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Ferruccio Parazzoli. Nessuno muore.

Milan. Mondadori. 2001. 245 pages. L.29,000. ISBN 88-04-49409-3

HIS NAME IS NESSUNO (No one), as Ulysses (or Odysseus) calls himself when faced by the monstrous Cyclops. Actually he is Odysseus (or Ulysses)! But who would ever recognize him? The Grecian personage evoked--rather than presented--by Ferruccio Parazzoli is formidable enough, as one would expect, but quite improbably attired. As conjured up by Parazzoli, Ulysses sports white slacks, matched by a jacket, scarf, chained necklace resting on his bare chest, and, on his shaved head, a straw hat marked with a black band. The outfit would be dapper, were it not for the wearer's glaring corpulence ("l'immenso corpo"), which bulges out and literally bursts at the seams. Such obvious obesity and considerable age notwithstanding, the man manages to retain the vigor and agility of youth, besides an athletic posture and commanding, if menacing, stance. To add to the intimidating effect, his eyes lurk behind sunglasses of the darkest shade, while his countenance hides beneath "una recente maschera di gesso"--that is, a layer of white plaster that, in the shape of a mask, cakes over his cheeks and forehead. The narrator himself--let us assume a writer's persona of the male gender--hard put to describe the fierce, inscrutable giant, recurs to such labels as esploratore and pirata barberesco.

A preliminary sketch of Parazzoli's novel serves as a first step toward the formulation of an insight into the author's general esthetic. It is useful to borrow an analogy from the history of music and theorize that in Nessuno muore Parazzoli has embarked on a valiant Wagnerian enterprise. The theorizing rests on the perception of a tour de force based on the ingenious adaptation of at least one principle that governs, typically, Richard Wagner's operatic orchestration. The principle in question is that of the leitmotiv, which, in Parazzoli's version of the novelistic mode, finds a primary analogue in a constantly evolving epiphany of a protoplasmic central character: Ulisse-Odisseo-Nessuno. Parazzoli's artistic aim, then, stretches beyond precise description, beyond sharp focus, painterly details, picturesque vignettes. What Parazzoli achieves, in effect, is a super-plot, impressive, all in one, for its simplicity and complexity, unfolding with little or no regard for the straightforward sequence of memorable events. That plot is textured in keeping with the multifarious avatars of an overwhelming, ubiquitous presence, an awesome and yet demythified demigod.

Now we may begin parsing Parazzoli's masterful stringing of run-on sentences into long series of clusters, our minds engrossed in the notion of a comprehensive inclusiveness, our fantasies enmeshed in the elastic networking of the narrator's stream of consciousness. Parazzoli revels in the elements that make up a kaleidoscopic diversity: registers of discourse, literary modes, perspectives and points of view, distancing and focusing, single and multiple witnessing, oneiric texture and magical transformations. It is fair to conclude that Parazzoli reclaims for the sake of the real a world that lies outside the ordinary frontiers of time and space. This is a world--real, albeit imaginary--where a fictionalized human existence conceived by Homer, that paradigmatic "singer of tales," subsists even to our living day and, bridging the gap of many centuries, is able to interact with such larger-than-life denizens of the imaginary as Aeneas, Turnus, and Camilla, created by the Roman epic poet par excellence. In keeping with Parazzoli's bold vindication of a multidimensional reality, the hero-in-the-rough of Nessuno muore maintains close ties with many acquaintances, associates, relatives, or even ghosts from the past who visit him now and then. Not uncommon or surprising in Parazzoli's notion of being in an existentialist landscape (das Sein, in Heidegger's primary sense of the term) are such outlandish episodes as when Circe, the sorceress, in one of her enigmatic reincarnations as someone nicknamed Omphalos (Navel), escapes Nessuno's amorous advances by vanishing into a puff of reddish dust; or when his insatiable lust for living compels Nessuno to face and eventually do away with his own double, who has dared to confront him, in turn, with apocalyptic nightmares.

Needless to say, in Nessuno muore Parazzoli raises suggestive issues, issues too numerous to be identified, let alone discussed, in a summary review. In its paradoxical blending of negation and affirmation, the very pun that Parazzoli chooses for a title may be read as an emblem of suggestiveness. The interested scholar would be well advised to dedicate to Parazzoli's intriguing artistry the full-length study it obviously deserves.
Peter Cocozzella
Binghamton University
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Author:Cocozzella, Peter
Publication:World Literature Today
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 22, 2002
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