussion in the last few years tends to ignore the discrepancy created by the unequal power dynamic



which is bound to obtain in any interchange between partners, whether that interchange takes place in the classroom or in a love affair. For Said, the picture conjured up by Rorty's "conversation of humankind" is a distinctly elitist one of "philosophers dis­ coursing animatedly in a handsomely appointed salon."45 These are questions that Pasolini does nothing to tackle, either in the "Manifesto" or, to the best of my knowledge, elsewhere. A more specific critique of the "Manifesto" has been advanced by Rinaldo Rinaldi in both of his recent studies on Pasolini, stud­ ies to which the present work is greatly indebted. For Rinaldi, the dialogue that the "Manifesto" proposes is nothing other than a disguised monologue in which Pasolini talks to and thereby justifies himself. The failure to create a genuinely dialogical space is repeated, he argues, in Pasolini's failure to establish a dialogue with the readers of the various newspapers and magazines with which he collaborated. For Rinaldi, Pasolini's attempts at dialogue become one-way traffic: "a confession, a monologue, a diary."46 While not denying the pertinence of some of these remarks, my approach has been to consider the "Manifesto" in the light of the questions raised by the political events that culminated in May 1968, and on which Pasolini had been reflecting since at least the 1950s. I have been concerned not so much in verifying the feasibility of the practical application of the "Manifesto"'s propos­ als, nor in gauging any results the dialogue between text and public may or may not have produced. Rather, my interest in the "Manifesto" has been twofold: first, as a stage in the evolution of Pasolini's personal intellectual itinerary; and second, as an at­ tempt at giving answers to the questions raised by the events of May 1968. It is on the "Manifesto"'s status as an "attempt" that I should like to conclude. We see the "Manifesto" in its best light, I think, if we treat it as an "attempt" in the French sense, as an "essaie": not as a final word, but as a contribution aimed at stimulating a debate made more urgent by the impasse reached by the political culture of the day.47 Certainly, the "Manifesto"'s proposals may sound idealistic, naive, and at times vaguely for­ mulated, but it is perhaps only visionary thinking along utopian lines which will create the conditions for the kind of imaginative leap that is necessary if a radically new form of society is to be envisaged. Whether or not it can be said to succeed, Pasolini's "Manifesto" is a search for a new vocabulary with which to restart a dialogue at an impasse. Such, with regard to the conversation concerning the works of Pier Paolo Pasolini, has been the spirit of the present work.

Appendix The Manifesto (or a New Theater by Pier Paolo Pasolini (To the Readers) 1) The theater you expect, even at its most innovative, will never be the theater you expect. When you expect a new theater, you necessarily expect it within the limits of the ideas you already have. Besides, some­ thing you expect is in a sense already there. Of a text or a performance none of you can resist the temptation to say: 'This IS THEATER," or "This IS NOT THEATER." This means that already deeply rooted in your head you have an idea of what THEATER is. But innovations, even the greatest, as you well know, are never ideal but always concrete. Their truth and their necessity are therefore miserable, annoying, and disappointing: they are either not recognized as innovations or are dis­ cussed in such a way that they become once again part of old habits. Today, then, you all expect a new theater, but you all have in your heads an idea which comes from the old theater. These notes are written in the form of a manifesto to ensure that whatever innovations it ex­ presses are presented explicitly and perhaps even tyrannically as such. (In the entirety of this manifesto, Brecht will never be named. He was the last man of the theater to bring about a revolution within theater itself because in his time the hypothesis was that the traditional theater existed [which it in fact did]. Now, as we shall see through the various sections of this manifesto, our hypothesis is that the traditional theater no longer exists [or is ceasing to exist]. In Brecht's days, reform, even hard-hitting reform, could be carried out without opening up the whole question of theater. In fact, the aim of his reforms was to make theater more authentically theater. Today, however, what is put into question is theater itself. The aim of the present manifesto is paradoxically this: theater should be what it is not. One thing is certain: the days of Brecht are gone forever). (Who Will Form the Audience of the New Theater) 2) The audience of the new theater will not be composed of the bourgeoi­ sie who generally make up the theater public, but rather will be drawn from the progressive groups of the bourgeoisie. 179



These three lines, typical of the minutes of a meeting, are the first revolutionary proposal of this manifesto. They mean that the author of a theater text will no longer write for a public which by definition has always been the theater public, a public which goes to the theater to have a good time and which sometimes is scandalized. The public of the new theater will be neither amused nor scandalized by the new theater because, as part of the progressive groups of the bourgeoisie, they are the equals of the texts' author. 3) A signora who goes to city theaters and never misses the opening nights of Strehler, Visconti or Zeffirelli is strongly advised not to come to performances of the new theater. Or if, dressed in her symbolic, pathetic fur coat, she does come she will find in the entrance hall a sign which says that signore dressed in fur coats are required to pay thirty times the price of the ticket (which will normally be very low). On the other hand, the sign will also say that fascists (as long as they are under 25)can come in free. There will be one other request: people will be asked not to applaud. Whistling and heckling will be welcome, but in place of applause spectators will be asked to show faith in the democracy which allows a disinterested and idealistic dialogue to focus on the prob­ lems raised and debated (open-endedly!) by the text. 4) By progressive groups of the bourgeoisie we mean those few thousand intellectuals found in every city whose cultural interest may perhaps be ingenuous and provincial but is nonetheless real. 5) Objectively, these groups are made up of most of those who call themselves "left wing" progressives (including those catholics who tend to make up a New Left in Italy). A smaller part of those groups is formed by those élites who have survived Crocean liberal lay culture. Another group is formed by radicals. It goes without saying that this list is and goes out of its way to be schematic and terrorist. 6) The new theater is neither an academic theater1 nor an avant garde theater.2 It is not part of a tradition but neither does it oppose it. It simply ignores it and outmaneuvers it once and for all (The Theater of the Word) 7) Even at the risk of seeming banal and sounding once again like the minutes of a meeting the new theater defines itself as "theater of the word." Its incompatibility both with traditional theater and with all types of protest against traditional theater is contained in this self-definition. Completely ignoring the whole recent tradition of bourgeois theater,



not to mention the modern tradition of Renaissance theater and Shake­ speare, the "theater of the word" is not ashamed3 to hark back to the theater of Athenian democracy. 8) Come to the performances of the "theater of the word" with the idea of listening more than seeing (this is a necessary constraint in order to understand better the words you will hear, and therefore the ideas, which are the real characters of this theater). W hat the Theater of the Word is Against) 9) All existing theater can be divided into two types, which can be defined—according to conventional terminology—in a number of ways. For example: traditional theater and avant garde theater; bourgeois the­ ater and anti-bourgeois theater; official theater and protest theater; aca­ demic theater and underground theater, etc. Instead of these conventional definitions we prefer two sharper ones: a) the theater of Chatter (following Moravia's brilliant definition); and b) the theater of the Gesture or the Scream. To make things clear right away: in the theater of Chatter, the Word is replaced by chatter (for example, instead of saying, without humor, without any sense for the ridiculous and without manners, "I would like to die," one says bitterly "Good evening"); in the theater of the Gesture or the Scream, the word is completely desecrated, destroyed in favour of pure physical presence (see below). 10) The new theater calls itself of the "Word" against: I) the theater of Chatter, with its naturalistic settings and spectacular structures without which: a) the events (murders, robberies, dances, kisses, embraces and sub plots) would be unrepresentable; b) saying "Good night" and not "I would like to die" would have no sense in the absence of the atmospheres of everyday reality. The new theater also stands against II) the theater of the Gesture or the Scream, which protests against the theater of Chatter by razing to the ground its naturalistic settings and deconsecrating its texts, but whose scenic action—its basic fact (which it takes to extreme limits)—it cannot do without. From this double opposition comes one of the basic characteristics of the "theater of the word": in other words, as in Athenian theater, its almost total lack of scenic action. The lack of scenic action implies, of course, the almost total disappear­ ance of the mise-en-scine—lights, scenery, costumes, etc. All this will be reduced to a minimum (because, as we shall see, our new theater will by necessity continue to be a form, even if an as yet untried form, of RITE: therefore, the switching on and dimming of Lights to indicate the beginning and the end of the performance will always be necessary).



11) Both the theater of Chatter4 and the theater of the Gesture or the Scream5 are two products of the same bourgeois culture. They both share a hatred for the Word. The former is a ritual in which the bourgeoisie mirrors itself, more or less idealizing itself, at the very least always recognizing itself. The latter is a ritual in which the bourgeoisie on the one hand recog­ nizes itself for cultural reasons as the producer of that theater (thus reacquiring through its own anti-bourgeois culture the purity of a reli­ gious theater), while at the same time experiencing the pleasure of provocation, of condemnation and scandal (through which, finally, it receives nothing other than the confirmation of its own convictions). 12) The theater of the Gesture or the Scream is the product of bourgeois anti-culture,6 set up in opposition to the bourgeoisie, and uses against it the same destructive, cruel and separate process that was used by Hitler (adding practice to madness) in the concentration and death camps. 13) If not only the theater of the Gesture or the Scream but also our theater of the Word are both produced by anti-bourgeois cultural groups of the bourgeoisie, what is the difference between them? Here it is: while the theater of the Gesture or the Scream has as its perhaps even absent addressees the bourgeoisie whom they scandalize (and without whom such a theater would be inconceivable, like Hitler without the Jews, the Poles, the gypsies, and the homosexuals), the theater of the Word, on the other hand, has as its addressees the same culturally progressif groups who produce it. 14) The theater of the Gesture or the Scream—in the clandestine world of the underground—seeks in its addressees a complicity in struggle or a common form of asceticism. In other words, it represents for the progressive groups that produce it and enjoy it as addressees nothing more than a ritual confirmation of their own anti-bourgeois convictions, the same ritual confirmation of bourgeois convictions that traditional theater represents for the average, normal public. In direct contrast, during the performances of the theater of the Word, even if there will be many confirmations and checks (it is no accident that authors and addressees belong to the same cultural and ideological circle), there will be above all an exchange of opinions and ideas, in a relationship that will be far more critical than ritualized.7 (Addressees and Spectators) 15) In practice, will a merging of addressees and spectators be possible? We believe that in Italy the progressive cultural groups of the bourgeoisie can numerically form a public and so produce their own



theater. In this relationship between author and spectator the theater of the Word represents something completely new in the history of theater. For the following reasons: a) the theater of the Word is—as we have seen—a theater made possi­ ble, demanded and enjoyed in the specifically cultural circles of the progressive groups of the bourgeoisie. b) as a result, it represents the only way towards the rebirth of theater in a country whose bourgeoisie has been unable to produce a theater that is not either provincial or academic, and whose working class has been completely deaf to the problem (and where its chances of pro­ ducing its own theater are only theoretical. Or better: theoretical and rhetorical, as all attempts at a "popular theater" directly addressed to the working classes have shown). c) the theater of the Word—which, as we have seen, avoids any possi­ ble relationship with the bourgeoisie, and is addressed only to progres­ sive cultural groups—is unique in being able to reach the working class, not by partie prise or rhetorically, but realistically. In fact, the working class is directly linked to progressive intellectuals. This is a traditional and inalienable notion of Marxist ideology on which both heretics and the orthodox agree, as if it were a natural fact. 16) Do not misunderstand. No workerist, Stalinist, Togliattian or con­ formist dogma is here being invoked. Rather, what is being invoked is the great illusion of Majakowsky, of Essenin and of the other touching and great young people who worked with them at that time. It is to them that ideally our new theater is dedicated. No official workerism, then, even if the theater of the Word will go with its texts (but with no scenery, costumes, musical motifs, taperecorders or mime) into factories and communist cultural circles, into big rooms with the red flags from 1945. 17) Read the preceding two articles 15 and 16 as the foundation of the present manifesto. 18) The theater of the Word, here being defined through this manifesto, is also a practical task. 19) We do not rule out that the theater of the Word may experiment with texts dedicated explicitly to working class audiences. But only in an experimental mode, because the only correct way to guarantee a working class presence in such a theater is to carry out what is stated in article 15, point C. 20) The calendar of the theater of the Word—which will take the form of tasks or activities—will not follow a normal rhythm. There will be no previews, first nights or matinees. Two or three plays will be prepared at a time to be staged in the company's theater and in the places (factories,



