Antonio Barolini (1910-1971): Loss and Community Against the Ethics of Power.
"Loss" lies at the very heart of both Antonio Barolini's literary production and his meditation on the wounds and violence of WWII. This article examines the short stories that Barolini first wrote in Italian around (and before) the 1950s and that he then rewrote in Italian based on the English translation that, in the meantime, had been produced by his wife, Helen. It is my contention that the final version of those stories (published by Feltrinelli in 1968 and La Nuova Italia in 1970) presupposes the erasure of an original, whose transmission to posterity precisely (and paradoxically) consists in its "destruction" : namely, an act of violence on the text. The recent publication in 2015 of Barolini's speech (1966) in honor of the resistance fighter and close friend Antonio Giuriolo, killed by the Nazis in 1944, allows us to expand on the topic of "loss" to the political level. The title of that speech, "Il capitano Toni e il suo e nostro piccolo mondo antico," (1) points out that for Barolini the death of his friend, caused by the violent act of the Nazis, also marked the end of the world of Barolini's childhood: material violence ends a friend's life; violence on the text (textual violence), even though by Barolini's wife, destroys the original through the writing/translating/rewriting of his first short stories. Within this historical and literary context, this essay addresses Barolini's epistolary exchange with the non-violent activist Aldo Capitini (1899-1968) and investigates the origins of Barolini's commitment to non-violence and tolerance. Focusing on his diary that covers his self-imprisonment from 1943 to 1945--Diario di prigionia, which has not been fully published yet--and on some aspects of his two novels on the anti-fascist resistance, I explore the connections between non-violence and sacrifice. Because of its roots in personal, religious and affective experiences, Barolini's commitment to politics is termed impolitical, an adjective that is given the semantic density that it has in the work of the contemporary political philosopher Roberto Esposito. In conclusion, the complex but under-examined figure of Antonio Barolini, surprisingly enough, has a lot to say about the attempts to reformulate fundamental concepts of politics, not only in terms of non-violence, tolerance, and to a certain extent of sacrifice, but also in terms of community, which aligns Barolini's reflections with those of the philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy.
2. The Aftermath of a Canary
Cari amici, ho scritto i racconti, scelti per questa antologia, in tempi diversi e tutti dopo la seconda guerra mondiale; la loro redazione ultima corre tra il 1965 e il 1967. Due di essi, "Un cero spento" e "L'omino del pepe", li ho pensati e abbozzati in Italia, prima del 1955; ma poi, insieme agli altri, li ho sviluppati e scritti negli Stati Uniti d'America, dove sono vissuto a lungo e dove, prima ancora di essere conosciuti in patria, furono ospitati da alcune riviste americane, in una traduzione (curata da mia moglie) che probabilmente li migliora. Preciso questo fatto perche il tradurre un testo originale in un'altra lingua, se la traduzione avviene in cooperazione tra l'autore e il traduttore, finisce sempre col distruggere l'originale. Infatti, il testo dei racconti contenuti nel volume L'ultima contessa di famiglia, edito da Feltrinelli e apparso in Italia soltanto nel 1968, essendo rimasto distrutto quello precedente, l'ho rifatto e integrato sulla falsariga di quello inglese.
(L'omino V) (2)
With these words, Antonio Barolini in 1970 introduces a school edition of his short stories centered on family memories and on the (lost) Veneto of his childhood. Among the protagonists of those stories, we find La zia del '48, in which the author's genealogical memory traces back to the barricades of 1848, the so-called "cugino Canal" and "zio Vittorio". Similar characters undisguisedly irritate another vicentino, Luigi Meneghello (1922-2007), who is twelve years younger than his friend, and with whom Barolini had shared an antifascist stance. While analyzing the social conformism brought about by fascist pedagogy--and its enduring effects--Meneghello in 1976 indeed evokes (with ill-concealed annoyance) "una poesiola vicentina sulle gabbiette alle finestre e le zie con l'occhialino d'argento" (88). It is hard not to grasp here an approximate allusion to an aspect of Barolini's poetry, and specifically to some lines from his poem "Confidenze alla creatura amata," originally published in the collection Il meraviglioso giardino (1941): "La gabbia oscillava, / il canarino cantava; / la zia Maddalena aveva / un occhialino d'argento" (28). As Monica Giachino has pointed out, in this poem as a whole Barolini "anticipa, in maniera sorprendente e forse inconsapevole, i contenuti e i significati di quello che sarebbe stato in anni ancora a venire il percorso della sua narrativa breve" (Crotti, et alii 35). In other words, with that early poem Barolini brings to the forefront the peculiar entanglement of memory and awareness that will be characteristic of his short stories: memory of human beings and objects, awareness of their becoming, but also of their inevitable disappearance. Two other lines belonging to the same poem demonstrate this connection more clearly: "[...] questa memoria di cose / che verranno e che sono state." The point, however, is that disappearance, in Barolini's case, has to be located on the double level of factual and historical experience (as violent loss of objects and people), and of the mechanisms of literary production, as if language--no less than human finitude--must deal with nothingness, and at the same time with some sort of commitment related to (and raised by) that very irrecoverable cancellation. It is not coincidental that in a slightly later collection of Barolini's poems, the above mentioned composition appears without the four lines that Meneghello does not like (but which he still has in mind after more than thirty years), nor is it coincidental that in the 60s the poem itself is erased from Barolini's other two attempts to give systematization to his own poetic production. (3) Nonetheless, as Giachino first noticed, the affective landscape involving Aunt Maddalena and her canary reappears--in narrative form--in the short story "Il canarino d'oro," published by La stampa on October 1, 1948, and later on it resurfaces again, further reworked and recast into English, in the new short story "Emerita Anna's Daughters" (New Yorker, February 2, 1957)--a short story that is ultimately included in the American collection of Barolini's brief narrative works (1960) and in the Italian one as well (1968, under the title "Le figlie di Emerita Anna").
Apart from the differences in their poetic tastes and in their experiences with regard to the period following the armistice (September 8, 1943), both Barolini and Meneghello mourn the loss of an exemplary figure of resistance, that of Antonio Giuriolo, assassinated by the Nazis on December 12, 1944, two months before he turned thirty-three. This assassination--a political event, though one that lies within those thickets of politics that run along human affection, itself a source of the impolitical--sheds light on the wider implications of Barolini's poetics about memory.
