Trevisan’s pained smile

Of EMANUELE TREVI

Style, rigor, awareness of the human condition: the lesson one year after his death. The Strega prize commemorates the writer from Vicenza: his writings are the result of an uprooted vision of the world

Vitaliano Trevisan was a difficult, saturnine man, a pessimist by instinct even more than by philosophical conviction. At first glance, he might seem strong and resolute, rich as he was in life experience, and in deep self-knowledge. Not that these first impressions are necessarily deceptive, but they sure are incomplete, and too comfortable. The truth is that Trevisan was drawing on his vital energy, and his creative potency, from the same dark and deep well of melancholy that ended up, with its exhalations, making life intolerable for him. Baudelaire wrote of Edgar Allan Poe that the blind angel of atonement had ruled his life. And on the life of Trevisan (who adored Poe) it was easy to recognize the shadow of an equally tyrannical guardian.

This does not mean that he was incapable of cheerfulness and amiability, far from it. More than strictly tragic, his vision of human existence could be defined as tragicomic, more often than not surreal. Not by chance the work that represents his full artistic maturity, Works, published in 2016, has a tone of social and anthropological satire that can suggest a Luciano Bianciardi revived. But the keynote, the fundamental aspect of Trevisan’s personality was somber, more and more hurtful and resentful as the years passed.

I speak of the author as I could speak of the work, had I not known and frequented him. Everything Trevisan has written is the consequence of a fundamentally maladjusted and uprooted perception of the world. The most refined exercise of intelligence becomes, for a character so negatively inclined, a supreme form of despair. Also in books by the most loved authors, Trevisan was looking for the ruthless vision, the absolute disenchantment. He adored Leopardi and Cioran.

Born in 1960, he was a true writer of the twentieth century, almost out of time, a conscious and declared heir of the great masters of failure and the absurd, and above all of Samuel Beckett and Thomas Bernhard. The characters of him, and preferably the Thomas of some memorable books, do nothing, in fact, but tell collapses, report catastrophes. The possibility of an advantageous pact with reality is excluded from the outset.

These first-person accounts, starting with A wonderful world, the book that revealed Trevisan’s talent in 1997, can only approximately be defined as novels. It would be more adequate to speak of soliloquies, or even better of monologues. For the hero of these stories, whether he tells them in his head or entrusts them to a written memoir, he always seems like an actor capable of winning attention of his audience by forcibly dragging him into his inner world. Provocation, in the broadest sense of the word, decisively prevails over entertainment.

An expert musician as well as a writer, Trevisan was obsessed with the rhythm of prose, which for him was not a tinsel, a secondary embellishment, but the most suitable tool for creating what is a real suggestion, a sort of emotional and symbolic contagion of rare efficacy. the rhythm that releases, in Trevisan’s first books, the credible ghost of a voice, with its pauses, its anxieties, its repetitions and variations on the theme.

Rather than attempting new experiments easily, Trevisan worked a lot on what, in what he had already done, was still left unexpressed, as if the next book was also the compensation for everything he had failed to achieve in the previous one. And so it is, in the groove already beautifully dug into A wonderful worldthere are at least two works destined to leave an indelible mark on his readers: The fifteen thousand steps of 2002 and The bridge in 2007.

The epigraph of the first of these two books is a phrase by Karl Marx on which Trevisan must have meditated for a long time, so close to the heart of his poetics. paradoxically the era of the most developed social relations, prophetically observes Marx, to generate the way of seeing of the isolated individual. Isolated from his fellows, and a prisoner of his own mindwhich necessarily becomes a surrogate for the world, a parody of creation which is actually an apocalypse. The more social ties tighten and branch out, the more the loneliness of individuals increases, to the point of making their memory uncertain and unreliable.

And the fact that a story can be told of solitude does not mean either a consolation or a redemption. We can only assume that, by giving up his life, Trevisan took to its extreme consequences that self-destructive aspect of self-awareness of the surrounding world which the main theme of his rhapsodic and visionary writing.

For those who have taken his books seriously, his long-heralded fate has been a pain, but not a surprise. What really remains of him a lesson in style, rigor, of awareness of the human condition from which, submerged as we are by so much useless literary frivolity, we all have a lot to learn.

The initiatives – The flowers, the unfinished novel

Remembering Vitaliano Trevisan: one year after his death there are several tributes. Among these, in Sandrigo (Vicenza) But flowers, not good works an invitation to bring a flower on Saturday 7 January, from 16 to 19, on the grave, in the village cemetery while at the same time the Trissino church hosts the sound installation, with the voice of Trevisan himself, Notes on Syllabars. Homage to Goffredo Parise, on text edited by InSchibboleth. On 17 January in Rome (Casa delle Letterature, 6 pm, piazza dell’Orologio), presentation of the posthumous and unfinished book Black tulips: with Simona Cives, introduced by Paolo Repetti, interventions by Andrea Cortellessa and Emanuele Trevi; readings by Federica Fracassi; Free admission.

The biography

Vitaliano Trevisan who died on 7 January a year ago in Crespadoro (Vicenza); he was born on 12 December 1960 in Sandrigo (Vicenza). was the author of novels, short stories and plays. He started out with stories A wonderful world (Theoria, 1997; then Einaudi Stile libero, 2003). Among his other works The fifteen thousand steps. An account (Einaudi Freestyle, 2002), Shorts (Einaudi Free Style, 2004; Chiara Prize), The bridge, a collapse (Einaudi Freestyle, 2007); it’s still Works (Einaudi Stile libero, 2016) of which a new expanded edition appeared in 2022. Finally, the unfinished novel of the writer who committed suicide was released posthumously last October Black tulips (Einaudi Freestyle)

January 6, 2023 (change January 6, 2023 | 21:53)

Trevisan’s pained smile