schools, cultural circles) where progressive cultural groups, to whom the theater of the Word is addressed, have their headquarters. (Linguistic Parenthesis: Language) 21) What language do these "progressive cultural groups" of the bourgeoisie speak? Like almost the whole bourgeoisie they speak Italian. In other words a conventional language, whose conventionality, how­ ever, has not come about "on its own" as a result of a natural accumula­ tion of phonological common-places. Or better: as a result of a political, historical, bureaucratic, military, scholastic and scientific as well as liter­ ary tradition. The conventionality of Italian was established at a given abstract date (let's say 1870), and from above (firstly by the courts at an exclusively literary level and to a lesser extent at a diplomatic level, then by Piedmont and the first Risorgimento state bourgeoisie). From the point of view of the written language, such an authoritarian imposition may appear inevitable, even if artificial and purely practical. In fact, we have seen a clear cut standardization of written Italian all over the country (geographically and socially). But as to oral Italian, any acceptance of the nationalistic imposition and practical necessity has been simply impossible. No-one, in fact, can be insensible to the farcical claim that a uniquely literary language be forced on an illiterate people through artificial and scholarly phonetic norms (in 1870 more than 90% of the population was illiterate). It is, however, a fact that if an Italian today writes a sentence he writes it in the same way no matter what his geographical or social position may be, but if that same person says it he says it in a way different from that of any other Italian. (Linguistic Parenthesis: The Conventionality of Oral Language and the Conventionality o f Theatrical Diction) 22) Traditional theater has accepted the conventionality of oral Italian, which has been emanated, so to speak, by edict. It has accepted, that is, an Italian that does not exist. It is on this conventionality, or better, on nothing, on the nonexistent, on death, that it has founded the con­ ventionality of its diction. The result is repugnant. Above all when purely academic theater is presented under its most "modern" banner, that of the theater of Chatter. For example, the "Good evening," which in our example replaces the "I would like to die" that goes unsaid, has in the real life of spoken Italian as many phonetic aspects as there are real groups of Italians who utter it. But in the theater it has only one pronunciation (used only in actors' diction). In the theater, then, one is required to "chatter" in an Italian in which no-one actually chatters (not even in Florence).8



23) As to the theater of protest (what we are here calling theater of the Gesture or the Scream), the problem of spoken language is either not raised or if at all only as a secondary concern. In such a theater, in fact, the word integrates and backs up physical presence. And it usually carries this out through a simple desecratory act of counterfeiting. It tends, that is, when it does not limit itself to caricaturing theatrical convention (which is itself founded on the impossible conventionality of spoken Italian), to imitate the gesture, and to be therefore pregrammatical to the point that it becomes interjection: groan, grimace or sim­ ply scream. 24) The theater of Chatter would have a perfect vehicle in Italy: dialect or dialectal idioms [koinè dialettizzata].9 But it does not make use of this vehicle partly for practical reasons, partly out of provincialism, partly out of uncouth aesthetidsm, partly out of a servile attitude toward the nationalistic tendency of its public. (Linguistic Parenthesis: The Theater of the Word and Oral Italian) 25) Nonetheless, the theater of the Word excludes both dialect and dia­ lectal idioms from its self-definition. Or, if it does include them, it in­ cludes them exceptionally and tragically in a way that places them on the same level as cultivated language. 26) The theater of the Word, then, produced and enjoyed by the progres­ sive groups of the country, cannot avoid writing its texts in that conven­ tional language which is oral and read Italian (and only rarely raises purely oral dialects to the same level as written and read languages). 27) Of course, the theater of the Word must also accept the convention of oral Italian, since its texts are also written to be represented, or, as in the present case, and by definition, said. 28) There is, of course, a contradiction: a) because in this specific (and essential) case, insofar as it accepts a convention that does not exist, the theater of the Word behaves like the most abject of bourgeois theaters. Or better: it accepts the unity of a spoken Italian that no real Italian speaks); b) because, while the theater of the Word aims to outflank the bourgeoisie by appealing to other addressees (intellectuals and work­ ers), at the same time it envelops itself in the bourgeoisie. This is because only through the development of present bourgeois society will it be possible to fill the "missing links" in the formation of a phonetic and historical convention of Italian, and so reach that unity of spoken lan­ guage that for now remains abstract and authoritarian. 29) How can we resolve this contradiction? Above all, by avoiding any purism in pronunciation. The oral Italian of the texts of the theater of



the Word must be standardized up to the point at which it remains real. That is to say, up to the border-line between dialect and the pseudoFlorentine canon, without ever going beyond it. 30) To prevent this theatrical and linguistic conventionality, founded on an actual phonetic convention (the Italian spoken by 60 million phonetic exceptions), from becoming a new academy, it will be enough: a) to be aware at all times of the problem;10 b) to stay faithful to the principles of the theater of the Word. Or better: to a theater that is first of all debate, exchange of ideas, literary and political struggle, at the most democratic and rational level possible. It is, then, a theater which pays attention to meaning and sense and excludes any formalism, which, at the oral level, leads to complacency and phonetic aestheticism. 31) All this requires the foundation of a true and proper school of lin­ guistic reeducation to lay the bases of acting technique in the theater of the Word, whose main object is not language but the meaning of words and the sense of the work. A total effort which, combined with critical acumen and sincerity, neces­ sitates a complete rethinking of the actor's self-image. (The Two Existing Types of Actor) 32) What is Theater? "THEATER IS THEATER." This is the answer everyone gives today: theater is understood as "something." Or better: it is "something else" that can only be explained by itself and can only be understood charismatically. The actor11 is the first victim of this kind of theatrical mysticism and so often becomes a presumptuous, ridiculous and ignorant figure. 33) But as we have seen, just as today's theater is of two types, bourgeois theater and anti-bourgeois bourgeois theater, so actors are of two types. First, let us observe the actors of bourgeois theater. Bourgeois theater finds its reason for existence (not as text but as performance) in the life of society: it is a display of rich, prosperous people who also have the privilege of culture.12 Now, this kind of theater is going through a period of crisis: it is now forced to reflect on its own condition and to recognize the reasons that push it from the center of society to the margins, as if it had become a relic or a leftover. The theater itself has had little difficulty in reaching this conclusion: traditional theater soon understood that a new type of society, massively flattened out and widened, formed by the petit bourgeois masses, has



replaced it with two kinds of social event which are both more modern and appropriate: cinema and television. It has not been difficult to understand that something irreversible has happened in the history of theater: the Athenian "demos" and the "élites" of old capitalism are but distant memories. The days of Brecht are indeed gone for ever! Traditional theater has gone into a state of historical decay which has created around it, on the one hand, an atmosphere of conservation as tenacious as it is short-sighted, and on the other, an air of regret and unfounded hope. This too is a conclusion to which traditional theater has more or less confusedly been able to come. What traditional theater has never been able even remotely to under­ stand is what it is. It defines itself as Theater and nothing else. When placed before the oldest and shabbiest of bourgeois audiences even the most wretched and jobsworth of actors vaguely knows that he is no longer participating in a triumphant and justified social event and is forced to explain his presence and performance (which now has no follow in g) in m y stic term s: a "th e a tric a l m a ss" in w h ich T h e a te r ap p ears

in such a shining light as to induce blindness. In fact, like all false sentiments, it produces an intransigent, demagogic and almost terrorist awareness of its own truth. 34) Let us now look at the second type of actor, the one from the antibourgeois bourgeois theater of the Gesture or the Scream. This kind of theater has, as we have seen, the following characteristics: a) it appeals to a cultivated bourgeois audience and involves them in its own unrestrained and ambiguous anti-bourgeois protest; b) it looks for spaces where it can put on its performances outside official circles; c) it scorns the word, and also the languages of the national ruling classes, in favour of either a diabolic and disguised word or nothing other than a provocatory, scandalous, incomprehensible, obscene and ritualised gesture. How can we explain all this? The reason lies in an inexact (but equally efficient) diagnosis of what theater has become, or simply, what theater is. And what is that? The THEATER IS THE THEATER, once again. But while for bourgeois theater this is nothing more than a tautology that implies a ridiculous and triumphant mysticism, for the anti-bourgeois theater this is a true and proper—and conscious—definition of the sacrality of theater. This sacrality is founded on the ideology of the rebirth of a primitive, originary theater which takes the form of a propitiary, or better orgiastic ritual13 This is an operation typical of modern culture, according to which a form of religion crystallizes the irrationality of formalism into something that is born inauthentically (that is from aesthetidsm) and becomes authentic (that is to say, a true and proper type of life like pragma outside and against practice).14



Now, in some cases, this archaic religiosity, given new vigor from the anger felt about the idiotic lay culture of consumerism, ends up by becoming a form of authentic modern religion (which has nothing to do with andent peasants and everything to do with the modern industrial organization of life). Look at the Living Theater, for example, and their almost monk-like collegiality, and the idea of the "group" which does nothing other than take the place of traditional units like the family, etc. Look also at how drugs are used as a means of protest, how "dropping out" is seen as a form of violence, at least in gesture and language, and how the performance is almost a moment of sedition, or—as one says today—guerilla warfare. In most cases, however, such a conception of theater ends up as the same tautology as bourgeois theater, and obeys the same inevitable rules.15 Religion, then, from that form of life that is realized in the theater be­ comes simply "the religion of theater." And from this cultural vague­ ness, from this second rate aestheticism, the actor in mourning and under the influence of drugs is made to look just as ridiculous as the co-opted actor, the type who wears a double breasted suit, and who also works for the television. (The Actor in the Theater o f the Word) 35) It will therefore be necessary for the actor in the "theater of the word," as an actor, to change nature: he will no longer have to feel physically as if he were the carrier of a word which transcends culture in a sacred idea of the theater: he will simply have to be a man of culture. No longer will he base his ability on personal charisma (bourgeois theater) or on a kind of hysterical or spiritual force (anti-bourgeois the­ ater), which exploits demagogically the public's desire for performance (bourgeois theater), or abuses the public by forcing it to take part in a sacred ritual (anti-bourgeois theater). The actor will now have to base his skills on his ability to understand fully the text.16 As an actor he must not be the interpreter of a message (the Theater!) that transcends the text. Rather, he must be the living vehide of the text. The actor will have to become the transparent mediator of thought, and will be judged good the more, listening to him recite the text, the public understands he has understood. (Theatrical "Rite") 36) Theater is, however, in all cases at all times and in every place a RITE. 37) Semiologically the theater is a sign system in which non-symbolic, iconic living signs are the same signs as in reality. The theater represents a body with a body, an object with an object, an action with an action. It goes without saying that at an aesthetic level this sign system has its