Giuriolo, known as Capitan Toni, is one of the maestri e compagni--guiding teachers and fellows, along with Piero Calamandrei, Aldo Capitini, Eugenio Colorni, Leone Ginzburg, Rodolfo Mondolfo, Augusto Monti and Gaetano Salvemini--who had accompanied Norberto Bobbio (1909-2004) through the trauma of the war (Bobbio 189-201). Nowadays, the recent publication of the speech delivered by Baro lini on July 2, 1966 in Vicenza to commemorate Giuriolo, provides the opportunity to connect this under-examined meditation on loss, violence and politics with Barolini's ideas about narration and private experience that emerge from the long passage quoted at the beginning of this section. Barolini's memorial speech has now been transcribed, and is published in Antonio Barolini. Cronistoria di un 'anima, edited by Teodolinda Barolini (daughter of the writer), along with the rich materials that make up the proceedings of the conferences held in New York and Vicenza in 2010. (4) In her essay, the editor reconstructs for the first time the role that non-violence played in Barolini's life and she sets the conditions for the understanding of what nonviolence in war time means. This valuable book allows us to understand the significance of Barolini's political and religious reflections in light of his literary activity as a whole, and, in particular, within the context of his epistolary exchange with another leading figure, the non-violent activist Aldo Capitini.
An analysis of the different typologies of texts suggests that both what Barolini wrote in his narrative works and what he wrote about war, violence (including the death of Giuriolo) and religion are of great relevance in addressing some of the most compelling topics of the contemporary debate on politics, such as community, as it is tackled by thinkers such as Jean-Luc Nancy and, more recently, Roberto Esposito. (5)
3. The Original and Its Destruction
In the introductory lines to an edition (La Nuova Italia) of his short stories enriched, for the schools, by para-texts and photos (L'omino del pepe e altri racconti, 1970), Barolini reminds his young readers ("Cari amici.") of the serpentine editorial path of the stories themselves. Two years before, Feltrinelli had already published a similar but not identical collection (L'ultima contessa di famiglia, 1968), where all stories were included except for one. Before that, in 1960, the stories were published (again with inclusions and exclusions) in an American (illustrated) edition, Our Last Family Countess and Related Stories. Back in the 50s, part of this narrative work had been separately issued by The New Yorker and The Reporter. Indeed, Helen Barolini had translated--in collaboration with her husband--the original Italian versions into English for publication in the United States. (6)
Barolini writes that the translation improved his work, to the point that the Italian edition by Feltrinelli (from which La Nuova Italia took most of the stories) was reworked from the lines (sulla falsariga) of the English text, not from the original one written in the author's native language. The epistemological consequences of this remake of the authentic version on the basis of its translation --a gesture to a certain extent involving falsification, as the Italian falsariga expresses better than the English--are clearly stated in the prefazione of 1970, which is worth recalling for its decisive passage: "[...] il tradurre un testo originale in un'altra lingua, se la traduzione avviene in cooperazione tra l'autore e il traduttore, finisce sempre col distruggere l'originale." The original work in Italian is radically obliterated, destroyed, through the cooperation with Barolini's wife in the very act of translation and transmission of that same work into another language. The short story "Le figlie di Emerita Anna" (1968), as we have seen, was based on the English version "Emerita Anna's Daughters" (1957), but at the origin of both was the brief Italian narration "Il canarino d'oro" (1948), and, even before that, we find the very source of Barolini's poetics: the lost poem "Confidenze alla creatura amata" (1941). As a consequence, translation itself-- with its trait of otherness--becomes the ground for the impossible reintegration of an irremediably destroyed work: an original work that, to some degree, the author can no longer entirely possess, and one which is not fully reflected in its final--public--version, the one prepared for the designated audience of readers in the author's country of origin.
Interestingly enough, there is a similarity between Barolini's rewritings and Arrigo Boito's reworkings of his opera Mefistofele, adapted from Goethe's Faust, at the very beginning of Italy's unification (1861). In both cases we have an overwriting (in Boito's case a material overwriting on the same page) that irrevocably erases the original writing. With his Mefistofele, Boito (1842-1918) tried to expand the cultural horizons of the nation and revitalize mid-century Italian opera with the modern aspirations mainly embodied by northern European countries such as Germany. Mefistofele's debut at the Teatro alla Scala in Milano on March 5, 1868, however, was a resounding fiasco, and the opera was criticized for its useless Wagnerism. Boito largely revised the opera--this time paying particular attention to the disposizioni sceniche, a set of stage instructions specifically addressed to an Italian spectatorship that needed to be exposed to another culture. The opera was restaged in 1875 in Bologna, and was ultimately sanctioned as a success back at La Scala in 1881. What is particularly interesting in this story are the circumstances of Boito's rewritings. Alessandra Campana indeed remarks that Boito "entered his revisions directly onto the pages of the original autograph orchestral score, thus materially overwriting the scandalous text of 1868 in a way that was irrevocable" (18).
The main difference between Barolini's and Boito's rewritings lies in that for the former the original copy of the work was, as it were, too Italian, while for the latter it was too foreign. Additionally, in Barolini's case, as the author himself explicitly mentions, the revision process was essentially a cooperative one. However, in both experiences we find the elision of the authentic, autograph text, as the condition for the text itself to be successfully read by, or performed in front of, an audience. Indeed, as Barolini writes in 1970, every translation accomplished by the author in cooperation with the translator is an overwriting that destroys the original, instead of merely adding--to the original--a second layer of meaning. On the other hand, as far as the case of Boito's Mefistofele is concerned, the material overwriting of the text irrevocably makes the original illegible, therefore erasing it.
