LEGGERE E SCRIVERE IL MEDITERRANEO


di Ada Bellanova
Fornire una definizione del Mediterraneo non è un compito semplice. Mare – e contesto – in perenne trasformazione, come dimostra la sua storia ecologica, esso resiste ad ogni generalizzazione1 . Si può certamente tentare la strada della determinazione strettamente geografica ma si deve riconoscere che a poco serve dire che si tratta di un mare semichiuso su cui si affacciano vari popoli, diversi tra loro eppure simili per la loro posizione e per la condivisione di problemi e risorse. Si deve poi ammettere che il cosiddetto ecosistema mediterraneo ha subito trasformazioni profonde nel corso dei millenni: eliminazione di boschi e foreste, aumento della popolazione, sfruttamento delle risorse, mutamenti climatici, cambiamenti di fauna e flora2 . Le trasformazioni, tra l’altro, contraddistinguono anche la storia della rappresentazione. L’idealizzazione del passato classico che ha sedotto innumerevoli viaggiatori non esiste più e il Mediterraneo si rivela contesto dalle molte facce, non facilmente assimilabile al solo mondo europeo o occidentale3 . Perciò, come tentare una definizione? Cos’è veramente mediterraneo? Se la politica europea contemporanea ha ridotto la questione al problema della frontiera, al rischio di nuove invasioni barbariche4 , ragion per cui il mare è diventato spazio delle indesiderate migra-
1 La complessità del Mediterraneo è centrale nei recenti studi di Mediterranean ecocriticism. Si veda a proposito S. Iovino, Introduction: Mediterranean ecocriticism, or a Blueprint for Cultural Amphibians, in “Ecozon@”, 4.2, 2013, pp. 1-14, in particolare a p. 4. 2 Ibidem. La Iovino propone il caso dell’importazione di tutta una serie di piante e prodotti nel regno della vitis vinifera e dell’olea europaea, con conseguente profondissime sulla cosiddetta dieta mediterranea (si pensi a pomodoro, riso, caffè ecc.). 3 Ivi, p. 5. 4 Si veda a proposito il saggio di C. Resta, Geofilosofia del Mediterraneo, Mesogea, Messina 2012. Sul Mediterraneo come confine, frontiera anche A. Le-
zioni di masse di disperati, tra cui possono nascondersi pericolosi attentatori, e luogo di inevitabile sepoltura, un vero cimitero, di quanti non arrivano a compiere la traversata a bordo di gommoni e imbarcazioni di fortuna, gli intellettuali hanno mantenuto il Mediterraneo al centro di un vivace dibattito culturale. Dibattito che prova a mettere in discussione gli stereotipi. Rischiose sono infatti le immagini rassicuranti dell’idillio naturalistico e della civiltà dell’accoglienza da una parte oppure, all’estremo opposto, quelle fosche della violenza e della sopraffazione. Da una parte il paradiso turistico a buon mercato, le spiagge seducenti, l’esotismo della porta accanto, dall’altra quello della mafia, dell’estorsione, della corruzione delle classi dirigenti, della mancanza di sicurezza, dell’estremismo. L’una e l’altra immagine non sono che la faccia legale e quella illegale dell’inserimento subalterno del Sud nel mondo dello sviluppo, ai suoi margini, “laddove i modelli seducenti proposti dalle capitali del Nord-ovest si decompongono fino a diventare deformi”5 . Tali riduttive determinazioni trascurano la reale complessità del Mediterraneo, che, non a caso, Braudel tenta di definire nel segno della molteplicità e con l’espressione “crocevia eteroclito”6 . Questo spazio, quindi, non consiste soltanto in una teoria di paesaggi, addirittura non lo si può dire neppure mare unico, perché esso è piuttosto un insieme di mari. Nemmeno si esaurisce nell’elenco di tanti popoli diversi perché essi sono entrati spesso in relazione, avvicendandosi su uno stesso spazio o su spazi confinanti, si sono mescolati, hanno plasmato il territorio, anche come spazio dell’immaginazione, e continuano a farlo, rendendo impossibile una reductio ad unum. Ragion per cui Matvejevic può affermare che non esiste una sola cultura mediterranea, ma ce ne sono invece molte, caratterizzate da tratti simili e da differenze, mai assoluti o costanti7 .
