Pasolini's Lasting Impressions: Death, Eros, and Literary Enterprise in the Opus of Pier Paolo Pasolini 1683930193, 9781683930198

Noted as a 'civil poet' by Alberto Moravia, Pier Paolo Pasolini was a creative and philosophical genius whose

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Table of contents :
Part I: Pier Paolo Pasolini and Verse
1 Pasolini’s Poetry
2 Jesus Narcissus
3 Poetic Gazing
Part II: Pasolini and the Stage
4 Pasolini’s Orestiade, the Irrational and Greek Tragedy
5 Dreams as Gendered Places
Part III: Pasolini through the Lens
6 Il “Cinema di poesia” in Theory and Practice
7 Violence in Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Cinema
8 The Bibliography of Salò
9 Oedipus and Medea According to Pasolini
10 Pasolini’s Decameron (1971)
11 Pictorial Allusion as a Distancing Technique from the Chaucerian Hypotext in The Canterbury Tales
Part IV: Pasolini and Italian Culture—Final Thoughts
12 Pasolini as Prophet
13 Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Influence on Contemporary Italian Culture
Part V: Interviews
14 Interview with omino 71
15 Pasolini’s Last Interview
About the Contributors
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Pasolini’s Lasting Impressions

The Fairleigh Dickinson University Press Series in Italian Studies General Editor: Dr. Anthony Julian Tamburri, Dean of the John D. Calandra Italian American Institute The Fairleigh Dickinson University Press Series in Italian Studies is devoted to the publication of scholarly works on Italian literature, film, history, biography, art, and culture, as well as on intercultural connections, such as Italian-American Studies. On the Web at

Recent Publications in Italian Studies Ryan Calabretta-Sajder (ed.), Pasolini’s Lasting Impressions: Death, Eros, and Literary Enterprise in the Opus of Pier Paolo Pasolini (2018) Robert Pirro, Motherhood, Fatherland, and Primo Levi: The Hidden Groundwork of Agency in His Auschwitz Writings (2017) Theodora D. Patrona, Return Narratives: Ethnic Space in Late-Twentieth-Century Greek American and Italian American Literature (2017) Ursula Fanning, Italian Women’s Autobiographical Writings in the Twentieth Century: Constructing Subjects (2017) Gabriella Romani and Jennifer Burns (eds.), The Formation of a National Audience in Italy, 1750–1890: Readers and Spectators of Italian Culture (2017) Lisa Sarti and Michael Subialka (eds.), Pirandello’s Visual Philosophy: Imagination and Thought across Media (2017) Elena Borelli, Giovanni Pascoli, Gabriele D’Annunzio, and the Ethics of Desire: Between Action and Contemplation (2017) Gregory M. Pell, Davide Rondoni: Art in the Movement of Creation (2016) Sharon Wood and Erica Moretti (eds.), Annie Chartres Vivanti: Transnational Politics, Identity, and Culture (2016) Flavio G. Conti and Alan R. Perry, Italian Prisoners of War in Pennsylvania: Allies on the Home Front, 1944–1945 (2016) Graziella Parati (ed.), Italy and the Cultural Politics of World War I (2016) Susan Amatangelo (ed.), Italian Women at War: Sisters in Arms from the Unification to the Twentieth Century (2016) Alberica Bazzoni, Emma Bond, and Katrin Wehling-Giorgi (eds.), Goliarda Sapienza in Context: Intertextual Relationships with Italian and European Culture (2016) Tommasina Gabriele, Dacia Maraini’s Narratives of Survival: (Re)Constructed (2015) Tullio Pagano, The Making and Unmaking of Mediterranean Landscape in Italian Literature: The Case of Liguria (2015) Ernest Ialongo, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti: The Artist and His Politics (2015) Francesco Pascuzzi and Bryan Cracchiolo (eds.), Dreamscapes in Italian Cinema (2015) Anthony Julian Tamburri (ed.), Re-reading Italian Americana: Specificities and Generalities on Literature and Criticism (2013) Graziella Parati (ed.), New Perspectives in Italian Cultural Studies—Volume 2: The Arts and History (2012)

Pasolini’s Lasting Impressions Death, Eros, and Literary Enterprise in the Opus of Pier Paolo Pasolini Edited by Ryan Calabretta-Sajder


Published by Fairleigh Dickinson University Press Copublished by The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, Inc. 4501 Forbes Boulevard, Suite 200, Lanham, Maryland 20706 Unit A, Whitacre Mews, 26-34 Stannary Street, London SE11 4AB Copyright © 2018 Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote passages in a review. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Information Available Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Calabretta-Sajder, Ryan, editor. Title: Pasolini’s lasting impressions : death, eros, and literary enterprise in the opus of Pier Paolo Pasolini / edited by Ryan Calabretta-Sajder. Description: Madison ; Teaneck : Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2017. | Series: The Fairleigh Dickinson University Press series in Italian studies Identifiers: LCCN 2017045227 (print) | LCCN 2017047666 (ebook) | ISBN 9781683930198 (electronic) | ISBN 9781683930181 (cloth : alk. paper) Subjects: LCSH: Pasolini, Pier Paolo, 1922-1975--Criticism and interpretation. Classification: LCC PQ4835.A48 (ebook) | LCC PQ4835.A48 Z8375 2017 (print) | DDC 858/ .91409--dc23 LC record available at TM The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of American National Standard for Information Sciences Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI/NISO Z39.48-1992.

Printed in the United States of America

I would like to dedicate this collection to William Van Watson (1959–2014), who was one of the groundbreaking Pasolini scholars in North America. At Pier Paolo Pasolini’s funeral, Alberto Moravia stated the following: Poi abbiamo perduto anche il simile. Cosa intendo per simile: intendo che lui ha fatto delle cose, si è allineato nella nostra cultura, accanto ai nostri maggiori scrittori, ai nostri maggiori registi. In questo era simile, cioè era un elemento prezioso di qualsiasi società. (Alberto Moravia, “Orazione di Moravia ai funerali di Pasolini,” Corriere della sera, November 5, 1975) Then we lost our counterpart. What do I intend for counterpart: I mean that he did things, he aligned himself with our culture, alongside our most noted writers, our greatest directors. In this he was our counterpart, therefore he was a precious element of any society. Recalling Pasolini’s nature as a poeta civile, this citation underscores the great loss to Italian society. As a Pasolini scholar who also had various other interests, Van Watson’s contribution to the field of Italianistica was grand, and his imprint, like Pasolini’s, will be everlasting. Van Watson held a PhD in theater, with secondary areas in both film studies and Italian from the University of Texas, Austin. He devoted the early part of his scholarly career to Pasolini, in particular to his theatrical opus. He spent the larger portion of his career examining cinema—mostly Italian, but his research even extended beyond the Mediterranean. As a true thespian in every aspect of his life, Van Watson inspired nearly three generations of students across various disciplines. Moreover, he introduced and utilized new theoretical approaches to Italian studies, including a variety of gender theories. Although Van Watson is no longer with us, he and his works will never be forgotten.




Introduction: Pasolini Studies—Forty Years in the Making Ryan Calabretta-Sajder


Part I: Pier Paolo Pasolini and Verse 1 Pasolini’s Poetry: The Language of the Mother Daniela Bini 2 Jesus Narcissus: Pasolini’s Self-Representation as Scapegoat and Martyr in His Friulan Verse William Van Watson 3 Poetic Gazing: The “Word-Eye” in the Poetry of Pier Paolo Pasolini Flaviano Pisanelli

11 13

37 47

Part II: Pasolini and the Stage 4 Pasolini’s Orestiade, the Irrational and Greek Tragedy Francesca D’Alessandro Behr 5 Dreams as Gendered Places: Feminist (Re)Awakenings in Pasolini’s Calderón Ryan Calabretta-Sajder

61 63

Part III: Pasolini through the Lens 6 Il “Cinema di poesia” in Theory and Practice: The Case of Edipo Re Millicent Marcus







7 Violence in Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Cinema Francesco Rosetti 8 The Bibliography of Salò: Eros, Sadism, and Avant-Garde in Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Last Work Fabio Benincasa 9 Oedipus and Medea According to Pasolini Giulia Tellini 10 Pasolini’s Decameron (1971): A Case of Cinematic Re-Creation Fulvio Orsitto 11 Pictorial Allusion as a Distancing Technique from the Chaucerian Hypotext in The Canterbury Tales Ilaria Lanzarini Part IV: Pasolini and Italian Culture—Final Thoughts 12 Pasolini as Prophet: From I Know to the Prophecy of Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom Daniela Privitera 13 Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Influence on Contemporary Italian Culture Virginia Agostinelli


131 149 163


191 193 199

Part V: Interviews 14 Interview with omino 71 Fabio Benincasa 15 Pasolini’s Last Interview: Death, Eros, and Literary Enterprise in the Opus of Pier Paolo Pasolini—A Conversation with Dacia Maraini Ryan Calabretta-Sajder

213 215





About the Contributors




The publication of this collection never would have been possible without the assistance and support of several people. First and foremost, I would like to thank all of my collaborators. They are the fabric of the volume presented here. This experience has been a partnership, through which I have enriched my knowledge of Pier Paolo Pasolini and Italian culture, history, and politics. This collection provides a plethora of thought-provoking discussions founded on Pasolini studies and will initiate new theoretical directions in the field, attesting that even forty years after Pasolini’s assassination, his opus continues to influence contemporary Italian culture. I would also like to extend my appreciation to the University of Arkansas Department of World Languages, Literatures, and Cultures for its support. In particular, I thank Louise Rozier for her support and guidance, and Daniel Levine, who spent many hours serving as a reviewer, providing very detailed feedback, and returning comments to me promptly. Sandra Waters in the Italian program also reviewed a variety of articles for the collection and offered noteworthy comments for consideration. Moreover, Sandra has been supportive of the project from the beginning and always offered a helping hand, even before being asked. I would be remiss if I did not thank some of the scholars who first introduced me to Pasolini’s works: Peter Bondanella, Rebecca West, and Luigi Fontanella. Each of them taught diverse aspects and texts from Pasolini’s works, and I will always be indebted to them for their passion; they opened my eyes to the breadth and beauty of Pasolini’s opus. Along with my professors, I must thank a variety of colleagues with whom I have spent hours discussing Pasolini: Colleen Ryan, Ben Lawton, William Van Watson, Armando Maggi, Antonio Vitti, and too many more to mention. I appreciate their patience, compassion, and dedication to both Pasolini and to my underix



standing and appreciation of him. To my dear friend Sandra Celli Harris, our time together in Houston always pushed me to think and examine deeper, and our shared conversations on many aspects of Italian culture, Pasolini being just one, inspire me to be the best researcher and teacher I can be. Lastly, I would like to thank Fabio Benincasa, who has been a cornerstone of this project and my work in general. When I was in Rome during the summer of 2014, Fabio made sure to show me every aspect of “Pasolini’s city.” While eating at Necci dal 1924, Fabio first introduced me to omino 71’s work, and thanks to him this collection contains an interview with the artist along with his artwork. Fabio also worked assiduously at translating a variety of the chapters included within the collection. I am extremely lucky to have a group of friends who enjoy reading my work before it ever becomes public. In fact, they have been my most severe and helpful critics. Paul Lipowski is always ready to lend an ear or read a draft. Mercedes Rooney has become my sounding board for every new project and helps me fine-tune my writing. Donnamarie Kelly polishes my work and prepares it for press. I would like to thank Harry Keyishian from Fairleigh Dickinson University Press for being supportive of this project from the very beginning and seeing it through until the end. Lastly, I must thank Anthony Julian Tamburri, who has been my Virgil since our first encounter during the summer of 2003 at a little caffé in Florence, Italy. Anthony has always been my principal supporter and my greatest champion. When I discussed this collection, he was the one who suggested Fairleigh Dickinson University Press for publication. He has made me not only a better scholar but also a better person, and for this I will always be thankful.



THANK YOU The editor of Pasolini’s Lasting Impressions: Death, Eros, and Literary Enterprise in the Opus of Pier Paolo Pasolini would like to extend his gratitude to Graziella Chiarcossi, along with the editorial group Mauri Spagnol and Garzanti for granting the right to reproduce various citations of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s works in the original Italian and in the English translation. Special appreciation goes to Viviana Vuscovich from Gruppo editoriale Mauri Spagnol for her assistance. Additionally, the editor thanks Guido Santato and the academic journal Studi pasoliniani for allowing the republication of the English translation of Ilaria Lanzarini’s “La citazione pittorica come tecnica di distanziamento dall’ipotesto chauceriano nei Racconti di Canterbuty” (Volume 8, 2017. 111–126). Pasolini, Tutte le poesie I (Poesie I) © Editore s.p.a., 1970, 1975 © 1999, 2001, Garzanti S.r.l., Milano Gruppo editoriale Mauri Spagnol Pasolini, La nuova gioventù. Poesie friulane 1941–1974 © 2016, Garzanti S.r.l., Milano Gruppo editoriale Mauri Spagnol Pasolini, Trasumanar e organizzar © Garzanti Editore s.p.a., 1971, 1976 © 1999, 2002, Garzanti Libri s.p.a., Milano Pasolini, Calderón © Garzanti Editore s.p.a., 1973, 1977, 1979, 1988, 1995 © 1999, 2010, Garzanti S.r.l., Milano Gruppo editoriale Mauri Spagnol

Introduction Pasolini Studies—Forty Years in the Making Ryan Calabretta-Sajder

In 2015, Pasolini scholars commemorated the fortieth anniversary of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s mysterious assassination (November 2, 1975). For over forty years, literary, cultural, and cinematographic critics have analyzed, discussed, and debated Pasolini’s opus from various critical lens, underscoring numerous themes that have become associated with his name. From Marxism and socialism to Catholicism, the sacred, his personal homosexuality, and of course capitalism, contradiction in Pasolini’s oeuvre has allowed a rich and intense critical analysis, granting a liberal approach to his works. 1 Pasolini’s Lasting Impressions: Death, Eros, and Literary Enterprise in the Opus of Pier Paolo Pasolini aims to expand the discourse revolving around his works, approaching texts and films from a fresh perspective and highlighting their significance in the twenty-first century. Attention to Pasolini and his opus began during his own lifetime, though only selectively in the early years. Numerous literary figures drew awareness to Pasolini’s genius, including Giorgio Caproni, Eugenio Montale, Franco Fortini, Anna Banti, Cesare Garboli, Alberto Moravia, and in the academic world, Alberto Asor Rosa (1957). 2 Gianfranco Contini, one of the most significant of the early critics, launched Pasolini’s literary career with his “Al limite della poesia dialettale” in Corriere del Ticino (April 24, 1943; on his poetry from Casarsa). 3 One of the foremost manuscripts dedicated to Pasolini, Severio Del Giudice’s Pier Paolo Pasolini: Saggio Critico examines Pasolini first as a critic, then as a poet, and last as a novelist. 4 The year 1982 marks a critical year for Pasolini studies in North America: Beverly Allen edited her volume of the Stanford Italian Review titled Pier Paolo Pasolini: The Poetics of Heresy, 5 and Pia Friedrich authored her Pier Paolo Pasolini. 6 1


Ryan Calabretta-Sajder

From that year, Pasolini studies began to flourish in North America, following the variety of articles that had already been published in Italy and elsewhere in Europe. Since then, three edited volumes have been published in North America on Pasolini; Pasolini’s Lasting Impressions will be the fourth. Meanwhile, there are roughly twenty-three manuscripts either completely or partially focused on Pasolini or on his opus printed in North America. In 2015 alone, four scholars authored various manuscripts on Pasolini, offering new insight on the author’s works. This book was intended to mark the fortieth anniversary of Pasolini’s death, a death that is still shrouded in mystery. Pasolini studies have experienced numerous changes over the intervening years, beginning with philological approaches to Pasolini’s texts and moving toward more cultural studies interpretations. Within the past ten years alone, twenty-five book-length manuscripts in three languages have appeared, according to the MLA International Bibliography. 7 This number, however, does not represent the most recently published pieces on Pasolini. A simple Internet search will reveal several books already printed or scheduled for publication in 2016, in addition to five books published in English in 2014. 8 Two of the most recent themes examined by junior faculty within the field revolve around Pasolini’s youth and his ever-present perception of the sacred. 9 In Italy, roughly 168 books were published on Pasolini from 2005 to 2015, 10 and there are a variety of recent English translations of Pasolini’s works, along with extensive bilingual anthologies. 11 Moreover, an entire journal dedicated to Pasolini studies, Studi Pasoliniani, directed by Guido Santato, was initiated in 2007. The Centro Studi–Archivio Pier Paolo Pasolini, housed at the Fondazione Cineteca di Bologna, includes a library of 1,500 volumes and a vast critical bibliography along with original documents dating as far back as 1943. 12 An extensive portion of the collection extends from the foundation of Pasolini’s friend, actress Laura Betti (1927–2004), l’Associazione Fondo Pier Paolo Pasolini, which Betti oversaw in Rome until her death. Today, the Centro Studi—Archivio Pier Paolo Pasolini is one of the foremost organizers of academic events revolving around Pasolini and his ongoing influence. 13 Pasolini’s Lasting Impressions: Death, Eros, and Literary Enterprise in the Opus of Pier Paolo Pasolini was originally born from a special session hosted by the South Central Modern Language Association Conference in San Antonio, Texas, in 2012 with four presenters: Ryan Calabretta-Sajder, Fulvio Orsitto, Colleen Ryan, and Virginia Agostinelli. As the collection evolved, other scholars were invited to participate, and now thirteen chapters touch on the overlapping themes of “death, eros, and literary enterprise.” The title itself, Pasolini’s Lasting Impressions, grew out of conversations with colleagues revolving around Pasolini as “civil poet.”



The first question many scholars and friends ask when I discuss my research interests or current projects is, “Why Pasolini?”; I have received myriad comments, both positive and at times rather negative. In a Department of World Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, Pasolini’s is inevitably a name that colleagues recognize and can discuss because they have often viewed one or many Pasolini films or are familiar with some of his philosophical writings. The reality is that Pier Paolo Pasolini was an extremely complex character, full of contradictions, as many scholars before me have already noted. 14 Through this contradictory nature, however, Pasolini overtly challenged the societal standards of his contemporary Italy and Europe at large. This aspect, which is underscored in his personality and creative opus, has generated increasing interest. By nature, he embodied a contradictory core: “Catholic” but Communist; Northern Italian but residing primarily in Rome and speaking and writing in both Friulan and Roman dialects; loving the subproletariat, but maintaining a heavily bourgeois lifestyle; and finally an “out” homosexual but unsupportive of the gay movement. Yet through these apparent inconsistences, Pasolini represents, or at least reminds us of our own contradictions. Thus, it seems that scholars are interested in Pasolini not only because of his lasting impression on society, but also because through his multithemed opus, he speaks directly to each of us. Pasolini’s legacy is alive and thriving: Pasolini and his philosophies have touched a new generation of authors, directors, and intellectuals, including Marco Tullio Giordana, Ferzan Özpetek, and Wu Ming. The term poeta civile is an expression used to describe select Italian intellectuals who have impacted social thought. Pasolini’s noteworthy contributions to a variety of genres, spanning generations and social contexts, rightfully place him and his genius at the poeta civile level. At his funeral in 1975, Alberto Moravia correctly defined Pasolini as a poeta civile, due to his direct influence, not to mention his inspiration of others as evidenced in the variety of articles in this collection. Not only does Pasolini’s Lasting Impression span the spectrum of genres and themes Pasolini touched upon in his oeuvre, but additionally several of the chapters discuss the continued influence Pasolini has had on subsequent waves of poets, novelists, essayists, and filmmakers. The thirteen authors in this books represent three countries, and contribute unique content and theoretical methodology. As such, this volume attests to the complexity, originality, and intellectual curiosity advanced by this modern day poeta civile. For various reasons, this collection is divided by genre: poetry, drama, cinema, culture, and the final section includes interviews. Part 1, titled “Pier Paolo Pasolini and Verse,” has three pieces, the first of which examines the use of Pasolini’s poetry in Marco Tullio Giordana’s film I cento passi. The second examines Christ and Narcissus motifs in Pasolini’s Friulan verse, while the third piece is a close analysis of the use of vision in Pasolini’s


Ryan Calabretta-Sajder

poetic works. Part 2, “Pasolini and the Stage,” focuses on Pasolini’s translation of Orestiade and on Calderón, his only drama published during his lifetime. Part 3, “Pasolini through the Lens,” offers various approaches, from thematic to adaptation, to an overview of Pasolini’s filmic opus. Part 4, “Pasolini and Italian Culture—Final Thoughts,” is a reexamination of Pasolini’s influence on both literature and culture. The collection ends with two noteworthy, yet diverse, interviews: one with omino 71, a well-known Roman street artist, and another with Dacia Maraini, one of Italy’s leading female writers. The first piece, “Pasolini’s Poetry: The Language of the Mother,” by Daniela Bini, addresses both poetry and film, charting Pasolini’s attachment to his/the mother, philosophically, linguistically, and physically. Through the creation of a dichotomy, Bini separates and defines the relationships Pasolini maintained with both parents and demonstrates how these rapports instilled in the young poet a sense of self and artistic knowledge, focusing on the mother–son relationship through Pasolini’s poetic opus, beginning with his earliest pieces written in his mother’s dialect and progressing to his later works. She then analyzes the adoption of the mother–son poetics as seen in Marco Tullio Giordana’s films, specifically I cento passi. Through studying Giordana’s utilization of this trope, Bini returns to a dichotomous approach, pairing Pier Paolo and his mother, Susanna Pasolini, with Peppino and his mother, Felicia Impastato. In this manner, Giordana supports Pasolini’s dedication to, and promotion of, civic honesty. William Van Watson’s theoretical essay “Jesus Narcissus: Pasolini’s Self-Representation as Scapegoat and Martyr in His Friulan Verse” examines the imagery of Christ and Narcissus and language throughout Pasolini’s dialectical verse. Van Watson begins by analyzing Bestia da Stile as the “evolution of the poet,” mentioning its autobiographical nature as it relates to Jan Palach, the young Czech patriot who immolated himself to protest the Soviet invasion of his country. Van Watson connects the images present in Bestia with Pasolini’s Friulan poetry by applying an interpretation based on gender/ sexuality theory. Flaviano Pisanelli emphasizes the importance of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s poetry in his piece “Poetic Gazing: The ‘Word-Eye’ in the Poetry of Pier Paolo Pasolini.” He argues that Pasolini’s poetic opus has not been as thoroughly studied as his theatrical, cinematic, and narrative works. Pisanelli continues his argument by discussing the attention Pasolini gave the visual across genres and mediums. In Pisanelli’s examination of various poetry collections, he notes an influence of Roland Barthes’s theories on cinematic languages and limits and conventions on written poetry. From that point, he analyzes the concepts of “vision,” “eyes,” and “gazing” as present in the poetry of Transumanar e organizzar.



Part 2, which focuses on Pasolini’s drama, opens with Francesca D’Alessandro Behr’s piece, “Pasolini’s Orestiade, the Irrational and Greek Tragedy.” Behr studies Pasolini’s version of Orestiade from a number of perspectives. Behr questions the political implications that Pasolini brings to light in his work, as it pertains to contemporary Italian and European society, and then considers the trope of “irrationality.” She ties these aspects together within the genre of tragedy and concludes with a linguistic study of the texts: the “Death of Iphigenia” and the “Eagles of the Nest.” The second chapter in part 2 is Ryan Calabretta-Sajder’s “Dreams as Gendered Places: Feminist (Re)Awakenings in Pasolini’s Calderón,” which examines the only play Pasolini published during his lifetime. This piece combines gender and feminist theory to analyze the protagonist Rosaura/ Maria Rosa and her series of dream moments and “awakenings.” This approach to the noteworthy play offers a new perspective in analysis to Pasolini’s theater, as embodied by the feminist nature of the protagonist. The third and largest section of the collection focuses on Pasolini’s cinema, the most well-researched medium of the intellectual. In “Il ‘Cinema di poesia’ in Theory and Practice: The Case of Edipo Re,” Millicent Marcus returns to a classical, theoretical piece by Pasolini, largely underappreciated in its day, “Il cinema di poesia,” and reconsiders its importance for film studies in general and more specifically for his cinematic opus, delving deeply into a study of Edipo Re. Marcus argues that Pasolini substitutes his linguistic terminology for a more humanistic jargon. Marcus considers Pasolini’s rewriting of the Oedipus story through the subfilm by examining the madre-scena in particular. She argues that Pasolini creates a new film language comprised of im-segni, thus creating a new cinematic style transcending conventional viewpoints. Francesco Rosetti investigates the theme of violence in Pier Paolo Pasolini’s cinematic oeuvre. He starts with the state of Italian cinema in the 1960s and its transition out of Neorealism and moves into a comparison of international directors’ use of violence, in particular contrasting films of Luis Buñuel and Alfred Hitchcock with the films of Pasolini. He also comments on Mario Bava’s and Riccardo Freda’s techniques of showcasing violence before addressing Pasolini’s opus: Accattone (1961), Oedipus Rex (1967), Medea (1969), Pigpen (1969), and finally with Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma (1975). He concludes that “violence deals with a world reduced to fragments, the unity of being is broken down into partial objects and simulacra stifling the enjoyment within the limits of a sick repetition compulsion.” In his piece on Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom titled “The Bibliography of Salò: Eros, Sadism, and the Avant-Garde in Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Last Work,” Fabio Benincasa compares the litany of the existing bibliographical references present in the film adaptation of the Marquis de Sade’s novel. In the bibliografia essenziale, or essential bibliography, Benincasa includes the


Ryan Calabretta-Sajder

likes of Roland Barthes, French critic Philippe Sollers, avant-garde protagonists Pierre Klossowski and Maurice Blanchot, and feminist-existentialist scholar Simone de Beauvoir as artists Pasolini cites. Benincasa notes the exclusion of Georges Bataille, the French author who with Klossowski and Blanchot composed the intellectual group Acéphale, arguing that Bataille’s exclusion is due to the similar philosophical nature Pasolini himself shared. The overarching argument of Benincasa aims to demonstrate how Pasolini “attacks the notion of progress typical of the technocratic society . . . exalts a sadistic and destructive power annihilating the free human subjectivity more radically and penetrating than any previous form of power.” In “Oedipus and Medea According to Pasolini,” Giulia Tellini explores the relationship between the characters within the cinematic adaptations of Oedipus Rex and Medea. Tellini examines the biography of Pier Paolo Pasolini, in particular a few noteworthy events, juxtaposing similar moments in the lives of both Oedipus and Medea. The first moment she analyzes is Pasolini’s flight from Casarsa to Rome through the analysis of an autobiographical poem in his collection titled Poeta delle ceneri. Tellini compares Pasolini’s own departure with those of Oedipus and Medea. She continues her argument by considering the role of mothers and even fathers in the texts, comparing them with Pasolini’s own life. She concludes that all three personaggi are both poet and prophet. Fulvio Orsitto investigates Pasolini’s “re-creation” of Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron through the lens of adaptation. Orsitto cites a series of Italian film scholars—including Patrick Rumble, Carlo Testa, and Millicent Marcus—and calls for a new approach to adaptation studies, adopting the concept of “re-creation.” In the end, he believes it is best to consider Pasolini’s use of the original text as a re-creation. Orsitto reviews various scholars’ previous work on Pasolini’s Decameron, adding Ben Lawton to the aforementioned list. Orsitto further examines Pasolini’s new narrative voice, in particular the utilization of Neapolitan dialect rather than the original Tuscan. He shows how Pasolini translates the Boccaccian text for a “contemporary audience,” enhancing the original work through cinematic language. To add to Pasolini’s commentaries on bourgeois society, Orsitto demonstrates how Pasolini uses the body as a means “to counteract the cultural assimilation that was taking place in Italy in the years following the economic boom.” Ilaria Lanzarini, in her contribution titled “Pictorial Allusion as a Distancing Technique from the Chaucerian Hypotext in The Canterbury Tales,” discusses Pasolini’s use of the cinematic adaptation called “intersection” of The Canterbury Tales. In particular, Lanzarini analyzes the director’s use of philosophical and pictorial/artistic sources in both the script and the staging, revolving around the Flemish cultural world of the sixteenth century. Then she discusses Pasolini’s choice of setting the film in sixteenth-century Flanders due to his interest in the spiritual and corporal corruption of the lower



social classes: particularly peasants and the bourgeoisie. She also highlights moments in which Pasolini creates figurative meaning through the use of pictorial images that underline his philosophical ideologies. Part 4 of the collection delves into the cultural significance of Pasolini today. In “Pasolini the Prophet: From I Know to the Prophecy of Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom,” Daniela Privitera examines diverse ways in which Pasolini foresaw the future. Although Privitera focuses primarily on two particular moments in Pasolini’s life and literary opus, she begins her argument with Profezia, published as early as 1964. She continues by defining the ideas of progress and consumerism according to Pasolini, as evidenced through his opus. Some of the writings cited include: “Sviluppo e progresso” and various pieces from Scritti corsari, Letture Luterane, and Salò o le centoventi giornate di Sodoma. Privitera maintains that Italy would prefer to just “dimenticare Pasolini”: “forget Pasolini.” In “Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Influence on Contemporary Italian Culture,” Virginia Agostinelli discusses the lasting importance of Pasolini’s unfinished Petrolio, posthumously published by Einaudi in 1992. Agostinelli considers Pasolini’s historical importance in literary production, citing a particular moment in Italian history, that of Senator Marcello Dell’Utri’s possession of an additional, unpublished piece of Pasolini’s Petrolio. From there, Agostinelli questions the importance of historical facts as part of literature. She explores the concept of the “Unidentified Narrative Object” and later juggles the creation and definition of the New Italian Epic. She demonstrates how Pasolini, particularly through “Io so” and Petrolio, had already begun to “take the path less traveled” to create a new narrative structure. Thus, Agostinelli argues Petrolio’s cultural importance for postmodern Italian thought. The fifth and final part of the book features two interviews. The first interview is with omino 71, a graffiti artist in Rome. omino 71 has designed assorted portraits of Pasolini throughout the city. 15 The final interview with Dacia Maraini differentiates itself from previous pieces due to the personal nature of Maraini’s relationship with Pasolini. The interview stresses Pasolini’s contrary nature. As previously mentioned, the breadth of Pasolini studies is extensive, and thus, on the fortieth anniversary of Pasolini’s death, scholars are still only beginning to scratch the surface of his vast oeuvre. In fact, Pasolini’s Lasting Impressions: Death, Eros, and Literary Enterprise in the Opus of Pier Paolo Pasolini only concentrates on four genres, without even touching upon his narrative or journalistic works. Unfortunately, his opus is far too extensive to be contained in a single study; this volume only begins to unveil some of the poeta civile’s works. 16 Although not comprehensive, Pasolini’s Lasting Impressions succeeds in offering rather unique interpretations to both classical and less established pieces by the author. In varying degrees and genres, the themes all touch on the concepts of death, eros, and literary enterprise. A


Ryan Calabretta-Sajder

majority of the contributions in this volume approach Pasolini from an interdisciplinary perspective, noted from both a critical perspective within his own writings and films, and also from a comparative standpoint. Grouping the studies of various genres in one collection makes more evident the magnitude of Pasolini’s interdisciplinary influence within contemporary Italy forty years after his death. Pasquale Vitagliano writes, “La poesia civile deve muovere all’azione, partendo dalla propria identità più autentica e non è forse il legame tra la parola e la terra l’identità più autentica della poesa civile? Se l’anima è il luogo della poesia, la propria terra è il luogo della poesia civile.” 17 Pasolini appears to fit the definition perfectly. In fact, Vitagliano continues his article “Alla ricerca dell’heimat perduta,” stating: “Tutte le sere, tutte le notti, la mia vita consiste nell’aver rapporti diretti, immediati, con tutta questa gente che io vedo che sta cambiando,” ha scritto Pier Paolo Pasolini. Quello che nessuno è riuscito a fare con la storia del Novecento, Pasolini è riuscito per quello scampolo di storia civile italiana che sono stati gli anni della modernizzazione e del boom economico. Pasolini è riuscito ad illuminare con la sua poesia questo breve arco di tempo. Ma lo ha fatto con la luce in una meteora. Anzi, in una lucciola. 18

Pasolini, as Vitagliano and other scholars have noted, changed the manner in which his contemporaries viewed the world, calling them to act, and even achieving some success in the process. Pasolini’s “call to arms” did not, however, die with his assassination; rather, it is still alive and well today. It is in this spirit that this volume provides “new” and “fresh” perspectives on the poeta civile and the importance his opus has accumulated through an Italian lens. As a true poeta civile, Pasolini’s legacy will continue to be realized through a second and third generation of virtuosi. NOTES 1. For a study on Pasolini and his contradictory nature, see Luca Di Blasi, Manuele Gragnolati, and Christoph F. E. Holzhey, eds., The Scandal of Self-Contradiction: Pasolini’s Multistable Subjectivities, Geographies, Traditions (Berlin: Verlag Turia + Kant, 2012). 2. Alberto Asor Rosa, “L’esperienza di ‘Officina,’” Città aperta, June 25, 1957. 3. Gianfranco Contini, “Al limite della poesia dialettale,” Corriere del Ticino, April 24, 1943 (su poesie a Casarsa); also found in Pagine ticinesi di Gianfranco Contini, ed. Gianfranco Contini, Renata Broggini, and Sergio Salvioni (Bellinzona, Switzerland: Edizioni A. Salvioni, 1986). 4. It is unclear if Del Giudice’s work is formally considered an authored manuscript or not. It consists of forty-seven pages; however, it is noteworthy for Pasolini studies because the author negatively critiques Pasolini as critic, poet, and finally as novelist. Even though the analysis is in fact negative, the importance remains that Pasolini is a controversial figure in the Italian literary circle. Most of the reactiveness stems from Pasolini’s unique style, which breaks from the traditional philological approaches afforded previous authors, participially Italian poets. See Saverio Del Giudice, Pier Paolo Pasolini: Saggio Critico (Naples: L. Barca, 1962).



5. Beverly Allen, ed., Pier Paolo Pasolini: The Poetics of Heresy, Stanford Italian Review 2, vol. 2 (Saratoga, CA: Anma Libri, 1982). 6. Pia Friedrich, Pier Paolo Pasolini (Boston: Twayne, 1982). 7. For a rather complete annotated bibliography on Pasolini studies in North America, see Federico Pacchioni, “Trent’anni di critica pasoliniana in Nord America (1982–2014),” in Pier Paolo Pasolini. Prospettive americane, ed. Fulio Orsitto and Federico Pacchioni (Pesaro, Italy: Metauro, 2015). 8. The MLA International Bibliography is updated every few years. The current electronic version represents publications from 1926 until 2008. 9. For scholarly work on Pasolini’s concept of “youth” and its role in his opus, see Gian Maria Annovi, ed., Fratello selvaggio: Pier Paolo Pasolini tra gioventù e nuova gioventù (Massa, Toscana: Transeuropa, 2013), and Simona Bondavalli, Fictions of Youth: Pier Paolo Pasolini, Adolescence, Fascisms (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2015). For an analysis of the sacred, see Colleen Ryan-Scheutz, Sex, the Self, and the Sacred: Women in the Cinema of Pier Paolo Pasolini (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2007), and Stefania Benini, Pasolini: The Sacred Flesh (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2015). In Italian, see Angela Felice and Gian Paolo Gri, eds., Pasolini e l’interrograzione del sacro (Venezia: Marsilio editore, 2013). 10. See and search “Pier Paolo Pasolini” (accessed on June 14, 2015). These are critical books about Pasolini, not newly printed editions of his own works. 11. See Pier Paolo Pasolini, In Danger: A Pasolini Anthology, ed. Jack Hirschman (San Francisco: City Lights Publishers, 2010). Pier Paolo Pasolini, The Selected Poetry of Pier Paolo Pasolini: A Bilingual Edition, ed. Stephen Sartarelli (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014). Cineteca Universale and Erminia Passannanti, Pier Paolo Pasolini: Antologia di Poesie, Foto, Scritti Critici ed Aforismi (Roma: Stamperia Vaticana, 2015). 12. There is not only the Centro Studi—Pier Paolo Pasolini in Bologna but also Centro Studi—Pier Paolo Pasolini Casarsa della Delizia, which also remains very active in the field of Pasolini studies for conferences and publications. 13. See 14. Please see Ben Lawton’s “Introduction” in Benjamin Lawton and Maura Bergonzoni, Pier Paolo Pasolini: In Living Memory (Washington, DC: New Academia Pub, 2009). 15. I first noted his work in the Pigneto area of Rome while dining at Ristorante Necci with Fabio Benincasa. After seeing the image of Pasolini, I asked Fabio to follow up on his work and he was able to contact him and arrange the interview, which touches on both the arts and Pasolini. 16. For a unique approach on the concept of the impegno intellectuale and Pasolini’s role within that sphere, see Pierpaolo Antontello, Dimenticare Pasolini: Intellettuali e impegno nell’Italia contemporanea (Milano: Mimesis, 2012). 17. Pasquale Vitagliano, “Alla ricerca dell’heimat perduta,” accessed June 7, 2015, 18. Vitagliano, “Alla ricerca dell’heimat perduta.”

Part I

Pier Paolo Pasolini and Verse

Chapter One

Pasolini’s Poetry The Language of the Mother Daniela Bini

Pier Paolo Pasolini’s close, intense relationship with his mother is a rather known fact. As such, so is his antagonistic relationship with his father—a military, authoritarian Fascist. Thus, his realationships with his parents serve as a perfect clinical case for Freudian analysis. He himself was well aware of never having resolved his Oedipus complex since he knew he was “more attractive and interesting to mother than father.” 1 If, as Colleen Ryan-Scheutz has pointed out, women in general belong for Pasolini in the category of the sacred, mothers take the largest share of it. 2 They are vessels of the sacred insofar as they represent what is original, archaic, and untouched by civilization and progress. They are the link that connects man with his past, with his origin. Carl Jung, in fact, in addition to Sigmund Freud comes to mind when examining Pasolini’s relationship with his mother. The drama in Pasolini’s life arose from conflicting traits of his character: a self divided between a profound love for an immutable past and the Marxist urge for social change; the attachment to tradition, and in art, to the Crocean tradition; and the Gramscian faith in the intellectual as creator of a new hegemonic culture. In the poem “Le ceneri di Gramsci” he confesses: lo scandalo del contraddirmi [. . .] attratto da una vita proletaria [. . .] è per me religione la sua allegria, non la millenaria sua lotta; la sua natura, non la sua coscienza; è la forza originaria dell’uomo, che nell’atto s’è perduta, a darle l’ebbrezza della nostalgia una luce poetica. 3 The scandal of self-contradiction [ . . .] drawn to a proletarian life 13


Daniela Bini [. . .] My religion is its joyousness, not its millennial struggle—its nature, not its consciousness. It is man’s original strength, which was lost in the act, that gives to it the joy of nostaglia, a poetic light. 4

This contradiction never to be resolved finds its best expression in poetry and is effectively rendered through the use of the enjambment. The break between verses separates on purpose words that should be united. “Attratto da una vita / proletaria,” “e per me religione / la sua allegria, non la millenaria / sua lotta.” With this effective metrical device the writer represented his own profound contradiction. Pasolini never accepted the thought that the past could not be preserved intact; his contradiction was irresolvable. His keen insight and foresight made him detect the ruinous progress of capitalism even before it occurred. He foresaw and exposed with ruthless language the transformation of the subproletarians, in whom he had placed so much faith, into bourgeois, slaves of consumerism, and seekers of capitalist gains. Yet he continued to fight for an abstract, pure Marxist revolution that was never to take place. What is pure in the abstraction, the Platonic idea, corrupts when it is realized. In the interviews he gave in the 1970s, he hammered on the notion of his hopelessness. Homologation is the ruling power of contemporary society. There are no more differences between classes. All individuals want the same things, material objects, which are thrown at us every minute through the bombardment of the mass media. Consumerism is the new religion, thus Pasolini’s desperate search for elements in human culture that have not yet been spoiled: Expelled from the Garden of Eden of Casarsa, he looked for them in the Roman slums and then turned to Africa, the Middle East, and India. 5 Mothers, who in the abstract or in a Platonic idea of Mother are the repository of the sacred, can also be prey of the ferocious consumerist mechanism. Not Susanna, however (or maybe his creation of Susanna), who remained above and beyond the present, decadent reality. In all his poetry, in fact, the sanctification of the mother is very specific—it is his own, and she is often identified or confused with the Madonna figure. And the mother is sanctified precisely because it represents the immutable past. Joseph Francese very acutely noted that Pasolini searched “for the essence of the human condition in what was for him the immutable mother–son relationship.” Francese, however, sees this search as starting after the student protests of 1968 when he went through a “personal crisis.” I would argue, instead, that such a search was present throughout his life, as is evident in his poetry, beginning with the Poesie a Casarsa. 6

Pasolini’s Poetry


Poetry for Pasolini occupies a sacred place as well because it is able to express truth, authenticity, and because it uses the language of images. It is the maternal language that allows the most intimate connection. It is through the language of poetry that the mother–son union occurs. The poetry he wrote in the dialect of his mother’s birthplace, Casarsa, is Pasolini’s first realization of the poetics of the primitive, the authentic, and thus is also the poetics of the maternal. Although Susanna did not speak her dialect, Pier Paolo learned it in order to become closer to his own origins. 7 If poetry is the language of the mother that allows man to connect with his past, his origin, the primitive, that which remains unchanged—history—is that of the father, the language that allows differentiation, change, and evolution. This binary approach will never change in Pasolini who did not believe in Hegelian dialectics, in resolution, in a possible synthesis. The antithesis is always present; it is the very essence of his life. The contrast between the world of history and the poetical world remained Pasolini’s constant drama. And poetry was the language in which this essential contradiction could be expressed. He understood the necessity and wanted to take part and help shape the world of history, the world he lived in and that he saw decaying and taking a senseless and superficial shape, but at the same time he was pulled toward the realm of pure origin, poetry, the maternal, precisely because he dreaded the thought that progress would change it forever. “Come sono caduto,” he asks his mother in the poem “La scoperta di Marx”: in un mondo di prosa, s’eri una passeretta, un’allodola, e muto alla storia—una rosa— o madre giovinetta era il tuo cuore? 8 How did I fall into a world of prose if you were a sparrow a skylark, and your heart mute to history—a rose— O mother maiden?

The world of poetry is the world of the mother, that of history is the world of the father, with laws, obligations, but also with compromise and violence. In this poem the contraposition between the two worlds is clearly stated and with it Pasolini’s pain of being torn between them. “Fuori dal tempo è nato / il figlio, e dentro muore,” “Tu eri irreligiosa, barbara, o ingenua sposa / e infante genitrice.” 9 Born outside time, in an archaic era, that of the mother, the son dies in the world of history, the world of the father. The juxtaposition of birth and death in those two verses connected by the enjambment high-


Daniela Bini

lights the world of history as the world of separation and of death. For the son, there is no way back but plunging ever more deeply into the world of reason. “Non soggetto ma oggetto / madre! . . . m’hai espresso / nel mistero del sesso / a un logico Creato” (Not as a subject, but an object, oh mother! [. . .] you have delivered me in the mystery of sex into a logical world). 10 “E ogni giorno affondo / nel mondo ragionato, / spietata istituzione / degli adulti” (And every day I sink in the world of reason, cruel institution of adults). 11 Once again the enjambment that connects opposite lexical elements underlines the contradictory nature of his existential being. The images of the “passeretta,” and the “allodola,” in Pasolini’s poetry, the singing birds as the poetical voices, are often associated with his mother as is the image of the “madre fanciulla,” “madre bambina.” She constantly represents the innocence and purity of nature and of youth. The most recurring image for the representation of Susanna, however, is that of the Madonna; more often as the Mater dolorosa of Easter than the joyful Mother of Christmas. In “La domenica uliva” from Poesie a Casarsa the representation centers on the Mater dolorosa and her son, in whom we can see reflected Susanna and Pier Paolo, the former as the mother suffering for her son’s persecution, the latter, as the martyr who will sacrifice his life to rescue mankind. Having been cast out for his “sins” from the Garden of Eden of Casarsa, Pasolini will live his life professing his own homosexuality in a battle he waged for the many who were persecuted for the same “sin.” In the prayer to the Father, mother and son unite in an appeal “Dacci il pane ogni giorno, / fino al giorno della morte / quando veniam nel cielo / per non vivere più” (“Dani il pan ogni dì / fin al dì de la muàrt / quan’ ch’I vignìn tal séil / par non vivi pì”) (Give us bread every day / until the day of death / when we come to the heaven not to live any longer). 12 Pasolini often returns to the theme of Christ’s passion and Easter where the only characters are mother and son, each with her or his task and pains that unite them in a bond that can never be broken. 13 At the beginning of “La domenica uliva” Pasolini places an epigraph from Giuseppe Ungaretti’s famous poem “La madre.” Yet Ungaretti’s mother is in heaven next to God and will turn her face to her son, give him her hand, only when in death he will have asked God for forgiveness and God will have granted it. Susanna, instead, is on earth, close to her son, sharing his doubts, his suffering, ever humble in her efforts to help him. The poetic word, like the verbum, has the power to become flesh. The divination of man takes place through his creation of poetry. Pasolini has taken Christ’s place; “io non conosco quelle cose che Cristo ha insegnato; e poiché non so preghiera, non sento intorno un canto” (“Jo no cognòss ches ròbis / che Crist l’à insanganat; / parsè ‘I no sai prejère, no sint intor un ciànt”) ( I do not know the things God taught; and since I know no prayer, I cannot hear around a song). 14 But, he creates his own “canto,” “Perduto nella mia voce, io sento

Pasolini’s Poetry


solo la mia voce, io canto la mia voce” (Lost in my voice, I only hear my voice, I sing my voice). 15 Like Narcissus, on which he wrote many poems. His mother sings with him, and together they ask to be nailed to the cross. In the poem “L’annunciazione” the mother-fanciulla of the beginning is transformed into the Madonna of the Annunciation at the end. “I figli” (Pier Paolo and Guido) close to her bed suffer in seeing her suffering. They speak to her and wish that the “Lui” responsible for her pain may die, so that she can return to be the eternal maiden “sia fanciulla / sempre la vita / nella severa / tua vita fanciulla” (be life always maiden / in your severe maiden life). By the end of the poem Susanna, who has been transformed into Mary, replies that yes: “il grembo sarà candore. / Pei figli vergini / io sarò vergine” (The womb will be virginal / for the sons I will be a virgin). 16 It is simultaneously the prayer of the Catholic believer and the wish of a son in love with his mother. In “Litania,” the poet continues to address his mother “Tu nuda vergine” in her perfect purity who acts as counterpoint to the sinful body of the son. The Mater Castissima, Mater Inviolata, Turris Eburnea, Stella Matutina, Regina Pacis, is humanized and personalized in the poet’s prayer to his mother. It is also a confession of his sin, which, with Pasolini’s oxymoronic language, becomes “il gesto santo / del mio peccato / [che] cade in un vespro di castità” (The saintly gesture of my sin / that falls in sunset of chastity). Is the sin his homoerotic desire or his incestuous love? It is probably both, and one allows the poet to address the other. There is no repentance on the part of the sinner: “Su ridestiamoci, / che il nostro cuore / vuole peccare” (Let’s wake up / that my heart wants to sin). 17 If Susanna often takes on the role of Mary, God is at times addressed as Carlo Alberto. In his “Madrigali a Dio,” in fact, in God the poet is addressing his father, the authoritarian figure who established inhuman laws and dispenses cruel punishments. Da quando il pianto non fu più d’amore vidi il Tuo fulmine nelle mie lacrime, non Te, il Tuo fulmine, non i Tuoi sacri angeli, ma i Tuoi angeli senza cuore. Ma la viola ha cantato, e ormai non sa più essere muta: canta. T’offende. . . . Tu non vuoi canto, ma solo fedeltà Tu pretendi il digiuno, e io lo temo, Tu pretendi l’oblio e io non tremo che di ricordi. Ecco perché la luce Tua, ch’è in me, a Te non mi conduce. 18 Since the tears were no longer of love I saw Your lightning in my tears, not You, Your lightning, not Your sacred angels, but Your heartless angels.


Daniela Bini But the viola sang, and does no longer know how to be silent: it sings. It offends you. . . . You do not want singing, but only fidelity You demand fasting, and I fear it, You demand oblivion and I tremble Only with memories. This is why your light that is inside me, does not lead me to you.

The use of the enjambment in three verses underscores the separation between a merciless God/father who demands exclusive obedience and a poet/ son who asks for love and compassion. 19 If in some poems Pier Paolo and Susanna take up the roles of Christ and Mary, in others, they appear as very earthly characters who are united by a sensual love. In “Sospiro di mia madre su una rosa,” upon discovering “a white rose” on his son’s bed sheet, Susanna “sighs” and asks: Rosellina di mio figlio, dove ti ha raccolta, perché ti ha raccolta la mano di mio figlio? Taci tu, scontrosa, come lui, che a quest’ora chissà dov’è con la sua pace scontrosa. 20 Rosellina of my son, where did my son’s hand pick you? Why did it pick you? You keep silent, surly, like him, who at this time who knows where he is with his surly peace.

Susanna (the Susanna of her son), who makes her son’s bed every morning, seems to long for that night coitus from which she was excluded. 21 In “Carne e cielo” maternal love is juxtaposed to homosexual desire. The love of the mother that the poet feels as excruciating (“straziante”) since it is given to “le carni brucianti” after his recent sexual intimacy, ignites, with his feelings of guilt, a more intense longing for the past experience. “E impazzisco nel cuore / della notte feriale / dopo mille altre notti / di questo impuro ardore” (and I become mad in the heart / of the weeknight / after other thousand nights / of the impure love). 22 The poem “Memorie” that already in the title calls to mind Giacomo Leopardi, is another monologue addressed to Susanna, the mother, the only creature to whom the poet can open himself completely, the only one who knows and can understand his intimate thoughts and feelings. In his remembering the past they shared together, Susanna whom he again addresses as “mia lodoletta,” “madre fanciulla,” “madre giovinetta” takes on the form of the Silvia of Leopardi, whose singing would accompany her work and echo throughout the house (“Ricordo i pomeriggi / di Bologna: al lavoro / cantavi

Pasolini’s Poetry


nella casa / che non era che un’eco”) (I remember the afternoon in Bologna: your were singing while working in the house that was but an echo). 23 In “Appendice alla ‘Religione’: Una luce” (1959) Pasolini writes what I would call a prayer to is mother, the only “light” in a world of darkness and decay. “So che una luce, nel caos, di religione, / una luce di bene, mi redime / il troppo amore nella disperazione” (I know that in this chaos /a light of religion redeems me / too much love in the desperation). 24 The separation created by the two commas and by the word “caos” between “religione” and “una luce di bene” underline the separateness of religion, perhaps the ambiguity of its meaning, whereas the “luce di bene” that emanates from his mother is undoubtedly a rescuing and saving force. The attributes that make Susanna divine are precisely those stereotypical female characteristics that cause feminists to cringe: È una povera donna, mite, fine, che non ha quasi coraggio di essere, e se ne sta nell’ombra, come una bambina, [. . .] con la sua forza, adoperata nei muti affanni di chi teme di non essere pari al dovere, e non si lamenta dei mai avuti compensi: una povera donna che sa amare soltanto, eroicamente, ed essere madre è stato tutto ciò che si può dare. 25 [the light] is a poor woman, gentle, refined, who has almost no courage to exist and remains in the shadows like a child, [. . .] with her strength that she summons in the silent troubles of one afraid to be inadequate to her tasks, and never complains of rewards never received: a poor woman, who knows only how to love, heroically, and motherhood is all she could ever have given.

The lines are filled with the familiar sacrificial lexicon. Susanna’s sanctity consists precisely in her having no female identity, but only that of a mother living exclusively in function of her son. As a Madonna figure she also has the power to give to “gli impuri, i vivi . . . la purezza” (to those who are impure, the living, purity). 26 She is origin and end, birth and death, as the poem ends with the poet’s wish, it would seem, to be buried together “perduti in fondo a questo pezzo di terra” (lost to the bottom of the is piece of earth). 27 Anna Panicale has rightly argued that “Poetry is seen as an itinerary whose end is the womb/origin and where to advance is constantly to turn back to a pre-linguistic or pre-Oedipal phase (hence the poet’s choice of the maternal, ‘dead’ dialect for these early poems).” 28 Pasolini always admitted his intense relationship with his mother with whom he lived all his life. In an interview with Jean Duflot he comments on his feelings toward his parents:


Daniela Bini Dirò semplicemente che ho provato un grande amore per mia madre. La sua “presenza” fisica, il suo modo di essere, di parlare, la sua discrezione e la sua dolcezza soggiogarono tutta la mia infanzia. Sono rimasto convinto per molto tempo che tutta la mia vita emozionale ed erotica era stata determinata esclusivamente da questa passione eccessiva, che ritenevo addirittura una forma mostruosa dell’amore. . . . Ho sempre dedicato a mio padre un amalgama di sentimenti contraddittori. . . . In effetti quello che c’era tra noi era una sorta di conflitto permanente, in cui non è escluso che abbia potuto scambiare l’ostilità per odio. 29 I will simply say that I felt a great love for my mother. Her physical “presence,” her way of being, of speaking, her discretion and her subdued sweetness throughout my childhood. I was convinced for a long time that all my emotional and erotic life had been determined exclusively by this excessive passion, that I even considered a monstrous form of love. . . . I have always dedicated to my father an amalgam of contradictory feelings. . . . In fact, what there was between us was a sort of permanent conflict, where it is possible that I could have taken the hostility as hatred.

Pasolini’s sacred love for his mother impeded his realizing a consummate, stable love relation with any other individual. Only physical love he asked from and gave to others—the love he could not ask from and give to his mother. Il mio amore è solo per la donna: infante e madre. Solo per essa, impegno tutto il cuore. Per loro, i miei coetanei, i figli, in squadre meravigliosi sparsi per pianure e colli, per vicoli e piazzali, arde in me solo la carne. 30 My love is only for the woman: infant and mother. Only for her, I commit my whole heart. For them, my peers, the children, in teams, beautiful and scattered through plains and hills, through alleys and squares, burns in me only the flesh.

Pasolini’s divided self, the spirtual and the corporeal, could never achieve a unity. His obsessive emphasis on the body can be explained by his inability to reconcile it with the spiritual. “Supplica a mia madre” is Pier Paolo’s confession of his dependence on and slavery to his mother’s love. The poem will be examined in the discussion of I cento passi, as it constitutes one of the links between Pasolini and Giordana. 31 Here I would like to connect the powerful lines “è dentro la tua grazia che nasce la mia angoscia” (it is inside your grace that my anguish is born) and “il tuo amore è la mia schiavitù” (your love is my slavery) 32 with the poem “Ballata delle madri.” My intention is to show that though for

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Pasolini the mother figure represents in its abstraction, and Susanna in reality, the connection with the sacred and the pure origin, she is also the cause of the son’s slavery and the impediment from growth, maturity, and autonomy. It is precisely this religion of the mother and the enormous power he attributes to her that almost exonerates the child from his future actions. It is she who forms him, who makes him strong, pure. And it is also she who can make him greedy and conformist. Witness to a society that by now has lost the sense of the sacred, that has substituted it with material values, avarice, and violence, Pasolini attributes some of the responsibility to the mothers “vili, “mediocri,” “servili, “feroci.” He constructs his “Ballata delle madri” as a series of specific accusations against them. After a first stanza that ends with a question that could make us hope for a positive portrait of them “Se fossero [the mothers] lì, mentre voi scrivete / il vostro pezzo, conformisti e barocchi, / o lo passate a redattori rotti / a ogni compromesso, capirebbero chi siete? (if they were there, while you, conformist and baroque, are writing your piece or you pass it to the editors ready to any compromise, would they understand who you are?),” he launches his accusations at them. It is they who created those “conformists”: “Madri vili, poverine, preoccupate / che i figli conoscano la viltà per chiedere un posto, per essere pratici, / per non offendere anime privilegiate, / per difendersi da ogni pietà.” (poor cowardly mothers, worried / that their children learn cowardice to ask for a position, to be practical, / not to offend privileged souls, / to protect themselves frrom any pity). 33 It is they who create conformists, the madri servili, abituate da secoli a chinare senza amore la testa, a trasmettere al loro feto l’antico, vergognoso segreto d’accontentarsi dei resti della festa. Madri servili, che vi hanno insegnato come il servo può essere felice odiando chi è, come lui, legato, come può essere, tradendo, beato e sicuro, facendo ciò che non dice. servile mothers, accustomed for centuries without love to bow their heads, to pass on to their fetus the old, shameful secret to be satisfied with the remnants of the party. Mothers servile, who taught you how the servant can be happy by hating him who, like him, is tied, how he can be, by cheating, happy and safe, doing what he does not say.


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Not only do those mothers teach them to be content as slaves, but also to hate those who are enslaved and to be happy by betraying others. And those mothers are not only cowardly, and servile, they are also feroci, intente a difendere quel poco che borghesi, possiedono, la normalità, lo stipendio, [. . .] Madri feroci, che vi hanno detto: Sopravvivete! Pensate a voi! Non provate mai pietà o rispetto per nessuno, covate nel petto la vostra intergrità di avvoltoi! fierce, intent on defending what as little bourgeois, they possess, normality, the salary, [. . .] Fierce Mothers, who have said to you: Survive! Think of you! Never feel pity or respect for anyone, broods in your chest the intergrity of vultures!

They incite their sons to be like all others, to homologation, conformism; “rifiuto profondo / a essere diversi: a rispondere / al selvaggio dolore di esser uomini” (profound refusal / to be different; to answer / to the savage pain of being men). 34 The qualifiers attributed to the mothers opening each stanza are those that are passed to their offspring through their milk. Cowardly, servile, and ferocious mothers cannot but procreate cowardly, servile, ferocious children. Here too, the use of the enjambment underscores the separation between the positive and the negative and gives an oxymoronic quality to the poem (“intente a difendere / quel poco che borghesi possiedono”; “Non provate mai pietà e rispetto / per nessuno”). After all, Mamma Roma, Jocasta, and Medea all fail somehow in realizing the sacred. Mamma Roma is the cause of Ettore’s ruin precisely because, though she is a self-sacrifying creature with many of the characteristics of the saint mother, she has betrayed that original essence and is projected toward the future, a future of consumerism and capitalism. As he is lying on the prison table, Ettore begs to go back to Guidonia, the country town where he lived his childhood, the antagonist of the corrupt city of Rome where she wants his life to be. “Mamma Roma” is here clearly the epitome of the castrating mother, who leaves no room for Ettore to grow, to understand his emotions, to have doubts. Her overwhelming and aggressive love makes her blind to Ettore’s needs and feelings. By deciding everything for him and pushing him where he does not want to go, she will in the end destroy him. The final image of him depicted as Mantegna’s Chirst underscores his role as the

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sacrificial victim of mother’s possessive love. Even Jocasta was a cowardly mother when she accepted her husband’s decision that their son be killed; and certainly not-motherly was Medea, who could herself kill her children in order to hurt the man who betrayed her. 35 Only Susanna succeeded, and, as Enzo Siciliano wrote, “in the tormented relationship that tied her to her son, she was never eclipsed, nor did she leave space for duplicates.” 36 Pier Paolo needed his mother to remain good and honest. “L’amore, non represso, che m’invade, / l’amore di mia madre, non dà posto a ipocrisia e viltà!” (The non-repressed love that invades me, / the love for my mother, does not give room to hypocrisy or cowardice). 37 From his mother he finds the courage to speak of his repressed homosexual desire. In his appeal to all the “diversi” (Negri, Ebrei): odiate! straziate il mondo degli unomini bennati! Solo un mare di sangue può salvare, il mondo, dai suoi borghesi sogni destinati a farne un luogo sempre più irreale! Solo una rivoluzione che fa strage di questi morti, può sconsacrarne il male! Questo può urlare un poeta che non ha la forza di uccidere una mosca—la cui forza è nella sua grande diversità. 38 Hate! Tear the world of the well-born men! Only a sea of blood can save, the world, from its bourgeois dreams destined to make it a more and more unreal place! Only a revolution that slaughters these dead can deconsecrate evil! This can shout a poet who does not have the strength to kill a fly—whose strength It is in its profound diversity.

We could speculate that Pasolini’s guilty feeling was perhaps not caused so much by his homosexuality but rather by his being a “profeta disarmato,” a prophet who can only speak, shout, write, but one who does not possess the strength or courage to fight the revolutions he is advocating. The thought of his younger brother who fought in the resistance, his absurd, dreadful death by the hand of the partisans while he himself remained at home with his mother, must have tormented Pier Paolo his entire life. His obsessive proclamation of his homosexuality, his declared sadomasochism, could be explained as desire for self-punishment. He made his diversity, which was attacked from the left and from the right, into a banner that he waved high before the world and for which he was ready to fight and die. Nulla è più terribile della diversità. Esposta in ogni momento


Daniela Bini —gridata senza fine—eccezione incessante—follia sfrenata come un incendio—contaddizione da cui ogni giustizia è sconsacrata. 39 Nothing is more terrible than diversity. Exposed at all times —shouted out without end—never-ending exception—unbridled madness as a fire—contradiction from which all justice is desecrated.

This is Pasolini’s banner, his diversity that he proclaimed and shouted to the world in order to feel part of the persecuted and oppressed, since he was neither black nor proletarian. Marco Tullio Giordana has often recognized the debt he owes to Pasolini, the mentoring function Pasolini has had in Giordana’s intellectual and artistic development. We could also call it a filial relationship. If he studied and continuously returned to Pasolini’s entire oeuvre, it is undoubtedly in his poetry that the film director found the strongest inspiration. The contact with Pasolini’s work, rather than instilling in him a sense of doom, gave him “una sorta di materna tenerezza che mi riconcilia col mio paese, che me lo fa amare di nuovo” (a kind of maternal tenderness that reconciles me with my country and makes me love it again). 40 It is precisely this maternal element I would like to examine, which I see as created by the language of poetry. Giordana’s first film, Maledetti vi amerò, is a homage to Pasolini. Svitol, a participant in the 1968 protest movement who returned to Italy after five years in South America, finds the country in the dreadful conditions Pasolini had been denouncing. He cannot recognize the place where he had lived for twenty years, nor even his old friends who in one way or another have all fallen victim to the implacable and powerful capitalist mechanism. Paradoxically, the only person with whom he can communicate is a policeman; one of those individuals Pasolini had defended against the students during the 1968 protests—another victim, hated and mistrusted by all. Svitol’s decision at the end to die by the hand of the policeman-friend dramatically echoes Pasolini’s own end. Pasolini was therefore a strong presence, almost an obsession, not only in the intellectual world of the young director, but also in his psyche, especially Pasolini’s atrocious death. After spending years going through thousands of pages of documents, interviews, transcriptions of trials in order to make Pasolini. Un delitto italiano (1995), and publishing the 350 pages of the material collected, Giordana was to return to Pasolini in I cento passi (2000) and this time, through poetry. The first time little Peppino Impastato opens his mouth in the film is to recite Leopardi’s “L’infinito” before a table surrounded by relatives and friends, in honor of cousin Anthony who emigrated to America and who is back with his wife for a visit. Peppino has memorized it perfectly, but at his age, like the people around the table who

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probably received only an elementary education, he probably does not comprehend the profundity of Leopardi’s message. Yet “L’infinito,” in addition to being offered as the gift of the common cultural patrimony to the emigrated cousin, with its praise of the familiar hill, has reverberations on the experience of so many emigrants. It is dear because of its limiting function, because it excludes from view what is beyond, and it is this exclusion that allows the imagination to create a world beyond of infinite magnitude and beauty. It is the America imagined in the dreams of so many emigrants who have not yet been disappointed, the America of giant produce and of a sea of milk so poignantly represented in Crialese’s Nuovomondo. The listeners admire the performance. It is the refined, noble sound of poetic Italian that impresses them, so far from the dialect they know—a sign of social ascent, of the power that Peppino will be able to hold in the future. That he is a special, gifted child is clearly established from the beginning with the recognition he receives from the present audience. As they leave home to join this gathering, Peppino’s father, in a typical Italian fatherly fashion, wants to make sure Peppino knows the poem well, probably not because the poem has a particular significance for him. His only worry is that his son will not “fargli fare brutta figura.” “La poesia l’hai imparata? Tutta? Non è che mi fai fare brutte figure?” (did you memorize the poem? All of it? You are not going to make me look bad, are you?). 41 Peppino here only represents the offspring of Luigi Impastato, his progeny and property, a means to assert his own importance and pride, since we soon find out that Luigi has neither within the society of Cinisi, the town where they reside. During this performance, however, it is with the mother that Peppino’s implicit dialogue takes place—the only person who understands the language of poetry, as we see her emotions and participation revealed in her silently miming with her lips Leopardi’s words to accompany her son’s recitation, as a prompter in the theater. To Felicia the small “hill” of Cinisi that blocks Peppino’s view is the limit she wants him to overcome in order to realize his future not only via imagination, but in real life. Peppino, in fact, will never cease to dream of a better future. As he grows, he will never abandon the fight against the Mafia and the hope of a more just society. If Pasolini represented the Freudian struggle against his father in Edipo re, Giordana has Pasolini’s struggle still in mind when he chose the life of Peppino Impastato for his film. Still overwhelmed by the subject of Un delitto italiano, he recreates the struggle after having historicized it. Here Luigi Impastato, father of Peppino, is also metonymy of a repressive society that controls not only the son and the family, but the entire town. Poetry reappears after the death of Cesare Manzella, the Mafia boss, who was eliminated by a rival, when Peppino asks the Communist painter Stefano Venuti to paint a portrait of Cesare from an old photograph. Venuti refuses and, questioned by Peppino, explains that faces are like landscapes. “La nostra faccia


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può essere un giardino, oppure un bosco, oppure una terra desolata dove non ci cresce niente. Io dipingo solo i paesaggi che mi piacciono” (Our face can be a garden, or a woods, or a desolate land where nothing grows. . . . I only paint the landscapes I like). 42 Peppino then asks which landscape the large and imposing portrait standing on the easel represents: “Un fiume. Un grande fiume in piena” (A river. A big flooded river ), answers Venuti. “Quello è il compagno Majakovskij.” “E chi è?” asks Peppino. To Venuti’s answer that it is a long story (perhaps also implying that it is too complex for a young boy of ten), a defiant and curious Peppino replies: “Raccontala!” (tell it to me!). 43 With one of the most effective cinematic devices in the entire movie, Giordana cuts this scene and makes us jump to ten years later, as we see Peppino leading an occupation of the land that had been expropriated from the farmers in order to build a third runway for the Palermo airport. As Marcus has noted, “The cut from the scene of childhood storytelling to adult activism implies a causal relationship between the two events so that the tale of Majakovskij becomes the catalyst” in the life of the protagonist. 44 The Russian revolutionary thus becomes the “exemplum” (Marcus) to which to model Peppino’s intellectual and social development. My interest, however, lies more in the tool through which Majakoskij was able to mold Peppino’s mind than in the end result, which is expected. It was the Russian artist’s poetry that realized that end, a socially engaged poetic voice, but also a lonely and passionate one. Moreover, Majakovskij with his life foreshadows what Pasolini himself would do with his. The poetic voice of Communist Russia, he was later disillusioned with Stalinism and with his love life and killed himself at the age of thirty-seven. But Majakovski was not the only exemplum that inspired Giordana to shoot the scene of the occupation of the fields. The camera frames the giant excavators lined up in a row like war tanks, while farmers and police face each other. As these instruments of destruction begin to move, ready to dig out and erase the past under a flow of cement, the subtle echo of Pasolini’s “Il pianto della scavatrice” can be heard. Piange ciò che ha fine e ricomincia. Ciò che era area erbosa, aperto spiazzo, e si fa cortile, bianco come cera, chiuso in decoro che è rancore; ciò che era quasi una vecchia fiera di freschi intonachi sghembi al sole, e si fa nuovo isolato, brulicante in un ordine ch’è spento dolore. 45 What cries is that which ends and starts again. What was a patch of grass, an open expanse,

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and is now a courtyard white as wax, enclosed in a resentful decorum, what used to be almost an old fair of fresh plaster twisted in the sun and is now a new city block, teeming in an order made of muted pain.