The irreparable loss of the original has further implications that will be addressed in the next section of this article, which deals with Barolini's political and private meditations. For now, it is worth recalling what Jean-Luc Nancy writes about the inoperative community. His way of inflecting the fundamental political term "community" (which becomes communitas in Esposito's philosophical vocabulary) suggests that the erasure of a supposedly primary and fixed identity from a (re)written text is consistent with the understanding of a nontotalitarian way of living together. A violence perpetrated on the text by the cooperation between the author and the translator, as it were, delivers an image of community--like the dual and impolitical community of marriage--that is cleansed from the material violence of a totalitarian community. Barolini's cooperative translation and remaking displaces the original copy of the work into a dimension--that of destruction or, to a certain extent, of death--that makes it impossible to say that the work as such is the essence of the author's (the subject's) act of writing--an essence produced at once by that very act. This idea holds true whether the author is an individual or a community, even a dual (germinal and impolitical) one. That work, in other words, is not owned by Barolini, the artist, who is not the sovereign author of his work, because the presence of the translator (the wife) lessens his power over his text. Barolini does not rule as a sovereign over his own production; he is rather deprived--through the artistic cooperation with his wife, no less than through his own exposure to a language (English) he does not completely master--of any essential power over his work. A community is inoperative, according to Jean-Luc Nancy, precisely when it does not conceive of its bond in terms of the production of its own essence (of the production of a work the community should be firmly in possession of), as, instead, a totalitarian society, or rather any communitarian society, does. Liberal societies indeed have inflicted no less intolerable forms of sufferings than communist societies, because according to Nancy they impose an absolute weight that crushes or blocks all our "horizons": there is, namely, no form of communist opposition--or let us say rather "communitarian opposition", in order to emphasize that the word should not be restricted in this context to strictly political references--that has not been or is not still profoundly subjugated to the goal of a human community, that is, to the goal of achieving a community of beings producing in essence their own essence as their work, and furthermore producing precisely this essence as community.
If we shift from the vicissitudes of the different editions of Barolini's stories and of the language through which the stories are narrated to the characters inhabiting those stories, we also find an eloquent anxiety in them that is in line with the lexicon of improperty employed by Nancy; that is, the fact of not having the exclusive possession of what a subject produces or is. This anxiety counters the poetic tones that leave a negative impression on Meneghello, who criticizes the misleading naivite of "una poesiola vicentina sulle gabbiette [...]." Anxiety can be found, for example, in the short story "Cronache d'ospedale" (published in the Feltrinelli collection L'ultima contessa di famiglia). Here Barolini recalls his experience of being hospitalized in Venezia during the days of the Liberazione (April 1945), an experience characterized by a sense of shattering, of being broken into pieces, of a deterioration and then loss--in other words--of both physical and mental integrity: "Per tutte quelle ore, ero stato dominato dall'ossessione di essere stato diviso in un incalcolabile numero di frammenti e ciascuno di essi era vivo, assillato dalla precisa coscienza di essere soltanto parte di un'entita che era stata l'unica e che non si sarebbe mai potuta ricomporre" (283).
In Barolini's literary production this sense of consumption and loss--though present--does not, however, result in mere nostalgia; at the same time, the author does not try to replace the perception of a bygone wholeness with a consolation of any sort. When he writes that the translation into English of some of his stories has improved the original ones--which are now destroyed--he is not simply seeking comfort nor is he trying to reconstitute any past unity. He writes, in the introductory lines to L'omino del pepe e altri racconti, that his brief prose works are "qualche cosa di piu di una carezza nostalgica su di un mondo scomparso" (VII). In the case of the translated and then reworked stories, this di piu is attributed to "l'incredibile flessibilita e aderenza alla realta delle locuzioni inglesi," to "la capacita di questa lingua (commerciale e strumentale, prima di essere accademica) di realizzare in poche parole quel che, a volte, in italiano, per essere convenientemente espresso, richiede lunghe ed elaborate frasi" (V).
What Barolini is trying to do--both in Italian and in English--is something more than mourn a private experience of loss, though the figures of that loss are mainly personal ones. Rather, he attempts to retrace the story of a collectivity, of its moral and material crisis, and of its attempted recovery, from the end of the nineteenth century (from the times of his parents and of his eldest relatives) to the post-war reconstruction, a period that coincided with Barolini's move to America. He wants to highlight the reason why the old world is moralmente scomparso:
[...] la ragione del perche [...] una certa borghesia ottocentesca non ha potuto reggere all'urto di due guerre; perche ancora fu pari e, al tempo stesso, impari ai compiti complessi della nuova societa che nasceva; e perche infine la prima guerra mondiale, l'esuberanza interventista che la caratterizzo, il fascismo che ne fu la conseguenza piu deleteria e ci porto alla seconda guerra mondiale, la stessa Resistenza con la sua purezza e le sue ingenuita, le difficolta di questo dopo-guerra sono tutti fattori concatenati, frutto spesso di una medesima pigrizia, di una persistente retorica, pagati sempre a troppo caro prezzo; in ultima analisi, di un medesimo egoismo.
It is not by chance that the first image from the eight pictures included at the end of the 1970 collection comes from private life: it is a photo of the Vicenza house (in Palladian style) where Barolini's grandparents had lived. In order to mark the distance between his own conception of personal affects and the egoism he condemns in the expressions of national life, the very last picture--at the conclusion of the book--is a joyful portrait of Giacomo Matteotti, the socialist who on May 30, 1924 openly spoke in the Italian Parliament and denounced the violence used by the fascists to gain votes. Because of this speech, Matteotti was killed ten days later by the squadristi, and Italy, whose constitutional rights were abrogated by Benito Mussolini, became a fascist dictatorship shortly thereafter on January 3, 1925.
Here, where a private tribute to a public figure--Matteotti--becomes more than a nostalgic caress, and where at the same time a loss is restated as a loss (before and beyond any easy consolation), Barolini's impolitical--but one could also say, non-violent--stance on the violent events of his time transmutes into a way of addressing politics.
4. Against the Ethics of Power
In one of the two semi-autobiographical novels devoted to the tragedy of the Second World War, Le notti della paura (1967), the protagonist notes:
Alla conclusione delle esperienze, l'unica etica possibile e fatalmente quella cristiana. Ma non puo essere l'etica della pedanteria tradizionale cattolica e della sua casistica. Dopo i lutti di questa guerra, non potra piu essere etica di potenza, fondata sul cio che legherete, ma sul cio che scioglierete sulla terra, in nome mio sara sciolto. Le chiese, per difendere la loro potenza istituzionale, si sono troppo preoccupate di legare, anziche di sciogliere.