 ogrande, La frontiera, Feltrinelli, Milano 2017, che indaga sulla condizione dei migranti. 5 F. Cassano, Il pensiero meridiano, Laterza, Bari 1996, pp. 3-4. 6 F. Braudel, Mediterraneo, in Id. (a cura di), Il Mediterraneo. Lo spazio la storia gli uomini le tradizioni, trad. it. di E. De Angeli, Bompiani, Milano 1987, pp. 7-8. 7 P. Matvejevic, Il Mediterraneo e l’Europa, Garzanti, Milano 1998, p. 31. Si veda anche Id., Quale Mediterraneo, quale Europa?, in F. Cassano, D. Zolo (a cura di), L’alternativa mediterranea, Feltrinelli Milano, 2007, p. 436:
 L’incontro ha sempre comportato delle criticità, in primis una diffusa e pressoché costante conflittualità8 : come scrive Braudel, “in tutto il Mediterraneo l’uomo è cacciato, rinchiuso, venduto, torturato”9 . Ma il contesto mediterraneo non si configura solo come spazio di guerra: nei secoli le civiltà dominanti non hanno potuto cancellare del tutto quelle sottomesse; si sono sempre attivati meccanismi di contaminazione, dialogo, stratificazione. Allora forse la sua “essenza profonda”10 sta nell’esempio che esso può offrire della convivenza tra culture differenti. Solo tale approccio all’alterità può permettere al Mediterraneo, “mare tra le terre”, di essere non confine, limite, ma luogo di relazione e di incontro11. Il problema è anche di politica europea, o dovrebbe esserlo, non solo per il timore della violazione da parte dei migranti. Il legame tra Europa e Mediterraneo infatti esiste, sebbene venga sistematicamente messo in ombra dalla prevalente prospettiva mitteleuropea, ritenuta vincente dal punto di vista economico12. Considerare la “via” mediterranea significa, secondo Franco Cassano, valorizzare le differenze, la varietà che l’ossessione di uno sviluppo a tutti i costi nega. Significa porsi il problema della gestione degli spazi, laddove gli spazi ospitano un patrimonio “verticale”, incredibilmente stratificato, e quello della cura dell’ambiente e del paesaggio, impedendo che questi siano solo preda dell’abusivismo selvaggio. Significa affrontare la questione dello scambio e della convivenza tra vecchi e nuovi abitanti. Ciò va fatto, ed è un’opportunità, non solo per “custodire forme d’esistenza diverse da quella dominante” ma anche per “tutelare la stessa modernità dal suo avvolgimento in una spirale senza ritorno”
13. “l’insieme mediterraneo è composto da molti sottoinsiemi che sfidano o rifiutano le idee unificatrici”. 8 P. Matvejevic, Mediterraneo. Un nuovo breviario, trad. it.di S. Ferrari, Garzanti, Milano 1993, p. 19. 9 F. Braudel, Civiltà e imperi del Mediterraneo nell’età di Filippo II, trad. it. di C. Pischedda, Einaudi, Torino 1976, pp. 921-922. 10 Id., Mediterraneo, cit., p. 9. 11 Ancora Braudel a proposito della definizione del Mediterraneo come grande strada per trasportare uomini e merci (Id., Storia, misura del mondo, cit. p. 105). 12 F. Cassano, Tre modi di vedere il Sud, Il Mulino, Bologna 2009, pp. 20-24. 13 Id., Il pensiero meridiano, cit., p. 7. Ma si veda anche Id., Paeninsula: l’Italia da ritrovare, Laterza, Roma 1998, pp. 10-11.

1. Lo spazio mediterraneo per Consolo

La scelta di Norma Bouchard e Massimo Lollini di seguire il criterio della mediterraneità nell’antologia del 200614 riflette la centralità dell’interesse di Consolo per la “lettura e la scrittura” dello spazio mediterraneo15. Andando oltre gli stereotipi, la linea interpretativa e rappresentativa dell’autore evidenzia tormento e ricchezza di un contesto complesso, che rifugge qualunque generalizzazione. Parlare della questione e dello spazio mediterraneo significa per Consolo parlare del Sud e, in particolare, della Sicilia. La riflessione sulla complessità del Mediterraneo si innesta dunque sulle considerazioni a proposito della varietà e della molteplicità che caratterizzano la storia, l’ambiente, il patrimonio siciliani. Estremamente significativo appare nell’isola il flusso incessante di energie umane e culturali16, che hanno condizionato e condizionano il paesaggio, accostando e sovrapponendo più identità17. Allo stesso modo l’intero Mediterraneo è amalgama, crocevia di popoli differenti, non solo territorio della conflittualità ma anche patrimonio ricchissimo, possibilità della relazione e dello scambio18: sì scenario di devastazione, dove la tecnologia ha perso la sua funzione antropologica e ha generato mostri che distruggono le antiche città, trasformandole in
 14 V. Consolo, Reading and Writing the Mediterranean, a cura di N. Bouchard e M. Lollini, University of Toronto Press, Toronto-Buffalo-London 2006). Si veda il chiarimento nel saggio introduttivo: N. Bouchard, M. Lollini, Introduction: Vincenzo Consolo and His Mediterranean Paradigm, pp. 3-48, a p. 14. Sull’interesse di Consolo per il Mediterraneo si veda anche N. Bouchard, Vincenzo Consolo’s Mediterranean Journeys: From Sicily to the Global South(s), cit. 15 Sul tema anche l’antologia postuma, V. Consolo, Mediterraneo. Viaggiatori e migranti, Edizioni dell’Asino, Roma 2016. 16 C. Gallo, Cultural crossovers in the Sicily of Vincenzo Consolo, in “US-China Foreign Language”, gennaio 2016, vol. 14, n.1, pp. 49-56. 17 Emblematico Uomini e paesi dello zolfo, in Di qua dal faro, pp. 981-982: “Ora qui, per inciso, vogliamo notare che la storia, la storia siciliana, abbia come voluto imitare la natura: un’infinità, un campionario di razze, di civiltà, sono passate per l’isola senza mai trovare tra loro amalgama, fusione, composizione, ma lasciando ognuna i suoi segni”. 18 Tale visione è centrale anche nella riflessione di F. Cassano (i già citati Paeninsula, Il pensiero meridiano, Tre modi di vedere il Sud). Non a caso la scrittura di Consolo e quella di Cassano affiancate espongono il punto di vista italiano per “Rappresentare il Mediterraneo”, collana Mesogea (V. Consolo, F. Cassano, Rappresentare il Mediterraneo, cit.).
