I’ve been paying my bills talking about myself for a lifetime, and it’s easier than writing the Iliad

I've been paying my bills talking about myself for a lifetime, and it's easier than writing the Iliad


Things happen that are like questions, wrote that Piedmontese who dealt with the cultural formation of those who were twenty in the right years. The first thing that happened I’ll tell you later. The second is an interview that was given by that Piedmontese there, a month ago.

To Raffaella De Santis who interviewed him walking around the elephant in the room, saying “autofiction”, trying not to sound morbid, “how does he judge”, Alessandro Baricco, aware that what everyone wanted to know was “in short, he had cancer, think about writing about it or what “, he had given this answer here:” Carrère is a great, a writer I admire very much, I envy him the turn of phrase, the vitality, but I confess that sometimes while I read his books I feel ashamed for him ” .

The Baricco of when I was twenty, who liked to have a vocabulary similar to that of the first translation of the Young Holden, my reaction to this sentence would have summarized it in a single adjective: stiff.

I’ve been thinking about it for weeks. One day I was talking to an editor about it and I said I was split. A lifetime to say that “todo lo que uno escribe es autobiográfico“, Not saying” I “only those who say” I “, The Ugly Duckling was autobiographical because Andersen had placed himself in Dickens’ house and after a while no one could stand him anymore and it was before psychoanalysts existed and rejection processed it writing fairy tales in which like a true mythomaniac you were not an unwanted guest but a misunderstood swan.

A life to say that in short, Borges also says that “once upon a time there was a king who had three children” is autobiographical, and let it be that I Borges never read it, it is the same because Guccini quoted it. written in the form of songs, the sentimental autobiography of a nation, and yet now that one arrives and says that one should be ashamed of “I” and I fear that all the wrongs do not have them.

The publisher told me: yes, oh well, so what about Francesco Piccolo? I replied: yes, oh well, so what about me?

The third thing that was actually a question was the announcement of the Nobel Prize in Literature to Annie Ernaux. Life, as the Piedmontese promised us, would happen, she replied. And the answer was: me.

There were, on Instagram and in the newspapers, more photos with Ernaux than there were with the dead of the day when the dead of the day was Ennio Morricone. Ernaux often comes to Italy, and when he comes to Italy he meets writers, and therefore all writers, even those who, if they review a book, do so by affecting impersonalism, could finally talk about me, exhibit the photo with me, be me at the center of the Attention. Le Nobel, c’est moi.

They explained to us that “I” derives from social networks, indeed no, it derives from the fragile and fragmented identity of the contemporary age, indeed no, it derives from the end of parties, politics, the community, the rava and the bean. None – at least none of those I have read, whether they are those who also write “me”, or those who think they speak for the magazines they write for and then review novels using lunar phrases such as “it seems to us that” – none he said: it’s because it’s easier.

I tell you as the protagonist of this performance: it is a lifetime that I pay my bills by writing “me”. It’s easier. Which does not mean that it is not interesting complex painful tiring – you decide whether for the writer or for the reader. But it’s easier. It is not something we can discuss, really, I know more than you, I have hours of flight at the controls of “I” that you will not accumulate in a lifetime, trust me: it is obvious and evident how the fact that the blue tap comes out of the cold water.

Write about my abortion or my failures or the kids who threw me in a dumpster in high school or the billionaire who sued me by making me spend Christmas with a foreclosed bank account or my father leading me or the child who kissed me before I went to see Back to the Future, whatever my life and my megalomania may be in making it a literary work, it is easier than writing the Iliad, or Gone with the Wind, or Crime and Punishment.

Once, commenting on some cultural controversy against the classic novel, Nadia Terranova told me something that has stuck with me as much as Baricco’s shame on behalf of Carrère: “I don’t understand what they have against the classic novel, apart from the fact that it is difficult to write it. “.

It is not just a question of changing names, which is now practically the only thing that differentiates those who do not claim to tell about themselves. If I tell about my cancer, my mystical crisis, my problematic childhood, changing the name of the protagonist, then it’s not autobiography. If I also do it in Modena, then, ‘she is clearly the protagonist of a fictional novel,’ she is a girl with a wholly imaginative existence, no one should allow herself to think that ‘I’ is ‘me’.

(Which then I am always someone else, and not only because we all read Rimbaud in high school, but because we all had a diary with a lock on which we held a literary posture knowing that the lock would be broken by family members with a hairpin and that secret, in the secret diary, there was nothing. Elias Canetti, who wondered what the fact that his best work were the diaries told us about Pavese, was the only one who was under the illusion that one writes the diaries for himself. always and in any case for an audience, being oneself is a pose like any other).

And yes, I know you are thinking that Dostoevsky was Raskolnikov, Homer was Achilles and Margaret Mitchell was Rhett (at least I hope: it wasn’t Rossella, goddammit). But around they have taken the trouble to build a world, which is a bad job.

The first thing that happened, the first question, was a few months ago. Claudio Giunta had compiled a survey of those who make you laugh among the Italians who write. When they include me in these things I always think it is because they have come to an end and are terrified to realize that there is not even a woman and now they are lynched – but that was not the question. In including me, Giunta had defined me as a “strenuous biographer of herself”, and it has therefore been since then that I have wondered if this is the phrase I want on my tombstone. And it seems clear to me that, despite being the only Italian without a photo with Ernaux, the Nobel is the answer.


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