Stepping in front of the menacing machines, Peppino, followed by the other farmers, fights his futile battle to preserve a past that will soon be destroyed to build a modern future. Yet to find the revolutionary courage for such an act, Pasolini is not enough, and Majakovski comes to his rescue. The name of the Russian poet appears once more in the film, this time as the politically engaged poet that he was. The disciple has learned his lesson maybe better than his old mentor Venuti. As Peppino becomes disappointed with the party’s lack of support of the town’s struggle and with Venuti’s taking the party’s side, he turns to him in anger: “Quella poesia di Majakovskij, Stefano, la tua preferita ‘Non rinchiuderti partito nelle tue stanze, resta amico dei ragazzi di strada’” (“That poem of Majakovskij, Stefano, your favorite one, ‘Party, do not close yourself in your rooms, remain friend of the street kids’”) the implied words “you have forgotten it” 46 are a clear lesson to a teacher who had forgotten his own lesson. Poetry is used not only to teach a social and a political lesson. As the maternal language, it is also used to express the love relationship between mother and son and its religious connotations. The Oedipal nature of the intensely moving scene that takes place in the garage where Peppino goes to live after his father kicks him out of the house, speaks only too clearly to any audience. 47 I am, however, more interested in its religious quality; and Pasolini is the intermediary. As it often happens in Pasolini’s poetry, this exchange between mother and son through the language of his poetry is a love scene not only between Felicia and Peppino (Felicia being for Peppino what Susanna was for Pier Paolo), but between Mary and Christ. Peppino has been persecuted by the violence of villains who will eventually succeed in murdering him. His fate is sealed, but he is not renouncing his fight. In the garage scene, the mother finds an almost naked, emaciated, birdlike, Christlike figure. Felicia, who will later beg him to stop raising his voice against the whole town, is here his accomplice, and theirs is a love dialogue. She is the mother–spouse, as Mary was often represented. Colleen Ryan-Scheutz rightly says that Pier Paolo conceived himself as victim. I would like to stretch the image more and add that he saw himself as martyr, as a Christological figure. This similarity, like that of Felicia to a Madonna figure, will continue to the end of the film, when prostrated by the pain after the murder of Peppino, before his coffin she utters the words: “No, non era uno di noi. E io vendette non le voglio” (No, he wasn’t one of us. And I do not want revenges). 48 He


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was not a man like us, he preached justice against violence and had the courage to die for his ideas. In the screenplay, describing the garage where Peppino is hiding, Giordana calls it an alcove that introduces a love scene, and adds, “Sembra più l’incontro clandestino di due amanti che quello di una madre che porta rifornimenti al figlio”(it looks more like the clandestine meeting of two lovers than a mother bringing supplies to her son). 49 She brings him the words of a poet who was in love with his mother and could never give an equally intense love to another human being. Never in the film, in fact, does Peppino show a sentimental interest in another woman, or in a man either. He is almost condescending when the tall, blonde beautiful “figlie dei fiori” arrive in town and all his male friends seem to be reduced to zombies after them. He cannot understand his brother’s need to get sentimentally involved with his girlfriend Felicetta—he comments immediately, however, on the name, ironically implying that Giovanni, too, is in search of another mother. Though Peppino Impastato’s hidden homosexuality that Giordana delicately respected has been amply proved, the Peppino of our story has no interest in sentimental relationships with girls or anyone else, with the exception of his strong homosocial relationships with his friends. 50 And he is not interested not only because he is too much involved in politics, but because he is a prisoner of his mother’s love: Tu sei la sola al mondo che sa, del mio cuore, ciò che è stato sempre, prima di ogni altro amore. Per questo devo dirti ciò ch’è orrendo conoscere: è dentro la tua grazia che nasce la mia angoscia. Sei insostituibile. Per questo è dannata alla solitudine la vita che mi hai data. E non voglio esser solo. Ho un’infinita fame d’amore, dell’amore di corpi senza anima. Perché l’anima è in te, sei tu, ma tu sei mia madre e il tuo amore è la mia schiavitù. 51

He cannot offer total love to another human being, because his spirtual self is in her. All he has left for others is a sexual desire for bodies. Pasolini wrote the poem “Supplica a mia madre” as a monologue. He is addressing his mother, but she is not present. Giordana, instead, decides to transform the poem into a dialogue. Peppino reads it to his mother and at Felicia’s comment: “Che sono belle queste parole” (how beautiful these words are), he forces the book into her hands and makes her continue the reading, thus creating a highly sensually charged atmosphere. If Giordana decides to transform Pasolini’s “Supplica a mia madre” into a dialogue, giving voice also to the mother, it is to make her aware of her responsibility of this slavery. This bond between the two cannot be broken, and it is the very nature of the maternal love that has created it. The language of poetry is

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the language of truth, thus Peppino and Felicia are able to express the intensity and the weight of their love, which is a heavy, unbreakable chain, only through poetry. There is nothing that could have followed Pasolini’s intense love lines, and Giordana very tactfully fades out the scene. 52 The furious jealousy Carlo Alberto Pasolini felt toward his son, which takes center stage in Edipo re, is realized in Giordana’s film in Luigi Impastato, the family patriarch who must be “honored” by the son as the Fourth Commandment says. His considering Peppino his rival for the love of Felicia is openly stated during a family meal, when he sarcastically provokes his wife with the comment that the Communists are pushing for the divorce: “Così quando l’hanno messo, tu puoi divorziare e sposare Peppino! Il tuo fidanzato. . . . Tu,” turning to his son Giovanni, “credi di contare qualcosa? Io conto qualcosa? Niente contiamo! Solo Peppino conta, solo Peppino esiste! Peppino Impastato . . . ‘u re!” (So, when they approve it you can divorce and marry Peppino! Your fiancé. . . . You, Givoanni, do you believe you count for something? Do I count for something? We count for nothing! Only Peppino counts, only Peppino exists! Peppino Impastato . . . the king!) 53 Pasolini’s voice can be heard again when Peppino speaks about beauty, the environment, and the commercialization of life. As he and his friend Salvo climb the hill (of “L’infinito”?) to look down into the valley where building continues relentlessly, Peppino touches on a very timely issue. The invasion of cement that has abandoned any aesthetical concern makes people forget beauty and slowly habituates them to ugliness, which in the long run will no longer appear as such. Art is the only hope to save this decaying world that has forgotten all aesthetic values: poetry and cinema. The film Le mani sulla città that Peppino screens in the little film club of Cinisi demonstrates his protest against those who make a profit from the destruction of the city. Additionally, Giordana’s allusion to Francesco Rosì evidences his debt to the founder of cinema d’impegno. Pasolini is still present, if more subtly, in Radio Out, the free radio station Peppino and his friends organize in order to launch his ferocious attacks against the Mafia of Cinisi. The language he chooses for this attack is once more that of canonical, poetical Italian; this time not Leopardi’s, but father Dante’s himself, the civic poet par excellence, who had launched vitriolic attacks against corruption in his beloved Florence. As Marcus noted, in choosing Dante’s terza rima, the language of the Divine Comedy, Peppino/ Giordana grounds its effect in a common cultural patrimony that would resonate with everyone. Cinisi takes the form of Dante’s Hell inhabited by its mafiosi citizens. Giordana certainly had in mind Pasolini’s famous civic poem Le ceneri di Gramsci, also structured in terza rima, but in my view he was even more inspired by La divina mimesis. 54 This unfinished work was to be a rewriting of the Divine Comedy, with an Inferno and two Paradisi (the


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capitalist and the Communist). What is left, however, is only a few canti of the Inferno, and some added notes for future canti. Pasolini’s guide in his Inferno is not one of his literary models—one must have expected, for example, Antonio Gramsci—but the guide is himself, his divided self, the civic poet he had been in the 1950s with his “passione per il popolo, la storia, l’ideologia, il mito, e lo stile.” 55 Thus Pasolini sees himself as the preChristian poet, a modern Virgil. In the beginning of Canto I, Pasolini the narrator is going to a theater where a memorial for a Communist “hero” who had just died is taking place. Red roses and red flags, hundreds of workers, “un vecchio senatore,” “un nuovo candidato alla Camera,” are waiting for Pasolini to arrive. They all feel joy because eighteen youths had just enrolled in the party. Pasolini’s reflection, however, is one of sadness (“mi stringeva il cuore”) because “la cerchia era rivolta al centro di essa, escludeva il mondo”(I was heartbroken because the circle was turned toward the center, it excluded the world) 56 — that is, because of their inability or unwillingness to reach out, and because of speeches performed to the same old audience. “Il palco degli anni quaranta; il microfono degli anni quaranta: tutto traballante, di legno vecchio, di magazzino, inchiodato con quattro colpi di martello e ricoperto di povera stoffa rossa. Che stringeva il cuore!” (The stage of the ’40s: the microphone of the ’40s: everything out of old wood, wobbly, from a storage, nailed with four hammer’s hits, and covered with poor red material. Which it would break one’s heart!) “La cerchia è rivolta verso questo centro pieno di certezza: il mondo è fuori, radioso e indifferente. E il cuore è straziato” (the circle turned to this center full of certainty: the world is outside, radiant and indifferent. And the heart bleeds). 57 It evokes the echo of the verses of Majakovskij that Peppino recites to Stefano Venuti: “Non rinchiuderti Partito nelle tue stanze, resta amico dei ragazzi di strada” (Party, do not lock yourself in your room, remain the friend of the street kids). 58 The guide who comes to rescue the poet is the young, confident Pasolini, full of illusions. He comes to save him from the three beasts, which are nothing but aspects of the poet’s very nature. The most feared is of course, the sexually insatiable she-wolf. But the hell to which his guide will take him is the world itself by now made infernal. Peppino Impastato, too, in his broadcast from Radio Out addresses Cinisi as Mafiopoli, one of Hell’s locations. “Così arrivammo al centro di Mafiopoli, / la turrita città piena di gente / che fa per profession l’ingannapopoli” (So, we arrived at the center of Mafiopoli / the turreted city full of people / whose profession is deceiving people). 59 At the end of Canto II, Pasolini who is following his guide, compares himself to all the flowers he encounters in his path. “Fioretti ammassati,” “fioretti isolati” “deboli, poverini, fatti di una sostanza poco più consistente della polvere, o del gelo, che un nulla basta a far scomparire.” “Ero come

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loro, gli increduli di morire, e destinati a una vita di pochi giorni.” “Anch’io come un fiore . . . obbedisco alla necessità che mi vuole preso dalla lietezza che succeede allo scoramento. Poi certo verrà ancora qualcosa che mi offenderà e mi massacrerà” 60 (Little flowers piled up, isolated, weak, pitiful, made of a substance barely more consistent than dust or frost, that a nothing is enough to make disappear. I was like them, who don’t believe they would die, and destined to a life of a few days. I, too, as a flower [. . .] obey the necessity that wants me taken by the joy that follows discouragement. Then certainly something will arrive that will offend me and massacre me). At forty Pasolini was still sharing the spirit of twenty-year-old Peppino. And the “offence” and the “massacre” will befall both of them. In “Appunti e frammenti per il III Canto” the poet is entering the “circle” of hell where the conformists are placed, “i moralisti del dovere di essere come tutti” (The moralists of the duty of being like everybdy else). 61 They are all following a flag with a faded symbol in the middle: that of a turd (“uno stronzo”). In Peppino’s hell we encountered similar sinners, who not only conform but praise those with power, the sycophants “color che nella bocca / puzzano per i cul che han leccato” (those whose mouths stink for the asses they licked). 62 Both texts share scatological images to describe conformists and sycophants. Hell is present; it is the world in which we live. In his introduction to Pasolini: Un delitto italiano, Giordana speaks of Pasolini as a “paternal figure.” I would like to call the writer Pasolini (“scrittore,” as he wanted to be called and as was written on his passport) a maternal figure, and I think Pasolini would have approved. He was not and did not want to be father for he did not want to pass on paternal values; that is, the lesson of history. He wanted to hand down to his young disciples the maternal values of authenticity, poetry, the past, together with the respect for nature and for primitive cultures. Peppino Impastato on his “dear hill” overlooking Cinisi has learned his lesson well. 63 There is no doubt that with his films Giordana continues Pasolini’s ethical legacy. If La meglio gioventù is an open declaration of his debt to him, Quando sei nato non puoi più nasconderti returns to the praise of primitive populations with their unspoiled nature, authenticity, and goodness. Even his latest film on the tragic event of Piazza Fontana, Romanzo di una strage, seems to be the following chapter to Pasolini’s essay “Io so,” which was included in Scritti corsari with the title “Il romanzo delle stragi.” 64 If the intellectual, according to Pasolini, “knows” (“sa”) but does not have the proof to bring the culprits to justice, he has the moral obligation all the same to speak, to call attention to corruption, to alert the public about the crimes that have been committed.


Daniela Bini

NOTES 1. Michael Kahn explains the necessity of resolving the Oedipus complex as fundamental in the healthy development of the male child. Michael Kahn, Basic Freud: Psychoanalytic Thought for the Twenty First Century (New York: Basic Books, 2002), 75. 2. In her extensive study on women in Pasolini’s cinema, Ryan-Scheutz underlines the element of the sacred as an essential component of women’s essence. “They retain ‘pure’ traits from their cultural past”; “they kept watch on and safeguarded the sacred.” She thus points out the strict connection between the “sacred” and the “past,” the primitive, the original. Colleen Ryan-Scheutz, Sex, the Self, and the Sacred: Women in the Cinema of Pier Paolo Pasolini (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2007), 12. 3. Pier Paolo Pasolini, Tutte le poesie, 2 vols. (Milan: Mondadori, 2003), I, 820 (hereafter cited as Poesie). I agree with Joseph Francese in recognizing in Pasolini an unwavering belief in Crocean aesthetics. Joseph Francese, “The Latent Presence of Crocean Aesthetics in Pasolini’s ‘Critical Marxism,’” in Pasolini Old and New, ed. Zygmunt G. Baranski (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 1999). 4. Athough there is a satisfctory recent transaltion of Pasolini’s selected poetry, I have decided to use my own for the sake of consistency, since I have chosen some poems that are not in the new volume, The Selected Poetry of Pier Paolo Pasolini, translated by Stephen Sartarelli, University of Chicago Press, 2014. 5. Pasolini did not love the subproletarian because they have a social consciousness, because of their political struggle. He loved them for their joyful simplicity, for their nature, for their strength that comes from their origin and is lost when it becomes action. That original force gives it a poetical light. 6. Francese, “The Latent Presence of Crocean Aesthetics,” 150. 7. Sulla poesia in dialetto friulano: “To go back to the maternal tongue appears to a “foreign” poet the onlly manner to express all the sentimental and passionate moments of existence” (Enzo Siciliano, Vita di Pasolini [Milan: Mondadori, 2005], 86). 8. Poesie I, 500. 9. Poesie I, 500. 10. Poesie I, 502. 11. Poesie I, 500–1, my emphasis. 12. Poesie I, 41. 13. Pasolini’s recurrent use of the figures of Christ and Mary in his poetry must be read as his immanent vision of the sacred, as Stefania Benini has convincingly argued in her recent study. Stefania Benini, Pasolini: The Sacred Flesh (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2015). 14. Poesie I, 188. 15. Poesie I, 188–89. 16. Poesie I, 409, 410. The lines are: “Tu eri tanto/bella e innocente . . . / Madre . . . chi eri / quand’eri giovane? / E Lui, chi era? / Madre, che muoia . . . / Ah, sia fanciulla sempre la vita nella severa / tua vita di fanciulla.” I am correcting here Ryan-Scheutz’s translation of “che muoia” as “may you die” (Ryan-Scheutz, Sex, the Self, 27). The exhortative subjunctive makes much better sense if attributed to the father in this case, Carlo Alberto, as responsible for Susanna’s suffering. The capital case of Lui can be explained with Pasolini’s shifting from the human to the divine, from men to God and his desire to create ambiguity (Ryan-Scheutz, Sex, the Self, 27). 17. Poesie I, 413. 18. Poesie I, 487. 19. For the use of the enjambment in Pasolini as a “precisa tecnica versificatoria” and with a clear representative function that Fortini calls “la poetica dell’antitesi,” see Guido Santato, Pier Paolo Pasolini: L’opera (Vicenza: Neri Pozza Editore, 1980), 155. “The antithesis is detectable on all levels of his writing . . . up to the oxymoron,” which Fortini also sees as reflecting his “biographical-psychological experience of the antithesis and contradiction” (quoted in Santato, Pier Paolo Pasolini, 73). 20. Poesie I, 89.

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21. The clinical psychologist Michael Kahn recounts the confession of a patient whose parents divorced when he was ten and whose mother never remarried or even dated, and told him “You are my little man now.” Kahn recounts that “a couple of years later Geoffrey began regularly masturbating. He would masturbate in bed and ejaculate onto the bed sheet, making no attempt to conceal it. Each morning his mother would take the sheet off the bed, wash it, and replace it without comment. Geoffrey had no doubt that she was aware of the ejaculate. “We were actually making love, weren’t we? He asked his therapist” (Kahn, Basic Freud, 82–83). 22. Poesie I, 436. 23. Poesie I, 458. 24. Poesie I, 988. 25. Poesie I, 988, my emphasis. “Because the mother is so tied to our earliest, most primitive experiences, maternal images have a uniquely archaic pull. We have an infantile wish for a mother who is less a person than a all-powerful figure who is fully responsible for our wellbeing.” This myth continues to support and be supported by the patriarchal discourse (the power discourse that Michel Foucault talks about). Donna Bassin, Margaret Honey, and Mary Mahrer Kaplan, eds., Representations of Motherhood (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1994), 4. Pasolini had very intelligent and cultured female friends, and Ryan-Scheutz finds curious that instead, no similar characters “figure[s] in his work (regardless of genre)” (Sex, the Self, 23). The topic would require and deserve a longer discussion. What can be said, however, is that women were unique and special for Pasolini not for possessing intellectual qualities that can also be found in males, but for those traditionally feminine ones: goodness, honesty, authenticity. Though one could accuse Pasolini of naivité and superficiality (there are plenty of materialistic and dishonest women, and probably just as many honest and good males), I think he was not so far from that feminist discourse that valorizes precisely these characteristics against the materialistic, opportunistic business-oriented male mentality. It is in those qualities, in fact, that some feminists see hope for the future. 26. Poesie I, 991. 27. Poesie I, 990. 28. Jewell cites Anna Panicale, “L’ultima gioventù,” in Perché Pasolini, ed. Keala Jewell, 203–13 (Urbino: Guaraldi, 1978). Panicale speaking on poetry of La meglio gioventù (Keala Jewell, ed., Perché Pasolini [Urbino: Guaraldi, 1978], 62). 29. Saggi sulla politica e sulla società (Milan: Mondadori, 1999), 1407–8. 30. Poesie I, 1112–13. 31. Marco Tullio Giordana, Claudio Fava, Monica Zappelli, eds., I cento passi (Milan: Feltrinelli, 2001). 32. Poesie I, 1102. 33. Poesie I, 1083. 34. Poesie I, 1084. 35. I do not see Mamma Roma as repository of the sacred, the past (as Colleen RyanScheutz does). Speaking of Edipo re, Pasolini wrote: “Il rapporto tra un figlio e sua madre non è un rapporto storico: è un rapporto puramente interiore, privato, al di fuori dalla storia, in realtà metastorico e perciò ideologicamente improduttivo, mentre invece ciò che fa la storia è il rapporto di odio e amore tra padre e figlio. . . . Invece tutto quello che c’è di ideologico, volontario, attivo e pratico nelle mie azioni come scrittore dipende dalla mia lotta con il padre” (The relationship son–mother is not a historical relationship: it is a purely intimate relation, private, outside history, in reality it is metahistorical, thus ideologically unproductive, while instead, what makes history is the love–hatred relationship between father and son. . . . All that exists in my actions as writer of ideological, voluntary, active and practical depends on my struggle with my father) (Nico Naldini, Pasolini, una vita [Turin: Einaudi, 1989], 314). Not so far from the Aristotelian, Western belief that reason, thus ideology, science, intellectual growth are male and the primitive, the instinctual, ahistorical, original is female. 36. Siciliano, Vita di Pasolini, 151. “It should not appear absurd that he could conceive a difference between ‘woman’ and ‘mother’: he needed to differentiate Susanna from any other woman, so that she could sustain the weight of all his love and keep it pure and incontminated” (152). 37. Poesie I, 114.


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38. Poesie I, 1122–23. 39. Poesie I, 1123. 40. Marco Tullio Giordana, Pasolini, Un delitto Italiano (Milan: Mondadori, 1994, 2005), 7. 41. Giordana, Fava, and Zappelli, I cento passi, 16. 42. Giordana, Fava, and Zappelli, I cento passi, 39. 43. Giordana, Fava, and Zappelli, I cento passi, 39. 44. Millicent Marcus, “In Memoriam: The Neorealist Legacy in the Contemporary Sicilian Anti-Mafia Film,” in Italian Neorealism and Global Cinema, ed. Laura E. Ruberto and Cristi M. Wilson, 290–306 (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2007), 296. 45. Poesie I, 848. 46. I cento passi, 49. 47. A thorough and profound analysis of I cento passi and his connection with Pasolini is in the second chapter of Anna Paparcone’s dissertation Echoes of Pasolini in Contemporary Italian Cinema: The Cases of Marco Tullio Giordana and Aurelio Grimaldi, Cornell University, 2009. I am very grateful to her for sending me the entire chapter when I was writing this chapter. 48. I cento passi, 148. 49. I cento passi, 79. 50. In 2006, Umberto Santino published the diary of Peppino Impastato together with his poetry in the volume Lunga è la notte: Poesie, scritti, documenti, ed. Umberto Santino (Palermo: Quaderni del Centro Siciliano di Documentazione “Giuseppe Impastato,” 2002). There are passages where Peppino talks about his falling in love with a comrade. In her dissertation Echoes of Pier Paolo Pasolini in Contemporary Italian Cinema, Anna Paparcone evinces from the film and discusses persuasively this aspect of Peppino that his family and friends tried to hide. Homosexuality, she rightly notes, was not only unacceptable still then in Italian society (a case in point was Pasolini himself), but even more forcefully was considered abject in Sicily and especially within the Mafia circle. Peppino’s own, though hidden, can clearly be seen not only as a consequence of his Oedipal relationship with his mother and rejection of the father, but also as his strong opposition to Mafia values, also represented, as Dana Renga remarks, by his father. Dana Renga, “Oedipal Conflicts in Marco Tullio Giordana’s The Hundred Steps,” Annali d’italianistica 30 (2012): 197–210. 51. Poesie I, 1102. 52. Anna Paparcone in the study mentioned before analyzes convincingly this scene using Jacques Lacan’s mirror phase. She argues that the reflection of Peppino’s profile underscores his refusal to separate from the mother and recognize the law of the father (Echoes of Pasolini in Contemporary Italian Cinema, chapter 2, pp. 3–4). 53. I cento passi, 92–93. The episode of Pasolini’s conjunctivitis and his father holding him down on the table to put drops in his eyes is very Oedipal and resonates at the beginning of Edipo re, when Oedipus’s father holds him by his feet, and later on when the shepherd takes him in the woods while he hangs from a stick. 54. Pier Paolo Pasolini, La divina mimesis (Milan: Einaudi, 1975). 55. Roberto Bertoni, “Appunti sulla Divina Mimesis di PPP,” accessed February 15, 2016, 56. Pasolini, La divina mimesis, 7–8. 57. Pasolini, La divina mimesis, 8. 58. Giordana, Fava, and Zappelli, I cento passi, 49. 59. Giordana, Fava, and Zappelli, I cento passi, 88. 60. Pasolini, La divina mimesis, 28, 29. 61. Pasolini, La divina mimesis, 32. 62. Giordana, Fava, and Zappelli, I cento passi, 89. 63. Pasolini was killed in 1975, and justice has not yet been brought to this dreadful crime. Peppino Impastato was killed in 1978 and justice was finally achieved twenty years later. After the frustration of the long investigation about the first crime, the long effort in reconstructing it in his book and film, Giordana needed to restore some hope and trust in the Italian public. Peppino Impastato gave him that chance; that of heinous crime that was finally resolved and the perpetrators were brought to justice, albeit twenty years later.

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64. The essay “Io so” was first published in Corriere della sera on November 14, 1974, and was included in Scritti corsari (Milan: Garzanti, 1975), 107–13.

Chapter Two

Jesus Narcissus Pasolini’s Self-Representation as Scapegoat and Martyr in His Friulan Verse William Van Watson

Rinaldo Rinaldi describes Pier Paolo Pasolini’s verse drama Bestia da Stile (1974) as “a series of lyric confessions . . . a reconstruction of time past based on the archaic Friulan model.” 1 In this work Pasolini projected his autobiography onto that of Jan Palach, the real-life Czech who set himself on fire in protest against the invasion of Prague by armed Russian tanks in the summer of 1968. As autobiography, Bestia da Stile is not so much an accounting of the events of Pasolini’s life as it is a history of his evolution as a poet. Speaking for Pasolini, Jan asks himself what kind of poet he will be: “Poeta di cosa? / Del mio sesso e del mio paese.” 2 This uncomfortable mixture of sexual and political consciousness is perhaps what most characterizes Pasolini’s work and what has probably prompted divergent interpretations of his notorious death as well. Leftist groups and sessantottini have attempted to give Pasolini’s death a political significance, rehabilitating him as “poeta del suo paese” and turning him into a martyr for their own particular causes. Conservatives and reactionaries have attempted to reduce Pasolini to a simple “poeta del suo sesso,” nullifying his polemic and exploiting the sordid circumstances of his death to turn him into a scapegoat for their own repressiveness in general and their homophobia in particular. Perhaps the real scandal over Pasolini’s death has been that he was neither a martyr for revolutionaries nor a scapegoat of reactionaries. Instead, as political liberalism translated into sexual liberation, the left found itself complicit with the right in its dehumanizing commodification of the body. Realizing this, Pasolini recanted the deceptive sexual freeedom of the “Trilogy of Life” and 37


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bequeathed Salò as his final cinematic legacy. He noted: “In fact, my films have contributed, in practice, to a false liberalization, actually desired by the new reformist and permissive power, which is also the most fascist power in history.” 3 Pasolini’s death has prompted a false dichotomy of interpretations, but it was neither a righteous punishment for a transgressive homosexuality nor the inevitable silencing of a voice of civic dissent. Instead, Pasolini was not immune to the “permissive power” that he both championed and condemned at different times. Far from being transgressive, he died in accordance with the laws of consumption, caught in the act. This fact has scandalized the hedonist and ego-obssessed left as well as the capitalist and Catholic right. In contrast to the sordid nature of Pasolini’s death, the historical Jan Palach’s death was an act of purification, a desperate and deliberate martyrdom aimed at sociopolitical engagement and consequence. 4 Pasolini’s deflection of his autobiography onto that of the real-life Jan Palach in Bestia da Stile could have functioned as a convenient act of left-wing wish-fulfillment. Such a tactic would have allowed Pasolini to prefigure for himself an altruistic martyrdom for a political cause, that of the Prague Spring, rather than the self-oriented martyrdom to his own sexuality that he was later to realize. However, Pasolini does not employ Palach to resolve or absolve the enigma of his own death. Instead of using Palach as an act of simple self-purification, he marks the death of his fictive Jan with his own complex contamination: Io amo gli Dei degli Alberi, e Cristo, per il suo sangsue, proprio come voi, anzi, io ne rivivo la condanna per voi, perché io sanguino, dal cazzo e dal cuore, mentre voi appartenete alla specie di quelli che se ne stanno sotto la croce. 5 I love the gods of the Trees, and Christ, by his blood, just like you, indeed, I will relive the sentence for you, because I bleed, from the cock and the heart, while you belong to the species of those who sit under the cross.

As Jan sees himself as separate from the people he would champion, Pasolini’s character again reflects his own dilemma of alienation rather than the engagement of the historical Jan Palach. 6 As Jan places himself not only as separate from but also superior to the very people “sotto la croce” that he would champion, Pasolini, by extension, places himself not only “fuori del palazzo” but also “sopra del palazzo.” Such narcissism counterbalances and is contingent upon the masochism of Jan’s poetic allusion to the crucifix when he declares, “Io amo gli Dei degli Alberi.”

Jesus Narcissus


The difference between scapegoating and martyrdom lies within the selfselection of the martyr. Such self-selection reveals both masochism and narcissism and, most important, the connection between them. To desire death is masochistic. The Italian left has interpreted Pasolini’s masochism as a form of altruism. To presume one’s death has some special significance or redemptive power is narcissistic. The Italian right has interpreted Pasolini’s narcissism as arrogance since his assumption of the role of martyr is a conceit. The most prevalent psychological and poetic conceit in Pasolini’s Friulan verse is the same self-representation as Jesus that Jan displays in Bestia da Stile. As Jan bleeds not only from his “cuore,” but also from his “cazzo,” Pasolini complicates the altruism of martyrdom with the selfishness of sexuality. The positions of asexual martyr and hypersexual scapegoat contaminate one another, as “cuore” and “cazzo” appear interchangeable as alternating sites of pleasure and pain. In like manner, pain suffered on the “Alberi” and pleasure enjoyed with the “cazzo” alternate in their shared phallicism. Pasolini’s sexualization of the figure of Christ recalls the work of the English Metaphysical poets, a group who, like Pasolini, were also known for their conceits. Richard Rambuss notes: “Here, within the amorously accentuated devotional expressions of such seventeenth-century male poets as John Donne, George Herbert and Richard Crashaw, one finds enactments of erotic desire and gender, all performed in cathexis to a viscerally rendered body of Jesus.” 7 With his crotch shots of Terence Stamp in the film Teorema (1968), Pasolini also rendered the body of Jesus viscerally, as spiritual knowledge became synonymous with sexual knowledge. Richard Dyer notes: “A characteristic feature of gay/lesbian fantasy is the possibility of oscillation between wanting to be and wanting to have the object of desire.” 8 A homoerotic sensibility thus unifies the positions of desiring subject and desired object, locating such desire within a paradigm of (secondary) narcissism. The poetry of Richard Crashaw and John Donne illustrates this point. Crashaw presents the figure of Christ as penetrated with “delicious wounds,” as pierced by phallic spears, lances, nails, and thorns, whose carnal violations provoke the fluidity of blood, tears, sweat, and saliva. 9 While Crashaw transforms Christ’s body into a thinly veiled object of homoerotic desire, Donne aspires to be the love object of a homoerotic God. He wants to be “battered,” “knocked,” and “ravished” by God, all verbs used recurrently in a sexual context in English seventeenth-century poetry. Donne tells God “That I may rise . . . / I . . . / Labour to admit you.” 10 Translating Donne’s metaphor into a religious reading does not negate its more literal message, that being sodomized renders him erect. Access to the spiritual is gained through the sexual. The religious ecstasy of Jesus and the libidinal ecstasy of Narcissus fuse, much as in Teorema. The psychosexual dynamic expressed in Donne’s poetry serves as a prelude to Jeremiah 20:7, which Pasolini quotes in Teorema: “You have seduced me, God, and I let myself be seduced; you have raped me


William Van Watson

and you have triumphed. I have become an object of mockery every day, all make fun of me.” Past ecstasy descends into present misery, erection collapses into dejection, the fusion of subject and object decays into the abject, and narcissism slides into masochism. While Crashaw presents himself as desiring subject of a homoeroticized Christ and Donne presents himself as the desired object of a homoeroticized God, Pasolini fuses these subject and object positions by identifying himself with the figure of Christ himself. Such a fusion follows the paradigm of narcissism, so not surprisingly the figure of Narcissus recurs in Pasolini’s Friulan verse as regularly as that of Jesus. The two figures are interrelated and mutually dependent, as Pasolini-the-reactionary, genus Jesus relied upon Pasolini-the-libertine, genus Narcissus, to define himself. The purposefully generalized title of “Il fanciullo morto” could refer to either figure. In the poem, the church bells, which should call to mind the sacrifice of Christ, instead toll Narcissus’s usurpation of that sacrifice: Io ti ricordo, Narciso, avevi il colore della sera, quando le campane suonano a morto. 11 I remember you, Narciso, you were the color of the evening, when the bells play dead.

Pasolini wrote the original version of La meglio gioventù between 1941 and 1953, precisely the period in which Richard Dyer assessed the use of the archetype of “the sad young man” as a covert marker for the homosexual. According to Dyer, the sad young man and his world are characterized by an overdetermined mother–son relationship and the celebratory adolescence of narcissism, a heightened emotionalism and a penchant toward Christian-like martyrdom, all hovering in an eternal twilight somewhere between the daylight of public reason and the tormented night of private illicit desire. 12 “Il fanciullo morto” exhibits all these characteristics, revealing Pasolini’s poetry to be the product of a specifically homoerotic sensibility. In “Le litanie del bel ragazzo,” Pasolini exploits the cadence of Jesus’s name for his own aesthetic and musical purposes, as the chanting of this name replaces the chimes of “Il fanciullo morto” to become a litany for Narcissus. Io sono un bel ragazzo, piango tutto il giorno, ti prego Gesù mio, non farmi morire. Gesù, Gesù, Gesù. 13 I’m a beautiful guy, I cry all day, I beg you, my Jesus,

Jesus Narcissus


do not let me die. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.

Pasolini reworked La meglio gioventù as La nuova gioventù in 1974, controverting the entire paradigm of the sad young man by distancing himself from its heightened emotionalism and contrasting its celebratory adolescent sensibility with the skepticism of advancing age. Part of the revised “Suite furlana” uses a narcissistic metaphor to explain the author’s impulse to rewrite his old verse: Faccio per guardarmi nello specchio per vedere che cosa sono stato, ma lo specchio si muove come acqua, e si muove ciò che io sono diventato. Torno a guardare nello specchio, ch è fermo come un pezzo di ghiaccio. E dentro è ferma la Forma che sa di se stesso che nasce. 14 I start to look at myself in the mirror to see what I was, but the mirror moves as water, and it moves so that I have become. I go back to look in the mirror, that is as firm as a piece of ice. And inside is firm the Form who knows himself is born.

Pasolini’s mirror simultaneously “si muove come acqua” and yet “è fermo come un pezzo di ghiaccio.” His image forever changes, but like Narcissus’s, his self-image remains fixed. Rewriting his old poetry allows Pasolini to accomodate both the changes and the fixity of his sensibility. Insofar as such poetry “sa di se stesso che nasce,” Pasolini’s aesthetic strategy as pasticheur is a deliberate and conscious one. Hans Loewald writes that “the primary narcissistic identification with the mother constitutes the deepest unconscious origin and structuring layer of the ego and reality.” 15 Pasolini’s mother Susanna functioned as his Narcissus’s mirror. In “Suite furlana” he discovers “Dietro lo specchio mia madre fanciulla.” 16 “O me donzello” notes: Volevo essere mia madre che mi amava, ma non volevo amare me stesso. 17 I wanted to be my mother who loved me, but I did not love myself.


William Van Watson

The maternal mirror is everything, providing the fullness that Donne and Jeremiah found in their union with God. Like Donne, who requires God in order to “rise,” and like Jeremiah, who, bereft of his former union with God, becomes the target of mockery, Pasolini’s concession that “non volevo amare me stesso” indicates that without his maternal mirror he is without worth. Narcissus without a mirror degenerates from the fullness of being both desiring subject (of the mother) and desired object (of the mother) to the emptiness of being abject and exiled altogether from the economy desire. The loss of wholeness became the wholeness of loss. Gaylyn Studlar discerns the “the narcissistic infant’s insatiability of demand” as a contributing factor in the evolution of masochism. 18 As desire remains insatiable, it functions as a source not only of pleasure but also of pain. To pursue an insatiable desire becomes a masochistic exercise. Pasolini’s relentless nocturnal liaisons with subproletariat youth from the Roman periferia to the Third World were symptomatic of such an insatiable desire. This narcissistic promiscuity could not yield Pasolini a mirror that would reflect him as fully as his mother. Freud claimed the origins of masochism were to be found in the child’s fear of castration by the father as punishment for guilt over his desire for the mother. In contrast, French psychoanalyst Gilles Deleuze emphasized the figure of the mother in the creation of a dynamic of masochism, as she is the first to provide discipline as well as pleasure, the first to withhold as well as to grant the satisfaction of desire. Narcissism and masochism would thus have the same maternal source. Psychological suspense regarding satisfaction finds its sexual correlative in the masochistic practice of literally suspending the body from ropes, chains, nets, and such, and a religious correlative in the suspension of Christ from the cross, where he literally hangs between two worlds. Masochism and narcissism are also similar in that both positions are passive and acted upon. Each “gives nothing.” 19 Pasolini concedes this when he writes in “Danza di Narciso” that he is “desiderio senza desiderio.” 20 The narcissistic psychological sensibility that has been conditioned to receive rather than to give can experience the suspense of waiting to receive only as a form of masochism, and he can never been given enough. The self-love of Narcissus collides and colludes with the self-abnegation of Jesus. As Pasolini’s detractors perceived his origins in the former as “poeta del suo sesso,” his defenders claimed he was the latter as a “poeta del suo paese.” According to Deleuze, the control and power of the mother remains not only more primal but also more determining than that of the father, whose function, following the Lacanian tradition, remains more social. While the father attempts to teach the infant the social dynamics of public mastery, the mother has already subjected the infant to the psychodynamics of private submission. Deleuze even argues, “The father is nothing. . . . He is deprived of all symbolic function.” 21 Pasolini’s “La domenica uliva” illustrates the

Jesus Narcissus


point, as the poem provides a voice for the Mother and Son, but not for the Father. Madre and Figlio refer to “Padre nostro lontano, / Nella matrice del cielo.” 22 The father is removed to a distant heaven whose “matrice” etymologically locates him within a matriarchal space that actually precludes his patriarchal power. In the original Friulan “madre” and “matrice” are even the same word: mari. For this “Padre nostro” the space He inhabits remains a “cielo muto,” leaving him no voice, or in Lacanian terms, allowing him no “symbolic function,” as Deleuze suggests. 23 While John 1:1 claims that “the Word was God,” Pasolini completely severs this equation. His preference for writing in the maternal Friulan of Susanna rather than the patriarchal Italian of Carlo metalinguistically robs the father of any privileged deistic position within Pasolini’s poetic cosmology. Instead, in “Romancerillo” Pasolini associates his mother with the word and describes his mother in God-like terms as beginning and end, alpha and omega: Al principio del mondo, e alla fine della vita ogni nostra parola vuole dire “madre.” 24 At the beginning of the world, and the end of life every word means “mother.”

“Mother” becomes a virtual holy word and her language a sacred language, so that Pasolini’s decision to write his poetry within the maternal Friulan accumulates additional pyschoreligious significance. In “La domenica uliva” Madre and Figlio basically form an emotional alliance that excludes the Padre who would demand the death of his son. This dynamic replicates Pier Paolo’s own intense bond with his mother, as the two fled Friuli together for Rome like lovers, abandoning father and husband. The title, as well as the poem’s references to “croci” and “dolce Aprile,” suggests that the poem is a projection of Pasolini’s personal Oedipal fixations onto the central Christian drama. When Madre cries out “Ah, Cristo,” the exclamatory nature of her cry renders it ambiguous as to whether she is calling out to Christ for her son or to Christ who is her son. 25 When composing “La domenica uliva” as part of La meglio gioventù in 1941–1943, a youthful Pasolini may have felt a certain narcissism in equating himself with Christ. By the time of La nuova gioventù, after decades of persecution as self-appointed conscience of the nation, Pasolini usurps this role more readily and explicitly. The second “La domenica uliva” designates the April day as “Pasqua.” The ascription of the ages of Pier Paolo and Susanna at the time of composition to the characters of Figlio and Madre-Nonna serves to identify this Christ and the Holy Mother, who should be timeless, as evocations


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of the poet himself and his mother. 26 The exile of the father figure from the original version here escalates to outright condemnation: La Santa Pasqua, perché? per chi? ****** Per Figli e Madri (che crepi il Padre) 27 Holy Easter, because? for who? ****** For Children and Mothers (That splits the Father)

Dyer writes of the “sad young man” syndrome: “Coming out—accepting that one is gay—thus takes the form of going into another world.” 28 In Pasolini’s Friulan verse, this sense of “going into another world” may manifest itself as the future ascension of Christ into heaven, but just as often it is a nostalgic retreat to the precapitalist Friuli past. In the poems of La nuova gioventù, Friuli appears as the shadow of a lost paradise. In the reworked “La domenica uliva,” as Madre-Nonna and Figlio speak to one another, they realize that it is “un altro mondo, il nostro.” 29 “Tornando al paese” reads: Mi hai ingannato, la vita era in me, tu eri un’ombra e un’ombra il tuo fuoco. 30 You tricked me, life was in me, You were a shadow and a shadow your fire.

By 1974, Pasolini had recanted his “Trilogy of Life” and could no longer believe in his mythology of a subproletarian or precapitalist utopia, either in Friuli or elsewhere. Instead, he could believe only in himself (“la vita era in me”) as creator of these myths. Still, the otherworld of his lost paradise haunts his quotidian present but can at best only be deferred to an imagined future. The reworked “La domenica uliva” refers to “il pensiero di un mondo / lontano di uomini nuovi,” but this “mondo” remains only a “pensiero.” 31 In “Verrà il vero Cristo” Pasolini as “il poeta del suo paese” specifically identifies the Marxist Messiah of these “uomini nuovi” as an “operaio,” someone other than himself: Non ho il coraggio di aver sogni ******* Verrà il vero Cristo, operaio a insegnarti ad avere veri sogni. 32

Jesus Narcissus


I did not dare to have dreams ******* It will be the true Christ, worker to teach you to have true dreams.

Pasolini was unsuccessful at abdicating his role as Jesus because he could not extricate it from his continuing role as Narcissus. In “Danza di Narciso” he states: “Io sono nero di amore.” 33 The blackness of this love is the pool of death in which Narcissus sees his own reflection. La petite morte of Narcissus becomes la grande morte of Jesus. Death becomes the final “otherworld” of the sad young man. Studlar describes death as “the fantasy solution to masochistic desire.” 34 The insatiability of Pasolini’s nocturnal Narcissus rendered his desire masochistic, providing his Jesus with the obsessive “fantasy solution” of the Friulan verse. Whether this poetry serves as a eulogy for a martyr or for a scapegoat depends on the degree to which Pasolini is credited with free will or was merely the prisoner of a psychoanalytic determinism. The conscious process of writing La meglio gioventù, and especially the selfconscious process of rewriting La nuova gioventù, argue for the former. The content of this Friulan verse indicates the latter. NOTES 1. Rinaldo Rinaldi, Pier Paolo Pasolini (Milano: Mursia, 1982), 312–13. 2. Pier Paolo Pasolini, Bestia da stile, in Teatro. Calderón, Affabulazione, Pilade, Porcile, Orgia, Bestia da stile (Milan: Garzanti, 1988), 607 (hereafter cited as Bestia). 3. Pier Paolo Pasolini, “Tetis,” in Pier Paolo Pasolini: Contemporary Perspectives, ed. Patrick Rumble and Bart Testa, 243–50 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1994), 248, available online at This originally appeared in “Tetis,” which Pasolini wrote in 1973. 4. A humble monument to Palach’s memory still stands in Wenceslas Square, garlanded with flowers and surrounded by votive candles. The quintessential Czech hero, Jan Hus has long embodied that quintessential Czech characteristic, heresy, a trait to which Pasolini, as selfproclaimed provocateur, forever aspired. 5. Bestia, 200. 6. Jan’s position illustrates Antonio Gramsci’s assertion that “in Italy the intellectuals are distant from the people” (Antonio Gramsci, “Concept of Natinal-Popular,” in The Antonio Gramsci Reader: Selected Writings, 1916–1935, ed. David Forgacs [New York: New York University Press, 2000], 366) rather than Vladimir Kusin’s observation that in Czechoslovakia, “social differences were considerably narrower than in advanced Western societies. There was no polarization between upper and lower classes” (Vladimir Kusin, The Intellecutal Origins of the Prague Spring: The Development of Reformist Ideas in Czechoslovakia 1956–1967 [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002], 131). 7. Richard Rambuss, Closet Devotions (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1998), 72. 8. Richard Dyer, The Culture of Queers (New York: Routledge, 2002), 89–90. 9. For example, lines 11–16 of Crashaw’s “Office of the Holy Cross” read: “Wicked soldier, you will see there the wounds you inflicted / through whatever skill your madness tricked you with. / Whether at your finger’s prodding the thorny laurel drank / from his temples, or the spear drank from the holy side, / or the nails grew cruelly red under your blow, / or the scourge was ashamed at your command.”


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10. For example, lines 3, 5–6, and 12–14 of John Donne’s “Batter my heart three-person’d God” read: “That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow mee . . . I . . . / Labour to’admit you, but Oh to no end. . . . Take mee to you, imprison mee, for I / Except you’enthral mee, never shall be free, / Nor ever chaste, except you ravish mee.” 11. Pier Paolo Pasolini, La nuova gioventù. Poesie friulane 1941–1974 (Milan: Garzanti, 2016), 8 (hereafter cited as Gioventù). For purposes of convenience the poetry is presented in Italian, as the reader is not presumed to be conversant in Friulan. The Friulan title of this poem is “Il nini muàrt” and it reads: “Jo ti recuardi, Narcis, ti vèvis il colòur / da la sera, quand li ciampanis / a sunin di muàrt.” 12. Dyer, The Culture of Queers, 77–80. 13. Gioventù, 13. In Friulan the title is “Li letanis dal biel fi” and this reads: “Jo i soj un biel fi, / i plans dut il di, / ti prej, Jesus me, / no fami muri. / Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.” 14. Gioventù, 214. “I fai par vuardàmi tal spieli / par jodi se che jo i soj stat, / ma il speli al si mòuf coma n’aga / e a si mòuf se ch’i soj doventàt. / I torni a vuardà in tal spieli / ch’al è fer coma un toc di glas: / e dentri a è ferma la Forma / ch’al sa di se stes cui ch’al nas.” 15. Hans Loewald, “Ego and Reality,” International Journal of Psychoanalysis 32 (1951): 16–17. 16. Gioventù, 54. 17. Gioventù, 171. The Friulan title is “O me donzel” and it reads: “I volevi essir me mari / ch’a mi amava, ma / i no volevi amà me stes.” 18. Gaylyn Studlar, “Masochism and the Perverse Pleasures of the Cinema,” in Feminism and Film, ed. E. Ann Kaplan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 776. 19. Studlar, “Masochism and the Perverse Pleasures of the Cinema,” 784–85. 20. Gioventù, 54. 21. Gioventù, 56. 22. Gioventù, 34. In Friulan the title is “La domènia uliva” and this reads: “Pari nustri lontàn / ta la mari dal sèil.” 23. Gioventù, 34. 24. Gioventù, 195. The Friulan reads: “Al prinsipi dal mond / e a la fin da la vita / ogni nustra peràula / a vòul dizi ‘mari.’” 25. Gioventù, 33. 26. Madre-Nonna notes: “Ottantaquattro anni / io, e tu cinquantadue” (Gioventù, 198). In Friulan this reads: “Otantaquatri àins / jo, tu sinquantadoi.” 27. Gioventù, 200. Madre-Nonna notes: “Ottantaquattro anni / io, e tu cinquantadue” (Gioventù, 198). In Friulan this reads: “Otantaquatri àins / jo, tu sinquantadoi.” 28. Dyer, The Culture of Queers, 84. 29. Gioventù, 197. 30. Gioventù, 180. In Friulan the title is “Tornant al pais” and it reads: “Ti mi às ingianàt / la vita a era in me / tu i ti eris ‘na ombrena / e ‘na ombrena il to fòuc.” 31. Gioventù, 197. In Friulan this reads: “il pensèir di un mond / lontàn di òmis nòufs.” 32. Gioventù, 114. The Friulan reads: “No gò corajo de ver sogni. . . . / Vegnerà el vero Cristo, operajo, / a insegnarte a ver veri sogni.” 33. Gioventù, 55. 34. Studlar, “Masochism and the Perverse Pleasures of the Cinema,” 777.

Chapter Three

Poetic Gazing The “Word-Eye” in the Poetry of Pier Paolo Pasolini Flaviano Pisanelli

In the documentary film A futura memoria: Pier Paolo Pasolini (1985), directed by Ivo Barnabò Micheli, 1 Alberto Moravia argued that any potential critic of Pier Paolo Pasolini would have to reread his entire corpus using a purely poetic perspective. In fact, Moravia suggests that Pasolini was primarily a poet who knew how to express physically and intellectually a sort of “inexhaustible vitality” capable of translating into verbal images nonverbal and filmic complexity and contradictions of cultural, political, and social situations that escape the eyes of many intellectuals of the past and, we might add, the present. In recent decades, criticism on and about Pasolini seems to have followed this interpretive trail suggested by Moravia. In an effort to reread the impressive artistic production—literary and otherwise—of Pasolini, it is customary to emphasize the centrality of his poetic core. In fact, scholars and critics talk of “teatro di parola” (“theater of words”), the “cinema di poesia” (“poetic cinema”), and of the lyrical tension evident in many texts in prose published before and after the author’s death. Just to offer some examples, I refer to a few texts published posthumously, such as Divina mimesis and Petrolio, but also the fictional version of Teorema or also to some passages of Amado mio or to the early Roman novels of the 1950s. Even abroad, where Pasolini is generally better known and studied as a director, novelist, and playwright— we must remember that in a country like France, the full translation of Pasolini’s poetry is lacking—the hypothesis that poetic sensibility pervades his entire artistic production is now a belief declared by many. Even though this “poetic-centered” reading convinces the experts, it seems, however—and vice versa—that the poetic writing of Pasolini builds 47


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and enriches, at least the production of the 1960s until you reach the collection Trasumanar e organizzar, which is influenced more by the visual arts, cinema, and music. The scholar Alain-Michel Boyer, talking about this specific aspect of Pasolini, associates him in some ways with authors such as Blake, Michaux, Cocteau, Duras, and Robbe-Grillet, writing: If Pasolini let speak in him not only the multiple voices of the world but also its various media, with their differences and similarities, in the incessant desire to broaden his own possibilities of expression, it is because the desire was always great in him to not remain closed intellectually and to compete with the forms and genres in order to go beyond all boundaries. 2

From this statement it seems that Pasolini, through his urgency of being, has managed to build a corpus that today presents itself to his readers as a dense “hypertext” able to weave into a single plot the complexity of its reflection on reality and on man, transmitting also the universality of his ideology to a wide and varied audience. At the center of Pasolini’s opus, there is not only poetry understood (intesa) as sensitivity, language, register, and style, but poetry as “to do,” as suggested by the Greek etymology of the word. In the action of ποιητής (the doer) has concentrated the will of making interact, inside his work, the sense of the visual tract and the sense of the written sign, which tend to constantly redefine reality and history, transforming the same idea of form and literary and artistic expression. This attitude reveals the author’s attempt not only to come to a “total diction” of reality, but also to challenge the notions of “margin” and “frontier” of making literature. Through his body-corpus (corpo-corpus), Pasolini writes, rewrites, translates, transposes, notes, and evidences historical and cultural contexts far from each other chronologically and ideologically (think of Salò, or The 120 Days of Sodom, or of the unfinished script of his St. Paul). He offers a masterful use of the allegory of Medieval world, which now melts in metaphors, caked in a rich network of symbols (consider the allegory of the “Medieval Garden” in Petrolio or Divina Mimesis that presents itself as a modern rewriting of Dante’s Commedia also present in the form of quotations and references from his first films: Accattone and Mamma Roma). He rehabilitates the figure of the intellectual witness (one thinks of the prophetic nature of his works in Scritti corsari or even Lettere luterane). He focuses on the importance and polyphonic expressiveness of dialect writing (as in his Canzoniere italiano, in which the author collects texts of Italian folk poetry, Poesie a Casarsa, or still the novels of the 1950s including Ragazzi di vita and Una vita violenta). He interrogates and displaces literary expression by inserting iconographic items, systems of citations, auto-citations, allowing the thinning of boundaries between traditional literary genres. And, finally he

Poetic Gazing


gives room for that kind of writing that will later be called “letteratura grigia” (“gray literature”), of which it has been a question inside the debate over the notion of “postmodern.” 3 The development of such a body, open and communicating, allows the author to endlessly reformulate and renegotiate principles of aesthetics and formal art and to propose both a global reinterpretation of the notion of dissidence, whose etymology refers to the “inability to sit,” accordingly, and a movement of continuous change of the point of view that is based on a plurifocal gaze. The sclerotherapy of expressive forms and the impossibility of “acting witness” through creative works, which Pasolini opposed since the 1960s (years of great turmoil not only on the poetic and linguistic levels, but also historical, political, and social) gave rise to his desperate search for a “written language of reality” that, as Francesco Galluzzi writes: gli permette finalmente di lavorare secondo la propria filosofia, scrivendo metaforicamente attraverso l’inquadratura le “cose” per mezzo delle cose stesse, tentando di elaborare attraverso l’attività cinematografica una “semiologia della vita” (tutte espressioni ricorrenti negli scritti dedicati al cinema in Empirismo eretico, in parallelo alle notazioni dedicate alla nascita del “nuovo italiano” della società tecnocratica). 4 finally allows him to work according to his own philosophy, writing metaphorically through framing the “things” by means of the same things, trying to process through film a “semiotics of life” (all recurrent expressions in the writings devoted to cinema in Empirismo eretico, in parallel to the notations dedicated to the birth of the “new Italy” of the technocratic society).

To the cultural and anthropological approval in place, to the body aphasia, to language standardization, and to the inability of the poet and intellectual to propose alternative cultural and linguistic models, Pasolini reacted by forging new expressive devices. In order to develop such a project, he says provocatively in the early 1960s, he wanted to change nationalities by changing “language.” Using poetic expression, in fact, the writer will join the film in which the pictorial references become timely quotes, linguistic or visual references, living signs of a sociopolitical reality and anthropological headed toward an irreversible degradation. Thanks to the love and interest for painting—an interest cultivated since his time of university studies in Bologna— Pasolini is building his personal conception of “poetic cinema,” where everything is simultaneously truth, body, reality and metaphor, and “film poetry,” in which the word is compared desperately with its expressive limits because of the standardization of the Italian language and it is not possible to satisfy, by itself, a reality continually mystified by the power of media culture’s approval depriving the body of its natural and specific expression.


Flaviano Pisanelli

SEARCHING FOR A NEW “POETIC REALITY” Throughout his life, Pasolini never definitively abandoned poetic expression. In 1964, he published the collection Poesia in forma di rosa, and in 1971, after a poetic silence of seven years, he returns with Trasumanar e organizzar, in which the poetic word seems to become more and more unreadable. In the constant search for an expression that is simultaneously literary, visual, and “phatic” (to allude to a Jakobson concept), Pasolini, especially in his theoretical writings collected in the volume Empirismo eretico, does not hesitate to confront some reflections elaborated by Roland Barthes in his essays Le degré zéro de l’écriture 5 and L’Empire des signes, 6 which will allow him to clarify his views on the notions of sign—written and visual— and language. 7 Barthes’s studies—written during the 1950s and 1960s—“propose a sort of revision of the traditional concept of the written sign, to which the French critic joins the idea of visual tract,” which would change its nature and impact reality. In his Le degré zéro de l’écriture, the notion of writing is reduced to a function that would be acting beyond language, as if it were primarily the result of the encounter between history and the ideological position of the writer. Calling into question the myth and sacredness traditionally linked to the “literary fact” and hoping for some sort of “displacement” literary language continues (although he considers it to be the basis of the chaos of forms, typical of the contemporary age), Barthes focuses on suspension and the disintegration of language that would leave the possibility of what he calls the “empty sign” to express and give meaning to reality: In this same effort to disengage literary language, there is another solution: to create a “white writing,” free from any subordination to a precise order of language. . . . This new neutral writing is at the core of these cries and these judgments, not participating in any of them; it is made only of their absence. But this absence is total, not presupposed to any refuge or secret; one cannot therefore say that it is an impossible writing. It is quite an innocent writing. 8

In 1970, when Pasolini is busy filming Medea and drafting poems to be published in 1971 in the collection Trasumanar e organizzar, Barthes elaborates his reflections on the concept of “sign” in the essay “L’empire des signes.” In opening the work, we read: The text does not comment on the images. The images do not illustrate the text: . . . Text and image, in their intertwining, want to ensure the circulation, the exchange of these signifiers: the body, the face, writing, and read to the retreat of the signs. 9

Poetic Gazing


Comparing the writing and culture of Japan with those of the West, Barthes argues that throughout history, the Western man has needed to develop a rational, practical sign, a bearer of meaning, because its culture has forged the notion of centrality with respect to which the individual, via the sign, needed to know and recognize in order to be assured of orientation in time and space. In contrast in Japan, due to the lack of an absolute and final center, man has made of himself the only possible unity, the only point of reference for orientation in reality. Any form then must be empty and the only reason for this style of writing always goes beyond the meaning of the sign. According to Barthes, Western culture, based on a center that has been made to coincide with a unique truth and in an attempt to convey an ultimate meaning, reduces all forms of utterance to the symbol ratio/reasoning or metaphor/syllogism. The main objective of writing and of every literary system thus is to express a definite sense and something determined and recognizable within the categories of fixed and immutable thought. By contrast, in Eastern cultures the written sign suspends sense and meaning back and redefines things thanks to its nature as a sudden, graphic sign. In fact, when a Westerner comes to possess the meaning of a sign, she or he always speaks of illumination, detection, intuition, while the written sign in the East, as in the Japanese case of the haiku, is always the bearer of something transient. The use of written language thus does not involve the assertion of the ego as the center of the world—as in Europe—but simply a “way of living and of being” in the world. This kind of “first writing” does not express “make exist” (“fa esistere”), neither does it produce nor reproduce the real, but there is a sense that “le signe s’abolit avant que n’importe quel signifié ait eu le temps de ‘prendre.’” 10 Pasolini seems to revisit some of Barthes’s insights, especially his reflection on the language of film and on the limits and conventions of writing poetry. In the text “La fine delle avanguardie” Pasolini states: Scrive Barthes che probabilmente anche l’espressione cinematografica appartiene all’ordine delle grandi unità significanti, che corrispondono a significati globali, diffusi, latenti, non appartenenti alla stessa categoria dei significati isolati e discontinui del linguaggio articolato. Ma questa opposizione fra una micro-semantica e una macro-semantica potrebbe costituire forse un altro modo di considerare il cinema come linguaggio, abbandonando il piano della denotazione . . . per passare al piano della connotazione, cioè a quello dei significati globali, diffusi, in qualche modo secondi. 11 Barthes writes that probably the cinematic expression belongs to the order of the great significant units, corresponding to global meanings, disseminated, latent, not belonging to the same category as the meanings and discontinuous blocks of articulate speech. But this opposition between a micro-semantics and a macro-semantics could create another way of considering cinema as lan-


Flaviano Pisanelli guage, abandoning the plan of denotation . . . to pass from the level of connotation, that is, to that of global, diffuse and in some way second, meanings.

Urged by Barthes and certainly no longer capable of signifying the real only through verbal monopoly of the word, Pasolini decided to devote himself to film and to adopt a language that can be included inside the multifaceted nature of gestures and the nonverbal gaze. In an interview conducted by Jon Halliday at the release of Accattone, Pasolini says: Non conoscevo moltissimo sul cinema, ed è stato molto tempo prima che iniziassi tutta la mia ricerca linguistica in proposito. Fu un’osservazione buttata lì a caso, ma intuitivamente profetica, in una certa misura: Jakobson, seguito da Barthes, ha parlato del cinema come arte metonimica, in contrapposizione all’arte metaforica. La metafora è essenzialmente una figura linguistica e letteraria del discorso che è difficile rendere nel cinema se non in casi estremamente rari: per esempio, se volessi dar l’idea della felicità potrei farlo mostrando degli uccelli in volo nel cielo. . . . Il cinema rappresenta la realtà con la realtà; è metonimico, non metaforico. La realtà non ha bisogno di metafore per esprimersi. . . . Nel cinema è come se la realtà esprimesse se stessa attraverso se stessa, senza metafore, e senza alcunché di insipido, convenzionale, simbolico. 12 I did not know much about cinema, and it was a long time before I started all my linguistic research in this regard. It was a remark thrown out at random, but intuitively prophetic, to a certain extent: Jakobson, followed by Barthes, spoke of film as a metonymic art, as opposed to metaphorical art. The metaphor is essentially a linguistic and literary figure of speech that is difficult to make in film except in extremely rare cases: For example, if I wanted to convey the feeling of happiness I could do it by showing the birds flying in the sky. . . . Cinema represents reality within reality; it is metonymic, not metaphorical. Reality does not need metaphors to express itself. In cinema it is as if reality expresses itself through itself, without metaphors, and without anything bland, conventional, symbolic.

This new conception of language leads Pasolini, at the end of the 1960s, to review, thanks to a now established experience as director, his idea of poetic writing: to rethink the role of the poet, to attribute a value of literary work completely independent from reality. This is what will happen with Petrolio, his unfinished novel, published posthumously in 1992, in which Pasolini, while addressing historical, political, economic, and cultural issues, claims an independence of literary form that respects reality. But this position is already largely anticipated by the collection Trasumanar e organizzar, which represents the author’s first poetic achievement of what can be considered a real “poetic gaze.” The literary text, as we shall see, transforms a space, which is empty of form in order to be capable of attesting to a “global

Poetic Gazing


space”; the same blank form will be able to settle as a “global mark,” a position to talk about things, persons, and bodies. TRASUMANAR E ORGANIZZAR: THE “EYE-WORD” (“OCCHIOPAROLA”) AS A TESTIMONY OF REALITY Pasolini is aware of the limitations and inadequacies of the traditional lyrical language in the representation and expression of a reality simultaneously complex and “unstoppable,” but also reaffirming the determination to join the story in a nonmimetic way. In fact, in Trasumanar e organizzar Pasolini adopts written forms of expression considered “minor.” Formally resorting to a systematic use of notes, press releases, episodic rewriting, and “miraculously” mimed reality, Pasolini elaborates an absolutely antiliterary poetic and “in-formal” language based on a seemingly illegible word that is capable, however, of recovery of the uncertain contours of the imago of the real. The sense of sight out of which Pasolini builds his “story” in a poetic of reality via the language of reality plays a fundamental role also evidenced by the strong presence of terms related to the act of seeing. Based on a semantic and lexicographical analysis of the collection, founded on his concordant study, it becomes clear that the term eye merits fifty-nine mentions in the collection. There are also numerous entries pertaining to the semantic field of vision. The entries “vision,” “view,” “image,” “gaze,” “watching,” “see,” and “appear” reach ninety-four occurrences. The act of seeing, whose main function is that of the witness, involves the conscious knowledge of a history and a reality that is no longer expressed through a language conforming to the literary conventions of the tradition. Presence and absence, emptiness and fullness, truth and falsehood manifest themselves through clear illumination, real visual acts recorded by an eye capable of translating the image into feeling and event. In an effort to understand and to represent reality on this vantage point and beyond the symbol and metaphor, the poet’s gaze strives to give voice and interpret the event through the cognitive faculties attributed to the eye. In this regard, Nicolas Castin writes: The sensible world speaks, no doubt, but, in the absence of any possible answer, before the impotence of his interlocutor, that word is meaningless and, sterile, folds in on itself: the language that should make the transitive is lacking. As for the sense of speech, this seems to be built on the rejection of copresence in the world. 13

The importance attributed to the “word-image” is partly a consequence of what philosophers such as Edmund Husserl had already highlighted in their phenomenological theories. Husserl, addressing the problem of perception of


Flaviano Pisanelli

the external world with respect to a subject who observes, declared that every person is granted the capacity to judge, possesses a personal mode of encountering the “gaze” of representation and intuition. A person creates a permanent visual exchange with the world around themselves, by means of which to construct an “intentional” encounter through to look at the observed object. Thanks to the visual power of a word that arises in a centrifugal position with respect to the literary system and to the conventions elaborated over the centuries by the dominant bourgeois culture, at the turn of the 1970s, Pasolini founded a poetic anti-lirica favoring the dissemination of meaning (of which he masterfully alluded to Jacques Derrida) and ended up producing a representation of the ambiguous significance of reality. After all, Pasolini writes on the book flap of the first edition of the collection: “The poetry collection lives in a layer of reality where reality is going to get lost or dissolve.” 14 Through this attitude of detachment against a reality that is revealed to the poet to be devoid of history and current affairs, Pasolini portends a crisis in the relationship between reality and poetic representation, poetic “I”/writing, word/object, through which he indicates, however, a possible way out of the use of a poetics that is still able to measure and signify an unstoppable and unrepresentable reality. In this context, Pasolini often draws on the expressive force and simultaneous image to trace the profile and the action of some historical characters and fantasies evoked in many texts of the collection. This is the case, for example, of the beggar of Tours Cathedral, to whom he alludes in the poem L’ortodossia: La visione del marmo bagnato, il portale di pietra grigia: / gli ultimi sogni prima di morire. / Apparirò e scomparirò, da questo luogo. / Come il giorno che torna e se ne va. 15 The vision of wet marble, the portal of gray stone / the final dreams before dying. I will appear and disappear from this place. Like the day that comes and goes.

The beggar appears and disappears under a heavy rain. The event happens while the crowd, thanks to the power of vision, gradually loses physical substance and assumes a purely symbolic function. The dream of the vision device also returns obsessively in the cinematic work of the author, just remember the “tragic” vision present in Medea, repeatedly evoked in films in this collection, especially in the texts devoted directly to Maria Callas and the poetic universe to which it refers, or the sequences of the middle-class father in Teorema, or even the double layer on which he builds the film Oedipus Rex, slightly earlier. But the vision in which reality merges and creates confusion is used abundantly by Pasolini in Petrolio, in particular the notes

Poetic Gazing


dedicated to “shit,” to create an opposition between past and present and, again, in the play Affabulazione, where the dream-vision device is a regression of madness and truth. In the poem Rifacimento de “L’ortodozzia,” the device of vision proceeds through a succession of flashes that results in almost a feeling of presence/ absence in a time that’s hard to determine. The constant presence of the rain puts the space of vision within an ultra-temporal size and fragmentation, almost preventing the eye from producing a clear and definite meaning: Un’argentea luce negli occhi pietosi / quella che ha un padre; un marito; un uomo che lavora— / ci sarà pure una casa ben scelta, in una strada / dove la pioggia, la barbara pioggia— / Il marmo del duomo di Tours è tutto bagnato— / Sono qui alla porta. 16 A silvery light in the pious eyes / that one who has a father, a husband, a man working / there will surely be a well-chosen house, on a street / where the rain, the wretched rain / The marble of the cathedral of Tours is all wet / I am here at the door.

The word eye is often related to terms such as water, tear, gleam, wet, moisture. These words evoke liquidity, understood as a substance that goes to interpose between the look of one who perceives the image and the object observed. The eye, rather than producing a clear and definitive picture, instead of penetrating the ultimate meaning of reality, laconically expresses a feeling of hesitation and of loss. Rain is also present, as a symbol of catharsis, in the poem Comunicato all’Ansa (Recife), in which Pasolini evokes a Third World universe that we find above all in his films and documentaries, not only in regard to the environment but also on the level of his choice of actors. In the mid-1960s, Pasolini found the disappearance of the urban underclass and peasant culture in Italy, along with the last strongholds of resistance to the violent spread of power and middle-class conformism, the major fall of contemporary society. Therefore, Pasolini looks to the places not yet “mapped” by capitalist approval, not only the written language emptied of meaning through the imposition of an administrative and technical language, but also the expression of dissidence linked to the materiality of the individual body. This interest in the anthropological and cultural spaces of the media culture resistance, understood in the broadest sense of the term, is evident in Medea, the choice of actor for The Gospel According to St. Matthew, and in a number of films never realized Appunti per un film sull’India, Appunti per un’Orestiade africana, and even in the documentary form, created as an appeal to UNESCO, titled Le Mura di Sana’a.


Flaviano Pisanelli

In the poem Comunicato all’Ansa (Recife), Pasolini highlights dissident eyes of the anonymous mass of men and women who inhabit the Brazilian slums: Qui piove; nell’aeroporto in costruzione, passando / davanti a un gruppo di operai che lavorano, degli occhi / si alzano sui passeggeri / È così che il Brasile mi saluta / E io ricambio il saluto col mio cuore borghese. 17 It’s raining here; at the airport under construction, passing / before a group of laborers working, of eyes that look up at the passengers / and so Brazil greets me / and I return the greeting with my middle-class heart.

Verbal expression does not connect the bourgeois world of Western Europe and the proletarian of the South American continent. Communication and the act of being are expressed solely through the gaze. As in a pianosequenza shot in film (one long take), Pasolini poetically evokes the entrance to a land where language is gestural and physical. Through the communicative sphere and formalized written language, the poet prefers the intransitive and antipredicate of silence; through gesture, he reveals man to the world and the world to the man in a state of pure and mutual demonstration. Unconditional love of reality leads Pasolini to utilize certain cinematographic techniques in the field of poetry, in the belief that they can poetically represent any temptation in a purely descriptive style. Sergio Citti, in an interview conducted by Gwenola David in 1999, explains how Pasolini managed to interpret reality and how poetry encourages man to be himself. 18 Citti claims to have been taught by Pasolini to use the camera; he would use it like an eye, the only difference, however, underscores Citti, is that the human eye can make mistakes and can adapt to what he sees and does exist, while the camera always records the painful truth. Through this poetic language based on vision, the “direct drive” of the real, the visible and the invisible, reality and vision are confused with each other and produce a reversible sense. This dialectic between the visible and invisible, which is inscribed in a sensitive and nonverbal representation of the world, refers to some reflections of Maurice Merleau-Ponty: When the silent vision falls in the word and when, in return, the word, opening the field of nominable and speakable, there is inscribed in place and according to its truth, that is, when he can metamorphose the structures of the visible world by being looked spirit, intuitus mentis, is always by virtue of the same basic phenomenon survivor who manages to support both the mute perception and the word, which is manifested through a life almost carnal idea as a sublimation of the flesh. 19

In many verses of the collection, the eye of the poet fixates on an uninformed and irresponsible world, unable to nurture his memory. This idea of a

Poetic Gazing


total and irremediable loss of historical memory, which also results in the loss of self-consciousness and of individual and collective history, strongly returns in the poem titled La poesia della tradizione: I libri, i vecchi libri passarono sotto i tuoi occhi / come oggetti di un vecchio nemico / sentisti l’obbligo di non cedere / davanti alla bellezza nata da ingiustizie dimenticate / fosti in fondo votata ai buoni sentimenti / da cui ti difendevi come dalla bellezza / con l’odio razziale contro la passione / . . . non vi si riempirono gli occhi di lacrime / contro un Battistero con caporioni e garzoni / intenti di stagione in stagione / né lacrime aveste per un’ottava del Cinquecento, / né lacrime (intellettuali, dovute alla pura ragione) / non conosceste o non riconosceste i tabernacoli degli antenati. 20 The books, old book passed under your eyes / as objects of an old enemy / felt the obligation not to give in / at the beauty born out of forgotten injustices / you were basically devoted to the good feelings / from which you defended yourself from the beauty / with racial hatred against passion / their eyes did not fill you with tears / against a Baptistery with ringleaders and journeymen / intent from season to season / not did you have tears for an eighth of the 1500s, / nor tears (intellectuals have to have pure reason) / you did not know or recognize the tabernacles of the ancestors.

These verses clearly refer to the history and art of the past, which was transformed into unheeded signs of a collective culture, popular and anonymous, no longer recognizable. Just think of the documentary film about the city of Orte that Pasolini shot in the company of young Ninetto Davoli to demonstrate how the form of the “antique city,” the fruit of artistic conception and popular aesthetic, is now ignored and misunderstood, replaced by other agendas dictated by the false needs imposed by a capitalist and bourgeois system that tends to distort, devalue, and empty the meaning the past. This trend to a development without progress had already been evoked by Pasolini in the film Mamma Roma and then pronounced through the mouth of Orson Wells in the film La Ricotta, through the reading of some verses written by the poet composed in those years (Io sono una forza del passato). To forget the past, its artistic and cultural expressions, and deprive the body of its function as a witness to a time and a culture that has become increasingly illegible, leads Pasolini as poet and filmmaker to the final loss of individual identity, a loss which the bourgeois “subculture” uses to legitimize its false idea of progress. The eye once again records, translates, interprets, and writes this reality with decay acting almost as a “window” but devoid of any horizon. Beyond its metaphorical value, the image then becomes a sign: It is itself a sign by virtue of the gaze that makes sense. Between reality, representation and the image is created as a relationship of contiguity and transposition of meaning, a relationship that Eugen Fink explains clearly in the following passage:


Flaviano Pisanelli The image . . . is the unitary, homogeneous set as the sense of a real support and the image of the world that it brings. . . . But what we want to evidence, talking about “finestrità,” of the image that is that the whole world of the image is essentially open on the real world. The place of this opening is the image itself. 21

In the gazes, the faces, the eyes of young people of the 1970s, to which many poems of this collection are dedicated, there is no longer the sacredness that Pasolini the director used to recreate through his use of primi piani (close-ups) in his early films. In the faces and eyes of young people, in spite of themselves, the era of the triumph of consumerism is on the one hand, the failure of a revolt that remains unanswered and that reinforces the “emptiness of the cosmos” bequeathed by fathers, and on the other, the obvious signs of a permanent subordinate relationship between fathers and sons (see also Oedipus Rex, Affabulazione, etc.) and between a helpless “I” and the “otherthan-self” that is difficult to identify and accept. In fact, in the poem Il sovrano che non vuole avere compagno, Pasolini writes: La Significazione è in quello sguardo o mormorio; / ed è ricordo di una storia vera— / Ma tu, cantando contro i fastigi coperti di nebbia buia, / tu sai qualcos’altro, ed è una pazzia non capire / che, qualcun altro, ciò che tu sai non sa. 22

The Signification of things, Pasolini seems to affirm, manifests itself in his gaze or in the murmur that replaces a word, written and spoken, reduced to only a state of aphasia. However, this look is accomplished by eyes that are often blinded by the light of truth. If the truth with a capital “T” alludes to, in Pasolini’s universe, the notion of nefas (the unspeakable), this can at least be cultivated in the figura (figure), due to the revealing power of light that acts on the sensitive faculties of sight and the cognitive ability of the eye. The gaze then arrives there, where the word can no longer access: in the heart of the performance. For this reason, we can talk today of “cinema di poesia” (“cinema of poetry”) or “poesia di cinema” (“poetry of cinema”). Through this relationship of the “occhio-parola,” Pasolini transforms the view and gazes into real devices capable of resemanticizing a reality otherwise unsayable and unrepresentable. This poetic gaze is based on a creative principle that operates from an initial situation of separation, absence, and emptiness, as Jacques Lacan explains introducing the notions of “veil and not be represented”: “What does the subject try to see? What it tries to see, you should know, is the object as absence. . . . What is, that which cannot see.” It is with this attempt to see the unseen and say the unspeakable that Pasolini launches a desperate challenge to the poetic language of tradition, its facilities and its “manners,” while seeking to confront a culture, a society,

Poetic Gazing


and a reality increasingly shaped on a system of values that the poet does not want to recognize. The recourse to a word-picture, the only one capable of “writing” things through things, in cinema as in poetry, represents the director-poet’s final attempt to steal the beauty, sense, and memory action corrosive of a media culture that tends to reduce and bring back monstrousness into the more mundane and immediate territory of the “domestic” and the superficial sameness of our contemporary society. NOTES 1. Ivo Barnabò Micheli, A futura memoria (Antea Chantal Bergamo/Crommelinfilm, 1985). 2. Alain-Michel Boyer, Frontières du littéraire, CETE—Service Informatique Lettres, (Nantes : Université de Nantes, 1999), 146. The translation of the quotation was done by the translator. 3. Cfr. Flaviano Pisanelli, “Il ‘magma lucido’ di Petrolio di Pier Paolo Pasolini: Romanzo, narrazione, realtà,” in Finzione, cronaca, realtà. Scambi, intrecci e prospettive nella narrativa italiana contemporanea, ed. Hanna Serkowska (Massa: Transeuropa, 2011), 121–34. 4. Francesco Galluzzi, “La lingua delle immagini,” in Il diaframma di Pasolini, ed. Pier Marco De Santi and Andrea Mancini (Corazzano, PI: Titivillus edizioni, 2005), 164. 5. Roland Barthes, Le degré zéro de l’écriture (Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1953). Republished in Roland Barthes, Œuvres complètes, vol. 1 (Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1993). 6. Roland Barthes, L’Empire des signes (Genève: Éditions d’art Albert Skira, 1970). Republished in Roland Barthes, Œuvres complètes, vol. 2 (Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1993), 743–831. 7. Barthes, L’Empire des signes, 745. (“Le texte ne commente pas les images. Les images n’illustrent pas le texte: . . . texte et image, dans leur entrelacs, veulent assurer la circulation, l’échange de ces signifiants: le corps, le visage, l’écriture, et y lire le recul des signes.”) 8. Barthes, Œuvres complètes, vol. 1, 179 (“Dans ce même effort de dégagement du langage littéraire, voici une autre solution: créer une écriture blanche, libérée de toute servitude à un ordre marqué du langage. . . . La nouvelle écriture neutre se place au milieu de ces cris et de ces jugements, sans participer à aucun d’eux; elle est faite précisément de leur absence; mais cette absence est totale, elle n’implique aucun refuge, aucun secret; on ne peut donc dire que c’est une écriture impossible; c’est plutôt une écriture innocente.”) 9. Barthes, L’Empire des signes, 745. (“Le texte ne commente pas les images. Les images n’illustrent pas le texte: . . . texte et image, dans leur entrelacs, veulent assurer la circulation, l’échange de ces signifiants: le corps, le visage, l’écriture, et y lire le recul des signes.”) Translated by the translator of this chapter. 10. Barthes, L’Empire des signes, 821. 11. Pier Paolo Pasolini, “La fine dell’Avanguardia,” in Empirismo eretico (Milano: Garzanti, 1972). Also in Pier Paolo Pasolini, Saggi sulla letteratura e sull’arte, ed. Walter Siti and Silvia De Laude, coll. “I Meridiani,” vols. 1–2 (Milano: Mondadori, 1999), 1421. 12. Jon Halliday, Pasolini su Pasolini. Conversazioni con Jon Halliday, in Pier Paolo Pasolini, Saggi sulla politica e sulla società, coll. “I Meridiani” (Milano: Mondadori, 1999), 1307–8. 13. Nicolas Castin, Sens et sensible en poésie moderne et contemporaine (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1998), 204–5. (“Le monde sensible parle, sans doute, mais, dans l’absence de toute réponse, devant l’impuissance de son interlocuteur, cette parole reste privée de signification, et rebondit stérilement sur elle-même: le langage qui viendrait la rendre transitive lui fait défaut. Quant au discours du sens, il paraît se construire dans le refus de la coprésence au monde.”) 14. Pier Paolo Pasolini, Trasumanar e organizzar (Milano: Garzanti, 1971). 15. Pasolini, Trasumanar e organizzar, 151.