moderne metropoli, luoghi di intolleranza politica, religiosa e razziale, ma allo stesso tempo archivio di eredità preziose19. Dunque olivastro e olivo insieme. Ed è per tutelare ‘l’olivo’ che Consolo procede in direzione di un ripensamento dei consolidati effetti della globalizzazione20. L’imposizione dell’economia ritenuta vincente e l’emarginazione dei vari sistemi tradizionali producono inevitabilmente l’aberrante negazione della molteplicità che caratterizza l’identità mediterranea e la rottura degli utili equilibri preesistenti. L’autore dunque riflette sulla gestione degli spazi e della cultura e legge il fenomeno migratorio non come superamento di un limite ma come occasione di scambio che trasforma e vivifica. Nell’ottica di un recupero delle tradizioni e della molteplicità a rischio vanno guardate le scelte linguistiche che recuperano frammenti della Sicilia greca, bizantina, araba, normanna, ovvero le impronte delle lingue parlate un tempo nel Mediterraneo. L’imperativo della salvezza di linguaggi e dialetti dall’oblio si traduce in un plurilinguismo in cui non ci sono parole inventate ma parole scoperte e riscoperte, in un’operazione di riscatto della memoria e, quindi, di ricerca delle radici, dell’identità21. Se la rappresentazione del Mediterraneo risulta ambivalente, anche Ulisse, l’eroe mediterraneo per eccellenza, ha una natura duplice. Il personaggio omerico, associato da Consolo all’uomo contemporaneo, non è l’eroe del ritorno, è piuttosto il migrante: il nóstos gli è costantemente negato, perché nell’approdo all’isola egli scopre il sovvertimento, incontra le macerie di Troia anziché il palazzo di Itaca, ed è condannato perciò ad un esilio senza fine. La sua peregrinazione lo porta a contatto con le varie forme di violenza della modernità nei confronti di piccoli e grandi luoghi, in Sicilia e fuori dalla Sicilia. In ciò il viaggio diventa meditazione sulle proprie responsabilità: insieme all’ansia di scoperta e conoscenza,
 è 19 N. Bouchard, M. Lollini, Introduction: Vincenzo Consolo and His Mediterranean Paradigm, cit., pp. 3-48, a p. 18. 20 Si veda l’intervista con A. Prete (Il Mediterraneo oggi: un’intervista, in “Gallo Silvestre”, 1996, p. 63). 21 G. Traina, Vincenzo Consolo, cit., p. 130. F. Cassano in Rappresentare il Mediterraneo parla di recupero da parte di Consolo di un’antica dimensione sacra della lingua, mediante lo scavo nel passato del Mediterraneo (V. Consolo, F. Cassano, Rappresentare il Mediterraneo, cit., p. 57).
evidenziato il senso di colpa e il rimorso per l’abuso della tecnologia che distrugge patrimoni e vite umane22. Le tappe del viaggio cantato da Omero, a loro volta, come già evidenziato, diventano tessere per comporre l’immagine del mondo contemporaneo. Il mito ha avuto un suo innegabile ruolo nella costruzione dell’identità mediterranea23 perché, sorto da una radice geografica, ha a sua volta modificato e condizionato la percezione collettiva dello spazio, confluendo nel patrimonio di tutti, come è accaduto nei casi esemplari di Scilla e Cariddi o dell’Etna. Ma racconti e leggende antichi legati al territorio possono dire qualcosa di nuovo, possono mettere in luce la stortura: questa è l’operazione a cui si dedica Consolo, ribadendo il legame tra la piana delle vacche del Sole e la Milazzo dell’esplosione o evidenziando l’associazione tra regno dei Lestrigoni e area industriale siracusana. Proprio proponendo il mito originale, allora, enfatizzandone alcuni aspetti, l’autore è capace di trasmettere una denuncia che lamenta la profonda metamorfosi subita dai luoghi: riesce cioè a produrre un’immagine critica dello spazio contemporaneo.

 1.1 Nel segno della varietà del mare

 Consolo si sente figlio della varietà, dei passaggi, degli incroci di popoli che si sono avvicendati sulla sua terra. Perciò, nella straniante Milano, cerca il conforto dell’umanità colorata, varia, di corso Buenos Aires. A Nord egli cerca il suo Mediterraneo e lo trova negli arabi, nei tunisini, negli egiziani, nei marocchini, negli altri africani, lo trova nel “bruno meridionale”: in questa “ondata di mediterraneità” si immerge e si riconcilia, ci si distende come in una spiaggia di sole del Sud24.
 22 Sulla figura di Ulisse e il suo rapporto con il Mediterraneo nell’opera di Consolo si vedano alcune riflessioni di M. Lollini (M. Lollini, Intrecci mediterranei. La testimonianza di Vincenzo Consolo moderno Odisseo, cit, pp. 24-43 o anche l’introduzione, scritta con N. Bouchard, all’antologia Reading and Writing the Mediterranean, N. Bouchard, M. Lollini, Introduction: Vincenzo Consolo and His Mediterranean Paradigm, cit., pp. 19-21). Ma si vedano anche le affermazioni dello stesso Consolo in Fuga dall’Etna, cit., pp. 50-52. 23 B. Westphal (a cura di), Le rivage des mythes. Une géocritique méditerranéenne. Le lieu et son muthe, Pulim, Limoges 2001. 24 “Io che sono di tante razze e che non appartengo a nessuna razza, frutto dell’estenuazione bizantina, del dissolvimento ebraico, della ritrazione ara-