own specific codes. But at a purely semiological level it does not differ (like cinema) from the sign system of reality. The semiological archetype of the theater is the performance that takes place every day before our eyes and within range of our ears, in the street, at home, in public places, etc. In this sense social reality is a representation that is not completely unaware of its status as representa­ tion, and therefore has its own codes (manners, behavior, body lan­ guage, etc.): put otherwise, it is not completely unaware of its own status as rite. The archetypical rite of the theater is therefore a NATURAL RITE. 38) Ideally, the first theater which can be separated from the theater of life is religious in character: chronologically, the birth of such a theater as "mystery" cannot be dated. But it occurs in every analogous historical (or rather prehistoric) situation. In all the "ages of origins" and in all the "dark" or middle ages. The primary rite of theater, as propitiatory rite, exorcism, mystery, orgy, magic dance, etc., is a RELIGIOUS RITE. 39) Athenian democracy invented and instituted the greatest theater ever—in verse form—as POLITICAL RITE. 40) The bourgeoisie—with its first revolution, the protestant revolu­ tion— created, on the other hand, a new type of theater (whose history begins perhaps with the teatro dell'arte, certainly with Elizabethan the­ ater and the theater of the Spanish Golden Age, and now reaches us). In the theater it invented (which was immediately realistic, ironic, ad­ venturous, escapist and as we would say today politically complacent [qualunquista]— even if we are talking about Shakespeare or Calderon)— the bourgeoisie celebrates the height of its worldly pomp and circum­ stance, which is also poetically sublime, at least up to Chekov, that is up to the second bourgeois revolution (the "liberal" one). The theater of the bourgeoisie is then a SOCIAL RITE. 41) Accompanying the decline of the bourgeoisie's "revolutionary great­ ness" (unless, perhaps correctly, we want to consider "great" its third revolution, this time technological) we have also witnessed the decline of the greatness of that SOCIAL RITE that was its theater. So, if on the one hand a part of that social rite has survived, thanks to the bourgeoi­ sie's conservative spirit, on the other it is gathering a new awareness of its own status as rite: an awareness that has been completely taken on board— as we have seen—by bourgeois anti-bourgeois theater, which, in launching itself at the bourgeoisies official theater and the bourgeoisie itself, attacks above all its official status as establishment, its lack of reli­ gion. The theater of the underground—as we have said—attempts to recover the religious origins of theater, as orgiastic mystery and necro­ mantic violence. However, in this kind of operation, the aestheticism



that is left unfiltered by culture works in such a way that the real content of this religion is the theater itself, just as the myth of form is the content of every formalism. We cannot say that the violent, sacrilegious, obscene, desecrating-consecrating religion of the theater of the Scream or the Gesture is without content or is inauthentic, because it is often filled by an authentic religion of the theater. The rite of such a theater is then a THEATRICAL RITE. (The Theater of the Word and Rite) 42) The theater of the word does not recognize as its own any of the rites here listed. It refuses with anger, indignation and nausea to be a THEATRICAL RITE, that is it refuses to obey the rules of the tautology produced by an archeological, decadent and culturally generic religious spirit which has been easily coopted by the bourgeoisie by means of the very scandal that it wants to arouse. It refuses to be a bourgeois SOCIAL RITE: in fact, it does not even address itself to the bourgeoisie and excludes it, slamming the door in its face. It cannot be the POLITICAL RITE of Aristotelian Athens, with its "many" who were just a few thousand people: and where the whole city was contained in its stupendous open air social theater. Finally, it cannot be a RELIGIOUS RITE, because the new technologi­ cal medieval age seems to exclude it on the grounds that it is anthropo­ logically different from all previous medieval ages. . . . Addressing itself to a public of "progressive cultural groups of the bourgeoisie," and, therefore, to the more enlightened working classes, through texts which are based on the word (hopefully poetic) and on topics that could be typical of a lecture, a possible political speech, or scientific debate, the theater of the Word is born and operates com­ pletely in the sphere of culture. Its rite, then, can only be defined as CULTURAL RITE. (Summary) 43) To sum up: The theater of the Word is a completely new phenomenon because it addresses itself to a new type of public, going beyond once and for all the traditional bourgeois public. As its name suggests, its originality consists in being of the Word: it stands against the two typical theaters of the bourgeoisie, the theater of Chatter and the theater of the Scream or the Gesture, whose basic unity is confirmed by their sharing: a) the same public (which the former entertains, the latter scandalizes), and b) a common hatred for the word (hypocritical the former, irrational the latter).



The theater of the Word does not seek out its theatrical space in any setting other than the head. Technically, this "theatrical space" is frontal: text and actors facing the public, with absolute cultural parity between these two interlocutors who, looking each other in the eyes, provide the guarantee of its adher­ ence to true, even scenic democratic principles. The theater of the Word is popular not because it addresses itself directly or rhetorically to the working class but because it addresses it indirectly and realistically through those progressive intellectuals of the bourgeoisie who make up its audience. The theater of the Word has no interest in spectacle or worldliness, etc.: its only interest is cultural, shared by the author, actors and public who, therefore, when they gather, take part in a "cultural rite." Translated by David Ward.

Notes Chapter 1. Introduction 1. Originally published in Pier Paolo Pasolini, Poesie a Casarsa (Bologna: Li­ breria Antiquaria, 1942), the poem is also included in the more easily available Pasolini, La nuova gioventù: poesie friulane, 1941-1947 (Turin: Einaudi, 1975), 8. The translation is by Hermann Haller from The Hidden Ita ly : A B ilin g u a l Edition of Ita lia n Dialect Poetry (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1986), 263. Unless otherwise noted, all translations are my own. 2. Alberto Asor Rosa, S c ritto ri e popolo (Rome: Savonà and Savelli, 1965), 287. 3. Pasolini, Uusignolo della chiesa cattolica (Milan: Longanesi, 1958). 4. Pasolini, Le ceneri d i Gramsci (Milan: Garzanti, 1957). 5. Gian Carlo Ferretti, Letteratura e ideologia (Rome: Editori Riuniti, 1965), 189. 6. Ibid., 202. 7. Rinaldo Rinaldi, Pier Paolo Pasolini (Milan: Mursia, 1982), 9-10. 8. Ibid., 15. 9. Ibid., 31. 10. Ferretti, Ideologia, 201. 11. Rinaldi, Pasolini, 9-10. 12. Ibid., 14. 13. Stefano Agosti, "La parola fuori di sé ," Cinque analisi (Milan: Feltrinelli, 1982), 125-54. My quotations are drawn from pages 135, 137 and 140 respec­ tively. Agosti's essay has been translated by John Meddemmen as "T h e Word beside Itself," in The Poetics o f Heresy, ed. Beverly Allen (Saratoga: Anma Libri, 1982), 54-71. 14. I follow here the English version of "Cram sci" included in Meddemmen's translation of Agosti's essay. 15. The solution to the problem of referentiality offered by the translation of these verses by Norman MacAfee with Luciano Martinengo is of interest h e re Their translation, in fact, augments the referentiality of these verses by repeating the referent— "Coastlines"— which is specified only once in the original text: "White coastlines in Latium . . . Coastlines /in Maremma darkened . . . Blindly fragrant coastlines in Versilia . . . Land sliding coastlines convulsed as though by a panic . . . " See Pier Paolo Pasolini: Poems, trans. Norman MacAfee (with Luciano Martinengo) (New York: Random House, 1982), 14-17. 16. Pasolini, Em pirism o eretico (Milan: Garzanti, 1972), 241, trans. Ben Lawton and Louise K. Barnett, ed. Barnett, as Heretical Empiricism (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988), 236. 17. Alberto Moravia, Oration at Pier Paolo Pasolini's Funeral, text available at "Associazione 'Fondo Pier Paolo Pasolini.'" 18. Asor Rosa and Ferretti's studies are examples of Marxist approaches; Agosti's is an example of a poststructuralist approach. For a psychoanalytic


Notes to Chapter 1


study of Pasolini, see Aldo Carotenuto, Lautunno della coscienza: ricerche psicologiche su P ier Paolo Pasolini (Turin: Boringhieri, 1985). For a broadly phenomenologi­ cal approach, see Anna Panicali, Pier Paolo Pasolini: Testimonianze, ed. Anna Panicali and S. Sestini (Florence: Salani, 1982) and Panicali, "Le vod e le parole," in P ie r Paolo Pasolini: L'opera e i l suo tempo, ed. Guido Santato (Padova: Cleup, 1983), 171-79. 19. Barth David Schwartz, Pasolini Requiem (New York: Pantheon, 1992). 20. Antonio Vitti, II prim o Pasolini e la sua narrativa (New York: Peter Lang, 1987); William Van Watson, Pier Paolo Pasolini and the Theatre o f the Word (Ann A rbor, Mich.: UMI Research Press, 1989); Naomi Greene, Pier Paolo Pasolini: Cinem a as Heresy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990); Joseph Francese, I I realismo impopolare d i Pier Paolo Pasolini (Foggia: Bastogi, 1991); Keala Jewell, The Poesis o f H is to ry : Experimenting w ith Genre in Postwar Ita ly (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1992); Maurizio Viano, A Certain Realism: M aking Use o f Pasol­ in i's F ilm Theory and Practice (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1993). T h e collections of essays are Pasolini: Contemporary Perspectives, ed Patrick Rum­ b le and Bart Testa (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1994); and Pasolini: Old a n d New. Surveys and Studies, ed. Zygmunt Baranski, special number of The Ita lia n is t (Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 1995). 21. See Pasolini, ed. Paul Willemen (London: British Film Institute Publica­ tions, 1977). For more detailed comments on Pasolini's reception among Italian, British, and French scholars, particularly Gilles Deleu ze, see chapter 6 of the present work. 22. Christopher Wagstaff, "Reality into Poetry: Pasolini's Film Theory," The Ita lia n is t 5 (1985): 107-32. 23. Zygmunt Baranski, "Pier Paolo Pasolini: Culture, Croce, Gramsci," in C u l­ tu re and C onflict in P ost-W ar Ita ly : Essays on Mass and Popular Culture, ed. Zygmunt Baranski and Robert Lumley (London: Macmillan, 1990), 139-59. 24. Antonio Costa, "T he Semiological Heresy of Pier Paolo Pasolini," Pier Paolo Pasolini, e d Paul Willemen (London: British Film Institute, 1977), 42. 25. See Beverly Allen, ed., The Poetics o f Heresy; Naomi Greene, Pier Paolo Pasolini: Cinema as Heresy; and Giuliana Bruno, "Heresies: The Body of Pasolini's Sem iotics," Cinema Journal 30:3 (Spring 1991): 29-42. 26. Teresa de Lauretis, "Language, Representation, Practice: Rereading Pasol­ ini's Essays on Cinem a," Italian Q uarterly 21-22 (Fall 1980-Winter 1981): 159-66. 27. See in particular Ben Lawton, "Pier Paolo Pasolini's Revolutionary Sado­ masochism: The Post-Modern World through the Eyes of a Poet" (Paper read at the symposium "Pier Paolo Pasolini: The Eyes of a Poet," held at the Film Center, Chicago, organized by the "Istituto Italiano di Cultura," Chicago and the " Associazione 'Fondo Pier Paolo Pasolini'" on 3 October 1992. For Lawton, Pasolini is of interest because of his opposition "tout court" to all orthodoxies at the very moment that they become orthodoxies, including what we would call nowadays the "politically correct" orthodoxies which had currency in the Italian Left of the 1960s and 1970s. In particular see his "T he Evolving Rejection of Homosexuality, Subproletariat, and the Third World in Pasolini's Film s," in Ita lia n Q u a rte rly 21-22 (Fall 1980-Winter 1981): 167-73. 28. In this regard see also Paolo Valesio, "Pasolini come sintomo," Italian Q u a rte rly 21-22 (Fall 1980-Winter 1981): 31-43. 29. See Lino Mictich6, "L'ideologia della morte nell'ultimo Pasolini," Storia del cinema: a u to ri e tendenze negli anni cinquanta e sessanta (Venice: Marsilio, 1978),