This passage is reminiscent of the Gospel of Matthew (18:18), where Jesus says: "Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you lose on earth will be loosed in heaven." Furthermore, the contrast between the violence of the ethics of power, on the one hand, and the opening and the loosening of the ties of ideologies (including those of the Christian church), on the other hand, is one of the teachings of one of Barolini's close friends, the anti-dogmatic religious figure and the non-violent activist Aldo Capitini.
Capitini's openness, along with his idea of religion as "servizio dell'impossibile" (a service as impossible as the reintegration of an irremediably lost wholeness, a service that nevertheless has to be performed), is opposed to the world "che e secondo potenza," where "il pesce grande mangia il pesce piccolo." These ideas are articulated in particular in Capitini's book Religione aperta, that Barolini had very clearly in mind (10-11).
Barolini's religious aspect is important for grasping the peculiarity of his impolitical thoughts on politics and his complex assessment of the resistance figure--and fraternal friend--Antonio Giuriolo. This attention to Barolini's particular religious inspiration must also be understood without ignoring the vertical dimension of Jean-Luc Nancy's speculation about the inoperative community. This religious inspiration is not in contradiction with Nancy's attempt to theorize the inoperative community. In fact, in The Inoperative Community he equates "immanentism" and "totalitarianism," inasmuch as both are the suffocating result of the "absolute weight" of ideologies and violence, a weight that "crushes or blocks all our 'horizons'" instead of opening these horizons by loosening their knotted ties in the direction of (a never dogmatic, never granted) transcendence (2-3).
The title of Barolini's speech in 1966 commemorating Giuriolo is emblematic: "Il capitano Toni e il suo e nostro piccolo mondo antico" (published in T. Barolini 57-73). (8) The allusion to the title of Antonio Fogazzaro's novel Piccolo mondo antico (1895) combines the sense of loss for a friend with the loss of a deeply rooted form of life, that of the little world of the Veneto region of the past where Barolini, Giuriolo and Meneghello were born. This is the same world that Barolini initially wrote about in his short stories, and that had to be retold, remade, after coming into contact with a foreign language: English, the language of instrumental and commercial modernization, which destroyed the very first way the little world appeared to Barolini's consciousness.
In the case of the memory devoted to Giuriolo, personal and collective issues are intertwined as much as in the case of the tribute to Matteotti, but now with the decisive and additional feature of a deep mutual friendship. Personal and collective issues are both grounded on a loss, on the void left by the disappearance of the past world and by Giuriolo's death. Loss and void ask neither for nostalgia nor escapism as a reaction; rather they both require a commitment to that void, to that nothing, in terms of literary activity on the one hand and of ethical conduct on the other one. We suggest calling this commitment inoperative (equivalent to a certain extent to impolitical)--so following Jean-Luc Nancy on this issue-- because that grounding void is not something that a consciousness or a collectivity can take possession of; it is rather displaced with regard to any attempt to convert it into the positive possession of a subject or of a community.
The double dimension of ethical commitment--the mundane and the religious, immanence and transcendence--belongs entirely to Giuriolo's personality: "Toni," Barolini writes in the commemorative speech, "fu il piu laico, il piu libero, il piu intransigente, ma anche il piu cristiano di tutti noi" (qtd. in T. Barolini 64). Being secular ("laico") and Christian are not mutually exclusive, and it is in their reciprocal relationship that the constitutive void of existence takes its meaning, amounting to a possible fraternity. In Giuriolo's words to Barolini, "Se sul piano delle idee non c'e conciliazione, senza la conquista, il superamento, l'accettazione di una verita morale piu alta, sul piano della morte non c'e piu divisione, ma solo fraternita" (qtd. in T. Barolini 64). For Barolini, elaborating on Giuriolo's teaching, the inoperative commitment against the ethics of power has to be understood as the opposite of abandonment and surrender. That commitment means rather to come to terms with the loss and the harshness inherent in life (no less than in language): "Il primo eroismo," Barolini writes, "e l'accettazione della realta nella sua durezza quotidiana, nello sforzo di discernerne, ravvicinati anziche in prospettiva, il vero dal falso; e nel nostro tenace compito di operare in essa, momento per momento, queste scelte" (qtd. in T. Barolini 67). At the same time, Barolini does not aim at the appropriation of Giuriolo's exemplary (and tragic) life. He never forgets that Toni was capable of a sacrifice he himself had not been capable of: those times of war, Barolini writes, were times of " [...] preparazione, di acquisizione di coscienza, di tormento e mortificazione di coscienza, di necessaria ambiguita per alcuni di noi; di azione: finalmente: di offerta, di sacrificio, di morte, di eroismo, per i migliori" (qtd. in T. Barolini 70). What is now important is to be committed to honoring those deaths: "La sua vita" --Barolini here refers specifically to Antonio Giuriolo--"opera in ciascuno di noi" (qtd. in T. Barolini 70). Remembering the dead is not inaction, it is not endless nostalgic mourning, it is rather concrete life, doing--even though the doing cannot cancel the reality of the void left by people, objects, worlds: "La memoria e la vita concreta della coscienza e della responsabilita" (qtd. in T. Barolini 72).