La similitudine esalta la presenza della varietà umana con tutta la sua gamma di neri e bruni qualificandola come occasione, in una Milano grigia al di là dello stereotipo, di sperimentare la mediterraneità. L’accostamento è significativo perché l’esperienza della “spiaggia al primo tiepido sole” è molto mediterranea, tanto più per Consolo, nato e cresciuto in una località di mare. La vita a Sant’Agata di Militello, “paese marino”, “borgo in antico di pescatori”25 gli ha permesso di avere una precoce familiarità con la spiaggia26. “La visione costante del mare” ha scandito l’infanzia, di giochi, bagni e gite sui gozzi. Sulla riva di una contrada poco nota sono approdati guerra e cadaveri della grande Storia27. Perciò lo spazio mediterraneo non può che configurarsi, sulla base dell’esperienza personale, come “mare”. Il tempo del mito che contraddistingue la percezione del mare delle Eolie viene poi superato nella frequentazione di altre coste, altri porti, altri arcipelaghi: il Mediterraneo non è più quello della giovinezza, non solo perché sono mutati i toponimi, le coordinate, ma anche perché a guardarlo ora è un adulto, con una prospettiva nuova, di cronista e narratore, e perché sempre più ristretto è lo spazio della bellezza, e delusione e amarezza nascono dalla coscienza di un patrimonio a rischio di estinzione, vampirizzato dall’indu,
del seppellimento etiope, io, da una svariata commistione nato per caso bianco con dentro mutilazioni e nostalgie. Mi crogiolavo e distendevo dentro questa umanità come sulla spiaggia al primo, tiepido sole del mattino”, Porta Venezia, in La mia isola è Las Vegas, pp. 112-113. Nello stesso testo (p. 114) gli eritrei che, ai tavoli di un ristorante, mangiano tutti con le mani da uno stesso grande piatto centrale il tipico zichinì gli ricordano l’uso delle famiglie contadine siciliane di una volta. Anche nell’osservazione di questo gesto c’è il conforto del recupero di un’identità, specialmente nel confronto con un Nord tanto diverso. Poco più avanti anche la musica, in un bar egiziano, suggerisce legami, suscita l’evocazione dell’identità mediterranea (Ivi, p. 115). 25 Il mare, in La mia isola è Las Vegas, p. 220. 26 La grande vacanza orientale-occidentale, in La mia isola è Las Vegas, pp. 163-169, a p. 165. Molte le dichiarazioni a proposito di una vita “anfibia”, vissuta cioè a stretto contatto con l’acqua. “Sono stato un bambino anfibio, vissuto più nell’acqua che nella terraferma” (La Musa inquieta, in “L’Espresso”, 15 aprile 1991). 27 Il mare, in La mia isola è Las Vegas, pp. 220-221; La grande vacanza orientale-occidentale, in La mia isola è Las Vegas, pp. 164-165. Nella caratterizzazione del Mediterraneo, a partire dal paese natale, si intrecciano memorie personali e dati della storia ufficiale: lo scorrere del tempo plasma i luoghi, oggettivamente e nella ricezione personale dell’autore.
 -strializzazione selvaggia, o dello scenario di nuove guerre, nuove violenze, nuova morte. È negato l’idillio della vita libera e bella con la vista costante delle isole del dio, e risulta stravolto orrendamente anche il lavoro dell’uomo: i pescatori non tirano più nelle reti il pesce azzurro, bensì cadaveri di clandestini28.

1.2 Tra olivo e olivastro: il patrimonio e la violenza

Pur consapevole della varietà e della complessità che lo caratterizzano, Consolo percepisce lo spazio mediterraneo come un mondo unico e vi rintraccia caratteri ricorrenti, corrispondenze e somiglianze. Memoria di paesaggi noti, conoscenze geografiche, storia della rappresentazione si intrecciano nel proporre associazioni relative al patrimonio naturalistico, considerazioni sulle fragilità degli spazi urbani e sui problemi ecologici. A permettere, in Arancio sogno e nostalgia, la definizione del Mediterraneo come regno solare degli aranci, è l’esperienza della pervasività di una coltivazione, che caratterizza fortemente il paesaggio, dalla Sicilia alla Grecia, dal Maghreb alla Spagna. Riconosciuto come traccia artistica, segno di civiltà, ma anche come straordinario catalizzatore di gratificanti percezioni sensoriali – il colore vibrante dei frutti e delle foglie, l’odore e il sapore –, l’arancio è per Consolo, al di là del facile e consolidato stereotipo di un Sud di agrumi e sole capace di attirare i viaggiatori stranieri, sogno di un Eden perduto, simbolo cioè, nel confronto con coordinate geografiche stravolte dall’industrializzazione, come nel caso della Conca d’oro palermitana, di un’integrità ecologica e culturale, di uno spazio sano in cui piante odorose possono ancora fare mostra di sé accanto alle rovine del passato29.
 Della tipica vegetazione mediterranea conserva notazioni il diario del viaggio in Jugoslavia: i pini piegati fino al mare, gli ulivi, i fichi, le vigne non segnano solo il paesaggio balcanico, ma anche quello greco, siciliano, turco, e si può inferire che anche il gesto
28 Il mare, in La mia isola è Las Vegas, pp. 221-222. 29 Arancio, sogno e nostalgia, in “Sicilia Magazine”, dicembre 1988, pp. 35-46, ora in La mia isola è Las Vegas, pp. 128-133. La citazione è alle pp. 128-129.
della donna che stende i frutti ad essiccare richiami ricordi di altre geografie più familiari30.
Nel resoconto della visita in Palestina nel 2002 poi Consolo scrive di “un paesaggio […] di colline rocciose e desertiche, che somiglia all’altopiano degli Iblei in Sicilia”31. Ma oltre al profilo fisico del territorio, a suggerire accostamenti sono gestualità e dolore delle donne per i combattenti morti: nei movimenti e nel lamento si colgono i tratti della tragedia greca, la cerimonia funebre di tutto il Mediterraneo32.