Notes to Chapter 2

40-55; and "I miti di Pier Paolo Pasolini," in U cinema italiano degli a n n i '60 (Venice: Marsilio, 1975), 151-71. 30. Ibid., 54. 31. Pasolini, /dialoghi, ed. Giovanni Falaschi (Rome: Editori Riuniti, 1992), 349. 32- Ibid., 602. 33. Ibid., 602. 34. Teresa de Laure tis, "Gramsci Notwithstanding," in Technologies o f Gender: Essays on Theory, F ilm and Fiction (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987), 90. 35. Keala Jewell, The Poesis o f H isto ry: Experim enting w ith Genre in Postwar Ita ly (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1992), x. 36. Ibid., 4.

Chapter 2: The Friulan Novels 1. Enzo Golino, Pasolini: I l sogno d i una cosa (Bologna: Mulino, 1985), 9. 2. Ibid., 108. 3. Pasolini, A t t i im puri/Am ado mio, ed. Concetta d'Angeli (Milan: Garzanti, 1982), 59-61. Subsequent references to A t t i and Amado will be indicated in pa­ rentheses in the text. 4. Rinaldi, L irriconoscibile Pasolini (Foggia: Marra, 1990), 16: "Rather than the face of Narcissus, Pasolini's multi-faceted practice, as it develops through time, takes on the shape of a Mercury." 5. For an in-depth analysis of the Donna gentile in Dante's La vita nuova, see Robert Pogue Harrison, The Body o f Beatrice (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1988). 6. Alberto Arbasino, "Peccati e brillantina," review of A t t i im p u ri/Amado mio in L'Espresso, 7.11.82. 7. Nico Naldini, untitled review of A tti im p u ri/Amado mio in Corriere della sera, 5.9.82. 8. For the "homosexual paradigm," see Gerald H. Storzer, "T he Homosexual Paradigm in Balzac, Gide and G enet," in Homosexualities and French Literature, ed. George Stambolian and Elaine Marks (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1979), 186-209. In particular: "T he (homosexual] paradigm always assumes that it is not homosexuality, but sexuality in general that is disruptive," 208. For a more critical approach to Pasolini's homosexuality, see Q uaderni d i critica omosessuale. Cupo d'amore: l'omosessualità nell'opera d i Pasolini, ed. Stefano Casi (Bologna: Centro di documentazione, il Cassero, 1987).

9. Pasolini, I dialoghi, 465-66. 10. Ibid., 466. 11. This part of my argument draws on J. Hillis Miller, "Narrative" in C ritic a l Terms fo r L ite ra ry Study, ed. Frank Lentricchia and Thomas McLaughlin (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991), 66-79. The quotation is from p. 69. 12. For the distinction between canto (song) and discorso (discourse), see Ste­ fano Agosti, "Ebbro d'erba e di tenebre," introduction to Giuseppe Zigaina, Pasolini tra enigma e profezia (Venice: Marsilio, 1989). 13. For the literary allusions in Augustine's conversion and for Petrarch as guarantor of a poetics of absence, see John Freccerò, "The Laurel and the FigTree," D iacritics 5 (Spring 1975): 34-40. 14. See Rinaldi, Pasolini, 70-78.

Notes to Chapter 3


15. Pasolini, I l sogno d i una cosa (Milan: Garzanti, 1962), 134. Translated by Stu art Hood as A Dream o f a Thing (London: Quartet, 1988), 130. Subsequent references to the original Italian and English translation will be indicated in parentheses in the text. The first page number refers to the Italian edition, the second to Hood's translation. 16. Pasolini, Gramsci, 80. 17. Translation by Norman MacAfee (with Luciano Martinengo), Pier Paolo Pasolini: Poems, 23.

Chapter 3: The Roman Novels I 1. For a discussion of how Pasolini combines the two seemingly antithetical terms passion and ideology, see Maurizio Viano, A Certain Realism: M aking Use o f Pasolini's F ilm Theory and Practice (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1993), 39-44. 2. Gianni Scalia, "Di O fficina, di Pasolini e d'altro," in Officina ( 1955-1959 ) ed. Katia Migliori (Bologna: Cappelli, 1979), 74. 3. Pasolini, Passione e ideologia (Milan: Garzanti, 1959), 485. Subsequent refer­ ences to Passione will be indicated in parentheses in the text. 4. Zygmunt G. Baranski, "Pier Paolo Pasolini: Culture, Croce, Gram sci," in C u ltu re and C onflict in Post-W ar Ita ly : Essays on Mass and Popular C ulture, ed. Zygmunt Baranski and Robert Lumley (London: Macmillan, 1990), 139-59. 5. Pasolini, I dialoghi, 316. 6. Ibid., 316. 7. Pasolini, Lettere luterane (Turin: Einaudi, 1976), 195. Translated by Stuart Hood as Lutheran Letters (Manchester: Carcanet, 1988), 126. 8. Marc Gervais, Pier Paolo Pasolini (Paris: Editions Seghers, 1973), 13-14. 9. Rinaldi, Pasolini, 154. 10. Christopher Prendergast, The Order o f M im esis: Balzac, Stendhal, N erval and Flaubert (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 6-7. 11. Catherine Belsey, C ritic a l Practice (London: Methuen, 1980), 51. 12. Jean Duflot, Les dernieres paroles d’un impie: entretiens avec Jean D uflot (Paris: Belford, 1981), 28-29. 13. Pasolini, La meglio gioventù (Florence: Sansoni, 1954). All of Pasolini's Friulan poetry, including the poems originally published in Poesie a Casarsa and the revised version of La meglio gioventù, published in 1974, is now available in La nuova gioventù: poesie friu la n e 1941-1971 (Turin: Einaudi, 1975). 14. See Ragazzi, 255: "We believe that there is no reader who faced for the first time with a word from the dialect of the criminal community or the Roman subproletariat will not be able to grasp or intuit its m eaning." My translation. This section, which precedes the glossary of Roman terms in the Italian edition, is not included in Capouya's translation. 15. Pasolini, Ragazzi d i vita (Milan: Garzanti, 1955), 14. 16. English translation by Emile Capouya, The " Ragazzi" (Manchester: Carca­ net, 1986), 20-21. Subsequent references to the original Italian and English translation will be indicated in parentheses in the text. The first page number refers to the Italian edition, the second to Capouya's translation. 17. Pasolini, Ragazzi, 1; 7 . 1 have here slightly amended Capouya's translation of the sentence "II Riccetto . . . pareva un pischello quando se ne va acchittato pei lungoteveri a rimorchiare."


Notes to Chapter 4

18. Jonathan Culler, The P u rsu it o f Signs (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1981), 112. 19. By way of contrast, for an example of a text which immediately codes the reader as its equal, see the opening sentence of George Eliot's Middlem arch, ecL David Carroll (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986), 7: "Miss Brooke had that kind of beauty which seems to be thrown into relief by poor dress." Here "that kind of beauty" refers anaphorically to a set of assumptions as to what exactly "that kind of beauty" is, already in place in the subjectivity of the reader. See also, Belsey, 50-51. 20. The narrator also displays an intimate familiarity with Roman topology, as well as Roman bus numbers. See Ragazzi, 2; 8: "It's a short way from Montev­ erde Vecchio to the Granatieri. You go by the Prato, and cut in among the buildings under construction around the Viale dei Quattro V en ti" 21. Rinaldi, Pasolini, 154-55. 22. Paul Ricouer, "Narrative Time," C ritica l In q u iry 7:1 (1980): 171. 23. See Hayden White, M etahistory: The H istorical Imagination in Nineteenth C entury Europe (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1973), 360-61. 24. For Pasolini's discovery of Rome, see Keala Jewell, "Palimpsests and Rome," in The Poesis o f H isto ry, 23-52, and Zygmunt G. Baranski, "Notes toward a Reconstruction: Pasolini and Rome 1950-51," The Italianist 5 (1985): 138-49. 25. Tzvetan Todorov, "Introduction," Le Vraisemblable, Communications, 11 (1968): 2-3. Cited in Culler, S tructuralist Poetics (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1975), 139. The quotation continues: "In other words, the vraisemblable is the mask which conceals the text's own laws and which we are supposed to take for a relation with reality." 26. See, for example, this note which precedes the glossary in Una vita violenta (Milan: Garzanti, 1959), translated by William Weaver as A Violent Life (Manches­ ter: Carcanet, 1968): "References to individuals, events and real places described in this book are the fruit of invention. At the same time, I would like to make it quite clear to the reader that everything he reads in this novel really happened, substantially, and continues really to happen." In the Weaver translation the note appears on the page preceding p. 1. 27. Giorgio Bàrberi Squarotti, La narrativa italiana del dopoguerra (Bologna: Cappelli, 1965), 328. 28. Ibid., 328. 29. Ibid., 328. 30. Ibid., 330. 31. Pasolini, "Nuove questioni linguistiche," Empirismo eretico, 7-8.

