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I want to love reality as much as Pasolini and Weil do – arkbooks
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I want to love reality as much as Pasolini and Weil do

in Musings by

I keep having this discussion with the person I like the most in the world; he once translated to Danish Sylvia Plath’s 
I am Vertical in one night, and I felt so offended. You have to respect her. You have to respect her work. We still sometimes joke about it, but I realise I’m committing the same sin: in the next lines I will be rushing translations and not being respectful enough to Pasolini’s work. So I apologise beforehand to him, and of course to Pasolini.

I cannot imagine a situation where anyone is as careful and respectful with words as when people like Pier Paolo Pasolini, Sylvia Plath or Simone Weil are writing. And I guess that is where my respect for these authors comes from: it’s not about their status in itself in a certain literary canon, but rather the feeling or impression they transmit to me in relation to their conceptualisation of reality and their portrayal of it through words. The feeling that they are highly aware every time they think and write a word, of its meaning, and thus of their work. A greater awareness of their message, deeply embedded into human experience.

Pasolini writes about being a human in the most real way one could write: he portrays reality in its whole, bringing all of its parts to the surface: from the most beautiful to the most damned, all without falling into destructive or useless observations, because hatred for something real is hatred for life; not accepting reality as a whole is to not accept reality at all. As Simone Weil writes: “Not to accept an event in the world is to wish that the world did not exist.”

I think Simone and Pier would have been good friends if they had met. They both seem to have as an ultimate life goal “to become nothing in order to become everything”.

Pasolini’s poems are everything because he becomes nothing in the process of his writing. However, he does something Weil and him would disagree on: above all else, he is alive, and he is not willing to give up on that; and for this reason, he develops a different interpretation of being nothing.

One can say that his nothingness is even more eternal than Simone’s, as he rarely turns to spiritualism or abstractions (and when he does, he always keeps himself in a very worldly standpoint). He explores human existence in an even more raw way. His discontent with certain parts of what constitutes reality is expressed through the observance, description and transformation of it by means of poetry:

L’Appennino: VII


Ragazzi romanzi sotto le palpebre
chiuse cantano nel cuore della specie
dei poveri rimasta sempre barbara

a tempi originari, escluse alle vicende
segrete della luce cristiana,
al succedersi necessario dei secoli:

e fanno dell’Italia un loro possesso,
ironici, in un dialettale riso
che non città o provincia ma ossesso

poggio, rione, tiene in sé inciso,
se ognuno chiuso nel calore del sesso,
sua sola misura, vive tra una gente

abbandonata al cinismo più vero
e alla più vera passione; al violento
negarsi e al violento darsi; nel mistero

chiara, perché pura e corrotta . . .

Se ognuno sa, esparto, l’ingenuo linguaggio
dell’incredulità, della insolenza,
dell’ironia, nel dialetto più saggio

e vizioso, chiude nell’incoscienza
le palpebre, si perde in un popolo
il cui clamore non è che silenzio.

The Apennines: VII


Under closed eyelids the boys of Rome sing
at the heart of the race of the dispossessed,
a barbarous breed still living

in primordial times, unblessed
by the secret affairs of Christianity’s light
in the inexorable course of the ages;

they’re making Italy a thing of their own,
with an irony and laughing dialect
that bears the mark of no province or town

but only some bedeviled hillside or district,
each enclosed in the heat of sex,
his sole yardstick, living among people

given to the most genuine cynicism,
the most genuine passion, brutal both
in withholding and sharing themselves, clear

in their mystery, at once pure and corrupt . . .

Every one of them has learned to speak
the naive language of disbelief, insolence
and irony, in the wisest, most indiscreet

dialect, and when their eyelids shut
in mindless sleep, they vanish into
a people whose clamor is only silence.

I think Simone and Pier would have been good friends if they had met. They both seem to have as an ultimate life goal “to become nothing in order to become everything”.