It is in light of this connection between memory and responsibility that Barolini's reference to the liturgy of the Eucharist should be understood: "[...] fate questo in memoria di me" (qtd. in T. Barolini 72). Here Giuriolo ' s death takes the role of Christ's, but Barolini's intention is not to defend a dogma, it is rather to frame an ethical and pragmatic issue ("fate.", do.) within the presence of Giuriolo's (Christ's) mystical body. This mystical presence is the counterpart to the loss of the friend, but such a presence cannot be represented by any easy consolation looking to fill the void left by loved ones and by epochs of the past. It is possible to say that this way of God's being present in the mystical body of the victim prevents the loss--as an historical experience--from collapsing into a structural, ontological and meta-historical absence. At the meta-historical level, the void left by the loss of the living is always already fulfilled by the presence of God. This is also the reason why mourning a loss is not an ontologically unending task, although it is impossible for the lost one to be reintegrated as such into experience and life (religion is servizio dell'impossibile, as Capitini writes). As is well known, the fundamental distinction between historical trauma, related to a specific, singular, loss, and structural trauma, related to an ontological and constitutive absence, has been theorized by Dominick LaCapra in his essay Trauma, Absence, Loss, published in Writing History, Writing Trauma (2001). Suzanne Stewart-Steinberg has recently pointed out the political consequences of collapsing loss into absence and vice versa. She argues that reducing loss to a constitutive absence leads not only to an endless nostalgia, but also to a "quasicelebratory, ecstatic discourse linking loss and suffering to the sublime," thereby condemning us to a kind of "impotent politics" (120). On the other hand, collapsing meta-historical absence into loss, Stewart-Steinberg argues, "may give rise to a misplaced nostalgia and a utopian politics in quest of a lost but to be regained wholeness or totality, to the desire for a unified community or self," thus exposing us "to the dangers of totalitarian, fundamentalist solutions to political and social problems, and thus to an inability to live with a partial, fragmented, and diverse reality" (120). Barolini's religious meditation about loss, politics and writing in different languages tries to avoid the pitfalls both of an impotent politics (we will see soon that Barolini also says that even non-violence must not be fetishized in an abstract principle) and of a totalitarian solution unable to accept that we live in a fragmented reality, where loss (not a theoretical absence) is constitutive of our experience.
At this point we can better contextualize Barolini's quotation from Dante's Paradiso 31 (vv. 1-3) at the end of his commemorative speech: "In forma dunque di candida rosa / mi si mostrava la milizia santa / che nel suo sangue Cristo fece sposa". Here Barolini not only includes Giuriolo among the blessed of Paradise's candida rosa, (9) he also recalls the reading of Dante they did together on October 29, 1940, and in so doing, he directly connects Giuriolo's experience and loss to the cultural tradition of the country and to its literary imagery. As we have seen, while looking back to Dante's Paradiso as a source of his understanding of culture, ethics and life, Barolini was at the same time rewriting his own original short prose through a language that tried to account for modernization and for the loss of the remote traditions of his childhood.
The presumed circumstances of Giuriolo's death account for his non-violent attitude in times of war and resistance. Non-violence, in Giuriolo's case, does not prevent him from fighting and defending others. Barolini grasps the peculiarity of such a commitment to non-violent ideals in violent circumstances, in the following passage from the commemorative speech:
Mi hanno detto che il 12 dicembre 1944, i compagni che hanno raccolto i resti di Toni ritornato sui suoi passi per ricercare due dispersi [...], ne hanno ritrovato le spoglie con l'arma in posizione di sicurezza o nella fondina che fosse. E possibile, perche la nonviolenza come l'obbiezione di coscienza erano leggi di Toni; certamente egli poteva uccidere per difendere gli altri, ma dubito, conoscendolo, che egli lo avrebbe fatto per salvare se stesso.
(qtd. in T. Barolini 71)
Giuriolo's disposition to sacrifice himself did not interfere with his will to defend his companions. As Barolini suggests to (the non-violent and vegetarian) Aldo Capitini in a letter dated February 7, 1956, Giuriolo's commitment to nonviolence was neither formal nor pharisaic, to the point that Toni could put into question the abstract absoluteness of the option for non-violence itself:
Egli, Toni, credeva alla nonviolenza ed era, si puo dire, istintivamente vegetariano, senza fariseismi, proprio come dici e consigli tu, per cui il problema non e di buttare un brodo di carne fuori dalla finestra ma di una costante collaborazione a far si che si tenda a circoscriverla sempre di piu, la necessita della violenza, ovunque e comunque essa si presenti.
(qtd. in T. Barolini 32)
The impossibility of cancelling violence and the consequent necessity of limiting it, as is stated in the passage above, clearly explains what Norberto Bobbio only alludes to in his speech devoted to Giuriolo: "Del resto, partigiano per convinzione ma combattente per necessita, egli era affascinato, sulle orme di Aldo Capitini, dall'etica della nonviolenza" (194). (10)
In the epistolary exchange with Capitini, Giuriolo takes the role--as Adriana Chemello has poignantly remarked--of a speaking icon ("icona parlante"), and it is not by chance that such an identification with an icon occurs through writing and in writing (Chemello 214).
On the one hand, by means of writing letters to Capitini, Barolini restates the "vuoti irreparabili" (irreparable voids) left by the war, along with the fact that "Giuriolo sta in testa a questi morti" (letter dated June 30, 1945; qtd. in T. Barolini 205). At the same time, the circumstance that Barolini's interlocutor, Capitini, was both an activist and a writer, allows Barolini to highlight that writing implies a pragmatic commitment to a reality which is indelibly marked by those lost: "Non sono dunque le tue idee, ma il fare che c'e dentro i tuoi libri", Barolini writes to Capitini, "perche si sente che e la continuazione del tuo fare quotidiano" (letter from Croton, November 12, 1957; qtd. in T. Barolini 52). Here writing, as Chemello has noted, is a "dialogo in absentia" (Chemello 207), a phrase reminiscent of Cicero's amicorum colloquia absentium. Barolini, Capitini and Giuriolo, inasmuch as they are absent to each other through either a real death or a figural one (the latter embedded in the very act of using written language), together build an impolitical community of affects that circumscribe and limit violence: "[...] egli vive in me," Barolini writes of Giuriolo to Capitini, "e [...] per renderlo sereno non ci puo essere che un'azione religiosa continua di perfezionamento di azione [...], tu assumerai in te anche parte di quel mio sentire di lui, e a tua volta ne risolverai e risolleverai in te la memoria e la passione" (qtd. in T. Barolini 33).
Barolini's religious inspiration drew criticism--even when he was alive, which probably contributed to his subsequent damnatio memoriae--by both his non-religious interlocutors and the representatives of religious institutions. While commenting on a letter that Barolini wrote to one of his few sympathetic correspondents within the church--the archbishop of Milano Giovanni Colombo --Nicola Di Nino sums up thus: "Si legge una certa frustrazione nelle parole di Barolini che adesso si trovava solo contro i laici, che mai avevano condiviso le sue idee, e contro la Chiesa stessa che all'inizio lo aveva apprezzato e anche difeso" (Di Nino 239).