Chapter 4: The Roman Novels II 1. Ferretti, Ideologia, 224. 2. Ib id , 224. 3. Ibid., 303-4. 4. Asor Rosa, S critto ri, 424-25. 5. Umberto Eco, The Listener, 24 August 1984: "(Pasolini's) political attitude is 'populism/ It is a spontaneous admiration of the proletariat, which is not Marxism. Marxists do not believe in the spontaneity of the masses, but in their organization." 6. A recent exception to this rule is Franco Ferrucd. In his "II j'accuse di

Notes to Chapter 4


Pasolini," Italian Q uarterly 21-22 (Fall 1980-Spring 1981): 16: "Tommaso's death in Una vita violenta is a symbolic death and coincides with the refusal of consum­ erism . It means therefore: the people die if they go into a petit-bourgeois house." I would only add that on the evidence of Life "the people" also die if they engage in traditional left-wing party politics. 7. Pasolini, Una mta violenta (Milan: Garzanti, 1959), 271. Translated as A Violent Life by William Weaver (Manchester: Carcanet, 1968), 271. Subsequent references to the Italian original and the English translation will be indicated in parentheses in the text. The first page reference is to the Italian edition, the second to the English translation. 8. See Wallace P. Sillampoa, "Pasolini's Gramsci," M L N 96:1 (1981): 120-37: "P a so lin i. . . regards socio-political and cultural problems as reflections of the gradual surrender of that mythicized social and linguistic universe that he de­ sires to defend. . . . For Pasolini, (Neo-) capitalist society is a moral category— a malum — to be rejected tout cou rt in the name of a purer (pre-industrial) one threatened with extinction," 131. 9. Pasolini, Ragazzi, 130-31; 136. 10. See Stephen Snyder, P ier Paolo Pasolini (Boston: Twayne, 1980), 7 9 -8 0 : "In essence, Totó and Nino couple with and assimilate embodiments of mystery and reason. The first act occurs through the sexual intercourse of the two with Luna. . . . Her name, of course, associates her with the moon (and hence the world of night mystery), whose presence has loomed over the narrative from the credit sequence (for which it provides the background), to the initial conver­ sation of Nino and Totó about the moon's control of tides, to the random in­ tercuttings of the image throughout the film. . . . By coupling with Luna, Nino and Totó finally (and literally) embrace the darkness and mystery they have previously ignored. By eating the crow (the very symbol of reason), they com­ plete their growth, literally 'assimilating' (in Pasolini's own phrase) the crow's rational powers and historical consciousness." It might also be noted that the significantly named Stella (star) performs a similar function in the film Accatone. See Snyder, 40-43. 11. Pasolini has here anticipated recent studies that group both bourgeois and Marxist narratives of history. See, for example, Robert Young, White M ythologies: W ritin g H isto ry and the West (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1990), 1-20. 12. Pasolini, Ragazzi, 248; 251. 13. Ibid., 234; 238. 14. Ibid., 232-33; 236. 15. Ibid., 230; 234. 16. Ibid., 254; 256. 17. See Ferretti, Ideología, 312. 18. See Life, 272; 272. 19. I here draw on material contained in Moira Sehraw/s unpublished doc­ toral dissertation, 'T h e Cursed Trinity: Language, Literature, Cinema in Pier Paolo Pasolini's Discourse," University of Reading, Great Britain, 1982. 20. For a similar line of argument on the basis of Accatone, see Snyder, 38: "However, this Vittorio is never completely born, in either the dream or the world of daytime consciousness. The new man is unable to break clearly from the cocoon of the old. . . . Accatone/Vittorio awakens from his dream and reen­ ters the world but comes neither as the new man nor entirely as the old." 21. Cited in Golino, Pasolini, 199.


Notes to Chapter 4

22. See interview with Pasolini by Luisella Re, published in Stampa sera, 10.12.75. 23. I postpone a discussion of these theoretical writings to the next chapter. 24. See also Barth David Schwartz, Pasolini Requiem (New York: Pantheon, 1992), 611. 25. Pasolini, Petrolio (Turin: Einaudi, 1992), 122-23. Subsequent references will be indicated in parentheses in the text. 26. One critic has attempted just this. See Antonio Socci, "Com 'è vera questa storia," in II Sabato, 7.11.92. 27. See Giuseppe Turani, "Storia di un mangiatoia: ENI, un 'cane' al guinza­ glio di DC e P SI," La Repubblica, 12.3.93. 28. For the most evident moments of incongruity in Petrolio , see Aurelio Ron­ caglia, "Nota filologica," Petrolio, 572-73. 29. Franco Fortini, "Pasolini sul rogo di sè," Sole 24 Ore, 9.11.92. Fortini goes on to suggest that Pasolini had some vague inkling of the neo-Fascists' plans to place a bomb in the Bologna train station and that this may have been reason enough for the Secret Services to have him eliminated. 30. Quoted in Gian Carlo Ferretti, "Questo libro racconterà la crisi italiana," LUnità, 25.10.92. 31. Pasolini, "I sogni ideologici," N uovi argomenti 22 (April-June 1971): 20-21. 32. Ibid., 20. 33. John Shepley, "La dolce vita," The N ation, 1.3.93. 34. Nello Ajello, "Un immenso repertorio di sconcezze d'autore," La Repub­ blica, 27.10.92. 35. Roland Barthes, S/Z (Paris: Gallimard, 1970), 89. 36. Ibid., 145. 37. I am grateful to Lino Miccichè for this information, which emerged in the course of a Round Table organized by the "Associazione 'Fondo Pier Paolo Pasolini,'" the Film Center o f the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the "Istituto Italiano di Cultura in Chicago," held on 3 October 1992 in Chicago. 38. Gian Carlo Ferretti, "Signori, tuffatevi in questo Petrolio," L U nità, 3.11.92. 39. See Victor Shklovsky, Theory o f Prose, trans. Benjamin Sher (Elmwood Park, DL: Dalkey, 1990). His chapter on Sterne, "A Parodying Novel: Sterne's Tristram Shandy," is included in Laurence Sterne: A Collection o f C ritica l Essays, ed. John Traueott (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1968), 66-89. 40. Shklovsky, "A Parodying Novel: Sterne's Tristram Shandy," 87. 41. Carlo Levi, Prefazione to Tristram Shandy (Turin: Einaudi, 1958), now in I l coraggio dei m iti: S c ritti contemporanei 1922-1974, ed. Gigliola De Donato (Bari: De Donato, 1975), 270-71. 42. Stefano Agosti, "L'inconscio e la forma," La rivista dei lib r i 131:2 (February 1993): 4 -6 . 43. Ibid., 5. 44. This section is entitled "I Godoari." This is a reference that has escaped the editors. See Paola Mauri, "Aspettando Petrolio: Intervista con Graziella Chiarcossi," La Repubblica, 23.10.92. 45. Agosti, "L'inconscio e la forma," 6. 46. Ibid. 47. Ibid.

Chapter 5: Empirismo eretico 1. Paolo Volponi, "Pasolini, maestro e amico," in Perché Pasolini (Florence: Guaraldi, 1978), 26. See also Pasolini's unsent letter to Alberto Moravia in w hich

Notes to Chapter 5


Pasolini describes the language of Petrolio: "Its language is that of essay writing, for certain newspaper articles, for reviews, for private letters or even for po­ etry " (544). 2. Pasolini, Empirismo eretico (Milan: Garzanti, 1972), 19. Translated by Ben Lawton and Louise K. Barnett, ed. Louise K. Barnett as Heretical Empiricism (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988), 16-17. Subsequent references will be indicated in parentheses in the text. The first reference is to the Italian edition, the second to the English translation. 3. I have here slightly amended the Lawton/Barnett translation. 4. See also Greene, Cinema as Heresy, 93-95, for a discussion of these points in relation to Pasolini's stand on realism and his position vis-a-vis the work of Jean-Luc Godard and Lucien Goldmann. 5. Pasolini's definition of free indirect discourse is as follows: "It is, simply, the immersion of the filmmaker in the mind of his character and then the adop­ tion on the part of the filmmaker not only of the psychology of his character but also of his language" (176; 174). 6. Gilles Deleuze has studied in detail Pasolini's notion of free indirect dis­ course in his Cinéma I: Lim age-m ouvem ent (Paris: Minuit, 1983) and Cinéma 11: Lim age-tem ps (Paris: Minuit, 1985). I agree with Naomi Greene when she doubts that Deleuze's "transcendence of the 'subjective and the objective' is really what . . . Pasolini has in mind" (Cinema as Heresy, 117). 7. See Giuliana Bruno, "Heresies: The Body of Pasolini's Semiotics," Cinema Journal 30:3 (Spring 1991): 2 9 -4 2 . See also Pasolini, Empiricism: "M etz speaks of an 'impression of reality' as a characteristic of film communication. I would say that it is a question not of an 'impression of reality,' but of 'reality' itself" (201; 200). For the text to which Pasolini here replies, see Christian Metz, Langage et cinema (Paris: Albatross, 1977), 78: "What we call reality— that is to say, the different profilmic elements— is nothing other than a ensemble of codes without which this reality would be neither accessible nor intelligible to such an extent that we could say nothing about it, not even that it is reality." See also Stephen Heath, "Film/Cinetext/Text," Screen 14 (Spring/Summer 1973): 109, for a critique that may well have had Pasolini as its major target: "The first concerns the status of the image defined by Metz, as one of duplication, of pure analogy. Metz, of course, always adds the qualification that the image is not reality, that it is mediation, but, as so often in this kind of discussion, the qualification tends to be lost sight of and the impression of reality seized unreflectively without any attempt to think the process of its production. This occultation of the work of film has a whole history . . . it can only lead to the denial of cinema as a semiotic system: cinema becomes not a process of the articulation of meaning but direct duplication of some reality: it represents reality with reality." 8. See Heath, "Introduction: Questions of Emphasis," Screen 14 (Spring/ Summer 1973): 9-12. See especially p. 11: "Such a stress does not . . . involve some idea of the natural expressivity of the world (it does not rejoin Pasolini's idea of the world as the natural expression of God), on the contrary, it places semiology firmly within a Marxist perspective in emphasizing the given reality as the realization of a social praxis." See also Emilio Garroni, Semiotica ed estetica (Bari: Laterza, 1968) and Progetto d i semiotica (Bari: Laterza, 1972); Antonio Costa, "T h e Semiological Heresy of Pier Paolo Pasolini," in Pier Paolo Pasolini, ed. Paul Willemen (London: BFI, 1977), 32-42; and "Dal realismo al nominalismo," C in­ ema & Cinema 43 (May-August, 1985): 17-25; Umberto Eco, La s tru ttu ra assente (Milan: Bompiani, 1968). An early exception to the hostile reception is supplied


Notes to Chapter 5

by Teresa de Lauretis, "Re-reading Pasolini's essays on C inem a," Italian Q u a rte rly 21-22 (Fall 1980-Winter 1981): 159-66. 9. Eco, Segno (Milan: Mondadori, 1980), 97. 10. See also Eco, La s tru ttu ra assente (Milan: Bompiani, 1968), 420, where he accuses Pasolini of going against "the most elementary aims of semiology," which are "to reduce natural facts to cultural phenomena, and not (as Pasolini wants] to lead cultural facts back to natural phenom ena." 11. See Marco Vallora, "Pier Paolo Pasolini tra mannierismo e metaletteratura," in Per conoscere Pasolini, 120: "Nature is already artifice, culture, spectacle. There is nothing elementary, primary, everything refers back to a pre-existing code, art slips into life . . . reality offers itself as art. Or better: it's already art, cultivated references are natural, not imposed by the poets culture." 12. I have here slightly amended the Lawton/Barnett translation. On other occasions Pasolini has spoken of God or God-figures in more explicit terms. In the preface entitled "Perché quella di Edipo è una storia" to his screenplay Edipo Re (Milan: Garzanti, 1967), translated by John Mathews as Oedipus Rex (London: Lorimer, 1984), he writes: "reality does nothing other than speak to itself using human experience as its vehicle. God, as all religions agree, created man to speak to himself. . . . This is Brahma who looks at himself using the experience of men as his mirror." And in an interview published in the weekly magazine Gente shortly after his murder on 17 November 1975, he says: "I first defined myself as a non believer when I was 14 years old. In the past few months, and for the first time since then, I have conceived the immanentistic and scientific idea of God. How I got there is very curious. Lately, I have been very interested in linguistic research on cinema . . . and I came to the conclusion cinema de­ scribes reality perfectly when it reproduces it. And that the system of cinematic signs is, in practice, the same as the system of signs of reality. Therefore, reality speaks, but who speaks and with whom? Reality speaks with itself: it's a system of signs through which reality speaks with reality. Is this not like Spinoza? Doesn't this idea of reality resemble my idea of God?" And in the interview with Oswald Stack he says: "But who talks through a tree? God, or reality itself. Therefore a tree as a sign puts us in communication with a mysterious speaker" (153). 13. Oswald Stack, Pasolini on Pasolini: Interviews w ith Oswald Stack (Blooming­ ton and London: Indiana University Press, 1969), 168. 14. Roberto Turigliatto, "La tecnica e il m ito," Bianco e nero 37 (January-April 1976): 154. 15. I have here slightly amended the Lawton/Barnett translation. 16. David Carroll, The Subject in Question (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982), 76-77. 17. Pasolini, "La scomparsa delle lucciole," in S c ritti corsari (Milan: Garzanti, 1975), 160-61. 18. Ibid., 162. 19. Andrea Zanzotto, "Pedagogy," The Poetics o f Heresy, 41. 20. Ibid. 21. Ibid., 36. 22. Ibid., 37. 23. Gianni Vattimo, La società trasparente (Milan: Garzanti, 1989), 52. 24. Pasolini, D ialoghi, 310. Hayden White's remarks on the notion of "poetiz­ ing" contained in his "T h e Burden of History," H isto ry and Theory 5:2 (1986): 127, are very apposite here: "Contemporary critical theory permits us to believe

