Tweety’s first summer

When I was young I had the great fortune, and the joy, of being friends with Titti, as we all called her, and in reality the childish and sweet, quick nickname seemed singularly suited both to her slender body and to the liveliness and alertness of her his intelligence. We were in Venice, then a city rich in commerce, craftsmanship and culture, not the tourist mush of today: and such, then, that it could seem that every human relationship was at the same time a relationship with the fascinating city (at least, that was what I felt). With my eyes closed, I can still find her house, the house of the very nice socialist lawyer, her father (whom she undoubtedly wrote that she loved more than any other creature), facing a narrow, triangular square that could have seemed heritage of the house itself. And of course I remember perfectly the places I frequented with Titti, such as the University Theater where she acted (but to tell the truth, I never understood if it was a question of true vocation, or rather something else: need for expression, escape from the bourgeoisie, for instance).

“The last summer and other writings” (Fazi, 300 pages, €18.50)

Titti was a woman full of spirit, contained if anything by a profound shyness, but without that spirit of his ever corroding others and relationships with others; on the contrary, it was such as to preserve or give each of his relationships an intimately “light” character – and I would like to say all the lighter the more that relationship was demanding. And she was a delightfully open woman, but also, unfortunately for her, completely open, without pretense, so that it was very easy to hurt her: of course I did too, well endowed with youthful silliness.

Then, soon, for his own reasonsTitti moved to Rome, where we only saw each other once again: she had a fever, perhaps symbolic, and in any case I think we both felt the bitterness of that meeting, probably the last.

Pier Vincenzo Mengaldo
Pier Vincenzo Mengaldo

But lo and behold, their respective youths have been used up completelyand when I no longer had any news of my friend, here I received this book, The last summer, and I think no one will resent me if I say that that unexpected gift had a double effect on me: certainly pain and sad astonishment at the irreversible disease that had gripped her; but also of happiness – which that pain could not destroy – the happiness of having thus found her, broken a silence of decades. And a few months later I was able to read her second – and unfortunately last – book, I go down. Good continuation (which will be an ironic quotation from Caproni, because quotations of all kinds and character were a consummate technique of Titti). And in this book, the only means of communication left to her, the email (to friends, relatives and above all to her daughter) intelligently becomes a singular stylistic means in her, between brevity, saying and not saying, innuendos and mental game.

At some point of theLast summer is quoted a memorable sentence by Chaplin: «Life seen in the foreground is a tragedy, in long shot a comedy». It is a sentence that says a lot about the book itself that contains it, which justifies the character of whoever wrote it and his tendency to look at tragedies from afar, prefers precisely, even in the face of the most dramatic and, so to speak, irreducible events (first of all the disease that struck her) the long shot of comedy, the detachment of irony, etc. And it occurred to me what Schiller said splendidly, and which I will summarize, namely that tragedy starts from a more important point (pathos), but comedy goes towards an even more important goal, intellectual serenity, and if it reaches it it would make any tragedy superfluous. However, I don’t think that Chaplin’s aphorism can or should be explained in one direction. On the one hand, yes, the detachment and distancing in the “comedy”, in which the witty friend was the teacher, dampen the bite of the tragedy; but on the other, precisely because it leaves it in the background and relativizes it, precisely for this reason it highlights it. The author of this book was gifted like very few other people with wit, and with that sense of the relative which lies in the ridiculous, but it would be a big mistake not to notice precisely that here the wit is the other side of the drama, and indeed it is he to put it more in prominence, all the more the less he is allowed to occupy the proscenium. After all, the author tackles her illness in no uncertain terms: “Walking upright and talking, two qualities that made a man out of the monkey: I’m losing both”: here what is in the background and what is in the foreground? And another, where the “chronic incurable” disease is compared to something else equally chronic and incurable, old age (especially that of women). Apparently, it is precisely the apparently ironic reference to evolution and old age that makes the diagnosis of personal illness definitive.

But beyond these diagnoses, the Chaplinian quotationlike other similar ones, shows us what is a real constant (mental, stylistic?) of theLast summer, that is to say the taste for aphorism, especially if this is seasoned – as it usually is – with jokes and playfulness, and so with excerpts from a song, jokes from a comedian, etc. The aphorisms are a continuous passage of the book, but on condition that they present themselves, as is always the case, lopsided. And something like this also applies to titles, such as for example I travel around my room, a parody of De Maistre but above all a parody of itself. And the sense of irony and play, which Titti possessed with such naturalness and abundance, end up producing a constant dampening effect, also used to keep the tragic away, or if you want to relativize it if not to parody it.

And finally: the so clever authoress composed with this (and, of course, also with the following one) not only an equally intelligent work, which thoroughly engages us in reading and understanding, but also an exquisitely and at times provocatively female. And I wonder then if, in addition to having admired these singular pages, I have also truly understood them. Or would this fork be foreseen by the author herself, as a contribution to their ambiguity and, in many respects, to their exceptionality?

August 31, 2017 (change September 7, 2017 | 5:38 pm)


Tweety’s first summer