Flaviano Pisanelli

16. Pasolini, Trasumanar e organizzar, 183. 17. Pasolini, Trasumanar e organizzar, 135. 18. Cfr. Gwenola David, “L’Œil de la caméra. Entretien avec Sergio Citti,” in Théâtre au cinéma. Pier Paolo Pasolini, Alberto Moravia, ed. Dominique Bax (Bobigny: Magic Cinema, 2000), 91–92. 19. Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Le visible et l’invisible (Paris: Gallimard, 1964), 203. (“Quand la vision silencieuse tombe dans la parole et quand, en retour, la parole, ouvrant un champ du nommable et du dicible, s’y inscrit, à sa place, selon sa vérité, bref, quand elle métamorphose les structures du monde visible et se fait regard de l’esprit, intuitus mentis, c’est toujours en vertu du même phénomène fondamental de réversibilité qui soutient et la perception muette et la parole, et qui se manifeste par une existence presque charnelle de l’idée comme par une sublimation de la chair.”) Translated from the French by the translator. 20. Pasolini, Trasumanar e organizzar, 124, 125. 21. Eugen Fink, De la phénoménologie, trans. Didier Franck (Paris: Édition de Minuit, 1975), 89, 93. (“L’image . . . est l’ensemble unitaire, homogène quant au sens, d’un support réel et du monde d’image qu’il porte. . . . Mais voici ce que nous voulons mettre en évidence en parlant de fenestrité de l’image: tout monde d’image s’ouvre essentiellement sur le monde réel. Le lieu de cette ouverture est l’image.”) Translated from the French by the translator. 22. Fink, De la phénoménologie, 175.

Part II

Pasolini and the Stage

Chapter Four

Pasolini’s Orestiade, the Irrational and Greek Tragedy Francesca D’Alessandro Behr

In his “Nota del traduttore,” a postscript to the translated text of Aeschylus’s Oresteia, Pier Paolo Pasolini celebrates the work as a tragedy marking a moment of supreme political progress in Athenian society. In 1959, Vittorio Gassman had asked Pasolini to write a new translation of Aeschylus’s trilogy since he was preparing to produce and stage the drama for the theater in Syracuse during the “Festival of Ancient Drama.” The translation was therefore “commissioned”; nevertheless, Pasolini embraced his task with great enthusiasm, at least if we judge from what he writes in the abovementioned “Nota,” which was printed in the program itself. In this short note, he considers the tragedy from the point of view of content and form, explaining his translating methodology while at the same time suggesting an interpretation of the work. It exposes a double-edged essence, and the optimism advertised in it appears as utterly utopian. 1 In this contribution I will carefully consider Pasolini’s own words in the “Nota” and link them to other related writings produced by the artist in order to reveal his extraordinary insight about tragedy in general and the Oresteia in particular. At the same time, I will frame Pasolini’s observations within Italy’s political climate. 2 A POLITICAL INTERPRETATION? For the Oresteia produced by Aeschylus in 458 BCE, Orestes kills his mother, who had killed her husband Agamemnon, the father of Orestes. Retaliation and vengeance belong to this family: Atreus, father of Agamemnon, through murdering his children and his brother Thyestes, had begun the long 63


Francesca D’Alessandro Behr

chain of slaying; Agamemnon eventually sacrificed his daughter, Iphigenia, to his own ambition and for the success of the Trojan expedition. 3 The trilogy is therefore a dark story of hereditary guilt, and Orestes, for his matricide, is exposed to the vengeance of the Furies who typify the workings of revenge, as well as the importance of blood relationships in society. When he reaches Athens in the end, thanks to Athena and Apollo and a newly created human court with jurisdiction over cases of murder, Orestes is acquitted and finds release from his suffering. In connection with the plot of the Oresteia, Pasolini writes: La trama delle tre tragedie di Eschilo è questa: In una società primitiva dominano dei sentimenti che sono primoridiali, istintivi, oscuri (Erinni), sempre pronte a travolgere le rozze istituzioni (la monarchia di Agamennone) operanti sotto il segno uterino della madre . . . ma contro tali sentimenti arcaici si erge la ragione (ancora arcaicamente intesa come prerogativa virile: Atena è nata senza madre, direttamente dal padre), e li vince, creando per la società altre istituzioni moderne: l’assemblea, il suffragio. 4 The plot of the three tragedies of Aeschylus is the following: In a primitive society primordial, instinctive, obscure feelings (Erinyes) dominate; they are always ready to uproot the rudimentary institutions (Agamemnon’s monarchy) operating under the uterine sign of the mother . . . but against such archaic feelings, reason (still understood as masculine prerogative: Athena was born without a mother, directly from a father) rises up and defeats them by creating for society other modern institutions: the assembly, suffrage.

Pasolini’s language here depicts in stark colors a titanic fight of the instincts against reason, of the mother against the father inexorably destined to win. The verb si erge (rises up) triumphs on the page as much as its grammatical subject Athena, human reason, who is also victorious in the creation of new, more civilized institutions. In this paragraph, Pasolini discusses this struggle and seems quite happy to announce who will be the just victor. He seems to have absorbed George Thomson’s message and views the struggle of Atreus’s house as a symbol of the battle toward progress and democratic institutions fought in history by all of humankind. 5 It is surprising, but also understandable, to discover what M. G. Bonanno calls a “lettura illuminista” (“enlightenment reading”) of Aeschylus and a Pasolini happily focused on the triumph of reason, unusually optimistic about the human condition. 6 Between 1959 and 1961, Pasolini still had hopes for the Italian Left and believed that, thanks to the same Left, it could be possible—as in the myth staged by Aeschylus—to create a better government, which would definitely leave behind fascist tendencies and foster democracy. Evident in the mention of Athens’s institutions is the author’s political interpretation of the Oresteia, clarified even further by the sentence “the meaning of Orestes’s tragedies is only exclusively political” (“il significato

Pasolini’s Orestiade, the Irrational and Greek Tragedy


delle tragedie di Oreste è solo esclusivamente politico” 7 ). In Pasolini’s mind the newly created “modern institutions” must be admired as the summit of the tragic triad: Il momento più alto della trilogia è sicuramente l’acme delle Eumenidi, quando Atena istituisce la prima assemblea democratica della storia. Nessuna vicenda, nessuna morte, nessuna angoscia delle tragedie dà una commozione più profonda e assoluta di questa pagina. 8 The highest moment of the trilogy is surely the acme of the Eumenides, when Athena establishes the first democratic assembly of history. No episode, no death, no anxiety in these tragedies gives an emotion more profound and absolute than that found in this page.

Pasolini’s words express satisfaction and impose an interpretative key to the trilogy whose ultimate purpose would be the celebration of a new and more democratic mechanism to assess crimes. 9 We read in Aeschylus’s text: Too large a matter, some may think, for mortal men to judge. But by all rights not even I should decide a case of murder—murder whets the passions. . . . But since the matter comes to rest on us, I will appoint the judges of manslaughter, swear them in, and found a tribunal here for all time to come. My contestants, summon your trusted witnesses and proofs, your defenders under oath to help your cause. And I will pick the finest men of Athens, return and decide the issue fairly, truly—bound to our oaths, our spirits bent on justice. 10

This newly launched establishment, according to Pasolini, moves the heart, bringing “commozione” and compensates for all the rest. All the horrors the audience has been forced to witness (persecution, murders of children, mothers, and fathers) should be forgotten in light of this last, splendid development. In giving us this assurance, Pasolini seems to completely endorse the winners (Orestes, Apollo, and Athena) who have imposed order, justice, and rationality. A “VISCERAL READING” OF THE ORESTEIA AND THE IRRATIONAL But this, however, is only one side of the short and slightly tortuous “Nota.” Beyond a merely political interpretation of the Oresteia, Pasolini suggests a more “visceral” 11 approach to the tragedy, an interpretation more attuned to his typical way of seeing the world, as well as to the nature of tragedy itself. He explains that the characters of the trilogy are eternal symbols, powerful in their contradictory complexity and, above all, in their ability to represent everlasting forces within the human spirit and the human condition:


Francesca D’Alessandro Behr Clitennestra, Agamennone, Egisto, Oreste, Apollo, Atena, oltre che essere figure umanamente piene, contradditorie, ricche, potentemente indefinite (si veda la nobiltà d’animo che persiste nei personaggi moralmente e politicamente “negativi” di Clitennestra e Egisto) sono soprattuttto—nel senso che così stanno soprattutto a cuore all’autore—dei simboli: o degli strumenti per esprimere scenicamente delle idee, dei concetti. 12 Clytemnestra, Agamemnon, Aegisthus, Apollo, Athena not only are wellrounded human characters, contradictory, rich, and powerfully indefinite (consider the nobility that is present even in characters morally and politically “negative” like Clytemnestra and Aegisthus) above all, they are symbols—as such they are the concern of the author—instruments to express on stage ideas and concepts.

The symbolism of the Oresteia’s fictional personae is expressed even more vividly in the second part of the postscript when Pasolini is discussing the meaning of the Erinyes: Tuttavia certi elementi del mondo antico, appena superato, non andranno del tutto repressi, ignorati: Andranno, piuttosto, acquisiti, riassimilati, e naturalmente modificati. In altre parole: l’irrazionale, rappresentato dalle Erinni, non deve essere rimosso (ché poi sarebbe impossibile), ma semplicemente arginato e dominato dalla ragione, passione producente e fertile. Le Maledizioni si trasformano in Benedizioni. L’incertezza esistenziale della società primitiva permane come categoria dell’angoscia esistenziale o della fantasia nella società evoluta. 13 However, some elements of the ancient world, scarcely overcome, will not be repressed, ignored: Rather, they should be acquired, elaborated, and naturally modified. In other words: the irrational, represented by the Erinyes, should not be removed (because, after all, it would be impossible) but simply contained and ruled by reason, a productive and fertile passion. Maledictions are transformed into Benedictions. The existential incertitude of primitive society remains as a category of existential anxiety or the power of imagination in an evolved society.

In the first part of this paragraph, Pasolini tells us something quite different from what he had previously stated. The Erinyes, symbols of the darkest instinct and of irrationality, at once come back to fill the scene. In fact, we are told, they cannot simply be defeated and eliminated. Reason, earlier described as triumphant, receives a blow, and the rights of the mother and the Erinyes—fear and incertitude—which we had imagined left once and for all, come back and are acknowledged as inescapable, undying realities. Fear, like the Erinyes, cannot and should not be removed. In connection with Aeschylus’s Oresteia, M. G. Bonanno has underscored the beneficial persistence of fear invoked as τὸ δεινόν (to deinon) by the Erinyes (at line 517 literally “a

Pasolini’s Orestiade, the Irrational and Greek Tragedy


terrible, fearful thing”) and eventually by Athena herself at the moment of the institution of the Areopagus. 14 As D. J. Conacher reminds us, 15 the Erinyes describe to deinon as “that awesome quality embodied in themselves” 16 and as the necessary element in a just state; and this τὸ δεινόν is strongly echoed when Athena speaks about the foundation of the Areopagus. Conacher quotes the tragedy: “I bid you not to cast out the fear of retribution (τὸ δεινόν) entirely from the state. For who that fears nothing at all is ever just? But if you justly reverence so august a body . . . you would have a bulwark of the land and a safeguard of the city such as no man has.” 17 We understand that fear had a role in the genos and continues to have one in the polis: Visceral feelings, 18 as the chorus of the Agamemnon suggested, can hardly be wrong. 19 Furthermore, in Athens Orestes is judged guilty by only half of the jury members whose vote reminds us that the new democratic institutions will not once and for all forget the rights of blood relations. As A. Carrera observes, “Orestes can be absolved only if such rights [those claimed by the Erinyes] become the hidden foundation of the government of the polis. The family (genos) must be grafted on the demos so that democracy does not remain without a foundation or the theatre of an indiscriminate fight of all against all.” 20 In agreement with Bonanno and Carrera, Simon Goldhill highlights how at the end of Aeschylus’s trilogy, 21 fear (phobos), which has been pervasive in the plot, also becomes a positive emotion in the prevention of injustice. “This fear,” Goldhill explains, “is xungen ēs, which may imply ‘kindred,’ that is ‘of the same race’ as ‘respect’ . . . it is a propensity to avoid wrong-doing (adikein, the negative of dikē) that is passed on with the new institution of law.” 22 The importance of phobos in the Oresteia is now a well-established trend in recent criticism of Aeschylus, and it is remarkable to discover Pasolini’s pioneering sensitivity toward an issue destined to become important only later among classical philologists. Furthermore, in the second part of the paragraph—the italicized segment in the block citation—the Erinyes’s role is expanded, and Pasolini surrenders to a sense of inescapable moral tragedy that in the beginning had not been thematized and, in fact, had been willingly pushed aside. The Erinyes are chosen to represent “a category”—theorized in modern philosophical speculation from Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel onward 23 —and they are essentially present as “the existential anxiety or power of imagination” permanently inhabiting modern minds and well-developed societies. This phenomenon is also observed by Goldhill, who writes, “It is a central and tragic tension of the Oresteia that as the narrative moves towards the celebration of the polis, the picture of individual human’s lives, mired in ignorance, caught in familial narratives, and punished by a silent, unremitting and inexplicable doom, remains constant.” 24 The irrational aspects of Greek culture had been explored in E. R. Dodds’s famous book, The Greeks and the Irrational. Dodds explained how:


Francesca D’Alessandro Behr the men who created the first European rationalism were never—until the Hellenistic Age—“mere” rationalists. . . . They were deeply and imaginatively aware of the power, the wonder and the peril of the Irrational. But they could describe what went on below the threshold of consciousness only in mythological or symbolic language; they had no instrument for understanding it, still less for controlling it. 25

Pasolini, like Dodds, is attracted by tragedy, by Orestes and Oedipus, not only because of their problematic agency, but also, above all, because of the monsters in their emerging consciousness. Like many of his tragic characters, Pasolini himself embraces phobos (fear) and amechania (passivity/inability to act) as essential components of life and of a world where not only is the environment (gods included) perceived as being incomprehensibly against man, but also the human inner self has become obscurely populated by unfathomable desires, urges, and inexplicable obligations, the monsters of an abyss that cannot be logically penetrated or conquered. 26 It is possible to adopt Paul Ricoeur’s philosophy in Finitude and Culpability, especially in his study of the great myths of Western culture (Orphic, tragic, and Adamic), to discuss Pasolini’s approach to myth and tragedy: “The plurality of myths on the origin of evil is evidence of the limitations of a purely ethical vision of the world and of man: we are agents of evil, and at the same time its objects. We are responsible but also victims.” 27 In Ricoeur’s philosophical exploration, we clearly see that “the self can reflect on itself, in the end, only as ultimately a mystery to itself. The self finds itself distorted and fragmented and hence not yet fully itself.” 28 This darker and more skeptical vision of reality and politics was already emerging in Pilade—a theatrical piece written by Pasolini in 1967 as a kind of appendix to Aeschylus’s trilogy. In this work, once and for all, the protagonist Pilade, immersed in a world that has rejected the past and the possibility of reconciliation between reason and irrational impulses, is prey to anxiety and immobility, attitudes that will characterize all of Pasolini’s productions inspired from Greek tragedy. 29 Oreste, for instance, is unable to bring democracy and progress to Argo, a city in which we recognize an Italy incapable of change. We can see in Pilade—Orestes’s friend who urges him to have the courage to kill his mother 30 —the shadow of an already disillusioned Pasolini. 31 MORE ABOUT THE IRRATIONAL If, on the one side, Pasolini (and the Western intellectual tradition) regarded the practices of the Greek polis and the primacy of politics in Greek society as progressive and affirmative, he was also profoundly aware of the ways in which Greek tragedians reflected critically on those political practices, questioning power structures and habits, “rationality and its efficacy in ordering

Pasolini’s Orestiade, the Irrational and Greek Tragedy


the chaotic world of experience.” 32 Pasolini followed these playwrights and their willingness to scrutinize the dark sides of reality. Ultimately, his attraction to tragedy can be viewed as an attempt to be true to the self and to society, beyond the false hopes of the 1960s in Italy, even beyond and against his Marxist creed, which was still prominent in those years; Pasolini is ready to accept that the shadowy core of human existence cannot be easily shunned. In some of his writings he explicitly and significantly returns to the problem of irrationality: I marxisti generalmente identificano semplicemente la irrazionalità con la irrazionalità “storica” del decadentismo: e non tengono conto che esiste una irrazionalità categorica, nell’uomo (quelle che lei chiama passioni e contraddizioni benedette) la quale si evolve storicamente, assume vari atteggiamenti, vari aspetti a seconda della società in cui l’individuo—suo depositario—opera. Bisognerà che il pensiero marxista si decida a riempire questa lacuna, che ingenera confusioni e pasticci. . . . Voglio farle un esempio forse un po’ pedante. Lei ha letto l’Orestiade di Eschilo? Io me ne sono occupato recentemente, per tradurla. Il contenuto dell’ Orestiade è essenzialmente politico: il sostituirsi di uno stato democratico—sia pure rozzamente democratico—a uno stato tirannico e arcaico. Il culmine della trilogia è il momento in cui la dea Atena (la Ragione: nata dalla mente del padre: priva cioè dell’esperienza uterina, materna, irrazionale) istituisce l’assemblea dei cittadini che giudicano col diritto di voto. Ma la tragedia non finisce qui. Dopo l’intervento razionale di Atena, le Erinni—forze scatenate arcaiche, istintive, della natura—sopravvivono: e sono dee, sono immortali. Non si possono eliminare, non si possono uccidere. Si devono trasformare, lasciando intatta la loro sostanziale irrazionalità. 33 Marxists generally identify irrationality simply with the “historic” irrationality of Decadentismo: and they do not consider that there is a categorical irrationality in men (what you call passions and blessed contradictions) that develops historically, taking different faces and aspects according to the society in which the individual—depositary of it—operates. Marxist thought should finally decide to fill this lacuna, which causes confusion and mistakes. . . . I want to give you an example, perhaps a little bit pedantic. Have you read Aeschylus’s Oresteia? I have handled it recently in order to translate it. The content of the Oresteia is mainly political: the substitution of a democratic state—although roughly democratic—to a tyrannical and archaic one. The summit of the trilogy is when the goddess Athena (Reason, born from the mind of the father and therefore without uterine, maternal, irrational experience) establishes the assembly of citizens who judge by vote. But this tragedy does not end here. After Athena’s rational intervention, the Erinyes—unbridled, archaic, instinctive forces of nature—survive and they are immortal. They cannot be eliminated, they cannot be killed. They must be transformed, leaving intact their substantial irrationality.


Francesca D’Alessandro Behr

Between 1960 and 1965 Pasolini was writing in the periodical Vie Nuove, and the passage above comes from there. It is a reply to a letter written to him from one of his readers who did not like the way in which critics had dismissed Boris Pasternak’s complexity. I have cited this passage at length because it seems an important clarification of the discourse on irrationality brought forward in the Orestiade. Pasolini repeats what he had already said in the “Nota” and enlarges it, positing it in a specific sociocultural milieu. In the letter, Pasolini seems to be of the opinion that Marxism had too much confidence in progress and rationality, dismissing irrationality as a fruit or, more precisely, a wilted byproduct of Decadentismo. 34 At the end of the nineteenth century, the Italian literary landscape was dominated by personalities such as that of Gabriele D’Annunzio and Giovanni Pascoli who, in different ways, championed idiosyncrasy and irrationality over pure rationalism. Yet several Italian intellectuals remained skeptical about this approach. Ernesto De Martino, one of the curators of Einaudi’s Collana Viola—an innovative series focused on anthropology, sociology, and religion inaugurated by Einaudi Press in 1948—offers a good example of this skepticism. In a famous letter to Giulio Einaudi in the aftermath of Cesare Pavese’s death, De Martino writes that he did not appreciate what his colleague Pavese was doing to the orientation of the series, for his (Pavese’s) “sympathy for some forms of irrationality, scientifically erroneous and politically suspicious, which idolizing the primitive world, the sacred, and myth, etc. sponsored some aspects of the cultural (and political) involution of the dying bourgeoisie.” 35 Pasolini recognized that the Decadent movement may have had its shortcomings and a limited, aesthetic way to project irrationality, yet he also saw that the irrationality the movement embraced had deeper roots than the bourgeoisie of the nineteenth century. 36 The barbarism and irrationality that Pasolini loved so much are not a refuge but a vital dimension of thought that his society often tried to remove and that his work instead attempts desperately to preserve. 37 At the very heart of Pasolini’s writing, there is a rhetorical attempt to reveal “‘the joining of opposites’ (the Jungian coniunctio oppositorum) of light and shadow,” which according to Paolo Valesio is one of the distinctive features of Decadentismo. 38 The Erinyes of the mind should not be idolized and romanticized; they must be faced, even if this is not easily accomplished. In the letter quoted above, Pasolini implicitly hints at how Aeschylus’s conclusion (the reentrance of the Erinyes into the city) should be internalized and followed by the Italian Marxist Left. The Erinyes must be welcomed and reintegrated in modern societies (“Si devono trasformare, lasciando intatta la loro sostanziale irrazionalità”) 39 because, as we will see, the risk faced by their denial is ruin and implosion. The theme of the denial of the irrational is further discussed in Pasolini’s open letter to Silvana Mangano in 1968. In this document, Pasolini is talking

Pasolini’s Orestiade, the Irrational and Greek Tragedy


about the success obtained by the film Oedipus Rex at the time of release (1967 in Paris) but he also discusses the metaphorical meaning of Euripides’s tragedy The Bacchae: Quando Dionisio è arrivato a Tebe . . . si rivela come una presenza spaventosa. . . . Egli è venuto in forma umana a Tebe per portare amore (ma mica quello sentimentale e benedetto delle convenzioni!), e invece porta il dissesto e la carneficina. Egli è l’irrazionalità che cangia, insensibilmente e nella più suprema indifferenza, dalla dolcezza all’orrore. . . . Sia come apparizione “benigna” che come apparizione “maledetta,” la società, fondata sulla ragione e sul buon senso—che sono il contrario di Dionisio, cioè dell’irrazionalità—non lo comprende. Ma è la sua stessa incomprensione di questa irrazionalità che la porta irrazionalmente alla rovina (alla carneficina più orrenda mai descritta in un’opera d’arte). . . . Quanti Pentei, nella nostra società, cara Silvana: che prima vogliono tagliare i capelli lunghi al giovane Dio che compare loro e che essi non vogliono riconoscere, e poi finiscono con l’andare a spiare le Menadi, vestiti da donna, e con l’essere dilaniati da loro in una carneficina orrenda (Auschwitz, Dachau, Vietnam, Biafra). 40 When Dionysus arrives in Thebes . . . he reveals himself as a dreadful presence. . . . He has come to Thebes in human form to bring love (but not sentimental love blessed by conventions!); instead, he brings turmoil and carnage. He is irrationality that changes, insensibly and in supreme indifference, from sweetness to horror. . . . Whether [irrationality] appears as “benign” or “cursed” apparition, society established on reason and good sense—which are the opposite of Dionysus, that is, of irrationality—does not understand it. But it is the incomprehension of this irrationality that irrationally brings society to ruin (to the most horrid carnage ever described in a work of art). . . . How many characters in our society resemble Pentheus, dear Silvana! They, at first, want to cut the long hair of the young god appearing to them, though they do not want to recognize him, and they up, spying, dressed like women, the Maenads, eaten alive by them in an horrific slaughter (Auschwitz, Dachau, Vietnam, Biafra).

The inability to recognize and ultimately accept the irrational does not simply cause individual schizophrenia or personal unhappiness; rather, it brings genocide and massacres of global dimension. Pentheus is attracted by Dionysus and yet he rejects him. The subject falters in the dialectical encounter with its own negation (the long-haired Dionysus), with internal and external forces that he seems unable to recognize and understand, and are therefore characterized as negative, limiting, “evil.” Yet it is imperative that he and the community come to terms with these powers. Pentheus is unable to do it and ends up cruelly killed by the Maenads, beheaded by his own mother. In the letter to Mangano, Pasolini denounces modern rationalism with its calculative logic, the inability to accept the irrational, and the constant search for what is useful as the only model that his society wants to


Francesca D’Alessandro Behr

apply indifferently to every individual or collective phenomenon. 41 Pasolini’s poetry “manifests the will to bring it [the irrational] to light and to show it as a fundamental moment of humanity.” 42 In the Oresteia, both Apollo and the Furies want to be the sole arbiters of conflict; each tries to get rid of the other, unaware that “in opposing what seems opposed they also oppose themselves.” 43 It will be Athena who brings them together, as Pasolini tried to do with his poetry. THE APPEAL OF TRAGEDY AS A GENRE Tragedy is a genre welcomed and privileged by Pasolini because of its melding with the irrational, allowing for the exploration of the tensions between the intellectual, emotional, and political dimensions. Indeed, it does not suppress the one at the expense of the other; furthermore, tragedy lets an audience access reality through the mind and the senses. As several classicists have noticed, tragedy dramatizes the difficult interplay between emotional and intellectual engagement, and the audience is thrown between them. For instance, in the Oresteia we are forced to see how democracy—or at least a more democratic and rational government—is inaugurated through the most unnatural, appalling, and irrational act, through the murder of one’s mother. This dynamic (the struggle between rationality and irrationality) makes tragedy a unique medium in the polis, and a discussion about tragedy should always take into consideration how tragedy functions, the composite ways through which tragedians have chosen to deliver their message. 44 The ultimate role of the theater in the Greek city is debated just as the meaning of the word catharsis—invoked by Aristotle in his Poetics 45 as the culmination and ultimate effect of a tragedy—however, there seems to be a general consensus about the fact that catharsis cannot simplistically be identified as a purging of emotions. It entails an intellectual clarification of the mind as well, emotions and reason should be equal participants in the process. 46 It is not hard to see why the Oresteia, with its focus on justice and praise of political institutions, has been viewed as a strongly didactic and political play. Yet the trilogy unravels toward its congratulatory conclusion through extremely emotionally charged scenes and the final acceptance of the Erinyes. From the carpet scene with the murder of Agamemnon to the death of Clytemnestra to the terrible entrance of the Erinyes and Orestes’s declaration about his matricide, the audience is made to experience the power of the emotions. 47 Pasolini admires this polyphony 48 of the Oresteia where we can find the victory of politics and men side by side with the point of view of Clytemnestra and with it the predicaments of Greek women whose desires are generally unrepresented and even suppressed by that society’s legal and political history. 49 Ultimately in agreement with Peter Euben we understand

Pasolini’s Orestiade, the Irrational and Greek Tragedy


that Aeschylus “‘uses’ the politics of gender and sexuality to make ‘larger’ points about ‘the’ human condition.” 50 Euben’s comment, in turn, should be extended to Pasolini for whom Clytemnestra and the Erinyes, as we said above, become symbols of forces and urges that his society wishes to repress but that must be preserved. Pasolini was not a Greek philologist, but he intuitively understood the importance of the Erinyes in the trilogy. ERINYES, ATHENA, AND CLYTEMNESTRA So, who exactly are the Erinyes, and what do they represent in the Oresteia? Classical scholar Helen Bacon has written some enlightening words on the topic. She explains that when we look at the world as represented in Greek tragedy, we can recognize the presence of unwritten laws ordained by the Fates (the Moirai), which command reverence for the gods, kindred, strangers, and the keeping of oaths. Zeus is not above these primordial laws; he leads the world only as long as he is able to observe and enforce them. Pollution (miasma) in the ancient world appears as a sign that these laws have been violated: “The Furies [i.e., Greek Erinyes] are neither anarchic, primitive spirits of violence nor servants of Zeus, but Zeus’ unseen collaborators as guardians and enforcers of those laws that are an essential part of the cosmic order that the father of gods and men administer.” 51 In other words, even the strongest reactions that catalyze human actions—what so far we have called “the irrational” and is subsumed by the Erinyes—have a fundamental role and serve an important binding purpose in an organized society whether its members are willing or not to recognize it 52 : It is in the last scene that the process of bringing hidden fearful things into the light of consciousness culminates in the emergence of the Furies from their native darkness to be recognized for what they are—not simply malign punishers too terrifying to associate with, but simultaneously powerfully creative forces to be welcomed into the sacrificial community of gods and mortals. In the course of the trilogy the Furies advance from being outcasts, inhabitants of outer darkness, working unseen by gods and mortals, to being legitimized members of the cosmic community, part of the consciousness of mortals and gods. 53

As has been explained above, the importance of fear is a well-established trend in recent scholarship on the trilogy; the Erinyes are symbols of this fear and the irrational. Their admittance into the city at the end of the play enriches but also complicates the idea of progress promoted in this trilogy. In Christopher Rocco’s words: The conclusion of the Oresteia certainly leaves no doubt that the more impartial and inclusive legal and political institutions of Athens constitute an ad-


Francesca D’Alessandro Behr vance over the particularity of the household and clan, but as the persistent presence of the Furies, the unannounced departure of Apollo, and the displacement of the solution onto the divine agency of Athena all indicate, the conflict between genders is larger than the polis itself. That the citizen-jurors probably vote against Orestes (Athena breaks the tie in favor of the city) also suggests that perhaps the framework of the polis is itself neither adequate nor any too secure. 54

This complexity is embraced and amplified by Pasolini’s translation. For instance, it can be read in the words of the Chorus (in Eumenides) which reflects on the role of the Erinyes: Chi darà nuove / leggi, se trionfa / oggi, qui, la causa / del matricidio? . . . Le Erinni che accendono / i rimorsi in cuore / taceranno, da oggi. Consentiranno ogni odio. / L’uomo vedendo i simili / prede impotenti degli empi, non avrà piú speranza: / Sarà irrisoria / ogni ordinanza umana. . . . È spesso la Paura / un senso sacro / e deve stare dentro / l’anima a vigilarla. Niente rende più esperti / che conoscere il male. / Che uomo, che città—se sotto il sole / niente fa paura—/ ha la giustizia in cuore? 55 Who will give new laws if today, here, the cause of matricide is triumphant? The Erinyes who spark remorse in the heart will be silent, from today, they will consent to every hatred. A man seeing another man impotent prey of the wicked will have no more hope: Every human ordinance will be laughable. . . . Often fear is a sacred sense and it must remain inside the soul to watch over it. Nothing makes you more expert than knowledge of evil. What a man, what a city—if nothing under the sun is reason for fear—has justice in his heart?

These lines question the role of human legislation and remind the audience of the stabilizing role of fear within society. Toward the end of the Eumenides, these very concerns will be understood by Athena, and the goddess will welcome the Erinyes into the city. She will affirm that only those who do not understand “the contrasts of life” are unable to recognize their importance. The rejection of the Erinyes, that is, of the contrasti della vita causes “unconscious impiety” and “obscure ruin”: Atena: Io attuo il mio slancio d’amore per questa città, ospitando qui, voi, come patrone, grandi, inquiete, misteriose potenze. Regolerete ogni rapporto umano. Chi non capisce ch’è giusto accettare tra noi queste primordiali divinità, non capisce i contrasti della vita: È la barbarie dei padri che si sconta davanti ad esse: e un’ inconscia empietà, malgrado i gridi della sua coscienza, può portarlo a un’oscura rovina. 56

Pasolini’s Orestiade, the Irrational and Greek Tragedy


Athena: I enact my love for this city hosting you here, great, turbulent, mysterious powers, as patrons. You will regulate every human relationship. Who does not understand that it is right to accept among us these primordial divinities, does not understand the contrasts of life: It is the barbarism of our fathers for which we atone in front of them: and an unconscious impiety, despite a screaming conscience, can bring (him) to an obscure ruin.

It is remarkable that Athena, a young divinity, pronounces these words. By her own admittance, throughout the tragedy, she has sided with men and male divinities. Yet here, unlike Apollo, she shows great respect for these goddesses and the old order they represent. With these words, she becomes the promoter of a conciliation between Zeus and the Moirai; she acknowledges men’s vocation to happiness and progress as well as the human drive toward violence, revenge, destruction, and the role of irrational impulses. 57 By accepting the Erinyes, Athena conveys the idea that democratic institutions may not be authoritative enough if not associated with fear; that, as Alessandro Carrera has explained, democracy by itself is not self-sufficient, it may not have enough power. As Hegel would put it, it is defenseless toward “‘the originary postulate of political economy’ according to which each person feels the right to impose his will on everything; [democracy] left to itself, is simply ‘too human.’” Democracy’s divine warranty is found, paradoxically, in this pact with the Furies. 58 Furthermore, quite interestingly and revealingly, the character who welcomes the Erinyes, Athena, also conflates female and male features and implicitly acknowledges the importance of a politically crafted order resorting to the linguistic manipulation earlier employed by the virago Clytemnestra to convince Agamemnon to walk on the carpet toward his demise. Athena declares to speak and to act in the name of dikē just as the Erinyes had done. The fact that they both appeal to dikē does not mean that they agree on its meaning but rather that “Athena establishes the law court and institutes a new legal order over the protests of the Furies by playing on the ambiguity of the term dikē itself. Athena here has recourse to the same strategy and tactics used by Clytemnestra.” 59 Thus, killed and exorcised, Clytemnestra is in a certain way resurrected in the figure of the masculine Athena who like Agamemnon’s killer traverses traditional gender definitions and behavioral models. We do not know what will happen in this new city, therefore “[t]he ending of the Oresteia is conditional rather than utopian . . . the threat of competing obligations and the tensions and conflicts in the language of dikē haunt even the final torch-lit procession. Aeschylus’s vision remains a tragic one.” 60


Francesca D’Alessandro Behr

LANGUAGE Even at a linguistic level, Aeschylus and Pasolini make us perceive the presence of coexisting and clashing forces within the human mind and the world. Before we look directly at Pasolini’s text, let’s analyze what he says—on the already mentioned “Nota del traduttore”—about the linguistic range he will adopt in his translation: La tendenza linguistica generale è stata modificare continuamente i toni sublimi in toni civili: una disperata correzione di ogni tentazione classicista. Da ciò un avvicinamento alla prosa, all’allocuzione bassa, ragionante. Il Greco di Eschilo non mi pare una lingua né eletta né espressiva: È estremamente strumentale. Talvolta fino a una magrezza elementare e rigida, a una sintassi priva degli aloni e degli echi che il classicismo romantico ci ha abituati a percepire, quale continua allusività del testo classico a una classicità paradigmatica, storicamente astratta. 61 The general linguistic tendency has been to continuously modify the sublime tones in civil tones: a desperate correction of every classical temptation. From this operation, a nearing to prose, to the low, reasoning register. Aeschylus’ Greek does not seem to me an elected nor expressive language: It is extremely functional. Sometimes it reaches an elementary and rigid slimness, a syntax emptied of haloes and echoes which romantic classicism habituated us to perceive, that of a continuous hinting of the classical text to a paradigmatic classicism which is historically abstract.

Pasolini clarifies how he plans to translate the text and gives his own judgment about Aeschylus’s Greek. Whatever sublimity is present in the trilogy, he assures us, it will be systematically trimmed and brought back down to earth. However, Pasolini adds, almost justifying himself in front of an imaginary critic puzzled about this reduction, there is little or no sublimity in Aeschylus whose Greek is “elementarily slim” and extremely functional, not at all “elected” nor “expressive.” Although Pasolini seems determined to modify Aeschylus’s sublime tones into “civil tones” creating a more prosaic and low register, I think that in the end he did not translate in the manner he prescribed. Before proceeding to the examination of a couple of case studies that will allow us to appreciate and assess Pasolini’s translation and language more closely, I would like to reflect on whether he was right in his evaluation of Aeschylus’s Greek. This query does not yield a straightforward yes or no. F. R. Earp would not have agreed with Pasolini’s impressions about Aeschylus’s language. All readers know, Earp says, that his style “was full of ‘grandiloquence’ or as the Greeks called it ὄγκος, of various kinds, mouth-filling words and bold mixed metaphors, and so on. . . . There is little ὄγκος in the very scanty fragments of his predecessors in Tragedy, and it is probable that

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Aeschylus elevated the style, as, according to tradition, he elevated the staging of the plays.” This raise was necessary because, as Aristophanes has the character Aeschylus assert in Frogs 62 “great thoughts beget language to match.” 63 Yet, according to A. E. Haigh, grandiloquence is not the only relevant element of Aeschylus’s diction: Aeschylus was the inventor of the grand style of tragic diction. He was the first, not only to exalt and ennoble the spirit of tragedy, but also to clothe it in a form of suitable magnificence, and to “build up the structure of splendid phrases.” His language . . . serves as a fitting vehicle for the expression of his mighty conceptions. It is cast in the same majestic mould as his heroes and heroines. In splendour and impressiveness it towers above the level of common speech just as much as his Prometheus and his Clytemnestra surpass in greatness ordinary human nature. . . . But though his phraseology is gorgeous and ornate, the structure and syntax of the language is simple and archaic in character. He belongs to that earlier class of writers to whom rhetorical artifice was unknown. His sentences are arranged in straightforward fashion, more by way of parallel clauses than by the subordination of one clause to another. Rounded periods, with carefully balanced rhythm, polished antithesis, and recurring cadence, are foreign to his style. . . . Closely allied to this love of metaphor and personification is the use, very frequent in the plays of Aeschylus, of picturesque, compound adjectives—such as “beam-compacted,” “golden-helmed,” “travel-trodden,” “hand-outstretching”—which appeal to the eye and the senses, and call up a vivid image of the thing described. 64

While in the first part of this depiction, Haigh confirms Earp’s comments, in the second he echoes Pasolini’s intuitions. Aeschylus’s language manages to be sublime while at the same time remaining simple; it abounds in metaphors and compound adjectives but its syntax is absolutely undemanding. To translate Aeschylus’s language for the theater is not at all an easy task. Pasolini himself in his “Nota” recounts how he had “thrown himself on the text [of the Oresteia] to devour it like . . . a dog on a bone, a wonderful bone with its lean meat” (“mi sono gettato sul testo, per divorarlo come . . . un cane sull’osso, uno stupendo osso carico di carne magra” 65). He had little time to work on this translation; he used Thomson’s text and translation (Cambridge, 1938), that of Mazon (Paris, 1949), and finally also the Italian edition by Untersteiner (Milano, 1947). When he could not decide which one was best, he chose the one he liked the most, he let his instinct prevail—“I could not have done it in a worse way” 66 he admits in the “Nota.” Pasolini relied most heavily on the French translation, avoiding consideration of the original Greek; at times he even misinterpreted the French. However the result is, as Fusillo has observed, “a masterpiece of poetry,” 67 which breaks with polished smoothness and searches, through an enhanced emotional intensity, for direct contact with the audience without obliterating Aeschylus’s majestic tone or the ethical inquiries clearly central to him. Pasolini’s in-


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stincts were often right and remarkably close to what philologists, after attentive exploration of the text, have established. Against his own stated purposes, Pasolini produced a rather complex and gripping adaptation. His language is simple, but also supremely allusive, and not always straightforward. He is reacting to the graceful translations of the Italian academy; he approaches the text as a poet rather than a philologist and yet he is able to remain faithful to Aeschylus’s spirit. 68 Federico Condello notices in Pasolini’s translations a contradictory tendency toward “pulsione ‘oggettivante’ e pulsione ‘soggettivante’” “a pulsation to objectify and to subjectify” the text, 69 to preserve Aeschylus’s complex lesson—the cohabitation of rationality and irrationality in our heart and in our political structures. In his translation, Pasolini gives us “il potentemente indefinito” (“the powerfully indefinite”), 70 which makes Aeschylus’s characters so memorable and Aeschylus an author whom he would like to resemble (“un autore come io vorrei essere”). 71 Pasolini abhors rhetoric as cultivation of beautiful and empty words, and following in the tradition of Manara Valgimigli and Salvatore Quasimodo—but already going beyond them—he accentuates the expressionism he claimed absent in the original (see above). With images and associations of great power, he makes his audience perceive the reasons of those characters who are most closely associated with the irrational, in his translation some of the most memorable lines are employed to describe minor characters (e.g., Iphigenia) or those tied to the Erinyes (e.g., Clytemnestra). As Fusillo underscores, Pasolini connects these characters to a series of recurrent images such as “dreams, anxiety, the unconscious, darkness, blood, war, and above all, obsession, true Leitmotiv of this translation; images which embody emotivity and oppose themselves to the light of Apollinean rationality.” 72 Animal imagery is also stressed in his translation in the attempt to reveal the complexity of human nature. 73 The two examples that follow are given to provide just a small “taste” of Pasolini’s complex and at the same time simple linguistic approach to Aeschylus’s text. IPHIGENIA Around the altar of Dionysus, the chorus of old Argives evokes the death of Iphigenia (parodos). 74 They narrate events from the past, how in Aulis Agamemnon gave the order to kill Iphigenia 75 to allow the Greek fleet to depart for Troy. The description of the murder weakens the audience’s sympathy for Agamemnon and complicates matters, making the audience see and feel that even Clytemnestra (a liar, a murderer, and an adulterous woman) has her reasons. Agamemnon’s withdrawal from the very expedition he had organized would have been problematic but the killing of one’s daughter is awful. Artemis and Zeus’s involvement in the story does not excuse Agamemnon.

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Even if “necessity” is invoked in line 218—“and he put on the harness of necessity,” the Greek text and Pasolini’s translation convince us that the killing of a daughter is deeply wrong. As Iphigenia’s violated innocence is depicted, 76 before our story even begins, before we have met Clytemnestra, Aeschylus provides her (and his audience) with a reason to hate her husband Agamemnon. 77 It is the will of the father to use his daughter to allow the fleet to leave: in Pasolini’s adaptation “obbedendo il candido sangue / avrebbe fatto cessare i venti” (“her obedient candid blood / would have obliged the winds to cease”). The sentence reflects Agamemnon’s wishful thinking, underlines the daughter’s imagined obedience and the king’s desire to maintain control at every cost: The action is here focalized through Agamemnon’s eye, one event will trigger the other, everything will happen with ease, almost mechanically (the obedience of a daughter and then the obedience of the winds). And yet we are made to perceive the immeasurable chasm between this superficial order and the horrific facts that are happening, the insurmountable decision that must be taken by the father, the horror felt by a daughter condemned to death by the man she loves the most. Pasolini does not excuse Agamemnon; in fact, his murder is strongly denounced few lines later through the verb “uccise” (“he killed”): Uccise sua figlia con le sue mani e un’armata poté partire alla riconquista d’una donna, poté spalancarsi alle navi la strada del mare. 78 He killed his daughter with his own hands and his troops were able to leave to regain a woman, the path of the sea was opened to the ships.

In the past, the girl had been coopted in the games and war plans of men willingly, because of her young age or perhaps for the love she nourished toward her father. With powerful words, as the murder unfolds, Pasolini tells about Iphigenia’s total devotion to her father: Il padre fece un segno ai servi, perché come un capretto (χιμαίρας), coperto delle sue bende, e disperatamente attaccato alla terra, essa fosse presa, appesa, imbavagliata: non doveva, la sua dolce bocca (καλλιπρῴρου), bestemmiare il nome dei suoi, e bisognava soffocarne l’urlo! Ma finché non le cadde ai piedi la rossa veste, ah, come bruciava i carnefici il suo sguardo di dolore!


Francesca D’Alessandro Behr E sembrava un’immagine, una muta imagine, lei che tante volte, ai banchetti paterni cantava, e con chiara voce d’innamorata vergine (ἀταύρωτος), ai brindisi il peana del dolce padre (πατρὸς φίλου) dolcemente intonava! 79 The father nodded to the servants in order to have her taken, lifted and gagged like a goat covered in bandages, desperately clutching the earth, she must not be allowed with her sweet mouth to curse her family, her scream had to be suffocated! Until her red dress fell on the ground, how much her glance of pain burned her butchers! And she seemed an image, a mute image, she who so many times, during the paternal banquets sang sweetly at toasting, intoning the victory song of her sweet father with the clear voice of a virgin in love.

The segment is unforgettable, “the memory of the sacrifice pervades the play.” 80 The realistic adjective ἀταύρωτος (“without a bull,” “unwedded”) etymologically linked to the animal world is kept, but softened and expanded by Pasolini to underscore the delicate voice of a “virgin in love” (“innamorata vergine”) who sweetly sings for her father and his guests. 81 Iphigenia knows no man; her world is completely filled by her father. She is in love with him alone, in love with the purest of all loves. In Pasolini’s description, everything about her is graceful, delicate, and pure. The adjective “sweet” is repeated several times. But the rosy past quickly comes to an end in Aulis. Agamemnon forgets his fatherly duties and the love he owes to his devoted child. Now she has to grow up quickly and learn the truth. Her father wants to turn her into a scapegoat, an animal whose blood can be employed to create cohesion and order; this time, she does not respond obediently. In ancient Greek thought, the victim was supposed to assent to the killing, but Iphigenia does not. 82 The girl communicates dissent with her unwilling body while her father’s servants do whatever is in their power to silence her mouth, preventing her from screaming a curse. The translation makes us see the violence she must suffer, the resistance of her unwilling, naked limbs, “her glance of pain” which “burn[s] her butchers.” 83 She does not want to be transformed into an animal, the goat preserves the trait of a human being who does not want to be gagged and obliterated. Her fiery dress falls to the ground and reminds us that a girl is being violated and butchered, not a heifer or a doe. The language daringly mixes animal and human imagery and the result is a moving, unsettling description of great effect. Pasolini makes us see a strangely human goat, “desperately clutching the earth,” whose “sweet mouth” must be silenced. This is a goat who can swear curses. In Aeschylus’s tragedy at line 136, Iphigenia is conflated with a hare. At 232, she becomes a she-goat (χιμαίρας), and a few lines later, the language employed by the Greek tragedian to qualify the girl is equine, she is

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“gagged into silence by a bit” (“βίᾳ χαλινῶν τ᾽ἀναύδῳ” 84 ). 85 Pasolini does not forget the animal imagery so heavily employed in the original, and he does not allow us to forget the human behind the animal. Once Athena’s tribunal will be established, Orestes pardoned and Agamemnon’s murder in a way avenged, the image and the language employed in this depiction of the girl slaughtered like a goat more than anything else will linger in our memories, helping us to perceive what John Peradotto says about Agamemnon’s behavior: “Agamemnon’s decision [to kill his daughter] cannot be viewed as anything other than what the chorus calls it—parakopá, madness which cannot adjust personal desire and legal claim to the demands of a larger reality, and dares all in the face of doom” 86 or as Pasolini suggests that “at the origin of every evil, there is the deadly folly of infamous acts” (“sorgente di ogni male / è la funesta follia degli atti infami” 87). We will remember this murder, just like the “obscure chorus . . . the Erinyes” who “remember, and want to vindicate a virgin” (“un oscuro coro . . . le Erinni: esse ricordano, e vogliono / vendicare una vergine” 88). Enzo Degani is wrong when he writes that Pasolini’s translation obliterates the sublime tones and undercuts the ethical content of Aeschylus’s poetry. 89 To the contrary, Pasolini’s language makes us tragically aware of Agamemnon’s appalling behavior and its results. VULTURES AND THEIR NEST The mingling of imagery of human and animal boundaries and a deep concern for those who are suppressed in the unraveling of the plot are also presented in the Agamemnon at lines 40–54. In Pasolini’s translation, we read: Un decennio è passato: in questo tempo Priamo ha fatto esperienza di un coppia spietata di nemici, i due Atridi . . . Essi hanno raggiunto la sua terra con mille navi, il cuore ossesso, avidi di guerra: come due avvoltoi—ciechi di dolore sopra il loro nido [λεχέων] manomesso— che girano, girano in alto, facendo fischiare al vento le ali pazzi di pena, alla vista, laggiú, dei loro figli [παίδων]. 90 Ten years are passed: During this time Priam has had experience of a cruel couple of enemies, the two sons of Atreus. . . . They reached his land, with a thousand ships, with an obsessed heart, greedy for war: like two vultures— made blind by pain above their empty nest—who circle around, circle high, making their wings whistle, crazy for the pain, seeing below their children. 91


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In the Greek text, “the pain felt by the vultures for the missing chicks is brought into the human world by the anthropomorphism of παίδων and seems to demand explication.” 92 The word is carefully preserved by Pasolini. Unsurprisingly the description stresses the Atridae’s desire for war but also highlights their sorrow. The sons of Atreus desire war, “are obsessed” with it. The pain felt by the vultures—analogically linked to the two brothers—is that caused by the abduction of Helen, but the language employed in the simile allows the audience to also link it to the sorrow of Thyestes for his scandalously murdered children and, above all, to that of Clytemnestra who in the play is the individual most typically associated with grief for her lost child Iphigenia. One of the words that helps to produce this network of allusions to different characters and this wonderfully rich set of echoes is λεχέων. The term is normally employed to signify a marriage bed or a bier, but here is used to designate a nest. The term applies to the violated bed of Menelaus and at the same time to the birds’ nest. The nest is powerfully evocative of the presence of the young, eggs hatched with a great deal of effort, painfully cared for, and then lost. The adjective δεμνιοτήρη (“lingering”) 93 used to qualify the toil of the vultures and implicitly men’s concerns for violated marriage beds, is much more suggestive of a mother’s labor to raise children than a man’s. The simile of the vultures applied to the men is thus constructed to bring to our mind the suffering of mothers intensely engaged in making sure that their brood will survive and prosper, 94 “whereas initially Aeschylus’ lost fledglings symbolize Helen and her theft of Paris, the referent soon changes and the lost young become Iphigenia. Her death creates an Erinys that avenges both her death and the sack of Troy at the same time.” 95 The image of the mother bird who has toiled to raise her young is a very traditional one in Greek epics, as well as in tragedy; the image here is pointedly applied to men. Dué, significantly for my argument, suggests that the mother bird simile in epic and tragedy draws on women’s song tradition, which exists independently of men’s. Aeschylus is describing the beginning of the Trojan War and the actions of the sons of Atreus but he continues to think about its victims, the innocent children of whom Iphigenia becomes a symbol, the women who begot and raised them with great effort. 96 He uses the women’s very words to do it. As the fleet prepares to embark we are made to think about the costs of the operation. The language of the poets (Aeschylus and Pasolini) replicates the thematic conflation of the various polarities of the trilogy. Both poets accomplish the task of recalling those who are mowed down in the very act of describing the winners.

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CONCLUSION Through an eminently poetic operation, Pasolini allows his readers to experience anew the polyphony of Aeschylus’s tragedy. In Pasolini’s text, everything remains suspended rather than resolved, we are not called to take sides but to feel and pay attention to everybody’s motivations. This possibility is what Pasolini was discussing in 1966 in “Nuovi Argomenti” calling it “sospensione del senso” (“suspension of sense”): “Suspension of sense: This is a wonderful epigraph for what could be a new description of the effort, of the task of a writer” (“‘Sospendere il senso’: ecco una stupenda epigrafe per quella che potrebbe essere una nuova descrizione dell’impegno, del mandato dello scrittore” 97 ). He saw the necessity of a language that was supremely allusive rather than communicative, where contrasting ideas are suggested and made to coexist without a real synthesis. Poetry according to Pasolini is found in what remains “indefinite and allusive” where we find “not simply a message but the reflection of a word of pure suggestion.” 98 Beyond Pasolini’s “Nota del traduttore,” and the analysis through which I have tried to make sense of his way to conceive the coexistence of rational and irrational, it is only when we read his translation (and the rest of his poetic work) that we begin to realize or perhaps just to sense the maddening complexity of the world in which we live. NOTES 1. See Massimo Fusillo, La Grecia secondo Pasolini: Mito e cinema (Roma: Carrocci, 2007), 139–87. 2. What follows has been inspired by my scholarly interests in classical antiquity, as well as by the scholarship about Pasolini and tragedy produced in Italy in the last few decades. I hope this contribution will facilitate a dialogue between Classicists and Italianists. 3. Pelops, father of Atreus and Thyestes, had been cursed by Myrtilus for having denied him a reward owed for his help in conquering Hippodamia; Pelops was killed by his father Tantalus, who was eventually punished in Tartarus. Therefore, in the House of Atreus, the chain of murders caused by various curses goes back five generations. 4. Pier Paolo Pasolini, “Nota del traduttore,” in Orestiade (Torino: Einaudi, 1981), 177 (postscript to translated text, hereafter cited as Nota). All translations in English, unless otherwise indicated, are my own. 5. About Thomson’s influence on Pasolini, see Anna Banfi, “Orestea, da Eschilo a Pasolini: La parola alla polis,” Engramma 65 (2008), accessed March 18, 2016, eOS/index.php?id_articolo=244. Cf. Luciano Lucignani, “Letter to George Thomson,” in P. P. Pasolini, Teatro, ed. Walter Siti and Silvia De Laude (Milano: Mondadori, 2001), 1215: “Scartata la soluzione ‘archeologica’ (che è la sola ad aver ispirato da trent’anni a questa parte tutte le messinscene di opere dell’antichità classica nel nostro paese), e scartata, con altrettanta decisione, quella che impropriamente definiremo ‘estetica’ (cioè interpretazione della poesia greca senza riferimento ai suoi rapporti con la storia politica e sociale), non resta che una decisa, intransigente, interpretazione ‘storica.’ Il signor Gassman ed io siamo convintissimi che l’Orestiade rappresenti, come lei dice in modo così suggestivo, il passaggio dalla società matriarcale a quella patriarcale, che muove da un’epoca lontana e barbara per concludersi con la nascita del regno della legge.” A similar message (the play’s celebration of the transition


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from chaos to order) is also visible in John H. Finley Jr., Pindar and Aeschylus (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1966). See also Nadia Fagioli, “L’Orestiade di Pasolini,” Resine 3 (1980): 9–12; U. Albini, Viaggio nel teatro classico (Firenze: Le Monnier, 1987), 18–21; H. Flashar, Inszenierung der Antike. Das griechsche Drama auf der Bühne der Neuzeit (Munich: Beck, 1991), 219–23; A. Bierl, L’Orestea di Eschilo sulla scena moderna. Concezioni tecniche e realizzazioni sceniche (Roma: Bulzoni, 2004), chapter 2. Recently Mark Usher has been investigating Thomson’s influence on Pasolini’s film Appunti per un Orestiade Africana (1970), see Mark Usher, “What Does Athens Have to Do with Africa?” CHS Research Bulletin, February 2011, accessed May 2014, For the limitations of Thomson’s approach to tragedy, see A. W. Pickard, “Aeschylus and Athens,” review of Aeschylus and Athens. A Study in the Social Origins of Drama, The Classical Review 56, no. 1 (1942): 21–26. 6. M. G. Bonanno, “Pasolini e l’Orestea,” in Pasolini e l’antico. I doni della ragione, ed. U. Todini (Napoli: Edizioni Scientifiche Italiane, 1995), 49–50 and 51. 7. Nota, 176. 8. Nota, 177. 9. About the Areopagus and Ephialtes’s reforms, see Lindsay G. H. Hall, “Ephialtes, the Areopagus and the Thirty,” Classical Quarterly 40, no. 2 (1990): 319–28; Leslie Ann Jones, “The Role of Ephialtes in the Rise of Athenian Democracy,” Classical Antiquity 6, no. 1 (1987): 53–76; K. J. Dover, “The Political Aspect of Aeschylus’s Eumenides,” Journal of Hellenic Studies 77, no. 1 (1957): 230–37; E. R. Dodds, “Morals and Politics in the Oresteia,” Proceedings of the Cambridge Philological Society 186, no. 6 (1960): 19–31; C. W. Macleod, “Politics and the Oresteia,” Journal of Hellenic Studies 102 (1982): 124–44. 10. Aeschylus, Eumenides, in Oresteia, trans. R. Fagles (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009), lines 484–505 (hereafter cited as Eumenides). 11. The adjective is employed by Bonanno, “Pasolini e l’Orestea,” 51. 12. Nota, 176–77. 13. Nota, 177–78, my emphasis. 14. Bonanno “Pasolini e l’Orestea,” 49-51. 15. Eumenides, 490–565. 16. D. J. Conacher, “Interactions between Chorus and Characters in the Oresteia,” American Journal of Philology 95 (1974): 340. 17. Eumenides, lines 698-702 quoted by Conacher, “Interactions,” 340. 18. “Visceral feelings,” σπλάγχνα, Ag. 995. 19. The comment is by Bonanno in “Pasolini e l’Orestea,” 55. About the primary role of fear in Aeschylus, see T. G. Rosenmeyer, The Art of Aeschylus (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982), 178. Most recently Ippokratis Kantzios, “The Politics of Fear in Aeschylus’ Persians,” The Classical World 98, no. 1 (2004): 11ff, and Eirene Visvardi’s observations: “In addition to evoking the religious uses of fear, the chorus designates proper fear as the sign of respect for justice in democratic rule. Indicating a healthy mind, fear constitutes the foundation of a moderate life between anarchy and despotism for both individual and community. The moderate life is defined by the presence of nomos (the notion of law as both custom and institutionalized process), which is absent both in anarchy and under tyranny. It is precisely this language that Athena herself will take over when she founds the new court. She announces that with the new court, ‘the respect (σέβας) and inborn fear (φόβος) of the citizens’ will prevent all wrongs [691–92]. . . . With regard to the role of fear in the court and in religious and social life, two aspects of the Eumenides are particularly interesting. First, no character questions the necessity of fear. There is general agreement that justice depends on it. What remains under negotiation is the sources of fear that can most benefit the state. By allocating these sources to the institutions of the polis—the court of the Areopagus and the cult of the transformed Furies (in this order)—the play confirms fear as a necessary characteristic of the citizens’ moral psychology. Legal and religious institutions work together to evoke the appropriate fear; and properly fearful citizens can prosper with their healthy minds and a sense of civic responsibility that renders them respectful toward these institutions.” See Irene Visvardi, “On Sublimating the Emotions: Fear in Aeschylus’ Eumenides,” Center for Hellenic Studies

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Research Bulletin, January 2, 2013, 20. Alessandro Carrera, “Il dono di Atena e la fine della storia. Hegel, Pasolini e Severino interpretano l’Orestiade,” L’Anello che non tiene, Journal of Modern Italian Literature 8, nos. 1–2 (1996): 27–70. 21. Eumenides, line 691. 22. S. Goldhill, Aeschylus: The Oresteia (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 83. 23. Carrera, “Il dono di Atena,” 1–18. 24. Goldhill, Aeschylus: The Oresteia, 60. 25. Dodds, The Greeks and the Irrational, 254. See L. Vitali, “La colpa, il sacrificio e il destino degli antieroi nel teatro tragico di Pasolini,” in Il Mito Greco nell’Opera di Pasolini, Atti del Convegno di studi, Udine-Casarsa della Delizia, October 24–26, 2002, ed. E. Fabbro (Udine: Forum, 2006), 57. 26. See B. Snell, The Discovery of the Mind. The Greek Origins of European Thought (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1953); B. Snell, Aischylos und das Handeln im Drama (Leipzig: Dieterich, 1928); A. Lesky, “Decision and Responsibility in the Tragedy of Aeschylus,” Journal of Hellenistic Studies 86 (1966): 78–85; T. Gantz, “Inherited Guilt in Aischylos,” Classical Journal 78, no. 1 (1982): 1–23; Fusillo, La Grecia secondo Pasolini, 140; Gualtiero De Santi, “Mito e tragico in Pasolini,” in Il Mito Greco nell’Opera di Pasolini, Atti del Convegno di studi, Udine-Casarsa della Delizia, October 24–26, 2002, ed. E. Fabbro (Udine: Forum, 2006), 25; B. Zannini Quirini, “Medea: L’eroe Greco, il personaggio euripideo, la creazione pasoliniana,” in Lezioni su Pasolini, ed. T. De Mauro and F. Ferri (Ripatranzone: Edizioni Sestante, 1997), 375; L. D’Ascia, “Poeta in un’età di penuria. Pier Paolo Pasolini al capezzale della tragedia,” in Il Mito Greco nell’Opera di Pasolini, Atti del Convegno di studi, Udine-Casarsa della Delizia, October 24–26, 2002, ed. E. Fabbro (Udine: Forum, 2006), 32 and 35: “Ancor più che in Edipo Re, in Medea la rappresentazione del mito presuppone la figura dello straniamento, già messa alla prova nella produzione teatrale Pasoliniana. La riflessione post-tragica non compare esplicitamente. Si manifesta, al contrario, attraverso l’anatomia della dialettica tra mito e ragione considerate come origine dell’alienazione occidentale.” Implicitly following Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy, Pasolini links psychological motives and the dynamic process of human creativity when he ties in the same sentence “existential anxiety” and “power of imagination.” For the importance of contradiction in Pasolini’s poetry, see G. Ferretti, Pasolini: L’universo orrendo (Roma: Editori Riuniti, 1976); F. Brevini, ed., Per conoscere Pasolini (Milano: Mondadori, 1981); E. Golino, Pasolini e il sogno di una cosa (Bologna: Il Mulino, 1992). Pasolini’s Ceneri di Gramsci embodies the poet’s profound awareness of this contradiction. 27. Domenico Jervolino, “Paul Ricoeur and Hermeneutic Phenomenology,” in Phenomenology World-wide: Foundations, Expanding Dynamics, Life Engagements: A Guide for Research and Study, ed. Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 2002), 395. 28. John Wall, Moral Creativity: Paul Ricoeur and the Poetics of Possibility (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 29: Here Wall is discussing in particular Ricouer’s Fallible Man: Philosophy of the Will (New York: Fordham University Press, 1986). An insightful overview about the tragic idea in modernity can be found in De Santi, “Mito e tragico in Pasolini,” 13–26. 29. Vitali, “La colpa, il sacrificio e il destino degli antieroi,” 60–61; G. Simonelli, “L’uomo senza volontà. Il tragico nel cinema contemporaneo,” in Sulle Orme dell’antico La Tragedia Greca e l’età contemporanea, ed. A. Cascetta, 201–17 (Milano: Vita e Pensiero, 1991). 30. Libation Bearers, 900–903. For the Greek text of the Oresteia I am using here, Aeschylus, Oresteia: Agamemnon. Libation-Bearers. Eumenides. Edited and translated by Alan H. Sommerstein (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009). 31. For a more detailed examination of Pilade in connection with the Italian contemporary scene, see Carrera, “Il dono di Atena e la fine della storia,” 29ff. For Pasolini’s relationship with the Italian Communist Party and the Christian Democracy, see A. Baldoni and G. Borgna, Una lunga incomprensione: Pasolini tra Destra e Sinistra (Firenze: Vallecchi, 2010).


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32. A. Saxonhouse, “From Tragedy to Hierarchy and Back Again: Women in Greek Political Thought,” The American Political Science Review 80, no. 2 (1986): 404. 33. Walter Siti and Silvia De Laude, eds., P.P. Pasolini, Saggi sulla politica e sulla società (Milano: Mondadori, 1999), 884 (hereafter cited as SPS). 34. Joseph Francese, “The Latent Presence of Crocean Aestethics in Pasolini’s Critical Marxism,” in Pasolini Old and New: Surveys and Studies, ed. Z. Baranski (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 1999), 131ff. 35. See P. Angelini, ed., Cesare Pavese, Ernesto de Martino. La collana viola. Lettere 1945–1950 (Torino: Bollati Beringhieri, 1991), 41: “Simpatia per certe forme di irrazionalismo, scientificamente errate e politicamente sospette, che attraverso l’idoleggiamento del mondo primitivo, del sacro, del mito, etc. avevano tenuto a battesimo alcuni aspetti dell’involuzione culturale (e politica) della borghesia agonizzante.” In 1948 the editor Einaudi launches a “Collezione di studi religiosi, etnologici e psicologici” known as “Collana viola.” The minds behind the project are Cesare Pavese and Ernesto de Martino. In general the project is badly received by the Italian environment saturated by Croce’s “storicismo” as well as by Gramsci and Marx and their hostility to fields such as psychoanalysis and anthropology. 36. About Pasolini and Decadentismo, see Alberto Asor Rosa, Scrittori e popolo. Il populismo nella letteratura italiana contemporanea (Roma: Savelli, 1965), 263–64; Carlo Salinari, Preludio e fine del realismo in Italia (Napoli: Morano. 1967), 56–58 and ff. About Italian literature from 1870 to 1910, see R. Dombrosky, “The Literature of United Italy,” in The Cambridge History of Italian Literature, ed. P. Brand and L. Pertile (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 459–79. Particularly insightful is Valesio’s reflection on Pasolini’s aesthetics in his Gabriele D’Annunzio: The Dark Flame (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1992), ch. 6: “Pasolini as Symptom.” Valesio’s framework according to which “rhetoric is the principal structuring element of all aesthetic knowledge” and “language questions every ontology” (p. 68) is particularly fruitful in analyzing Pasolini’s relationship to Decadentismo as well as the often forgotten symbiotic relationships between ethics and aesthetics. For a sharply negative judgement of Pasolini’s Decadentismo, see A. Guglielmi, Vero e Falso (Milano: Feltrinelli, 1968), 79–84; recently, Antonio Tricomi, Pasolini: Gesto e maniera (Soveria Mannelli: Rubettino, 2005), 11. 37. Fusillo in La Grecia secondo Pasolini underscores what he sees as the main difference between the sensibility of Decadentismo and Pasolini’s. He explains that what differentiates Pasolini’s perception of reality from decadent perception is the absence of nostalgia for barbarism. “Quello che differenzia Pasolini dalla sensibilità decadente . . . è l’assenza di ogni nostalgia arcaicistica la barbarie da lui tanto amata non è rifugio consolatorio, ma un livello di pensiero vitale che il razionalismo della società Borghese tenta di distruggere e di rimuovere, e che la sua opera tenta invece disperatamente di preservare” (pp. 105–6). Fusillo’s approach to Decadentismo in this case is a bit reductive since in Pascoli, as well as in D’Annunzio, there is a sustained attempt to evoke the mysterious essence of reality. As Dombroski writes about Pascoli’s conceptualization of the task of the poet: “The spiritual substance of mysterious essences is embedded in commonplace reality; the poet’s task is one of discovering these hidden essences. The child-like poet, however, is not everyman; but like the D’annunzian aesthete, he too possesses a unique consciousness and perception, he too is capable of insights and knowledge that penetrate where reason and science cannot, and he too unites poetic expression with the absolute purity of being.” (Dombroski, The Literature of United Italy, 477).About Decadentismo in Europe and Italy, see Mario Praz, “Decadentismo,” accessed May 20, 2014,, and E. Gioanola, Il decadentismo (Roma: Studium, 1972). For an overview of the discussion on Decadentismo in Italy in the first half of the Novecento see R. Drake, “Decadence, Decadentism and Decadent Romanticism in Italy: Toward a Theory of Decadence,” 69–92. The concept of “decadentismo” was elaborated early within the Italian sociocultural milieu (I am thinking especially about Croce, Gramsci, and Binni) but it has not really been revived recently. A fresher and important approach to it comes from B. Spackman, Decadent Genealogies: The Rhetoric of Sickness from Baudelaire to D’Annunzio (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1989). 38. Valesio, Gabriele D’Annunzio: The Dark Flame, 3, where he also explains that he prefers to designate this cultural and poetic movement symbolism rather than decadence whose

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name contains an ideologically negative valence. I employ the word “rhetoric” not dismissively but, as Valesio does, as a fundamental act. As Valesio argues rhetoric as dialectic (not always leading to synthesis) is politics (cf. P. Valesio, Novantiqua: Rhetorics as a Contemporary Theory [Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1980], 44 and 99). 39. SPS, 84, quoted above. 40. Emphasis in the original, SPS, 1142–43. 41. G. Conti Calabrese, Pasolini e il sacro (Milano: Jaca Book, 1994), 38ff. 42. “Impegna poeticamente Pasolini nella volontà di portarla alla luce e di mostrarla come un momento integrante dell’uomo.” Conti Calabrese, Pasolini e il sacro, 99. This characterization of Dionysus echoes that of Pylades in the homonymous tragedy composed by Pasolini in 1966. 43. J. P. Euben, “Justice and the Oresteia,” American Political Science Review 76, no. 1 (1982): 28. 44. S. Goldhill, “Civic Ideology and the Problem of Difference,” Journal of Hellenic Studies 120 (2000): 41. 45. Aristotle, Poetics 449b25–30. 46. The bibliography about catharsis is vast. Quite insightful are M. Nussbaum, “Tragedy and Self-Sufficiency: Plato and Aristotle on Pity and Fear,” in Essays on Aristotle’s Poetics, ed. A. Rorty, 261–91 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992); S. Halliwell, Aristotle’s Poetics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998); Jonathan Lear, “Catharsis,” in A Companion to the Philosophy of Literature, ed. Garry L. Hagberg and Walter Jost, 192–217 (Malden and Oxford: Wiley Blackwell, 2010); M. Luserke, ed., Die aristotelische Katharsis: Dokumente ihrer Deutung im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert (Hildesheim and Zurich: Georg Olms Verlag, 1991). 47. Goldhill, “Civic Ideology and the Problem of Difference,” 41. 48. As Luigi Enrico Rossi observes, Pasolini has a “non-classicist approach” to Attic tragedy because he tries to consider all of its aspects. See L. E. Rossi, “L’approccio non classicistico di Pasolini alla tragedia attica,” in Lezioni su Pasolini, ed. T. De Mauro and F. Ferri, 123–31 (Ripatranzone: Edizioni Sestante, 1997). According to Rossi, every humanism betrays the text/ age selected as classic by choosing only some aspects of it rather than considering it globally. In other words, in the making of a classic there is a tendency to elevate some historical moments, texts, or values (e.g., for Classical Greece, beauty, balance, and order) which are perceived as exemplary by erasing in them some moments or features which are qualified as negative or not crucial (p. 124). Pasolini rejects this operation, which implies a complete historical and anthropological distortion of time periods and their products because it puts emphasis only on one side of a given phenomenon (or text). He strives to preserve contradictory aspects of the very same cultural product or of a society. As Franca Angelini has written in connection with Pasolini’s Manifesto per un nuovo teatro (published in 1968): “Pasolini talks about ‘contradiction’ that cannot be resolved, which at once presents two sides of a dilemma. And he talks of ‘enigma,’ the paradoxical rhetorical figure which juxtaposes irreconcilable truths, through a riddle structure which can be solved and yet maintains intact and immutable the enigmatic bottom of that double truth, of what is denied or better, what is stated in order to be denied.” (“Pasolini parla di ‘contraddizione’ che non si risolve, che presenta conemporaneamente i due lati del dilemma. E parla di ‘enigma,’ la paradossale figura che avvicina verità inconciliabili, con una struttura a indovinello che si può sciogliere pur restando inalterato e inalterabile il fondo enigmatico della doppia verità, di ciò che si nega ovvero che si afferma affinchè venga negato.”), see Franca Angelini, “Edipo nel teatro di Pasolini,” in Lezioni su Pasolini, ed. T. De Mauro and F. Ferri, 87–97 (Ripatranzone: Edizioni Sestante, 1997), 92. 49. Maria Aristodemou, “The Seduction of Mimesis: Theater as Woman and the Play of Difference and Excess in Aeschylus’s ‘Oresteia,’” Cardozo Studies in Law and Literature 11, no. 1 (1999): 21. Important observations about the importance of gender in the Oresteia are also in Christopher Rocco, Tragedy and the Enlightenment: Athenian Political Thought and the Dilemmas of Modernity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997), 140–41: “The trilogy represents the “other” in gendered terms and so introduces the marginalization of the feminine directly into a civic context. In the Oresteia, for the first time, women struggle forcibly against the boundaries of the masculine public world.”


