Her quickness of mind was like a hiss, a dart, a lethal bite. And there was nothing in her appearance that acted as a corrective.
I had the impression that, although I was absorbing much of that sight, many things, too many, were scattering around me without letting me grasp them.
I felt squeezed in that vise along with the mass of everyday things and people, and I had a bad taste in my mouth, a permanent sense of nausea that exhausted me, as if everything, thus compacted, and always tighter, were grinding me up, reducing me to a repulsive cream.
Our world was like that, full of words that killed: croup, tetanus, typhus, gas, war, lathe, rubble, work, bombardment, bomb, tuberculosis, infection. With these words and those years I bring back the many fears that accompanied me all my life.
In my spare time I didn’t go out, I sat and read novels I got from the library: Grazia Deledda, Pirandello, Chekhov, Gogol, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky.
ربما لم أكن في منتهى القبح، فكرت، ربما أنا لا أنظر إلى نفسي جيدًا
That year it seemed to me that I expanded like pizza dough.
I’ll give you treasure chests full of gold pieces, I know the value of spending time with you.” I
We were twelve years old, but we walked along the hot streets of the neighborhood, amid the dust and flies that the occasional old trucks stirred up as they passed, like two old ladies taking the measure of lives of disappointment, clinging tightly to each other. No one understood us, only we two—I thought—understood one another.
Mia madre vedeva sempre il male dove con mio grande fastidio si scopriva presto o tardi che il male c'era davvero, e il suo occhio strabico pareva fatto apposta per individuare i movimenti segreti del rione.
she was skinny, like a salted anchovy, she gave off an odor of wildness, she had a long face, narrow at the temples, framed by two bands of smooth black hair. But
Every footfall, every voice was Don Achille creeping up behind us or coming down toward us with a long knife, the kind used for slicing open a chicken breast. There was an odor of sautéing garlic. Maria, Don Achille’s wife, would put me in the pan of boiling oil, the children would eat me, he would suck my head the way my father did with mullets.
She wrote, in the last pages, of feeling all the evil of the neighborhood around her. Rather, she wrote obscurely, good and evil are mixed together and reinforce each other in turn. Marcello, if you thought about it, was really a good arrangement, but the good tasted of the bad and the bad tasted of the good, it was a mixture that took your breath away. A few evenings earlier, something had happened that had really scared her. Marcello had left, the television was off, the house was empty, Rino was out, her parents were going to bed. She was alone in the kitchen washing the dishes and was tired, really without energy, when there was an explosion. She had turned suddenly and realized that the big copper pot had exploded. Like that, by itself. It was hanging on the nail where it normally hung, but in the middle there was a large hole and the rim was lifted and twisted and the pot itself was all deformed, as if it could no longer maintain its appearance as a pot. Her mother had hurried in in her nightgown and blamed her for dropping it and ruining it. But a copper pot, even if you drop it, doesn't break and doesn't become misshapen like that. "It's this sort of thing," Lila concluded, "that frightens me. More than Marcello, more than anyone. And I feel that I have to find a solution, otherwise, everything, one thing after another, will break, everything, everything.
She took the facts and in a natural way charged them with tension; she intensified reality as she reduced it to words, she injected it with energy.
When there is no love, not only the life of the people becomes sterile but the life of cities.
Alors elle prit un ton agressif comme pour me signifier que mon éventuelle noyade ne serait pas à lui imputer à elle, qui avait fait tout ce qu'il fallait pour l'éviter, mais entièrement à mon manque de mémoire.
I knew - perhaps I hoped - that no form could ever contain Lila, and that sooner or later she would break everything again.
To cause pain was a disease. As a child I imagined tiny, almost invisible animals that arrived in the neighborhood at night, they came from the ponds, from the abandoned train cars beyond the embankment, from the stinking grasses called fetienti, from the frogs, the salamanders, the flies, the rocks, the dust, and entered the water and the food and the air, making our mothers, our grandmothers as angry as starving dogs.
I pretended to be interested in their secret undertaking, but in fact I was very sorry about it. Although the two siblings had involved me by choosing me as their confidant, it was still an experience that I could enter only as witness: on that path Lila would do great things by herself, I was excluded. But above all, how, after our intense conversations about love and poetry, could she walk me to the door, as she was doing, far more absorbed in the atmosphere of excitement around a shoe?...What did I care about shoes. I still had, in my mind's eye, the most secret stages of that affair of violated trust, passion, poetry that became a book, and it was as if she and I had read a novel together, as if we had seen, there in the back of the shop and not in the parish hall on Sunday, a dramatic film.
that the human condition was so obviously exposed to the blind fury of chance that to trust in a God, a Jesus, the Holy Spirit—this last a completely superfluous entity, it was there only to make up a trinity, notoriously nobler than the mere binomial father-son—was the same thing as collecting trading cards while the city burns in the fires of hell.
