Farinata's Glance

Written by  Roberto Pazzi
Writing stories about Ferrara after Bassani's death.
Some time ago, when I was walking along Corso Ercole d'Este, some girls came to me and asked: " Excuse me, was Giorgio Bassani's Finzi Contini's house around here?" I answered that Finzi Contini's house does not exist, even if it seems that the writer supposed it was there.

The same question was made to other Ferrarese by the people who visited the town after Bassani's death. We are glad to live in a part of Italy which, according to collective consciousness, has become the symbol of an existential and historical condition, thanks to poetry.

Ferrara, no matter whether writers live there or not, stimulates people's creativity, as it stimulated Bassani's one. Writing stories about Ferrara after Bassani's death is a dangerous temptation. After many years, I fell into temptation twice, writing the following works: Mr Malaguti's towns in 1993 and The flying town in 1999.

Other writers did it before, such as Gaetano Tumiati, who wrote The plaster bust in 1976 and his sister, Roseda, who wrote The peace of gelatine world, in 1984.
The list also includes Gianfranco Rossi's tales and novels, such as Happiness (1981), Shaman's triumph (1984), Biagio Balestrieri's recurrent dreams (1986) The last adventurers (1987), The plot (1989), The forgotten audience (1991), Playing with king's men (1993), Conversations with silence (1995), Memories without theatre (1996), Dark's friends (1997).
But we can't forget Antonio Caggiano's moral and Christian works, such as Stories, Sergio Fortini's narrative works with pulp vitality, such as Small cut wounds, Aldo Luppi's works such as I hate Ferrara, Letters for Giorgio, The paper man, The drunk bookseller, Taking the blame, Rita Montanari's verse compositions, such as Glass branches and the letters, such as Dear brother, dear sister, a document which describes the education of two young Ferrarese boys, Stefano Tassinari's narrative works, such as Rust reflection, To a sudden inspiration, To distant suns, Attacks on the sky, Giuseppe Moscardini's novels and tales, with a slight psychological and historical research, such as Coot's flight and The fine years, Andrea Pagani's narrative and verse compositions, Gianna Vancini's tales between reality and evocation, such as Time thread and The apple and the lily.

Then, the collection of poems which were published by Corrado Antonietti, Franco Bracardi, Luca Chizzoni, Lamberto Donegà, Lidia Fiorentini, Patrizia Garofalo, Gianni Goberti, Roberto Guerra, Maria Teresa Mari, Rita Mazzini, Ada Negri, Rita Pavani, Maria Luisa Poltronieri, Fabrizio Resca, Riccardo Roversi, Massimo Scrignoli, a clever and brave publisher, Filippo Secchieri, Guido Tagliati, Gianpietro Testa, a famous journalist, Italo Verri, Paolo Zanardi Prosperi and Giuseppe Pedroni, Andrea Carli, Giuseppe Sateriale, Lorenza Meletti and Franco Giovannelli's works which have been preserved up to now.
We can't forget Elettra Testi's novel, The sister. This literary work is centred on a concept of town which, even if it is attractive, is a place where aspirations and dreams which are typical of youth are not able to offer a life as everyone expects, inducing people to go away. It seems that all these authors have not taken advantage of the fact that Bassani previously wrote stories about Ferrara.

Bassani, in fact, can drive people to emulation, according to Ferrarese literary tradition, from Boiardo, Ariosto, Tasso, Daniello Batoli, Alfonso Varano, to Corrado Govoni, but he prevents people from invading "his" field, as, from the analysis of the literary work in question, which covers the second part of the twentieth century, the historical period which is not mentioned by Bassani, it is clear that none of the above-mentioned authors gives the town the symbol value which was only given by Bassani's realistic but also metaphysical glance.

The houses, the gardens, the walls, the Charterhouse with the relative grass which is surrounded by arcades, the synagogue, the Jewish cemetery, the via delle Volte, the Marfisa and the relative tennis club, the ghetto, via Mazzini, via Montebello, the gardens enclosed by the walls, are not geographic elements, but life universal symbols: youth which is full of expectations, the discovery and mystery of love, friendship, solidarity, the hunger for love hidden by literary aspirations, the acknowledgement of individual destiny which reflects men universal destiny, the incomprehension between the different generations, every single person's life which is upset by universal history, war and Holocaust.
It is a unique seal put by Bassani on "his" beloved Ferrara.

The comparison between Bassani and the other writers is so terrible that it discourages the people who tend to transfigure historical experience. None of the above-mentioned writers considered Ferrara as an object of reinvention, but he considered himself as an object of reinvention, according to a lyricism which describes in the background a provincial and sleepy town, which is sketched out, distinguishing itself for a self-commemorative tradition which saddens rather than enhancing the people who are confined within the walls.

I know why the other writers abstained from directly and radically transfiguring Ferrara, following Bassani's example. Bassani went to live in Rome at the end of the war: from a distance, overturning the telescope, he could maintain a certain distance between him and Ferrara for town transfiguration.
According to Bassani, Ferrara was the scar of an ancient wound, the sign of an incurable historical and personal lack, which brightened when he half-closed his eyes.

I had the chance to live in Ferrara and I have never left it. After having written ten novels, two of which are devoted to the town, I know that not only time gave me the strength to transfigure the town, making my life full of not only personal, but also public memories, but also a glance which was unknown to Bassani, that is Ariosto's fantastic glance.

According to my experience, it's the only way to escape from Bassani's Banquo, the ghost which threatens Ferrarese writers.

His glance, hovering between a "realistic AND a metaphysical" attitude, requires pupils which are able to see as Farinata degli Uberti did in the tenth canto of Dante's Inferno: "We see the things which ARE far FROM us, LIKE the presbyte who has poor eyesight AND we ARE illuminated by God. WHEN they approach OR they ARE present, ALL our faculties ARE vain AND we don't know anything about your state".