For that reason, he is nothing and everything, and in that way, he achieves and transcends what for me is the ultimate goal of poetry: he is able to use words as weapons, while still making them look like roses. He takes all parts of reality and transforms it. He gives voice to those who are never heard:

Il pianto della scavatrice

[…] Povera presenza

d’una dozzina d’anziani operai,
con gli stracci e le canottiere arsi
dal sudore, le cui voci rare,

le cui lotte contro gli sparsi
blocchi di fango, le colate di terra,
sembrano in quel tremito disfarsi.

Ma tra gli scoppi testardi della
benna, che cieca sembra, cieca
sgretola, cieca afferra,

quasi non avesse meta,
un urlo improvviso, umano,
nasce, e a tratti si ripete,

così pazzo di dolore, che, umano,
subito non sembra più, e ridiventa
morto stridore. Poi, piano,

rinasce, nella luce violenta,
tra i palazzi accecati, nuovo, uguale,
urlo che solo chi è morente,

nell’ultimo istante, può gettare
in questo sole che crudele ancora splende
già addolcito da un po’ d’aria di mare . . .

A gridare è, straziata
da mesi e anni di mattutini

dal muto stuolo dei suoi scalpellini,
la vecchia scavatrice: ma, insieme, il fresco
sterro sconvolto, o, nel breve confine

dell’orizzonte novecentesco,
tutto il quartiere . . . È la città,
sprofondata in un chiarore di festa,

—è il mondo. […]

The Cry of the Excavator

[…] Present

are a dozen scraggly aging workers,
rags and T-shirts burning
with sweat.  Their scattered voices

and their struggles with the sliding dirt
and clods of mud strewn about
seem to be undone by all the shaking.

But between the stubborn bursts
of the backhoe, as it blindly shatters,
blindly shovels, blindly scoops

as if to no purpose, a sudden,
human cry rings out,
then repeats itself at intervals,

so wild with sorrow that at once
it seems no longer human, but
only a lifeless screech. Then it slowly

starts anew, in the violent sun,
between the blinded buildings, same
as before, a cry that only someone

in the last moments before death might emit
in the cruel rays still shining down
and softened, now, by a light sea breeze . . .

What’s wailing, wracked by months
and years of early morning sweat
in the company of its mute

throng of stonecutters, is
the old excavator; but it’s
also the fresh-ravaged earth,

or the whole district in the confines
of the modern skyline . . . It’s
the city, bathed in a festive light

—it’s the world. […]

He does all that while reflecting on his own practice, and in the process, he destroys it to understand it. Everything is necessary when nothing is necessary:


[…] I frutti

di questa connivenza, di questo ideale peculato,
sono che la realtà reale ora non ha poeti.
(Io? Io sono inaridito e superato.)


[…] The result

of this connivance, of this intellectual bribery,
is that reality lacks of poets.
(I? I’m already old and some how dry).

I read somewhere about the idea of Pasolinian ideology being a contradictory flow of thoughts where passion for life and dissatisfaction towards his own ideology clashes. I wonder how these people cannot understand that without passion, there is nothing to fight for. Everything that exists is everything we will ever know and experience; it is also our only source of creativity. In Weil’s words:  “All that I wish for exists, or has existed, or will exist somewhere. For I am incapable of complete invention.”

Reality is the only thing, everything we have, and Pasolini and Weil understand that very well. There is not much left for humans to do, apart from explore, experience and develop an unconditional love for reality, in all its whole.

Works cited:

The Collected Poems by Sylvia Plath

Gravity and Grace by Simone Weil

Le Ceneri di Gramsci by Pier Paolo Pasolini

Poesia in forma de rosa by Pier Paolo Pasolini

The Selected Poetry of Pier Paolo Pasolini, edited and translated by Stephen Sartarelli

Neus spends a considerable amount of her time thinking about Clarice Lispector in general and Sylvia Plath’s poems in particular. She’s a firm supporter of the Weil team in the which-Simone-is-better battle. She once read Infinite Jest and still talks about it today. She’s one half of the translation column Translation Tuesday, tends to overuse the word “nice” and apparently the pronoun “she” when she writes her bio.

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