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50. J. P. Euben, The Tragedy of Political Theory: The Road Not Taken (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990), 92. The idea that in tragedy (especially in Euripides) gender is employed to explore the human condition and that when women transgress gender boundaries, their presence implicitly calls into question masculine political ideology is also discussed in Mendelsohn, Gender and the City in Euripides’ Political Plays. 51. Helen H. Bacon, “The Furies’ Homecoming,” Classical Philology 96, no. 1 (2001): 50, my italics. 52. Aristotle understood this point perfectly well. For an overview, see Stephen Leighton, “Passions and Persuasion,” in A Companion to Aristotle, ed. Georgios Anagnostopoulos, 297–312 (Malden and Oxford: Wiley Blackwell, 2009); D. Greenspan, The Passion of Infinity: Kierkegaard, Aristotle and the Rebirth of Tragedy (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2008), 10–47 and 107–40. 53. Bacon, “The Furies’ Homecoming,” 57. 54. Rocco, Tragedy and the Enlightenment, 142. 55. Pasolini, Orestiade, 149–50. 56. Pasolini, Orestiade, 167 (my emphasis). 57. According to Fusillo, in Pasolini’s text, the key sentence to express this acceptance would be “Dio si è pacificato con la morte,” “God has reconciled himself with death.” Fusillo, La Grecia secondo Pasolini, 162. 58. Carrera, “Il dono di Atena e la fine della storia. Hegel, Pasolini e Severino interpretano l’Orestiade,” 28 (my translation); R. P. Winnington-Ingram, “Clytemnestra and the Vote of Athena,” Journal of Hellenic Studies 68 (1948): 130–47. 59. Rocco, Tragedy and the Enlightenment, 162. 60. Goldhill, Oresteia, 48; and Euben, “Justice and the Oresteia,” 30. 61. Nota, 176. 62. Aristophanes, Frogs, 1058–59. 63. Both citations can be found in F. R. Earp, “Some Features in the Style of Aeschylus,” Journal of Hellenistic Studies 65 (1945): 10. 64. Arthur Elam Haigh, The Tragic Drama of the Greeks (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1896), 83. 65. Nota, 175. 66. Nota, 176. 67. Fusillo, La Grecia secondo Pasolini: mito e cinema, 147, and for a general evaluation of Pasolini’s translation and contemporary reactions, 146–50. 68. Some Italian philologists reacted quite harshly to Pasolini’s translation (e.g., E. Degani, “Eschilo, Orestiade, traduzione di Per Paolo Pasolini” [book review], Rivista di Filologia e di Istruzione Classica 39 [1961]: 187–92); however, overall critics were satisfied with Pasolini’s version, see Federico Condello, “Su Pasolini traduttore classico. Sparsi rilievi, tra fatti e leggende,” Semicerchio 47, no. 2 (2012): 9. 69. Condello, “Su Pasolini traduttore classico. Sparsi rilievi, tra fatti e leggende,” 12. 70. Nota, 177. 71. Nota, 178. 72. Fusillo, La Grecia secondo Pasolini, 150. 73. In Pasolini’s film Medea the composite nature of the mind will become apparent through the device of the Centaur, symbol of the struggle between myth and reason. 74. In the original Greek, Ag. 205–55. 75. In the original Greek, Ag. 214–17. 76. In the original Greek, Ag. 228–41. 77. About Agamemnon’s decision, M. W. Edwards, “Agamemnon’s Decision: Freedom and Folly in Aeschylus,” California Studies in Classical Antiquity 10 (1977): 17–38; and John Peradotto, “The Omen of the Eagles,” Phoenix 23, no. 3 (1969): 237–63. 78. A more literal translation of Aeschylus’s text is the following: “So then he dared (“he had the daring to” “he had the courage to” “he had the effrontery to” “he had the cruelty to,” see LSJ sv. τλάω) to become the sacrificer of his daughter (ἔτλα δ᾽ οὖν θυτὴρ γενέσθαι θυγατρός), aid to a war waged to avenge a woman, and as an offering for the voyage of a fleet!” (Agam,

Pasolini’s Orestiade, the Irrational and Greek Tragedy


224–27). Aeschylus underlines Agamemnon’s wrongdoing, and Pasolini follows suit, blaming Agamemnon for his action. Pasolini, Orestiade, 15. 79. In the original Greek, Ag. 231-47. 80. It is what Froma Zeitlin writes in “The Motif of the Corrupted Sacrifice in Aeschylus’ Oresteia,” Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association 96 (1965): 466, about this scene. The same can be said about Pasolini’s adaptation of the scene. 81. About the adjective, see S. Goldhill, Language, Sexuality, Narrative, the Oresteia (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), 31: “It is an interesting choice of word for the maiden—a metaphor presumably from farming, ‘not taken to the bull’ i.e., ‘virgin’. This draws attention not only to the corrupted sacrifice—she is being treated literally as a cow for sacrifice—but also to the corrupted nature of her relationship with her father, who, instead of giving his daughter in marriage exchange (‘to the bull’), has given her in sacrifice (like a bull?) for the expedition.” Good summary of bibliography about this scene can be found in G. Kovacs, Iphigenia in Aulis: Myth, Performance, and Reception, PhD diss., University of Toronto, 2010, 78ff. 82. Recently the idea of a “willing victim” has been reconsidered, see F. S. Naiden, “The Fallacy of the Willing Victim,” Journal of Hellenic Studies 127 (2007): 61–73. In Euripides’s Iphigeneia in Aulis, Iphigenia voluntarily agrees to sacrifice herself since she wishes to “win the fame for heroism denied to women in the real life of classical Athens” and proclaims herself the “liberator of Greece” (Elaine Fantham et al., Women in the Classical World [New York: Oxford University Press, 1995], 122), but this is not at all what happens in Aeschylus’s play. 83. The original Greek underlines the tragic strength of Iphigenia’s glance, which is expressed with the word “arrow/blow.” It also puts emphasis on the girl’s eagerness to speak: ἔβαλλ᾽ ἕκαστον θυτήρ- / ων ἀπ᾽ ὄμματος βέλει / φιλοίκτῳ, πρέπουσά θ᾽ ὡς ἐν γραφαῖς, προσεννέπειν / θέλουσ᾽” “she struck/wounded each of her sacrificers with a piety-seeking arrow from her eyes, looking as if in a picture, wishing she could speak.” (lines 240–43). Both ideas are wonderfully rendered in Pasolini’s translation. 84. Ag. 238. 85. J. Heath, “Disentangling the Beast: Humans and other Animals in Aeschylus’ Oresteia,” The Journal of Hellenic Studies 119 (1999): 28. About this mingling in Greek tragedy and Aeschylus, see also Rosenmeyer, The Art of Aeschylus, 139–42. 86. Peradotto, “The Omen of the Eagles,” 257; and Goldhill, Language, Sexuality, Narrative: The Oresteia,” 30: “It is παρακοπά (223), a ‘false-coining’—the sense of false value and false signification is inherent—that is the first cause of the trouble, πρωτοπήμων (223) ‘and it emboldens men to base plans.’” Most recently, Lawrence, Moral Awareness in Greek Tragedy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 80. 87. Ag. 15. 88. Ag. 13. 89. Degani, “Review of Eschilo, Orestiade,” 187–92. 90. Ag. 8–9. 91. “This is the tenth year since against Priam / his great prosecutor, / King Menelaus, together with Agamemnon, / the Atreidae, a pair firmly yoked / in the honor of their twin thrones and twin scepters given by Zeus, / launched the thousand-ship expedition of the Argives / from this land / as military backers for their suit, / uttering from their hearts a great cry for war, / like birds of pray who, crazed / by grief for their children, wheel around / high above their eyries, / rowing with wings for ars, / having seen the toil of watching / over their nestlings’ bed go for nothing” (Alan H. Sommerstein’s translation, lines 40–54). 92. Heath, “Disentangling the Beast,”19. 93. The adjectives are linked to the verb τηρέω: “watch over, take care, guard,” which is not in Pasolini’s translation. 94. In turn, the pain is also that strongly felt by Artemis for all the slaughtered human or animal offspring. Two vultures will be evoked again at line 117ff. devouring a pregnant hare and causing Artemis’s anger. The devouring of the hare is interpreted by Calchas as the sack of Troy. I believe that Peradotto is correct when he clarifies that the death of Iphigenia is the cause for all the following troubles, men and not gods trigger evils. See Peradotto, “The Omen of the Eagles,” 246 and 249.


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95. Casey Dué, “Achilles, Mother Bird: Similes and Traditionality in Homeric Poetry,” Classical Bulletin 81 (2005): 9. 96. Heath provides enlightening details about the passage and Aeschylus’s poetry: “What is thematically significant, then, about this simile—and other images with similar linguistic richness—is not any exact analogy for the vultures and their young but the troubling fusion of human and bestial identities the poetic ambiguity creates” (Heath, “Disentangling the Beast,” 21). 97. Walter Siti and Silvia De Laude, eds., P.P. Pasolini, Saggi sulla letteratura e sull’arte, vols. 1 and 2 (Milano: Mondadori, 1999), 1422–23. 98. Pancaldi, “Il Teatro di Parola: Mito e Rito,” in Il Mito Greco nell’Opera di Pasolini, Atti del Convegno di studi, Udine-Casarsa della Delizia, October 24–26, 2002, ed. E. Fabbro (Udine: Forum, 2006), 49, in turn quoting P. Castaldini, “Razionalità e metafora in P.P. Pasolini.” Filmcritica 174 (1967): 29–34. About Il Teatro di Parola, see G. De Santi, “Il Teatro di parola,” in Perchè Pasolini, ed. G. De Santi, M. Lenti, and R. Rossini, 79–90 (Firenze: Guaraldi, 1978); G. Zigaina, Pasolini e il suo nuovo teatro. “Senza anteprime né prime né repliche” (Venezia: Marsilio, 2003).

Chapter Five

Dreams as Gendered Places Feminist (Re)Awakenings in Pasolini’s Calderón Ryan Calabretta-Sajder

While for some critics, Pasolini’s theater is an understudied storehouse of poetic and ideological genius, albeit of secondary notoriety (possibly due to its late production and late translation), 1 his theatrical opus garners more critical attention. 2 Since his youth and the onset of his artistic trajectory, Pasolini had always been attracted to theater in one manner or another, exploring the powers of the genre throughout most of his life. 3 Calderón is cited as the only original drama written and published during Pasolini’s lifetime (1973), even though he never had the opportunity to view it on stage. Despite a considerable number of essays available about this play, no study to date has explored its female characters in depth. In particular, a complete and complex study of the semi-autobiographical Rosaura is lacking. This chapter, therefore, shall fill a gap in Pasolini scholarship by analyzing Rosaura’s character through a feminist theoretical lens, arguing that it is via language that she overcomes her dream state and enters reality. Borrowing from Julia Kristeva’s concept of feminism and language’s importance within her theory, I argue that Rosaura, who displays a mental illness on the surface, embarks on a feminist awakening through her manipulation of language. Pier Paolo Pasolini’s admiration for theater began as an adolescent. 4 While living and teaching in Friuli in his early twenties, Pasolini continued to use and write drama as a pedagogical tool for his students, such as I fanciulli e gli elfi (The Children and the Elves, 1945) and I Turcs tal Friùl (The Turks in Friuli, 1944); the latter recounts a legend from his hometown based on events that supposedly occurred in 1499 when the town, Casarsa della Delizia, was miraculously saved by a Turkish invasion. 5 The play is written completely in Friulan dialect, and Pasolini himself directed it at the Teatro 91


Ryan Calabretta-Sajder

Stabile del Friuli. 6 Several years after that production, Pasolini wrote another play, Storia interiore (Internal Story), which was not produced until 1965 under a different title, Nel ’46! (In 1946!). 7 In 1960, he translated Aeschylus’s Greek tragedy Oresteia (Orestiade), as requested by Vittorio Gassman, 8 and later in 1963 Plautus’s Miles Gloriosus (The Braggart/Il vantone). In 1966, Pasolini, along with friends and literary colleagues Alberto Moravia and Enzo Siciliano, created a theater company housed at the Teatro del Porcospino in Rome. They created it as a response to an increasing interest in commercial theater, which according to them lacked a sense of impegno. As William Van Watson reminds us, “Their expressed purpose was to foster Italian playwriting and a politically and socially engaged Italian theatre.” 9 The company lasted two years, until 1968, when the Italian government canceled its subsidization of independent theater companies and the Teatro eventually went bankrupt. Though Pasolini was never an active member of the theater group, his thematic and aesthetic impetuses influenced the company. 10 As previously noted, Pasolini remained tied to theater in a variety of forms. 11 Always a student, and later a teacher, of the classics, Pasolini eventually returned to write drama, not a surprising move. 12 More unexpected is perhaps the fact that his return coincided with a period of bed-restricted convalescence for severe ulcers in the winter of 1966. It is believed that this period of intense concentration fostered his creative genius in the theatrical genre, leading to six plays brought to different levels of completion. After his illness he continued to revise and work on many of these plays (Orgia, Porcile, Calderón, Affabulazione, Pilade, and Bestia da stile), with Bestia da stile being the last completed, just months prior to his death. 13 In addition to writing plays, Pasolini engaged with critical theory related to drama. In January of 1968, he published his Manifesto per un nuovo teatro (Manifesto for a New Theatre), 14 which first appeared in the journal Nuovi argomenti. 15 Pasolini’s Manifesto reads as a series of observations of what theater was and more importantly what this “New” Theater will be. It begins with an homage as well as a movement away from Brechtian theater, using “characters as symbols or archetypes, vessels of ideas and impulses, whose voluble confrontations are articulated on stage, overlooked by a form of incantatory chorus or by an introverted, monologising self.” 16 Noteworthy innovations include: (1) a new audience; (2) a nontraditional, non–avantgarde, academic theater; (3) a newfound importance on the “word” rather than the stage (hearing as opposed to seeing); (4) “Word Theater seeks its ‘theatrical space’ not in the environment but inside the mind” 17 ; (5) issues reflecting a working-class audience. 18 A brief glance at those ideals demonstrates the complexity and novelty of what Pasolini’s poignant treatise brings to the stage.

Dreams as Gendered Places


This chapter focuses on one play, Calderón, 19 in particular taking into examination the female lead and the various dream sequences in which she is protagonist. The first performance was in two parts at the Teatro Metastasio of Prato between May and June of 1978. 20 Pasolini takes inspiration from Calderón de la Barca, but renders his tale unique through the interweaving of stories, themes, and even the adoption of visual culture, Diego Velázquez’s Las Meniñas. From an artistic standpoint, Calderón is highly structured and philosophical: it is a verse tragedy written in sixteen episodes with three “stasimi” or interludes in which an unknown speaker, replacing the traditional choral interlude, addresses the audience directly, discussing dynamics of production. At the heart of the drama remains a discourse on power in contemporary cultural Italy. 21 Pasolini’s Calderón has eleven principle roles: Speaker, Rosaura, Stella, Basilio, Lupe, Sigismondo, Manuel, Pablo, Enrique, Melainos, and Luocos. The action/diegesis is set in Franco’s Spain from 1967 to 1968. In the course of this year, Rosaura, the main character, awakens three times to three different dreams. Each time she arises from her slumber, she becomes confused as to her surroundings and rejects her belonging to the current time and place. During Rosaura’s first “awakening” she is the daughter of Don Basilio and Dona Lupe in an upper-class household in Madrid. She encounters Sigismondo, who was one of her mother’s previous lovers. Rosaura falls in love with Sigismondo but later discovers he is, in fact, her father. When she wakes up the second time, she is a prostitute living in a Barcelona slum. A young man named Pablo/Pablito enters her residence. During their encounter, Pablo, rather than simply engaging in sex, attempts to woo Rosaura through his philosophical and radical discourse. In fact, Rosaura falls in love with Pablo only to ascertain in the final monologue of the scene that he is her son whom she was led to believe had died during childbirth; instead, he had been sold by Rosaura’s sister and mother. After her third instance of slumber, Rosaura becomes Maria Rosa, the housewife in a middle-class family and married to Basilio. She refuses her position to the point where she is institutionalized twice and upon recovery and her return home, the student riots are occurring and one young protester, Pablo, seeks shelter from the police. When Basilio begins a rant, Maria Rosa and Pablo fall asleep. When Rosaura awakens the fourth and final time, it is to her “reality” or “real world” according to the dramatic narrative—a Nazi prison camp. Compared to Pasolini’s other theatrical works, Calderón has received the most critical attention. William Van Watson’s chapter on “Calderón” in his book Pier Paolo Pasolini and the Theatre of the Word is a foundational piece focusing on the play’s form and its psychoanalytical nature. Most of the studies of Calderón that followed, both in Italy and North America, depart from Van Watson’s work, specifically the importance given to language, gender, and psychoanalysis. Most recently, for example, Laurence Hooper


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has examined the concepts of exile and engagement in his piece “‘Un estraneo in una terra ostile’: Exile and Engagement in Pasolini’s Verse Dramas,” asserting that Pasolini’s estrangement allows him to escape from his verse tragedies. Armando Maggi’s article “Calderón, Norman O. Brown, and the ‘Desengano’ of the World” examines the importance of visuality, in particular the use of Diego Velázquez’s paintings and perspectives within the text of the play. In a different light, Luigi Fonatanella’s article “Pasolini e il teatro di poesia” examines how Calderón adheres to the aforementioned Manifesto per un nuovo teatro. And in Thomas Peterson’s work, The Paraphrase of an Imaginary Dialogue: The Poetics and Poetry of Pier Paolo Pasolini, Peterson states, “Pasolini is more concerned with the dream metaphor as means for characters to change identities, relations, and social class.” 22 This reading of Rosaura’s feminist awakening through her use of language within and outside of her dreams will attest to Peterson’s philosophical observation. According to various critics, among the three main characters—Rosaura, Basilio, and Sigismondo—power lies with one of the two male characters. 23 The female character, on the other hand, can be read as weaker or a minor character, considering she loses her voice in the beginning of the play. However, throughout the play Rosaura regains her voice, culminating in the penultimate scene. Given her more dynamic evolution or metamorphosis in relation to the more static and patriarchal and predictable male figures, Rosaura proves to be the true protagonist, the character who changes the most, embracing a feminist awakening. Even though the play does not conclude in Rosaura’s voice, it is evident that Rosaura embarks on the greatest character growth. Basilio, considered by critics and Pasolini himself as “il potere” (“the power”) of the play, concludes by stating, “Ma, quanto a questo degli operai, non c’è dubbio: esso è un sogno, niente altro che un sogno” (“But, as to that of the workers, there is no doubt: it is a dream, nothing but a dream”). Guido Bonino and others have interpreted Basilio’s final declarative statement as the end of the Communist dream. However, it is Rosaura’s “death” and rebirth as portrayed through the dream sequences that provide her the ability to speak and “remember” her final dream, which in fact evidences a feminist reading according to Julia Kristeva’s theoretical construction. Furthermore, considering the interpretive lens of psychoanalytic criticism paired with the French feminism, it appears that contrary to Basilio’s belief, the Communist dream remains a reality. The series of dreams within the text are repressed and although repressed, never eliminated, and when it surfaces, it disrupts the symbolic order. The symbolic is always working to continue to repress the semiotic. The idea of the irrepressible unconscious was significant for feminism: it demonstrated that the conscious/symbolic state (patriarchal order and control) was neither as

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natural nor as stable as would be believed, and consequently, that it could be overthrown. 24

This citation underscores how, through “disrupting the symbolic order,” Rosaura becomes liberated. French feminist theory has demonstrated how language is crucial to understanding and responding in a male-dominant world. In fact, Kristeva argues, “Because the subjective woman does not exist in the male view—she is other, different, lacking—it follows that woman as a speaking ‘I’ does not exist in language. That is why French feminists say that even in language, woman is mute.” 25 In response to this theory, French feminists believe that uncommon speech—gaps, pauses, puns, rhythms, unique metaphors—define the speech of woman. In fact, the first episode opens with Rosaura questioning her own existence, “Dove sono / Questo è il mio letto? / E tu chi sei?” (“Where am I / This is my bed? / And who are you?”), while speaking with her sister, whom she does not recognize. 26 These questions ring back directly to an existentialist reading—who am I? This is my bed? And who are you? Rosaura has lost her identity—she lacks the basic definition of being human: a name, a gender, or a sense of place. Even before a name, however, she lacks the ability to recognize herself; she is forced backwards into the initial phase of development—for Sigmund Freud the id and Jacques Lacan the imaginary stage. For Lacan, the imaginary stage is the moment of unity for the child. Because the child is unaware of difference, she/he/them is dependent and must nurture from the other. It is not until the mirror phase, the moment in which the child recognizes her/him/themselves in the mirror that she/he/them begins to understand difference of language, categories, signs, and such. This moment begins the symbolic phase of development. While still in the imaginary stage, Rosaura needs to develop, and the only way she can is through parental attachment. Rosaura’s speech throughout the entire work contributes to the interpretation that linguistic production is key in reading women’s literature and literature with female characters. Rosaura is unable to express full thoughts in her speech, let alone understand where or who she is. Her two-word questions and answers resemble language of an infant; she often mimics the speech of her sister in order to formulate some type of response. For example, episode I begins with Rosaura’s conversation with her sister: “Dove sono? / Sei sul tuo letto. / Questo, è il mio letto? . . . Rosaura! . . . Io sono Stella, tua sorella Stella . . . / Mia sorella!!” (“Where am I? / You are in your bed. / This is my bed? . . . Rosaura! I am Stella, your sister Stella . . . / My sister!!”) The same experience is repeated in episode 7 and in episode 12. The only difference from the latter two scenes is the sister’s name: In episode 7 it is Carmen while in episode 12 it is Agostina. The repetition of the scenes demonstrates


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the monotony of Rosaura’s life, as a lack of identity until she eventually embarks on a feminist awakening, noted most directly as a sexual experience. Through the speech patterns, she illustrates her reality as woman, a life of repression and repetition. Not only is Rosaura confused about her identity, but also her family, in particular her sister and mother, add to her repressed state. Through a linguistic reading, the French feminist school believes that language demonstrates the cultural and literary reality women endure. Through this interpretative lens, it is evident that Rosaura lacks speech because she does not need it. However, Rosaura’s ability to speak evolves throughout the play and culminates in the last episode when addressing Basilio. When she arrives at the “Real,” 27 Rosaura is quite capable of sharing a coherent discourse. As the reader first meets Rosaura, she/he/them does not know what to think. Is she crazy? Is she dreaming? What is her reality? That is the real crux of the play. In the early pages when asked about her first dream, her retort, “Non ho sognato niente, perché questo è un sogno” (“I did not dream anything because this is a dream”) 28 highlights Rosaura’s repressed state of being and her inability to accept her own reality, as does the following: “No, non voglio sapere nulla, non voglio imparare nulla!/Io voglio soltanto tornare dov’ero veramente!” (“No, I do not want to know anything, I do not want to learn anything! / I only want to return to where I truly was!”). 29 Through a psychoanalytic reading, it becomes clear that Rosaura is repressed; she wants to return to where she was. During the first dream, Rosaura falls in love with Sigismondo, who we later realize is her father. This first dream thus follows a typical Jungian reading of the Electra complex. From a psychoanalytical point of view, the chronology of the dreams is critical. Rosaura enters the first of her three dream sequences as a twenty-year-old virgin. She becomes immediately enticed by Sigismondo for he has traveled and lived in diverse locations; he is the “talk of the town” and appears exotic to the naïve Rosaura. She engages in conversation with him and although she is very young and innocent, she becomes very direct regarding his age. He asks her how old he seems and she replies, “Circa l’età di mio padre e di mia madre, benchè lei sembri più giovane” (“Around the age of my father and my mother, thus you seem younger”). 30 Rosaura immediately notes Sigismondo’s age in relation to her own father; she is attracted to this older father figure saying, “È stata e sarà una bella vita, con tanti viaggi e tante belle amiche, e tanta leggerezza” (“It was and will be a great life, with many trips and many beautiful friends and lots of carelessness”). 31 Moreover, Sigismondo shares with her his love story with her mother (she does not seem to realize until later that he is her father), and inquires about her knowledge of the life cycle and child production. Through aligning with her father within the mirror stage of development, Rosaura longs to be in control of her life, as Sigismondo himself is, yet simultaneously in reality she remains repressed.

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He shares a story from Life Is a Dream in which Sigismondo in Calderón de la Barca’s version dreams of a love that he cannot have and it remains in his dreams. The episode ends with Sigismondo in Pasolini’s version asking Rosaura rhetorically what the message is, underscoring his fatherly role in the scene. Most directly, the story of Sigismondo suggests that Rosaura cannot consummate her love with him, her father. This love must remain a nonreality and therefore it exists only in her dreams. This motif continues for Rosaura throughout the play. She is only free within her dream-state sexually, even though she fights to control her body in reality. Dreams for Rosaura provide a sexual awakening; throughout the play she is never allowed to engage sexually in reality, thus, her dreams serve as a place of freedom. In her first dream, she longs to be with her father for psychoanalytic reasons—it solidifies her identity in the imaginary stage of development. Rosaura does however grow and become an independent woman by the end of the play, demonstrating the power she achieves over her dreams. The monotony of Rosaura’s life does not end with the process of awaking from her dreams: Rosaura is institutionalized twice during the play. The first incident occurs in the fifth episode when Rosaura awakens and is greeted by a nun. The nun is rather direct with Rosaura and shows no compassion, just as her sister previously has done, forcing her back into a state of repression. Only Manuel, a doctor at the hospital, pushes Rosaura toward liberation and awakening. At the end of fifth episode, Manuel concludes by stating: “Che le dò la sua libertà. Le apro e le porte / della prigione, o della casa di cura, o del convento, / usi la parola che vuole. Torni nel mondo” (“That I give her liberty. I open it and the doors / of the prison or of the rehabailition center or the convent / use the word you want. Return to the world”). 32 Manuel, a male character, acts on behalf of Rosaura and grants her physical freedom, beginning her path to self-discovery. Rosaura shares an intense moment with the nun in the hospital. The nun attempts to pray with Rosaura, who refuses and yells. Manuel comes to her rescue and during this scene, Rosaura speaks: “Aaaaaaaaaah, aaaaah! Ridatemi il mio corpo! / È mio, è mio! Non è una cosa / che potete mettere dove volete! Il mio corpo è sacro, è con esso vivo!” (“Aaaah, ahhh! Laugh at my body! / It is mine, mine. It is not a thing / that you can place wherever you want! My body is sacred and it is with it that I live!”). 33 At first glance, this speech replicates previous moments of Rosaura’s lucid nature, particularly when she awakes screaming. Yet this response is much deeper than most of her speech thus far in the play. Although it is not the longest, it seems to be the most coherent and is filled with feminist undertones. Not only does she instinctively try to protect her body, but she also declares that her body is sacred, two very concrete aspects of feminist rhetoric.


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The sacred nature of the body is not a unique theme in Pasolini’s opus; it appears as early as Accattone (1961) and can be traced throughout most of his cinematic works noted most significantly in Teorema (1968) and Salò or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975). In this work however, it is not a voyeuristic claim or a gaze that originates from the outside; here, Rosaura herself demands to be in control of her own body. This change of control has a significant impact on the reading of Rosaura’s character and underscores the beginning of her own personal awakening. In fact, immediately following the encounter with the nun, Manuel, the doctor, charges Rosaura to metaphorically free herself and reenter the world. While in the symbolic stage of development, Rosaura dreams of being a prostitute. Rosaura should be the only person who controls her body, not even another woman, including a nun. She asserts herself and her control over her own identity. While still in this stage, she tries to consummate a sexual relationship with Pablito, a young man whom she meets and later understands to be her son. Although still in the symbolic stage, Rosaura subconsciously searches for unity in her life. The sexual scenario with her son seems logical in this situation—not from an incestuous point of view but rather one of basic needs. One could even argue that through her career, Rosaura appreciates attention from others. Ironically, that attention continually holds her back from reaching the “Real” stage of development. Rosaura begins to distance herself from the past and become independent. Although she has yet to arrive at liberation, these actions mark the beginning of her awakening process. Rosaura’s career as a prostitute in the second dream resonates with a historical reality: it is a profession that allows her a conscious decision regarding her own sexual encounters (despite acts performed solely for survival). In this second dream, Rosaura attempts to convince Pablito to engage in coitus with her but he preserves his innocence and decides against it. When locked in the same cell with Rosaura, he chooses to woo her with his intellect and preaches about politics instead of engaging in sexual activity. 34 Even though she desires Pablito, she fails to engage him in coitus. In fact, he calls their encounter a “conferenza”: “È finita la nostra Conferenza” (“Our conference is over”). 35 Her insistence on consummating the relationship demonstrates her desire to satisfy first and foremost her sexual desires. When asked by her sister and a priest if she knew Pablito and if they did have sexual relations, she confirms a sexual act until the moment when the priest insists on the truth, at which point Rosaura admits that they did not. Applying Judith Butler’s theory of performative gender, it is clear that Rosaura is forced to defend her sexual prowess as a prostitute by creating a mask to protect her gendered role in this dream sequence. In turn, she masks her sexual relationship, demonstrating her desire to dominate man, even though she fails within this dream

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sequence. Simultaneously, Rosaura’s spoken utterances increase during her conversations with Pablito. He captivates her with his philosophical ideas and she also challenges him during their conversation. Her linguistic abilities have surpassed the sentence level as she speaks more fluidly and clearly within her second dream sequence. In addition to her linguistic development, Rosaura morphs into Maria Rosa during the second dream sequence. Her name change signifies her continued feminist awakening, which transfers to reality. The third dream sequence follows the same beginning as the first two: Rosaura awakens from her sleep asking a series of simple questions, again highlighting a voice reminiscent of the écriture féminine. Rosaura’s point of reference ironically remains her bed; her sister’s name has once again changed. When Rosaura awakens from this second scene, the entire exchange revolving around “dreams” is prolonged. In fact, Rosaura goes in and out of consciousness while speaking with her sister in the twelfth episode. Immediately after this sequence, Rosaura is again admitted to an institution and Manuel cares for her. During this scene, Manuel and Basilio initiate a political discourse. Midway through, they mention Rosaura’s health, and the end of the discussion focuses on the type of control Basilio will have upon her politically. Once again in her dreams, Rosaura embarks on a sexual fantasy. In the penultimate moment of the play, Rosaura and Basilio, the married couple, are visited by Enrique, a protesting student looking for shelter. Enrique enters the scene and commences a political dialogue with Basilio. At a certain moment first Rosaura, and later Enrique fall asleep. Basilio is left to perform a soliloquy of sorts. He says: Eccoli, uno di qua e una di là, abbadonati nel sonno del giusto. E io solo nella veglia, marito Reso cornuto dal sonno. . . . Ed ecco lì il tuo sesso reso certo aspro e caldo da questa prima afa primaveriale del Maggio del ‘68. Sbaglio? Ma esso mi sembra eretto. . . . Si, l’erezione giovanile nel sonno . . . che spinge, con indecenza pari all’innocenza, la stoffa dei calzoni, e (per così poco!) pare rendere eterna la passeggera condizione di figlio: con quell’antenna alzata sul mondo tu indichi come un giovane animale la zona del bosco di cui sei padrone, e null può valere contro questo segno. 36 Here they are, one here and one there, abandoned in the sleep of the just. And I alone in waking, husband Cuckold made from sleep. . . . And here there thy made certain sex bitter and warm


Ryan Calabretta-Sajder from this first muggy spring of May ‘68. Am I wrong? But it seems to me straight. . . . Yeah, youth erection in his sleep . . . that pushes, indecency with equal innocence, the fabric of his pants, and (for so little!) seems to make eternal the passing of sonship: with that antenna raised to the world (refer to his erection) It shows as a young animal the woodland area where you are master, null, and it may be against this sign.

Basilio expresses his jealousy while he witnesses Enrique and Rosaura sharing an intimate moment within their common dreams, as noted by Enrique’s erect penis. Basilio, the supposed “power” character, is aware of receiving the “cornuto” or the horns of the cuckold, but allows the encounter to continue. This situation seems ironic since Basilio—in reality—attempts to control Rosaura. In her dream world, Rosaura remains in complete control of her sexual desires. As evidenced in the third scene, Rosaura’s psychological development advances. At this point in the play, Rosaura has identified with every female role acknowledged in the canon for the female gender: daughter, prostitute/ mother, and now wife/mother. Moreover, Rosaura has jumped in age to roughly thirty. From a psychoanalytical point of view, Rosaura’s change in status would suggest a stronger movement away from the symbolic toward the “Real,” as marked earlier by her brief name change and her encounter with Enrique. After three powerful dream sequences, Rosaura returns to reality ready to share her dream. Once the three dream sequences conclude, Rosaura tells Basilio that she finally remembers her dream. She says, “Basilio . . . stavolta . . . / Stavolta che cosa? Hai l’occhio felice / il viso arrossato di felicitià . . . / Si, sono felice Basilio, felice. / Stavolta mi ricordo il mio sogno. / Ma non sono tanto felice per questo / quanto per ciò che il sogno mi ha detto” (“Basil . . . this time . . . / This time what? You have a happy eye / face flushed red with happiness . . . / Yeah, I’m happy Basilio, happy. / This time I remember my dream. / But I are not so happy about it / so much that the dream told me”). 37 Not only does Rosaura remember her own dream in the final moments of the play, but she also retains the linguistic ability to share it with Basilio. Moreover, she is not at all intimidated to share it. In addition, Basilio does indeed want to hear it, as he tells her “Raccontalo!” (“Tell me it!”), thus establishing a type of gender/power equality among the characters. Ironically, Rosaura conveys one basic detail that could be interpreted as a Marxist philosophy: each dream offers a social-class reading, differing greatly from each other, culminating with her final dream that she recounts in the final pages. 38 It is noteworthy that Rosaura states, “Stavolta mi ricordo il mio

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sogno” (“This time I remember my dream”), and this time she recounts a type of Communist movement or manifesto. Memory proves to be critical in understanding this final scene. Rosaura spends the entire play incapable of remembering her dreams; however, she recounts her final one, demonstrating that she has regained her personal identity along with a more global understanding of herself. In the end, Rosaura finally has a voice in reality, however it is one in which she adopts male speech. 39 The final dream that Rosaura recalls places her in a Nazi lager, which contrasts with the positive end of the dream—the prisoners are freed by workers carrying Communist flags. Her discourse ends with a direct address from them to her, “Siete liberi!” (“You are free!”). The message can be interpreted through varied viewpoints. However, one cannot be debated: the layer of freedom it carries. The workers have granted Rosaura her freedom, first replicated in the dream world, but with her ability to remember, share, and engage in political discourse; it is equally present in her reality, and as such, so is feminism. Although Rosaura’s adoption of male discourse dilutes a pure feminist reading, it remains as evidence for Lacan’s conception of the “Real.” At a certain level, women have been forced to adapt in order to be accepted by their male counterparts. As seen in the last line of the play, Basilio still attempts to dominate Rosaura, telling her it is just a dream. Once truly awakened, Rosaura’s feminism is not just a dream. To conclude, I propose an alternative reading of Basilio’s character. Even though Pasolini defined Basilio as “il potere,” he represents foremost Pasolini’s philosophical enemy, that is, Pasolini’s contemporary society and by extension society at large. Basilio attempts to silence Rosaura just as society continues to regulate women’s lives today. The end of the play, however, highlights the difference between our reality and Rosaura’s. Sexually, linguistically, and politically awakened, Rosaura is no longer forced to live within her dreams. Rather, the power presented within her dreams is now a reality. Through a ten-year oneiric process where she is “forced” to live, Rosaura acquires the power necessary to act as an equal in gendered interactions while simultaneously gaining control of her body. This inexorable acquisition of power optimistically transforms into a reality in the end. NOTES 1. Gualtiero De Santi, M. Lenti, and R. Rossini, eds., Perchè Pasolini (Florence: Guaraldi Editore, 1978); Rinaldo Rinaldi, L’irriconoscibile Pasolini (Rovito: Marra, 1990); Rinaldo Rinaldi, Pier Paolo Pasolini (Milan: Mursia, 1982). 2. See Flaviano Pisanelli, “Poetic Gazing: The ‘Word-Eye’ in the Poetry of Pier Paolo Pasolini,” in this volume. 3. Robert S. C. Gordon believes that Pasolini’s theatrical work was “sporadic.” Even though he did not regularly write drama, he remained active in various manners through most


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of his carrier. Robert S. C. Gordon, “Pier Paolo Pasolini,” in A History of Italian Theatre, ed. Joseph Farrell and Paolo Puppa (Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006). 4. Walter Siti claims that Pasolini’s first completed text was a drama, La sua gloria, written for a competition of young Fascists at school when he was sixteen. The play recreated a scene from the Italian Unification. 5. Pasolini is credited with La morteana during this period, a one-act play that has since been lost. See Gordon, “Pier Paolo Pasolini,” 351. 6. William Van Watson, Pier Paolo Pasolini and the Theatre of the Word (Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Research Press, 1989), 32. See also Gordon, “Pier Paolo Pasolini.” 7. Van Watson, Pier Paolo Pasolini and the Theatre of the Word. It seems that Storia interiore, or Nel ’46, remains unpublished. 8. Please see Francesca Behr’s chapter in this volume, titled “Pasolini’s Orestiade, the Irrational and Greek Tragedy.” 9. Van Watson, Pier Paolo Pasolini and the Theatre of the Word, 27. 10. Van Watson, Pier Paolo Pasolini and the Theatre of the Word, 27. 11. Although Pasolini did in fact remain tied to theater most of his career, he himself noted a conflicted relationship with it. Please see Van Watson, Pier Paolo Pasolini and the Theatre of the Word, 32, or the original citation in Gli scrittori, 11. 12. The classics return also to his cinematographic oeuvre: Oedipus Rex (1967) and Medea (1969). 13. Pasolini said, “Nel ’65 ho avuto l’unica malattia della mia vita: un’ulcera abbastanza grave, che mi ha tenuto a letto per un mese. Durante la prima convalescenza ho letto Platone ed è stato questo che mi ha spinto a desiderare di scrivere attraverso personaggi. Inoltre, in quel momento avevo esaurito una mia prima fase poetica e da tempo non scrivevo più poesie in versi. Siccome queste tragedie sono scritte in versi, probabilmente avevo bisogno d’un pretesto, di interposte persone, cioè di personaggi, per scrivere versi. . . . Ho scritto queste sei tragedie in pochissimo tempo. Ho cominciato a scriverle nel ’65 e praticamente le ho finite nel ’65. Soltanto che non le ho finite. Non ho finite di limarle, correggerle, tutto quello che si fa su una prima stesura. Alcune sono interamente scritte, tranne qualche scena ancora da aggiungere. Nel frattempo sono diventate un po’ meno attuali, ma allora le do come cose quasi postume.” Bonino, Guido Davico. “Prefazione” in Teatro. Milano: Garzanti editore, 2006. 7. (Original edition and preface is 1988). 14. It is important to note that Pasolini had already thought about his six tragedies at this point. 15. Pasolini critic Pia Friedrich believes that it is important for its new approach to Italian theater, “[Manifesto] has made its mark on the history of Italian theatre.” See Pia Friedrich, Pier Paolo Pasolini (Boston: Twayne, 1982), 101. 16. Gordon, “Pier Paolo Pasolini,” 352. See also Pier Paolo Pasolini, Manifesto per un nuovo teatro, in Pier Paolo Pasolini, Teatro (Milano: Garzanti, 1999), 712–32. For a marvelous English translation, see Thomas Simpson, “Manifesto for a New Theatre,” PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art 29, no. 1 (2007): 126–38. For a critical examination of the piece, see chapter 3, “The Manifesto for a New Theatre and the Theatre of the Word: A Theoretical Perspective,” in Van Watson, Pier Paolo Pasolini and the Theatre of the Word. 17. Simpson, “Manifesto for a New Theatre,” 126–38. 18. Pasolini, Manifesto di un nuovo teatro. 19. For a thorough study of Pasolini’s teatro di poesia (theater of poetry), see Luigi Fontanella, “Pasolini e il teatro di poesia,” Paragone 34, no. 406 (Dec. 1983): 30–44. 20. Guido Davico Bonino, “Prefazione,” in Pasolini, Teatro, 11. 21. Bonino, “Prefazione,” 12. 22. Thomas Peterson, The Paraphrase of an Imaginary Dialogue: The Poetics and Poetry of Pier Paolo Pasolini (Berne: Peter Lang International Academic Publishers, 1994), 223. 23. Bonino, “Prefazione,” 12. 24. Fiona Tolan, “Feminims,” in Literary Theory and Criticism: An Oxford Guide (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), 335. 25. Tolan, summarizing Kristeva in “Feminims,” 335.

Dreams as Gendered Places


26. It is important, however, to remember that the speaker opens the entire drama in a monologue. 27. Later in his career, Lacan attempts to clarify his concept of the Mirror Stage, stating that through understanding the reflection in the mirror, the individual is able to differentiate the Imaginary from the Real. Self-identification of the Ego therefore occurs in the Mirror Stage. Jacques Lacan, “Models on Lacan I: On Psychosexual Development,” accessed February 7, 2016, 28. 33 in Pier Paolo, Pasolni. Teatro. Prefazione di Guido Davico Bonino. Milano: Garzanti editore, 2006. 29. Pasolini, Calderón, 34. 30. Pasolini, Calderón, 45. 31. Pasolini, Calderón, 46. 32. Pasolini, Calderón, 65. 33. Pasolini, Calderón, 63. 34. Some scholars have claimed that Pablito is homosexual, reflecting once again the voice of the author. 35. Pasolini, Calderón, 102. 36. Pasolini, Calderón, 153–54. 37. Pasolini, Calderón, 161. 38. Pasolini, Calderón, 161–64. 39. I say that this is a “male” discourse because males have been the only characters to have thus engaged in true political discourse in Calderón. Even though Rosaura does a bit with Pablito in the second dream sequence, it is not at the level that she reaches here.

Part III

Pasolini through the Lens

Chapter Six

Il “Cinema di poesia” in Theory and Practice The Case of Edipo Re Millicent Marcus

The premise of this chapter is a deeply personal one. Its goal is to understand the central place that Pier Paolo Pasolini’s essay the “Cinema di poesia” has come to occupy in my career-long commitment to the study of Italian film. The essay was the first of Pasolini’s film-theoretical writings, and it was originally delivered as an address at the New Cinema Festival in Pesaro in June 1965. I cannot even begin to count the times I have relied on the “Cinema di poesia” in my scholarship and teaching over the years. More than any other theoretical formulation, it has enabled me to think about the source of film’s power as a medium to reach us at the deepest levels of our psychic life. Because Pasolini’s theory is so tied to practice—because he theorizes “en poète”—he has also given me a set of indispensable tools for the technical analysis of films—both his and also those of other highly self-conscious, convention-defying cinematic auteurs. With these two points in mind, I look back with bemusement at the critical flurry that greeted Pasolini’s “Cinema di poesia” upon its publication. Blinded by their exclusive focus on what they saw as the semiotic naïvete of the essay, Pasolini’s detractors remained oblivious to its visionary reach and its power to transcend the narrow confines of a transient theoretical vogue. 1 I find the critical attacks on the “Cinema di poesia” to be significant not because they reveal any semiotic weakness of Pasolini’s thought, but because they enact, at the level of reception, the dichotomy at the heart of the essay itself. If we think of semiotics and its “parent” theory, linguistics, as attempts to bring scientific rigor to humanistic inquiry, then we can see Pasolini’s 107


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essay as an example of how that effort can play itself out within a filmstudies context. Of signal importance in this regard is the lexical tension which emerges in the essay’s opening pages, where the preponderance of terms hailing from semiotics and linguistics—lingua strumentale, lingua comunicativa, sistemi linguistici, segni, significanti, significati—gives way to vocabularies of older vintage—those of literary genres, aesthetic techniques, and psychological processes. What Pasolini seems to be saying is that the disciplines of semiotics and linguistics are not capable of confronting the raw force of cinematic expressivity. They cannot contain the unruly drives of memory, dream, fantasy, nonverbal gesturality, and the brute impressions gleaned from the object world—all of which make up the im-segni—the sui generis language of cinema. It should come as no surprise, then, that Pasolini would gradually abandon his semiotic terminology during the course of the essay, replacing it with the humanistic vocabulary that allows him to get at the specificity of film language and the source of its expressive power. The passage in which he introduces the all-important label of “poesia” is rich with implications for the argument at hand. Tutto questo dovrebbe, in conclusione, far pensare che la lingua del cinema sia fondamentalmente una “lingua di poesia.” Invece, storicamente, in concreto, la tradizione cinematografica che si è formata sembra essere quella di una “lingua della prosa,” o almeno di una “lingua della prosa narrativa.” 2 All this should, in conclusion, make one think that the language of cinema is fundamentally a “language of poetry.” Instead, historically, in practice, after a few attempts which were immediately cut short, the cinematographic tradition which has developed seems to be that of a “language of prose,” or at least that of a “language of prose narrative.” 3

Though prose cinema has gained ascendency over its poetic counterpart, it has not done so by obliterating the irrational impulses at the origin of film language, but by suppressing them, pushing them below the surface of ordered narration and ostensible aesthetic control associated with the “lingua della prosa.” Only by reining in the profoundly threatening and disruptive force of the im-segni could cinema satisfy the consolatory, recreational, and escapist needs that led to its explosive popular success as modernity’s medium of choice. In the process: tutti i suoi elementi irrazionalistici, onirici, elementari e barbarici, sono stati tenuti sotto il livello della coscienza: sono stati cioè sfruttati come elemento inconscio di urto e di persuasione: e sopra questo “monstrum” ipnotico che è sempre un film, è stata costruita rapidamente quella convenzione narrativa che ha fornito materiale di inutile e pseudo-critici paragoni col teatro e il romanzo.

Il “Cinema di poesia” in Theory and Practice


Tale convenzione narrativa appartiene indubbiamente, per analogia, alla lingua della comunicazione prosastica: ma con tale lingua essa ha in comune solo l’aspetto esteriore. . . . Il suo fondamento è quel sotto-film mitico e infantile, che, per la natura stessa del cinema, scorre sotto ogni film commerciale, anche non indegno, cioè abbastanza adulto civicamente e esteticamente. 4 all its irrational, oneiric, elementary, and barbaric elements were forced below the level of consciousness; that is, they were exploited as subconscious instruments of shock and persuasion. That narrative convention that has furnished the material for useless and pseudocritical comparisons with the theater and the novel was built on this hypnotic “monstrum” that a film always is. This narrative convention belongs, without question, by analogy, to the language of prose communication, but it has in common with such a language only the external manifestation. . . . Its foundation is that mythical and infantile sub-text which, because of the very nature of cinema, runs underneath every commercial film which is not unworthy, that is, [which is] fairly adult aesthetically and socially. 5

It is this “under-film,” this irrational substratum of energy-producing material, which drives the surface film, endowing the medium with its irresistible appeal to mass audiences and art-house patrons alike. Such is the motivational power of the subfilm, that just thinking about it seems to inspire an outpouring of vivid adjectives and nouns on Pasolini’s part: mystical, embryonic, infantile, barbarous, oneiric, irrational, magmatic, elementary, primordial, and my favorite, hypnotic monstrum, where “monstrum” comes to mean not only its English cognate, monster, but also marvel, wonder, miracle, prodigy, portent, sign. In a move reminiscent of Giambattista Vico, Pasolini equates the subfilm with the poetic origins of cinematic language, so that the two-tiered structure of each film contains a record of the medium’s evolution from the time of its birth in the experimental exploits of Lumières and Méliès at the end of the Ottocento to the advent and elaboration of full-blown narrative cinema in the century to follow. It is this return to archaic thinking (remember Pasolini characterized the subfilm as mitico e infantile), read together with an earlier passage in the essay in which Pasolini links the im-segni to the primary processes of the unconscious, which leads us to Edipo re, the film which he made two years after the writing of the “Cinema di poesia” and which, in my view, most closely adheres to Pasolini’s prescription for a poetic cinema. In fact, I would go so far as to say that Edipo re enacts the triumph of the subfilm over the surface film, that the subterranean wellsprings of energy drawn from memory, dreams, gesture, and brute reality constantly break through the narrative outer level to lay bare its subversive underpinnings. Without these periodic eruptions of the subfilm into the orderly world of the film’s narrative surface, Edipo re would remain a faithful adaptation of the Sophocles text, along with the standard versions of the myth on which the


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play was based. Such a film would have respected Sophocles’s choice to make intellect the guiding force of the Oedipus story, leading the hero to solve the riddle of the Sphinx, but also leading to his tragic insistence on learning the truth of his origins. Pasolini, reading Sigmund Freud back into the myth, privileges the irrational in Oedipus—his unconscious impulses to parricide and incest. 6 No scene better illustrates Pasolini’s rewriting of the story than Oedipus’s encounter with the Sphinx. In the filmic version, this creature’s human dimensions and ludicrous array make it anything but the formidable monster with the body of a lion and the head and breasts of a woman, which tyrannized the populace of Thebes by strangling all those incapable of answering her riddle. 7 Instead, the silly and unthreatening figure in Pasolini’s film is nothing but an external projection of Oedipus’s unconscious drives 8 and as such is gendered male. Like a psychotherapist, rather than a potential executioner, the riddle he poses is this: “There’s an enigma in your life, what is it?” In response, Oedipus slips easily into the part of the uncooperative patient in therapy. “I don’t know,” he answers, shoving the monster with considerable aggression. “It’s no use, the abyss in which you thrust me is within you,” the Sphinx counters, acknowledging his role as the object of clinical transference. “I don’t want to see you; I don’t want to hear you,” concludes the patient, in the throes of neurotic denial. With the defeat of Sophoclean reason and the ascendency of the unconscious drives, the subfilm has gained the upper hand in Edipo re. From the vantage point of this scene, a series of puzzling elements begins to make sense: Oedipus’s spinning motion when beset by the need to choose the direction his path should take (a path which inexorably leads him to Thebes) suggests the unconscious inclination to follow his parricidal and incestuous urges. His habit of biting the back of his hand becomes readable as the reaction to frustration, or anxiety about fulfilling the tragic destiny that he does everything possible to stave off. Between the two Freudian impulses that besiege the Oedipally driven subject, Pasolini privileges the one which best promotes his “Cinema di poesia” ideals—the desire to remain in narcissistic union with the mother. 9 It is with this longing that the protagonist’s journey begins and ends according to twentieth-century frame-story that surrounds the enactment of the myth and discloses its autobiographical implications. 10 The film’s “scena madre,” placed prominently in the early moments of the prologue, underwrites the eros of the entire narrative and as such merits our closest critical attention. The scene takes place in a meadow lined with poplars, and it is accompanied by the opening “Adagio” section of Mozart’s “Quartet of Dissonances” in D Major, which will serve as the “theme of the mother” throughout the rest of the film and represents the only Western music in the entire soundtrack. The action begins with a series of “noticings”—a bevy of women cross a field in long shot, a large straw hat is placed on the ground in close up,

Il “Cinema di poesia” in Theory and Practice


women’s legs appear, a cloth is spread on the ground, and a picnic basket is set down upon it. A woman’s hand twirls a flower. This montage is intercut with shots of an infant lying on a blanket, establishing his subjectivity as the source of the fragments which appear on screen. The sequence continues with a shot of the mother, now alone with her infant, walking along a row of trees in the same meadow. She is filmed first from behind in medium shot, then in long shot from the side, and then from the front as she settles on the ground, and then Pasolini cuts to a close-up of the infant nursing contentedly at his mother’s breast. There follows an intense head-and-shoulders close-up of the mother, who stares into the camera with a gaze devoid of any intent to violate the fourth wall of theatrical illusion. Instead, her look suggests a withdrawal deep into the self, as a series of emotions plays across her face. Like a screen within the screen, the mother’s visage displays first serenity, then unease, and finally a subtle sense of triumph—the succession of contrasting emotions corresponding to the “dissonances” of the quartet chosen for musical soundtrack of the scene. The last facial expression of the series will reappear on the face of Jocasta when she hears Tiresias’s charges against her husband and remains proudly determined to ignore their dire import. 11 Retroactively, then, we read the frame-story mother’s serial expressions as a kind of overture—a preview of the dramatic vicissitudes that lie ahead. The frame-story scene in the meadow, to which we will return shortly, ends with a shift of setting and soundtrack. First to appear on screen in the new sequence is the image of the Italian flag, accompanied by the martial music which will characterize the father’s entrance into the world of the film. The infant of the earlier scenes is now a toddler, who is met by a gaze of disapproval, bordering on hatred, by the paternal figure, dressed in full military garb. Now a set of intertitles appears to spell out the Oedipal rivalry at the heart of this family romance. “Tu sei qui per prendere il mio posto nel mondo, ricacciarmi nel nulla e rubarmi di tutto quello che ho. La prima cosa che mi ruberai sarà la donna che amo.” The shift from the scene of mother–son symbiosis in the state of nature, to the father’s arrival under the aegis of the Italian flag, lends itself all too easily to Lacanian as well as Freudian analysis. Shattering the narcissistic unity of mother and child, the father ushers his son out of the prelinguistic, prerational space of the imaginary into the realm of the symbolic, governed by the rules of individuation, language, laws, and hierarchies of power. The loss of plenitude, the fall from the Eden of mother–child communion had been poignantly anticipated toward the end of the scene in the meadow. After being cradled against his mother’s breast, the baby had gazed upward at the trees that border the verdant expanse. The camera swiftly panned left, moving unevenly in a wide arc as it grazed the tree tops before returning to ground level, where the mother had placed her child on the blanket before


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exiting the frame. Another shot led the infant’s eyes once again to the leafy heights for a briefer pan and back down to the field, now bereft of the beloved maternal presence. In these two arboreal shots, Pasolini traced the fall from the mother–son state of primal unity to one of absence and bereavement. The first shot had circumscribed a self-contained universe, 12 a hortus conclusus centering on the fullness and intimacy of l’allattamento, while the second shot returned to a space of irreparable loss. 13 The importance of this scena madre for the development of the characters’ eros cannot be overstated. It is here that Pasolini invents an audiovisual language, free of dialogue, heedless of cinematic convention, which gives medium-specific expression to the sacred, autobiographically tinged, and aesthetically fertile relationship between mother and son. The inordinately protracted shot of the mother in close-up, followed by the dizzying, doubled pan of the surrounding treetops, gives birth to the entwined subjectivities of the pre-Oedipal couple. The woman’s intuitive knowledge and acceptance of what is to come, linked with the child’s construction of a mother-centered universe in this scene, lay the groundwork for the enactment of the mythic drama to be played out within body of the film. 14 At the meta-level of the film’s reflection on its own workings, the longing for a return to the condition of mother–son symbiosis depicted in the frame-story may be seen as cinema’s longing for a return to its origins, for a reconnection with the wholeness of its ur-languge of poetic plenitude. As the film transitions from the twentieth-century prologue to the world of the mythic past, an extended pan shot to the right along the horizon line of the Theban desert reverses the protracted pan left of the treetops that surrounded the meadow in the “scena madre.” The inverse relationship between these two shots, and the diametrical opposition between the lush, verdant, enclosed space of the one, and the barren, reddish-brown, infinite openness of the other, suggests that the second landscape will somehow erase the first, that what will happen in this desert will shatter the sacred intimacy and fullness of the earlier scene. Indeed, the act which had triggered the film’s leap from the modern prologue into the archaic past—the father’s seizure of his young son’s ankles—marked the definitive banishment of the boy from the state of euphoric communion with his mother. It is of the utmost importance that this episode of paternal violence take place at night, in the child’s bedroom, indicating that what follows is the boy’s nightmare, that the child essentially dreams the myth of Oedipus. 15 Consistent with the turn to the pure poetic state of the subfilm, Edipo re abounds in long stretches of footage devoid of dialogue but replete with gestural eloquence and with camera shots of astounding visual expressivity. The only portion in which dialogue prevails is the film’s final quarter—the section based closely on the Sophocles text. But this segment is experienced as an aberration by the viewer, who has become accustomed to the expressiv-

Il “Cinema di poesia” in Theory and Practice


ity of the bare im-segni of the film’s first ninety minutes. The Sophoclean final quarter, then, stands as an isolated entity that is not even granted the structural privilege of definitively concluding the film, since Oedipus returns to the twentieth-century frame-story for the film’s final moments. Significantly, the film’s concluding frames return us to the “scena madre” where the now-blind protagonist, playing the flute as a sign of his poetic vocation, comes to die. 16 “La vita finisce dove comincia,” he tells Angelo, his seeingeye companion, who has led Oedipus back to the setting of his feeding at the breast of his mother and her exit from that sacred space so long ago. With the return to this opening scene, the dying Oedipus brings closure to the story of the lifelong erotic drive, and the poetic impulse, that had its source in the primal unity of mother and son. This brings us to another important element of Pasolini’s essay—the link between poetic filmmaking and the requirement to “far sentire la macchina,” thus defying the injunction to stylistic transparency associated with a “cinema of prose.” In Edipo re, we are constantly buffeted by jarring visual effects: violations of the 180-degree rule; shooting directly into the sun; nausea-inducing hand-held camera movements; endless, often repetitive panning shots; vertiginous breaks in the continuity of time and space. The summons to “far sentire la macchina” is a corollary of the major theoretical point which Pasolini introduces in his essay’s second part—that of the soggettivo libero indiretto, the cinematic equivalent of free indirect discourse in literature. Jean Mitry had already posited a point of view midway between the objective and subjective poles, in what he called the “semisubjective image,” which “adopts the viewpoint of a particular character who, objectively described, occupies a special position in the frame. The camera follows him wherever he goes, acts like him, sees with him. . . . The character in question serves as a go-between, his point of view coinciding with that of the director.” 17 Pasolini is able to push Mitry’s insight a step further by invoking a model of literary provenance: that of “ il discorso libero indiretto,” “free indirect discourse.” As I think about Pasolini’s appropriation of this literary model, it is the adjective libero which emerges as the operative term: the ideal of freedom from fixed points of view, the possibility of free-floating movement between the polarities of absolute objective vision, on the one hand, and its extreme subjective counterpart on the other. Within this space, the filmmaker can exercise an exhilarating freedom of stylistic expressivity, using a neurotic character as an alibi for a “visione delirante di estetismo” (as in the case of Antonioni), or for a “visione di febbrile formalismo” (as in the case of Bertolucci). What results from the filmmaker’s stylistic immersion in a character’s point of view is a new entity, what Deleuze called a “camera-consciousness” untethered to either subjective or objective visions, liberated from the constraints of conventional mimetic requirements. 18 With the soggettivo libero indiretto, Pasolini achieves


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nothing less than the emancipation of cinematic expressivity from the “lingua di prosa narrativa.” In other words, the freedom offered by free indirect subjective technique is the cinema’s right of return to its poetic origins. Crucial to Pasolini’s concept of the soggettivo libero indiretto is the abnormality of the character whose viewpoint the filmmaker appropriates. L’autore si vale dello “stato d’animo psicologico dominante”—che è quello di un protagonista malato, non normale—per farne una continua mimesis—che gli consente molta libertà stilistica anomala e provocatoria. 19 The filmmaker makes use of the “dominant psychological state of mind in the film,” which is that of a sick, abnormal protagonist, in order to make it a continual mimesis which allows him great, anomalous, and provocative stylistic freedom. 20

It is the camera’s immersion in the characters’ anomalous viewpoint which frees the filmmaker from the strictures of cinematic convention and licenses his foray into the “cinema di poesia.” No protagonist could offer a better pretext for an author to adopt an anticonventional, “unhealthy,” and therefore poetic camera consciousness than Freud’s archetypal neurotic. Not surprisingly, one of the film’s earliest applications of the soggettivo libero indiretto technique emerges in the immediate aftermath of the oracle’s prophecy. Massimo Fusillo has skillfully pointed out the discordant effect of the repeated cross-cutting between shots of Oedipus alone as he descends from the site of the oracle with shots of him walking among the crowds of people who have flocked to this place of pilgrimage. While the image of the solitary Oedipus is sharply delineated and filmed in deep focus, those of the crowd members among whom he walks are blurry, as if viewed through a hazy filter and overpowered by the glare of the sun. The simultaneous shock and sense of absolute otherness inscribed in Oedipus’s fate have been externalized in the optical distortions of the crowd shots alternating with the isolationist composition of the protagonist’s movements in the wake of the oracle’s utterance. 21 It is in moments when Oedipus is most intensely prey to his parricidal and incestuous urges that the soggettivo libero indiretto reaches maximum expressivity. The serial murder scene in which the hero liquidates his father’s armed retinue before dispatching Laius himself is shot in a protracted, hallucinatory style. Heavily influenced by Samurai tradition and the cinema of Mizoguchi, 22 the scene assumes a ritual character, marked by repetition, a trancelike slowness, and recurrent instances of shooting into the sun. This last technique suggests the blinding of Oedipus’s reason by his parricidal impulse and foreshadows the self-inflicted blinding once he attains the true vision that his unconscious had blocked during the course of his attempts to thwart destiny.

Il “Cinema di poesia” in Theory and Practice


A further scene in which the soggettivo libero indiretto style comes dramatically to the fore involves Oedipus’s libidinal crisis when offered the sexual favors of an “appropriate” partner. Beckoned by a group of men and boys, led by a wizened black-clad leader of particularly unsavory aspect, Oedipus proceeds into a labyrinth of ruins. Filmed by an unsteady hand-held camera which trails the protagonist as he meanders through the site, Oedipus enters an archway, passes through another opening and disappears momentarily from view as he turns left behind a broken wall. An abrupt cut leads to the spectacle of a seminude woman, filmed frontally in medium close-up. The camera closes in on her before cutting back to Oedipus, who takes a tentative step forward and then bites the back of his hand in the by-now familiar gesture of acute anxiety or frustration. A sudden cut offers an overthe-shoulder shot from the protagonist’s point of view and, with a slight shift in angle, displays the young woman in a deep focus shot. Oedipus, in extreme close-up, with the image of the woman still in frame, turns to the right in profile and directs an anxious look in our direction. 23 The film then cuts to a road sign for Thebes, pointing left, suggesting that Oedipus has declined the woman’s invitation, caught as he is in the force field of the overwhelming gravitational pull exerted by Jocasta. The disquieting use of the hand-held camera and the setting of the labyrinth itself give external expression to the turbulence of a subjectivity in crisis. “La vita finisce dove comincia,” Oedipus had said in the epilogue, and it is only fitting that we take his lead in returning to the “madre scena” to end our analysis of Pasolini’s Edipo Re in the light of his groundbreaking film theoretical essay. In this foundational moment of the film, an abnormal, poetically fertile subjectivity was born, in vital union with the maternal body, and the surrounding natural world. A film language emerged from this scene—a language of im-segni, of bodies, mute gestures, and actions fueled by irrational impulses, in contrast to the linguistic sovereignty, the privileging of reason, and the game of detection that characterized the Sophoclean text. The primacy of the im-segni in turn gave rise to a camera-consciousness that transcended the conventional polarities of subjective and objective viewpoints. Because Pasolini’s soggettivo libero indiretto was (and always is, according to the theory) rooted in the abnormal vision its protagonist, the film becomes a “pseudo-story, a poem” in Gilles Deleuze’s words. 24 Of course, this is Pasolini’s story, and when the baby Pier Paolo dreams the myth of Oedipus, he lays bare both the subfilm of his life’s course and the creative genius of his art. NOTES 1. Among the most vociferous attacks on Pasolini’s theory are Umberto Eco’s “Articulations of the Cinematic Code,” in Movies and Methods, ed. Bill Nichols (Berkeley: University of


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California Press, 1979), 590–607; Antonio Costa’s “Pasolini’s Semiological Heresy,” in Pier Paolo Pasolini, ed. Paul Willemen (London: British Film Institute, 1977), 32–42; and Stephen Heath’s “Film/Cinetext/Text,” Screen 14 (Spring–Summer 1973): 102–27. For a more generous reading of his theory, see Sandro Petraglia, who calls “[le pagine saggistiche] spesso tanto ambiziose quanto generosamente confuse,” in Pasolini (Florence: La Nuova Italia, 1974), 78. See also Teresa De Lauretis, “Language, Representation, Practice: Re-reading Pasolini’s Essays on Cinema,” Italian Quarterly 31 (Fall 1980–Spring 1981): 159–65. 2. Pier Paolo Pasolini, “Il ‘cinema di poesia,’” Empirismo eretico (Milan: Garzanti, 1981), 172. Henceforth, quotes from the essay will come from this edition, and page numbers will be included in endnotes after the quoted passages. 3. Pier Paolo Pasolini, Heretical Empiricism, ed. Louise K. Barnett, trans. Ben Lawton and Louise K. Barnett (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1988), 172. Henceforth, English translations of passages from Pasolini’s essay will come from this edition, and page numbers will be included in endnotes after the translated passages. 4. Pasolini, “Il ‘cinema di poesia,’” 172–73. 5. Pasolini, Heretical Empiricism, 172. 6. “Instead of projecting the myth on to psycho-analysis, I have re-projected psychoanalysis on the myth. This was the fundamental operation in Oedipus.” See Oswald Stack and Pier Paolo Pasolini. Pasolini on Pasolini: Interviews with Oswald Stack (Bloomington and London: Indiana University Press, 1969), 120. 7. Pasolini attributes the demystified and derisive image of the Sphinx to the perspective of Angelo, the character played by Ninetto Davoli, who leads Oedipus to the monster. The director uses this as an instance of his film’s detachment from the myth: “Take for example Angelo’s eyes as he watches the Sphinx, smiling and desecrating it in an almost comical fashion.” See Pasolini’s introduction to the screenplay published in “Oedipus Rex”: A Film by Pier Paolo Pasolini, trans. John Mathews (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1971), 8. 8. On the Sphinx as embodiment of the protagonist’s unconscious, see Naomi Greene, Pier Paolo Pasolini: Cinema as Heresy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990), 153. 9. According to Massimo Fusillo, “Giocasta diventa dunque un po’ il fulcro della rilettura pasoliniana di Sofocle.” See La Grecia secondo Pasolini: Mito e Cinema (Florence: La Nuova Italia, 1996), 105. 10. “Pasolini ha dichiarato spesso che questo è il suo film più autobiografico.” Fusillo, La Grecia secondo Pasolini, 38. 11. Fusillo, La Grecia secondo Pasolini, 105. 12. Greene, Cinema as Heresy, 152. 13. According to Fusillo, in La Grecia secondo Pasolini, 124, “L’Edipo re secondo Pasolini esprime senza dubbio un eros che è nostalgia di una totalità perduta, quella dell’unità con il corpo della madre.” 14. It is important to note that the scene of mother–son intimacy in a natural space will be replayed within the “Sophoclean” section of the film. The adult Oedipus, as he nears the discovery of his role as the assassin of Laius, converses with Jocasta in the meadow outside the royal palace, his head resting on her lap. The replication of the mise-en-scene of the prologue scene in this moment when Oedipus’s tragic knowledge is coming to completion serves to confirm the prophetic importance of the “scena madre.” 15. See Greene, Cinema as Heresy, 152. 16. Pasolini explains that the self-blinded Oedipus sublimates his forbidden impulses into art, and that the flute is the sign of his poetic mission. See Stack, Pasolini, 129. 17. Jean Mitry, Aesthetics and Psychology in the Cinema, trans. Christopher King (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997), 218. I am greatly indebted to my student Caleb Groos, whose undergraduate thesis, “Pasolini: Free Indirect Subjectivity in Cinema” (University of Texas, 1998), helped me to clarify my own thinking about Pasolini’s theory, and introduced me to the work of Mitry and Deleuze on the topic. 18. On the new cinematic entity created by Pasolini’s soggettivo libero indiretto, Deleuze writes, “Objective and subjective images lose their distinction, but also their identification, in favor of a new circuit where they are wholly replaced, or contaminate each other, or are decomposed and recomposed.” See Gilles Deleuze: The Time-Image, trans. Hugh Tomlinson

Il “Cinema di poesia” in Theory and Practice


and Robert Galeta (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997), 149. For further comments on Pasolini’s theory, see pp. 148–49, 183, and also Gilles Deleuze: The MovementImage, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997), 72–76. 19. Pasolini, “Il ‘cinema di poesia,’” 183 (emphasis in the original). 20. Pasolini, Heretical Empiricism, 182. 21. Fusillo, in La Grecia secondo Pasolini (80), explicitly connects this scene to the use of the soggettivo libero indiretto. On the discordant montage that characterizes the scene, he writes: “Quest’alternanza tra Edipo solo ed Edipo tra i pellegrini sfugge a ogni prospettiva realistica (ed è sfuggita comunque anche all’attenzione della critica): la si può decodificare come una descrizione del suo camminare tra la folla interrotta da inserti simbolici, che rimandano alla sua solitudine di diverso e di ‘contaminato.’” 22. Fusillo, La Grecia secondo Pasolini, 88. 23. For an acute analysis of this scene, see Maurizio Viano, A Certain Realism: Making Use of Pasolini’s Film Theory and Practice (Berkeley: University of California Press), 182, who reads it as a “cinematic depiction of the nightmare of forced heterosexuality.” 24. Deleuze, The Time-Image, 149.