Among the lay people who were skeptical of his religious ideas, Barolini could count on intellectuals who were very close to him. In an interview for L'Espresso dating back to 1968, one of them is quoted anonymously, but he is termed "dearest friend and illustrious writer": "Mi chiamano 'bigotto' per questo. Un mio carissimo amico, scrittore illustre, mi dice sempre: saresti un caro 'ragazzo' se non fossi quel bigotto che sei" (Mazza 27).
On the other hand, as for the publications of religious institutions, it is worth remembering a patronizing article by Vincenzo De Martinis for La civilta cattolica (1967), where the tormented Catholicism of the protagonist of Barolini's novel Le notti della paura--published the same year as the article--is written off as a consequence of the bad influence of Adolf von Harnack's historical criticism of the Gospels on Barolini himself (De Martinis 42-49).
We have seen that in dialogue with Capitini, Barolini seems to recognize that violence cannot be extirpated and that, as a consequence of this, non-violence cannot become an absolute and always applicable principle. From such a point of view, violence has to be limited, instead of being ultimately cancelled.
Nonetheless, when Barolini is in dialogue with himself, as it were, as in the diary he wrote when he went underground in Venezia from the armistice to the end of the war, the author unveils quite a different viewpoint on non-violence by making explicit its connection with Christ's sacrifice. In this perspective, the sacrifice of the victim--of the scapegoat--marks the absoluteness of the principle of non-violence.
In his Diario di prigionia, Barolini indeed writes: "Il principio della non violenza dev'essere principio basilare della vita morale contemporanea e dobbiamo intenderlo in forma assoluta, come san Francesco" (qtd. in T. Barolini XIII). Already in the very first page of the diary, Barolini not only puts into question the legitimacy of violent self-defense, but he also lingers upon the inevitability, in any circumstance, of suffering violence, instead of inflicting it. Authentic freedom, he writes in the opening page of the diary, "[...] esclude ogni forma di violenza e non e affatto azione negativa o passiva come i piu affermano; anzi e la sola vera azione positiva che trova la sua espressione eroica in Cristo [...]. Ogni violenza si vince con la forza del diritto e appunto per vincerla, in nome di questa forza, si subisce" (qtd. in T. Barolini XIII-XIV). In these lines, we find again an echo from the Gospel of Matthew, that is to say, the idea that in any circumstance being subjected to violence is preferable to committing violence: "You have heard now it was said: Eye for eye and tooth for tooth. But I say this to you: offer no resistance to the wicked. On the contrary, if anyone hits you on the right cheek, offer him the other as well" (Matt. 5:38-39).
In La memoria di Stefano, the second of the two semi-autobiographical novels on WWII and the anti-fascist resistance, Stefano, the protagonist, states both the non-violent and the Christian inspiration at the basis of his conduct. When he is arrested by the fascists, he starts to demolish the defenses of his persecutors by saying: "Sciocchi, cosa volete che sia armato? Non sono un cacciatore di cristiani come voi!" (186). The same choice of the name "Stefano" --Stefano also was Barolini's alter-ego in the early short novel Giornate di Stefano (1928-30)--is rich with martyrological implications. In the Avvertenza e premessa that Barolini wrote for the volume that contained La memoria and Giornate, he writes that Stefano stands for the "mirabile storia della testimonianza e del martirio di Stefano protomartire" (9). Indeed, in the Acts of the Apostles, Stephen is the martyr who not only rejects violence but also forgives his persecutors, thereby underscoring his absolute commitment to non-violence and his identification with a Christological scapegoat: "While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. ' Then he fell on his knees and cried out, 'Lord, do not hold this sin against them. ' When he said this, he fell asleep" (7:59-60).
Even one of the protagonists of Barolini's first novel on WWII, Le notti della paura, takes his "nome d'occasione" (9), to be employed in the fight against the fascists, from a martyr. "Tarcisio" chose this name because, as he explains, "siamo in un'epoca di catacombe" (69). Indeed, Tarcisio in the third century was a young Christian who was killed under the persecution initiated by Aurelianus when he was only twelve. In the conclusion of Barolini's novel, Tarcisio is assassinated by the Nazis in a situation that recalls that of the death of Giuriolo, who probably refused to defend himself and use his gun.
Barolini's acceptance of non-violence, therefore, is problematic, and cannot be summarized in just one statement. On the one hand, for example in the letters to Capitini, Barolini seems not to assume an absolute position on non-violence regardless of the circumstances. On the other hand, he unveils a martyrological inclination that accounts for non-violence as an absolute way of life inevitably leading to sacrifice. This is the case, in particular, of his Diario in which, on August 31, 1944, he notes: "Certe volte penso se e solo vilta, o educazione e civilta, la mia spontanea avversione a ogni violenza, sotto qualunque aspetto anche in amore; il mio preferire di subire una violenza piuttosto che provocarla" (qtd. in T. Barolini XIII).
7. Conclusion: Creative Melancholia
The act of addressing politics from the (impolitical) triggering points of human affections, moral issues, experiences of private loss and of human exemplarity--that is to say, in Barolini's case, from the point of view of non-violence--does not amount to escapism from politics. It rather contributes to a more selfconscious commitment to living together, a commitment aware of the limits and the failures of traditional terms like subject, community, essence.
Certainly there is no such thing as a space that is not touched by the ethics of power. Nonetheless, it is possible to look at the ethics of power from different and divergent perspectives. Barolini's perspective includes transcendence, a stance that Jean-Luc Nancy does not exclude. Esposito, the philosopher who more than others uses the categories of the impolitical, basically rejects any political theology; nonetheless, in Living Thought he writes that the impolitical regards the political "from outside, or, rather, from its reverse: from the point of view of what the political cannot be. From the nothingness that surrounds it like its negated possibility, its silent language, its canceled trace" (226). Nothingness, the cancelled trace of a destroyed language, of a past world: these are all terms that could belong in Barolini's poetics and in his epistolary exchange with Capitini. Furthermore, Barolini's anti-sectarianism would have led him to reject that aspect of "the logic of political representation" according to which, in Esposito's words, "the subject is made such precisely by the possession of power, or at least by the aspiration to hold it" (227). In fact, in his Diario di prigionia--Venezia, Barolini writes: "E questa incapacita alla settarieta la ragione per cui non aderii al Partito d'Azione mai" (qtd. in T. Barolini 6).