Nowhere is it written that you can’t do it.
Children don’t know the meaning of yesterday, of the day before yesterday, or even of tomorrow, everything is this, now: the street is this, the doorway is this, the stairs are this, this is Mamma, this is Papa, this is the day, this the night.
It was early morning and already hot. There was a strong odor of earth and grass drying in the sun. We climbed among tall shrubs, on indistinct paths that led toward the tracks. When we reached an electrical pylon we took off our smocks and put them in the schoolbags, which we hid in the bushes. Then we raced through the scrubland, which we knew well, and flew excitedly down the slope that led to the tunnel. The entrance on the right was very dark: we had never been inside that obscurity. We held each other by the hand and entered. It was a long passage, and the luminous circle of the exit seemed far away. Once we got accustomed to the shadowy light, we saw lines of silvery water that slid along the walls, large puddles. Apprehensively, dazed by the echo of our steps, we kept going. Then Lila let out a shout and laughed at the violent explosion of sound. Immediately I shouted and laughed in turn. From that moment all we did was shout, together and separately: laughter and cries, cries and laughter, for the pleasure of hearing them amplified. The tension diminished, the journey began.
I liked to discover connections like that, especially if they concerned Lila. I traced lines between moments and events distant from one another, I established convergences and divergences. In that period it became a daily exercise: the better off I had been in Ischia, the worse off Lila had been in the desolation of the neighborhood; the more I had suffered upon leaving the island, the happier she had become. It was as if, because of an evil spell, the joy or sorrow of one required the sorrow or joy of the other; even our physical aspect, it seemed to me, shared in that swing.
Perhaps the idea of money as a cement to solidify our existence and prevent it from dissolving, together with the people who were dear to us, endured. But
You still waste time with those things, Lenu? We are flying over a ball of fire. The part that has cooled floats on the lava. On that part we construct the buildings, the bridges, and the streets, and every so often the lava comes out of Vesuvius or causes an earthquake that destroys everything. There are microbes everywhere that make us sick and die. There are wars. There is a poverty that makes us all cruel. Every second something might happen that will cause you such suffering that you'll never have enough tears. And what are you doing? A theology course in which you struggle to understand what the Holy Spirit is? Forget it, it was the Devil who invented the world, not the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Do you want to see the string of pearls that Stefano gave me?
Lila was able to speak through writing; unlike me when I wrote, unlike Sarratore in his articles and poems, unlike even many writers I had read and was reading, she expressed herself in sentences that were well constructed, and without error, even though she had stopped going to school, but—further—she left no trace of effort, you weren’t aware of the artifice of the written word. I read and I saw her, I heard her. The voice set in the writing overwhelmed me, enthralled me even more than when we talked face to face: it was completely cleansed of the dross of speech, of the confusion of the oral; it
would look for us. When I think of the pleasure of being free, I think of the start of that day, of coming out of the tunnel and finding ourselves on a road that went straight as far as the eye could see, the road that, according to what Rino had told Lila, if you got to the end arrived at the sea. I felt joyfully open to the unknown. It was entirely different from going down into the cellar or up to Don Achille’s house. There was a hazy sun, a strong smell of burning. We walked for a long time between crumbling walls invaded by weeds, low structures from which came voices in dialect, sometimes a clamor. We saw a horse make its way slowly down an embankment and cross the street, whinnying. We saw a young woman looking out from a balcony, combing her hair with a flea comb. We saw a lot of small snotty children who stopped playing and looked at us threateningly. We also saw a fat man in an undershirt who emerged from a tumbledown house, opened his pants, and showed us his penis. But we weren’t scared of anything: Don Nicola, Enzo’s father, sometimes let us pat his horse, the children were threatening in our courtyard, too, and there was old Don Mimì who showed us his disgusting thing when we were coming home from school. For at least three hours, the road we were walking on did not seem different from the segment that we looked out on every day. And I felt no responsibility for the right road. We held each other by the hand, we walked side by side, but for me, as usual, it was as if Lila were ten steps ahead and knew precisely what to do, where to go. I was used to feeling second in everything, and so I was sure that to her, who had always been first, everything
Not for you,” Lila replies ardently, “you’re my brilliant friend, you have to be the best of all, boys and girls.
understand, and understanding was something that we loved to do.