Chapter Seven

Violence in Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Cinema Francesco Rosetti

Accattone (1961), Pier Paolo Pasolini’s directorial debut, comes during a crucial period of transition for Italian cinema in the second half of the nineteenth century. In this historical moment, Italian cinema faces a radical change in its formal, ideological, and especially theoretical perspective, regarding the strategies of vision. 1 For the first time, the legacy of neorealism is questioned along with the influence of those directors who had managed to impose their forms and themes in the fifteen years following the end of World War II. This transformation of Italian cinema is not only reconnected to a generational change with the debut of new auteurs such as Marco Ferreri, Nelo Risi, and the Taviani brothers, nor to the full development of artistic maturity by great directors such as Federico Fellini and Michelangelo Antonioni, developed in the cultural environment of the previous years. 2 Rather, it is primarily a cultural and social change. Italy itself had morphed in the transition from the rubble of the postwar era to the opulence of its economic “boom.” The cultural hegemony of Marxist thought was contaminating intellectual society with the speculation of important philosophers and thinkers who were translated into Italian for the first time, such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, Martin Heidegger, and Walter Benjamin. 3 The protagonists of the new Italian films were no longer solid members of a balanced world, established and steady in its cultural, economic, and social parameters, as in Rossellini’s or Visconti’s films. Rather, these protagonists began to display the typical evidences of a bourgeois Freudian neurosis, showing a growing disconnection with the surrounding human (and therefore visual) reality. The burden of such asymmetric and neurotic perceptiveness 119


Francesco Rosetti

deeply influenced the cinematic image, charging the new authorial eyes with unprecedented feverish restlessness. 4 During this transition, the theme of violence suffers a critical rereading especially in regards to its representation. Neorealism had never balked at a tough and not consolatory representation of violence, at least by the standards of its time. It is sufficient to think about the torture scenes of Rome, Open City to understand how Rossellini could be harsh and unforgiving with regard to the registration of violent acts. However, his intent was exactly to record them. One of the cornerstones of the neorealist sensibility was to subtract the decorative quality of images, avoiding any embellishment; thus, even violence had to be shown in its factuality, displayed with extreme harshness, without rhetorical or melodramatic amplifications. 5 It was possible to film strong scenes, but violence was not meant to be a formal or conceptual element in itself. Its manifestation was tied primarily to the dramatic evocation of World War II or to the controversial episodes of a postwar era still haunted by conflicts and terrible memories. During the 1950s, the link between image and acts of brutality remains limited to film genres considered less highbrow and more popular, such as Mario Bava’s and Riccardo Freda’s horrors, or Raffaele Matarazzo’s melodramas. In these cases, the attention to cruelty is inscribed in the genre narration rather than in the visual text of the films. Violence is evaluated more as a fact than as a possible theoretical basis for a film sequence. Its transformation in a pivotal element of the visual construction, at least in Italy, takes place only after the influence of a series of philosophical stimuli from France, especially in the psychoanalytical and semiotic fields. 6 According to Marx’s famous definition, violence is “the midwife of history,” therefore, until the first half of the twentieth century, intellectuals accepted it in an evolutionary perspective, within a historical dynamic, in view of its definitive erasing with a passage to a new peaceful model of society. In the new critical literature of the 1960s that analyzed the fragmentation of the subject, violence becomes instead a motor of human instinctual drives. This new approach is critical and causes a metatextual twist in regard to the displaying of violent scenes. Violence becomes the essential visual and discursive center of the image, even shooting a frame or a sequence implies a deep sense of conflict in its composition or montage. The image becomes an ethical and philosophical device with an intangible element of cruelty as its focus. Even a nonviolent scene in its broadest sense can and should be charged with tension and threat to the viewers, questioning their values and their ethical positions. The critical achievements of the French Cahiers du Cinéma were fundamental to the success of this new visual and dramatic sensitivity. Most of all, the French film critics in the decade before 1960 succeeded in shifting the

Violence in Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Cinema


focus of analysis from the content expressed within the film to its visual language, thus providing increasingly articulated narrative practices. 7 Language was considered the structure of the film’s content. 8 And since the same French critics tied language awareness to an ethical and philosophical consciousness of the auteurs, the representation of violence, from a textual point of view, gained an unprecedented importance in filming a movie that was aiming to be authorial. Considered in his subjectivity, the director is not only an individual with his own identity, working artistically through individual and recognizable practices, but also an erratic subject, charging the images of his desire, and his inventions are derived from a cachexia in perpetual transformation. Such a notion of auteur, in part, follows the modernist model encoded in other artistic forms of expression, but it also opens to that plural subjectivity outlined in “continental” and poststructuralist philosophy. 9 It is no coincidence that in Pier Paolo Pasolini this concept of film auteur is fundamental to the idea of a “cinema of poetry,” 10 based on a continuous repositioning of the authorial gaze and on its asymmetry, purified through montage from the reality surrounding it. Among other Italian directors of his time, Pasolini reflects on violence with greater strength and continuity, not so much as a narrative device, but rather as an irreducible element of the practices of filmmaking that is inserted on any formal research and that coincides with a simultaneous movement of opening and closing to reality. Surely his visual theory is influenced by, in addition to his anthropological and mythographic knowledge, Freudian teachings and by the Cahiers’ reflections. Another important influence was the production of French intellectuals, from post-surrealist Antonin Artaud to the triad of Georges Bataille, Pierre Klossowski, and Maurice Blanchot, who analyzed violence as a central element of human experience and as part of a barbaric, cruel, and dark negativity, irreducible to any dialectical synthesis and therefore impossible to represent. 11 Before analyzing the characteristics of Pasolini’s reflections on violence, a short digression on the concrete visual strategies of Italian cinema is necessary. During the 1960s, among the Italian directors with respect to the issue of cruelty, we can observe two opposing attitudes. The first is a rationalist attitude of detachment, operating though practices of mere representation and critical distancing from the facts shown. 12 On the other hand, there is a more excessive immersion of the directorial gaze into the violent act, which is no longer registered, but lived by the auteur and his audience in a sort of “filmic first person,” with an ecstatic and nonlinear temporality in the enjoyment of violence itself. At stake behind this double attitude toward violence is the semiotic status of framing. The first attitude particularly highlights its potential performativity, tying it to the narration. The second case exalts its structural and stable


Francesco Rosetti

iconicity. We are facing a critical step on the theorization of cinema as a language, a subject that in the 1960s become popular also in Italy, based on the writings of Edgar Morin, Christian Metz, and the new semiology, but also through Pasolini’s works. 13 With regard to cruelty and violence, the dialectic distance-immersion was already fully focused from classical film directors such as Luis Buñuel, Fritz Lang, and Alfred Hitchcock. Buñuel, in his surrealist works filmed during the 1920s, focused mainly on the element of a potential shapelessness of images. The relationship between sequences in the Un Chien Andalou and L’Age d’Or was built more through their collision than by their performativity. This is true especially using a framing strongly built and measured, based on precise details and objects, evoking instead the brute matter, untreated, irreducible to any representational pattern. Buñuel and his collaborator Salvador Dalì instituted in the filmic image a tension similar to Dalì’s surrealistic paintings: a welldetailed outline, almost Flemish, matched with coloristic and three-dimensional disintegration of its vast spaces, in which shapeless lumps of matter were often emerging. 14 In this case, through a montage correlating informal patterns of such type, an immersive process had to prevail, evoking a dreamlike blurred space in which objects were suspended, floating. The Spanish director seems to point strongly toward a performativity of film language and a constant mutability of the notion of framing within the texture of the images. At the same time, even operating within the more structured film industry of Hollywood, Hitchcock moves by developing an immersive tension toward the violent shock, using framing strategies based on expressive charge that can originate from the use of shadows and lights, from color saturation in an almost physiological function, as happens in Vertigo, or from almost abstract closeups, as in the fast-paced montage of Psycho’s shower scene. Through the interaction between montage and single detailed frame, Hitchcock dissolves the image in a multiplicity of visual stimuli induced by his cuts. 15 Italian cinema, during this seminal moment, created a sort of disconnection between framing and the use of violence in genre movies compared to other films considered more properly authorial movies. Analyzing the most radical sequences of murder in Mario Bava’s and Riccardo Freda’s films in the early 1960s, such as in Black Sabbath (1963) or The Horrible Dr. Hichcock (1962), it is possible to highlight a radicalization of Hitchcock’s taste for perversion, voyeurism, and the dissolution of image in a fearful suspense or in a visual shock. In auteurs’ cinema, the dialectic between distance and immersion into images, categorized as a constant of Italian cinema from Michelangelo Antonioni to Federico Fellini, cannot be simplified in a single attitude. Pier Paolo Pasolini and Marco Ferreri, two directors who deal with violence as a metareflexive element in their movies, essential to the analysis of contempo-

Violence in Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Cinema


rary society, at first maintain distance from cruelty, using long shots but in a sort of oscillation of gaze between wave and reflection. Since his debut film, Accattone, Pasolini has a very precise approach to framing, one could define it as almost pictorial, however avoiding attributing to this term any decorative or beautifying sense. Pasolini takes advantage of the legacy of painting, especially the great early Renaissance painters such as Giotto and Masaccio, to saturate the image of a force almost out of history and at the same time an anthropological and poetic suggestion. 16 In Accattone, for example, during the night sequence of the aggression toward Magdalene, a prostitute beaten by a group of Neapolitan clients and then abandoned on the roadside, the act is shown through a long shot, almost like a bare composition of Renaissance painting without the use of montage. Pasolini seems more interested in maintaining a detached, rational point of view regarding the actions staged, but it is also true that he has simultaneously already begun developing his own autonomous philosophical position about the violent image in particular. The instrumental use of visual distance in Renaissance painting has not merely an analytic function. When Pasolini alludes to early and high Renaissance, he refers to the notion of primitivism. The great masters from Giotto to the beginning of the fifteenth century would be the “primitive,” imbued with an ideal of beauty and grace, not contaminated by mathematics and metaphysics in the already “bourgeois” sensitivity of the late Renaissance. When Pasolini is inspired by the early Renaissance, he is not referring to the conceptual and elaborate architectures of Brunelleschi and Leon Battista Alberti, but to the dramatic strength and the tragic religiosity of Donatello or Masaccio. The visual distance of the long shot counterbalanced by the sculptural relief of the extreme close-ups of his film demonstrates that Pasolini’s primitivism is the emergence of a primordial sensibility binding the religious vision of the great early Renaissance masters to the existential condition of the underclass in the suburbs. In his first film, it is evident how the violent scene develops in a universe in which linear, historical time, typical of Western culture, does not even exist in its potential form. The lumpenproletariat live immersed in a natural state, in which being manifests itself in the mythical spontaneity of their actions and passions. If they deal with drama and narration, they can do it primarily because of a constant tension toward the sacred, understood as the original separation between human feelings and what surrounds them. Therefore, the location of images is the sacred place par excellence. It is the place of vision, but also the place of the contact with the formal manifestations of nature, as in early Renaissance painting, such as Masaccio’s frescoes in the Brancacci Chapel in Florence. The apostles of the Tuscan master represent a humanity that lives in a sort of Christian myth its existential adventure vis-a-


Francesco Rosetti

vis death and resurrection. Similarly, Pasolini’s underclass, even without the possibility of redemption, lives in the same archaic and mythographic landscape, dominated by the idea of Grace. 17 The distance Pasolini seeks when filming violence is not connected with an intent of analyzing the social condition of members of the underclass. The director tries instead to go back to their existential horizon, in which distance immerses them in a desolate nature, yet still remaining impressive. Violence becomes a “sacrifice,” an ancestral unwritten rite, by which man seeks contact with his own essence, an essence that in Pasolini’s poetics comes to coincide with death itself. It is no longer crucial to record a given situation within the picture, but rather a substantial principle, the assumption from the image itself in order to exist. In the perfect iconicity of early Renaissance painting, in its tragic sentiment, man finds the dazzling contemplation of truth transcending history. Comparing the long shot of Maddalena’s abandonment along the roadside to a similar shot of Roberto Rossellini’s depicting the death of Pina (Anna Magnani) in Rome, Open City, one can observe a clear difference in the approach of the two directors, even if they had more than few common points of view in their sensitivity. Rossellini stages his murder with the camera taking the point of view of a character, in this case the woman’s fiancé, Francesco, forced to watch her death from afar. Rossellini builds his rhetorical strategy without resorting to elaborate effects on a visual level, simply by modulating the spectators’ vision on the protagonist’s one. The woman is killed in long shot, in a point of view from the truck driving away. This is heartbreaking especially because the visual elements that could amplify the tragic scope are missing. Without using complex stage effects, Rossellini builds a rhetorical crescendo leading to the desired evenemential effect. Pina’s death is a real event in the visual and dramatic structure of the film that turns into an emblem. The martyrdom of this woman assumes historical value, strength, and sense. Pasolini’s point of view, filming the dramatic beating of Maddalena, is very different. His long shot, although articulated in large joints without montage like in Rossellini’s film, does not belong to the point of view of any character. There is therefore no emotional doubling making the sequence more dramatic than it already appears. The distance is that of a seemingly neutral look—an impassionate eye recording sequences outside history. The semantic and symbolic place of violence against women is not history, but ancestral myth, in its own ontological way. 18 The event is replaced by a sort of ritualistic violence. The dramatic condition of the protagonists is expressed through a contemplative gaze, inside a wide context that is neither architectural nor sequential, but rather metatemporal. Therefore, the conception of the sacred that innervates the two sequences under consideration is different. Pina’s martyrdom is a vehicle of

Violence in Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Cinema


salvation in a narrative sense and therefore is one of many possible events within the image strategies. Violence in Pasolini refers to the ritual of the sacred, in the pure essence of negation embodying the human condition. Rossellini considers image as the place of salvation; Pasolini the sublime place of a shipwreck. The social and cultural transformation of the mid1960s allowed Pasolini to radicalize his discourse within a critical linguistic reform of Italian cinema. In a famous essay that emerged in 1972 in his collection Empirismo eretico, Pasolini encodes his semiotic idea of cinema as “the written language of reality.” 19 In addition, the director comes to perceive in cinema a sort of poetic language that is slowly going to replace the prose of what we might today define as “classic cinema.” According to Pasolini, that series of attempts to force film language and its conventions cannot be called part of a homogeneous attempt to switch from one code to another, but are instead real efforts to build a poetic lyricism in film, in which the author and his poetic feeling become central. Though authorial subjectivity is not definitively established, it tends to be erratic. 20 Pasolini does not claim for authorship a “nomadic unconscious,” but he does not identify that subjectivity with the structure or the style of his works, although he has repeatedly defined himself as “una bestia da stile.” 21 Such a shift from the almost prehistoric contemplation of Accattone and Mamma Roma, to the violent poetic subjectivity of The Gospel According to St. Matthew, Oedipus Rex, and Medea, also involves a reflection on violence. Dealing with remote historical eras, strongly linked to an anthropological idea of Myth, Pasolini no longer refers to violence as an element of interpretation for contemporary society. Violence is the legendary, central foundation of Western consciousness. The fracture that violence leads into the texture of civilization shows an archaic, instinctual residually, in this case, on the body of civilized man who tries to evolve from Myth to History. 22 Pasolini wants to base his cinema on montage, a montage that has nothing to do with the selfness of language but with reality itself. In poetic and cinematic terms, it seems to have a peculiar and probably unintentional consonance with Heidegger’s thinking, especially with regard to the correspondence between being, world, and poetic language as the language of subjectivity made world. 23 But if montage introduces a subjective intention to rationalize reality or at least an option of individual knowledge, in the films adapted from the tragedies of Sophocles and Euripides, violence is shown in ways that contradict the rationality of film, using sound, darkness, or plan sequence. In Oedipus the King, the murder of Laius by Oedipus is filmed through a long shot. Without particular cruelty in itself, Pasolini especially emphasizes the wild outcry of Oedipus, breaking the speech as a pure phoné spacing the sequence with images of the sun. In this film, in which Freud’s influence is obvious, it is evident that blindness and screams are manifesta-


Francesco Rosetti

tions of the unconscious, elements aiming to eliminate knowledge from the descriptive quality of the sequence. 24 The violence of the scene, therefore, is not in the picture, but it is postponed off-screen, in an undetermined place where primary drives cannot be identified by the language itself. Violence becomes, as a place of more indecipherable instincts, the supreme point of contact (but also contrast) between knowledge and unconsciousness. In fact, the point of contact between truth and unspoken, the mother–son incest, is too dazzling to be tolerated. Thus the maximum of vision coincides with darkness and absence of knowledge. At the very heart of ancient Greece, the dawn of Western civilization, Pasolini builds a dyad that will influence the rest of his career: on one hand Myth perceived as barbaric and totally un-Apollonian, and on another hand a willingness to build a historical reality, a choice that will become bourgeois or Marxist. As Massimo Fusillo has already clearly explained in his La Grecia secondo Pasolini, Pasolini suspects a lack of dialectic between reason and barbaric myth, between knowledge and instincts, since his reflections are missing the synthetic moment, even if it is felt as necessary. 25 In his next film after Oedipus Rex, Medea, the consequences of this lack of synthesis manifest as a tragic failure. Medea is identified as a barbaric remnant of Myth, in an anthropological condition prone to evolve from it, replacing the ritual with dialectics and law. Pasolini remains faithful to the idea of depicting ancient Greece unlike the place of classical reason, but as the place dedicated to passionate and primal elements. In Medea, the barbaric ritual of sacrifice replaces, at least initially, the blindness of passions, but then they manifest themselves as fully visual, through dream images and dance. Jason is shown as the bearer of the masculine logos, while Medea remains fundamentally rooted in her archaic universe, protean and invaded by passion. The language is divided between realistic and narrative montage and Medea’s visions of her own vengeance, in which light, symbolism, and fire, come to dissolve reality. A film pervaded by the very violent antithesis between man and woman, language and vision, eros and logos, Medea reflects, more than Oedipus the King, the impossibility of synthesizing a dialectical view of the archaic world of emotional tensions. Medea is a tormented character, torn, and unable to put together the two civilizations she is supposed to connect. It is only at times that the woman’s visions, the cinematic imaginary poorly symbolized, to use Lacan’s terminology, seem to allow an access to the dimension of dreams and instincts of Myth. Yet, in the early sequences, during the human sacrifice, men seem to be able to build through the ritual a relationship between the civil sphere and the elements of unconscious and darkness. For once, the director does not use montage, but a long plan se-

Violence in Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Cinema


quence, as if the logos could not intervene on this primary violence binding men to their more archaic being. But, in Pasolini’s production this time of synthesis that in contemporary society should be delegated to something different from the religious ritual, fails. 26 And in fact, at the end of 1960s Pasolini abandons the hope that his investigation into Myth could supply new tools for his civil poetics. The 1970s marked a return to contemporary times, with the short parenthesis of the Trilogy of Life, and to a hard and hopeless nihilism partially amending his reflection on the status of violence. Pasolini’s writings in the early 1970s became increasingly disillusioned and tinged with tragic feeling. The intellectual, in fact, before and after the Trilogy of Life with films such as Pigpen and Salò, seems to lose all confidence in the pre-bourgeois lumpenproletariat that he hoped could represent the salvation of Italy and of a society dominated by technocratic capitalism. Pigpen compares two ways of putting society to death, which can exemplify the pessimist evolution of Pasolini’s thinking. In the first episode, set in a mythical and archaic era, the young leader of a band of cannibals is sentenced to be eaten by dogs. The young man, like Oedipus, defends his choices and, in his own way, accepts his punishment. In line with the tragic sentiment of films such as Oedipus Rex and Medea, Pasolini imagines an archaic civilization in which a man can contemplate in his anthropological horizon both the hybris, the tragic impious act of the protagonist, and the ritual punishment, restoring the religious harmony. In the far more bitter episode set in modernity, the protagonist, son of a former Nazi industrialist, refuses any relationship with bourgeois society; he wants to live innocently nestled in his own zoophile perversion, however his fate is to be eaten by pigs, with whom he secretly entertained his sexual appetite. Pasolini denies to the young man not only his tragic innocence, but also the possibility of a climactic death to redeem his own existence. He is degraded and objectified so that the ending of his life has nothing spiritual or mystical, but it is simply a material fact that the paternal society placidly records and hides. 27 Such a story contains in a nutshell all the contents Pasolini will develop later, and on a larger scale, in his Salò. In Pasolini’s final feature, violence is at the same time displayed and thematized, becoming the central obsession of his cinema at the moment of his maximum political bitterness. In fact, the film is conceived by the director after the famous Abiura (refutation) of the Trilogy of Life, posthumously published in the Corriere della Sera. 28 Pasolini repudiates not so much his films in themselves, but rather the optimistic illusion of a possible dialectic between his Western Marxism and the primary, grotesque, and lyrical feeling of existence, represented by the popular characters of the trilogy.


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Salò’s humiliation of bodies is the counterweight to the optimistic exaltation of the body; the anonymity of mass murders is the negation of the statuesque nudity, full of lyric eroticism. Salò’s young victims, humiliated, tortured, and then killed, appear to have no chance to react against the power of their masters, apart from opting out by death as Ezio, the collaborationist does. The victims do not even have the language ability to find words to react or to think about a form of reaction to the domain of their masters. 29 In Pasolini’s previous films, the underclass maintained a peculiar grandeur and dignity in the face of bourgeoisie, even when forced to obey because their mindset placed them in a totally different order of thinking than the bourgeois rulers. The prisoners cannot even explain why the attitude of the Sadean Lords is wrong, they can only suffer their cravings, and the only reaction is delegated to their bodies, writhing and vomiting. The forms of a Foucaultian biopower degrade victims to pure objects; their deaths are represented at the lowest biological degree. The absence of vitality and the anonymity of boys and girls becomes, as in the concentration camps, the absence of death as an existential event. What is shown is a process of annihilation, violent as well as quick and obtuse. Pasolini suggests that power does not need a form of coercion imposed in the name of morality. The Sadean Lords are using all the propaganda techniques typical of dictatorial or liberal-capitalist regimes, but not in order to achieve a triumph of morality, rather to attain the absolute anarchy of power. These means, therefore, reveal their paradoxical violence, without moral scruples, sadistic and destructive. Pasolini almost destroys his own work, which is offered as a consumer good made of the same violence, but amplified to such a level that it cannot be enjoyable for the viewers. The infamous sequence in which the Duke contemplates the final massacre of his victims using a pair of binoculars, represents, through this voyeuristic allusion, an accusation of aiding and abetting against the audience itself. Pasolini reveals this sort of authorial game with the viewer. The binoculars bring the viewer-voyeur closer to the victims, thus helping them to enjoy their suffering and death. The fact that the Duke, for no apparent reason, all of a sudden turns upside down the binoculars, looking in the same lenses without the possibility of seeing anything, demonstrates how the sadistic enjoyment, instead of bringing a close proximity to the victims, rejects any vital flow, resulting in detachment and frustration. This is a mental mechanism working similarly for the audience, undecided between a guilty pleasure and a shocked disapproval, just as guilty and hypocritical. Violence becomes a barrier that the bourgeois condition imposes on itself through a fake enjoyment against a desire that cannot even be expressed, except in the forms proposed by the manipulative power itself.

Violence in Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Cinema


Therefore, in the mid-1970s, Ferreri’s and Pasolini’s authorial paths, although in very different ways, come to a common result. Both displayed violence leading to the evocation of something vague and indefinable that could be identified from time to time with the outside world, the sacred or the infinite drives of the subject, but now violence deals with a world reduced to fragments, the unity of being is broken down into partial objects and simulacra stifling the enjoyment within the limits of a sick repetition compulsion. Deprived even of the chance of dying, the subject is condemned to remain locked up in his own obsessiveness. NOTES 1. With regard to theoretical changes and the ideological debate about Italian cinema and the possible notion an Italian Nouvelle Vague, see Gian Piero Brunetta, Cento anni di cinema italiano, vol. 2 (Laterza: Bari, 2006), 213–15. 2. On new director personalities in opera, see Brunetta, Cento anni di cinema italiano, 1 and 215–50, and Emiliano Morreale, Cinema d’autore degli anni sessanta (Milano: Il Castoro, 2011), 15–21 and 26–34. 3. For Nietzsche, it is worth mentioning the pioneering translations in Italian of Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari that peel off the image of the Nazi philosopher thinker aura proto. For Freud, the monumental arrangement of the corpus of works initiated by Musatti in the 1960s and ended at the end of seventy years as seen in the edition of the complete works for Bollati Basic Books is noteworthy. 4. For more information on a newfound sensibility of young Italian directors, see Sandro Bernardi, L’avventura del cinematografo (Marsilio: Venezia, 2007), 241–58. 5. On the perculiar, realistic ontology that substantiates the aesthetics of “spoglia” in Italian postwar cinema, see André Bazin. His theories have been and remain foundational for the field, now continained in the following: André Bazin, Che cosa è il cinema? (Milano: Garzanti, 1999), 290–318. 6. One thinks immediately of Christian Metz’s works but also Michel Foucault’s Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason (1961) and The Birth of the Clinic: An Archeology of Medical Perception (1963). 7. For a reminder of the notion of copyright in relation to the film system and the language of cinema practices, see the brief introduction by Serge Daney, Dopo tutto, in Le Cahiers du cinèma—la politica degli autori (Roma: Minimum fax, 2000), 9–15. 8. And this is what Pasolini affirms in his essay “Cinema di poesia.” 9. One immediately thinks of Gilles Deleuze with his publication Nietzsche and Philosophy (1962), which among other things is also a vindication of the plural modes and antirepresentative of the avant-garde with respect to the traditional philosophical and artistic phonological. 10. Pier Paolo Pasolini, “Il ‘cinema di poesia,’” Empirismo eretico (Milan: Garzanti, 1981), 167–86. 11. On the relationship among space, myth, and violence, see Antonin Artaud, Il teatro e il suo doppio (Torino: Einaudi, 2000), 200–3. On the indissolubile relationship between “bad” and literary/artistic experience, see Georges Bataille, La letteratura e il male (Milano: SE, 1997), 9–12, 97–115, and 137–52. 12. Some examples of the first attitude are Roberto Rossellini’s Risorgimento’s epics Viva l’Italia (1961), Francesco Rosi’s Salvatore Giuliano (1962), and Giuseppe De Santis’s Italiani brava gente (1965). On the contrary, we find such films as Visconti’s Rocco and His Brothers (1960), Ferreri’s La donna scimmia (1964), and Bellocchio’s I pugni in tasca (1965). 13. Some foundational works should be noted: Le cinéma ou l’homme imaginaire by Edgar Morin, Film Language: A Semiotics of the Cinema and The Imaginary Signifier: Psychoanaly-


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sis and the Cinema by Christian Metz, and above all Pier Paolo Pasolini’s La lingua scritta della realtà collected in Empirismo eretico. 14. On the tendency of the figure in visual strategies of early Buñuel, see Paolo Bertetto, L’enigma del desiderio (Venezia: Biblioteca di Bianco e nero, 2001), 169–86. 15. On the interchangeability of the feeling of suffocation, of guilt, and the plurality of form in the cinema of Hitchcock, see Hitchcock by Eric Rohmer and Claude Chabrol, Italian edition, ed. Antonio Costa (Venezia: Marsilio, 1986), 131–37. 16. On the relationship of the early cinema of Pasolini with the concept of Florentine humanism, see Stefania Parigi, Pier Paolo Pasolini: Accattone (Torino: Lindau, 2008). 17. Even the collection of essays is not centered on the relationship between Italian painting and the Italian population. The reference here is primarily to the strong relationship between high culture and popular culture, which Pasolini recorded in the writings of Passione e ideologia. 18. For a short summary of the exterminated elaboration of Pier Paolo Pasolini on the popular cultural of the Italian peasant class and its relationship with third-world cultures and ancient Greece, see Massimo Fusillo, La Grecia secondo Pasolini (Firenze: La Nuova Italia, 1996). 19. Pier Paolo Pasolini, Empirismo eretico (Milano: Garzanti, 1995), 198–225. 20. Pasolini, Empirismo eretico, 167–87. 21. Pier Paolo Pasolini, Porcile, Orgia, Bestia da stile (Milano: Garzanti, 1979). 22. See Fusillo, La Grecia secondo Pasolini, 9 and 157–79. 23. The paradoxical harmony between the German philospher and Pasolini is also noted by Erminia Passananti in Il corpo e il potere: Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma (Novi Ligure: Joker, 2008), 93. 24. Fusillo, La Grecia secondo Pasolini, 97–126. 25. See Pasolini, Empirismo eretico, 297, and Fusillo, La Grecia secondo Pasolini, 137. 26. Fusillo, La Grecia secondo Pasolini, 137–38. 27. In this case, it is not considered to have an absolute homology to theorize between the transgressions of the two characters, as does Giona Tuccini in Il vespasiano e l’abito da sposa (Udine: Campanotto, 2003), 162–76, since the perversion of one and the other are inserted into two distinct temporalities, and although it is evident in both the cruelty of the fathers against the rebellious children and the relationship between the archaic society of myth and Medieval imagery of Pasolini and contemporary takes place more in the sign of polarity than of identification. 28. Pier Paolo Pasolini, “Abiura della trilogia della vita,” Corriere della Sera, June 15, 1975, and November 9, 1975. 29. See Erminia Passananti, Il corpo e il potere, 25–27.

Chapter Eight

The Bibliography of Salò Eros, Sadism, and Avant-Garde in Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Last Work Fabio Benincasa

Pier Paolo Pasolini’s late works focused on the observation of a crisis of modernity that he believed was brought about by modernity itself. In Pasolini’s philosophy, high-tech capitalism tends to destroy a number of cultures— not based on progressive historical temporality, but on the cyclical and primary relationship with nature. Even some elements apparently liberating, like the sexual revolution, through consumerism, do not really transcend traditional values, but instead contribute to change the human body into a field of possession. 1 His film diptych on Greek tragedy, with Third World inceptions, had been an opportunity to compare a timeless culture based on myth and cycles to one based on progressive historical linearity 2 that he himself shared as a Marxist intellectual. During the 1970s this dialectical relationship in his works becomes tense and problematic. Pasolini no longer believes in an integration of history and myth in the light of a radical Marxist humanism; rather, he sees these two terms as eternally conflicting. This conflict has been the origin of Pasolini’s so-called archaism. In fact, the director seems to follow certain tendencies of his coeval anthropology and philosophy from Martin Heidegger to Michael Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, and Félix Guattari. Those authors believed traditional societies had a direct relationship with natural temporality, being at the same time able to keep their members in touch with their own desires. 3 The defeat of these cultures at the hands of capitalist technocracy meant a strong depletion of the human condition, in favor of a notion of progress centered on a primacy of aggression and resource consumption. Standing apart from post-structuralism, Pas131


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olini did not see the historical avant-garde as a return to a natural state of desire, but rather as a triumph of license and of aggressive individualism, a sort of sterile anarchism. From this idea he derived his distrust of, or at least his conflicted relationship with, the successive 1968 movements, which the writer denounces as always too close to the notion of power. 4 Pasolini’s late works seem to take opposite and irreconcilable paths—so contradictory that the author himself was unable to synthesize them at the time of the famous recantation of the “Trilogy of Life.” During the late 1960s and early 1970s, we have on one hand a radically negative Pasolini boasting in a provocative way of an apocalyptic and hopeless nihilism in films like Pigpen or Salò. On the other hand, we witness the author’s final attempt to express a lyric confidence in the lumpenproletariat and the Third World permeating the “Trilogy of Life.” When Pasolini gives up determining a possible link between the beginnings of an urban, commercial civilization, which is the Middle Ages in the trilogy, and the ancient sentiment of nature and myth, he associates modernity with the negative sensibility that, at the beginning of the twentieth century, had permeated in various ways the writings of Kafka, Céline, Svevo, Musil, Joyce, and Beckett. Moreover, in Salò, Pasolini links this highly self-destructive and pessimistic negativity to the central event of the twentieth century: the Nazifascist dictatorship and its criminal destructivity. Pasolini, unlike other authors of his time focusing their reflection on the self-destructive rush of power in Europe, does not mention authors who had lived this crisis as inescapable; instead he talks of those who had imagined, through the overthrow of the negative into positive, typical of the avant-garde practices, a possible way out. Therefore, it is important to establish the reasons why Pasolini places at the beginning of Salò a “bibliografia essenziale,” a bibliography bringing together protagonists of the French avant-garde such as Pierre Klossowski and Maurice Blanchot, a militant semiologist such as Roland Barthes, the French critic Philippe Sollers, and even a key figure of the French leftist intelligentsia such as Simone de Beauvoir. What does this unprecedented bibliography represent? A tribute to the abovementioned authors? The evidence of a programmatic construction of an almost essayistic film? Or a polemic brought to the edge of parody against those who were looking for a liberation of desire from any mythical bond while actually building a paradoxical justification for the fascist anarchic nihilism? Perhaps, the Bataillian post-historic man had turned into a hierarch, or a technocratic fascist? This chapter aims to investigate this interpretation trying to bind and differentiate Pier Paolo Pasolini’s position with that of the previously cited authors. The bibliography is a device aiming to bring the film out from itself, denouncing what Pasolini thought was a work destined to self-destruct. Salò is an essay on De Sade and at the same time a work of Pasolini on De Sade,

The Bibliography of Salò


with the goal of eliminating the enjoyment from the text itself. In fact, Barthes, who was one of the many detractors of the movie, saw two errors evident in Pasolini’s conception of the text. Pasolini wanted to make De Sade real, figurable, and he attempted to represent his text in images. He worked to bring the letter of the Sadean text to an objectivity brought by the iconic sign itself, while according to Barthes the pleasure for the orgiastic and boring compulsions of De Sade still resided in the Baroque element of his writing. De Sade’s writings suppress the code in their coactive repetition of gestures and acts, but their seriality evokes a reading pleasure briefly corresponding to the perverse pleasure of eroticism and libertinism. 5 What Barthes refuses to understand, however, is that Pasolini destroys the pleasure of the text in full awareness, building a work that self-dissolves at the time of its own consumption. Eros and artwork in late capitalism have in common the need to be consumed as libidinal objects; therefore, Pasolini’s Salò, pouring eros into reality, even in the graphic accuracy of its ceremonial, refuses the audience the opportunity to enjoy both work and sex. The avant-garde art itself entertained a strong relationship with the notion of desire and, according to Pasolini, resulted in nothing more than a decoration for a new power using the desire for its immutable practices, perhaps even more pervasive and disturbing toward the sexuality of its subjects. Thus interpreting Salò in relation to the films of the “Trilogy of Life” is essential in understanding how the two terms of Pasolini’s aesthetics would come into conflictual relationship denying each other. Pasolini’s last films, from Pigpen (1969) onward, lead a radical reflection on three basic concepts: eros (therefore desire), art (therefore writing and representation), and power. Social practices regarding these three elements are what interested him the most. However, in the “Trilogy of Life” he envisions a positive openness of the underclass to life itself, through desire and art, while in Salò there is a definitive closure to any possible resolution such as revolution or other forms of liberation. The positive terms of the first three films are overtly turned negative. 6 Focusing mainly on the Decameron, which remains at the theoretical core of his three films, Pasolini builds a frame much different from Boccaccio’s hortus conclusus, with deep historical-iconographic references. Pasolini reconstructs his Middle Ages envisioning it more through the lens of anthropology than through philology. With subtle anachronism, Boccaccio’s universe in Pasolini’s film is reimagined on the border of a contemporaneity. In an evident consonance with Boccaccio, but also with the “follower of Giotto” that he plays in the film, Pasolini envisioned the fourteenth-century Middle Ages as a period of transformation in the same way in which he interpreted the 1960s as an age of deep transformation of capitalism. 7 In these changing societies, he identifies the driving force of an emerging urban middle class that however maintains linguistic and behavioral codes from its


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recent rural origins. Andreuccio da Perugia arrives in Naples, already representing a modern metropolis, but at the same time a city containing in itself the infinity of events in the world, rejecting the technocratic modernism. Pasolini described Rome and Naples as cities that tended to hedge against the modern. 8 According to the author, during the Middle Ages, bourgeoisie, lumpenproletariat, rural civilization, and urban civilization were still substantially mixed because the cultural references remained akin. Especially the cultural relationship of people with their imaginary, with art and eros, was shared beyond their class boundaries. Pasolini, an acute reader of Sigmund Freud, acknowledged the institution of civilization as the origin of the primary censorship of instincts, but he also imagined a greater closeness with desire and nature in prehistorical society. 9 For rural civilization, the separation between logic and sexuality expressed by the bourgeoisie in the form of repression, or in hypocritical tolerance toward the primitive abyss of sexuality, is an unknown condition. The beauty of the body that is so emphasized in Pasolini’s film of the “Trilogy” is not just an aesthetic notion; rather, it aims to highlight the beauty of life itself. Eros and nudity are experienced as spontaneous, devoid of embarrassment, and thus not as aggressive or regressive byproducts of neurosis. Eros in Pasolini’s Decameron borders on the concept of myth. Being primarily a coded narrative for the origins of desire, myths tend to unhinge the later in a horizon of repeatability, thus controlling a force potentially disruptive for the subject. The rituals are not only a barrier on which the power of desire breaks, but also a positive way to interact with it and regulate its force. Pasolini unveils in the Decameron a positive coincidence between life and myth, in which life is simply a myth acted out, an action regulated by precise rituals respecting the freedom of individuals and their creative potential. The short tale or the tableau vivant, seen as mise-en-scène of a supreme theological hierarchy, creates a dialectic between a heavenly, vertical order, and the horizontal swarming of existence. Narration and images are exalted as infinite creativity of existence itself. 10 However, the experience of eros typical of the characters in the Decameron is, according to the director, historically unique: it unfolds during a historical passage in which the Christian theological myth, a relic of the Middle Ages, still cohabits with the informal will of life of people. The budding individualism coexists with the celestial hierarchies of a civilization still hinged on theology. History itself is not yet a movement of emancipation of man from life itself or a prelude to the affirmation of bourgeois individualism; it is still a narrative construction of subjects immersed in a flux of being, therefore in a vitalistic horizon. Myth and history in the age of the Decameron live a unique symbiosis, which then will result in an irreparable split from Humanism to Modernity: a schism that Pasolini had already stressed with pessimism, announcing Salò’s apocalyptic nature, in his previous film, Pig-

The Bibliography of Salò


pen (1969). In the latter film, the opposition among myth and history is evident within the two following episodes: the first one set in a primitive era, loosely identified as the Middle Ages; and the second set in contemporary Germany. In fact, in the first episode, the cannibals who experience a guilty pleasure breaking a social taboo are not “Evil,” while the rulers of the city, portrayed with the sarcasm due to the representatives of power, are not simply the symbol of a hypocritical social life. Pasolini is interested in the dynamic of the notions of community and rebellion within the same philosophical and anthropological condition, in a different way than from the modern concept. The ritual of punishment and killing the cannibals finally allows the community to preserve intact the energies developed from that connection with ultimate pleasure that the cannibals previously experienced. In this primitive world it is possible that there is still a symbolic figure of purity such as the shepherd Maracchione, who is uninvolved either in the murderous ferocity of cannibals or in the repression by power. Pasolini’s mythical and religious horizon is, if not an irrational, at least a pre-rational dimension, related with an unconsciousness seen as an internal force of the human mind, but also as a point of contact with a life energy coinciding almost pantheistically with life itself. Primitive societies therefore could continue to live in spiritual communion with existence. They could also survive the crimes of power, given that Pasolini never denies the ambiguous or dreadful aspects of those societies. Rather, he reinterprets them in a frame in which the violent separation between man and nature is not considered as sharp and radical as in the contemporary era. 11 On the contrary, in the episode set in contemporary Germany, not only the rift between man and his existential condition is irredeemable. The rebellion itself is an act of sterile bestiality that society does not even judge worthy of being punished, preferring to hide it in silence. A pig-headed bourgeois, directly taken from George Grosz’s expressionistic iconographies, appears on the movie poster making the gesture of silence with his finger. 12 The dimension of the purifying ritual, even a punitive one, is replaced by the removal of pleasure from the discursive practices. Deviance and perversion are simply traced back to discourse on sexuality as a form of power. When Léaud is hidden from the eyes of society, his vice disappears and therefore the perversion ceases to have a radical effect of dismay. On the other hand, while Léaud practices his bestiality having sex with pigs, German industrialists are all related to the Nazi bestiality, being its direct prosecutors in a technocratic, rather than in a dictatorial form. If perversion is an erroneous approach to purity, the technocratic bourgeoisie, through the reification of desire, identifies only the dominion over things, deleting any form of ontological or metaphysical presence. The notion of power, even if related with desire, contrasts it frontally. In the dimension of desire, openness prevails; in


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the dimension of power, otherness is suffocated by the capitalist tension toward domain. From the German industrialists of Pigpen to the fascist officers of Salò there is just a single step: theorizing their practices including the culture between the means of their project of reification of bodies. 13 This is one of the reasons why Pasolini feels it is necessary to add a bibliography to Salò’s cinematic paratext. In fact, the 1975 film is a hybrid in which the actual text overlaps a sort of hypertext of quotations and essayistic notations. Salò is not only, according to an overused definition, a movieessay. 14 Pasolini is hiding behind the constant narrative of the four veteran prostitutes, or the continuous orchestration of dialogues and quotations of the four fascist hierarchs, aiming to differentiate his own point of view from that of De Sade. Therefore, he refuses to overlap his directorial gaze with the perfect and terrible ritual development of the film. Pasolini does not adapt a movie from De Sade and refuses to be the De Sade of his time; rather, more radically, he wants to produce a Sadean film on De Sade, radicalizing his theory and denouncing its limits and affinity with the practices of fascism and postindustrial civilization. The Italian director found it especially interesting to disassemble a French approach that in Barthes’s theorization ended up defining Sadism from the perspective of verbal extremism as unfeasible and unrepresentable. Bringing De Sade back into history through the film makes this endeavor possible not only from a mental dimension but also a societal one. For Pasolini, this means not only asserting that Sadean nightmares could be reality, but that they already became real in similar forms in the past. The paradoxical freedom of culture envisioned by Barthes allowed the reader to experience anything through the imagination, even vice, without bringing it back in real life, unless in a positive, liberating, and revolutionary form, which according to Pasolini had proved impossible. Pasolini believed that this culture, identifiable also with avant-garde practices, had instead provided patterns of domination and power over reality, both to Nazism and to the postindustrial technocracy, which he defined as “tecno-fascismo.” The destruction of rural civilization therefore relates to the destruction of desire and youth, which nobody during the twentieth century has been able to resist. When Pasolini mentions certain critical works in his bibliography, his primary reason is to suggest that his own interpretation of De Sade derives from those texts that brought attention to the Sadean corpus in the twentiethcentury cultural debate. Moreover, he aims to affirm a more controversial notion: pure philosophical speculation on De Sade, rather than leading to a liberation of desire, opened the way to a negative manifestation of power and domination. If the four Sadean gentlemen confuse or quote inappropriately Dada or Saint Paul, it is also true that these texts have come to their knowledge offering them tips and ideas, thus proving themselves not innocent at all. Culture has been reified and also the avant-garde production, considered

The Bibliography of Salò


beyond any cultural consumption, has changed into a fetish commodity becoming the pride of four monsters’ intent to perpetrate massacres and perversions. The avant-garde movements postulated a positive coincidence between life and art, but the integration between art and life did not lead to the self-destruction of the hyper-rationalist bourgeoisie, rather to its triumph and to the destruction of other preindustrial cultures. For this reason, Pasolini did not share the textual and revolutionary interpretation of avant-garde movements supported by French intellectuals such as Barthes and Sollers. Therefore, the extreme attention to the body resulted from the integration between art and life, enabling power to achieve a greater invasiveness toward subaltern cultures, assaulting the human subjects in their most intimate and personal sphere, and finding a form of vertical rituality in which it is possible to deliver the shapeless swarm of the massacre. Like Dante, always present in Pasolini’s work, who in his Inferno explained the tortures of hell within the theological framework of the Christian faith, the Italian director builds a kind of Sadean hell in which the rituals of power replace the religious ones, eliminating every possible reference to the sacred, flipping it into a pure geometric prison of the body. The rational architectures of Salò, more or less deliberately recall those of the extermination camp. As Tzvetan Todorov would later state, while primitive civilizations conceived sacrifice in order to express violence, contemporary totalitarianism or technocratic capitalism conceived and implemented the terrible forms of massacre and genocide. 15 Salò thus begins as a philosophical confutation, fictional, and essayistic at the same time, a true conte philosophique, exhibiting that “essential bibliography” (“bibliografia essenziale”). Pasolini’s use of the adjective essential is ambiguous: not only the brevity of the list, but to the fact that the list itself summarizes the essence of the Sadean work, beyond the historical time that conceived it; an essence that Pasolini wanted both to explore and reject. It is no coincidence that Georges Bataille, the French author who perhaps most of all at that time had dealings with the Sadean ghost, is missing from the bibliography. His absence is more revealing than his direct quotation and has a specific reason: the affinity binding the two intellectuals. Sollers and especially Barthes, the latter quoted during the film above all the others in the bibliography, dealt with De Sade not as a philosopher, but more specifically as a writer. More precisely, the two authors both focused on the role of writing in the mechanism of De Sade’s explanation of his thinking as a philosophy of extreme limit. According to both authors, De Sade’s philosophy would not only be a content of linear and rigorous style, but it would belong in some way to an écriture de la difference by which the textuality itself becomes knowledge of the human evil directly experienced by the Sadean characters. 16 A similar experience would be simultaneously antiliterary, in respect of any construction of genre, and hyper-literary, because it is combinatorial. The écriture opposes the code and becomes itself


Fabio Benincasa

an experience of what is different from reason in human nature. If perverse sexuality, therefore, is the center of De Sade’s reflection, his writing becomes an emotional experience of sexuality itself. Whoever reads De Sade had to feel that element of guilty pleasure that the writer himself considered implicit in the human condition. 17 Pasolini’s position is not frontal against the two authors, but it is definitely lateral with respect to their theories. For both Sollers and Barthes, De Sade’s pleasure is sexually articulated into writing and somehow reduced to the act of writing. According to Barthes, deconstructing the literary code for an experience of difference, the Sadean writing aims especially to a textual and literary pleasure. The fact that a semiotic deconstruction of the code may have an effect in real life does not mean that Sadean writing could automatically translate into reality. De Sade’s attitude toward writing, according to Barthes and Sollers, would be substantially aristocratic while his characters, even in the moments of their most grotesque aberration, never lose the taste for good manners, etiquette, and adorned words. It is evidently a complex relationship, on the edge of the contradiction between the word, seen as the source of the rule and the infinite forms of pleasure. De Sade aims to the informal, but the latter can only manifest itself in the dynamics of recombination, always structured in language. But the self-conscious language does not coincide with the code. A radical difference exists between the continuously recombined rules of orgies and the law. The Sadean writing would aim to deny law in the name of the infinite potential of language, in the same way in which sexual dynamics deny any logocentric definition of human, including the bourgeois definition that was the predominant critical target for the two French intellectuals. 18 The effect of this theory on the content of De Sade’s philosophy is unequivocal: He, being a writer of the limit, cannot be translated into reality. If his writing evokes the sexual appetites, it evokes them in a sort of sacred enclosure; the Sadean system can and must remain in the imagination, without affecting real life. Thus, the experience of the extreme limit self-destructs itself at the same moment in which it is evoked, remaining a psychoanalytic phantom. Human wickedness, which De Sade describes in all its possible manifestations, remains pure Evil, where the social man continues to tend toward Good, without identifying it anymore with the law and rationality. The text creates a kind of interdependence between the social man, now tolerant of his own wickedness, and his perverse imagination. Pasolini is highly critical, with Soller and Barthes, in assessing De Sade as a writer. In many interviews, he denounces the lack of literary quality in De Sade, identifying the importance of the libertine writer in his way of structuring the textual architecture rather than on his style. 19 Even considering that Sollers and Barthes do not identify the notion of writing with stylistic elegance, Pasolini deals with De Sade from a diverse perspective. Pasolini

The Bibliography of Salò


identifies in the French writer a philosophical order of evil and power, comparing his approach to Dante’s. He focuses more on the philosophy of the infamous marquis: De Sade is radically placed into history, in the extreme background of Republican fascism. This act highlights the Sadean ghost realized into History by power and even worse by bourgeois power. Unlike Soller and Barthes, Pasolini reconnects to power that limit-experience, which, according to the French writers, reconnects to difference and thus to an experience of what is peripheral, expelled from human nature. Power not only narratively claims sexuality as a commodity for everyone, but imposes it as a form of control over the body. De Sade’s writings, then, far from being liberating, are a discursive tool for despotism. What De Sade feared most, imagination, becomes the only reality: Evil disguised as Good, celebrating its triumph in the sphere of sexuality, seemingly perverse and liminal, but actually quantitative and conformist. Two other books mentioned in the bibliography are those of French writers and philosophers Pierre Klossowski and Maurice Blanchot: respectively Sade, My Neighbor and Lautréamont and Sade. The two writers were concerned with De Sade’s works since the 1930s, the same period when their friend Bataille was writing. The three intellectuals could be seen as the primary agents of a philosophical rediscovery of De Sade that influenced the avant-garde scene in France between World War II and the 1970s. Klossowski and Blanchot, in dealing with De Sade’s works, accept the relationship between text and writing as a basis for a literary-philosophical understanding of De Sade’s operation. The two authors seem concerned to reconstruct the course of De Sade’s content as providing the tools for a real asceticism through Evil. Writing becomes, therefore, a fundamental contribution of a philosophical project that, reconsidered in the perspective of the French avant-garde, goes beyond the limits of art to become life experience. 20 Blanchot and Klossowski’s De Sade, therefore, not only deal with the limits of language, but also suggests a real process of maturation of the human experience through vices. De Sade becomes an author who is not only philosophically relevant, but even morally so, as his constant research on Evil is not aimed at promoting passions, but on the contrary, to fold them up until the limit of experience, boredom, or apátheia. De Sade, philosopher of negation, like the great Greek stoics and skeptics, would therefore place the human as the point of denial of the evil nature through an Evil that destroys nature itself, up to a sort of stasis, a balanced nullification. In this case, De Sade’s conception becomes a liberating experience, defined by Blanchot as “asceticism.” 21 This liberation, however, is responsible for bringing a limit of experience from literature to life. Therein still lies a bond between Klossowski and Blanchot with the theories of the avant-garde, especially with its vitalism.


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Even in this case, Pasolini’s position toward the two authors is complex and articulated into a critical refutation taking the form of direct quote during the film dialogues. The four Sadean gentlemen in this case are seen neither as Romantic heroes nor as antiheroes, despicable but fundamentally revolutionary or ascetic in their own abjection. The vicious aristocrats are degraded to the rank of petty murderers and perverse bureaucrats. Pasolini’s executioners add the banality of Evil, evoked by Hannah Arendt, to a petty bourgeois provincialism that is typically Italian. They inappropriately cite authors, perhaps only superficially known, enthusiastically confusing Dada and Saint Paul. Pasolini’s Sadean gentlemen transform De Sade’s cosmopolitan philosophy into subcultural discourse or trivial mid-cult speech. The experience of the limit, even in this case, is linked to an experience of power, but the four fascist hierarchs, while acting in an autonomous way without executing orders, are not free “authors” of their own power, in the name of an unbridled individualism. They are rather employees of vice, dictating accurate rules for the “industrial” micromanagement of the spaces and ways of their own perversion. While De Sade’s architecture of bodies corresponds to an impressive literary design, Pasolini portrays this as the small business of vice. In his film, the coincidence between aesthetic experience of limits and avant-garde practices does not take shape. The manifestation of unlimited desire does not add sense to life, freezing into a hellish symmetry; rather, it embodies the formless impulse of life. It was this allegory combining analogically fascism and Sadean libertinism, or worse, bringing the literary text into reality, that aroused Barthes’s reaction, when he recognized Pasolini’s polemical intention to criticize De Sade’s interpretations, offered by leading French intellectuals of the twentieth century. In a famous review published by Le Monde in 1976, right after the death of the Italian director, Barthes highlights Pasolini’s obsessive fidelity to the letter of Sadean text. 22 However, the transition from the literary to the cinematic medium involves the transition from writing to images and then, according to the French intellectual, to the object. In his research of the analogies between fascism and Sadism, Pasolini would therefore describe De Sade’s universe, taking it out of writing and bringing it to figuration, and then, worst of all, to reality. Pasolini’s fascism would then, according to Barthes, become an Eternal Fascism, out of its time. On the contrary the French philosopher thought that the only possible form of artistic approach to fascism was a Brechtian analysis, metaphorically translated by symbols (without descriptive precision). Pasolini is therefore doubly accused of having, on one hand done damage to antifascism, since fascism is unreal, inaccurate, and deformed by his strategies of figural description, and on the other hand attacked Sadean vertigo, trivially reproduced as one of the many forms of oppression that the historical condition could give birth to. To make its conception of fascism universal, Pasolini would have trivialized De Sade,

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setting his imaginary world into history. Only in the end of his review does Barthes pose the question if the substance of fascism, beyond its historical and political manifestations, could involve a phenomenon distant from it, but bound together by the common adherence to a death drive. This death drive could not be portrayed; it could only be described in literature through a process of displacement of language itself. Therefore, Pasolini’s metonymy struck Barthes, although the French philosopher refused to recognize the extent of Pasolini’s reflections. Tying in such a precise way De Sade and fascism, Pasolini connects the rise of historical fascism to all intellectual interpretations of the Sadean phenomenon and to the attraction to the death instinct typical of the twentiethcentury avant-garde. The attraction toward shapeless pulsionality and Evil theorized by the avant-garde was finally realized in its regulations and practices by totalitarian power. Therefore, Pasolini was not only connecting Sadean theories and an abstract idea of fascism, but is condensing the practices of the twentieth-century avant-garde in what Barthes himself calls “ the fascism-substance” beyond its political phenomenon. 23 This suggests a real allegation of aiding and abetting artists and intellectuals regarding the triumph of capitalist fascism, a corrosive accusation that Barthes, reading between the lines, understood very well. Pasolini does not plainly state that avant-garde artists and structuralist philosophers were sharing Hitler and Mussolini’s aberrant ideas. But the territory on which they developed their ideas of avant-garde art was favoring the onset of an anarchy of power, both fascist and techno-fascist. In fact, the notion of anarchy is fundamental to understand this apparently odd meeting between decaying fascism and Sadean libertinism. In his “Trilogy of Life,” the filmmaker positively identified an anarchy of powerless people resulting in their innocence and therefore in the mockery of power, as in Salò he portrays that same power during the twentieth century, justifying itself ideologically not through metaphysics, but through anarchy, exceeding every limit in its action of domain. The attraction toward the formless, the death drive, the destructiveness as liberating factors, had led the avant-garde to exalt these concepts as tools destined to unhinge the rigid behavioral and linguistic cages imposed by bourgeois power. In doing so, they ended up not so much providing ideological tools to the young pro-fascist antibourgeois or to the revolutionary proletariat. Instead they provided structure to the power itself, which had thus been able to ideologically justify its own existence, no longer in the name of life and its continuation, but rather in the name of its mere presence. Any glorification of power, even a revolutionary and antibourgeois counter-power, could become a negative, irresponsible praise of power itself and its absence of limits. For this reason in the “Trilogy of Life” Pasolini imagined an ideal escape from the modern world, attracted toward an archaic rural civilization, defining himself “a force of the past.” 24


Fabio Benincasa

Simone de Beauvoir’s essay is used to define the question of law in Sadean speculation. According to the French writer and philosopher, the difference between bourgeois and aristocratic privilege resides mainly in the choice of the bourgeois class to build a system of universal values, valid for the whole of humanity, which would have ethically justified their rule over other classes. It is a morality based on a mediate power, evident but tempered. Instead De Sade, fascinated by the Enlightenment, would have reversed the universalism of the bourgeois right in a supreme and deliberately aberrant act of selfishness. De Sade, living at the aristocratic power of its extreme limits, established a posteriori ethics and a jurisdiction founded on the brutal force and uniqueness of the subject, which has as its sole objective the achievement of his personal pleasure. 25 This extreme moral, according to De Beauvoir, had the advantage of unmasking bourgeois morality: Any morality is based on power and tends to exasperate it in absolute arbitrariness and violence. Aiming for an unrealizable pleasure, De Sade demolishes the lies of law and power. In addition, absolute Sadean selfishness led to recognition, by opposition, of a second morality—that of slaves, universalistic and not based on possession. Therefore, De Sade unveiled the logic of class struggle, based on the clear contrast between a morality of power and the claim for the dissolution of all forms of power. Pasolini who in comparison with De Beauvoir was more aware of philosophers such as Friedrich Nietzsche and Max Stirner and who knew well the production of the French avantgarde, was able to extend the range of his reflections to the French philosophers of the entire twentieth century. In fact, all the authors he cited in Salò, retrieving the unconscious and liberating value of De Sade’s wicked writing and desires, had also recovered the absolute selfishness of De Sade’s morality. Between the moral universalism of the slave and his master’s selfishness, there was an implicit short circuit, reproduced as well in the revolutionary left. As evidence of the fact that Pasolini devised the bibliography of Salò for its utility and not simply to supply a random series of texts, it is necessary to underline the relevant absence of Bataille’s Literature and Evil published in Italy in 1973, a book that contains a whole chapter dedicated to De Sade. Pasolini knew Bataille’s works, thus the exclusion does not result from a lack of knowledge. 26 It is much more likely that the Friulan intellectual did not assimilate Bataille with the other authors cited in the bibliography. Indeed, it is possible to imagine if not solidarity, at least an affinity between Bataille’s and Pasolini’s thinking. In both authors there is a strong interest in nonWestern cultures, in myth, in a civilization based more on poetic evocation than on the primacy of reason. Finally, they both shared a philosophical interest in the infinity of death. Pasolini could have seen Bataille in a different light from Klossowski and Blanchot in spite of the fact that the three intellectuals were all members of the Acéphale group. The difference lay in

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the religious and therefore archaic component of Bataille’s thinking: a religion without a God, but still adherent to the mystical idea of infinity. Infinity in Bataille’s works coincides with the limitless infinity of Evil that implies the simple abandonment into vice. Evil remains the “accursed share” 27; Sade as literary author rests in the sacred enclosure of Evil. It is precisely that fence where the literary form of sacrifice and self-sacrifice is practiced that allows the primitive communities in which Pasolini included the lumpenproletariat to contact their deepest and most terrible energies without being destroyed. Even in Bataille’s opinion, if De Sade had been a wicked writer, however, he expressed his rebellion in the sacred space of literature and art, and therefore in myth. This was a rebellion that the French philosopher intended as a “minor attitude,” rather than the conscious practice of Evil, considered the only possible rebellion because Evil in this way does not become the source of law and power, identifying itself with the Good. In Literature and Evil, Bataille did notice that all the writers he cited wanted punishment in their literary texts, because Evil could not become the Law. According to Pasolini, this was happening with techno-fascism. In the modern capitalist system, tolerance toward sex or sexual practices that were once prohibited changed into a weapon to enforce sovereignty over bodies and on any individuality. Pasolini’s reflection on art proceeds in parallel. The four gentlemen’s villa is a more or less faithful catalog of twentieth-century art and design including numerous examples of Futurist paintings, Bauhaus ceramics and furniture, a decoration inspired by Fernand Léger, and even a copy of Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase. 28 If the presence of the Futurist works has been often considered an obvious allusion to the enthusiastic participation in the fascism of the Futurist movement, it is more difficult to justify the presence of other works of art and design such as the Bauhaus ceramics, produced by an artistic movement persecuted by Nazism. Some came to the conclusion that the scenographic allusions would be merely parody: The depraved fascists are surrounded by a fatuous beauty that they do not understand. Mario Verdone’s wrote that the presence of so many works of art was not disturbing only because it was obvious that they were all fakes. 29 In this case, Verdone’s comment does not capture the full sense of the film. It is difficult to think that Pasolini displayed specific works of art in his film only to poke fun at the lack of culture of the fascist lords. If the bibliography cited at the beginning demonstrates that the film has assumed the form of an essay, then allusions to certain works must be understood and appreciated for their own essayistic function. The Futurist obsession with technology (speed and mechanics) and with the related perfect geometry, must be evaluated as reifying and destructive toward the physiology of the body. Reducing a body to a mechanism means reducing it to pieces; even the perverted informality of scatology is reduced to the byproduct of an industri-


Fabio Benincasa

al system. Thus the exaltation of the industrial system that whole early twentieth-century culture had consciously developed inclines to reduce man to a thing. Therefore, this reduction means making him potentially a victim of the industrial exploitation. Finally, the concentration camp is the application to human beings of industrial categories and practices previously applied to objects. Thus Salò does not represent a perverse utopia of Evil, but a dystopian universe with no horizon beyond production and technology, in which techniques coincide with the maximum exploitation of bodies to receive pleasure and enjoyment. The art displayed in the villa becomes a kind of new decoration highlighting this fascination for the mechanical element, compulsory repetition, and symmetry. Pasolini extends his allegation of aiding and abetting not only to artists, such as the futurists, who actively collaborated with the fascist establishment, but he also lengthened this shadow on all art that expressed fascination for mechanical functionalism, including Bauhaus. Pasolini expressed the same sense in choosing as protagonists of the dirty erotic stories told by the four prostitutes some of the main intellectuals of the fascist age: philosopher Giovanni Gentile, journalist and writer Mario Missiroli, philosopher Julius Evola. The author’s negative opinion on the role of culture and art with respect to the establishment of techno-fascism does not stop at a consideration of the past. In fact, through the film dubbing, three of the lords were voiced by Pasolini’s personal friends: director Marco Bellocchio, philologist Aurelio Roncaglia, and poet Giorgio Caproni, involving also academe, poetry, and cinema within this condemnation of desired power. 30 This study on the bibliography of Salò and its works of art between text and paratext aims to help the reader to better understand the development of Pasolini’s intellectual reflection during the 1970s. Pasolini, in his last works, has been accused of consciously assuming a reactionary or at times traditionalist position because of his refusal to hope for a progressive destiny for humanity, because of his rejection of technological society, and in his nostalgia for the pre-industrial society. Through this perspective, many years after his death, he was even quoted by Gianfranco Fini as one of the inspirers of the new post-Fascist conservative right after the so-called “Svolta di Fiuggi.” 31 Pasolini does not actually reject modernity in itself; his attitude is not stained with traditionalism nor does he expect the abandonment of the disciplinary methodologies of twentieth-century philosophy. His rejection of the capitalist West could be read as a key that pushes Pasolini to a hyper-modern position; the thinking of difference and the continental philosophy, which in the years after his death used their tools to identify cultures resisting the identification between rational ego and subjectivity. Contrary to philosophers such as Foucault and Deleuze, it is true that Pasolini rejects in part the avant-garde universe, given his love for rural culture and spirituality. His attraction for myth and religion makes Pasolini

The Bibliography of Salò


unique in the continental culture of that age. Through his radical reinterpretation of the leftist tradition, Pasolini relativized progressivism and the cult of the new that Marxism in those years turned against any expression of tradition. The recovery of certain cultural sources in Pasolini signified recognizing a link between traditional knowledge and new practices of knowledge introduced in the twentieth century. What horrified the director was the way in which the bourgeois society was using modern forms of thought to annihilate preexisting cultures, permanently subjugating them. When Pasolini wrote about himself, stating “I am a force of the past,” he did not mean to be reactionary nor conservative, rather he wanted to apply the same critical tools applied to pre-existing cultural forms of expression to modernity, especially concerning the issue of power. He attacked the status quo of contemporary society through cultural anthropology, his own version of semiotics, continental philosophy, psychoanalysis, and along with some radical thinkers such as Mircea Eliade and Georges Bataille, even mysticism and mythography. 32 Pasolini attacks the notion of progress typical of the technocratic society, standing against a false advancement that instead of opening new prospects for the human condition exalts a sadistic and destructive power, annihilating free human subjectivity more radically and penetrating of any previous form of power. For this reason, the extinction of the rural society assumes a tragic aspect for the director, because in its obstinate persistence, its deep cultural heritage acted as a counterweight to any idea of “high” culture, even often managing to influence its form, as in the case of the (supposed) fifteenthcentury pictorial primitivism so loved by Pasolini. The disappearance of that rural civilization meant at the same time the extinction of high culture, now replaced by a hyperrational ideology denying to the root the very idea of culture. This, according to Pasolini, led to the extinction of subjectivity. Indeed Pasolini does not advance Foucault’s notion of biopower, but in his late works he comes to envisage something that resembles it: 33 a situation where desire, falsely free, is articulated only in the quantitative and compulsive form of enjoyment, bringing into eros, once lived in absolute joy by the lumpenproletariat, the deviant forms of neurosis and possession. NOTES 1. Pier Paolo Pasolini, “Libertà e sesso secondo Pasolini,” in Per il cinema (Milan: Mondadori, 2001), 1567–72. 2. Massimo Fusillo, La Grecia secondo Pasolini (Florence: La Nuova Italia, 1996), 71–72 and 97–103. 3. Books such as Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time, first published in Italy in 1953, Michel Foucault’s Madness and Civilization, first published in Italy in 1972, and Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus, first published in Italy in 1975. Pasolini possibly never read any of these books but he was dealing with similar questions. 4. Pier Paolo Pasolini, “Il potere e la morte,” in Per il cinema (Milan: Mondadori, 2001), 3015.


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5. The review, originally published in Le Monde, June 16, 1976, more recently as Beverly Allen, “Pier Paolo Pasolini: The Poetics of Heresy,” Stanford Italian Review 2, no. 2 (Fall 1982): 100–102. See also Laurence Schifano, “Salò/Sade: scritture allo specchio,” in Bianco e Nero 2 (March–April 2002): 11. 6. See also Patrick Rumble, Allegories and Contamination: Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Trilogy of Life (Toronto: Toronto University Press, 1996). 7. “Se la Divina Commedia dispiegava la summa di un medioevo nutrito di una concezione figurale della Storia (quasi una baudelairiana foresta di simboli da decifrare come l’adempirsi nel tempo di una volontà sovratemporale), Boccaccio fu visitato dall’angelo dell’alba della borghesia, preludio a un grandioso rivolgimento di civiltà. Ma Pasolini ha vissuto un trapasso storico assai più grande: egli parla del day after della fine della civilità contadina schiantata dall’onda lunga di quella rivoluzione della cui preistoria Boccaccio fu interprete.” Simone Villani, Il Decameron allo specchio. Il film di Pasolini come saggio sull’opera di Boccaccio (Rome: Donzelli, 2004), 88. 8. “Io so questo: che i napoletani oggi sono una grande tribù, che anziché vivere nel deserto o nella savana come i Tuareg o i Beja, vive nel ventre di una grande città di mare. Questa tribù ha deciso—in quanto tale, senza rispondere delle proprie possibili mutazioni coatte—di estinguersi, rifiutando il nuovo potere, ossia quello che chiamiamo la storia o altrimenti la modernità. La stessa cosa fanno nel deserto i Tuareg o nella savana i Beja (o lo fanno anche da secoli gli zingari).” Giulio Sapelli, Modernizzazione senza sviluppo: il capitalismo secondo Pasolini (Milan: Bruno Mondadori, 2005), 40–41. 9. On the relationship between Pasolini and Freud’s works, see Marco Antonio Bazzocchi, Pier Paolo Pasolini (Milan: Bruno Mondadori, 1998), 176–77. 10. Agnes Blandeau, Pasolini, Chaucer and Boccaccio: Two Medieval Texts and Their Translation to Film (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2006), 131–38. 11. Luana Ciavola, Revolutionary Desire in Italian Cinema (Leicester: Troubador, 2011), 105–12. 12. Serafino Murri, Pier Paolo Pasolini (Milano: Il Castoro, 1994), 109. 13. “Per Pasolini non resta più niente e con Porcile inaugura una tabula rasa che, dopo la parentesi favolistica e felice della Trilogia della vita si concluderà con Salò.” Piero Spila, Pier Paolo Pasolini (Roma: Gremese, 1999), 86. 14. Italian critics often use the category of movie-essay for Pasolini’s films: Some notable examples include (on Comizi d’Amore), Adriano Aprà, “Pasolini (quasi) da vicino,” in Pasolini sconosciuto, ed. Fabio Francione (Alessandria: Falsopiano, 2008), 14; or (on Uccellacci Uccellini), Alessandro Mariani, “La vocazione pedagogica di Pasolini,” Aut Aut 345 (June 2010): 140–41. 15. Tzvetan Todorov, La conquista dell’America. Il problema dell’altro (Turin: Einaudi, 1984). 16. Philippe Sollers, L’écriture et l’expérience des limites (Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 2007), 48–66. Roland Barthes, Sade, Fourier, Loyola (Turin: Einaudi, 2001), 25–26. 17. On the relationship between Pasolini and Barthes, see Flaviano Pisanelli, “Pier Paolo Pasolini e Roland Barthes. Linguaggio, forma, immagine e realtà,” in Pier Paolo Pasolini: In Living Memory, ed. Ben Lawton and Maura Bergonzoni (Washington, DC: New Academia, 2009), 77–93. 18. Silvio Balloni, “Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma. La logica anarchica del potere,” in L’eredità di Pier Paolo Pasolini, ed. Alessandro Guidi and Pierluigi Sassetti (Milan: Mimesis, 2008), 21–38. 19. See, for instance, Pier Paolo Pasolini, “Guido Almansi, l’estetica dell’osceno,” in Saggi sulla letteratura e sull’arte (Milan: Mondadori, 2004), 2002–7. 20. Pierre Klossowski, Sade prossimo mio (Milan: ES, 2011), 40–41. Maurice Blanchot, Lautreamont e Sade (Milan: SE, 2003), 71–72. 21. Blanchot, Lautreamont e Sade, 91: “L’orginalità di Sade ci sembra consistere nel fatto che egli pretende di fondare la sovranità dell’uomo in un potere trascendente di negazione, potere che non dipende affatto dagli oggetti che egli distrugge.” 22. The review originally published in Le Monde, June 16, 1976, is discussed in detail in many books, among them: Pisanelli, Pasolini e Roland Barthes.

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23. English translation in Allen, “Pier Paolo Pasolini: The Poetics of Heresy,” 100–2. 24. Verses recited in Italian by Orson Welles in the short film La ricotta, episode of the collective film Rogopag (1963), “I am a force of the Past. / My love lies only in tradition. / I come from the ruins, the churches, / the altarpieces, the villages,” in The Selected Poetry of Pier Paolo Pasolini, ed. and trans. Stephen Sartarelli (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014), 311. 25. Simone De Beauvoir, Faut-il brûler Sade? (Paris: Gallimard, 1972). 26. See, for instance, Ermina Meli, “Il non verbale come altra verbalità: il cinema di poesia tra teoria e scrittura” in Contributi per Pasolini (Firenze: Olschki, 2002), 97–110. 27. Georges Bataille, The Accursed Share (New York: Zone Books, 1991). 28. Mathias Balbi, Pasolini, Sade e la pittura (Alessandria: Falsopiano, 2012), 117–26 and 210. 29. Balbi, Pasolini, Sade e la pittura, 117. 30. Pier Paolo Pasolini, Per il cinema (Milan: Mondadori, 2001), 3351–52. 31. Paolo Conti, “Sciascia, Pasolini, Moravia: Benvenuti a destra,” in Corriere della Sera, November 23, 1995, 31. 32. On the relationship between Pier Paolo Pasolini and Mircea Eliade: Ileana Chirassi Colombo, “Il soggetto apparente. Meriti e demeriti delle ierofanie,” in Confronto con Mircea Eliade: Archetipi mitici e identità storica, ed. Luciano Arcella, Paola Pisi, and Roberto Scagno (Milano, Jaca Book, 1998), 394. 33. Giacomo Marramao, “A partire da Salò. Corpo, potere e tempo nell’opera di Pasolini,” in Aut Aut 345 (June 2010), 116: “La rappresentazione pasoliniana appare così prossima ai concetti di biopotere e biopolitica introdotti da Michel Foucault nell’ultimo tormentato scorcio della sua ricerca intellettuale.”

Chapter Nine

Oedipus and Medea According to Pasolini Giulia Tellini

Il carcerato posto in libertà, piangerà nell’uscir della sua prigione. The prisoner set free will cry in leaving from his prison. —Leopardi, Zibaldone, 4282, April 20, 1827

On September 3, 1967, at the Venice Film Festival, Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Oedipus Rex premiered, featuring Franco Citti (Oedipus), Silvana Mangano (Jocasta), Alida Valli (Merope), Carmelo Bene (Creon), Julian Beck (Tiresias), Luciano Bartoli (Laius), Francesco Leonetti (Laius’s servant), Ahmed Bellachmi (Polybus), Giandomenico Davoli (Polybus’s shepherd), and Ninetto Davoli (Anghelos). On December 27, 1969, Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Medea came out, with Maria Callas (Medea), Massimo Girotti (Creon), Laurent Terzieff (Centaur), Giuseppe Gentile (Jason), Margaret Clementi (Glauce), Paul Jabara (Pelias), and Gerard Weiss (Second centaur). OEDIPUS AND MEDEA Abandoned as a baby by a servant of his father (Laius, king of Thebes, who had given orders to kill his son for fear of a dark prophesy), Oedipus is immediately adopted by another couple (the king and queen of Corinth) and as an adult goes on to kill his natural father and take his place as the king of Thebes, marrying his mother, Jocasta. One day a plague breaks out in the city and Oedipus discovers his sins of parricide and incest (as the dark prophesy that had terrorized Laius foretold), and as a result is overcome by the dark realization that he alone is to blame for the epidemic. Jocasta hangs herself; 149


Giulia Tellini

Oedipus takes the dress pins of his mother-wife and thrusts them into his eyes, thus condemning himself to beggarhood and exile. Medea, daughter of the king of Colchis, falls in love with the young Greek hero Jason and helps him to steal the golden fleece, before eloping with him to Greece. A decade later, Jason leaves her to marry Glauce, daughter of the king of Corinth. Medea takes her revenge by causing the death of her rival and the woman’s father, and finally by killing her two children fathered by Jason. There are key moments in the lives of Oedipus and Medea, those that stand out after their deaths, as Pasolini would say. “Oedipus and Medea,” he would add, “are dead. Death has created a perfect and ultimately inalterable choice of what they were. Their end is the necessary and irreplaceable condition for making a story of their lives, or rather, for making a film of them.” 1 Oedipus and Medea’s stories are “la tragedia del Diverso di fronte alla Realtà” 2 (“the tragedy of the ‘Other’ facing Reality”) and represent a story that Pasolini continues to tell his whole life, in every poem, every novel and film. They are his story—a story that, until 1967, remained untold and that after 1969 would never again be unveiled in such glaring simplicity as in these two films. Like Pasolini, Oedipus and Medea live “dentro una lirica,” running amok, and their lives contain a single “pagina di romanzo” 3 : For Oedipus, it is the day he leaves home and parents (who unbeknownst to him are adoptive) to visit the oracle at Delphi and, after hearing her response, travels away from Corinth, killing his father along the way. For Medea, it is the day she abandons her family and Colchis to flee with Jason to Greece. Accustomed to contemplation rather than action, both characters feel in this moment lost and distraught, drifting along at the mercy of chance. It is also the moment in which their fate is fulfilled: he, after killing Laius, marries Jocasta; she, after fleeing Colchis, marries Jason. When the consequences of that single action turn out to be catastrophic, they are once again lost, unable to go on or to resist being prostrated by reality. Pasolini’s life also contains a single “pagina di romanzo,” and it is the day he fled from Casarsa to Rome aboard a train, accompanied by his own mother: Fuggii con mia madre e una valigia e un po’ di gioie che risultarono false, su un treno lento come un merci, per la pianura friulana coperta da un leggero e duro strato di neve. Andavamo verso Roma. Avevamo dunque abbandonato mio padre accanto a una stufetta di poveri, col suo vecchio pastrano militare e le sue orrende furie di malato di cirrosi e sindromi paranoidee. Ho vissuto quella pagina di romanzo, l’unica della mia vita:

Oedipus and Medea According to Pasolini


per il resto—che volete— sono vissuto dentro una lirica, come ogni ossesso. 4 I fled with my mother and a suitcase and a few jewels that turned out false, on a train as slow as a freight train, for the Friulan plain covered by a thin, thick layer of snow. We went to Rome. We had therefore abandoned my father next to a space heater of the poor, with his old military coat and its hideous sick furies of cirrhosis and paranoid syndromes. I lived that page of the novel, the only one in my life: for the rest—you want— I have been living inside a lyric, as every madman.