Memory and loss, no less than his religious persuasion, are located at the very heart of Barolini's impolitical (inoperative) commitment to politics. Even though this hold on politics must not be misunderstood for nostalgia, a certain acceptance of melancholia is undoubtedly involved. Esposito's view on melancholia does not consider this state of mind as a specific object of analysis, one that distracts individuals from action and from the responsibilities of living together. Rather, Esposito sees melancholia as "something by which community itself is contained and determined" (Terms of the Political 28) precisely because, as Jean-Luc Nancy would say, community is not in possession of its essence--neither of its unalterable traditions, nor of its immutable identity. Similarly, the awareness of loss for Barolini does not mean withdrawal into privateness; it rather implies finding new languages to open a new future for what time has destroyed.
Gerard Richter has addressed Sigmund Freud's definition of melancholia in a way which should not leave Esposito indifferent, and which is meaningful in terms of Barolini's poetics and of his reflections on politics and religion. "Although melancholia can be read as a pathological deviation from the normal course of healthy mourning," Richter writes, it also can be understood as a refusal to lose the object a second time through the process of disengaging from it, and, by extension, as a refusal to lose one's loss. From this perspective, melancholia names a loss that is constitutive in nature and therefore cannot be compensated without undoing the ego that defines itself through this loss.
Giuriolo's death is not something that Barolini wants to be disengaged from; rather, it is a constitutive, affective event in his political and personal experience. It is the reason for his doing, for his commitment to non-violence; it is the reason, more broadly, for conceiving of a new kind of community.
Such a correlation between death, practical commitment and community could be outlined, in philosophical terms, following Jean-Luc Nancy once again:
The motif of the revelation, through death, of being-together or being-with, and of the crystallization of the community around the death of its members, that is to say around the "loss" (the impossibility) of their immanence and not around their fusional assumption in some collective hypostasis, leads to a space of thinking incommensurable with the problematics of sociality and intersubjectivity [...] within which philosophy, despite its resistance, has remained captive. Death irremediably exceeds the resources of a metaphysics of the subject.
Giuriolo's death, to Barolini, also meant the destruction of the "little past world." On the one hand, the disappearance of that form of life brought about the task of finding a new language in order to translate--into the present of young readers --the significance of what had been. On the other hand, Barolini's rewriting of his short stories cannot be adequately understood independently from the cooperation with his wife Helen. She provided the basis for the rewriting's new language. In "writing" together, Nancy would say, the "lovers" do not produce "sovereignty" over their work--first, because the original is lost, and second, because that original is remade, falsified and shared. Rather, they "expose" it "to the outside": that very work is undone in and through its sharing, and in and through its exposure to the outside, so that "what is shared is the [inoperative] unworking of works" (39). Loss, melancholia and literary violence perpetrated on a text by translators therefore coalesce. Textual violence, by stating a loss that has melancholia as its subjective feature, takes the place of material, historical (totalitarian) violence. Such a substitution of material violence with a textual one alludes to the fact that an ethics of writing and translating--a controlled way of exerting violence on a text--portrays an impolitical way of living together, an inoperative community, that is not prey to the blind and reckless ethics of power.
The canary of Barolini's first poems had a long resonance. The artistic and intercultural work with Helen Barolini is part of the aftermath and also one of the main reasons to draw new attention today to Antonio Barolini's multifaceted cultural activity.
While remembering a little book, Duet (1966), that she wrote together with her husband Antonio, Helen Barolini remarks:
Si tratta di un piccolo ma prezioso libretto che realizza la promessa del nostro matrimonio che saremmo diventati artisti insieme. Duet contiene poesie di Antonio in italiano, con a fronte la mia traduzione inglese, e le mie poesie in inglese con la sua traduzione in italiano. Mi piace pensare che questo libro catturi lo spirito della nostra intensa collaborazione come traduttori reciproci delle rispettive culture e che insieme colleghi i nostri mondi.
(qtd. in T. Barolini 273)
Duet therefore could be considered emblematic of the attempt to exorcise violence through writing and in writing. Accordingly, Helen's and Antonio's artistic cooperation--and the intercultural experience it involved--could be interpreted as a dual community that translated, in impolitical terms, the political issue of communication among cultures.
Brown University, PhD Fellow in Italian Studies
Barolini, Antonio. L'angelo attento. Il meraviglioso giardino e alter poesie inedite. Milano: Feltrinelli, 1968.
--. 'Il Capitano Antonio Giuriolo." La rassegna d'Italia 1.9 (1946): 86-92.
--. "Il Capitano Toni." Il ponte 2 (1964): 1374-82.
--. Giornate di Stefano. Padova: Tolomei, 1943.
--. Una lunga pazzia. Milano: Feltrinelli, 1962. (Transl. Helen Baro lini. A Long Madness. New York: Pantheon, 1964.)
--. La memoria di Stefano. Milano: Feltrinelli, 1969.
--. Il meraviglioso giardino. Vicenza: Edizioni del Pellicano, 1941.
--. Il meraviglioso giardino. "Prefazione" by Geno Pampaloni. Milano: Feltrinelli, 1964.
--. Le notti della paura. Milano: Feltrinelli, 1967.
--. L'omino del pepe e altri racconti. Ed. Tommaso Di Salvo. Firenze: La Nuova Italia, 1970.
--. Our Last Family Countess and Related Stories. Ill. Tony Palladino. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1960. (New York: Backinprint.com, 2000)
--. Il paradiso che verra. Momenti di un'esperienza religiosa. Firenze: Vallecchi, 1972.
--. L'ultima contessa di famiglia. Milano: Feltrinelli, 1968.
--. Viaggio col veliero San Spiridone. Vicenza: Edizioni del Pellicano, 1946.
Barolini, Antonio, and Helen Barolini. Duet. Vicenza: Neri Pozza, 1966.
Barolini, Antonio, Norberto Bobbio, Enzo Enriques Agnoletti, and Luigi Meneghello. Per Antonio Giuriolo. Vicenza: 1966.
Barolini, Teodolinda, ed. Antonio Barolini. Cronistoria di un'anima. Atti dei Convegni di New York e di Vicenza. Firenze: Societa Editrice Fiorentina, 2015.