Città, anche distanti, sono accomunate dalla difficoltà di reggersi sul proprio passato, dalla fatica nella gestione della verticalità, della stratificazione, dal segno della decadenza a contatto con la modernità. Il paesaggio urbanistico mediterraneo risulta perciò inserito nella riflessione ecologica sullo spazio siciliano. Le case semicrollate nel reticolo delle viuzze della Casbah di Algeri evocano l’immagine del centro storico di Palermo33 e quasi topos diventano la crescita disordinata e veloce, l’invasione dei nuovi palazzi, il traffico, nel paesaggio urbano siracusano o in quello di Salonicco34. In L’olivo e l’olivastro dalla meditazione sulla decadenza della città di Siracusa, già accostata ad altre città del Mediterraneo, Atene, Argo, Costantinopoli, Alessandria35, scaturisce il racconto di
 30 Ma questa è Sarajevo o Assisi?, in “L’Espresso”, 30 ottobre 1997. Si tratta del racconto del viaggio fatto a Sarajevo con altri intellettuali italiani per restituire la visita di un anno prima da parte di otto membri del Circolo 99 (di Sarajevo). 31 Madre Coraggio, in La mia isola è Las Vegas, p. 196. Il testo, uscito per la prima volta in italiano in V. Consolo et al., Viaggio in Palestina, Nottetempo, Roma 2003, ma già apparso precedentemente online, anche in francese, è il resoconto del viaggio in Palestina in qualità di membro del Parlamento internazionale degli scrittori. 32 Madre Coraggio, in La mia isola è Las Vegas, p. 197. Consolo si riferisce alla cerimonia funebre mediterranea così com’è codificata in Morte e pianto rituale di E. De Martino che infatti ricorda. Ivi, p. 199. 33 Orgogliosa Algeri tra mitra e coltello, in “Il Messaggero”, 20 settembre 1993. 34 Ne abbiamo già parlato per Siracusa. Si veda invece quello che Consolo scrive di Salonicco in Neró metallicó: “città moderna, piena di luci, di insegne, di manifesti pubblicitari, di quartieri appena costruiti come d’una città che è stata invasa da immigrati, che in poco tempo ha moltiplicato i suoi abitanti. E piena di traffico” (Neró metallicó, in Il corteo di Dioniso, La Lepre edizioni, Roma 2009, p. 9). 35 L’olivo e l’olivastro, p. 820.
una visita lungo la costa africana, a Ustica36. Il ricordo si sofferma in particolare sulle rovine e, a sorpresa, sul basilico profumato che cresce in abbondanza tra le pietre e i mosaici. Quello che è apparentemente un particolare senza importanza serve però a definire un patrimonio di piccole cose, comune a tutto il Mediterraneo37. L’Ustica di Consolo è rovine e basilico. Ma tutto il Mediterraneo in qualche modo è Ustica. Tutto il Mediterraneo è fatto di “piccoli luoghi antichi e obliati” come Ustica, in cui la natura si intreccia con la memoria del passato38. Ma il rischio della dimenticanza è in agguato, l’incuria è già realtà, e il ricordo diventa occasione di meditazione amara: nell’enumerazione di antiche città, nell’anafora del verbo “ricordare”, Consolo si trasforma in un “presbite di mente” tutto rivolto verso il passato, si trasforma in “infimo Casella” tutto proteso verso qualcosa che non c’è più39. Se l’anima del musico appena giunta sulla spiaggia del Purgatorio mostra ancora un grande attaccamento alla vita terrena, tanto da slanciarsi verso Dante, memore dell’antico affetto, e la stessa canzone dantesca da lui intonata è all’insegna della nostalgia, il riferimento evidenzia proprio il legame che Consolo sente con il passato, con ciò che non esiste più, come la vita terrena per le anime purganti. Ma la sovrapposizione non è perfetta: il richiamo alla canzone Amor che ne la mente mi ragiona è immediatamente contraddetto dal “Non più, odia ora” e il canto non ha nulla della dolcezza del regno del Purgatorio, ma piut36 Ivi, p. 836. 37 Ibidem. 38 I mosaici e il basilico di Utica sono già ricordati in un passo di Malophoros, in un elenco di caratteristici e rapidi ritratti di piccoli luoghi carichi di passato, dalla Sicilia alla Grecia al Nord Africa: Malophoros, in Le pietre di Pantalica, pp. 574-575. Dello stesso tono la precedente osservazione sulle “stazioncine solitarie remote, di luoghi antichi, sacri, come quella di Segesta, di Cartaghe-Hannibal, di Pompei o di Olimpia” che sanno essere “commoventi, hanno ormai anche loro qualcosa di antico, di sacro” (p. 574). Omaggio ai “piccoli luoghi antichi e obliati” sono per lo più gli interventi apparsi su “L’Espresso” tra il 1981 e il 1982, dedicati a centri poco noti, come Miraglia, Valverde, Galati o Filosofiana. Il tono di questi articoli è però di solito quasi giocoso, un invito al godimento delle bellezze e delle ricchezze sconosciute, anche gastronomiche. Luogo antico e fuori dai soliti canali turistici (non segnalata sulla “Guide Bleu”) è anche Dion, stesa nella pianura ai piedi del Monte Olimpo a cui sono dedicate alcune pagine in Neró Metallicó (Il corteo di Dioniso, cit., pp. 19-20). 39 L’olivo e l’olivastro, p. 837.