This is how Pasolini describes his experience in Poeta delle ceneri, identified by him as his “poema bio-bibliografico,” and written in August 1966, sixteen years after that clandestine getaway: an escape from his father, from charges of statutory rape and obscene acts in public, as well as the blackmail of his political opponents. Like Pasolini, Oedipus and Medea twice go astray, losing themselves and their convictions: for the first time during their traumatic coming of age, and again as they face the consequences of their single actions. Oedipus has his first personal crisis when the oracle at Delphi, who in the film is a priestess, prophesies to him as a young man: “Guardati! Nel tuo futuro c’è scritto che assassinerai tuo padre, e farai l’amore con tua madre. Questo dice il dio, e questo inevitabilmente si compirà.” 5 Initially, Oedipus “non crede a quello che sente.” Later, “un’angoscia orrenda lo attanaglia, lo impietrisce, di fronte a tanta spaventosa semplicità; a quelle due parole che lo condannano senza speranza.” So he begins to wander aimlessly, “guardando a una a una le cose che gli cadono sotto gli occhi, simboli felici e misteriosi di quella realtà che gli sfugge.” Dalla bocca semiaperta di Edipo—si legge nella sceneggiatura del film—esce quasi un lamento, o un rantolo: ma meccanicamente, quasi senza che egli se ne accorga. Egli non può possedere ancora interamente il dolore che lo occupa, e ne è dominato, come un automa. 6 From the half-open mouth of Oedipus—it reads in the screenplay of the film— comes almost a moan, or a gasp, but mechanically, almost without his noticing. He can not own pain yet completely occupying it, and it is dominated, like a robot

Leaving the sanctuary far behind, after a while he comes upon a milestone on which the word Corinth is etched: It is the road that leads home to his parents.


Giulia Tellini Edipo guarda quella parola come inebetito. Portate dal vento giungono dal santuario più forti le allegre musiche popolari, cariche di infiniti e antichi presagi. Edipo cade a sedere sopra la pietra miliare: e scoppia in un pianto di bambino. Piange a lungo; nascondendosi il viso. Altra gente passa e lo guarda come si guarda chi è diverso, chi non fa parte della norma della vita umana: con pietà, paura e ostilità. Edipo piange. 7 Oedipus looks at that word as dazed. Carried by the wind coming from the stronger sanctuary cheerful folk music, full of endless and ancient omens. Oedipus falls to sit above the milestone and bursts into childish tears. He cries for a long time, hiding his face. Other people go and look like staring at one who is different, who is not part of the standard of human life with piety, fear and hostility. Oedipus cries.

He takes the road leading away from Corinth and sometime later crosses paths with Laius in his chariot with his guards. Neither party is willing to yield the right-of-way: “Il padre di Edipo e Edipo si guardano a lungo, ognuno aspettando di vedere cosa farà l’altro. Un profondo odio, irragionevole, sfigura subito i loro lineamenti: Qualcosa di disumano e di isterico.” 8 And the protagonist promptly fulfills his destiny of patricide. Oedipus undergoes another more severe crisis several years later when he discovers that the Delphi priestess’s prophesy has come true and that he alone bears the guilt for the devastating pestilence which is decimating Thebes. So he begins to wander around the palace in the direction of his bedroom: “Cammina sempre come in sogno, astratto, lento, quasi misteriosamente calmo. La verità l’ha come tramortito e non riesce a riprendersi neanche per soffrire. Non è più lui, è quasi un’amnesia che lo guida. E infatti si guarda intorno come non riconoscesse i luoghi. Entra così meccanicamente nella camera da letto” and as soon as he crosses the threshold, he sees “il corpo ciondolante di Giocasta impiccata a una trave del soffitto.” Come una belva ferita, Edipo si getta sul suo corpo, aggrappandosi a lei, come in un estremo tentativo di salvarla. Quella vista l’ha strappato dal suo sogno, e con la violenza dei gesti gli ridà la violenza del dolore. Ma aggrappandosi a quel corpo senza vita, egli non ottiene che una cosa: strappare a Giocasta le vesti. Ed essa, sua madre, gli appare ancora una volta nuda. È quella nudità che egli non può sopportare. Come una bestia furente, egli apre la spilla . . . e si conficca gli aculei negli occhi urlando di dolore. 9 Like a wounded beast, Oedipus throws himself on her body, clinging to her, as if in a final attempt to save her. That sight ripped from her dream, and with the violence of the gestures brings back the violence of the pain. But clinging to the lifeless body, he does not get that one thing: to rip Jocasta’s clothes. And she, his mother, he still appears once nude. It is the nakedness that he can not stand. Like a furious beast, he opens the pin . . . and sticking the needles in the eyes screaming in pain

Oedipus and Medea According to Pasolini


Just as young Oedipus is forced to forsake Corinth and the parents who raised him, Medea, guilty of having stolen the golden fleece, is also forced to abandon Colchis and her family. During his flight, he slays his father; during hers, she kills her brother Apsirto, cuts him to pieces, and scatters those pieces along the way leaving them behind her to delay her father Aeetes in his pursuit. Thus both protagonists leave their childhood behind as they come of age with an act of violence against a blood relation. Oedipus never does return to Corinth to his adoptive parents who, in saving him from death as a baby, at the same time condemned him to fulfill the atrocious destiny written for him. Nor does Medea ever return to her mountainous Colchis, to her “stupido mondo antico,” which crumbles at a single ironic glance from Jason, “il leggendario distruttore della città, barbaro e nuovo.” 10 Oedipus departs from Corinth. Medea flees Colchis. Pasolini leaves Casarsa to go to Rome. And once freed, all three of them weep upon leaving their prisons behind. Those golden prisons where they felt powerful, safe, seemingly surrounded with certainties, where all seemed unchangeable, bright, and beguiling, and where no one used the language of historical evolution, 11 a place where they could allow themselves to sleep. But just around the corner fate was about to knock on their door and compel them to dance with him. 12 Oedipus slays his father. Medea steals the sacred fleece and dismembers her brother, breaking her father’s heart. Pasolini plans a clandestine getaway to Rome with his mother, leaving his father “accanto a una stufetta di poveri, / col suo vecchio pastrano militare / e le sue orrende furie di malato di cirrosi e sindromi paranoidee”: Since Pier Paolo was charged and removed from his position as teacher, his father had been making life at home impossible for everyone. So his wife Susanna boards a train with her son and sets off for Rome. Toward the end of the contemporary prologue of Pasolini’s Oedipus Rex, the father gazes at his son in his carriage, and his inner voice, strong and solemn just like in a tragedy, utters these words: Eccolo questo qui, il figlio, che un po’ alla volta prenderà il tuo posto nel mondo. Sì, ti caccerà dal mondo e prenderà il tuo posto. Ti ammazzerà. Egli è qui per questo. Lo sa. La prima cosa che ti ruberà sarà la tua sposa, la tua dolce sposa che credi sia tutta per te. E invece c’è l’amore di questo qui per lei; e lei, già, lo sai, lo ricambia, ti tradisce. Per amore di sua madre, questo qui ammazzerà suo padre. E tu non puoi farci niente. Niente. 13 Here it is, the son, that a little at a time will take your place in the world. Yes, it will drive away from the world and take your place. He kills you. He is here for this. He knows. The first thing that he will steal from you is your wife, your sweet bride you believe is all for you. But there is the love of this here for her;


Giulia Tellini and she, already, you know, reciprocates it, it betrays you. For love of his mother, this guy is going to kill his father. And you cannot help it. Nothing.

Pasolini always represents fathers as rejected authority figures: oppressive, frustrating, and omnipresent figures who represent the will to achieve, to build, to look ahead. In this sense, Affabulazione (1966) is an exemplary tragedy, where a father gives his son a knife because he wants to be killed. But it is he in the end who stabs his son to death (and that, while the boy is making love to his girlfriend no less), because the father’s ironic rationality and possessive nature undergo a quasireligious crisis when faced with the innocence, the body, the sex of his incomprehensible son, who rejects the generational conflict and the Oedipus complex. 14 Quite the opposite of to the son in Affabulazione (as well as Julian of Porcile, 1969), Oedipus and Medea carry out their revolution and face their traumatic coming of age, but upon the second great crisis of their lives, they fall to pieces completely 15 : Both of them lose their sense of reality and both move and speak like robots, in particular Medea, who falls into a state of dreams and visions. After fleeing Colchis by sea on a raft with the Argonauts, they land on a beach and set up their tents. Medea remains motionless as she observes them, but then falls into “una specie di crisi o raptus”: Non si possono piantare le tende così, a caso;—spiega Pasolini nel suo “trattamento” del film—bisogna prima rivolgersi agli dei, pregarli: consacrare il luogo, perché ogni luogo dove l’uomo pianta le sue tende è sacro, ripete la creazione del cosmo, diviene un centro: e questo centro deve essere segnato da una pietra, da un albero; da un segno qualsiasi, sacro. Questo è tutto ciò che Medea sa, e che le sembra sacrilego non sapere, non applicare. E lo dice a frasi rotte, incomprensibili (prima di tutto perché l’urgere dei sentimenti la rende oscura; e poi perché le nozioni che essa esprime sono ormai del tutto estranee a quegli uomini). 16 You can not plant the tents as such, at random;—Pasolini says in his “treatment” of the film—we must first turn to the gods, pray to them: to consecrate the place, because every place where man plants his tent is sacred, repeat the creation of the universe, become a center and this center must be marked by a stone, from a tree; by any sign, sacred. This is all that Medea knows, and that seems sacrilegious not to know, do not apply. And he says in broken sentences, incomprehensible (primarily because the need of the feelings makes it dark; and then because the notions of the sport are now quite foreign to those men.

The Argonauts at first stare and listen to her “strabiliati,” but soon “i loro occhi si velano di ironia” and “l’ascoltano con beffarda pazienza.” Thus Medea [li] “abbandona alla loro follia” and walks off by herself, “come una

Oedipus and Medea According to Pasolini


bestia ferita”—it says—“come una bestia strappata al suo pascolo.” Significantly, at the apex of his anguish when he sees Jocasta’s corpse hanging from the ceiling in the bedroom, Oedipus is also compared to a “belva ferita,” trembling and shuddering, howling, wheezing, and growling out inarticulate sounds. There is nothing human about Oedipus’s torture or Medea’s: It is the interior tragedy of two innocent creatures (because not only Oedipus is innocent, but also Medea, who steals the fleece and kills her brother in a trancelike state, as if fate itself was compelling her). The two protagonists face internal turmoil as they are devastated by the principle of reality, 17 and their cries reveal their anguish about being different and isolated, destined never to be part of a group. 18 To atone for their sins of diversity and innocence, they are condemned (except for their matrimonial parentheses) to be always alone. Thus Medea walks away from the Argonauts by herself, “come una bestia ferita”: Her grandfather the sun, who previously spoke to her, speaks no more; the moon too is now silent. Everything around her is quiet. Her sacred relationship with reality is over, and “essa è come inebetita”: her childhood has come to a close. With her coming of age, history replaces myth; nature becomes natural and loses its sacredness. The world loses its metaphysical dimension. 19 After eating and drinking with his friends, Jason gets up and goes looking for that strange woman: careless and detached from the situation, carrying out an obligation without really making an effort, he wanders in the vicinity all too silent, until he sees her. Si avvicina deciso a lei, sorridendo, come un padre (lui, così ragazzo) con la bambina disobbediente; . . . La prende per un braccio, e la trascina con sé. Lei, da regale e quasi soprannaturale com’era, cede di colpo: si fa remissiva, obbediente, come, appunto, una bambina. . . . Giasone porta Medea dentro la sua tenda, e la fa distendere sulla stuoia. Le sorride (paterno, protettore) lei lo guarda ora, fedele e remissiva, come un cane dagli occhi umidi. Giasone si spoglia. . . . Medea lo guarda incantata, e perduta in lui. È un vero, completo, amore, ecc. In questo momento a prevalere è la virilità di Giasone. Medea ha perso la propria atonia di bestia disorientata: nell’amore trova, di colpo (umanizzandosi) un sostituto della religiosità perduta; nell’esperienza sessuale ritrova il perduto rapporto sacrale con la realtà. Così il mondo, il futuro, il bene, il significato delle cose, si ricostituiscono di colpo davanti a lei. Ed è con gratitudine (come di chi si sente rinascere alla vita) che lascia che Giasone la possieda. 20 He approaches her, smiling, as a father (he, so young) with the disobedient child; . . . He takes her by the arm and drags her with him. Her regal and almost supernatural as it was, it gives abruptly becomes submissive, obedient, as, indeed, a little girl. . . . Jason brings Medea inside his tent, and makes her lie down on the mat. He smiles at her (father, protector) she looks at him now,


Giulia Tellini faithful and submissive, like a dog with wet eyes. Jason strips. . . . Medea looks enchanted, and lost in him. It is a true, complete love. Right now prevails the virility of Jason. Medea has lost its atony of disoriented beast: love is suddenly (unhumanizing) a replacement of the lost religion; experience sexual finds the lost sacral relationship with reality. So the world, the future, the good, the meaning of things, are suddenly in front of her. And it is with gratitude (as of those who feel reborn to life) that allows Jason to own it.

Thanks to her love for Jason, to which she utterly surrenders, Medea once again finds herself and her sacred link with the world around her. Everything makes sense again; everything has regained its beauty and magic. For Medea, love and the loss of her virginity are conversion. For Jason on the other hand, eros is simply a domination technique. 21 She represents the childlike outlook, while he represents an adult one: Hers is “l’occhio che vede il verde nell’erba,” while his is “l’occhio adulto che non vede più altro che l’erba.” 22 She is contemplative and unable to get along in reality; she lives for feelings, for happiness’s sake. He is a man made for action and for living in the present; he hunts down what may be useful to him, pursuing power and career. 23 About ten years later, when Jason leaves Medea to marry the king of Corinth’s daughter, the heroine’s crisis is much worse than the previous one (on occasion of her coming of age). When King Creon tells her of her banishment from Corinth, like Oedipus, Medea wanders around her home like a robot: “Non sa cosa fare. Perduto, ormai fatalmente, l’amore di Giasone, riperde di nuovo ogni possibile rapporto con la realtà, che diventa un luogo di incubo, una prigione, un’estensione senza senso.” 24 While Corinth is celebrating Glauce’s wedding, Cheiron the centaur, to whom Jason’s father entrusted his newborn son’s upbringing, realizes Medea’s situation and materializes before his pupil like a mythical vision with a message: He tells him that in reality, beyond his calculations and his interpretation, he still loves Medea. “Io amo Medea?” Jason echoes. Sì.—gli spiega il Centauro, ovvero la voce della sua coscienza, di quella piccola percentuale di sé che può ancora provare dei sentimenti, del fanciullino che è rimasto dentro di lui—E inoltre hai pietà di lei, e comprendi la sua . . . catastrofe spirituale, il suo disorientamento di donna antica in un mondo che ignora ciò in cui lei ha sempre creduto . . . la poverina ha avuto una conversione alla rovescia, e non si è più ripresa. 25 Yes.—He explains it to the Centaur, or the voice of his conscience, of that small percentage of self that can still have feelings, the young child is left inside him—And also you have pity on her, and understand its . . . spiritual catastrophe, his disorientation of ancient woman in a world that ignores what she has always believed . . . the poor thing has had a conversion in reverse, and it has not recovered.

Oedipus and Medea According to Pasolini


But Jason, who lives for the present and for expediency, is obviously not interested in these details, and accordingly he asks the Centaur “e a me che serve sapere tutto ciò?” To sum up, the end of Oedipus’s childhood coincides with his departure from Corinth and his despair upon hearing the Delphi oracle’s response. He loses himself for the second time when he discovers that he has killed his father and married his mother, and he finds himself in front of the corpse of his mother-wife who has hanged herself. For Medea, the end of childhood coincides with her escape from Colchis together with Jason. She undergoes a second great crisis in her life several years later when Jason abandons her. Finally for Pasolini, it is the death of his brother Guido at the hands of his partisan comrades in 1945 that marks his traumatic coming of age. His second moment of crisis, as already mentioned, occurs when he leaves Casarsa for Rome together with his mother. After seeing Jocasta’s corpse hanging from the ceiling, Oedipus pokes out his eyes, and gives the following explanation regarding his motives to an old senator: Avrei dovuto lacerarmi anche le orecchie . . . per chiudere meglio in me stesso il mio corpo infelice . . . e non vedere e non udire più niente . . . niente . . . è dolce avere la mente fuori dal male! . . . Bisogna tacere delle cose impure. . . . Non parlarne, non testimoniarne: tacere! Nascondetemi! Mettetemi fuori da questa nostra terra! Gettatemi in un posto dove non mi si veda più. 26 I should have also lacerated the ears . . . to close better in myself my unfortunate body . . . and not to see and do not hear anything . . . anything. . . . It is sweet to have the mind off the bad! . . . We must silence the unclean thing. . . . Do not talk about it, do not testify: be quiet! Hide me! Put me out of this our land! Throw me in a place where I do not see anymore.

Here Pasolini’s tragic autobiographism pushes its way to the forefront: He knows that the charges of statutory rape and obscene acts in public have cost him dearly, forcing him to flee Friuli and arrive in Rome penniless and without a job, or anything, just with his mother. Surrounded by a crowd of Thebans who watch “con orrore, disprezzo, ironia e pietà,” Oedipus staggers about, “cercando la strada che porta fuori dalla città, cade, si rialza, va barcollando, nel silenzio.” Ed ecco venire verso di lui il ragazzo-nunzio, con la sua umile faccia pietosa: tiene in mano qualcosa, però. è un flauto. Un flauto come quello di Tiresia. Il flauto di chi è cieco. Il flauto che fa tornare le cose nelle regole, che codifica lo scandalo. . . . I due se ne vanno—in quel silenzio eccessivo e sgradevole— mentre la folla li segue con gli sguardi, fatta estranea. 27


Giulia Tellini And here to came close to him the boy-messenger, with his humble pitiful face: holding something in hand, though. It is a flute. A flute like that of Tiresias. The flute of he who is blind. The flute that brings back things in the rules, that the scandal encoding. . . . The two of them go—in that excessive and uncomfortable silence—as the crowd follows them with looks, made stranger

The two walk along and in the distance, one can see “Edipo che porta alle labbra il flauto ed emette una prima nota e poi una seconda e il ragazzo, di spalle, che lo incita.” Presently the two come to a large square, “uno dei luoghi dove la borghesia celebra i suoi riti,” with a church and a town hall, students and girls, children and tourists: The carefree “ragazzo-nunzio” distractedly plays with the doves, startling them and making them fly. And Oedipus, “mendicante, cieco, profeta,” whistles a melody with his flute, his childhood melody, “la melodia che è prima e dopo il destino” and “che dà senso a tutto ciò che gli è intorno, a quel rumoreggiare dolce della storia.” The two of them eventually end up in an industrial area, full of factory workers, groups of working-class people waiting for busses at stops and young people playing football in a field: “Il ragazzo-guida di Edipo, va a giocare con loro, buffo e allegro, in quell’ora popolare. E Edipo è perduto, intento a suonare sul suo flauto, la musica che è la significazione di quelle cose.” 28 The two of them finally arrive in the countryside, in a large field: Oedipus immediately recognizes the place where he first set eyes on his mother, who held him in her arms as a newborn. Su quest’immagine, animata da un lieve, antico e inenarrabile vento, scoppia la musica del motivo da cui essa trae, subito, un senso sconvolgente—una ripetizione, un ritorno—un’immobilità originale nel muoversi vano del tempo—la misteriosa musica del tempo infantile—il canto d’amore profetico— che è prima e dopo il destino—la fonte di ogni cosa. 29 About this image, animated by a mild, ancient and unspeakable wind, bursts the music of reason from which it derives, at once, an overwhelming sense—a repetition, a return—a stillness in the original moving compartment of the time—the mysterious music the childlike—the prophetic song of love—that is before and after the fate—the source of all things.

Therefore, Pasolini is Oedipus and Oedipus is Pasolini, who flees the scandal in Casarsa and arrives in Rome with a suitcase full of his books of poetry in the Friulan dialect. And here he realizes that up to that moment he had stubbornly refused to look his truth in the eye, whereas the only way to “classify his scandal” was to become a poet: not one who tells of an archaic, cyclical, agricultural world linked to the past, but a poet who speaks about himself, his diversity, the world that surrounds him. Thus a poet who assumes the role of alarming rather than reassuring people. 30 A poet who

Oedipus and Medea According to Pasolini


knows the truth but pretends not to see it (or who would rather not see it) believes himself to be innocent, but is in reality guilty. Oedipus is a man who is still a child, whose malady consists of remaining unaltered. 31 In fulfilling his dream as expressed during his first encounter with Tiresias (after killing the Sphinx), Oedipus becomes a prophet. Upon seeing Tiresias playing the flute, he falls to his knees before him, feeling an immediate, unconscious attraction to him as an artist, 32 and as we read in the inter titles, Oedipus’s thought is expressed in these words: “Gli altri, tuoi concittadini e fratelli, soffrono, piangono, cercano insieme la salvezza. . . . E tu sei qui cieco e solo che canti. . . . Come vorrei essere te! Tu canti ciò che è al di là del destino.” 33 Like Oedipus, Medea is also an artist, a woman yet a child, a weapon of the past to combat the vulgarity of the present, 34 a sorceress whose holiness and whose curse 35 consist in seeing reality through a child’s eyes and living in a mythical rather than a historical dimension. Leaving Thebes behind, Oedipus becomes a beggar and a prophet: As he travels Italy through town centers and outskirts, he is led by a “ragazzonunzio,” played by eighteen-year-old Ninetto Davoli, whom Pasolini had loved for two years. Therefore, this is ultimately a happy ending where the director reveals himself as a grown-up child and poet (which is the same thing), 36 living “dentro una lirica, come ogni ossesso,” outside of time and society, hand in hand with his beloved Ninetto who leads him. On the other hand, Medea ends in a remarkably tragic way, and Pasolini as a prophet is spot on in making this film, in which Ninetto does not appear in any role. Jason abandoning Medea corresponds in real life to Pasolini’s future abandonment by Ninetto (who leaves him in the early 1970s to marry a girl); Medea’s tragic death at the end of the film corresponds to Pasolini’s tragic death on the night between the first and second of November 1975, on the beach of the seaplane base in Ostia. Before setting her house on fire and dying in the flames, Medea kills her children. Before being brutally beaten and run over with his own car, Pasolini makes Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma: a film-testament on sex as an act devoid of all joy, on sex as “la soddisfazione di un obbligo sociale” rather than “un piacere contro gli obblighi sociali,” 37 on gratuitous violence perpetrated on the bodies of one’s own children, young people who here are “brutti o disperati, cattivi o sconfitti,” and on their ultimate killing. This is yet another reason why Medea is so chillingly premonitory; especially considering it was made before Trilogia della vita. In the same way that Medea loves Jason, Pasolini’s love for Ninetto is total and absolute, a synthesis of infinite desire (eros) and deep affection (agape). And yet eventually, after nine years with Pasolini, Ninetto decides to make the transition from myth to history, to begin considering life as something to be built, and to stop living a poem. 38 In August 1971, a distraught Pasolini writes to his friend Paolo Volponi:


Giulia Tellini Sono quasi pazzo di dolore. Ninetto è finito. Dopo quasi nove anni Ninetto non c’è più. Ho perso il senso della vita. Penso solo a morire o a cose simili. Tutto mi è crollato intorno: Ninetto con la sua ragazza disposto a tutto, anche a tornare a fare il falegname (senza battere ciglio) pur di stare con lei; e io incapace di accettare questa orrenda realtà, che non solo mi rovina il presente, ma getta una luce di dolore anche in tutti questi anni che io ho creduto di gioia, almeno per la presenza lieta, inalterabile di lui. 39 I am almost mad with grief. Ninetto is over. After nearly nine years Ninetto is gone. I lost the meaning of life. I only think about dying or similar things. Everything has collapsed around me: Ninetto with his girlfriend will do anything, even going back to being a carpenter (without blinking) just to be with her; and I unable to accept this horrendous reality that I not only ruin the present, but also casts a light of sorrow in all these years I have believed for joy, at least for the presence pleased, unalterable by him.

In Medea in 1969, eros is already seen as causing one to lose touch with reality, giving an illusion of sacredness, while in reality it is used by the bourgeois and those who live for and in the present as a tool of submission, injuring those who still believe in love as an end rather than a means. Pasolini and Medea suffer abandonment by Ninetto and Jason, but their suffering is made more acute by their awareness of the fact that it is their own way of being and loving that has caused it. Neither Pasolini nor Medea know how to “morire e diventare” and this is what condemns them to solitude and exclusion from reality. 40 Their elements are earth and fire, not water. 41 Oedipus Rex closes with the image of the protagonist as poet and prophet, “la cui forza è nella sua degradante diversità,” 42 revisiting the “sublime” places of his childhood, with Ninetto. Medea, on the other hand, closes in total catastrophe: abandoned by her beloved, the torment of a wounded beast, shortness of breath, “il gelo dell’angoscia,” 43 a sense of uselessness, vengeance, death. The closing words of the film are Medea’s: “Niente è più possibile, ormai” (“Nothing is possible anymore”). These words are all the more prophetic and atrocious in light of the fact that of September 2, 1969, while shooting Medea, Pasolini writes the following words in a poem dedicated to Ninetto: “Della nostra vita sono insaziabile, / perché una cosa unica al mondo non può essere mai esaurita” (“Our life is insatiable, / because a single thing in the world can never be exhausted”). 44 Yet Jason and Ninetto represent prisons, both for Medea, who is too far above her hero of the future world and of opportunism, as well as for Pasolini, who for Ninetto has given up his freedom, his “ebbrezza di avere strade sconosciute / da prendere ogni sera” (“thrill to have unfamiliar roads / to be taken every night”). 45 Still, upon leaving these prisons, both Medea and Pasolini weep, unable to see before them anything but emptiness, solitude, absolute lack of prospects, and utter impossibility.

Oedipus and Medea According to Pasolini


NOTES 1. Cf. Pier Paolo Pasolini, “Perché quella di Edipo è una storia,” in Il Vangelo secondo Matteo, Edipo re, Medea, introduction by Morando Morandini (Milan: Garzanti, 2002), 317–18. 2. Guido Santato, Pier Paolo Pasolini. L’opera (Vicenza: N. Pozza, 1980), 293. 3. Pier Paolo Pasolini, Poeta delle ceneri, ed. Pier Gelli (Milan: R. Archinto, 2010), 29. 4. Pasolini, Poeta delle ceneri. 5. Pier Paolo Pasolini, “Edipo re. La sceneggiatura di Pier Paolo Pasolini,” in Il Vangelo secondo Matteo, Edipo re, Medea, 381. In the film, the line is actually: “Guardati! Nel tuo destino c’è scritto che assassinerai tuo padre, e farai l’amore con tua madre. Hai capito? Nel tuo destino c’è scritto che assassinerai tuo padre, e farai l’amore con tua madre. Questo dice il dio, e questo inevitabilmente si compirà. E adesso vattene di qui, non contaminare questa gente con la tua presenza.” 6. Pasolini, “Edipo re. La sceneggiatura di Pier Paolo Pasolini,” 381. 7. Pasolini, “Edipo re. La sceneggiatura di Pier Paolo Pasolini,” 382. Actually, in the film, as soon as Oedipus sees the milestone marked Corinth, he races off in the opposite direction and then throws himself down to cry in a meadow. 8. Pasolini, “Edipo re. La sceneggiatura di Pier Paolo Pasolini,” 392. 9. Pasolini, “Edipo re. La sceneggiatura di Pier Paolo Pasolini,” 440–41. 10. Pier Paolo Pasolini, “‘Visioni della Medea’ di P. P. Pasolini (trattamento),” in Il Vangelo secondo Matteo, Edipo re, Medea, 497. 11. Cf. Walter Siti, “Pier Paolo Pasolini,” in Un’idea del ‘900. Dieci poeti e dieci narratori italiani del Novecento, ed. Paolo Orvieto, presentation by Mario Martelli (Rome: Salerno editrice, 1984), 150. Not surprisingly, the part of the film that takes place in Colchis is characterized by near-perfect silence (cf. Massimo Fusillo, La Grecia secondo Pasolini. Mito e Cinema [Firenze: La nuova Italia, 1996], 107). 12. “Ich möchte schlafen, aber du mußt tanzen” (“I wish to sleep but you must dance”). Famous verse taken from the poem Hyazinthen (1851) by Theodor Storm. 13. Pasolini, “Edipo re. La sceneggiatura di Pier Paolo Pasolini,” 356. 14. Cf. Fusillo, La Grecia secondo Pasolini, 50–52. 15. In the film, young Oedipus becomes king of Thebes because he manages to cause the Sphinx, who is terrorizing the city, to fall into a ravine (but in contrast with Sophocles’s tragedy, the Sphinx does not tell him a riddle); years later, however, he is at a loss as to how to solve the case of Laius’s murder. In the poem Aneddoto dei vecchi re (1971), Pasolini writes that one can never win twice. Cf. Fusillo, La Grecia secondo Pasolini, 51. 16. Pasolini, “‘Visioni della Medea’ di P. P. Pasolini (trattamento),” 503–4. 17. Cf. Fusillo, La Grecia secondo Pasolini, 31. 18. Cf. Fusillo, La Grecia secondo Pasolini, 68. 19. Cf. Serafino Murri, Pier Paolo Pasolini (Milano: Il Castoro, 1994), 124. 20. Pier Paolo Pasolini, “‘Visioni della Medea’ di Pier Paolo Pasolini (trattamento),” 506–7. 21. Cf. Walter Siti, “La ‘seconda vittoria’ di Pasolini,” Quaderni piacentini 5 (1982): 93. 22. Sandro Bernardi, “Il tempo del mito nella Medea di Pasolini,” Contro tempo 2, no. 2 (May 1997): 38. 23. Not surprisingly, Jason, who throughout the film is growing and changing, is twice compared by Pasolini to a father figure. On the other hand, Medea is like Jocasta: unchangeable, the same from beginning to end, outside of a timeline and belonging to a cyclical, archaic world. 24. Pier Paolo Pasolini, “‘Visioni della Medea’ di Pier Paolo Pasolini (trattamento),” 512. In the tragedy Lunga notte di Medea (1949) by Corrado Alvaro, a text Pasolini knew very well, the protagonist has understood that Jason is courting Glauce and the nurse suggests that she should leave the city. Medea answers: “Si parte finché si spera di fare quell’incontro che deciderà della nostra vita. Anche se tu esci per la strada della tua città, speri di fare quell’incontro. Domani, forse. E poi domani. Finché la tua sorte è ancora sospesa. Ma io, chi debbo più incontrare? . . . Io lo feci il mio incontro. Era lui, Giasone. Fu la sua nave Argo. Fragile, sul mare deserto e ancora selvaggio del mio regno. Il canto dell’equipaggio. Apparve


Giulia Tellini

come un’isola. La credemmo un’isola. Lui scese per primo. E io lo vidi. Lo conobbi. Lui. Era il mio incontro” (Corrado Alvaro, “Lunga notte di Medea,” Sipario, nos. 40–41 [1949]: 48). 25. Pier Paolo Pasolini, “Dialoghi definitivi di ‘Medea,’” in Il Vangelo secondo Matteo, Edipo re, Medea, 550–51. 26. Pasolini, Edipo re. La sceneggiatura di Pier Paolo Pasolini, 442–43. 27. Pasolini, Edipo re. La sceneggiatura di Pier Paolo Pasolini, 443–44. 28. Pasolini, Edipo re. La sceneggiatura di Pier Paolo Pasolini, 445–47. 29. Pasolini, Edipo re. La sceneggiatura di Pier Paolo Pasolini, 448–49. 30. Cf. Murri, Pier Paolo Pasolini, 84. 31. “La mia malattia consiste nel non mutare” (Pier Paolo Pasolini to Silvana Mauri, 1949, now in Gian Carlo Ferretti, “Il mito pasoliniano dell’innocenza dal Friuli a Salò,” in Il Maestro delle primule. Dalla meglio gioventù alla nuova preistoria. Convegno di Studi, ed. Nico Naldini [Pordenone: Province of Pordenone, 1997], 17). 32. Cf. Fusillo, La Grecia secondo Pasolini, 81. 33. The attraction of childlike figures to artists is a favorite theme of Hans Henny Jahnn’s, and it is likely that Pasolini was very familiar with the disconcerting 1926 tragedy Medea by this little-known German writer. In Affabulazione as well, several episodes (such as when the father stabs his son while the latter is making love, for example) are very similar to certain situations described by Jahnn in his Medea. 34. Cf. Murri, Pier Paolo Pasolini, 126. 35. Cf. Bernardi, “Il tempo del mito nella Medea di Pasolini,” 38. 36. Cf. Pier Paolo Pasolini, “La comicità di Sordi: Gli stranieri non ridono,” Il Reporter, January 19, 1960; now in Walter Siti and Silvia De Laude (eds.), Saggi sulla letteratura e sull’arte, 2 vols. (Milan: Mondadori, 1999), vol. 2, p. 2247. 37. Pier Paolo Pasolini, “Il sesso come metafora del potere,” Corriere della sera, March 25, 1975. 38. Cf. Siti, “La ‘seconda vittoria’ di Pasolini,” 93. 39. Pier Paolo Pasolini to Paolo Volponi, Rome, August 1971, in Pier Paolo Pasolini, Lettere. 1955–1975, ed. Nico Naldini (Turin: Einaudi, 1988), 707. 40. Cf. Siti, “La ‘seconda vittoria’ di Pasolini,” 99. 41. In Hans Henny Jahnn’s Medea, water is metaphorically linked to Jason’s virility, while Medea, the artist, is compared to Medusa for her ability to turn people to stone, giving them eternal beauty and youth. 42. Pier Paolo Pasolini, “La realtà,” in Poesia in forma di rosa, now in Pier Paolo Pasolini, Tutte le poesie, ed. Walter Siti, 2 vols. (Milan: Mondadori, 2003), vol. 1, p. 1123. 43. Pier Paolo Pasolini, “Hymnus ad nocturnum,” in L’Usignolo della Chiesa Cattolica (Torino: Einaudi, 1976), 442. 44. Pier Paolo Pasolini, “Uno dei tanti epiloghi,” in Trasumanar e organizzar, 2 vols. (Milano: Garzanti, 1971), vol. II, p. 102. 45. Pier Paolo Pasolini, “Un affetto e la vita,” in Trasumanar e organizzar, 2 vols. (Milano: Garzanti, 1971), vol. II, p. 103.

Chapter Ten

Pasolini’s Decameron (1971) A Case of Cinematic Re-Creation Fulvio Orsitto

Pier Paolo Pasolini’s big-screen version of Boccaccio’s masterpiece offers a radical rethinking and reshaping of its literary source. However, if one considers that Pasolini’s intention was not to adapt the Decameron, but rather to re-create it in cinematic terms, what seems to be an obvious and conscious betrayal of the Boccaccian text appears to be, at a closer look, the result of a necessary unfaithfulness. Indeed, given the different media used for the narration and the time in which the latter took place, Pasolini’s re-creation had to differentiate itself from its original source in order to be truly faithful to it. In this chapter, I will focus on some of the discrepancies between Boccaccio’s and Pasolini’s Decamerons, arguing that many changes that occurred in the film should not be ascribed to the director’s often iconoclastic attitude but rather to his profound respect for the Boccaccian text and to his understanding of the necessity to alter it and actualize it in order to respect its original message. As Sergei Eisenstein reminds us, a rigorously exact transposition from literature to film is not possible (or, indeed, desirable). 1 Directors bringing literature to cinema have two mutually exclusive paths to follow. The first one is the so-called mise en forme, which could also be called form-processing. 2 This path leads to a form of appropriation or assimilation, and thus to the possibility of re-creating the same work of art in another shape. The second path is mere external imitation; a process that—to use Carlo Testa’s words—“is worse than awful, is doomed to artistic failure.” 3 Therefore, rather than utilizing the most common term adaptation (or, in Italian, the even more ominous riduzione), it would be more appropriate to employ the thought-provoking term dislocation or—as suggested by Millicent Marcus— 163


Fulvio Orsitto

the expression “cinematic re-creation,” 4 which implies the movement of induction and deduction producing an appropriate cinematic rewriting of the literary text. Moreover, if on the one hand the word adaptation “carries within itself the sense of ‘filial’ servitude, of sacrificing one’s rights momentarily in the service of the ‘father,’ the original,” 5 the term re-creation “accurately labels the process of a thorough inter-media recasting of concepts and practices previously shaped by a given cultural-historical mould into another mould, appropriate to a socially and technologically different moment.” 6 If Pasolini’s film is arguably the first cinematic re-creation of The Decameron, it certainly does not constitute the first attempt at transcribing Boccaccio’s masterpiece for the big screen. Conventional adaptations of the literary text began during the early cinema period and include a couple of silent films directed by Gennaro Righelli (Andreuccio da Perugia, 1910, and Decamerone, 1912), one by Herbert Wilcox (Decameron Nights, 1924), and one by Alfredo de Antoni (Boccaccesca, 1928). Later on, Boccaccio’s work inspired the Argentine director Hugo Fregonese (Decameron Nights, 1953) and Mauro Bolognini’s segment of The Dolls (Monsignor Cupido, 1964). 7 What takes place in Pasolini’s Decameron, however, is a far more complex (and postmodern) game of transformation, which re-creates Boccaccio’s pages onscreen, transforming them into images able to evoke the 1300s, while simultaneously crafting a discourse (that is, a critique) on the Italy of the 1970s. Indeed, if in the 1300s Boccaccio chose the bourgeoisie as the protagonist of his work—given its increasing challenge to the supremacy of aristocracy and because it was the liveliest social class at the time—in the 1970s Pasolini, given the hegemonic role now played by the middle class, could not possibly have made the same choice and was forced to move in a different direction. Hence, it is possible that one of the most striking consequences of the director’s process of contemporization of the Decameron is the absence of the very same middle class once celebrated by Boccaccio. According to Agnès Blandeau: “Pasolini shed a favorable light on the working class, the only one he saw as still endowed with the vitality necessary for a salutary renewal of society.” 8 In fact, rather than to the bourgeoisie, the protagonists of the novellas included in the film seem to belong to that lumpenproletariat whose members have inhabited Pasolini’s films since Accattone (1961), his debut behind the camera. As Patrick Rumble establishes: “To tear the Decameron from the bourgeoisie, which can no longer reflect itself in the carnivalesque vitality of the text, and to hold out the humorous, desacralizing, innocent, and playful figures found in the text as mirror images of the modern sub-proletariat: this is Pasolini’s heretical ‘betrayal’ of the original.” 9 Well aware of the necessity to alter and actualize Boccaccio’s text in order to respect its message, Pasolini had to change several significant elements, including the language and the setting of the narration. The preva-

Pasolini’s Decameron (1971)


lence of dialogic structures, along with the usage of colloquialisms, is pretty evident, but it is also something one might expect in a film. What is truly remarkable in Pasolini’s work is the director’s choice to erase almost completely the usage of Tuscan (or even Italian, for that matter), favoring a collage of dialects, in which the presence of the Neapolitan dialect stands out. 10 Pasolini explains his choice thusly: “I rebuilt that world as a world of popular classes. . . . I went to Naples to rediscover an authentic relationship between people and reality, a relationship that people, in spite of any kind of ideology, are able to establish without the ideological distortions fostered by the petit-bourgeoisie.” 11 In another interview, Pasolini is even more direct, asserting that Naples has always had a very peculiar rapport with history, and “Neapolitans have decided to remain what they were, letting themselves die, like some African tribes.” 12 Consequently, since Pasolini’s film is “a critical reading of Boccaccio’s text” 13 rather than a mere adaptation, the decision to set most of the novellas in the Neapolitan area is possibly the first of a series of clues that reveal how Pasolini’s intentions were not merely iconoclastic but rather pragmatic. As Carlo Bo reminds us, “If Pasolini had only illustrated that text, he would have made a huge abuse, he would have falsified . . . a work of art. Pasolini immediately understood that the only way out in such a critical endeavor was to try to enter the flesh of the book, imitating its vital rhythm, capturing, where it was possible, its poetic accent.” 14 The alternative provided by the director is, once again, nothing more than a contemporization of Boccaccio’s message; in displaying what he considered the primitive innocence of the Neapolitans, Pasolini manages to keep Boccaccio’s medieval Decameron alive in the twentieth century, a liveliness that could not possibly be evoked by the bourgeoisie of contemporary Italy. 15 Moreover, Pasolini unveils here his penchant for pastiche, his proclivity for “collages of linguistic and figural fragments,” and, ultimately, his “aesthetics of contamination.” 16 Since Pasolini’s modus operandi as a director was often guided by the intention “to interpret past text or myths in terms of the present,” 17 his choice to adopt the Neapolitan dialect as the main language spoken in his Decameron is not only part of a larger strategy to revitalize Boccaccio’s text, but it also reminds us “how the questione della lingua is an interrogation of the exercise of power.” 18 The Neapolitan dialect represents a reaction to homologation, a reaction that undermines from a linguistic perspective one of the texts that contributed to the very establishment of the Tuscan linguistic hegemony. 19 In Marcus’s words: “The questione della lingua, so importantly arbitrated by the Tuscan trecentisti, receives a very unTuscan solution in Pasolini’s film. By translating Boccaccio’s normative latinizing prose into Neapolitan street talk, Pasolini is challenging the Tuscan-centricity of the Italian language and thereby criticizing Tuscany’s dominance over the entire culture since the time of Boccaccio.” 20


Fulvio Orsitto

In terms of structure, there are two main differences between the literary source and Pasolini’s film: the substitution of the cornice with two frames, 21 and the fact that the film is a selection of ten novellas. In his detailed study of Pasolini’s Decameron structure, 22 Ben Lawton divides the film into two parts, each containing five novellas and each one with a different frame: Ciappelletto’s tale, and Forese and Giotto’s story (this novella in Pasolini’s film, thanks to a postmodern slippage, focuses on one of Giotto’s protégés instead—a character played by Pasolini himself). 23 The first part of the film is based on the tales of Andreuccio (day 2.5), of the Abbess (day 9.2), of Masetto (day 3.1), of Peronella (day 7.2), and of Ciappelletto (day 1.1); while the second part covers the tales of Giotto and Forese (day 6.5), of Ricciardo and Caterina (day 5.4), of Lisabetta (day 4.5), of Pietro, Gemmata, and don Gianni (day 9.10), and of Meuccio and Tingoccio (day 7.10). 24 Lawton provides us also with a numerological reading of the film that reveals the structural mirroring between episodes taken from the literary source and episodes added by Pasolini, highlighting the recurrence of the number 10. 25 Finally, Pasolini reduced the assorted geographical locations used by Boccaccio for these stories (Naples, Barletta, Messina, Siena, Bourgogne, Tuscany, and Romagna) to the Campania region (with the exception of the story of Ciappelletto, whose uniqueness is also confirmed by the fact that it is used as one of the two narrative frames of the film). The novellas used in the film are taken from days 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 (one novella for each day) and also from day 7 and 9 (two novellas, in this case). Days 8 and 10 are not included. In her seminal study on cinema and literature, Giuliana Nuvoli recalls that, when asked why he, a writer, decided to become a film director, Pasolini responded that he simply wanted to experiment with a different narrative technique. In his words: “I needed a new form to articulate new concepts, or maybe I just needed a new technique to keep saying the same old things.” 26 In another interview, Pasolini comments on his transition from literature to cinema arguing that, in his view, these two fields are different and yet somehow analogous, maybe even complementary. 27 In fact, if one looks at Pasolini’s cultural production (without differentiating between cinema and literature), one can clearly see that, for him, directing a film is just like writing in another form and that ultimately in his opus cinema and literature are actually fundamentally connected. To explain the way in which Pasolini perceived the relationship between literature and cinema, Walter Siti reminds us that he was not simply “a director-writer, or a writer who also wanted to be a director: in his work cinema and literature are inextricable, it is impossible to understand his cinema if one is not familiar with his writings, just like it is not possible to understand his writings if one does not take his cinema into account.” 28 In other words, to Pasolini a film was simply poetry made in a various form and achieved through a different means.

Pasolini’s Decameron (1971)


According to Patrick Rumble, “Pasolini himself felt little hesitation, around the late fifties and early sixties, when he found himself on the road to cinema. Indeed, as he often remarked, he felt a pull towards the medium even before he published his first book of poems in the Friulan dialect in 1942.” 29 In David Ward’s view, Pasolini was drawn to cinema because it offered “an antidote to the worn-out symbolic and arbitrary system of verbal signs,” and it represented “a means of gaining immediate purchase on reality without the mediation that verbal signs or written language necessarily involve.” 30 In a poem about Anna Magnani’s anguished cry in Rossellini’s Rome, Open City (1945), Pasolini himself explains that his fascination with cinema has indeed a poetic rationale. 31 Hence, in Rumble’s opinion, it is precisely “the realization, expressed in the final lines of this poem, that a new culture or, better, a new form of storytelling (and thus of knowledge) was arising to ‘dissolve’ and ‘change’ the present and ‘deafen the song of the bars’ that leads Pasolini to engage in the medium and apparatus of the cinema.” 32 Moreover, as Rumble reminds us: Pasolini’s choice, in the early 1960s, to switch focus from the novel to film was a function of his overriding desire to engage in the reality of the present, to make an impact upon an audience quickly abandoning the book for the more immediate gratification of the movie-theater (and later, television). This Gramscian urge to renew the intellectual’s mandate during a period of great cultural and political transition explains his adoption of the role of the regista civile. 33

Because Pasolini was driven by the effort to use the past in order to narrate the reality of the present, his re-creation of Boccaccio’s masterpiece also seems to suggest a specific difference between literature and cinema, implying that the written word may be deceiving, while images give reality the possibility to reveal itself. 34 A case in point is the first novella of the first day (Ciappelletto), which plays a strategic role in both Boccaccio’s and Pasolini’s Decamerons, inviting the audience to reflect upon “the word” (i.e., literature) and its seductive power. 35 Besides the long confession with the priest, what is intriguing in Pasolini’s film is the introduction of a short scene (absent in Boccaccio) in which we see Ciappelletto in the streets of Naples. As stated earlier, the role of this novella in Pasolini’s Decameron is that of a cornice, of a frame (at least for the first part of the film), and this specific scene facilitates a smooth transition between the first (Andreuccio) and the second novella (Masetto) of the film. The camera shows us an old man, a storyteller, doing a public reading of Boccaccio’s Decameron and citing directly from the text: “Once upon a time in Lombardy.” 36 At once, however, the man begins to improvise, adding comments such as “where the Tuscan tongue is spoken,” 37 and then embellishing his reading of other parts of the book with personal observations, like, “Let me tell it the Neapolitan way.” 38


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This scene is crucial in interpreting Pasolini’s Decameron, not only because it visually shows the necessity of using the Neapolitan dialect rather than the Italian language (which in Pasolini’s view seems to be distant from the people and needs to be translated for them to understand), but also because it provides us with a visual representation of how seductive and dangerous words can be. Indeed, while the storyteller is narrating and interpreting Boccaccio’s text, the audience is so captivated by his performance that they become distracted, not paying attention to a thief (Ciappelletto) who takes advantage of the old man’s show to steal money from people in the audience. As Marcus notes, “The storytelling has put listeners off guard, making them as inattentive as the poorly dressed abbess in the tale.” 39 The Pasolinian discourse on the difference between literature and cinema, between words and images, here seems to suggest a profound dichotomy between two different universes: the first being characterized by a seductive process of deceit, the second by a truth so realistic it does not conceal its ugliness. 40 In a film characterized by a “corporal writing” that Marcus appropriately labels “semiotics of the bodies” this scene, in which Pasolini “seems to be attacking verbal narration as itself distracting, at variance with empirical experience,” has the clear purpose of leading “our attention back to the only reality that can be authentically lived.” 41 Discussing this episode, Marcus also highlights its synecdochial value, considering it “an ‘umbilical scene’ in which the film reveals the traces of its derivation from the parent text and discloses its interpretative strategy.” 42 Furthermore, if “the streetcorner storyteller is a figure for Pasolini himself who transforms the elitist, literary source into an accessible item of popular entertainment,” the phrase in Neapolitan (along with the very necessity to translate an Italian sentence into dialect) “could serve as the film’s epigraph in its revelation of Pasolini’s intent to restore the popular origins of Boccaccio’s own storytelling art by reversing the medieval writer’s refinement and elevation of his narrative raw materials.” 43 Finally, the celebration of the actors’ bodies and their sexuality may represent an implicit attempt “to challenge forth a bodily response in the spectator, to reactivate what Zumthor calls the ‘latent eroticism of the reception of texts.’” 44 So far, this chapter has highlighted how Pasolini brings Boccaccio’s text to the 1970s, translating it to a contemporary audience—a subtle cultural operation that confirms what a careful reader of the original Pasolini actually was. However, thanks to his “betrayal and change, in order to respect” method of approach, Pasolini is able to translate the original text from the literary to the cinematic language and, at times, perhaps even to improve it. A case in point is Pasolini’s reimagining of Andreuccio’s story in the film. Although he seems to follow its literary source in making fun of a character who has come to Naples to “consume” (women and goods) but ends up being “consumed,” (that is, used) by a handful of characters, it is possible to say that

Pasolini’s Decameron (1971)


“Pasolini takes Boccaccio’s joke one step further.” 45 In fact, as suggested by Marcus, If Andreuccio is consumed by the city, he is also excreted from it in an analogy that explains an important omission from the text and a series of spatial and chromatic choices on Pasolini’s part. In the Decameron story, Andreuccio experiences three infernal descents and three resurrections, a number whose theological ramifications are obvious and strategically used. After the fall into the cesspool, Andreuccio is lowered into a well to be cleansed and is finally dropped into the tomb. Though Pasolini would hardly be averse to using Trinitarian symbolism in a satiric way, he chooses to leave out the second descent, preferring to keep Andreuccio in his fecal state throughout the remainder of the episode. 46

In sum, Pasolini’s choice to keep this character covered with feces clearly indicates the author’s intention to convey a sarcastic commentary on the bourgeoisie he represented. The Pasolinian re-creation of this novella presents us with a couple of other changes worth discussing. The first one consists of a small alteration of the literary source that occurs toward the end, when Andreuccio is trapped in the archbishop’s sarcophagus (left there by the thieves who convinced him to enter it in the first place). When three other people arrive to enter the tomb and steal the archbishop’s precious ring, Boccaccio describes Andreuccio’s reaction by writing: “He tried to pull him in.” 47 Pasolini, however, films this scene introducing a noteworthy variation. Instead of having Andreuccio simply grab the thief to pull him in, the director takes advantage of Boccaccio’s own words, depicting a character that listens even more carefully to external stimuli and whose transition from being a naive individual to an astute one is even more brilliant. A few seconds before, a crucial sentence (taken accurately from Boccaccio’s text), was uttered by the sacristan, the leader of this second group of thieves: “Dead men don’t bite.” 48 Hence, what Pasolini shows us is not Andreuccio pulling the thief in, but rather biting his leg as soon as he tries to enter the sarcophagus. In so doing, Pasolini shows us a pure instinctual reaction that has nothing to do with the character’s carefully planned evolution that emerged from Boccaccio’s pages and implicitly reveals us that he sees him “as the custodian of a candor that was never overshadowed by the practice of life.” 49 Speaking of candor, it is worth mentioning a final example of a Pasolinian change that occurs at the beginning of the episode. To translate into cinematic terms Boccaccio’s description of the prostitute’s house (the writer states that “everything smelled like roses, orange flowers and other fragrances” 50 ), Pasolini shows us Andreuccio with a red flower in his hand and then moves to a close-up of the character’s face shown with the same red flower—a bizarre shot that lasts a few seconds.


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Why would Pasolini propose such an extravagant detour from the narrative? The answer is once again twofold. On the one hand, this could be interpreted as a sardonic remark, an anticipation of the awful smell that will later accompany Andreuccio once he falls into the latrine. On the other hand, the director is using those images not only to suggest what the text was evoking with words, 51 but also to perform a very postmodern practice; that is, to quote himself. 52 The red flower, in fact, is a reference to a short film titled The Paper Flower Sequence—included in the collective film Love and Anger (1969)—that was inspired by the Gospel parable of the innocent fig tree, and reprises a topic already explored by Pasolini in Oedipus Rex (1967): the guilt of innocence. The protagonist of this short film (played by Ninetto Davoli, who also played Andreuccio) is Riccetto, a young man wandering through the streets of Rome holding a huge red flower made of paper that symbolizes his candor and innocence but—ultimately—also his naiveté. In conclusion, with his cinematic re-creation of Boccaccio’s masterpiece, Pasolini is certainly not advocating an escape to the past, to a previous (impossible) golden age, but rather making use of the raw force of the (often naked) bodies of the characters to counteract the cultural assimilation that was taking place in Italy in the years following the economic boom. What he does is simply—in Marcus’s words—“writing with bodies,” 53 that is, using their vitality to defeat the cultural and ideological emptiness of the present, its loss of hope. 54 Ultimately then, according to Antonio Costa, Pasolini’s representational strategy is nothing but “a journey back in time, looking for bodies not yet contaminated by cultural homologation.” 55 Pasolini’s Decameron echoes the previously analyzed storyteller’s act and represents a re-creation alla napoletana, in literal and metaphorical terms given that, as Rumble reminds us: Pasolini populates his film with Neapolitans; replaces Boccaccio’s Tuscan with the Neapolitan dialect; rejects the novel’s structure and form of address; restores something of the “(ch)oral” or “epic” nature of storytelling; appropriates Boccaccio’s stories, belonging once to high culture and literary canons, and translates them into the language and medium of the popular audience; and finally he addresses his audience as “southerners,” as an exploited and dominated population. 56

Finally, Pasolini’s (only apparent) iconoclastic re-creation of the Boccaccian literary source is explained by the fact that, in a mass society like that of the 1970s, an intellectual such as him (constantly fighting the system) had to scream to be heard and had to use any possible source and media to wake up the people. In this context, cinema was only the last (and, possibly, the best) tool he decided to use in his fight with a mass culture that, in his view, with its promotion of consumerist models of life, was a new and dangerous form of fascism threatening to destroy Italian culture. 57

Pasolini’s Decameron (1971)


NOTES 1. It is worth noting that (in spite of his notorious avant-gardism) the Russian director and theorist at times does what innovators often do in order to defend and legitimate their innovations, that is, in Patrick Rumble’s words, “re-finding them in canonical works” (Patrick Rumble, Allegories of Contamination: Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Trilogy of Life [Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1996], 105). A case in point is Eisenstein’s essay devoted to examples of montage found in literature: “Dickens, Griffith, and the Film Today,” in Film Form, ed. Jay Leyda (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Jovanovich, 1949). Comparing Eisenstein’s attitude toward canonical texts and Pasolini’s choice of literary sources for his Trilogy of Life, Rumble states that the latter shares to a certain extent the “strategic abjection” suggested by the former, since his choice of texts “guarantees him a certain legitimacy, a cultural sanction (something Pasolini certainly could never take for granted)” and, ultimately, “a certain currency and distribution since it was terra cognita for the popular audience.” Rumble, Allegories of Contamination, 105. 2. For a more detailed discussion of mise en forme, see Carlo Testa, Masters of the Two Arts (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002), 11. 3. Testa, Masters of the Two Arts, 11. 4. Millicent Marcus, Filmmaking by the Book: Italian Cinema and Literary Adaptation (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993), p. 15. 5. Rumble, Allegories of Contamination, 104. 6. Testa, Masters of the Two Arts, 12. 7. It is also worth mentioning that the commercial success of Pasolini’s Decameron spawned a prolific yet short-lived subgenre of Italian style comedy: the so-called “decamerotic.” In spite of its exploitative nature, the popularity of this subgenre contributed greatly to the transition from the Italian comedy of the 1960s and early 1970s to what would be known in the mid and late 1970s as “commedia sexy” (a type of comedy that replaced the social criticism and political commitment inherited from the Neorealist movement and interpreted with caustic originality until the early 1970s with gratuitous nudity and comedic characters that were simple caricatures, rather than fully fleshed out characters). The “decamerotic” subgenre was inspired by Pasolini’s Trilogy of Life—primarily by the Decameron and, to some extent by The Canterbury Tales (I racconti di Canterbury, 1972) and Arabian Nights (Il fiore delle mille e una notte, 1974)—and lasted only a couple of years. First examples of decamerotica are two films directed by Mino Guerrini in 1972: Decameron II (Decameron n. 2: Le altre novelle del Boccaccio) and The Other Canterbury Tales (Gli altri racconti di Canterbury). Among the most popular titles that were distributed that year were Mariano Laurenti’s Ubalda, All Naked and Warm (Quel gran pezzo dell’Ubalda tutta nuda e tutta calda) and Naughty Nun (La Bella Antonia, prima monica poi dimonia); Italo Alfaro’s Forbidden Canterbury (Canterbury Proibito) and Decameron’s Jolly Kittens (Il Decameron n. 3: Le più belle donne del Boccaccio); Walter Pisani’s Love, Passion and Pleasure (Beffe licenze et amori nel Decamerone segreto); Giuliano Biagetti’s Decameroticus; Vittorio De Sisti’s Fiorina the Cow (Fiorina la vacca); and More Sexy Canterbury Tales (Sollazzevoli storie di mogli gaudenti e mariti penitenti: Decameron n. 69) by Joe D’Amato, who in the 1980s would definitely abandon any kind of softcore effort to become a porn firm director. In 1973 the “decamerotic” began losing popularity and eventually disappeared, in spite of successful movies such as Bitto Albertini’s Put Your Devil into My Hell (Metti lo diavolo tuo ne lo mio Inferno), Mario Caiano’s The Sexbury Tales (I Racconti di Viterbury—Le più allegre storie del Trecento), Mino Guerrini’s The Fabulous Oriental Nights (Le favolose notti d’Oriente), and another film by D’Amato that ingeniously blended together all the most relevant archetypes of the subgenre: Boccaccio’s One Thousand and One Nights in Canterbury (Le mille e una notte di Boccaccio a Canterbury—aka Novelle licenziose di vergini vogliose). 8. Agnès Blandeau, Pasolini, Chaucer and Boccaccio: Two Medieval Texts and Their Translation to Film (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2006), 74–75. 9. Rumble, Allegories of Contamination, 103. Rumble then confirms the effectiveness of Pasolini’s strategy, stating that his “is a ‘betrayal’ that nevertheless allows whatever was


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‘liberating’ about the Decameron, its celebration of play, humour, and human creativity, to survive and to maintain its force” (p. 102). 10. A linguistic choice that will recur in the two following installments of the Trilogy of Life. Indeed, if the Florentine dialect becomes Neapolitan in the Decameron, the Middle English is substituted by the dialects from Northern Italy in The Canterbury Tales, and the Arabic by the dialects from the Southern part of the peninsula in Arabian Nights. 11. (“Ho ricostruito quel mondo come un mondo di classi popolari e sono andato a Napoli per ritrovare un rapporto autentico del popolo con la realtà, un rapporto che il popolo, quale che sia la sua ideologia, riesce stabilire senza le distorsioni ideologiche del piccolo borghese.”) Quoted in Giacomo Gambetti, “Pasolini da Boccaccio a Chaucer: Per una ‘Trilogia popolare, libera, erotica.’” Cineforum (March 1974), 222. From now on, all translations are mine. 12. (“I napoletani hanno deciso di restare quello che erano e, così, di lasciarsi morire: come certe tribù dell’Africa.”) Serafino Murri, Pier Paolo Pasolini (Milan: Editrice Il Castoro, 1994), 127. 13. Rumble, Allegories of Contamination, 108. 14. (“Se Pasolini si fosse limitato a illustrare quel testo, avrebbe commesso un gravissimo abuso e sarebbe caduto . . . nella falsificazione di un’opera d’arte. Pasolini ha capito subito che l’unica via d’uscita di un’impresa tanto disperata era quella di cercare di entrare nella carne stessa del libro, di imitarne il ritmo vitale e di strappare, là dove fosse possibile, un suo accento di poesia.”) Carlo Bo, “Dal Diario riaperto. Pasolini regista e la poesia del Decameron,” Lingua e Letteratura 19 (1992): 12. 15. In this context, Pietro Spila states that it was precisely the “primitive innocence of a people relegated (or self-relegated) to the margins of history, still able to express himself using his original language (the dialect) and his sexuality” (“l’innocenza primitiva di un popolo relegato (o autorelegatosi) ai margini della storia, che può ancora esprimersi nella sua lingua originaria (il dialetto) e nell’esaltazione della sessualità”) that allowed Pasolini to keep the vitality conveyed by Boccaccio’s text. Piero Spila, Pier Paolo Pasolini (Rome: Gremese Editore, 1999), 99. The abovementioned primitive and cheerful innocence seems, in a way, to have contaminated Pasolini’s approach to filmmaking as well, since in another interview he stated: “With the Decameron I filmed the way I know and want to film: more in my style than ever. But while in Porcile and Medea my game was horrible, now it is cheerful, strangely cheerful. It seems to me that a cheerful work (made with great seriousness, naturally) contradicts every expectation: it is completely disobedient. (But maybe I’m lying).” [(“Nel Decameron io ho girato come so come voglio girare: più che mai nel mio stile. Ma mentre in Porcile e Medea il mio gioco era atroce, ora esso è lieto, stranamente lieto. Un’opera lieta [fatta con tanta serietà, naturalmente] mi sembra contraddire ad ogni aspettativa, è una disobbedienza completa. [Ma può darsi che io stia mentendo].”) Dario Bellezza, “Io e Boccaccio,” L’Espresso, November 22, 1970. 16. Rumble, Allegories of Contamination, 129. 17. Rumble, Allegories of Contamination, 8. 18. Rumble, Allegories of Contamination, 134. In so doing, Pasolini follows one of his mentors’ footsteps: Antonio Gramsci, who asserted that “in one way or another, whenever the language question arises, it means that a series of other problems is imposing itself: the formation and broadening of the ruling class, the need to establish more intimate and secure relations between the ruling groups and the national-popular masses—that is, to reorganize cultural hegemony.” Antonio Gramsci, Quaderni del carcere (Turin: Einaudi, 1975), 2346. Regarding Pasolini’s use of the dialect, see also Millicent Marcus, “The Decameron: Pasolini as a Reader of Boccaccio,” Italian Quarterly 82–83 (Fall/Winter 1980–1981): 175–80. On the questione della lingua see also Maurizio Vitale, La questione della lingua (Palermo: Palumbo, 1984). 19. See Blandeau, Pasolini, Chaucer and Boccaccio, 52 and 75; and Marcus, “The Decameron: Pasolini as a Reader of Boccaccio,” 176. It is also worth mentioning that for centuries the Italian language (which is based on the literary Tuscan dialect used by Dante, and later by Petrarch and Boccaccio) was only used by the cultural elites; while common people spoke local dialects. It was only in the late 1950s and in following years of economic boom that the Italian language finally became a κοινὴ, a common language spoken by the vast majority of the population, thanks to the increase of education, the internal migrations and, above all, the

Pasolini’s Decameron (1971)


spread of a mass medium such television. Consequences of this mass homologation were the impoverishment and simplification of the Italian language, and the vanishing of dialect speakers. For a more detailed analysis and discussion of these socio-linguistic changes, see Romano Luperini and Pietro Cataldi, eds., La Scrittura e l’Interpretazione. Storia della Letteratura Italiana nel quadro della civiltà e della letteratura dell’Occidente, 3 vols. (Palermo: Palumbo, 1999), 1085–86. 20. Marcus, “The Decameron: Pasolini as a Reader of Boccaccio,” 138. 21. In Rumble’s opinion, “Pasolini does not simply abandon the frame. He replaces the Boccaccian cornice, and the image of framing as an operation of exclusion and opposition (the plagued outside as opposed to the inside secured by and for the brigata), with the figures of Ciappelletto (the Forger) and Giotto’s disciple (the Artist, played, ironically indeed, by Pasolini himself). An explanation of this substitution is in order since the coherence and unity of Boccaccio’s Decameron was a product of the cornice—textual unity thus being revealed, as discussed earlier, as a product of certain mechanisms of exclusion and a logic of opposition. Pasolini, who is producing his film in a social order itself founded upon exclusion and opposition, and himself a victim of social mechanisms of exclusion and marginalization, cannot but reject these principles of textual and also social structuration.” Rumble, Allegories of Contamination, 118–19. 22. Ben Lawton, “The Storyteller’s Art: Pasolini’s Decameron,” in Modern European Filmmakers and the Art of Adaptation, ed. Andrew Horton and Joan Magretta (New York: Frederick Ungar, 1981). 23. Discussing this character, Marcus points out that Giotto’s pupil “constitutes a rejection of all the middle class behavioral ideas embodied in Boccaccio’s brigata. The young people’s attention to property in dress, meals, and diversion is utterly disregarded by the painter who is at home in a peasant’s mantle, wolfs down his food and obviously cares nothing for appearance.” Marcus, “The Decameron: Pasolini as a Reader of Boccaccio,” 177. 24. Lawton notes that Pasolini had also filmed the tale of Alibech (3.10), but this episode did not make the final cut of the film. 25. According to Lawton, the film “contains ten episodes taken from Boccaccio’s text and ten original episodes. Divided into two parts, the film includes five of Boccaccio’s novelle in each part. Furthermore, we find three Pasolini episodes in Part I and seven Pasolini episodes in Part II, respectively, the number of days of storytelling into which the two parts of Boccaccio’s Decameron are divided by the author’s appearance, and also the number of male and female narrators in the original. The total number of Pasolini episodes, like the total of those borrowed from Boccaccio, equals the number of days of storytelling in the text.” Lawton, “The Storyteller’s Art,” 206. However, in spite of the meticulousness of Lawton’s analysis (or, perhaps, precisely because of it), Rumble fears that the “textual unity and numerological coherence found in the original” inspired this scholar “to impose that unity upon the adaptation,” and (referring to Ciappelletto’s and to the disciple of Giotto’s cases) remarks that “there are also significant overlappings of the framing stories and the framed.” Rumble, Allegories of Contamination, 118. 26. (“Io avevo bisogno di una nuova tecnica per dire una cosa nuova, o, il contrario, che dicevo la stessa cosa sempre, e perciò dovevo cambiare tecnica.”) Giuliana Nuvoli, “Letteratura e cinema,” in Il Novecento. Scenari di fine secolo, vol. 1, ed. Nino Borsellino and Lucio Felici (Milan: Garzanti, 2001), 610. 27. See Dario Martini, “L’accattone di Pier Paolo Pasolini,” Cinema Nuovo (1961): 150. 28. (“Un regista-scrittore, o uno scrittore che ha voluto fare anche il regista: in lui cinema e scrittura sono inestricabili, è impossibile capire il suo cinema se non si conosce la sua scrittura, come è impossibile capire la sua scrittura se non si considera il suo cinema.”) Walter Siti, “La sceneggiatura e la poetica del non-finito,” Bianco & Nero, 1 (1999): 41–45, 41. 29. Rumble, Allegories of Contamination, 3. 30. David Ward, “A Genial Analytic Mind: ‘Film’ and ‘Cinema’ in Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Film Theory,” in Pier Paolo Pasolini. Contemporary Perspectives, ed. Patrick Rumble and Bart Testa (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1994), 130. 31. “Virtually an emblem by now, Magnani’s cry, / beneath her locks inordinately absolute, / resounds in the desperate panning shots / while in her glances, alive and mute, / the sense of


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tragedy is growing. / And it is there that the present dissolves / and changes, and deafens the song of the bards.” (“Quasi emblema, ormai, l’urlo della Magnani, / sotto le ciocche disordinatamente assolute, / risuona nelle disperate panoramiche, / e nelle sue occhiate vive e mute / si addensa il senso della tragedia. / È lì che si dissolve e si mutila / il presente, e assorda il canto degli aedi.”) Pier Paolo Pasolini, “Proiezione al ‘Nuovo’ di Roma città aperta,” in Le poesie (Milan: Garzanti, 1971), 189–90. 32. Rumble, Allegories of Contamination, 5. 33. Rumble, Allegories of Contamination, 6. Rumble continues his explanation of Pasolini’s turn to cinema, stating that “for Pasolini film presents itself as the language appropriate to a world in which national economies are giving way to multinational trading aggregates, and traditional cultures and ethnicities are being overrun by the expanding, cosmopolitan culture of consumer capitalism. Within his search to be even more faithful to the often distressing realities in the world around him, Pasolini found film to offer not only the most ‘mimetic’ medium, but also the medium whose very material—as a means of technological reproduction—contained within itself (in its chemical process, in its technological dependencies) the very elements of destabilization he bemoans throughout his entire opera. That is, film contains within itself the technological ‘poison’ as well, he would hope, as an ideological ‘cure.’” Rumble, Allegories of Contamination, 11. Finally, Rumble concludes that “Pasolini’s own decision to devote himself mainly to cinema was made, after a career as poet and novelist, once he concluded that if he were to adopt the role of the committed intellectual he had found described in the writings of Antonio Gramsci (Pasolini’s political and, let’s not forget, philological mentor, along with Contini), then he would have to adopt the medium that afforded a maximum of popular circulation.” Rumble, Allegories of Contamination, 106–7. 34. Pasolini’s perception of cinema as the written language of reality will emerge more clearly later on, in Heretical Empiricism (1972), a text in which he will offer the readers his theorizations on cinema, and explain his poetic approach to filmmaking. As Rumble suggests, “The ‘heresy’ indicated in the title is not only derived from the scandalous nature of his work (regularly attacked as obscene, and morally suspect), but also, and more important, from the way he views film as the reproduction of ‘concrete’ reality. . . . Furthermore, as he often repeated, his turn to cinema, and the highly experimental style he adopts, should be viewed as functions of a desire to abandon his own language and national identity.” Rumble, Allegories of Contamination, 7. Discussing the relationship between cinema and literature, Nico Naldini adds that “if compared with written poetry, which is always defined by a series of national and historical limits, cinema proposes a transnational language, and Pasolini’s choice during this period represents an abjuration of the Italian language along with, step by step, its literature and all that is Italian.” (“Nel confronto con la poesia scritta che è sempre definita da una serie di limiti storici nazionali, il cinema rappresenta un linguaggio transnazionale e la sua scelta in questo momento ha anche il significato di una abiura della lingua italiana, e assieme, un po’ alla volta, della sua letteratura e di ‘tutto ciò che fa italiano.’”) Nico Naldini, Pasolini: Una vita (Turin: Einaudi, 1989), 243. 35. It is worth noting that Boccaccio’s Decameron had a revealing subtitle: Prince Galehaut (Prencipe Galeotto), which referred to Galehaut, a fictional king portrayed in the LancelotGrail cycle that, supposedly, favored the love affair between his friend Lancelot and King Arthur’s spouse Guinevere. By mentioning this fictional figure, Boccaccio’s intention was twofold: on the one hand he wanted to allude to the provocative nature (and content) of his work, while on the other he was possibly suggesting his compassion for women whose freedom was somewhat limited by social norms. Pasolini’s discourse on the seductive power of “the word” (especially when the language used is Italian) is also corroborated by his representation of Andreuccio’s episode, where the only character speaking the national language (rather than some form of Sicilian or Neapolitan dialect) is the prostitute, who deceives the protagonist by pretending to be his sister. 36. The narrator begins the reading of the second novella of day 9. (“Sapere adunque dovete in Lombardia.”) Giovanni Boccaccio, Decameron (Turin: Einaudi, 1992), 1043. 37. (“Dove ce stanno quelli che parlano toscano.”) 38. (“Signori miei, mò ve lo spiego alla napoletana.”) 39. Marcus, Filmmaking by the Book, 140.

Pasolini’s Decameron (1971)


40. As proof of the latter, just consider the deliberate unattractiveness of many of the closeups, showing faces of people in the storyteller’s audience. 41. Marcus, Filmmaking by the Book, 140. Moreover, “By replacing Boccaccio’s exemplary Tuscan prose with Neapolitan dialect, the filmmaker is figuratively restoring to the common folk control of linguistic usage—a gesture whose political implications accord with Pasolini’s overall popularizing intent.” Marcus, Filmmaking by the Book, 138. 42. Marcus, Filmmaking by the Book, 140. 43. Marcus, Filmmaking by the Book, 140. Thus, Marcus concludes, “Where Boccaccio homogenized and gentrified his culturally disparate sources, which ranged from gossip, practical jokes, proverbs, folk legends, fabliaux, chronicle, exempla, and romance to hagiography, Pasolini returns to the popular roots of Decameronian inspiration and restores that legacy to the mass culture from which it derived.” 44. Rumble, Allegories of Contamination, 131. Moreover, Pasolini strives “to resuscitate the collective dimension of storytelling, and constitute a ‘chorality’ (coralità) of spectators, in spite of the individualization of point of view presumed by the filmic technology itself.” Rumble, Allegories of Contamination, 130. 45. Marcus, Filmmaking by the Book, 145. 46. Marcus, Filmmaking by the Book, 145. 47. (“Fè sembiante di volerlo giù tirare.”) Boccaccio, Decameron, 198. 48. (“Li morti non mangiano gli uomini.”) Boccaccio, Decameron, 198. 49. (“il custode di un candore non offuscato dalla pratica della vita.”) Simone Villani, Il Decameron allo specchio. Il film di Pasolini come saggio sull’opera di Boccaccio (Rome: Donzelli Editore, 2004), 15. 50. (“Di rose, di fiori d’arancio e d’altri odori tutta oliva.”) Boccaccio, Decameron, 180. 51. In this part of the novella, Boccaccio is quite persistent in his description of the various fragrances permeating the woman’s house, probably anticipating the abovementioned misfortune that will affect Andreuccio later that night. 52. A practice that will occur once more later in the film when Ciappelletto “sings with the two usurers the same song that the street urchins in Accattone used to sing before they were about to lynch a prostitute (Feneste ca lucive), an obscure presage of death” (“canta con due fratelli usurai la stessa canzone che i marioli di Accattone cantavano prima di linciare una prostituta [Feneste ca lucive], oscuro presagio di morte”). Murri, Pier Paolo Pasolini, 130. 53. Marcus, Filmmaking by the Book, 138. 54. Indeed (according to Murri, Pier Paolo Pasolini, 127) the one described by Pasolini is a humanity that lives in an “age of bread, characterized by strictly necessary corporal needs that make his poor and precarious life necessary, an age that erases, with its presence, the existence of the consumerist idiocy, in which the fetishist substitution of the real delectation with the ownership of delectation occurs.” (“Età del pane, di bisogni corporali strettamente necessari che rendono necessaria la sua vita povera e precaria, e che cancella, con la sua presenza, l’esistenza dell’idiozia consumistica, in cui avviene la sostituzione feticistica del godimento reale con il possesso del godimento.”) 55. (“un viaggio a ritroso nel tempo alla ricerca di un corpo non ancora contaminato dall’omologazione culturale.”) Antonio Costa, Immagine di un’immagine. Cinema e letteratura (Turin: UTET, 1993), 154. 56. Rumble, Allegories of Contamination, 133–34. 57. Pasolini himself (in Scritti corsari [Milan: Garzanti, 1975], 259) states: “I do not believe that nowadays’ tolerance is real. It was decided from above: it is the tolerance of consumerist power, which needs an absolute formal flexibility in people’s lives, for individuals to become good consumers. An unscrupulous, free society, in which couples and sexual needs (heterosexual ones) are multiplied, is accordingly avid for consumer goods.” (“Io non credo che l’attuale forma di tolleranza sia reale. Essa è stata decisa dall’alto: è la tolleranza del potere consumistico, che ha bisogno di un’assoluta elasticità formale nelle esistenze perché i singoli divengano buoni consumatori. Una società spregiudicata, libera, in cui le coppie e le esigenze sessuali (eterosessuali) si moltiplichino è di conseguenza avida di beni di consumo.”)