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Campana, Alessandra. Opera and Modern Spectatorship in Late Nineteenth-Century Italy. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2015.
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--. Religione aperta. 1955. Ed. Mario Martini. Preface by Goffredo Fofi. Roma-Bari: Laterza, 2011.
Chemello, Adriana. "Storia di un'amicizia: il carteggio di Antonio Barolini con Aldo Capitini (1945-1968)". T. Barolini, ed., 203-224.
Crotti, Ilaria, Monica Giachino, and Michela Rusi, eds. Un italiano in America. Poesia e narrativa in Antonio Barolini. Roma: Bulzoni, 2012.
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--. Living Thought. The Origins and Actuality of Italian Philosophy. Transl. Zakiya Hanafi. Palo Alto: Stanford UP, 2012.
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(1) The 1966 version of Antonio Barolini's commemorative speech for Giuriolo has been published in T. Barolini 57-73. By Giuriolo, see now Pensare la liberta, 2016.
(2) For a detailed bibliography, from 1935 to 2012, of the critical interventions on Barolini's work (including poems, short stories, novels, articles and essays), see the Bibliografia in Crotti, et alii 111-14. Barolini's poetic activity was positively reviewed, over the years, by critics such as Pietro Pancrazi, Franco Fortini, Eugenio Montale, Pier Paolo Pasolini and Geno Pampaloni. From 1950 Barolini, who was born in Vicenza, lived in the New York area for about fifteen years, along with his American wife Helen Mollica, a writer herself like Barolini, and today known by her husband's surname. Some of the short stories, published with partial changes by Feltrinelli in 1968, had already appeared in English in the New Yorker and in the Reporter, the latter founded and directed by another Italian expatriate, Max Ascoli, who left Ferrara in 1931, seven years before the anti-Semitic persecution was legalized by the racial laws. Barolini's short stories were first anthologized in the United States: Our Last Family Countess and Related Stories. He is the author of four novels: Giornate di Stefano (1943, properly speaking a short story, but an extended one); Una lunga pazzia (1962, translated into English as A Long Madness in 1964); Le notti della paura (1967); and La memoria di Stefano (1969), which also includes the narrative debut Giornate di Stefano. The last two novels--examples of Italian antifascist resistance literature--retrace the author's experience as a persecuted man during the Second World War, along with his underground experiences in Venezia between 1943 and 1945. After the war, Barolini was a correspondent from the United States for La stampa, and later on he became both editor, in Rome, for the journal La fiera letteraria and co-director of the television program L'approdo. He published articles about religious issues for various reviews between 1966 and 1970. These writings have been collected in a posthumous book that he managed to edit before dying--Il paradiso che verra. Momenti di un'esperienza religiosa (1972). It is not a coincidence that the subtitle of this volume recalls Aldo Capitini's Elementi di un'esperienza religiosa (1937). Capitini, the Italian Gandhi, was an extremely important point of reference for Barolini, both because of his religious and practical notion of openness, and because of his teachings about non-violence. Furthermore, between 1954 and 1959 Barolini wrote for Comunita, the journal founded by the humanist and entrepreneur Adriano Olivetti, on which see de' Liguori Carino.
(3) "Confidenze alla creatura amata" is excluded from the final collection of Barolini's poems, L'angelo attento. Il meraviglioso giardino e altre poesie inedite (1968). The most directly autobiographical lines--precisely those evoking zia Maddalena--were excluded from the same poem re-presented in the collection Viaggio col veliero San Spiridone (1946), while the entire composition was also cut out of the new edition of Il meraviglioso giardino (1964), published by Feltrinelli with a Prefazione by Geno Pampaloni and including new poems.
(4) The volume includes several critical essays and an excerpt from Barolini's Diario di prigionia (1943-1945), the letters exchanged with Aldo Capitini, the speech in memory of Antonio Giuriolo, other notes preserved at the Biblioteca Bertoliana di Vicenza, personal testimonies written by Helen Barolini and Mino Vianello, an appendix about the cultural environment of Barolini's time--an environment populated by many friends--and in conclusion an annotated inventory of the books in the possession of the author.
(5) See Nancy; also Esposito's Communitas. Origine e destino della comunita and Terms of the Political: Community, Immunity, Biopolitics. It is precisely thanks to Esposito that the word impolitical (sometimes translated into English as unpolitical) has become one of the operative and most discussed terms of today's political philosophy, at least its ramification that investigates "the unrepresentable origin of politics" (Terms of the Political 135n8 by the translator).
(6) For a detailed account of all the inclusions and exclusions from one edition to the other, see Giachino, "'Questa memoria di cose che verranno e che sono state': i racconti" (Crotti et alii 41-42n14; 50-51n28).
(7) To frame this novel in the context of both an historical account of WWII and the elaboration of a non-violent commitment to history, see T. Barolini's "Testimonianza storica e nonviolenza nei romanzi resistenziali di Antonio Barolini: 'Le notti della paura' e 'La memoria di Stefano'" (T. Barolini, ed., 243-66).
(8) A first memorial for Giuriolo was published (1946) by Antonio Barolini under the title "Il Capitano Antonio Giuriolo," in La rassegna d'Italia, a journal directed by Francesco Flora. Another text by Barolini (1964), titled "Il Capitano Toni," was printed in Il ponte. This memorial was then reprinted (1966) in a limited edition of 500 copies (not available for sale and without the indication of the publishing house) entitled Per Antonio Giuriolo.
(9) In order to enrich the understanding of the affective bond linking Barolini to Giuriolo, it should be noted that "La rosa bianca" is the title of a poem that Barolini wrote in which he remembers when Toni gifted the author's sister a white rose: "[...] la meraviglia / di una rosa bianca, / raccolta intatta in un angolo, / dove la tempesta non ha infierito [...]" (L'angelo attento 95). Barolini's sister died young.
(10) Bobbio had highly appreciated the second version of Barolini's memorial about Giuriolo (its text was published on Il ponte) to the extent that he regretted not having had the opportunity to read it before delivering his own speech. See Adele Scarpari's "'La dolce selva della vita' nelle carte Barolini conservate in Biblioteca Bertoliana" (T. Barolini 79).
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