Notes to Chapter 5


m ore confidently than ever before that 'poetizing' is not an activity that hovers over, transcends, or otherwise remains detached from life and reality, but reprc sents a mode of praxis which serves as the immediate base of all cultural activity." 25. In the Lawton/Barnett translation "piano-sequenza" is rendered as "se­ quence shot." I prefer "long take" to indicate the length of the take. Here and elsewhere I have amended their translation. 26. Agosti, Cinque analisi, 135. 27. For an extended exposition of Pasolini's "love for reality," see Roberto Turigliatto, "La tecnica e il m ito," Bianco e nero 1/4 (1976): 113-55, especially 117-20. 28. Pasolini, Passione, 33. 29. Ibid. 30. See Hans-Georg Gadamer, T ruth and Method, trans. Sheed and Ward, ed. G. Barden and J. Cumming (New York: Crossroad, 1985), 122-23, and W. Wolf­ gang Holdheim, The Hermeneutic Mode (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1984), 226-70. 31. I have here slightly amended the Lawton/Barnett translation. 32. The entire quotation from which these extracts have been taken is as follows: "Now let us make another assumption: that among the investigators who have seen the various and regrettably hypothetical shorts, attached one to the other, there is a genial analytic mind. His geniality could therefore only consist in coordination. Intuiting the truth, from a careful analysis of the various naturalistic segments composed of the various shorts, would his cleverness be capable of reconstructing it, and how? By choosing the truly meaningful moments of the various subjective long takes and consequently finding their real ordering. In other words, it would be a montage. After this work of choice and coordination, the various visual angles would be dissolved, and the existential subjectivity would give way to objectivity . . . there would be a narrator. This narrator transforms the present into the past" (239-40; 235). 33. The closest Pasolini comes to elaborating this point is in "La paura del naturalismo" (The fear of naturalism), where the significant moments of a per­ son's life now concluded make their own presence felt spontaneously: "N o sooner has one died, in fart, than a rapid synthesis of his barely finished life takes place. Billions of actions, expressions, sounds, voices, words vanish and a few dozens or hundreds survive. An enormous number of sentences which he has said every morning, noon, evening and night of his life fall into an infinite, silent abyss. But some of the sentences survive, as if miraculously, and are recorded in the memory as epigraphs, and remain suspended in the light of a morning, in the sweet darkness of an evening; the wife or friends in remem­ bering them cry. In a film these are the sentences that remain" (249; 245). 34. Pasolini, Empirismo, 251; 248: "A small tear is enough (in 'at the bridge­ head by Benevento')." Actually Pasolini here collapses two separate references to Dante's P urgatory The reference to the bridgehead concerns Manfredi in canto 3; the reference to the small tear to Buonconte in canto 5 . 1 am grateful to Rachel Jacoff for this clarification. 35. Jacques Derrida, "Living On: Border Lines," in Deconstruction and C r iti­ cism, ed. Harold Bloom (New York: Seabury Press, 1979), 104-5. See also Prendergast's chapter "Conclusion: Mimesis: A Matter for the Police," in The Order o f M im esis: Balzac, Stendhal, N erval and Flaubert for a discussion of the pros and


Notes to Chapter 5

cons of treating narrative as a manifestation of a Fascist culture, and Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, M ille Plateaux (Paris: Minuit, 1980) for a giddying approximation as to what writing freed from the constraints of narrative form might look like. 36. Gilles Deleuze, Cinéma I : Lim age-mouvem ent (Paris: Minuit, 1983) and C in ­ éma II: Lim age-tem ps (Paris: Minuit, 1985). 37. Ibid., 43. 38. Ibid., 342. 39. Ibid. 40. John Freccerò, " B lo w -u p : From the Word to the Image," Yale/Theatre 3 (Fall 1970): 18. 41. Jean-Luc Godard, interview with Michelangelo Antonioni, trans. Eliza­ beth Kingsley-Rowe from a tape-recorded discussion at the Venice Film Festival, M ovie 12 (Spring 1965): 31-32. 42. Roland Barthes, "Caro Antonioni . . . ," Bologna In c o n tri 2 (February 1980). 43. See Pasolini, Em piricism , 257; 255: "In the world there is (!) a machine that not for nothing is said to shoot. / It is the 'Reality Eater,' or the 'Eye-Mouth/ as you like." 44. For this section of my argument I have drawn heavily on Sam Rohdie, A n to n io n i (London: British Film Institute Publishing, 1990), and by the sam e author "Pasolini's Mise-en-scene" (Unpublished paper read at the conference "Pier Paolo Pasolini: intelletuale europeo," held at the Università degli studi "Gabriele D'Annunzio," Pescara, Italy, 9-11 March 1993). 45. I have here slightly amended the Lawton/Barnett translation. 46. To the best of my knowledge, there is no published screenplay of Che cosa sono le nuvole? The quoted lines have been taken down during my viewing of the film. 47. I have drawn on Richard Rort/s "Idealism and Textualism," in Conse­ quences o f Pragmatism (Brighton, Sussex: Harvester Press, 1982), 139-59 for this section of my argument. 48. There is no published screenplay of La sequenza del fiore d i ca rta /ll fico secco. The quoted lines have been taken down during a viewing of the film. 49. See also Geoffrey Nowell-Smith, "Pasolini's Originality," in Pasolini (Lon­ don: British Film Institute, 1977), 15. 50. Some attempt at a synthesis of the two positions is offered when Pasolini speaks of Flaugherty's documentary M a n o f A ran as a film that exemplifies "an idea of editing bent to a new narrative technique of the cinema of poetry" (254; 252). But his strongest theoretical statements underline not the synthetic but the antithetical relationship between both "film " and "cinem a," and "cinema of poetry" and "cinema of prose." 51. Christopher Wagstaff, "Reality into Poetry: Pasolini's Film Theory," The Ita lia n ist 5 (1985): 124. 52. Like Stefano Agosti's "T he Word beside Itself" and Teresa de Lauretis's "Language, Representation, Practice: Re-reading Pasolini's Essays on C inem a," Giuliana Bruno's "Heresies: The Body of Pasolini's Semiotics" performs the valu­ able and welcome task of treating Pasolini as a forerunner of developments in recent theoretical work, thus rescuing him from the backwaters of reactionary thinking to which he had been relegated by earlier commentators (Costa, Eco, Garroni, Heath). While wholeheartedly supporting and appreciating the "politi­ cal" necessity of redressing an inaccurate bias that has haunted the world of

Notes to Chapter 6


Pasolini studies, the present study suggests that Pasolini's achievement is in having anticipated not only the strengths but also the limits of postmodernist thinking. Strengths and limits are also apparent in Christopher Wagstaff's "Real­ ity into Poetry: Pasolini's Film Theory." Its strengths, particularly the useful translation of Pasolini's semiotics into Peircean terms, is its "empirical" approach to Em piricism . This strength, however, is also its limit as it underestimates how the "heretical" elements in Pasolini's text problematize the entire notion of "system ."

Chapter 6: Journalism, Theater, Dialogue 1. Pasolini, 1 dialoghi, 6. Subsequent references will be indicated in parenthe­ ses in the text. 2. Ibid., 324. 3. Ibid., 458. 4. Ibid., 458. 5. Ibid., 591. 6. Ibid., 29. 7. These articles have been collected into two volumes, S c ritti corsari (Milan: Garzanti, 1975) and Lettere luterane (Turin: Einaudi, 1976), translated into English by Stuart Hood as Lutheran Letters (Manchester: Carcanet, 1983). 8. Pasolini, Lettere luterane, 11; Lutheran Letters, 15. 9. Michael Caesar, "Outside the Palace: Pasolini's Journalism (1973-1975)," The Italianist 5 (1985): 47. For Pasolini's proposal that obligatory Middle School and television be abolished see Lettere luterane, 169; Lutheran Letters, 105. For his position against abortion and proposal of gay sex as a remedy for over­ population, see S c ritti corsari, 123-31. For Pasolini on neo-Fasdsm, see S c ritti corsari, 24-30, 57-63, 82-89 and Lettere luterane, 5-12; Lutheran Letters, 11-16. 10. For Umberto Eco's response to Pasolini's proposal, see Eco, writing under the pseudonym "Dedalo," "L e ceneri di M althus," I l manifesto, 21.1.75. For Pasol­ ini's reply to Natalia Ginzburg and Eco, see S c ritti Corsari, 144-51. 11. Caesar, "Outside the Palace," 53. 12. See Beverly Allen, "T he Shadow of his Style," Poetics o f Heresy, 4: "Polemi­ cal articles appearing at irregular intervals like arrows aimed from lonely places that were always outside any single identifiable ideology, darts free to strike on more than one side of any conflict." 13. Pasolini, S c ritti corsari, 123. 14. Pasolini, Lettere luterane, 176; Lutheran Letters, 113. 15. Pasolini, Lettere luterane, 24; Lutheran Letters, 22. 16. All six of Pasolini's verse tragedies and the "Manifesto per un nuovo teatro" have been collected in a single volume, Teatro (Milan: Garzanti, 1988), 236. Subsequent references will be indicated in parentheses in the text. 17. Although Pilade appeared in N u o vi argomenti, Calderon (Milan: Garzanti, 1973) was the only verse tragedy published in book form before Pasolini's death. T he only book-length work in English dedicated to Pasolini's verse tragedies and his "M anifesto" is William Van Watson's Pier Paolo Pasolini and the Theater o f the Word (Ann Arbor, Mich.: UMI Research Press, 1989). I refer readers to this work for synopses and fuller descriptions of the verse tragedies than I here have space to give. For what I believe is the first attempt in English to treat the verse tragedies, see John Gatt-Rutter, "Pier Paolo Pasolini," in W riters and Society in