Chapter Eleven

Pictorial Allusion as a Distancing Technique from the Chaucerian Hypotext in The Canterbury Tales Ilaria Lanzarini

In his essay on cinematic adaptation of literary texts, Dudley Andrew identifies three possible methods: fidelity, borrowing, and intersecting. 1 A faithful version presupposes the film’s screenplay should literally reproduce the salient aspects of the book; that is, the characters and their relationships, the narrator’s point of view, and a philological reconstruction of the geographic and cultural scenarios. Borrowing applies instead to the film versions of cultural archetypes, such as Tristan and Isolde, whose appeal to a wide public depends on their fertility, not on fidelity to the original. Fortified by the advantage of being able to make use of the aggregating value of mythic patterns, film adaptations of this type often take noteworthy liberties with respect to the source text. Finally—and this is the method adopted by Pier Paolo Pasolini in his version of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales—there is intersecting, where the director’s camera is like a flash of light that crosses the refracting chandelier of The Canterbury Tales: A large part of Chaucer’s work necessarily remains in the shadows, and that which is illuminated is the narrative material that most interests the director for the purposes of his ideological intent. Given that Pasolini translates into film only the fabliaux, omitting the “higher” stories because they run contrary to his poetry of exalting the body, I believe Andrew’s metaphor is particularly fitting in this case. The reproduction of the tone and spirit of the original is a difficulty shared by all three techniques. How does one judge whether Pasolini acted as a correct interpreter of Chaucer’s atmospheres? First, through an intersemiotic comparison between the language’s form of expression and the formal components of the images; 177


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and, on a content level, through an evaluation of the semantic correspondence between the imaginary evoked by Chaucer and Pasolini’s cinematographies, including the frequent pictorial allusions to popular Flemish society and the petit bourgeoisie of the 1500s (at that point corrupted by materialism) that masterfully lends itself to the representation of a rustic late-fourteenth-century England, which likewise lacks, in the director’s opinion, the innocence typical of simple souls at the dawn of Capitalism. Unlike Boccaccio, whose Decameron was anchored in a medieval conception of a tripartite division of society, where popular candor, although it may be boorish and malicious, nevertheless appeared bereft of capitalist calculation, Pasolini perceives Chaucer’s far-sightedness in predicting how the nascent bourgeois society would contaminate, with the infected miasma of exasperated egotism, the morality of all other classes. In support of this hypothesis I reproduce the author’s eloquent words, which place Chaucer’s sensibilities beside those of typical Renaissance authors: The world of Chaucer and Boccaccio has not yet experienced industrialization. There was no consumer society, no chains of supervision. . . . Chaucer is located on the cusp of two epochs. He has something of the medieval, of the gothic: the metaphysics of death. But often one has an impression similar to reading Shakespeare or Cervantes. . . . Chaucer still has a foot in the Middle Ages, but he isn’t one of the people, even if he takes his stories from popular heritage. In essence he is bourgeois. He foretells the Protestant revolution, and even the liberal one, to the extent the two phenomena are combined in Cromwell. But while Boccaccio, who was also bourgeois, had an untroubled conscience, with Chaucer one already feels an unpleasant sensation, a troubled and unhappy conscience. Chaucer foresees all the victories and triumphs of the bourgeoisie, but also its corruption. He is a moralist, without renouncing irony. Boccaccio does not foresee the future in this way; he represents the bourgeoisie in the moment of its greatest splendor, when it was just born. 2

If the comparison holds true for Shakespeare or Rabelais in the literary field, in the pictorial sphere we should unanimously hold the champion of genre landscape of the time to be Pieter Bruegel, the sixteenth-century Brabant painter and primary source for Pasolini’s pictorial allusions in this film adaptation. Taking into account the specificity of the two systems of signs, the verbal and the audiovisual, there is nothing to do but to resolve the intersemiotic problem, examining the relationship between the forms of linguistic expression (the phonetics of Middle English) and the film’s plastic and musical forms. Andrew seems to turn in exactly this direction when he speaks of the existence of “matching equivalents” between the two related sets; that is, of the signifiers that in the respective systems of signs occupy the same hierarchical position:

Pictorial Allusion as a Distancing Technique


One would have to hold that although the material of literature (graphemes, words, sentences) may be of a different nature from the materials of cinema (projected light and shadows, identifiable sounds and forms, and represented actions), both systems may construct in their own way, and at higher levels, scenes and narratives that are indeed commensurable. 3

I believe the correspondence between signifiers is particularly convincing where Pasolini manages to convey the archaism and toughness of Chaucer’s Middle English through static head-on shots that visually recall Medieval altarpieces and panels due both to the immobility and stylization of the image and to the use of primary colors à-plat. One thinks, for example, of the depiction of the Farmer in the General Prologue: seated at a desk in an interior, intent on his toilet while grasping a mirror, he is presented in profile, like an immobile icon, framed by the fixtures of an open window; his monochromatic blue garment, lacking in any light modulation, seems to emerge from a dark background, bereft of light, typical of certain fifteenth-century portraiture. If the iconicity of the image and the use of a few homogeneous colors, especially primary colors (see the wide area reserved for the color blue) direct us toward later Medieval painting very close to the portraits of Antonello da Messina—to whom tonalism or the anatomical rendering of bodies were still unknown—what can we say of Chaucer’s iambs in rhyming couplets? Let us analyze the description of the Farmer in the General Prologue: The reve was a sclendre colerik man. His berd was shave as ny as ever he kan; His heer was by his erys ful round yshorn; His top was dokked lyk a preest biforn. 4

The harsh effect of the Middle English is produced by a repetition of plosive consonants (k; t; d; b) due to their manner of articulation and velar (k), uvular (r), and guttural (h) consonants due to their place of articulation. Often, moreover, consonants occur in groups of three, as in the word “sclendre” in the first line, where the consonant/vowel ratio is six to two. We are undoubtedly dealing with a harsh language that must still evolve toward accessory vowels, the lengthening of some short vowels and the disappearance of the aspirated /h/ before a consonant. The same word, as it passes into Modern English, transforms into “slender,” with the significant loss of a plosive, /k/, and of a uvular in the coda, /r/, and the addition of a weak accessory vowel at the end, /ə/. Thus, we can affirm that Pasolini adopts a medieval pictorial allusion as a valid equivalent for Middle English phonetics. Another example of an archaicized visual effect is offered us by the scene of the sodomite’s public burning in the Friar’s Tale. The camera moves horizontally in a tracking shot passing by a multicolored, and static, procession of spectators and flag-bear-


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ers before fixing itself, insistently, through a framing in the middle ground, on the judicial tribunal. Here the archdeacon and his retinue are frozen in a frontal hieratic pose, and the scene’s stasis is further highlighted by the use of the primary colors red and yellow, of the secondary orange and purple, and of black. As Rudolf Arnheim has properly observed, primary colors act as poles of attraction for the surrounding hues, areas of respite where the chromatic dynamism stops, while secondary colors are hybrids in constant motion committed to a dialogue of attraction and repulsion with adjacent tones. 5 In this case, besides the neutralization of motion produced by the black, a noncolor, and by the yellow/purple complementary couple in a central position (over which our eye extends a sort of uniform gray patina) the only secondary color present is orange, in the garment worn by the man on the right. Adjacent to red, the orange brings to mind yellow (the other primary color it is composed of) entering into dialogue with the headpiece of the man in the rear center. This eye movement encounters a psychological resistance on the part of the film’s target viewer, who ultimately surrenders to the perception of the global sense of immobility conveyed by the image. 6 The scene’s resemblance to the immobility of a medieval panel is reinforced by a certain very precise technique: If we examine the upper edge of the frame we note a slice of fabric within which Pasolini has inserted the ecclesiastical tribunal. The interrupted frame seems to suggest the presence of a painting: a suggestion confirmed by the use of a tableau vivant, in which the actors are frozen in a pose for several minutes just as if they had been immortalized in a group portrait by a painter’s brush. Having verified the formal correspondence between book and film, it is now worth examining the instruments and places of the narrative in which Pasolini decides to cut the umbilical cord to Chaucer and tell his own version of The Canterbury Tales. Indeed, I will try to illustrate how the director offers his own personal interpretation of the work through a series of visual references to Pieter Bruegel’s Flemish universe with its degraded folk style and the philosophy of Erasmus of Rotterdam, an authority who is lenient toward the Brabantines’ mad excesses, in contrast to Chaucer’s moralistic attitude toward the world of the British common people at the end of the 1300s. It is now appropriate to ask ourselves the reason for this use of allusions laden with connotations that open up digressions into other eras, thus diverting our attention from the tradition of the primary story. The answer lies in the predilection for a cinema of contamination between cultures that are distant chronologically and geographically but alike in other ways: The connection between the two fictions include analogs of a thematic nature (the folly of the common folk and the bourgeoisie swallowed up in their enjoyment of carnal pleasures), same scenarios (the country hamlets, sprinkled between the taverns and the big farmyards where communal life was carried

Pictorial Allusion as a Distancing Technique


out), and climactic similarities (the same feeble, Northern European light and variable weather). The decision to move some key scenes toward the panel of a Flemish painter is justified by the lack of indigenous English painters who dedicated themselves to scenes of this genre; furthermore, the folk world represented by Bruegel participates in an essentially late-medieval dimension, removed from the rediscovery of Classicism promulgated by the Italian Renaissance and introduced in those same years, in Antwerp, by painters like Joachim Beuckelaer. If in Beuckelaer’s genre scenes the corporeal treatment of the common people appears ennobled, Bruegel’s peasants are on the other hand subject to a grotesque characterization, inherited from the carnivalesque, ludic component of medieval man. And Carnival itself is the chronotype 7 chosen by Pasolini in realizing Chaucer’s Tales where jokes, erotic obscenities, and scatological excesses are applied to the film’s ten sequences, which are truly cinematic fabliaux. In this general climate of escapism the employment of the poetic function of language, in which the slippage of meaning takes place along the axes of metaphor, is evident beginning with the opening scene of the Prologue where Pasolini/Chaucer, upon entering the village, encounters the cook, striking a “nasal” note. Pasolini’s exclamation “Nothing be buggered. I’m staggered all atilt, your nose is a battering ram” 8 lays it down right away with the use of a metaphor, which through the introduction of the contextual same “length,” creates a parallelism between nose in the usual sense of the sensory organ and a club meaning a percussive object, on which is superimposed a sexual connotation justified by the isotopy 9 of the carnivalesque. As Mikhail Bakhtin asserts in his well-known study of the work of Rabelais, 10 the carnivalesque is the dimension of the world turned upside-down in which social roles are inverted and corporeality prevails over rationality. The common people are often represented with hyperbolized bodily attributes, growths protruding downward, in search of a renewed contract with the earth—among these the phallus, the belly, and the nose (as a stand-in for the phallus). In the case of the Tales the carnivalesque dimension is presented to us right away, from that scene at the gates of the village, through an aggregate of figures: the buffoonish aspect of the cook with the tattooed face who, with an attribute of clear sexual valence, beats the “king” Chaucer—composed and elegantly dressed—inverting the power roles and liberating the body. 11 Those who accuse the Trilogy of pornography ignore that such a cinema “written on the body”—full of close-ups on sexual attributes—does not actually present anything new but inserts itself into the groove of the carnivalesque tradition and the daily practices of medieval man. One should instead examine the modes and the causes that, over the centuries, triggered an anthropological change in perception of sexuality, of such weight as to distance man from listening to his own bodily impulses. Michel Foucault 12 compares the rigidity of human practices in heteronormative models of con-


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duct to the rise of a well-known economic structure: capitalism. As asserted by the French historian, sexual identities had not yet been codified in the fourteenth century. It is with the rise of the bourgeoisie and capitalism that a division between the genders and the birth of a concept of class-based sexuality develops: Sex is not the part of the body which the bourgeoisie had to discredit or cancel to put to work the ones that dominated. It is the very element of themselves that, more than any other, disquieted and worried them; an element which had sought for and obtained their care, which had been cultivated with a mixture of fear, curiosity, pleasure and feverishness. The bourgeoisie identified, or at least subordinated, their body to their sex, bestowing a mysterious and undefined power over it; they made their own life and death depend on sex, making it responsible for their future prosperity . . . ; they even subordinated their soul to sex, claiming it constituted their most secret and precious part. . . . The bourgeoisie is busy to give themselves a sexuality and to build up, starting from it, a specific body, a “class” body, with its own health, hygiene, progeny and race: auto-sexualization of the body, incarnation of the sex in one’s own body, endogamy of the sex and the body. 13

Against the sugar-coated reality of the bourgeoisie, made possible by rates of production that rely on the exploitation of the proletariat and the occultation of bodily instincts, Pasolini contrasts a premodern and precapitalist society whose fluid economic structure has not yet effected a rigid division between classes: a medieval society, in essence, in which there are still spaces for carnivalesque rites, for folk traditions and the joyous exaltation of a sexuality freed from gender distinctions. But now we come to the analysis of the pictorial allusions: those “scandalous techniques” 14 that interrupt the flow of the narration through prolonged pauses and frontal framings that imitate the imperceptible movements of the eye when it scrutinizes a painting. In these scenes, language “seguendo un’ispirazione diversa, forse più autentica, si libera della sua funzione referenziale per presentarsi come lingua in sé” (following a different, perhaps more authentic, inspiration frees itself from its referential function so as to present itself as language per se). 15 How can one not read into these words by the author a reference to the plastic characteristics of the image, which, to the eyes of an attentive observer, channel effects of a meta-figurative nature in order to reawaken atavistic emotions? Pasolini seems to be perfectly aware how, manipulating the eidetic, chromatic, spatial, and textual components of an image (without excluding it from the referential plane), it is possible to create a polysemy to which he can entrust his poetry of the exaltation of the body. In this context, I will analyze two sequences in which the director recounts his version of the Tales availing himself of pictorial allusion: the Prologue and the Farmer’s Tale.

Pictorial Allusion as a Distancing Technique


THE PROLOGUE The film’s opening resembles the animated transposition of a Flemish painting of a folk flavor. Pasolini himself makes explicit his source of visual inspiration in the Tales script: Una grande locanda formicolante di gente (clienti che entrano e escono, servi, venditori, cuochi, lavandaie, ragazzi: una grande scena realistica ecc. da pittura fiamminga ecc. Cavalli, bestie, ecc. Suoni di antiche musiche popolari ecc.). 16 A large inn crawling with people (customers who come and go, servants, sellers, cooks, washing women, children: a large, realistic scene etc. from Flemish painting etc. Horses, beasts, etc. The sounds of antique folk music etc.).

The director is faithful to Chaucer in sketching out the profiles of the individual pilgrims, dropped into the swarm of the market square in front of the Tabard Inn, the meeting place. Already with the opening credits, the viewer is given a hubbub in the simultaneous audio over which is inserted a folk song in English. This is followed by Fenesta ca’ lucive, sung in Neapolitan by the Pardoner, which has the value of introducing a key theme of the film, the metaphysics of death. It then moves on to a scene of the two wrestlers; the winner one might recognize as the Miller, physically burly and with crude manners, which serve to introduce another of the film’s leitmotifs, vulgar corporeality. Attention is then turned to the Wife of Bath, who with her long-winded chatting and theatrical gestures, gathers an audience of spectators around her. Even children’s games aren’t missing from the scene, framed while a group of geese run through the shot. We are then shown the Farmer combing his thin hair with slow, haughty gestures, framed in profile, almost a late-medieval icon. Finally, the comic sketch of the encounter between the noses of Chaucer and the Cook, who due to his clownish movements and the tattoos covering his face, is an incarnation of the literary archetype of the fool. We can find all these folkloristic accents in the painting The Battle between Carnival and Lent 17 by Pieter Bruegel, in which some children’s games are depicted in the background, the table where fish are sold in the middle ground, on the left side the tavern with the depiction of the famous farce, The Dirty Bride, to whom the Wife of Bath is a nodding reference. The tavern, on the right hand, counterbalances the church, with its procession of the pious performing acts of charity. The contest between the wrestlers in the prologue is brought to mind here, in the foreground, by the clash between the jovial carnality of Carnival (the fat man who turns a spit of roast pig) and Lenten renunciations (the thin woman who wields a paddle with sardines). To judge by the equal space reserved for the solace of Carnival and for the spiritual dimension of Lent, Bruegel seems to represent a


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battle with neither victor not vanquished, reproducing the type of contamination between the sacred and the profane that was characteristic of the mentality of medieval man. As Mikhail Bakhtin asserts, 18 besides Carnival proper, religious festivals also had their comic and folk elements, which were celebrated in the squares in front of religious buildings. Among these, the “pilgrimage holidays,” for example, were accompanied by fairs with associated devices of public entertainment in which giants, dwarves, monsters, and sapient beasts were exhibited. Regarding the depiction of the two enemies, neither shines with quickness of intelligence, to judge by their dumbfounded faces. Anyway—keeping in mind that Lent moves from right to left (facing a cultural resistance on the part of the viewer), that she shows us her left profile (emaciated and presaging negativity), and that she wears an extinguished lampshade on her head (an indication of lack of sagacity), it almost seems that Bruegel’s sympathy lies with the frank corporeality of Carnival. It is very likely the Flemish painter had read a best-seller of the time, The Praise of Folly, 19 by Erasmus of Rotterdam, and agreed with his compatriot that a bit of “good” folly was necessary to lift oneself up from the graveness of daily affairs: The nature of insanity is surely twofold: One kind is sent from hell by the vengeful furies whenever they let loose their snakes and assail the hearts of men with lust for war, insatiable thirst for gold, the disgrace of forbidden love, parricide, incest, sacrilege, or some other sort of evil. . . . The other is quite different, desirable above everything, and is known to come from me. It occurs whenever some happy mental aberration frees the soul from its anxious cares and at the same time restores it by the addition of manifold delights. 20

For Erasmus, desperate asceticism and excessive mortification of the flesh (aspects distilled in Lent in Bruegel’s panel) are similar forms of folly that do not enliven common life. True wisdom seems to position itself on the middle path between persistence in sins and the solitary life of the spirit: Finally, the biggest fools of all appear to be those who have once been wholly possessed by zeal for Christian piety. They squander their possessions, ignore insults, submit to being cheated, make no distinction between friends and enemies, shun pleasure, sustain themselves on fasting, vigils, tears, toil, and humiliation, scorn life, and desire only death; in short, they seem to be dead to any normal feelings, as if their spirit dwelt elsewhere than in their body. What else can that be but madness? 21

If Pasolini’s prologue provides many episodes that recall the frank corporeality of Carnival, it nevertheless lacks a reference to the mystic dimension of Lent. The only representatives of the Church, in fact, appear perfectly integrated into the jovial, folk atmosphere: The Pardoner prepares a stall in which to sell his relics and attracts people with a song, while the Friar is an

Pictorial Allusion as a Distancing Technique


entertained and intrigued spectator of the bawdy spectacle put on by the Wife of Bath. In regards to both Chaucer’s text and the pictorial source, Pasolini therefore seems to take a step further toward representing the clergy as a class entirely lacking in spirituality. Let us now return to the initial sketch of the clash between the two noses and compare it with the analogous words in the prologue of the “Cook’s Tale” in the book. We shall discover that the director takes from the words of the Cook a significant cue for his subsequent pictorial allusion: Chaucer: Nothing be buggered. I’m staggered all atilt, your nose is a battering ram! [The Cook looks at him mortified. And Chaucer calms down immediately.] Say no more. I was joking, sir. You must not be troubled. Cook: Between a jest and a joke many a truth can be told. 22 The last sentence is taken faithfully from the prologue of Chaucer’s “Cook’s Tale,” where it is spoken by the Cook, Roger, in response to the host’s provocation: “Now telle on, gentil Roger by thy name. But yet I pray thee, be nat wroth for game; A man may seye ful sooth in game and pley.” “Thou seist ful sooth,” quod Roger, “by my fey! But ‘sooth pley, quaad pley,’ as the Flemyng seith.” 23

In citing the Flemish as an example of popular jest, where the verbal divertissement is used simultaneously as a moral admonishment of uncomfortable truths, Roger equips Pasolini with an additional visual storehouse— Pieter Bruegel’s Flemish Proverbs 24 —which he pillages to extract at least two pictorial allusions that were inserted into the film adaptation. This brings us back to Bruegel, and again, indirectly, Erasmus of Rotterdam: the famous theologian in 1508 published the Adagia, a collection of around eight hundred classical proverbs that would serve as a primary source for the subsequent visual distillation, by Bruegel, of approximately 120 proverbs of the Brabantine tradition. THE FARMER’S TALE In this fabliau, two young students travel to the house of a Miller to check with their own eyes that he doesn’t swindle their school’s bursar in supplying a fair amount of grain. Upon their arrival, they are welcomed by the sight of two backsides, which appear out of the only opening of the structure connected to the house, belonging to the miller’s wife and daughter. This detail


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isn’t derived from Chaucer but rather from Breugel’s Flemish Proverbs: In this work the painter distills, in one space and for the first time, a whole host of aphorisms of the local tradition, in part taken from Erasmus’s Adagia and in part from the comic literature of the time, in particular German and French literature such as Till Eulenspiegel or Gargantua and Pantagruel. But, note well, no one prior to the Brabantine painter had been capable of conveying, with such completeness and vehemence of characterization, the hypocrisy and individualism that guide human actions. 25 Another primary source is a print by Frans Hogenberg titled The Blue Cloak, published in 1558, a year before the painting was made. 26 Notwithstanding the similarity in sceneries, the print appears bare and didactic in comparison to the panel: we don’t see in play the narrative synthesis that drives Bruegel to depict two or more proverbs in the same image or to construct spatial aggregates around one general theme. In the entire composition one sees the colors red, the symbol of sin, and blue, the symbol of trickery. 27 The same colors are entrusted with the dislocation of the proverbs on the table, according to a counter-punctual calculation of the color references that are naturally interwoven among the various thematic clusters. As Mark Meadow effectively points out 28 Bruegel tackles the writing contemporaneously positioning from a thematic and a chromatic point of view so as to allow each proverb to enter into a dialogue with other sayings spread across distant parts of the picture and to thus direct the order they are read in. Let us now examine the cluster of the castle and turret to which the toilet containing the proverb of interest is attached: zij achijten alle twee door één gat, which can be translated literally as “they defecate from the same opening.” 29 The two pairs of buttocks that emerge from the outhouse, carrying out their business, can be traced back to the double meaning “to make virtue out of necessity” 30 and “to be inseparable.” 31 The first valence is reiterated by the figure immediately overhanging the toilet: a man in the window who, with one deadly blow, kills two flies (illustrating the saying “to kill two birds with one stone”). The theme of interchangeability of similes, on the other hand, can be found once again in the window of a tavern on the left, looking out of which is a hood containing two twin faces with contrary expressions, one smiling and the other distraught. This proverb—which literally means “to have a double face”—introduces the theme of trickery. Thus we see how the scatological subject articulated by Bruegel, far from being a technical scandal irrelevant for purposes of the diegesis, 32 supplies first and foremost to Pasolini—and to the viewer in the second instance—the keys for reading the entire sequence, where the theme of the inseparability of two characters devoted to trickery assumes the erotic connotations of the Miller’s wife and daughter’s buttocks. Aware that he is manipulating an ambitious language, closed off to most, the director introduces an intense note of color to guide the audience in decoding the text—the colors red and blue. The erudite

Pictorial Allusion as a Distancing Technique


viewer, remembering the symbolic value of these two colors in the Flemish painting, cannot help but grasp, in the correspondence of table and frame, a foreshadow of narrative developments: The wife will betray her husband the Miller carrying out the sin of adultery and the daughter will outmaneuver her father’s good faith. 33 Although Rumble might favor the meaning of the proverb less suited to the recontextualization performed by Pasolini, he nevertheless intuited that Pasolini’s close-up on the two hindquarters distanced itself from the scatological in order to foreshadow the erotic relations between the students and the two women. This intuition is in effect validated by the manipulation of the figurative level of the allusion apt to transform the two hindquarters into objects of a scopophilic gaze. The insistence in which the film camera fixes on the close-up of the buttocks, refining the circular form and the soft aspect of the pink flesh, has the advantage of turning the interpretive axis of the allusion from a scatological meaning in the original to an erotic significance. Pasolini eliminates any reference to the subject of excrement, which, on the other hand, is a fundamental presence in the castle cluster to which the buttocks painted by Bruegel belong, as one can deduce from the depiction of the adjacent proverb to the right, “throwing money in water,” where gold coins as an object of condemnation might be replaced by the excrement of the two asses. On the contrary, the director iconizes the two pairs of buttocks, adding sculptural details that carry a significance of abundance and beauty, thereby unleashing the sexual desire of the two young men, which will be satisfied over the course of the story resulting in moral—but also and most importantly economic—injuries to the clueless Miller. 34 The connection through spatial deixis to the proverb above “to have a dirty conscience”— represented by a man bent over by the weight of a sack of flour in the act of opening the door of the castle with his posterior—is maintained in the film: one of the students, after the titillating vision of desire, loads a sack of grain on his shoulder with which he prepares to climb the steps of the mill’s tower. The load ironically bends his back not because of its actual weight, given that grain is voluminous but light—influencing the young man’s posture; it is rather the psychological burden of a conscience stained by the will to commit sin arching his figure. And it is in the venial nature of this sin that Pasolini’s condemnation resides: if the carnal act is once again celebrated in the joyous depictions of the double coupling, sex reduced to a good for economic exchange is perceived as profaning the sacredness of the body—and it cannot help but render it ugly, filmed while it bends over itself. In conclusion, I believe that in The Cantebury Tales the choice to let the culture of reference slide from England in the late 1300s to Flanders at the beginning of the 1500s has a precise ideological motivation: Pasolini is interested in staging the dynamics of a vile humanity that has made of its body an object of commodification and personal enrichment. While Chaucer presages


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the spiritual corruption of the nascent bourgeoisie but cannot, due to obvious chronological limitations, represent its spoiled fruits, these are expertly explored by the stern brush of Pieter Bruegel around a century and a half later. NOTES Translated by Chris Tamigi. 1. Dudley Andrew, Adaptation, in Film Adaptation, ed. James Naremore (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2000). 2. Pier Paolo Pasolini, Saggi sulla politica e sulla società, ed. Walter Siti and Silvia De Laude (Milano: Mondadori, 1999), 1394–99. 3. Andrew, Adaptation , 32. 4. Larry Benson, Robert Pratt, and Fred N. Robinson (eds.), The Riverside Chaucer (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), vv. 587–90, pp. 32–33. 5. Rudolf Arnheim, Arte e Percezione Visiva (Milano: Feltrinelli, 2007), 268–302. 6. As illustrated by Meyer Schapiro in his Per una semiotica del linguaggio visivo, edited by Giovanna Perini (Roma: Meltemi, 2002), 92–119, the diagonal that ascends from lower right to upper left (the equivalent of the eye movement in question) assumes a slow and laborious path given that it runs contrary to the established order of writing in medieval (and present-day) Western culture. Unless the author is inviting us to assume the “reverse mirror” visual perspective of a particularly authoritative figure within the image, causing conflicting effects on the senses, we experience a sensation of disorientation, for example, when we see the figure of Peter standing to the right of Christ, corresponding to the left of the implicit observer, because of which we notice a cultural resistance to considering the left side as a carrier of positive significance. Albeit with difficulty, we try to imagine the image from the internal perspective of Christ, reversing the parties’ symmetry, in order to reconfirm the immanent emotional category: right = euphoric, left = dysphoric. In the frame in question, located to the right of the archdeacon (the central authoritative figure) is the Witch Hunter, that is, the spy who plays a fundamental role in the realization of the sodomite’s burning. Pasolini thus does not seem to take advantage of the topological duplicity to invert the indication of the message: he who should be the right hand of Christ’s representative is, in reality, the double of the demon and he appears perfectly integrated in the semiotic and visual left-hand side of the viewer’s field. If at first blush we were inclined to assume the prospective of the archdeacon, inverting the image’s symmetry, a greater dynamism is imprinted upon it and thanks to the direction of the chromatic diagonal which would move from the left to right highlighting the referent’s malevolence, we maintain an external prospective and we are captivated by the sense of the shot’s immobility. 7. In Estetica e Romanzo (Torino: Einaudi, 1978), 231, Mikhail Bakhtin defines the chronotype as “un’interconnessione sostanziale dei rapporti temporali e spaziali dei quali la letteratura si è impadronita artisticamente” (meaning “a substantial interconnection of temporal and spatial relationships of which literature has taken hold artistically”). In the chronotype the connotations of time manifest themselves in space, giving rise to the representational incarnation of the entire novel. 8. Pier Paolo Pasolini, Trilogia della Vita. Le sceneggiature originali del Decameron, I Racconti di Canterbury, Il fiore delle mille e una notte (Milano: Garzanti, 1995), 243. 9. In Greimasian semiotics, the isotopy allows the homogenous reading of a text through the recurrence of thematic or figurative categories (see the associated definition in Paolo Fabbri (ed.), Semiotica. Dizionario ragionato della teoria del linguaggio [Milano: Mondadori, 2007], 171–72). 10. Mikhail Bakhtin, L’opera di Rabelais e la cultura popolare (Torino: Einaudi, 1979), 346. 11. Even if it is in the Tales that the director begins to soften the jovial tone of carnival celebrated so heavily in the Decameron, in many scenes sex is stripped of its playful component to confirm itself as a practice of commodifying the body. Let us think, for example, of the

Pictorial Allusion as a Distancing Technique


“Wife of Bath’s Tale,” in which Alison uses sexual intercourse as a tool for social climbing; or the “Pardoner’s Tale,” in which the initial scene, an addition by Pasolini, amounts to a horrifying medley of five variations of lust in which the man violates the body of a prostitute. 12. Michel Foucault, La volontà di sapere (Milano: Feltrinelli, 1984). 13. Foucault, La volontà di sapere, 110. 14. Patrick Rumble, Allegories of Contamination: Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Trilogy of Life (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1996), 92. 15. Pier Paolo Pasolini, Empirismo Eretico (Milano: Garzanti, 1972), 182. 16. Pasolini, Trilogia della Vita, 243. 17. Pieter Bruegel, Battle between Carnival and Lent, 1559, oil on wood panel, 118x164.5 cm, Vienna, Kunstorisches Museum. 18. Bakhtin, L’opera di Rabelais e la cultura popolare, 7. 19. Erasmo da Rotterdam, Elogio della pazzia (Torino: Einaudi, 1964). In this short pamphlet of sixty-eight chapters, published in England in 1509, Erasmus adopts the artifice of ironic inversion to let loose a ferocious criticism against certain types of “folly” of his day: he ridicules nobles affected by love of self and flattery; the superstitious fools who buy indulgences; intellectuals who spend their whole life on books, making themselves useless for societal purposes; greedy mendicant monks, who with their sermons embellished with Latin, manage to extort money from poor people. On this last point, there are a manifold of points of contact with Chaucer’s “Summoner’s Tale,” in which an avaricious monk attempts to convince an ill rich man to bestow an offering with a sermon conducted according to the rhetorical artifices listed by Erasmus; that is, a soft introduction, the central body of the speech building a crescendo up to the accusations of ire and avarice recited in a triumph of shrieks. 20. da Rotterdam, Elogio della pazzia, 25. 21. da Rotterdam, Elogio della pazzia, 132. 22. Pasolini, Trilogia della Vita, 243. 23. The Riverside Chaucer, vv. 4353–57, p. 85. 24. Pieter Bruegel, Netherlandish Proverbs, 1559, oil on wood panel, 117x163 cm, Berlin, Gemäldegalerie. 25. In this regards, the astonished expressions of the characters in the Proverbs when they are driven by a brutish force are telling: this is the negative folly inspired by the vengeful fury of Erasmus’s pamphlet. 26. Detailed information about the sources of Bruegel’s panel can be found in Mark Meadow, Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s Netherlandish Proverbs and the Practice of Rhetoric (Zwolle: Waanders Publishers, 2002). 27. The panel is also known, through antonomasia, by the title “The Blue Cloak,” due to the illustration of the central proverb, in the foreground, in which a sinful woman dressed in red covers her husband’s shoulders with the blue cloak of trickery. 28. Mark Meadow, Peter Bruegel the Elder’s Netherlandish Proverbs and the Practice of Rhetoric (Zwolle: Waanders Publishers, 2002). 29. Roger H. Marijnissen, Bruegel (New York: Harrison House, 1984), 43. 30. Rumble, Allegories of Contamination, 58. 31. Marijnissen, Bruegel, 43; and Meadow, Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s Netherlandish Proverbs and the Practice of Rhetoric, 43. 32. Rumble, Allegories of Contamination, 58. 33. It is interesting to note how in this comedy of double deceit, moral and economic, the adultery is perpetrated by a couple of women, as inseparable as they are uninhibited, in defiance of the prevalent chauvinism of the era, overturning the power roles between the sexes. 34. Adopting the terms of generative narrative semiotics (Francesco Marsciani and Alessandro Zinna, Elementi di Semiotica Generativa [Bologna: Esculapio, 1991]), one can assert the two images, the source by Bruegel and Pasolini’s adaptation, articulate in separate ways the same general theme: the inseparability of two human subjects in the execution of the bodily function of defecating. When Pasolini tackles the process of realizing the theme in space and time, he refuses to represent the excrement—the object vested with aggregating value for the two pair of buttocks—effecting a change of the literary isotopy which turns the statement towards a new discursive configuration. In concealing the original performative act—that is,


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the joining of the principle actor (the two asses) with the object of value “excrement”—the director manages to prolong a state of expectation through a close-up on the tactile characteristics of the buttocks, sufficiently extended to turn the viewer’s attention from a discursive configuration related to intestinal functions to the erotic appeal of the exhibited posteriors with a particularly engaging restyling (smooth skin, round shape): a prelude to the subsequent scene in which the performance will be consummated in the sexual act performed in unison by the two women in the same room. Pasolini intuited that, expanding the time of the subject’s action and varying the illustrations of the theme offered by the pictorial allusion, it was possible to realize another potentiality of the lexeme “buttocks,” one more consonant to his poetics of liberating sexual instincts.

Part IV

Pasolini and Italian Culture—Final Thoughts

Chapter Twelve

Pasolini as Prophet From I Know to the Prophecy of Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom Daniela Privitera

Looking back on Pier Paolo Pasolini’s work forty years after his death, it seems clear that in the Corsair Writings he had already individuated the characteristics of the modern man: “consumer, conformist, secular, liberal, moderate, hedonistic, tolerant, uprooted.” 1 And yet his talent as an intellectual, more than as a visionary (as some would characterize him), 2 was not limited to that terribly current prophecy that we are currently living out in globalization and the commercialization of bodies in the name of modernity, which Friedrich Nietzsche had already named nihilism. His talent extended, rather, to the foretelling of the Italy of scandals, which would then explode in the Tangentopoli and the Berlusconi era, and also to that message for posterity, to that poetic admonition that can be read in his Prophecy, 3 which foretold the exodus of the exiles, the barges, and the freighters. Similarly, in his subsequent collection Alì of the Blue Eyes, by more than three decades he foresaw the massive exodus of illegal immigrants (the new underprivileged, central engine of the revolution), who at that time were exporting hunger and desperation and today have developed into the sociological concept and political phenomenon called the “Arab Spring,” and not only: Alì with the blue eyes One of the many sons of sons, Will descend from Algeria, on ships with sails and oars. With him will be thousands of men With the little bodies and the poor dog eyes of their fathers. . . . 193


Daniela Privitera They will disembark at Crotone or at Palmi in millions, dressed in Asiatic rags and American shirts.

The legacy of the disconcerting intellectual who loved to disturb the public conscience and provoke public opinion, scandalizing the arid conformity of the Italian bourgeoisie, was destined to loom like the prophecy of a sibyl over the society of the day “dominated by homogenization and unified thought.” 4 Therefore, as to the difference between “development” and “progress”: “Who wants development?”—asked Pasolini in an essay in 1973 5 : It’s the one who produces; . . . the industrialists who produce superfluous goods. . . . The consumers of superfluous goods are unknowingly agreeing in wanting . . . this development. For them it means social promotion and liberation along with the renouncing of the cultural models that had furnished them with the models of “the poor” . . . therefore the masses are for development . . . but they live by the new values of consumption. . . . And then who wants “progress”? The ones who want it have no immediate interests to satisfy: the workers, the peasants, the leftist intellectuals. Whoever works and is therefore exploited wants it. 6

To the lucid diagnosis of consumerism: Consumerism consists of a true and genuine anthropological cataclysm . . . and I live out, existentially, that kind of cataclysm which, at least for now, is pure degradation: I live it in my days, in the forms of my existence, in my body. 7

To the foresight, as far back as 1963, of that other Italy that Pasolini spoke of in an interview with Alberto Arbasino: “Italy is a marvelous body, but anywhere you touch it or look at it you see writhing the black, twisted coils of a snake. The other Italy.” 8 One must not forget also the piercing political x-ray of I Know, the article written and proclaimed from the columns of that “CORSERA” (il Corriere della Sera), 9 which today with the mouths of some columnists 10 condemns Pasolini as a terrible prophet. The legacy of the writer from Casarsa burns more than ever in current society with the reality of a degraded and reified Italy that, despite “having the proof,” goes unpunished because—in spite of everything—in the political and social context, “arbitrariness, folly, and mystery” continue to reign. It is easy today to verify the bitter truth of that anthropological degradation of Italy and the Italians that Pasolini talked about more than forty years ago. This is certainly the case today, in an Italy where there’s no difference between right and left and where the hedonism of consumption has pervaded even politics, which make use of the body to seduce, because, as Pasolini said, “The bourgeois centralism of consumption has created homogenization.” Yet the man who consumes but “pretends that other ideologies other

Pasolini as Prophet


than those of consumption are unthinkable” no longer satisfy; what arguments do we have to the contrary? If politics are the product of that secular hedonism that is deprived of every human value, why are we amazed at the poisoned politics where Minetti and Ruby each celebrate the body and display it in the marketing of consent and where the image is what brings the greatest reward? Consumerism becomes a new form of totalitarian regime that projects mass psychology because the “average man is a monster, a dangerous delinquent, a conformist, a colonialist, racist, pro-slave, politically apathetic” (La ricotta) who becomes subservient and inclined to tolerate the hedonistic ideology wanted by Power, which, according to the writer of Casarsa, is one of the worst repressions in human history. What is the ideology of the middle class today in Italy if not the petit bourgeois belief in identifying with the opinion leader, since in the political elections of 2013 about a third of the voters reconfirmed their faith in a convicted man? Besides, for the multitude of yes-men, it is important to know how to be “safe, extortionist bullies.” Who are the new revolutionaries? Through a closer look, in the Italy of today, don’t the radical chic of the so-called Left in power seem to have the same faces as the daddy’s boys who protested in the riots of 1968 against the police who were in fact defended by Pasolini? As the same writer would declare in a lucid analysis in an interview concerning the scandalous film Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom, deep down, “History” is always the same because “we condemn children because of a cessation of love for them. . . . There is not the least doubt that that occurs because of our error.” 11 And so, in the particulars of Italian history, is it possible to trace back to the guilty parties and ascertain who is responsible for this deviation? First of all, Pasolini attempted to give meaning back to words, restoring their primary sense. He eliminated political jargon and, without mincing words, accused the guilty parties of what, for him, was the irreparable political and “cultural genocide” to which Italy had been condemned: “I know”— he said—and that was the end. It was 1974. What did Pasolini know, and why, in the face of his “brazen” honesty, did the Italy of idiots raise their shields against him? He knew; he intuited with the instinct of an intellectual and the clairvoyance of a seer that the Italy of the boom was traveling on the economicmafioso political platform along with development and the bombs planted by the stragiste: “I know, but I don’t have the proof, I don’t even have clues. I know who carried out the attacks, who planned them, who covered them up and misled, I know because I’m an intellectual, a writer who tries to follow everything that happens.”


Daniela Privitera

It was the radical criticism of a free man, of an “incoherent” intellectual who was allergic to the system of the establishment. Ever since the times of the death of Enrico Mattei he had foretold the completely Italian schizophrenia of that “state” within the state that would eliminate Mauro De Mauro, just as it did Pasolini, Boris Giuliano, and then Falcone and Borsellino. The honesty of Pasolini the man manages to stun the consciences of all Italians when, with scandalous sincerity in August of 1975, he writes in Il Mondo the article titled “The DC Leaders Must Be Tried”: Andreotti, Fanfani, Rumor and at least a dozen other powerful Christian Democrats (including, to be precise, a few presidents of the Republic) should be, like Nixon, dragged to the defendant’s seat. And there be accused of an endless number of crimes: being unfit, contempt of citizens, manipulation of public funds, wheeling and dealing with oil executives, with industrial giants, with bankers, complicity with the Mafia . . . the urban and environmental destruction of Italy . . . responsibility for the horrendous . . . condition of the schools and the hospitals . . . responsibility for the decline of the Church . . . , a Bourbon distribution of public positions to sycophants.

Is this not perhaps the x-ray of the dishonest nation in which, forty years later, Andreotti would be dragged many times to the defendant’s seat and accused of collusion with the Mafia but never found guilty; in which Marcello Dell’Utri, faithful Berlusconi supporter and senator emeritus of the Italian Republic, found guilty of Mafia association, would be found “particularly dangerous” by the court of appeals because of “prolonged dealings with the Mafia organization . . . and for his constant projection toward the interests of his entrepreneur friend Berlusconi”? 12 The nation in which for the illicit appropriation of public funds, Luigi Lusi, senator and treasurer of the ex “Margherita” Party (which then merged with the PD) would be sentenced to eight years of detention for having appropriated, by means of the law on public finance, 25 million Euros from the party? 13 It seems to be the ironic fate of that Left that was the heir of the Communist Party, and that Pasolini, despite everything, believed in 1974 when he declared: “I cannot not declare my weak and ideal charge against the entire Italian political class . . . to the opposition, the Communist Party is a clean country in a dirty country, a honest party in a dishonest nation.” 14 And finally, there is Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom, that “substantially or naturally poetic” cinema to which Pasolini looked during his last invectives against Power. We will not know up to what point in the Pasolinian rerelease of the Dantean Inferno along the same lines as the novel by De Sade, the four gentlemen of Power (judiciary, economic, ecclesiastical, and aristocratic) who torment and torture the victims, reaching the apotheosis of contempt for the world, evoke the sequence of that dream Pasolini talked about in refer-

Pasolini as Prophet


ence to cinema. Of course, a dream can be prophetic, and poetry is quintessentially visionary. And in fact, Salò was the last of Pasolini’s prophecies: the representation of Power in all its possible forms. In Salò there is the metaphor of an apocalypse that today is called Big Brother, Bunga-Bunga, token democracy, or sociocultural homogenization through media standardization. In an interview, he himself declared: “Who could doubt my sincerity when I say that the message of Salò is the condemnation of the anarchy of Power?” 15 It was 1975. In 2015 who could doubt the prophet Pasolini? And what end have the intellectuals come to? The shared places only congratulate themselves, while it would be appropriate to cultivate the atrocity of doubt. That is how Pasolini expressed himself during a debate shortly before November 2, 1975. Instead of doubt, the Italy of idiots preferred the certainty of forgetting Pasolini, so as not to have to look in the mirror. 16 NOTES Translated by Anne Greeott, University of Arkansas. 1. On the extraordinary gifts of anticipation and intuition of change of Italian society on the part of Pier Paolo Pasolini, see Lorenzo Vitelli, “Pasolini profeta di un’ era,” L’intellettuale dissidente 2, no. 1 (December 2013), www.l’ 2. I refer to the journalist P. L. Battista, who in an article in the Corriere della Sera (“Quel Pasolini da dimenticare,” July 27, 2009) defined the prophecy of I Know as that of the “worst Pasolini, which should be forgotten, for the desperation of his too-numerous imitators, terrible students of a bad master.” 3. The poem appeared in the volume Poesia in forma di prosa, published in 1964. A second version of the poem is present in a miscellany of stories, screenplays, and projects titled Alì dagli occhi azzurri (Milan: Garzanti, 1964). For this topic cfr. P. Kammerer, Alì dagli occhi azzurri. Una profezia di Pier Paolo Pasolini, 4. Valerio Magrelli, “Pasolini profeta, corsaro, martire. Lo scandalo dell’artista totale,” in “la,” April 15, 2014. 5. Pier Paolo Pasolini, Sviluppo e progresso, in Saggi sulla politica e sulla società, ed. Walter Siti (Meridiani: Mondadori Milano, 1999). 6. Pier Paolo Pasolini, “Sacer replica a Moravia sull’aborto,” in Scritti corsari (Milano: Garzanti, 1990), 107. 7. Pasolini, “Sacer replica a Moravia sull’aborto,” 107. 8. Alberto Arbasino, Sessanta posizioni (Milano, Feltrinelli, 1971), 357. For this topic, see also J. M. Gardair, L’orgia critica tra Marx e Sade: Da “Scritti corsari a Lettere luterane,” in Contributi per Pasolini, ed. Giuseppe Savoca (Firenze: Olschki, 2002), 55–62. 9. As noted, the article came out first in the Corriere della sera, November 14, 1974. 10. Vitelli, “Pasolini profeta di un’ era.” 11. Pier Paolo Pasolini, I giovani infelici in Lettere Luterane (postumo) (Torino: Einaudi, 1976), 5–10. 12. Huffington Post, July 1, 2014. 13., May 2, 2014. 14. Pier Paolo Pasolini, Scritti corsari (Milano, Garzanti, 1990), cit., 91–92. 15. For this topic, cfr. A. Molteni, Salò o le centoventi giornate di Sodoma,


Daniela Privitera

16. I conclude my reflections with the title of the contribution of Andrea Meccia to the blog www.pasolini.puntonet. Dimenticare Pasolini. Per non guardarsi allo specchio, November 2, 2010,

Chapter Thirteen

Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Influence on Contemporary Italian Culture Virginia Agostinelli

On March 2, 2010, Italian Senator Marcello Dell’Utri, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s senior adviser and a well-known bibliophile, announced that he had come into possession of a note (appunto) from Pier Paolo Pasolini’s last novel, Petrolio (Oil). The manuscript was left unfinished after the poet’s murder in 1975 and was finally published by Einaudi in 1992 as a series of notes, which very generally outline the plot of the novel. “I have started on a book that will occupy me for years, perhaps for the rest of my life. I don’t want to talk about it; it’s enough to know that it’s a kind of ‘summa’ of all my experiences, all my memories,” Pasolini said in early 1975. 1 The manuscript was found in a folder on the poet’s desk and it consists of 521 pages, about one fourth of the two thousand that were originally intended. It is a work that is not a novel in the traditional historical and linear sense, as Pasolini insisted, but rather a “poem,” a form that consists of “something written.” In a letter to Alberto Moravia that was found together with the manuscript, Pasolini claims that Petrolio represents “a testament, a testimony of the little knowledge that one has accumulated and is completely different from what one expected.” 2 The note that was secretly handed over to Senator Dell’Utri by an unknown source is supposed to unravel secret and controversial information on the Italian multinational oil and gas company Eni, Italy’s largest industrial corporation, partially owned by the government. Many scholars and Pasolini’s close friends had always been convinced about the existence of this excerpt because of the references to it throughout the text. Yet no proof was ever found, and the infamous chapter “Flashes of Light on Eni” remains a blank page.



Virginia Agostinelli

Both the Italian press and the media showed an exaggerated interest in the news: suddenly, it seemed possible to many that perhaps behind Pasolini’s murder there may have been a more rational motive and that perhaps Pasolini had not been killed because of the inappropriate sexual advances he had made to a young Roman boy—a theory that was never convincing, but that nonetheless remains the official judicial version. It seemed possible and yet not obvious, since the note, which could have (and most likely would have) revealed the truth behind the murder, has already disappeared without anyone having read it, other than Senator Dell’Utri, who defined it “a disquieting text.” 3 If truth be told, Pasolini’s case had already been reopened in May 2005, after an interview released by Pino Pelosi on the national television RAI 3. Thirty years later, Pelosi declared his innocence and accused three “unknown” men of committing the crime. Literary critic and scholar Carla Benedetti, who has written extensively on Pasolini, noted in an article for the weekly L’Espresso on Mach 29, 2010, that the missing appunto that was never exhibited at the Fiera del Libro Antico in Milan (as Dell’Utri had initially announced) has some similarities to the private letters of the American author J. D. Salinger (1919–2010). In Salinger’s case, however, despite the attention of the media, the letters were displayed at the Morgan Library in New York as promised; “ma in Italia le cose vanno diversamente” (“but in Italy things take different directions”), Benedetti significantly concludes. In recent years, both the figure of Pier Paolo Pasolini and Petrolio have witnessed an increased interest and have become points of reference for a number of contemporary authors. Given the unconventional nature of Petrolio in form and content (a novel that, as quoted in the text itself, “has no beginning” or a narrator to tell a story, but rather an author developing the project of a novel yet to be written), writers of the New Italian Epic (NIE) consider it as a typical example of an “unidentified narrative object” (UNO). 4 In other words, Pasolini’s Petrolio is incorporated in the experimental body of literary works that are “fiction and nonfiction, prosa e poesia, diario e inchiesta, letteratura e scienza, mitologia e pochade” (“fiction and nonfiction, prose and poetry, diary and inquiry, literature and science, mythology and pochade”), 5 a category of experimental narration that the NIE movement also exploits and that eschews every label and refuses to be pigeonholed. Tiziano Scarpa has suggested that Petrolio can be considered an antecedent of the UNO for all intents and purposes. 6 Scarpa shifts the attention on Petrolio in terms of the linguistic and stylistic narrative innovation that the unfinished novel represents. In this sense, Pasolini’s denunciation against the devastating consequences of neocapitalism is no longer at the core of contemporary literary investigation. In fact, as journalist Davide Oliviero aptly points out in La Repubblica (January 30, 2009), the current generation of writers grew up within that very neocapitalist culture that Pasolini believed

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would sweep away every hope of a positive regeneration. In the documentary “Pasolini e . . . La Forma della Città” (“Pasolini and . . . the Profile of the City”), which aired on national television on February 7, 1974, Pasolini had made this point clear: The reality that he aimed to capture was rapidly moving toward the neocapitalist homologation (a key word in Scritti Corsari), and it was monstrously transforming into a collective identification. The new consumerist Power, 7 Pasolini continued, was generating a technique of domination that would ultimately destroy the pure and sacred culture of the lower social classes. As Pasolini nervously walked on the dunes of Sabaudia (an ideal fascist town, at least in terms of architecture), he sadly concluded that at that point “non c’ [era] più niente da fare” (“nothing more could be done”). Pasolini’s apparent pessimism and skepticism toward the future is overturned by Oliviero’s assumption that the New Italian Epic is indeed a direct descendent and a continuation of Pasolini’s intellectual thought. In the aforementioned article in La Repubblica, Oliviero writes: [Il New Italian Epic] è figlio diretto dell’Io so e di Petrolio di Pier Paolo Pasolini che forse mai avrebbe sperato che una generazione cresciuta in mezzo alla pop-culture—che lui vedeva come una mareggiata che avrebbe lasciato solo macerie—avrebbe invece adottato. [The New Italian Epic] is the direct son of I Know and of Petrolio by Pier Paolo Pasolini, who might never have hoped that a generation grown up within pop-culture—which he saw as a sea storm that would leave behind only rubble—would in fact embrace.

Italian contemporary writers, authors of a “nebulosa” (“nebula,” Wu Ming’s definition) of “unidentified narrative objects,” are by no means clones of Pasolini. If anything, they share with Pasolini the constant search for truth, the social commitment and pedagogical task of the writer, as well as the continuous stylistic and linguistic experimentation. As Scarpa makes clear, Constatare che oggi molti autori si muovono in quella direzione non significa sostenere che si cerchi di riscrivere o di portare a termine Petrolio, né che tra questi autori vi sia un nuovo Pasolini (chissenefrega, poi? Non mi viene in mente concetto tanto inutile quanto “nuovo Pasolini”). 8 To claim that today many authors are moving in that direction does not mean maintaining that we are trying to rewrite or finish Petrolio, nor [does it mean that] among these authors there is a new Pasolini (who cares? I cannot think about a more futile concept than “new Pasolini”).

Struggling to affirm the originality of their works, contemporary Italian writers do not deny a legacy with the two opposite (and yet complementary)


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models of postmodern narrative (i.e., Calvino and Pasolini). 9 Yet they maintain that they constantly improve and regenerate those models, ultimately achieving a unique narrative mode, which is more adequate for our days and time. During an interview for the blog “Litteratitudine” by Massimo Maugeri, Wu Ming acknowledged that the symbolic book of the New Italian Epic constitutes the missing pages of Petrolio. 10 In this way, Wu Ming establishes both an inescapable connection with Pasolini and particularly with Petrolio (a work that was directed toward future generations) and the innovative character of the “epic” contemporary narrative. The latter does not merely draw upon Pasolini’s example, but rather it continues (to complete) it. The adjective “epic” that Wu Ming introduced in the well-known “memorandum” is thus explained precisely in relation to Pasolini’s opus: Un’opera davvero epica non si conchiude, non si esaurisce mai, ci trovi uno scarto ogni volta che rinnovi il contatto, e ogni volta ti perturba, è un gioco tra come ti ricordavi l’opera e come quest’ultima si muove per sorprenderti. 11 A real epic work does not have a conclusion, it never exhausts itself, you can find a disparity every time you renew contact with it, and every time it perturbs you, it is a game between how you remembered the work and how the latter shifts in order to surprise you.

Given that Petrolio is a fragmented reconstruction of the (hi)story of Italy since the years of the resistance, it constitutes further proof of the incessant necessity to continue to explore the national (hi)story. Past, present, and future converge in this “epic” effort, the goal of which is one that Italians have always struggled to achieve: a national identity. Literature provides a key instrument in this effort, because of its ability to communicate with readers in a way that goes beyond any geographical and historical boundaries. It is in the light of this consideration that Wu Ming can indisputably allege the contemporariness of Pasolini’s Petrolio, a work that must continue to be written, improved, revised, (re)considered by contemporary Italian literature and culture: Oggi sono passati trentatré anni dalla morte di Pasolini e diciassette dall’uscita di Petrolio. Più passa il tempo e più questo libro ci parla. Più ci addentriamo in questa seconda repubblica (che potrebbe sfociare in una terza ancora peggiore), e più il libro si fa attuale. Chiunque tentasse di scriverne le parti mancanti per produrre un “oggetto narrativo” complementare, anche fallendo miseramente nel tentativo andrebbe a mettere le mani su una materia ancora viva e pulsante. Il “senno di poi” potrebbe interagire con quell’opera in modi davvero interessanti. 12 Today, thirty-three years have passed since Pasolini’s death and seventeen since the release of Petrolio. The more time passes, the more this book talks to

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us. The further we go into this second republic (that could lead to an even worse third one), the more the book becomes current. Whoever should attempt to write the missing parts [of the book] in order to produce a complementary “narrative object,” even if s/he fails miserably in such an attempt, would touch a matter that is still alive and vibrant. “Hindsight” could interact with [Pasolini’s] work in really interesting ways.

Wu Ming makes it clear that the “narrative objects” currently produced, are “complementary” to Pasolini’s text. What Wu Ming suggests is an open narrative experimentation in form and content. It is only by pushing creativity to the extremes that one can develop an ideal narrative style, while fully embracing the role of the author: the search for (a historical) truth. Because the subjects that Pasolini treated in Petrolio are still “alive and vibrant,” one must continue to question them, even if there seems to be no resolution in sight. Literature has the advantage of imagination; it is able to instill in the mind of the readers few key hints that will allow each one of them to envision a certain event in different ways. The relation between history and literature becomes one that cannot be set aside inasmuch as “i fatti storici contribuiscono a spiegare una discontinuità nella letteratura italiana” (“historical facts contribute to explaining a certain discontinuity in Italian literature”). 13 As Wu Ming and Scarpa continue their debate on the New Italian Epic and as they focus their attention precisely on the binomial history/literature, they once again take Pasolini’s Petrolio as a case in point. Wu Ming writes: La letteratura, come il potere, è innervata nel corpo sociale. Non è possibile né auspicabile “scollare” la stesura/pubblicazione di un libro dal contesto in cui essa avviene. . . . Non mi basta sapere che nell’anno X è stato scritto il libro Y: voglio sapere dopo quali complesse sollecitazioni, all’incrocio di quali flussi e per quali motivi quel libro è stato scritto proprio in quel momento. Non mi basta sapere che un libro scritto nel 1972–75 è uscito postumo e incompiuto nel 1992, ha avuto un impatto “sotterraneo” su alcuni scrittori in erba ed è stato compreso nella sua importanza solo nel decennio successivo. Voglio sapere perché, uscendo nel 1992, quel libro ha suscitato quelle reazioni; voglio capire se, uscendo cinque o dieci anni prima, ne avrebbe suscitate di diverse e— ancora una volta—perché. 14 Literature, like power, is part of the social body. It is not possible or desirable to “detach” the drafting/publication of a book from the context in which it takes place. . . . It is not enough for me to know that in the year X the book Y was written: I want to know after which complex solicitations, at the intersection of which streams and for what reasons that book was written precisely in that moment. It is not enough for me to know that a book written in 1972–75 that came out posthumously in 1992 had an “underground” impact on some budding writers and was understood in its full importance only in the following decade. I want to know why, coming out in 1992, that book caused those


Virginia Agostinelli reactions, I want to understand if, coming out five or ten years before, it would have caused different reactions and—once again—why.

A book cannot be separated from the context that produced it and from the social and historical reality that receives it. In the case of Petrolio, a text characterized more by what it is absent than by what it is present, the reactions that the book caused had radical consequences in Italy when it came out. The year 1992, in fact, coincided with the judicial investigation of “Mani Pulite” (“Clean Hands”), which led to the end of the First Republic and to a drastic restructuring of the Italian sociopolitical scene. Judge and neonoir writer Giancarlo De Cataldo affirms that through the example of Pasolini and more specifically of Petrolio, present-day Italian writers are fostering scritture che non hanno timore di interrogarsi sulle cause . . . scritture che, per usare un’espressione di Carlo Lucarelli, si fanno le domande cattive che gli altri tacciono. Dobbiamo prenderne atto (con una certa soddisfazione): queste domande oggi se le pongono in molti. E non solo fra chi fa cultura, ma anche fra chi ne fruisce. 15 writings that are not afraid to inquire into the causes . . . writings that, to use an expression by Carlo Lucarelli, ask themselves hard questions that others keep silent on. We must take note of this (with a certain satisfaction): today, there are many who ask these questions. And not only those who produce culture, but also those who use/consume culture.

De Cataldo’s invitation to “become conscious” of the changes that have occurred/are occurring in the Italian cultural and social panorama reiterate the fact that an unavoidable shift has happened in Italy since the 1990s, and to paraphrase the writer, it did not happen by chance, but out of necessity: Chiamiamolo neo-neorealismo. Chiamiamolo New Italian Epic. Le etichette lasciano il tempo che trovano. . . . Le lucciole sono tornate ma sono ancora pochine. Per il momento convivono con le mille luci che ne ostacolano l’accoppiamento, cercano strategie di sopravvivenza, e intanto riprendono il proprio posto nelle notti di fine primavera. Ci sono, e questo conforta. . . . Così come negli scaffali delle librerie fra lividi pamphlet contro tutto e contro tutti, manualistica della seduzione fai-da-te, agiografie di veline e velinari e barzellette sulla castroneria nazionale, da anni ormai campeggia il nucleo “hardcore” di una letteratura “non identificata” che si danna l’anima per afferrare i contorni troppo spesso indecifrabili dell’Italia, il mutamento antropologico del suo presente e le ossessioni del suo eterno e inattaccabile spessore reazionario. La partita è appena cominciata. E l’esito, tutt’altro che scontato. 16 Let us call it neo-neorealism. Let us call it New Italian Epic. Labels are temporary. . . . The fireflies are back but there are still only a few. For now, they live together with the thousands of lights that block their couplings, they

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are looking for survival strategies, and in the meantime they take back their own place during the late spring nights. They are here, and this consoles us. . . . Likewise on the bookshops’ shelves, among ashen pamphlets against everything and everybody, the do-it-yourself seduction manuals, the hagiographies of show girls and show girls’ lovers and jokes on national stupidity, for years now there has been the “hard-core” nucleus of an “unidentified” literature that is going crazy in order to grasp the too often indecipherable contours of Italy, the anthropological change of its present and the obsessions of its eternal and unassailable reactionary heft. The game has just begun. And the outcome is anything but given.

CORSAIR WRITINGS AND REWRITINGS In 2009 in Milan, the president of the Italian Republic Giorgio Napolitano commemorated the fortieth anniversary of the Piazza Fontana Bombing. During his speech, Napolitano invited Italians “to continue to look for fragments of truth.” The invitation of President Napolitano, the head of state and most respected institution in Italy, to “look for fragments of truth” sounds unsatisfactory, as poet Gianni D’Elia points out: Non vorrei apparire sgarbato se vorrei aggiungere che più che frammenti di verità, dopo quarant’anni noi vorremmo il quadro intero. Noi dal potere politico, da quello giudiziario, dalle istituzioni vorremmo l’intero quadro perchè sono passati troppi anni. E allora io ho una piccola richiesta non da poeta ma da cittadino . . . perché infondo chiunque fa il suo mestiere ma tutti noi siamo cittadini . . . come ha detto recentemente Saramago . . . nel discorso per il Nobel: “Io sono uno scrittore e un cittadino.” Ecco, allora da cittadino io chiederei: togliete il segreto di stato. I don’t want to seem impolite but I would like to add that rather than fragments of truth, after forty years we would like the whole picture. From the political power, from the judiciary and from the institutions, we would like the whole picture because too many years have passed. So, I have a small request not as a poet but as a citizen . . . because, after all, we all have our professions but we all are citizens . . . as recently Saramago pointed out . . . in his speech for the Nobel prize: “I am a writer and a citizen.” Well, then, as a citizen I would like to ask: abolish the State secret.

D’Elia’s modest proposal, in a manner of speaking, was presented during an interview by director Roberto Olla and inserted in the documentary for RAI television titled Nero Petrolio (Black Petrol, 2011). Therein, Olla also attempts to reconstruct Italian history as a sort of jigsaw puzzle: Several mysterious murders (from Matteotti to Mattei, from De Mauro to Pasolini) are drawn together with the purpose of creating a unitary historical portrayal. Once again, the search for a historical truth, that the “citizen” is called on to verify and question, cannot set aside Pasolini’s case. If one wants to achieve


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a sense of peace (“pacificazione”), D’Elia continues, one must first reach a complete knowledge of the truth. The adjective “complete” is essential in order to comprehend the role of the New Italian Epic. A complete knowledge of truth can only be such if one understands that there are three different and complementary kinds of truths: literary or journalistic truth, historic truth, and judicial truth. It is up to the citizen to nourish the historic truth with the hope that the judicial truth will be attained, and this can only be done with the cooperation of literary or journalistic truth. 17 It is up the citizens to find the perfect alchemy among those elements, because such knowledge of truth, first and foremost, belongs to them. NIE in Italy has become the new investigative historiographical instrument, and to this end, it often uses the figure of Pasolini to regenerate a literary and sociopolitical commitment. It is legitimate to affirm, that starting with the publication of Petrolio, Italian literature has embraced the challenge that Pasolini launched with his corsair oeuvre. Italian contemporary writers have successfully reinvented themselves not only as fiction writers (too limiting a category in the current era), but also as investigative journalists and historians. In a January 2003 episode of Blu Notte and in a follow-up book in 2004 (Nuovi Misteri d’Italia), Carlo Lucarelli explored Pasolini’s case in an attempt to establish a legacy and to pay tribute to the “intellettuale impegnato” (“engaged intellectual”). On March 31, 2010, in the national newspaper La Repubblica, Lucarelli published an article that harshly attacked those who were still skeptical about the motive behind Pasolini’s death. In so doing, Lucarelli offered a sociological analysis of Italian society at large. He writes: Però so una cosa. Che in Italia, in questa nostra strana Italia, le domande hanno sempre fatto più paura delle risposte. Perché dopo la risposta magari le cose si rimettono a posto come è sempre successo, ma la domanda provoca un sisma che non si sa come andrà a finire. . . . E un omicidio, dalla nostre parti, è sempre stato un segnale molto usato. Insomma, non so se Petrolio, con il suo capitolo scomparso, avrebbe rappresentato un pericolo mortale, ma solo il fatto di scriverlo, di ricevere informazioni da alcuni contro altri, di entrare involontariamente in una guerra segreta combattuta su altri fronti, già sarebbe un buon motivo per essere ammazzato. If there is one thing that I know, it is that in Italy, in our strange Italy, questions have always terrified us more than answers. Because after an answer, things may fall back into place as has always happened, but the question generates an earthquake whose end we cannot anticipate. . . . And a homicide here has always been a very used signal. In other words, I don’t know if Petrolio with its vanished chapter would have represented a mortal danger, but just the fact that it was written, that information was received by someone

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against someone else, that a secret war fought on other fronts had been involuntarily entered, would already have been a good reason to get murdered.

Here Lucarelli brings up a sore point. As Leopardi observed, Italians do not know what to do with truth; actually, they even see it as harmful. Therefore, they have always been presented a fragmented reality jarringly at odds with the entire mosaic that the intellectual was supposed to depict, in order to reveal, and eventually denounce, the moral degradation and deterioration into which the society had fallen. Contemporary writers are far from suggesting the idea of a pseudo-innocent intellectual who justifies and attenuates the (hyper)reality she or he depicts. During the 1970s and early 1980s some—as Gianni D’Elia observes—in Italy believed that “a revolution” would have been possible only by the means of politics; Pasolini intuited that a truly radical change was achievable only through culture. The authors of the so-called “nebulosa,” to use Wu Ming’s term, whose texts date back to the years following the publication of Petrolio, have revised the concept of “lotta” (“struggle”), no longer applicable in such a diverse context, and have made their objective the search for truth and justice, as well as to provide a detailed description of reality. Furthermore, with a revised narrative, the form of which is highly experimental, NIE writers have also taken on Pasolini’s invitation to look at reality in its totality, rather than deconstructing it in disconnected fragments. As D’Elia explains: Pasolini ha scritto nelle Lettere Luterane e in Scritti Corsari, che noi, per forma mentale, siamo abituati a separare i fenomeni. E lui dice: “Io invece in tutta la mia vita ho lottato contro la separazione dei fenomeni. Cioé,” e spiega, “per esempio voi parlate del palazzo e non parlate del paese. Pensate che sia diverso? Invece palazzo e paese sono legati. Non solo. Parlate del presente e non parlate del passato. Invece passato e presente sono legati.” Allora contro la separazione dei fenomeni significa anche che il delitto Mattei, il delitto De Mauro, il delitto Scaglione, il delitto Pasolini, le stragi sui treni, alla stazione di Bologna dopo anni . . . [sono connessi]. . . . [Si è] voluto impedire che si trovasse una sinstesi di questa opposizione italiana: Hanno ammazzato Moro, hanno ammazzato Pasolini e hanno ammazzato Mattei, cioé hanno ammazzato l’economia, la politica civile e la cultura. Questi sono delitti fondativi; è importante che noi non separiamo i fenomeni, che capiamo che c’è una linea precisa di poteri occulti che ha voluto impedire che l’Italia fosse un Paese normale. Pasolini wrote in the Luteran Letters and in Corsair Writings, that we, because of our forma mentis, are in the habit of separating phenomena. And he says: “I, instead, have fought all of my life against the separation of phenomena. In other words,” and he explains, “You, for instance, talk about the castle and don’t talk about the town surrounding the caste. You think that it is different? Castle and town are connected instead. What is more, you talk about the


Virginia Agostinelli present and don’t talk about the past. On the contrary, past and present are connected.” Then against the separation of the phenomena also means that Mattei’s murder, De Mauro’s murder, Scaglione’s murder, Pasolini’s murder, the attacks on the trains, at the train station in Bologna years later . . . [are connected]. . . . People have tried to prevent anyone from finding a synthesis in this: They killed Moro, they killed Pasolini and they killed Mattei, that is they killed the economy, civil politics and culture. Those are foundational murders; it is important that we do not separate phenomena that we understand that there is a precise line of hidden powers that wanted to prevent Italy from becoming a normal Country.

Whereas it is difficult to interpret and define the term “normale” as intended by D’Elia, there is instead an evident connection that he is trying to trace among areas such as economics, civil politics, and culture, that only when looked at with a unitary gaze can possibly provide a consistent depiction of reality. Ultimately, solving the mystery of Pasolini’s death is a matter of national conscience and identity. The interest of NIE writers in Pasolini’s case is an indispensable and necessary step in the process of creating a new cultural and literary national canon. After all, as Robert S. C. Gordon observes: “Canons are formed on the basis of myths, models and figures, and on the penetration of these within the institutions that disseminate literary culture.” 18 To conclude, I would like to bring attention to a curious yet interesting article by Father Nicola Spadaro that appeared in the Jesuit magazine La Civiltà Cattolica in April, 1997: “La letteratura dell’orrore estremo tra ‘pulp,’ ‘splatter’ e ‘punk’” (“The literature of extreme horror among ‘pulp,’ ‘splatter’ and ‘punk’”). The long-overdue exculpation of Pasolini’s figure does not only come from the literary, judicial, and public world, but apparently also from more conservative Catholic circles; what is interesting is the relation that is suddenly traced between Pasolini and contemporary young pulp writers. In 1997, the so called “cannibals” had just published their first anthology and the images of extreme horror and violence had initially shocked many critics and readers alike. Father Antonio Spadaro’s reaction is an invitation to the young pulp writers to look back at the Pasolini of Salò, or 120 Days of Sodom (a film that, like Petrolio, was released posthumously on November 22, 1975, a few days after his murder). According to Father Spadaro, in Pasolini’s last film, there is a level of moral tension that seems to be lacking in the young pulp writers’ works: Viene in mente . . . un paragone spontaneo con la violenza e le aberrazioni descritte da Pasolini nel suo film estremo Salò, o le Centoventi Giornate di Sodoma, e da lì gli autori pulp avrebbero molto da imparare sul livello di tensione morale nella rappresentazione di un cannibalismo estremo. Pasolini ha cercato infatti di rappresentare “il cuore della violenza” con freddezza e lucidità anche maniacali. Quando violenza banalità, orrore, sangue si intreccia-

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no in una folle anarchia del potere da parte di un male dai tratti assoluti, si compone una struttura infernale dantesca, che è grido, in un mondo in cui Dio è proibito, a una umanità umile e sana. Il film di Pasolini si chiude infatti con un’apertura alla speranza che risorge dalle ceneri, con una fiducia nella capacità dell’uomo di ricominciare, affrancata dalla tenerezza, sentimento che gli autori pulp sembrano aver perso di vista. 19 Here comes to mind . . . a spontaneous comparison with the violence and the aberrations described by Pasolini in his last extreme film Salò, or One Hundred and Twenty Days of Sodom and from there the pulp writers would have a lot to learn on the level of moral tension in the representation of an extreme cannibalism. In fact, Pasolini tried to represent “the heart of violence” with an almost maniacal detachment and lucidity. When banal violence, horrors, and blood intermingle in an insane anarchy of powers thanks to a pure evil [force] with absolute traits, one has an infernal Dantesque structure that is a call, in a world in which God is forbidden, to a humble and healthy humanity. Pasolini’s film ends in fact with an opening toward hope that rises again from the ashes with a trust in the ability of man to begin again, freed by tenderness, a feeling of which the pulp writers seem to have lost track.