tosto una rabbia infernale, un tono che pretenderebbe “rime aspre e chiocce”:

No, non più. Odia ora. Odia la sua isola terribile, barbarica, la sua terra di massacro, d’assassinio, odia il suo paese piombato nella notte, l’Europa deserta di ragione. Odia questa Costantinopoli saccheggiata, questa Alessandria bruciata, quest’Atene, Tebe, Milano, Orano appestate, questa Messina, Lisbona terremotate, questa Conca d’oro coperta da un sudario di cemento, il giardino delle arance insanguinate. Odia questo teatro dov’è caduta la pietà, questa scena dov’è stata sgozzata Ifigenia, quest’Etna, questa Tauride di squadracce dove si consumano merci e vite, si svende onore, decenza, lingua, cultura, intelligenza…40

 Dai toni nostalgici Consolo passa a quelli indignati di un coro antico e professa odio prima nei confronti della sua Sicilia, diventata “terribile, barbarica, terra di massacro”, una Tauride percorsa da “squadracce”, poi verso l’Europa e verso l’intero Mediterraneo. Il dramma in atto ha proporzioni gigantesche e il riferimento ai simboli della tragedia euripidea ne sancisce la gravità: sulla cavea è stata sgozzata Ifigenia, si è prodotto cioè il sacrificio dei sacrifici, la morte della sacerdotessa che Artemide aveva voluto salva, la morte dell’esiliata e, con lei, la morte di ogni forma di giustizia, cultura, rispetto. Il presente è una Tauride senza speranza. All’attentato nei confronti del patrimonio naturalistico e culturale si accompagna la violenza contro la vita umana, in svariate forme: il Mediterraneo è, per Consolo, spazio della conflittualità. La Palermo di Le pietre di Pantalica, in preda alle lotte di mafia, è come Beirut41: le bombe, i kalashnikov, gli efferati omicidi, il sangue sparso dai killer lasciano tra le strade siciliane il disastro dei campi di battaglia e spingono all’associazione con quell’altra violenza, in atto dall’altra parte dello stesso mare, della guerra che porta alla distruzione della capitale libanese. Comiso, poi, coi suoi missili Cruise, rappresenta la minaccia costante della violenza tra popoli a cui neppure le proteste dei pacifisti, bloccate brutalmente, possono opporsi. Nel racconto eponimo di Le pietre di Pantalica, mentre il paese “folgorato dal sole”, quasi fosse “uno di quei vuoti gusci dorati di cicala”, è tutto ripiegato nel suo torpore estivo,
40 Ibidem. 41 Le pietre di Pantalica, in Le pietre di Pantalica, p. 625.
poco più in là l’aeroporto, nella campagna deserta, accoglie i lavori per l’installazione. Alla sola vista del cancello con la scritta “Zona militare-Divieto d’accesso” emerge la tremenda apocalittica considerazione: “Non resterà di noi neanche una vuota, dorata carcassa, come quella della cicala scoppiata nella luce d’agosto. Non resterà compagna, figlio o amico; ricordo, memoria; libro, parola”42. Quasi a dire che troppo in là è andato l’uomo. Nel testo successivo, che porta nel titolo il toponimo, le cicale – ancora loro – che cantano nel sole estivo enfatizzano la pace e la fiacca che prelude alla carica delle forze dell’ordine sui dimostranti43. Di fronte al degrado della violenza – guerra per difendere la possibilità di fare la guerra – e di fronte alla speculazione edilizia e all’inquinamento, l’unica consolazione possibile viene a Consolo dalle rovine immerse nella natura, ovvero dal valore di un patrimonio naturalistico e culturale. Come ad Utica e ancor di più che ad Ustica, negli Iblei a Cava d’Ispica, a poca distanza da Comiso: qui ci sono “le migliaia di grotte scavate dall’uomo, le abitazioni, le chiese, le necropoli della preistoria, della storia più antica dei Siculi, dei Greci, dei Romani, dei Bizantini, di quelli di pochi anni passati”, qui c’è “un cammino bordato dai bastoni fioriti delle agavi, dagli ulivi, dai fichi, dai pistacchi, dai carrubi”44. E fuori dalla Sicilia? Una serie di articoli scritti a partire dagli anni Novanta denuncia una violenza connaturata in numerosi luoghi del Mediterraneo. Teatro del nascente integralismo è il Maghreb, l’Algeria in particolare, dove Consolo nel maggio 1991
 42 Ivi, p. 623. 43 Più tardi, nell’atto unico Pio La Torre, Consolo accenna al coinvolgimento della mafia siciliana e americana nell’affare dei missili (Pio La Torre, cit., p. 65) e offre un’immagine amara della nuova Comiso, che contrasta con il passato nell’offesa dell’inquinamento selvaggio e della minaccia di una guerra (Ivi, p. 77). 44 Comiso, in Le pietre di Pantalica, pp. 637-638. Il testo si chiude con una visita alla necropoli bizantina di Cava d’Ispica. C’è la luna e, guardandola, Consolo ricorda la preghiera della Norma belliniana: “Casta diva, che inargenti / queste sacre, antiche piante…”. Dichiara di non sapere il motivo del ricordo. In realtà la memoria ha a che fare, più o meno volutamente, con Zanzotto, nella cui opera la presenza della Norma è significativa: in più di un’occasione il poeta, riferendosi alla luna, allude alle parole della sacerdotessa (un esempio su tutti l’Ipersonetto: “Casta diva” o “sembiante”, A. Zanzotto, Tutte le poesie, cit., p. 571).