Notes to Chapter 6

Contemporary Ita ly : A Collection o f Essays, ed. Michael Caesar and Peter Harm s-

worth (Leamington Spa, Warwickshire: Berg, 1984), 143-66. See also Pia Friedrich, P ier Paolo Pasolini (Boston: TVvayne, 1982). In Italian see the alm ost unreadable Enrico Grappali, Lossessione e il fantasma: il teatro d i Pasolini e M o ravia (Venice: Marsilio, 1979); Rinaldo Rinaldi, Pier Paolo Pasolini (Milan: Mursia, 1982), 287-325, and by the same author L irriconoscibile Pasolini (Foggia: Marra, 1990), 227-40. 18. Pasolini, Teatro, (Milan: Garzanti, 1988), 34: "A n ancient gold ring, / b e­ cause our mother Doña Lupe / inherited it from her mother Doña Rosaura (the same name asyours!) / who in turn had inherited it from her mother Doña Agostino Iñiquez de Aguado; and from mother to mother / from Doña to Doña, we could go back / at least to the times of Velasquez." 19. Giuseppe Caputo, "Il sole nero: fra Pasolini e De Sade," Cinema & Cinema 43 (May-August 1985): 46. 20. Richard Rorty, Contingency, Irony, S olidarity (New York: Cambridge Univer­ sity Press, 1989), 29. 21. Ibid., 13. 22. Ibid., 21. 23. See W. H. Roscher, ed., Ausführliches Lexikon der Griechischen und Römischen M ythologie (Leipzig: Teubner, 1902-1909), 3,319: "Pylades is so closely associated with his friend Orestes that he has no individual identity of his own." 24. Interview with Marco Bellocchio, Panorama, supplement to no. 1137, Storia dei g iovani: Prim a, durante e dopo i l 68, 31.1.88. 25. See LEspresso, 23.6.66. Republished in Em piricism , 151. 26. Renzo de Felice, Interpretations of Fascism, trans. Brenda Huff Everett (Cam­ bridge: Harvard University Press, 1977). 27. Pasolini, "La poesia della tradizione," in Transumanar e organizzar (Milan: Garzanti, 1971), 120-121. 28. Pasolini, "Controcampo," broadcast 20.10.73 and reprinted in II Sabato, 13-19 February 1988. 29. Idem. 30. Duflot, Impie, 69. 31. See "Intervista con Vittorio Foa and Claudio Petruccioli," LEspresso, 23.6.68, See also articles in La Nazione, 12.6.68; II Tempo, 12.6.68; M ondo nuovo, 23.6.68, especially "La rana populista" by Leopoldo Meneghelli; and U Avanti!, 4.7.68, especially "Sem pre più in fretta" by Walter Pedullà. 32. Michel Foucault, The H is to ry o f Sexuality, vol. 1, trans. Robert Hurley (New York: Random House, 1980), 93. Originally published as H istoire de la sexualité (Paris: Gallimard, 1976). 33. Jonathan Culler, "Political Criticism ," in W ritin g the Future, ed. David Wood (London: Routledge, 1990), 192-204, on which this section of my argu­ ment has drawn. 34. Foucault, H is to ry o f Sexuality, vol. 1, 9 5 -% . 35. Pasolini, "I sogni ideologici," 22. 36. The exception is Affabulation, which has toured extensively in a production by and with Vittorio Gassman. However, as Watson points out, the performed text differed considerably from Pasolini's original. See Watson, Pier Paolo Pasolini and the Theatre o f the Word, 59-70. 37. Duflot, Impie, 68. 38. For a comprehensive account in English of the Italian neo-avant garde of

Notes to Appendix


the early 1960s, see Christopher Wagstaff, "T he Neo-avantgarde," in Writers and Society in Contemporary Ita ly ; 35-62. 39. O f relevance here is Pasolini's distinction between "official tradition" and an "antitraditional tradition.'’ Writing in 1943 in II setaccio, he remarks: "Tradition . . . one must at this point in time understand the term in an antitraditional sense, Le., as a continual and infinite transformation, or in other words, as an antitradition moving in a line similar to historicity for history." This passage is quoted in Jewell, Poesis, 65, and in Santato, Pier Paolo Pasolini: Lopera, 29-30. 40. Antonio Prete, "Pasolini, 1968," in Pier Paolo Pasolini: Séminaire dirigé par M a ria A ntonietta Macciocchi (Bernard Grasset: Paris, 1980), 283. 41. Duflot, Impie, 161-62. 42. See John Gatt-Rutter, "Pier Paolo Pasolini," in W riters and Society in Con­ tem porary Ita ly : A Collection of Essays, ed. Michael Caesar and Peter Harmsworth (Leamington Spa, Warwickshire: Berg, 1984), 143-66 for his comments on the alienating effects advanced neocapitalism has had on everyday life. In particular, see his distinction between bourgeois "individual" and "unassimilated person": "T h e 'individual' is seen as an interchangeable part in the machinery of produc­ tion and in the manipulations of Power . . . whereas the unassimilated 'person' . . . resists the pressures of a dehumanizing 'Reason.' His 1966 works are tragic in showing that, once the bourgeois transformation has taken place, the fleshly 'person' buried in each 'individual' can emerge only at the cost of annihila­ tion" (162). 43. Pasolini, Passione, 330. 44. For Pasolini's debt to Croce, see Baranski, "Pier Paolo Pasolini: Culture, Croce, G ram sti." See Lettere luterane, 183-95; Lutheran Letters, 119-26 for the text of Pasolini's posthumously delivered address to the Italian P artito radicale. 45. Edward Said, "Representing the Colonized: Anthropology's Interlocu­ tors," C ritic a l In q u iry 15 (Winter 1989): 210. 46. Rinaldi, Pasolini, 370. 47. For a discussion of the epistemological role of the essay, see W. Wolfgang Holdheim, "Introduction: The Essay as Knowledge in Progress," in The Herme­ neutical M ode (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1984), 19-32.

Appendix 1. Old and modern theaters with velvet seats. Theater companies, reperto­ ries like the Piccolo Teatro, etc. 2. Cellars, old disused theaters, the repertory companies' second strings, etc. 3. With all the candor of a novice. 4. From Chekov to Ionesco up to the horrible Albee. 5. The amazing Living Theater. 6. From Artaud to the Living Theater, above all, as well as Grotowsky, such a theater has often been of a very high standard. 7. It may even happen that those same progressive cultural groups will from time to time be scandalized and above all feel let down. Especially when the texts are open-ended. When, that is, they raise problems without ever claiming to offer answers. 8. The text, in other words, dresses down while the unaware actor dresses


Notes to Appendix

up (it is because of this that in Italy the theater is even unpopular am ong the bourgeoisie, who do not recognize in the text their own dialectal idiom). 9. In fact, theater is only tolerable in Italy when the actors speak either dialect (regional theatre, especially in the Veneto or in the Naples area, w ith the great De Filippo) or dialectal idioms (cabaret). Unfortunately, however, on the whole, where there is dialect or dialectal idioms there is also almostalways vulgarity and a "w hat do I care?" attitude [qualunquismo). 10. Apart from one or two exceptions, Dario Fo, for example, no Italian w ork­ ing in the theater has ever raised this question, and has always accepted the identification between the conventional orality of Italian and the convention of theatrical diction which is taught by even the most shabby, ignorant and exalted maestros of the academy. Take the extraordinary case of Carmelo Bene, w hose theater of the Gesture or the Scream is completed by the theatricalw ord he desecrates and which, not to mince words, shits on itself. 11. But also the critic. 12. At least official culture, which comes from the privilege of being ab le to go tp school 13. Dionysus. . . . 14. Here once again looms the figure of Hitler, who has already been m en­ tioned in other articles of this manifesto. 15. Anti-bourgeois theater could not exist: a) without the bourgeois theater to protest against and to massacre (this is its main purpose); b) without a bour­ geois public to scandalize, even indirectly. 16. This is what all serious actors do, with genuine commitment: the critical results, however have been disappointing. In fact, they have been obscured by the tautological idea of theater which implies materials and styles historically different from those of the text in question (if we are dealing with texts w hich pre-date Chekov or post-date Ionesco).

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Freccerò, John. " B lo w -u p : From the Word to the Im ag e" Yale/Theatre 3 (Fall 1970): 15-24. ----------. "T he Laurel and the Fig Tree." D iacritics 5 (Spring, 1975): 34-40. Friedrich, Pia. Pier Paolo Pasolini. Boston: Twayne, 1982. Gadamer, Hans-Georg. T ruth and Method. Translated by Sheed and Ward. Edited by G. Barden and J. Cumming. New York: Crossroad, 1985. Garroni, Emilio. Semiotica ed estetica. Bari: Laterza, 1968. ----------. Progetto d i semiotica. Bari: Laterza, 1972. Gatt-Rutter, John. "Pier Paolo Pasolini." W riters and Society in Contemporary Italy: A Collection o f Essays. Edited by Michael Caesar and Peter Harmsworth, 143-66. Leamington Spa, Warwickshire: Berg, 1984. Gervais, Marc. Pier Paolo Pasolini. Paris: Editions Seghers, 1973. Godard, Jean-Luc. Interview with Michelangelo Antonioni. Translated by Eliza­ beth Rowe from a tape-recorded discussion at the Venice Film Festival Movie 12 (Spring 1965): 31-32. Golino, Enzo. Pasolini: il sogno d i una cosa. Bologna: Il Mulino, 1985. Greene, Naomi. Pier Paolo Pasolini: Cinema as Heresy. Princeton: Princeton Univer­ sity Press, 1990. Gruppali, Enrico. Lossessione e i l fantasma: i l teatro d i Pasolini e M oravia. Venice: Marsilio, 1979. Guattari, Félix, and Gilles Deleuze. M ille Plateaux. Paris: Minuit, 1990. Haller, Hermann, trans. The Hidden Ita ly: A B ilingual Edition o f Italian Dialect Poetry. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1986. Harrison, Robert Pogue. The Body o f Beatrice. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univer­ sity Press, 1988. Heath, Stephen. "Introduction: Questions of Emphasis." Screen 14 (SpringSummer 1973): 9-12. ----------. "Film/Cinetext/Text." Screen 14 (Spring-Sum m er 1973): 102-28. Hillis Miller, J. "Narrative." In C ritic a l Terms fo r L ite ra ry Study. Edited by Frank Lentricchia and Thomas McLaughlin, 66-79. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991. Holdheim, W. Wolfgang. "Introduction: The Essay as Knowledge in Progress." In The Hermeneutical Mode, 19-32. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1984. Jew ell Keala. The Poesis o f H is to ry : Experim enting w ith Genre in Postwar Italy. Ith­ aca: Cornell University Press, 1992. Lawton, Ben. "T he Evolving Rejection of Homosexuality, Subproletariat, and the Third World in Pasolini's Films." Italian Q uarterly 21-22 (Fall 1980-Winter 1981): 167-73. ----------. "Pier Paolo Pasolini's Revolutionary Sadomasochism: The Postmodern World through the Eyes of a Poet." Paper read at the symposium "Pier Paolo Pasolini: T he Eyes of a Poet," held at the Film Center, Chicago, 3 October 1992. Levi, Carlo. "Prefazione" to Tristram Shandy. Turin: Einaudi, 1958. Also in II coraggio dei m iti: S c ritti contemporanei 1922-1974. Edited by Gigliola De Donato, 270-71. Bari: De Donato, 1975. Mauri, Paula. "Aspettando Petrolio: Intervista con Graziella ChiarcossL" La Re­ pubblica, 23.10.92. Metz, Christian. Langage et cinema. Paris: Albatross, 1977.