Spadaro argues that the pulp writers are creating a vortex of images that “registers” the chaos of contemporary life with all of its violence, “ma alla fine esprim[ono] soltanto un distacco anestetico che ‘gira a vuoto,’ non comunica, non coglie il senso, non dà ragione, lasciando paradossalmente il gusto amaro e leggero dell’artificio retorico” (“but in the end [they] express only an anesthetic detachment that ‘gets nowhere,’ it does not communicate, it does not grasp the sense, it does not prove right, paradoxically leaving the bitter and light taste of the rhetoric artifice”). 20 But the reevaluation of Pasolini’s oeuvre with its ideal level of moral tension is temporary and, in truth, generic. In fact, during a recent interview on October 12, 2011, when asked if he appreciates Pasolini, Father Spadaro answers: Ritengo che sia incomprensibile senza San Paolo. Mi riferisco al progetto di Pasolini per un film sull’apostolo, ambientato ai nostri giorni, e che tuttavia doveva restare fedele alla realtà storica, per sostenere che San Paolo è qui oggi. . . . Vi appare tutta l’attenzione dello scrittore per il santo. I believe that he is incomprehensible without Saint Paul. I am referring to the project that Pasolini had for a film on the apostle, set during our times, and that nonetheless was to remain faithful to the historical reality, in order to argue that Saint Paul is here today. . . . [Therein] all of the attention of the writer for the saint is evident.

If Pasolini’s work is “incomprehensible,” how can it function as a proper model for the pulp writers? Moreover, assuming that Pasolini’s “last extreme


Virginia Agostinelli

film” (Spadaro’s terms) was able to embed a moral tension while contemplating a possibility of salvation (a concept that can be questioned and discussed at length), weren’t the pulp writers since the very beginning attempting to achieve such a salvation with the unhinging of moral codes, forms, and expressions of power? 21 Daniele Brolli, editor of Gioventù Cannibale, opens the anthology with a brief essay that is an attack on all forms of morality as applied to literature: “Le Favole Cambiano” he titled it, literally “fables change/are changing” but the term “fables” can also be given a broader interpretation of “things,” “approaches,” and more generally “literary texts.” Brolli writes: Il moralismo è quella pulsione sadica che spinge chi ne è vittima a conservare i propri cadaveri negli armadi altrui. Ed è anche l’unica forma di perversione socialmente ammessa, capace di relegare tutte le altre comparse sul palcoscenico degli atti proibiti. . . . [Accusa] gli altri di una volontà nociva per le persone e per l’intero complesso sociale. 22 Moralism is that sadistic instinct that urges whomever is its victim to keep his/ her own skeletons in somebody else’s closets. And it is also the only form of perversion socially accepted, able to relegate all of the other figureheads on the stage of prohibited acts. . . . It accuses the others of a harmful will toward people and toward the entire social group.

Contemporary Italian writers have abolished every kind of pact or implicit contract with the reader and the critic in order to start forging a kind of “laboratory writing” (“scrittura laboratorio” 23 ) that refuses compromises and exceeds the limits of the national collective imagination as Italians knew it. The goal is the creation of a new tendency of the imagination that in the end invites us to rethink and reevaluate the ethics and aesthetics of literature. In the end, one alters the question of whose responsibility it is to search for (historical) truth. “Io so perchè sono uno scrittore” (“I know because I am a writer”), Pasolini argued in the famous article “Che cos’è questo golpe?” (“What is this coup?”). 24 And we, as readers, can no longer hide behind the protective shield of the writer as a mythical figure: “Lo scrittore non è l’albatro di Baudelaire, capace di grandi voli nel cielo, ma goffo, con le sue ali, sul ponte della nave” (“The writer is no longer Baudelaire’s albatross, able to accomplish great flights, but he is clumsy, with his wings, on the deck of the boat”). 25 We all have the responsibility to continue writing and reading the missing pages of Petrolio, a cardinal text for the epic achievement, at last, of a national Italian identity. In the light of this observation, the connection between the literary “nebula” of texts appeared in Italy during the past two decades and the reassessment of Pasolini’s figure that took place concurrently in the country, is finally explained: “Noi siamo i posteri di Pasolini, quelli venuti dopo a cui [Petrolio] era indirizzato, e lo abbiamo ricevuto a brandelli,

Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Influence on Contemporary Italian Culture


ma quei brandelli parlano di noi” (“We are Pasolini’s descendents, those who came after those to whom [Petrolio] was addressed, and we have received it in shreds, but those shreds talk about us”). 26 In 1992, Einaudi opted for an all-white cover for Petrolio, a rather unusual choice due to the fact that “they get dirty and yellow easily,” as writer and literary critic Marco Belpoliti points out. 27 Yet, such a peculiar decision aimed to emphasize the nature itself of Pasolini’s last novel: the book is a(n) (open) space, which one tries to fill with a sketch, an outline with or without a conclusion. Petrolio, which in its turn draws heavily on another text (Questo è Cefis), is a palimpsest or, as Wu Ming 1 simply puts it, an unidentified narrative object. It continues to be re-used and re-elaborated. In the essay “Why Literature?” Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa argues that “literature is always subversive, unsubmissive, rebellious.” 28 Italian literature started embracing precisely those characteristics since the inception of the Second Republic the beginning of which significantly corresponds to the publication of Pasolini’s Petrolio. NOTES 1. Stampa Sera, January 10, 1975, quoted in Robert S. C. Gordon, Pasolini: Forms of Subjectivity (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), 267; or Stampa Sera, January 10, 1975, quoted in Pier Paolo Pasolini, Petrolio (Milano: Mondadori Editore, 2005), 617. 2. Pasolini, Petrolio, xiii. 3. “Uno scritto inquietante” quoted in Dario Olivero, “Dell’Utri, Pasolini e il giallo di Petrolio,” La Stampa, March 2, 2010. 4. During a seminar on contemporary Italian literature held at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, in 2008, Wu Ming 1 (a pseudonym of Italian writer and cultural activist Roberto Bui) suggested the definition of New Italian Epic to describe the body of literary works that had appeared in Italy since the mid-1990s, after the end of the First Republic. It is yet another interesting label that recognizes the drastic shift in Italian narrative, but NIE is an epithet that immediately started being used in conferences, conventions, and newspapers because it encapsulated the epic endeavor of the young authors who challenged mainstream literature and ultimately changed for good the direction in which it was headed. 5. Wu Ming, New Italian Epic: Letteratura, Sguardo Obliquo, Ritorno al Futuro (Torino: Einaudi, 2009), 42. 6. In Wu Ming 1, “Wu Ming/Tiziano Scarpa: A Face Off,” p. 19, accessed November 10, 2011, Wu_Ming_Tiziano_Scarpa_Face_Off.pdf. 7. “I write Power with the capital ‘P’ because I do not know what this new Power is. I simply acknowledge its existence” (Pier Paolo Pasolini, Scritti Corsari [Cles, TN: Mondadori Editore, 1975], 58). 8. Wu Ming 1, “Wu Ming/Tiziano Scarpa: A Face Off,” 20. 9. Cfr. Carla Benedetti et al., Pasolini contro Calvino (Torino: Bollati Boringhieri, 1998). 10. Wu Ming 1, “Wu Ming/Tiziano Scarpa: A Face Off,” 20. 11. Wu Ming, New Italian Epic: Letteratura, Sguardo Obliquo, Ritorno al Futuro (Torino: Einaudi, 2009), 73. 12. Wu Ming 1, “Wu Ming/Tiziano Scarpa: A Face Off,” 20. 13. Wu Ming 1, “Wu Ming/Tiziano Scarpa: A Face Off,” 12. 14. Wu Ming 1, “Wu Ming/Tiziano Scarpa: A Face Off,” 13.


Virginia Agostinelli

15. Giancarlo De Cataldo, “Raccontare l’Italia senza avere paura di sporcarsi le mani,” La Repubblica, June 8, 2008. 16. The metaphor of the fireflies is a reference to Pasolini’s article “Il Vuoto del Potere in Italia” (“The Lack of Power in Italy”), which appeared in the Corriere della Sera on February 1, 1975; after the disappearance of fireflies, Pasolini discussed the environmental pollution and the radical industrial changes the country had gone through. 17. “Esiste una verità storica che noi stiamo ricercando per la storia dell’Italia. . . . Questo e’ legittimo, perchè ci sono un sacco di ombre, un sacco di depistaggi. Questa verità storica, che la dovrebbero cercare gli storici, però è anche dei cittadini, o no? Io credo di si. . . . Da una parte la verità storica. Poi c’è la verità giudiziaria che noi speriamo arrivi. Ora, come può essere nutrita questa verità storica verso una verità giudiziaria? Dalla verità letteraria, che è quella che pratichiamo noi scrittori, anche giornalisti, che non vuol dire letteraria finta, falsa, fasulla, ma vuol dire aderente al vero.”There is a historical truth that we are still looking for in the history of Italy. . . . This is legitimate, because there are many shadows, much sidetracking. But this historical truth, which the historians should be searching for, also belongs to the citizens, doesn’t it? I think so. . . . On one side lies the historical truth. Then there is the judicial truth, which we hope will come. Now, how can this historical truth be nourished towards the achievement of a judicial truth? Thanks to the literary truth, which is the one that we, as writers, practice, as well as the journalists; literary does not mean fake, false, forged, but it means adhering to the truth. 18. Robert S. C. Gordon, “Pasolini contro Calvino: Culture, the Canon and the Millennium,” Modern Italy 3, no. 1 (1998), 96. 19. Antonio Spadaro, “La letteratura dell’orrore estremo tra ‘pulp,’ ‘splatter’ e ‘punk,’” La Civiltà Cattolica 2 (1997), 60. 20. Antonio Spadaro, “La letteratura dell’orrore estremo tra ‘pulp,’ ‘splatter’ e ‘punk,’” La Civiltà Cattolica 2 (1997), 57. 21. Niccolò Ammaniti and Daniele Brolli et al., Gioventù Cannibale (Torino: Einaudi, 1996), vi. 22. Ammaniti and Brolli, Gioventù Cannibale, v. 23. Ammaniti and Brolli, Gioventù Cannibale, viii. 24. Pier Paolo Pasolini, “Che cos’è questo golpe,” Corriere della Sera, November 14, 1974. 25. Wu Ming, New Italian Epic, 194. 26. Wu Ming 1, “Wu Ming/Tiziano Scarpa: A Face Off,” 20. 27. Quoted in Angela Molteni, “Il mondo contemporaneo in Petrolio, l’ultima fatica narravita di Pasolini.” Centro Studi Pier Paolo Pasolini di Casarsa collects all of Molteni’s articles in the “Archivio Angela Molteni.” 28. Mario Vargas Llosa, “Why Literature?” New Republic 224, no. 20 (2001), 34.

Part V


Chapter Fourteen

Interview with omino 71 Fabio Benincasa

omino 71 is one of the most recognized street artists roaming Rome with his various designs throughout the city. From cartoons to more politically charged designs, his work has become recognized by any Roman who travels the city regularly. In May of 2014, Fabio Benincasa (the interviewer) and I went to dinner at Necci in Pigneto, one of the many areas of Rome where Pasolini lived and worked, and as we entered the restaurant, we noticed a large street art portrait of Pier Paolo Pasolini wearing a Captain America hat that read, “Io so i nomi.” Fabio then explained to me who omino 71 was and his fame in and around Rome. Since 2014 omino 71 has grown in recognition, and his work on Pasolini has not ceased but rather grown even outside the city center to Ostia, where Pasolini’s life was ended. When I returned to Rome very briefly in the summer of 1975, my colleague Louise Rozier pointed out the work of Ernest Pignon-Ernest, a type of Pasolini pietà—Pasolini carrying his own dead body. The importance of omino 71’s work, and that of street art in general, demonstrates a change in artistic medium but also spectatorship, when dissecting the concept of “What is art?” The fact that his work, and now the works of others, reflects an open dialogue with Pier Paolo Pasolini underscores the overarching thesis of this collection, Pasolini as a poeta civile (civil poet), and as a poeta civile, there seems to be no better place of homage than throughout the city that he cherished so much in the neighborhoods where he lived, worked, and ate. 1 —Ryan Calabretta-Sajder

Fabio Benincasa: How did you become a street artist? omino 71: At the end of the 1990s, I began my first works on the street, but I did not know exactly what “street art” was. I would just leave my works around the neighborhood without much conviction. During the evening, I used to steal the billboards of the newspaper seller around the corner. I scribbled my “dolls” over them, and then I would leave them 215


Fabio Benincasa

somewhere else in the dead of the night, but it was just a solitary game, without artistic ambitions. My awareness of street art was born only later, thanks to the Internet; Myspace and Flickr were not only great windows of opportunity, but also the first real possibility to understand being part of something bigger and more important, to make contact with a variety of people around the world—including my own city—and feeling the need to do something similar. In this way I joined the “movement” from below, experiencing all its different forms up to the hand-painted poster, which I consider my ideal urban expression. Occasionally I also paint walls, but always and only during “official events” (festivals or commissions), and thus in conditions where less is the fundamental premise of street art, intended as a set of libertarian acts in which the absence of mediations between the artist’s work and his audience is desired and sought. FB: What does it mean to be a street artist in Rome today? O71: I don’t know anymore. Since, even in Rome, mainstream media and art have focused their spotlights on urban art, it is likely to confuse it with its derivative byproducts, such as festivals with international guests, oversized murals, urban regeneration projects, commercial sponsors, institutional support, and all the resulting circus of galleries, museums, critics, magazines, photographers, and editors, more or less “specialized.” Everything good and right, but the risk is that these new products are tout court historicized as street art, forgetting its underlying assumptions, which are, I repeat: libertarian acts and absence of mediation. Given the above, and completely changing perspective, being born and raised in this city, I have experienced in my skin that mixed feeling of love and hate that every Roman has for Rome and the consequent superficial indifference for art, an established urban feature in which we all are immersed from birth. It is a condition peculiarly influencing the activity in Rome of any (conscious) street artist. In other words, if it is true that urban art as a set of actions connected to a territory is a social and political practice, in Rome it also deals with other implications, making necessary a dialogue with the history of its places and people, a prerogative to which I respond with an exercise of contextualization.

Interview with omino 71


FB: We were impressed by your recurring depiction of Pasolini in a superhero costume. In our memory, intellectuals such as Pasolini are now part of a shared imaginary along with cartoon characters or entertainment celebrities. Can culture only be “pop”? And is that not a contradiction with Pasolini’s idea that “pop” was just cultural assimilation? O71: You are talking about “I know the names,” a masked portrait, painted on paper and installed in 2012 in the streets of Pigneto, where Pasolini shot his film Accattone (1961) and therefore experiencing that exercise of contextualization that I just mentioned. It is a work open to multiple interpretations, with several overtones, and intentional and never-solved misunderstandings. It is part of the “mash up” approach, or if you prefer, the “ready fake” approach. Pasolini’s post-ideological icon, the reference to Davide Toffolo’s graphic novel, 2 and the immediate association with the superhero are pretexts to introduce the mask of Oscar Wilde on which all my portraits are based, but also an allusion to the human need of faith in superior, godlike beings, be they men or demigods, protectors, or guardian angels; and finally Pasolini’s quotation, his “j’accuse,” decontextualized and clearly stamped on his own mask as a slogan, assumes new and destabilizing meanings. This work was then noticed by the organizers of the Festival Pasolini Pigneto, from which came a commission for a mural in 2014, which in fact is the copy most people know (demonstrating that often we talk about street art inappropriately). Forty years have passed since Pasolini was killed, and as his ghost has never stopped talking to us, I wonder what he would have written during this half-century in which the pensée unique has taken over in its global form, while the whole world seems resigned. In other words, all my work—made of highbrow and lowbrow quotations, sacred and profane contaminations, mainstream media influences and treasures of the underground—would rightly be defined as a subcultural product, a disposable fetish (which it probably is), unless we do not start from different premises, the experience of failure and of our limits, trying to carry on through the hybridization of existing aesthetic elements, like children playing with old broken toys that were dismantled for creating new ones. This is the formal constant of neo-pop, perhaps closer to the experience of punk than to the classical conception of popular art, now coinciding with mainstream aesthetics. Who knows what Pasolini would have thought of the Simpsons, of social media, Berlusconi, or GG Allin?


Fabio Benincasa

FB: Pasolini insisted on the duty and the need to give public scandal. Does the scandal become the superhero in your graffiti? In a sense, all street art is based on this idea of public scandal. O71: I do not know if today it still makes sense to speak of public scandal or more correctly of social provocation, because desecrating and provoking seem to be the basis of a certain way of doing street art—definitely mine, but not street art as a whole, however. Street art is not a monolith, but rather a plural practice combining extremely diversified forms, sometimes connected to already historicized phenomena, other times reworked, re-elaborated, and waiting to be historicized in their turn, in whole or in part. On the other hand, I recognize in Pasolini a true cultural agitator and that is what I aspire to be, on a smaller scale, with my interventions in public space. FB: Must street artists’ pop-heroism, in today’s culture, necessarily coincide with a voluntary self-exclusion? Will this fracture between artist, society, and public always be unbridgeable? O71: What a hard question! I do not know if I am able to answer, and I do not even know if this fracture you are referring to is more a real fact or a romantic idea that has been spread in our imaginary as a result of the new urban legends about the figure of the street artist. I believe that urban art was born from the desire to eliminate mediation, going straight to the public and in particular to the least prepared person in every sense, focusing on distracting or better awakening the little man in his utilitarian path home/work/home, revitalizing the urban context as a social and recreational space. FB: Pasolini pursued a preferential relationship with the borgate and suburbs of Rome because he considered them as uncontaminated environments from the germs of petit bourgeois society. Forty years later, we see that street artists often work in the same suburbs (for instance, your interventions in Pigneto or in the Garbatella), but obviously the conditions are much different. It seems to me that rather than working on purity, you and your colleagues work on a permanent contamination of all cultures. What are your thoughts? O71: Pasolini was killed when I was four years old and he was fifty-three, of which at least twenty-five years he spent in Rome. Forty years passed, and those borgate have now become something very different: new cultural venues, nightlife districts where shops and stores give way to restau-

Interview with omino 71


rants and trendy bars, where the shacks have become rooms to rent to students, and so on. Therefore, I do not think there is a direct link between the relationship Pasolini had with these areas and street artists who instead are simply looking for the greatest possible visibility in the placement of their works; this visibility is assured in crowded places, with a high degree of youth presence. In this sense, I consider myself an uncommon street artist because of the placement of my installations; I prefer the streets that evoke a story that I experienced personally or by means of a narration, or places that offer a pretext to tell a new story even through their names. FB: Pasolini in his The Dream of the Centaur states: “I defend the sacred because it is the part of man that offers less resistance to the profanation of power.” I wonder what relationship you have with the sacred image, since you were involved in projects focusing on Byzantine icons, on the Apocalypse, and other sacred iconologies. O71: The works you are referring to are all related to eikonprOJeKt, a project conceived in 2009 along with a couple of friends (Roman street artist Mr.Klevra and American photographer Jessica Stewart) with the intention of bringing Byzantine iconography to the streets of Rome, reinterpreted in a contemporary way, through installations based on acrylic, adhesive, and photography. The collective choice to spread Byzantine iconography out on the streets has a special significance as it represents our more authentic attempt to make street art compatible with the territory. The sacred image that is the basis of each icon brings a cultural heritage and traditions that fit well with the urban texture of our city, where every square exhibited one or more sacred images and where for centuries artists and architects dealt with the sacred to achieve universally acknowledged masterpieces. All this regardless of questions of faith: For clarity I make no profession of faith, nor do I have any intention of proselytizing, because I for one continue to foster doubts. In other words, it was as good a way as any to exercise that contextualization that I have mentioned several times and that I have also experienced recently in Barcelona, where I based my works on the Catalan Romanesque. NOTES Translated by Fabio Benincasa. 1. You can find omino 71’s works via Facebook, Flickr, and various blogs by doing a simple Google search. 2. Davide Toffolo is an Italian author of comics and pop musician. omino 71 is referring to Toffolo’s popular graphic novel Pasolini (Bologna: Coconino Press, 2010).

Chapter Fifteen

Pasolini’s Last Interview Death, Eros, and Literary Enterprise in the Opus of Pier Paolo Pasolini—A Conversation with Dacia Maraini Ryan Calabretta-Sajder

Dacia Maraini is one of the leading female authors in Italy today, if not the leading female author. The importance of her works has been recognized through numerous awards both in Italy and internationally, including a variety of genres. As evidenced in the following interview, Maraini had a very close relationship with Pier Paolo Pasolini, both a personal and a professional one, even collaborating together on one of his final scripts. Even in more recent years, Dacia Maraini and a small group of friends have tried to reopen the case concerning Pasolini’s assassination but to no avail. In the following conversation, we discuss both her relationship with Pasolini and Pasolini’s lasting impressions on contemporary Italian culture. 1

Ryan Calabretta-Sajder: How did you originally meet Pier Paolo? What were your first impressions? How did he treat you as a young, female writer who was “new” to the literary scene? Dacia Maraini: I met Pasolini [in Rome] in the 1960s among artists that frequented Bar Rosati in Piazza del Popolo. It was a bar frequented by writers, journalists, painters, and filmmakers. There I would meet Federico Fellini, Alberto Moravia, Giorgio Bassani, Luchino Visconti, Elsa Morante, Italo Calvino, Renato Guttuso, and many others. C-S: How and why do you think your relationship grew?



Ryan Calabretta-Sajder

M: Pier Paolo was a close friend of Alberto Moravia with whom I lived. We shared a passion for travel, and we traveled at large together, all over the world, even as far as the Orient and Africa. C-S: Pasolini was known to be very critical, even of his fellow friends’ work. Did you ever feel that he was too critical of one of your works? Why? M: When my book Memorie di una ladra came out, he told me that he liked the picturesque rhythm of the novel and wanted me to collaborate on the screenplay of his next film, Il fiore delle Mille e una notte. One time he criticized some of my poems because he hated claims of any type. He maintained the same attitude in regards to associations being homosexual. He did not want any of that. C-S: Pasolini was very attached to both Alberto Moravia and Elsa Morante. In fact, Moravia gave one of the most noteworthy eulogies at his funeral. Can you describe both the professional and personal relationships they shared? On the other hand, why did a variety of other noteworthy literary figures keep their distance from Pasolini? M: Pasolini was very close to Alberto, as I already said. They had an affinity, a shared ideal that the writer should have a critical eye on his times and society in which he lived, the idea that you had to know the world to learn about Italy, the idea that cinema and literature were to testify about problems, losses, achievements, joys, and sorrows of his age. It is not true that other writers were hostile toward him. Only members of vanguard, those who were members of the Group 63, were angry with him, attacked him publicly, and challenged him. I remember one very unpleasant confrontation between the poet Elio Pagliarini and Pasolini one day in a library. But other writers, those outside of the Gruppo 63, from Bassani to Sciascia, from Pratolini to Cassola, Natalia Ginzburg to Calvino, they had an attitude of friendship and esteem for him. C-S: Let’s talk a bit about Pasolini and his legacy. The title of this collection is Pasolini’s Lasting Impressions: Death, Eros, and Literary Enterprise in the Opus of Pier Paolo Pasolini. There are essays that cross genres and historical periods. Thus, let’s go back a bit. Pasolini crossed many genres and in fact his artistic interests came in periods. While he was living, which aspect of Pasolini was considered his most important genius (i.e., director, novelist, poet, short story writer, political activist,

Pasolini’s Last Interview


journalist, etc.)? Why? Which work(s) in particular best highlights his genius in that medium/field? M: Certainly his cinema was more known by the general public and there was much talk of that. But remember that Pasolini was born a poet. For me, his poetry was important: It is a civic poetry, attentive to the major themes of current events, to the relationship with power, politics in the broadest sense of the term, but not devoid of lyricism and a great aesthetic awareness. C-S: Some of Pasolini’s least-studied work is his theater, which has a unique story. You worked specifically with Pasolini on a theater group. How did that opportunity arise? What was Pasolini like working in the theatrical environment? Was his role on the theatrical stage very different from the cinematic stage? M: I have not worked with Pasolini in the theater because when I started doing theater, Pasolini had not yet written any drama. Only at the end of the sixties, while being housebound with a bleeding ulcer, did he write drama: five plays in three months. Some of his plays were performed almost immediately, others years later. But in the meantime, he never stopped making films. In short, the theater was a side activity, provisionally, that did not count much in his career. So much so that he never worked hard to put them on stage himself; other directors did for various theaters. My preferred theatrical text of his is Calderón, a rewrite of Life Is a Dream by Calderón de la Barca, an author whom we both loved very much and whom we spoke at length about on many occasions. C-S: Which facet of Pasolini’s genius do you think is most relevant today? Which aspect of his genius has permeated contemporary Italian culture the most? M: I do not think you can divide an author by genre. Pasolini is a collection of talent that complements itself: refined poet, linguistically experimental novelist, creative filmmaker, provocative playwright, and he is always to be taken as a whole. C-S: This collection comes as a memory of Pasolini forty years after his death. Could you share with us your thoughts on his death and why you have tried to reopen the case?


Ryan Calabretta-Sajder

M: When Pasolini died and the boy Pelosi said he had killed him, we, his closest friends, did not believe this. The fact is that Pier Paolo had not been killed by a gun but there was a struggle, a struggle that had lasted for a long time: he was alone against a group of people who had attacked him with punches, kicks, and blows with pieces wood. By the end, Pier Paolo was a fountain of blood, while the one who confessed to his murder did not even have a bloodstain. His body was intact; he did not bear any sign of a struggle. This is why we thought that his admission was unconnected with the facts. It was clear that he was lying. Meanwhile, we thought of many hypotheses: that he had been killed by a group of neo-Nazis pushed by hatred against the artist’s homosexuality; or that he was killed at the instigation of the secret services because he knew some truth about the Mattei case, or because his critical voice of the Christian Democratic government grew more provocative, edgy, and dangerous daily. But still today we do not have a clear answer. Thirty years after the murder, Pelosi admitted that it was not him; he said that there were, as we imagined, other people with him but did not name names, and as such, the mystery remains intact. C-S: What is your greatest memory of Pier Paolo? M: For me, he was a valued friend: silent, but very present, affectionate, helpful, and a great traveling companion. C-S: If you had to describe Pasolini with one word, which one would you choose and why? M: I would use the word courage. He was a man of great courage, both physical and spiritual. C-S: Pasolini was a self-declared homosexual yet he never supported the gay movement in Italy. Why do you think this was? M: As I said before, Pasolini did not like collective claims. He publicly criticized the claims of the students when they demonstrated in Valle Giulia in a famous poem in defense of the police he called “I veri figli del popolo.” He did not like whatever sounded ideological, precoded, even in the realm of thought/logic. Let's say he was an extremely experimental man, who practiced a true freedom of thought, intolerant of any membership, whether it was the right or left, religious or political.

Pasolini’s Last Interview


C-S: How do you think Pasolini’s legacy continues in the academic community in Italy? Is this different from his legacy in the United States or England? M: I honestly cannot answer that. Answers will probably arrive in the years to come. The fame of Pasolini is increasing, and we still do not know how it will evolve. C-S: What do you think about the various street artists portraying Pasolini in Rome both last year and this year? M: Unfortunately, I have not seen a single one. But I think it is a moving tribute to the great poet. The voice of the street has its depth. C-S: Many of the articles in this collection cite Pasolini as a poeta profeta. What would Pasolini say about our contemporary society? M: I cannot speak in the place of Pasolini, but he was always unpredictable and original in his own time. I do know, however, that he would certainly say something illuminating, but unfortunately he is not here and we miss him. 1. In fact, this interview was originally conducted at Middlebury College in 2009 when Dacia Maraini was the author in residence and taught one course. In 2003, however, she received a Laurea Honoris Causa from Middlebury.


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A future memoria: Pier Paolo Pasolini, 47, 59n1, 234 Abiura, 127, 130n28, 174n34, 234 adaptation, 3, 5, 6, 78, 79, 89n80, 109, 163, 164, 171n4, 173n22, 173n25, 177, 178, 185, 188n1, 188n3, 189n34, 227, 233, 250 Accattone, 5, 48, 52, 98, 119, 123, 125, 130n16, 164, 173n27, 175n52, 217, 233, 234 Aeschylus, 63, 64, 65, 66, 68, 69, 70, 72, 75, 76, 77, 78, 80, 82, 83, 83n5, 84n9, 84n10, 84n19, 85n22, 85n24, 85n26, 87n49, 88n63, 88n77, 88n78, 89n80, 89n82, 89n85, 90n96, 227 Affabulazione, 45n2, 54, 58, 92, 154, 162n33, 234 Agamemnon, 63, 64, 66, 72, 75, 78, 79, 80, 81, 88n77, 88n78, 230, 235 Alberti, Leon Battista, 123 Alì of the Blue Eyes, 193 Alighieri, Dante, 29, 48, 137, 138, 172n19; Dantesque, 208, 209; Dantean Inferno, 196 allegory, 48, 140, 250 altruism, 39 Amado mio, 47 Andrew, Dudley, 177, 188n1, 227 Andreuccio da Perugia, 133, 164, 166, 167, 168, 169, 170, 174n35, 175n51 antifacism, 140

Antonioni, Michelangelo, 113, 119 Antwerp, 180 apáthesia, 139 Appunti per un film sull’India, 55 Appunti per un’Orestiade africiana, 55, 83n5 Appunti sulla Divina Mimesis, 31, 34n55, 55, 83n5, 228 Arbasino, Alberto, 194, 197n8, 227 archaism, 131, 179 archetype, 40, 92, 171n7, 177, 183 Arendt, Hannah, 140 Argonauts, 154, 155 Aristotle, 72, 87n46, 88n52, 232, 233, 234 Arnheim, Rudolf, 180, 188n5, 227 Artaud, Antonin, 121, 129n11, 227 ascension, 44 asceticism, 139, 184 Athena, 63, 64, 65, 66, 69, 71, 73, 74, 75, 80, 84n19, 88n58, 238 auteur(s), 107, 119, 120, 121, 122 autobiography, 37, 38 avant-garde, 5, 92, 129n9, 131, 132, 136, 139, 140, 141, 142, 144, 171n1 Bacon, Helen, 73, 88n51, 88n53, 227 Bakhtin, Mikhail, 180, 183, 188n7, 188n10, 189n18, 227 Baroque, 21, 132, 249 Barthes, Roland, 4, 5, 50, 59n5, 59n6, 132, 146n16, 146n17, 146n22, 228, 236 239



Basilio, 93, 94, 99, 100, 101 Bassani, Giorgio, 221, 222 Bataille, Georges, 5, 121, 129n11, 137, 139, 142, 143, 144, 147n27, 228 Baudelaire, Charles, 86n37, 210, 237 Bauhaus, 143, 144 Bava, Mario, 5, 120, 122 Beast, 30, 89n85, 90n96, 152, 155, 160, 183, 232 Beck, Julian, 83n5, 149 Beckett, Samuel, 132 Bellocchio, Marco, 129n12, 144, 250 Belpoliti, Marco, 211, 228 Bene, Carmelo, 149 Benedetti, Carla, 200, 228 Benini, Stefania, 9n9, 32n13, 228 Benjamin, Walter, 119 Berlusconi, Silvio, 193, 196, 199, 217, 236 Bestia da Stile, 4, 37, 38, 39, 45n2, 45n5, 92, 125, 130n21, 234, 235 bestiality, 135 bibliography (see essential bibliography) bibliografia essenziale (see essential bibliography) Big Brother, 197 biopower, 128, 145 Bo, Carlo, 164, 172n14, 228 Bologna, 2, 9n12, 9n13, 18, 49, 85n26, 189n34, 207, 219n2, 228, 233, 236, 250 Bonino, Guido Davico, 94, 102n20, 102n21, 102n23, 234 Black Sabbath, 122 Blake, William, 47 Blanchot, Maurice, 5, 121, 132, 139, 142, 146n20, 146n21, 228 Blandeau, Agnès, 146n10, 164, 171n8, 228 Blu Notte, 206 Boccaccio, Giovanni, 133, 146n7, 146n10, 163, 164, 165, 166, 167, 168, 169, 170, 171n7, 171n8, 172n11, 172n15, 172n18, 172n19, 173n20, 173n21, 173n23, 173n25, 174n35, 174n36, 175n41, 175n43, 175n47, 175n48, 175n49, 175n50, 175n51, 178, 228, 231, 233, 238 Bonanno, M.G., 64, 66, 84n6, 229 Bonino, Guido, 94, 102n20, 102n21, 102n23, 235 Borsellino, Paolo, 196

Boyer, Alain-Michel, 47, 59n2, 229 Brancacci Chapel, 123 Brown, Norman O., 93, 233 Bruegel, Pieter, 178, 180, 183, 184, 185, 186, 187, 189n17, 189n24, 189n29, 189n30, 189n31, 189n34, 229, 233 Brunelleschi, Filippo, 123 Buñel, Luis, 5, 121, 122, 130n14 Bunga-Bunga, 197 Butler, Judith, 98 buttocks, 186, 187, 189n34 Cahiers du Cinéma, 120, 121, 129n7, 230 Calderón, xi, 3, 45n2, 92, 93, 96, 103n28, 103n29, 103n30, 103n31, 103n32, 103n33, 103n34, 103n35, 103n36, 103n37, 103n38, 223, 233, 234, 237, 238 Calderón de la Barca, 93, 96, 223, 237 Callas, Maria, 54, 149 Calvino, Italo, 201, 211n9, 212n18, 221, 222, 228, 229, 232, 234, 238 cannibal(s), 127, 135, 208; cannibalism, 208, 209 Canzoniere italiano, 48 Caproni, Giorgio, 1, 144 carnival, 180, 183, 184, 188n11, 189n17; carnivalesque, 164, 180, 182 Carrera, Alessandro, 66, 75, 85n20, 85n23, 88n58, 229 Casarsa, 1, 6, 8n3, 9n12, 14, 15, 16, 48, 85n25, 85n26, 90n98, 91, 150, 157, 158, 194, 195, 229, 231 castration, 42 catharsis, 55, 72, 87n46, 233 cathexis, 39 “cazzo”, 38, 39 Céline, Louis-Ferdinand, 132 centaur, 88n73, 149, 156, 157, 219 Chaucer, 146n10, 171n8, 172n11, 177, 178, 179, 180, 183, 184, 185, 187, 188n4, 189n19, 189n23, 228, 231; Chaucerian, 6 chorus, 66, 74, 78, 80, 84n16, 84n19, 92, 229 Christ, 3, 4, 16, 18, 27, 32n13, 38, 39, 40, 42, 43, 44, 45, 188n6 Christian, 29, 40, 43, 123, 134, 137, 184, 196, 224; Christian Democracy, 85n31

Index “cinema di poesia”, 5, 47, 58, 107, 110, 114, 116n2, 116n4, 117n19, 129n8, 129n10, 147n26, 229 Citti, Franco, 56, 149, 230 civic dissent, 37 civic poetry, 29 Cocteau, Jean, 47 Commedia, 48, 146n7, 171n7 Communicato all’Ansa, 55, 56 Conacher, D. J., 66, 84n16, 229 conceit, 39 concentration camp, 128, 143 consumerism, 7, 14, 22, 58, 131, 194, 195 Contini, Gianfranco, 8n3, 229 “Cook’s Tale”, 185; cook, 180, 183, 185 “coming out”, 44 contamination, 38, 146n6, 165, 171n1, 171n5, 171n9, 172n13, 172n16, 172n17, 172n18, 173n26, 174n32, 174n33, 174n34, 175n44, 175n56, 180, 189n14, 189n30, 189n32, 217, 218, 236 conversion, 156 Corinth, 149, 150, 151, 152, 153, 156, 157, 161n7 cornice, 166, 167, 173n21 Corriere della Sera, 1, 35n64, 127, 130n28, 147n31, 162n37, 194, 197n2 “Corsera”, 194 cosmology, 42 Costa, Antonio, 115n1, 130n15, 170, 175n55, 229, 236 Crashaw, Richard, 39 Crialese, Emanuele, 14 crucifix, 38 “cuore”, 15, 17, 18, 20, 28, 30, 38, 39, 56, 66, 74, 81, 208, 237 D’Annunzio, Gabriele, 70, 86n36, 86n37, 86n38, 238 D’Elia, Gianni, 205, 207, 230 De Beauvoir, Simone, 5, 132, 142, 147n25, 230 De Cataldo, Giancarlo, 204, 206 De Mauro, Mauro, 196, 205, 207, 208 De Sade, Marquis, 5 Dada, 136, 140 Dalì, Salvador, 122 “Danza di Narciso”, 42, 45 David, Gwenola, 56, 60n18, 230


Davoli, Ninetto, 57, 116n7, 149, 159, 160, 170 death drive, 140, 141 Decadentismo, 69, 70, 86n36, 86n37, 231, 236 Decameron, 6, 133, 134, 146n7, 163, 164, 165, 166, 167, 168, 169, 170, 171n9, 172n10, 172n14, 172n15, 172n18, 173n20, 173n21, 173n22, 173n23, 173n25, 174n35, 174n36, 175n43, 175n47, 175n48, 175n49, 175n50, 177, 188n8, 188n11, 228, 233, 235, 238, 250 Degani, Enzo, 80, 88n68, 89n89, 230 Deleuze, Gilles, 42, 113, 115, 116n17, 116n18, 117n24, 129n9, 131, 144, 230 Dell’Utri, Marcello, 7, 199 Derrida, Jacques, 54 desire, 17, 18, 23, 28, 32n16, 37, 39, 40, 42, 45, 48, 68, 72, 79, 80, 82, 98, 100, 110, 121, 124, 128, 131, 132, 133, 134, 135, 140, 142, 144, 145, 146n11, 159, 167, 174n34, 184, 187, 216, 218, 229 dichotomy, 4, 37, 107, 168 diegesis, 93, 186 dilemma, 38, 87n48, 87n49 Dionysus, 71, 78, 87n42 dislocation, 163, 186 Divine Comedy, 29, 146n7 Dodds, E. R., 67, 68, 84n9, 85n25, 230 Donne, John, 39, 40, 42, 46n10 Dream, 5, 23, 25, 45, 54, 78, 93, 94, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 103n39, 108, 109, 112, 115, 126, 152, 154, 159, 196, 219, 223 Duchamp, Marcel, 143 Duke, 128 Duras, Marguerite, 47 Dyer, Richard, 39, 40, 45n8, 230 Earp, F. R., 76, 77, 88n63, 230 ècriture : ècriture féminine, 99; ècriture de la difference, 137 Edipo Re, 5, 25, 29, 33n35, 34n53, 54, 58, 70, 85n26, 102n12, 109, 110, 112, 113, 115, 116n6, 116n7, 116n13, 125, 126, 127, 149, 153, 161n1, 161n5, 161n6, 161n7, 161n8, 161n9, 161n10, 161n13, 162n25, 162n26, 162n27, 162n28, 162n29, 170, 234, 235; Edipo, 87n48,



117n21, 151, 152, 158, 161n1, 227 Einaudi, 7, 33n35, 70, 86n35, 199, 211 Eisenstein, Sergei, 163, 171n1, 230 Electra, 96 Eliade, Mircea, 144, 147n32, 229 Empirismo eretico, 49, 50, 59n11, 116n2, 125, 129n10, 129n13, 130n19, 130n20, 130n25, 189n15, 234, 235 Eni, Enlightenment, 64, 87n49, 88n54, 142, 236 Enrique, 93, 99, 100 epic, 7, 82, 129n12, 170, 200, 201, 202, 203, 204, 206, 210, 211n4, 211n5, 211n11, 237, 238, 249 epica (see epic) Erasmus of Rotterdam, 180, 184, 185, 189n19, 189n25 Erinyes, 64, 66, 67, 69, 70, 72, 73, 74, 75, 78, 80 eros, 1, 2, 5, 7, 110, 112, 126, 132, 133, 134, 145, 156, 159, 160, 222, 232 erotic, 20, 39, 112, 144, 180, 186, 187, 189n34; homoerotic, 17, 39, 40 eroticism, 128, 132, 168 essential bibliography, 5, 132, 136, 137, 139, 142, 143, 144 Euben, Peter, 72, 87n43, 88n60, 231 Eumenides, 65, 74, 84n9, 84n10, 84n15, 84n19, 85n21, 88n55, 88n56, 227, 230, 238 Euripides, 70, 88n50, 89n82, 125, 234 evil, 23, 68, 71, 74, 80, 89n94, 135, 137, 138, 139, 140, 141, 143, 144, 184, 209 Evola, Julius, 144 eye, ix, 4, 34n53, 47, 53, 55, 56, 57, 58, 77, 79, 89n83, 100, 111, 112, 116n7, 119, 124, 135, 149, 152, 155, 157, 158, 159, 179, 182, 185, 188n6, 193, 222 eye(s), ix, 4, 34n53, 53, 55, 56, 57, 58, 77, 79, 89n83, 100, 101n2, 111, 112, 116n7, 119, 124, 135, 149, 152, 155, 157, 158, 159, 179, 182, 185, 188n6, 193, 222 Ezio, 128 fabliaux, 175n43, 177, 180 Falcone, Giovanni, 196 “Farmer’s Tale”, 182; farmer, 26, 27, 179, 182

fascism, 9n9, 136, 138, 140, 141, 143, 170, 229, 231 Father Nicola Spadaro, 208 Fellini, Federico, 119, 122, 221, 250 feminism, 46n18, 91, 94, 101, 237; French feminism, 94 Ferreri, Marco, 119, 122, 129, 252 Fini, Gianfranco, 1, 144 Fink, Eugen, 57, 60n21, 231 First Republic, 204 Flanders, 187 fleece, 150, 153, 154 Flemish, 6, 122, 177, 180, 183, 184, 185, 186 Fontanella, Luigi, ix, 231, 235 Foucault, Michel, 33n25, 129n6, 131, 144, 147n33, 181, 189n12, 189n13, 231; Foucaultian, 128 Freda, Riccardo, 5, 120, 122 free indirect discourse, 113 Freud, Sigmund, 13, 32n1, 33n21, 42, 95, 109, 110, 114, 119, 125, 129n3, 134, 146n9, 232 “Friar’s Tale”, 179; friar, 184 Friuli, 43, 44, 91, 157, 162n31, 231; Friulan, 3, 4, 32n7, 37, 40, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46n11, 46n13, 46n17, 46n22, 46n24, 46n26, 46n27, 46n30, 46n31, 46n32, 91, 142, 150, 151, 158, 167, 235 Fusillo, Massimo, 77, 78, 83n1, 85n26, 86n37, 88n57, 88n67, 88n72, 114, 116n9, 116n10, 116n11, 116n13, 117n21, 117n22, 126, 130n18, 130n22, 130n24, 130n25, 130n26, 145n2, 161n11, 161n14, 161n16, 161n17, 161n18, 162n32, 231 Futurist, 143, 144 Galluzzi, Francesco, 49, 59n4, 231 Gassman, Vittorio, 63, 83n5 gay, 3, 39, 44, 224 gaze, 49, 52, 53, 56, 57, 58, 98, 110, 111, 121, 122, 124, 136, 153, 187, 208, 250 General Prologue, 179, 180, 182; prologue, 110, 112, 116n14, 153, 184, 185 Gentile, Giovanni, 144 Germany, 134 Giotto, 123, 133, 166, 173n21, 173n23, 173n25

Index Girotti, Massimo, 149 Giuliano, Boris, 196 God, 16, 17, 18, 32n16, 38, 39, 40, 42, 46n10, 68, 71, 73, 74, 88n57, 89n94, 142, 154, 209, 217; Goddess, 69, 75 Goldhill, Simon, 66, 85n22, 85n24, 87n44, 87n47, 88n60, 89n81, 89n86, 231, 232 Gordon, Robert S. C., 101n3, 102n5, 102n6, 208, 211n1, 212n18, 232 good, 23, 33n25, 57, 71, 128, 168, 175n57, 184, 194, 206 “Good”, 138, 143 grace, 20, 123; graceful, 78, 80 Gramsci, Antonio, 13, 29, 45n6, 86n35, 172n18, 174n33, 232 Grosz, George, 135 Guattari, Félix, 131 Guttuso, Renato, 221 Haigh, Arthur Elam, 76, 77, 232 Halliday, Jon, 52, 59n12, 232 Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich, 67, 75, 85n20, 88n58, 229; Hegelian, 15 Heidegger, Martin, 119, 125, 131, 145n3 Hitchcock, Alfred, 5, 121, 122, 130n15, 236 Hitler, Adolf, 141 Hogenberg, Frans, 186 Hollywood, 122 homophobia, 37 homosexual, 3, 18, 23, 40, 103n34; homosexuality, 1, 16, 23, 28, 34n50, 37, 224; homoerotic, 17, 39, 40 Hooper, Lawrence, 93, 232 Husserl, Edmund, 53 hybris, 127 I cento passi, 3, 4, 20, 24 I fanciulli e gli elfi, 91 I Know, 195, 197n2, 201 I Turcs tal Friùl, 91 “Il fanciullo morto”, 40 Il fiore delle mille e una notte, 171n7, 188n8, 222, 235 Il sovrano che non vuole avere compagno, 58 im-segni, 5, 108, 109, 112, 115 impegno, 9n16, 20, 29, 83, 91, 227


instinct, 66, 77, 126, 134, 141, 182, 189n34, 195, 210 Iphigenia, 5, 63, 78, 80, 82, 89n81, 89n82, 89n83, 89n94, 232 Jakobson, Roman, 50, 52 Jason, 126, 149, 150, 155, 156, 157, 159, 160, 161n23, 161n24, 162n41 Jeremiah, 39, 42 Jesus, 4, 39, 40, 41, 42, 45, 46n13 Jocasta, 22, 110, 115, 116n14, 149, 150, 152, 154, 157, 161n23 Joyce, James, 132 Julian, 149, 154 Jung, 13; Jungian, 70, 96 Kafka, Franza, 132 Klossowski, Pierre, 5, 121, 132, 139, 142, 146n20, 232 Kristeva, Julia, 91, 94, 95, 102n25 L’Age d’Or, 122 “L’empire des signes”, 50, 59n6, 59n7, 59n9, 59n10, 231 L’Espresso, 172n15, 200, 228 L’Infinito, 24, 29 “L’ortodossia”, 54 La civiltà cattolica, 208, 212n19, 237 La divina mimesis, 29, 34n54, 34n55, 34n56, 34n57, 34n60, 34n61, 47, 48, 228, 235 La divina comedia (see Divine Comedy) “La domenica uliva”, 16, 42, 43, 44, 46n22 “La fine delle avanguardie”, 51 La meglio gioventù, 9n9, 31, 33n28, 40, 41, 43, 45, 162n31, 231 La nuova gioventù, 44, 45, 46n11, 46n13, 46n14, 46n16, 46n17, 46n20, 46n21, 46n22, 46n23, 46n24, 46n25, 46n26, 46n27, 46n29, 46n30, 46n31, 46n32, 46n33, 235 La poesia della tradizione, 56 La Repubblica, 197n4, 197n13, 200, 201, 206, 212n15, 233 La ricotta, 57, 147n24, 195, 235 Las Memiñas, 93 “Le ceneri di Gramsci”, 13 Le ceneri di Gramsci, 13, 29, 85n26, 235 Le degré zéro de l’écriture, 50, 59n5



“Le litanie del bel ragazzo”, 40 Le mani sulla città, 29 Le Monde, 59n13, 140, 146n5, 146n22 Lacan, Jacques, 34n52, 58, 95, 101, 103n27, 126, 233; Lacanian, 42, 111 Laius, 114, 116n14, 125, 149, 150, 152, 161n15 Lang, Fritz, 121 Lawton, Benjamin, 6, 9n14, 116n3, 146n17, 166, 173n22, 233, 234, 236 Léaud, 135 Léger, Fernand, 143 Lent, 183, 184; Lenten, 183 Leopardi, Giacomo, 18, 24, 25, 29, 149, 207, 250 Lettere Luterane, 48, 197n8, 207, 231, 234, 235 libertinism, 132, 141 Life Is a Dream, 96 litany, 5, 40 Literature and Evil, 143 Loewald, Hans, 41, 46n15, 233 logos, 126 Love and Anger, 170 Lucarelli, Carlo, 204, 206, 207, 233 lumpenproletariat, 123, 127, 132, 133, 143, 145, 164 Lusi, Luigi, 196 Maddalena, 124 Mafiopoli, 30 Magdalene, 123 Maggi, Armando, ix, 93, 233 Magnani, Anna, 124, 167, 173n31 Mamma Roma, 22 Mamma Roma, 33n35, 48, 57, 125 Mangnano, Silvana, 70, 149 Mani pulite, 204 Manifesto per un nuovo teatro, 87n48, 92, 93, 102n15, 102n16, 102n17, 102n18, 236 Manuel, 93, 97, 98, 99 Maracchione, 135 Marco Tullio Giordana, 3, 4, 20, 24, 25, 26, 28, 29, 31 Marcus, Millicent, 5, 6, 25, 29, 34n44, 163, 165, 168, 170, 171n4, 172n18, 172n19, 173n20, 173n23, 174n39, 175n41, 175n42, 175n43, 175n45, 175n46,

175n53, 233, 250 Marquis de Sade (Donatien Alphonse François), 132, 137, 138, 139, 140, 141, 142, 143, 146n5, 146n16, 146n20, 146n21, 147n25, 147n28, 147n29; Sadean, 128, 132, 136, 137, 138, 140, 141, 142 martyr, 4, 16, 27, 39, 45 martyrdom, 38, 39, 40, 124 Marxism, 1, 32n3, 70, 86n34, 127, 144; Marxist, 13, 14, 44, 68, 69, 70, 100, 119, 126, 131 Masaccio, 123 masochism, 38, 39, 42, 46n18, 46n19, 46n34, 237; masochistic, 39, 42, 45 Matarazzo, Raffaele, 120 Mattei, Enrico, 196, 205, 207, 224 Maugeri, Massimo, 201 Medea, 5, 6, 22, 50, 54, 55, 85n26, 88n73, 102n12, 125, 126, 127, 149, 150, 151, 153, 154, 155, 156, 157, 159, 160, 172n15, 227, 228, 234, 238, 252 Merleau-Ponty, Maurice, 56, 60n19, 231 Messiah, 44 metalinguistically, 42 metaphor, 39, 41, 49, 51, 52, 53, 76, 77, 89n81, 93, 95, 177, 180, 197, 212n16; metaphorical, 57, 70, 170; metaphorically, 98, 140, 162n41 Metz, Christian, 121, 129n6, 129n13 Michaux, André, 47 Micheli, Ivo Barnabò, 47, 59n1, 234 Middle Ages, 132, 133, 134, 178 Middle English, 179 Miguel de Cervantes, 178 Miles Gloriosus, 91 Miller, 183, 185, 186, 187 Ming, Wu, 3, 201, 203, 207, 211, 211n4, 211n5, 211n6, 211n8, 211n10, 211n11, 211n12, 211n13, 211n14, 237 mirror, 34n52, 41, 42, 95, 96, 103n27, 164, 166, 179, 188n6, 197 mise-en-scène, 116n14, 134 Missiroli, Mario, 144 Mitry, Jean, 113, 116n17, 234 MLA International Bibliography, 2, 9n8 montage, 110, 117n21, 120, 121, 122, 123, 124, 125, 126, 171n1

Index Moravia, Alberto, 1, 3, 47, 60n18, 91, 147n31, 197n6, 197n7, 199, 221, 222, 229, 230, 234, 235 Morgan Library, 200 Morin, Edgar, 121, 129n13 Moro, Aldo, 207 Morante, Elsa, 221 mother-son, 14, 15, 40, 126 Musil, Robert, 132 Mussolini, Benito, 141 mysticism, 144 myth, 33n25, 44, 50, 64, 68, 70, 88n73, 89n81, 109, 110, 115, 116n6, 116n7, 123, 125, 126, 127, 129n11, 130n27, 131, 132, 134, 142, 143, 144, 155, 159, 165, 208, 232; mythical, 109, 123, 127, 132, 135, 156, 159, 210; mythology, 44, 200 Napolitano, Giorgio, 205 Narcissus, 3, 4, 16, 39, 40, 41, 42, 45; narcissism, 38, 39, 40, 42, 43; narcissistic, 39, 41, 42, 110, 111; Narciso, 40, 42, 45 Nazi, 93, 101, 127, 129n3, 132, 135, 224; Nazism, 136, 143 Neapolitan, 6, 123, 164, 165, 167, 168, 170, 172n10, 174n35, 175n41 neocapitalism, 200, 227; neocapitalist, 200 neo-neorealism, 204 neorealism, 5, 34n44, 119, 120, 204, 233, 250 Nel ’46!, 91, 102n7 New Italian Epic (NIE), 7, 200, 201, 203, 204, 206, 211n4, 211n5, 211n11, 238 Nero Petrolio, 205 Nietzsche, Friedrich, 85n26, 129n3, 193 nihilism, 127, 132, 193 “Nota del Traduttore”, 63, 76, 83, 235 Nude Descending a Staircase, 143 Nuovi argomenti, 83, 92 occhio-parola, 4, 53, 58, 101n2 Oedipus, 5, 6, 13, 32n1, 34n53, 68, 109, 110, 112, 114, 115, 116n7, 116n14, 116n16, 125, 127, 145n3, 149, 150, 151, 152, 153, 154, 156, 157, 158, 159, 161n7, 161n15 Oedipus Rex (1967) (see Edipo Re)


Oliviero, Davide, 200, 201 Olla, Roberto, 205 Oresteia, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 69, 71, 72, 73, 75, 77, 84n9, 84n10, 84n16, 85n22, 85n24, 87n43, 87n49, 88n60, 89n80, 89n81, 89n85, 89n86, 91, 227, 229, 230, 231, 232, 233, 238 Orestes, 63, 64, 65, 66, 68, 72, 73, 80 Orgia, 45n2, 92, 130n21, 197n8, 231, 234, 235 Pablito, 93, 98, 103n34, 103n39 Pablo, 93 pain, 15, 16, 17, 22, 27, 39, 42, 80, 81, 82, 89n94, 151, 152 Palach, Jan, 4, 37, 38, 45n4 paradigm, 39, 40, 41 Pardoner, 183, 184; “Pardoner’s Tale” 11n11 Pascoli, Giovanni, 70, 86n37 Pasolini: Un delitto italiano, 24, 25, 31, 34n40, 231 Pasolini, Guido, 17, 157 Pasolini, Susanna, 4, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 23, 27, 41, 42, 43, 153 Pasternak, Boris, 70 pastiche, 165 Pelosi, Pino, 200, 224 performativity, 122 performative gender, 98 Peterson, Thomas, 93, 102n22, 235 petit-bourgeoisie, 164, 177, 195, 218 Petrolio, 7, 47, 48, 52, 54, 59n3, 199, 200, 201, 202, 203, 204, 206, 207, 208, 210, 211, 211n1, 211n2, 211n3, 228, 230, 233, 235, 236 phallus, 180; phallicism, 39 Piazza Fontana, 31, 205 Pigpen (see Porcile) Pilade, 45n2, 68, 85n31, 92, 234 Pina, 124 piano-sequenza, 56 Plautus, 91 pleasure, 39, 42, 46n18, 46n19, 46n34, 132, 135, 137, 138, 142, 144, 171n7, 180, 182, 184, 237 Poesie a Casarsa, 14, 16, 48 Poesia in forma di rosa, 50, 162n42, 197n3, 235



poeta civile, 3, 7, 8, 9n17, 215, 238 “poeta del suo paese”, 37, 42 “poeta del suo sesso”, 37, 42 Poeta delle ceneri, 6, 151, 161n3, 161n4, 235 poetics, 1, 3, 4, 15, 54, 85n28, 93, 102n22, 124, 127, 146n5, 147n23, 189n34, 227, 235, 238 polis, 66, 67, 68, 72, 73, 83n5, 84n19 Porcile, 5, 45n1, 92, 127, 130n21, 132, 133, 135, 146n13, 154, 172n15, 234, 235 pornography, 181 post-structuralism, 131; poststructuralist, 121 post-surrealist, 121 postmodern, 7, 48, 164, 166, 170, 201, 249 power, 5, 14, 16, 19, 20, 25, 31, 33n25, 37, 39, 42, 49, 54, 55, 58, 66, 67, 68, 71, 72, 75, 78, 80, 85n26, 91, 93, 94, 97, 100, 101, 107, 108, 109, 111, 128, 131, 132, 133, 134, 135, 136, 137, 138, 140, 141, 142, 143, 144, 145, 156, 165, 167, 174n35, 175n57, 180, 182, 189n33, 195, 196, 197, 200, 203, 205, 207, 209, 211n7, 212n16, 219, 223 Prague, 37, 38, 45n6, 232 profane, 183, 217 prophecy, 7, 114, 193, 194, 197n2 prostitute, 93, 98, 100, 123, 136, 144, 169, 174n35, 175n52, 188n11 proverb, 175n43, 185, 186, 187, 189n24, 189n25, 189n26, 189n27, 189n31, 229, 233 Psycho, 122 psychoanalytical, 93, 96, 100, 120 Quasimodo, Salvatore, 78, 251 Rabelais, François, 178, 180, 188n10, 227 Ragazzi di vita, 48 Rambuss, Richard, 39, 45n7, 236 re-creation, 6, 163, 164, 167, 169, 170 recontextualization, 187 regista civile, 167 Ricoeur, Paul, 68, 85n27, 85n28, 232, 238 Risi, Nelo, 119 Robbe-Grillet, Alain, 47 Roma città aperta, 173n31, 235

“Romancerillo”, 42 Roncaglia, Aurelio, 144 Rosaura, 5, 91, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 103n39 Rossellini, Roberto, 119, 120, 124, 129n12, 167 Rumble, Patrick, 6, 45n3, 146n6, 164, 167, 170, 171n1, 171n5, 171n9, 172n13, 172n16, 172n17, 172n18, 173n21, 173n25, 173n29, 173n30, 174n32, 174n33, 174n34, 175n44, 175n56, 187, 189n14, 189n30, 189n32, 235, 236, 238 Ryan-Scheutz, Colleen, ix, 9n9, 13, 27, 32n2, 32n16, 33n25, 33n35, 236 Sabaudia, 200 sacred, 1, 2, 9n9, 13, 14, 15, 17, 20, 22, 32n2, 33n35, 43, 70, 74, 97, 98, 112, 123, 124, 129, 137, 138, 143, 153, 154, 155, 156, 183, 200, 217, 219, 228, 236 sadism, 5, 136, 140 Saint Paul, 48, 136, 140, 209 Salinger, J. D., 200 Salò, o 120 giornate di Sodoma, 5, 7, 37, 48, 98, 127, 128, 130n23, 132, 133, 134, 135, 136, 137, 141, 142, 144, 146n5, 146n13, 147n33, 159, 195, 196, 197, 197n15, 208, 209, 228, 231, 233, 234, 235, 236 salvation, 124, 127, 209 Santato, Guido, 2, 32n19, 161n2, 236 sarcophagus, 169 scapegoat, 4, 39, 45, 80 Scarpa, Tiziano, 200, 201, 203, 211n6, 211n8, 211n10, 211n12, 211n13, 211n14, 238 scatology, 143 “scena madre”, 5, 110, 112, 115, 116n14 Scritti corsari, 7, 31, 35n64, 48, 175n57, 197n6, 197n8, 197n14, 200, 207, 211n7, 231, 235 Second Republic, 211 semantic(s), 51, 53, 124, 177, 251 sessantottini, 37 sexuality, 38, 39, 72, 89n81, 132, 134, 135, 137, 138, 168, 172n15, 182, 232; sexual, 18, 37, 42, 95, 97, 98, 99, 115, 127, 138, 143, 155, 175n57, 180, 181, 189n34, 200, 222; sexually, 30, 97, 101,

Index 138; sexual desire, 28, 100, 187; sexual intercourse, 188n11; sexual revolution, 131; sexuality theory, 4 Shakespeare, William, 178 Siciliano, Enzo, 23, 91 Sigismondo, 93, 94, 96, 97 “soggettivo libero indiretto”, 113, 114, 115, 116n18, 117n21 Sollers, Philippe, 5, 132, 136, 138, 146n16, 237 Sophocles, 109, 112, 125, 161n15 Sphinx, 109, 116n7, 159, 161n15 Stamp, Terence, 39 Stirner, Max, 142 Storia interiore, 91, 102n7 Studlar, Gaylyn, 42, 45, 46n18, 46n19, 46n34, 237 subproletariat, 3, 42 “Suite furlana”, 41 Svevo, Italo, 132, 250 “Svolta di Fiuggi”, 144 symbolic, 52, 68, 94, 95, 98, 100, 111, 124, 135, 167, 186, 201; symbolic function, 42, 54; symbolic order, 94, 95 tableau vivant, 134, 179 Tangentopoli, 193 Taviani brothers, 119, 250 tecno-fascism (see “tecno-fascismo”) “tecno-fascismo”, 136, 143, 144 “teatro di parola”, 47, 230, 234, 237 Teatro Metastasio, 93 Teorema, 39, 47, 54, 98 Testa, Bart, 45n3, 173n30, 235, 238 Testa, Carlo, 6, 163, 171n2, 171n3, 171n6, 237 The Battle between Carnival and Lent, 183 The Canterbury Tales, 6, 171n7, 172n10, 177, 180, 188n8, 228, 235 The Dirty Bride, 183 The Horrible Dr. Hitchcock, 122 The Praise of Folly, 184 I racconti di Canterbury (see The Canterbury Tales)


The Gospel According to Matthew, 55, 125 The Paper Flower Sequence, 170 Third World, 42, 55, 130n18, 131, 132 Thomson, George, 64, 77, 83n5 Todorov, Tzvetan, 137, 146n15, 237 Toffolo, Davide, 217, 219n2 Transumanar e organizzar, 4 trilogy, 63, 65, 66, 68, 69, 72, 73, 76, 82, 87n49 “Trilogy of Life”, 37, 44, 127, 131, 132, 133, 134, 142, 146n6, 171n1, 171n7, 172n10, 181, 189n14, 236 Tuscan, 6, 123, 164, 167, 170, 172n19, 175n41 Un Chien Andalou, 122 Una vita violenta, 48 unconscious, 41, 74, 75, 78, 94, 109, 110, 114, 116n8, 125, 126, 135, 142, 159 “Unidentified Narrative Object” (UNO), 7, 200, 201, 235 Van Watson, William, ix, 4, 91, 93, 102n6, 238, 252 Valesio, Paolo, 70, 86n36, 86n38, 238 Vargas Llosa, Mario, 211, 212n28, 238 Velázquez, Diego, 93 Venice Film Festival, 149 Verdone, Mario, 143 Vertigo, 122 Vico, Giambattista, 109 violence, 5, 15, 20, 27, 73, 75, 80, 112, 120, 121, 122, 124, 125, 126, 127, 128, 129, 137, 142, 152, 153, 159, 208, 209 Visconti, Luchino, 119, 129n12, 221 voyeur, 128; voyeuristic, 98, 128; voyeurism, 122 vultures, 22, 81, 82, 89n94, 90n96 Ward, David, 167, 173n30, 238 Wells, Orson, 57 Wife of Bath, 183, 184 “Wife of Bath”, 188n11 word-eye (see occhio-parola)

About the Contributors

Virginia Agostinelli holds a PhD in comparative literature and cinema studies from the University of Washington. Her dissertation was entitled “Mass Media, Mass Culture and Contemporary Italian Fiction.” In addition to teaching courses at the University of Washington, Dr. Agostinelli works with Rick Steves’ Europe as both a researcher and tour guide in her native Italy. Francesca D’Alessandro Behr is an associate professor of Italian and Classics at the University of Houston, where she is also affiliated with women’s studies. Her research interests include the epic, gender studies, reception studies, narratology, satire, and comparative literature. She is the author of Feeling History: Lucan, Stoicism and the Aesthetics of Passion (2007) along with a variety of articles concerning Classic literature, narratology, and women authors. Fabio Benincasa worked for two years for Rai TV in the educational department producing documentaries after graduating from the University of Rome, “La Sapienza.” In 2001 he moved to the United States where he earned an MA and later a PhD at Indiana University, Bloomington. His doctoral thesis, under the direction of Peter Bondanella, deals with the relationship between Italian cinema and Baroque art. In Italy, he was editor of the Festival of Architecture in Rome. A licensed journalist, he is a columnist for the monthly magazine Formiche. He teaches for Duquesne University Rome Campus and Gustolab. Among his most recent publications are “The Explosion of Rome in Fragments of a Postmodern Iconography” (2013) and “The Social Pope” (2014), an essay on the communication style of the current pope.



About the Contributors

Daniela Bini is professor of Italian and comparative literature and was chair of the French and Italian Department from 2003 to 2011 at the University of Texas, Austin. Her research always incorporates her interest in philosophy with that of literature, focusing in particular on the issue of inadequacy of verbal language as exemplified by her books: A Fragrance from the Desert: Poetry and Philosophy in Giacomo Leopardi, Carlo Michelstaedter and the Failure of Language, Pirandello and His Muse: The Plays for Marta Abba, and in some recent essays on music, opera, and film. She is the author of over fifty essays on artists as different as Ippolito Nievo, Giacomo Leopardi, Giovanni Verga, Italo Svevo, Pietro Mascagni, Giuseppe Verdi, Luigi Pirandello, Leonardo Sciascia, Giuseppe Tornatore, the Taviani brothers, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Franco Zeffirelli, and Marco Bellocchio. She is also the coauthor of two Italian textbooks. Ryan Calabretta-Sajder holds a doctorate of modern languages in Italian and French from Middlebury College and is currently a visiting assistant professor of Italian at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. His interests include queer and feminist theory in contemporary Italian literature and cinema, gaze theory, Italian American literature and cinema, Sicilian culture, and migration studies. He recently published his first monograph, Divergenze in celluloide: Colore, migrazione e identità sessuale nei film gay di Ferzan Özpetek with Mimesis editore (2017). He serves as the director of communication for the American Association of Teachers of Italian, the president of Gamma Kappa Alpha, executive committee member of the Italian American Studies Association, Secretary/Treasurer of the American Association of University Supervisors and Coordinators, and was co-chair of the Modern Language Association’s Committee on Graduate Students in the Profession (2013–2017). Ilaria Lanzarini is an independent scholar in semiotics of the arts and visual studies, which she perfected at the University of Bologna under the guidance of Francesco Marsciani and Lucia Corrain. She teaches British language and civilization in the Italian school system and collaborates with international journals with contributions of an interdisciplinary nature. At present, she’s involved in a project of intersemiotic translation among different artistic languages. Millicent Marcus is professor of Italian and director of Graduate Studies at Yale University. She specializes in Italian culture from the interdisciplinary perspectives of literature, history, and film. She is the author of An Allegory of Form: Literary Self-Consciousness in the Decameron (l979), Italian Film in the Light of Neorealism (l986), Filmmaking by the Book: Italian Cinema and Literary Adaptation (l993), After Fellini: National Cinema in the Post-

About the Contributors


modern Age (2002), and Italian Film in the Shadow of Auschwitz (2007), as well as journal articles and encyclopedia entries on her fields of interest. Because literacy in the twenty-first century must be broadened to include the mass media as well as the written text, she brings a cultural studies approach to her teaching and research. Fulvio Orsitto is director of the Georgetown University study center in Fiesole (Italy). He previously worked as director of the California State University Study Abroad program in Florence (a. y. 2014–2015) and, between 2008–2014, as director of the Italian and Italian American program at California State University, Chico (at the rank of associate professor). He holds a PhD in Italian Cultural Studies from the University of Connecticut (2008), and has published numerous essays and book chapters on Italian and Italian American cinema, and on Italian Literature. His book publications include the edited volumes The Other and the Elsewhere in Italian Culture (2011) and Cinema and Risorgimento: Visions and Re-Visions (2012). In 2012 he coedited with Simona Wright Vol. XXXIV of the NeMLA Journal of Italian Studies, a special issue devoted to Contemporary Italian Cinema. In 2014 he published with C. Peralta and F. Caramaschi the manual Film and Education: Capturing Bilingual Communities. More recently, he coedited the following volumes: Cultural Contaminations (2014 with S. Wright); Pier Paolo Pasolini: American Perspectives (2015 with F. Pacchioni); Cultural Crossings (2016 with S. Wright); TOTalitarian ARTs: The Visual Arts, Fascism(s), and Mass-Society (2017 with M. Epstein and A. Righi); and The Italian Economic Boom in Cinema, Television and Literature (forthcoming in 2017 with U. Perolino). Flaviano Pisanelli is currently an associate professor of Italian literature and language at the University Paul Valéry–Montpellier, France. Poet and translator, Pisanelli has dedicated much of his critical work to the literary and cinematic opus of Pier Paolo Pasolini along with a variety of other twentiethand twenty-first-century authors (G. Ungaretti, E. Montale, S. Quasimodo, P. V. Tondelli, S. Grasso, G. Bufalino, A. Merini, M. Scalesi, etc.). Additionally, he focuses on the Italophone poetry of migration (Gëzim Hajdari, Barbara Serdakowski, Vera Lucia de Oliveira, Carlos Sanchez, etc.). His most recent publication is In poesis nomine. Onomastique et toponymie dans Le Occasioni d’Eugenio Montale et Trasumanar e organizzar de Pier Paolo Pasolini. Daniela Privitera holds a doctorate in Italian studies with a focus on lexicography and semantics of Italian literacy and is currently a professor of humanities and Latin. Privitera is also an adjunct professor of Italian linguistics and Italian literature at the University of Enna “Kore.” Her research interests include Sicilian dialectology and Italian literature.


About the Contributors

Francesco Rosetti is an independent scholar who graduated from the University of Rome, “La Sapienza” in 2006 with a thesis entitled “Marco Ferreri: frammenti di un discorso registico” (“Marco Ferreri: Fragments of a Directorial Discourse”). Rosetti has collaborated with the Department of Film History of “La Sapienza” contributing to a collected volume, Cineuropa, edited by Maurizio de Benedictis. He has published on various themes in Italian and European cinema, in Paratesto and Avanguardia, in addition to online journals, Cinemastudio and Offscreen. Giulia Tellini completed her PhD in history of theater at the University of Florence, in 2008. She is the author of numerous essays on theatrical literature, actors, and film. Her monographs include Storie di Medea (2012) and Vita e arte di Gino Cervi (2013). She teaches at the Italian School of Middlebury College (United States) and at the Cultural Centre for Foreigners of the University of Florence. She is an honorary fellow in Italian literature at the University Federico II of Naples. William Van Watson held a PhD in theater with minors in both Italian and cinema studies from the University of Texas–Austin. Van Watson taught at various institutions including SUNY Stony Brook, Washington University in St. Louis, and was most recently a visiting associate professor in Italian at the University of Arizona. His main research interests included Italian theater and film studies. He was working on a manuscript dedicated to Pier Pasolo Pasolini at the untimely incident of his death, which is forthcoming. TRANSLATORS Anne Greeott holds an MA in Italian from Middlebury College and an MFA in literary translation from The University of Arkansas. Her translations have appeared in Poetry Northwest, Bitter Oleander, Journal of Italian Translation, Italian Poetry Review, World Literature Today, and elsewhere. She has received Fulbright grants to Italy (2014), Peru (2008), and an ALTA Travel Fellowship (2015). Chris Tamigi is a translator of twentieth century and contemporary Italian literature. He graduated from Tulane University with a BA in History and Italian in 2000 and received an MFA in creative writing and translation from the University of Arkansas in 2012. Stephen Sartarelli was born in Youngstown, Ohio to Italian parents and spent several of his early and adolescent years in Italy. He obtained a BA in

About the Contributors


Literature and Languages from Antioch College and an MA in Comparative Literature from New York University. He has published three collections of poetry to date and translated over forty books of fiction, poetry, and essays from Italian and French. Notable authors past and present include Alessandro Baricco, Gesualdo Bufalino, Massimo Cacciari, Andrea Camilleri, Casanova, Jacques Cazotte, Gabriele D’Annunzio, Xavier De Maistre, Francesca Duranti, Laurent Gaudé, Pierre Klossowski, Pier Paolo Pasolini, and Umberto Saba. He has earned a variety of honors for his translation work, including the Raiziss/De Palchi Award of the Acadamy of American poets (twice, for Saba and Pasolini), the Foreign Dagger Award of the UK Crime Writers Association (for Camilleri), and the John Florio Award of the UK Society of Authors (for Gianni Riotta), as well as grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Conseil d’Europe, for the translation of the monumental Sicilian novel Horcynus Orca, by Stefano D’Arrigo, a project still ongoing. Sartarelli presently lives in France.