scorge il rischio che “il mistico linguaggio della preghiera” si stravolga nel “mortale linguaggio delle armi”45. Uno “scenario apocalittico, sconvolgente”46 caratterizza poi la Sarajevo del 1997. Il “paesaggio di macerie” che si mostra allo sguardo mano a mano che gli italiani in visita si inoltrano nell’entroterra, con la guida di Matvejevic, impressiona ancor di più per il contrasto con il quieto profilo mediterraneo della costa, dove non c’è traccia di guerra e dove Consolo ritrova la vegetazione della sua terra. La città distrutta evoca le dure immagini del Trionfo della morte di Bruegel o quelle di Los desastres de la guerra di Goya47; i suoi resti, accostati a quelli di Assisi appena colpita dal terremoto, si fanno ammonimento, metafora “del nostro scadimento”: “siamo scivolati sul ciglio della voragine paurosa della natura”, ovvero è scomparsa la civiltà. Infernale è infine la Palestina, visitata da Consolo con altri membri del PIE nel 2002 48. Nella descrizione del tragitto che da Tel Aviv conduce a Ramallah, l’accostamento del paesaggio a quello siciliano si rompe all’apparizione dei check point e delle mitragliatrici, e sempre più nel procedere verso la striscia di Gaza si moltiplicano i segni di rovina e lutto, pur nella prorompente vitalità dei “nugoli di bambini dagli occhi neri”49, al punto che il percorso in direzione dei villaggi di Khan Yunus
45 Quei parabolizzati che sognano l’Italia, in “Corriere della sera”, 20 giugno 1991; Orgogliosa Algeri tra mitra e coltello, cit. Si veda anche la prefazione al libro di poesie di Mokthar Sakhri (Poesie, Libro italiano, Ragusa 2000). L’esperienza giornalistica ritorna nel romanzo Lo Spasimo di Palermo (pp. 903-905): Chino Martinez nel giardino della moschea di Parigi ripensa allo sciopero di Algeri, al mitra e al Corano degli integralisti. Sui fondamentalismi nel Mediterraneo si veda anche l’intervista con A. Prete, Il Mediterraneo oggi: un’intervista, cit., pp. 65-66. Sul fondamentalismo di matrice islamica e in particolare sull’attacco alle torri gemelle, Consolo si esprime manifestando un’accesa critica nei confronti di Oriana Fallaci, evidenziando da una parte che non serve reagire con la violenza e che molti sono i vantaggi dell’incrocio tra culture, come insegna la storia siciliana (l’intervista a cura di G. Caldiron, Lo scrittore siciliano Vincenzo Consolo risponde a Oriana Fallaci “Parole che conducono alla violenza”, in “Liberazione”, 2 ottobre 2001). 46 Ma questa è Sarajevo o Assisi, cit. 47 Sempre a proposito della guerra in Jugoslavia il riferimento all’opera di Goya compare in La morte infinita, in “Il Messaggero”, 6 febbraio 1994. 48 Madre Coraggio, in La mia isola è Las Vegas, pp. 195-200. 49 Ivi, p. 197.
e Rafah pare “una discesa nei gironi infernali”50. L’immagine più forte, quasi un simbolo, è però quella della resistenza eroica di una madre: ad aprire e chiudere il resoconto del viaggio è la figura della donna di Ramallah51, “imponente, dalla faccia indurita”, che vende nepitella raccolta nei luoghi selvatici e che di certo abita nel campo profughi, forse ha figli che combattono.

1.3 Mediterraneo come spazio di migrazioni


 Nella rappresentazione offerta da Consolo l’immagine del Mediterraneo come spazio di migrazioni appare fondamentale e questo, oltre che per una chiara consapevolezza storica, per un’attenta lettura della contemporaneità. Divenuto, nei fatti, confine, limite, addirittura cimitero a causa della grande quantità di morti rimasti imprigionati nelle “carrette”, il mare potrebbe essere, invece, occasione di arricchimento in virtù dello scambio tra popoli. È un’immagine ideale, eppure realizzabile, quella che Consolo propone, insistendo su una storia di civiltà, quella siciliana in particolare, che ha la radice della sua grandezza proprio nell’incontro tra le differenze: ora che l’isola è divenuta luogo di approdo dei migranti che provano a sfuggire alla guerra, alla persecuzione o alla povertà, non si deve dimenticare che il progresso, quello vero, è sempre figlio dell’arricchimento che proviene dall’alterità. Lo dimostrano gli straordinari effetti della dominazione araba in Sicilia, a cui Consolo riconosce, sulla base di un ricco corredo di fonti e seguendo l’opinione di Sciascia, addirittura un valore fondante in termini di identità: i tratti tipici della sicilianità, ovvero lingua, letteratura, arte, agricoltura, cucina e persino fisionomia, risentono tutti del passato arabo52. Non
50 Ivi, p. 199. 51 Ivi, p. 195 e 200. 52 Estremamente rappresentativa appare a proposito la sezione Sicilia e oltre in Di qua dal faro e, in particolare, il saggio introduttivo, La Sicilia e la cultura araba. Il saggio si apre con alcune considerazioni sul legame tra la poesia della scuola siciliana e le qaside dei siculo-arabi, ancora attivi nell’isola sotto i Normanni (La Sicilia e la cultura araba, in Di qua dal faro, pp. 1187- 1192, a p. 1187) e riflette poi su diversi aspetti dell’influenza araba, ad esempio sulla rinascita economica e sullo spirito di tolleranza (p. 1189). Significativi nel testo i rimandi a Sciascia (in particolare alle pp. 1188-1189). Ricordo che il rapporto tra Sciascia e il mondo arabo costituisce un ambito ricco di spunti suggestivi. Significativa è la conclusione del saggio di apertura de La corda
 a caso l’insistenza sulla presenza degli Arabi nell’isola si traduce nella frequente celebrazione delle innovazioni in ambito agricolo, tecnico, delle trasformazioni in ambito artistico-culturale. Di “rinascimento” parla Consolo, non perdendo occasione per evidenziare i lasciti, le tracce ancora vive nella contemporaneità siciliana. La lussureggiante Palermo, ad esempio, non avrebbe chiese-moschee, castelli, palazzi e giardini seducenti, non avrebbe aranceti se non ci fossero stati gli Arabi. Lo spazio insomma risulta segnato profondamente da questa “migrazione”. Sorprendenti riescono ad essere poi – afferma Consolo – gli incroci della storia, e Mazara, che ridiventa araba nel Novecento per il massiccio arrivo dei tunisini, aveva già nel momento del primo approdo dell’827 l’Africa nel suo nome, Mazar, traccia dell’antica presenza cartaginese. Come a dire che è sempre stato normale per i popoli spostarsi, il mare non è di nessuno, non può essere veramente limite, e la terra non reca un marchio di possesso ma molti strati di identità che il tempo e i popoli plasmano, partendo, arrivando. Se innumerevoli sono le eredità, anche visibili, tangibili, sebbene a rischio, del passato arabo, scomparsa del tutto risulta per Consolo la scelta della tolleranza e della convivenza tra culture, confermata anche dai normanni che non vollero eliminare la civiltà che li aveva preceduti, ma la integrarono e la valorizzarono. Perciò l’immagine del Mediterraneo come spazio di equilibrio e coesistenza tra le alterità non è solo parentesi del passato ma anche un’aspirazione, un esempio positivo da opporre a quanti insistono sui rischi dello scontro tra culture53.