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Index abortion: debate on in Pasolini's writ­ ings, 153-55 Agosti, Stefano, 16,113-14, 129, 194n. 12, 202 n. 52 Ajello, Nello, 103 Allen, Beverly, 20, 192 n. 13, 193 n. 25, 203 n. 12 Althusser, Louis, 169 Antonioni, Michelangelo: Blow-Up, 13 9 ,140-42; The Red Desert ( Il deserto rosso), 118, 139, 142-43 Arbasino, Alberto, 28 A sor Rosa, Alberto, 13, 75-76 Augustine, Saint, 45 Baranski, Zygmunt, 20, 193 n. 20, 195 n. 4, 196 n. 24, 205 n. 44 Bàrberi Squarotti, Giorgio, 74 Barnett, Louise K., 192n. 16, 199n. 2 Barthes, Roland, 106, 139-40, 143 Bellocchio, Marco, 166 Belsey, Catherine, 61 Bertolucci, Bernardo, 117 Betti, Laura, 19 Bloom, Harold, 157, 201 n. 35 Braibanti, Aldo: Pasolini's response to case of, 30 Bruno, Giuliana, 20, 120, 148,193 n. 25 Caesar, Michael, 153, 203 n. 17, 205 n. 42 Capouya, Emile, 195 nn. 14 and 16 Caputo, Giuseppe, 157-58 Carotenuto, Aldo, 193 n. 18 Carroll, David, 124, 196n. 18 Casi, Stefano, 194 n. 8 Chiarcossi, Graziella, 90 Chomsky, Noam, 21 Costa, Antonio, 20, 199 n. 8 Croce, Benedetto: Pasolini's intellec­ tual debt to, 176 Culler, Jonathan, 67, 73, 169, 196n. 25

Dall'Ora, Alberto, 30 D'Angeli, Concetta, 194 n. 3 Dante Alighieri: Vita nuova, 27-28 Davoli, Ninetto, 119, 144-45, 146, 197n. 10 death: role of in Pasolini's film theory, 19, 138, 144-47 De Donato, Gigliola, 198 n. 41 De Felice, Renzo, 167 De Lauretis, Teresa, 21, 193 n. 26, 199 n. 8, 202 n. 52 Deleuze, Gilles, 136-37, 144, 193n. 21, 199 n. 6 Derrida, Jacques, 136, 162 dialect: function of in Pasolini's writ­ ings, 13, 15, 61-64, 115 dialogue: function of in Pasolini's thought, 149-53, 170-78 Duflot, Jean, 62, 168, 171, 174 Eco, Umberto, 20, 7 6 ,1 2 0 -2 2 ,1 2 5 ,1 3 7 , 153, 163 embourgeoisement: as condition of contemporary life, 116, 151-52 Falaschi, Giovanni, 194 n. 31 Ferretti, Gian Carlo, 13, 14, 16, 75-76, 108, 197n. 17, 198n. 30 Ferrucci, Franco, 196 n. 6 film theory: as elaborated in Pasolini's writings, 120-48 Foa, Vittorio, 204 n. 31 Forcella, Enzo, 30 Fortini, Franco, 96 Foscolo, Ugo, 44 Foucault, Michel, 169-70 Francese, Joseph, 193 n. 20 Freccerò, John, 141, 194 n. 13 Friedrich, Pia, 204 n. 17 Gadamer, Hans-Georg, 201 n. 30 Garrison, Jim, 132




Garroni, Emilio, 20, 199 n. 8 Gatt-Rutter, John, 203n. 17, 205 n. 42 Gervais, Marc, 59 Ginzburg, Natalia, 153 Godard, Jean-Luc, 117, 202 n. 41 Golino, Enzo, 26, 194 n. 1, 197 n. 21 Greene, Naomi, 20, 193 nn. 20 and 25, 199 nn. 4 and 6 Grappali, Enrico, 170, 204 n. 17 Guattari, Félix, 136 Haller, Hermann, 192 n. 1 Harmsworth, Peter, 203 n. 17, 205 n. 42 Harrison, Robert Pogue, 194 n. 5 Heath, Stephen, 20, 120, 199 n. 7 Holdheim, Wolfgang W., 201 n. 30, 205 n. 47 homosexuality: political role of in Pa­ solini's writings, 28-31 Hood, Stuart, 195 nn. 15 and 7, 203 n. 7 Italian communist party: Pasolini's involvement in, 26, 77-78, 97-98, 102, 126 Italian language: in Pasolini's writings, 115-20, 163 Jacoff, Rachel, 201 n. 34 Jewell, Keala, 23, 193n. 20, 196n. 24, 205n. 39 Kennedy, John F.: assassination of in Pasolini's film theory, 132, 134 Lawton, Ben, 192 n. 16, 193 n. 27, 199 n. 2 Levi, Carlo, 109 Lumley, Robert, 193 n. 23, 195 n. 4 MacAfee, Norman, 192 n. 15, 195 n. 17 Manzoni, Alessandro: The Betrothed (I promessi sposi), 47-48 Marks, Elaine, 194 n. 8 Martinengo, Luciano, 192 n. 15, 195 n. 17 Martoglio, Nino, 130 Marxism: Pasolini's relationship to, 14, 54-58, 174-76 Mathews, John, 200 n. 12 Mauri, Paola, 198 n. 44 May 1968: events of and Pasolini's re­ sponse to, 155, 166-69, 172, 173

Meddemmen, John, 192 nn. 13 and 14 Meneghelli, Leopoldo, 204 n. 31 Metz, Christian, 120, 199 n. 7 Micdché, Lino, 21-23, 193 n. 29, 198 n. 37 Migliori, Katia, 195 n. 2 Miller, J. Hillis, 194 n. 11 Moravia, Alberto, 19, 107, 198 n. 1 Naldini, Nico, 28, 99 Narcissus: in Pasolini's writings, 13, 27 narrative technique, 23-24, 36-3 7 , 59-61, 66-68, 72-74, 106-14, 13139; epistemological function of, 3 6 37; performative function of, 3 6 -3 7 neofasdsm: in Pasolini's writings, 9 8 100, 125 neorealism: Pasolini's relationship to, 22-23, 52-54 Nietzsche, Friedrich, 69 Nowell-Smith, Geoffrey, 202 n. 49 Panicali, Anna, 193 n. 18 Pannella, Marco, 88 Pasolini, Pier Paolo: Affabulazione, 155, 156, 158, 163-65; Amado mio, 26 -4 7 , 101, 104, 108; Arabian N ights, 21; A t t i im p u ri , 26-47, 101, 104; Bestia da stile, 156, 162, 172; Calderon , 156-57, 162, 167; The Canterbury Tales, 21; Le ceneri d i Gramsci, 14, 16-18, 24, 50-51, 108, 161; Che cosa sono le n u ­ vole?, 2 2 ,1 4 4 -4 5 ,1 4 7 ; Decameron, 21; D ia rii, 15; The Dream o f a T hing (Il sogno d i una cosa), 47-51; I l fico secco, 146; Heretical Empiricism (Em pirism o eretico), 114, 115-48, 155, 171; L u ­ theran Letters (Lettere luterane), 58, 71, 152-55; Mamma Roma, 22; "M ani­ festo for a New Theater" (Manifesto per un nuovo teatro), 155, 170-78; La meglio gioventù, 62; La nuova gioventù, 192 n. 1; Orgia, 156, 157-59; Passione e ideologia, 52-58, 130-31, 171, 172, 175; "Il PCI ai giovani!", 166; Petrolio, 20, 88-114; Pilade, 158-62, 165-66; Poesie a Casarsa, 13, 15, 192 n. 1; Por­ cile, 156, 162; The Ragazzi (Ragazzi d i vita), 38, 58-74, 84 -8 5 , 133; La r i ­ cotta, 22; Salò, 21, 170; "La scomp­ arsa delle lucdole," 125-26; S critti corsari, 71; La sequenza del fiore di

Index carta, 22, 145-46, 147, 163; "I sogni ideologici/' 100,170; Teorema, 29-30, 101; Trasumanar e organizzar, 168; Turcs tal F riu l, 15; Hawks and Spar­ rows (Uccellacci e uccellini), 79; Lusignolo della chiesa cattolica, 13; Vie nuove, 149, 151; A Violent Life (U na vita vio­ lenta), 22, 75-88, 123, 133-34

Petrarca, Francesco, 45-47 Pedullà, Walter, 204 n. 31 Petruccioli, Claudio, 204 n. 31 posthermetidsm: Pasolini's relationhip to, 52-54 power: forms of in Pasolini's thought, 168-69, 174-75 Prendergast, Christopher, 60, 201 n. 35 Prete, Antonio, 173 Re, Luisella, 198 n. 22 realism: theory of in Pasolini's writ­ ings, 130-31 Reich, Wilhelm, 99 resistance: role of in Pasolini's writ­ ings, 151 Ricoeur, Paul, 69 Rinaldi, Rinaldo, 14-16, 27, 58, 170, 178, 195 n. 9, 196 n. 21, 204 n. 17 Rohdie, Sam, 202 n. 44 Rome: in Pasolini's novels, 70-71 Roncaglia, Aurelio, 198 n. 28 Rorty, Richard, 157-58, 177-78, 202 n. 47 Roscher, W. H., 204 n. 23 Roversi, Roberto, 52 Rumble, Patrick, 193 n. 20 Said, Edward, 21, 177-78 Santato, Guido, 193 n. 18, 205 n. 39 Saussure, Ferdinand de, 118-19 Scalia, Gianni, 52 Schwartz, Barth David, 193 n. 19, 198n. 24 Sehrawy, Moira, 197 n. 19 Sestini, S., 193n. 18 sex: function of in Pasolini's novels, 32-66, 101-5


Shepley, John, 102 Sher, Benjamin, 198 n. 39 Shklovsky, Victor, 108 silence: breaking of in Pasolini's verse tragedies, 162, 177 Sillampoa, Wallace P., 197n. 8 Simon, Claude, 123-24 Snyder, Stephen, 197 nn. 10 and 20 Socci, Antonio, 198 n. 26 Stack, Oswald, 200 n. 12 Sterne, Laurence, 108 Stone, Oliver, 132 Storzer, Gerald H., 30 Stambolian, George, 194 n. 8 Testa, Bart, 193 n. 20 Todorov, Tzvetan, 196 n. 25 Totò, 144-45, 147, 197n. 10 trasformismo: as Italian political phe­ nomenon, 98 Traugott, John, 198 n. 39 Turani, Giuseppe, 198 n. 27 Turigliatto, Roberto, 122, 201 n. 27 Valesio, Paolo, 193 n. 28 Vallora, Marco, 200 n. 11 Vattimo, Gianni, 126 Viano, Maurizio, 193 n. 20, 195 n. 1 virginity: role of in Pasolini's novels, 32-36 Vitti, Antonio, 193 n. 20 Volponi, Paolo, 115 Wagstaff, Christopher, 20, 148, 204 a 38 Warhol, Andy, 129, 145 Warren Commission, report of, 132 Watson, William Van, 170, 171, 193n 20, 203 n. 17 Weaver, William, 196n. 26, 197n. 7 White, Hayden, 196 n. 23, 200 n. 24 Willemen, Paul, 20 Young, Robert, 197 n. 11 Zanzotto, Andrea, 126