 Che l’arrivo di nuovi popoli produca progresso è poi testimoniato per l’autore anche da migrazioni più antiche come dimostra pazza (1970), Sicilia e sicilitudine, in cui l’autore traccia un collegamento ideale tra Salvatore Quasimodo e un poeta arabo di otto secoli precedente, Ibn Hamdis, siciliano di Noto, accomunati dai toni con cui hanno fatto poesia della pena profonda dell’esilio (L. Sciascia, Sicilia e sicilitudine, in Id. La corda pazza, cit., pp. 11-17). Sulla questione particolarmente interessanti risultano anche le osservazioni contenute in uno degli scritti del Canton Ticino, su Tomasi di Lampedusa, apparso su “Libera Stampa” il 27 gennaio 1959, ora raccolto in Troppo poco pazzi (L. Sciascia, Marx Manzoni eccetera e il Gattopardo, in R. Martinoni, a cura di, Leonardo Sciascia nella libera e laica Svizzera, Olschki, Firenze 2011, pp. 102-104 alle pp. 102-103). 53 Nell’ultima intervista Consolo riflette proprio sull’ignoranza di chi solleva lo scontro di civiltà e accosta integralismo e islam (V. Pinello, op. cit.).
l’entusiastica rappresentazione della Sicilia come museo a cielo aperto, che accoglie rovine antiche, città greche, elime, puniche. Ma numerosi sono anche i riferimenti alla nascita delle colonie, a volte molto precisi, con indicazione dell’ecista, del territorio di origine, degli sviluppi della vicenda coloniale54, sulla base dei dati forniti da fonti antiche, come l’opera di Tucidide55, o su testi più recenti che rinviano però alla storiografia greca. E ciò non solo nei testi saggistici: anche le prove narrative offrono una rappresentazione della Sicilia e del Mediterraneo che ne valorizza l’aspetto di crocevia di popoli. Concentrandosi sulle migrazioni dell’antichità, i testi impostano un implicito confronto con gli spostamenti di oggi, riconoscendovi ragioni identiche o simili, ovvero guerra, fame, difficoltà economiche. In particolare, ne L’olivo e l’olivastro56, Consolo si sofferma sull’emigrazione megarese verso la parte orientale dell’isola. La visita ai resti di Megara Hyblaea, oggetto dell’amorevole culto del giovane Salvo e dei suoi, mentre è in corso l’assedio della cannibalica civiltà industriale del polo siracusano, suscita un’entusiastica rievocazione dell’opera dell’ecista Lamis, dell’idea di uguaglianza e progresso dei coloni, della fertilità e della geometria nella suddivisione del terreno in lotti57. All’enfasi sulla fondazione Consolo
 54 Ad esempio, Che non consumi tu tempo vorace, cit., p. 12; I muri d’Europa, in L. Restuccia, G.S. Santangelo, Scritture delle migrazioni: passaggi e ospitalità, Palumbo, Palermo 2008, p. 25. 55 L’archaiologhia siceliota del VI libro si apre con una sintesi storica a proposito dei più antichi popoli locali, a partire dai misteriosi Lestrigoni e Ciclopi, cui segue un quadro preciso delle migrazioni dalla Grecia e delle successive fondazioni. Consolo rinvia a Tucidide per la fondazione di Messina, l’antica Zancle (Vedute dallo stretto di Messina, in Di qua dal faro, p. 1045) e infatti il dato è rintracciabile in Tuc. VI 4,5. Ricava probabilmente dallo storico greco anche il dato relativo alla fondazione di Siracusa da parte dell’ecista Archia (Tuc. VI 3), ricordato in La dimora degli Dei (cit., p. 14). Oltre alla fonte tucididea si può riconoscere anche quella di Diodoro Siculo, esplicitata per la colonizzazione greca delle Eolie (Isole dolci del dio, cit., p. 21). 56 L’olivo e l’olivastro, p. 783. 57 Tucidide parla dell’arrivo dei Megaresi (Tuc. VI 4, 1-2) ma non riporta quest’ultimo dato della lottizzazione, che invece si ricava dai rilievi archeologici. A proposito si veda H. Tréziny, De Mégare Hyblaea à Sélinonte, de Syracuse à Camarine: le paysage urbain des colonies et de leurs sous-colonies, in M. Lombardo, F. Frisone (a cura di), Atti del convegno Colonie di colonie: le fondazioni subcoloniali greche tra colonizzazione e colonialismo, Lecce, 22-24 giugno 2006, Congedo editore, Galatina-Martina Franca, 2009,
 aggiunge il plauso per le capacità che i Megaresi, scacciati dai Corinzi di Siracusa, dimostrarono, affrontando l’ignoto della Sicilia occidentale dove fondarono Selinunte. Le sue parole trasfigurano il neutro dato storico di Tucidide (VI 4, 2) attribuendo all’opera dei coloni i tratti di una straordinaria epopea58. I resti della civiltà greca di Megara e Selinunte, dunque, risultano monito contro lo straniamento che viene dalla degenerazione economica e culturale. La coscienza dell’identità trascurata dello spazio e della civiltà che l’ha costruita, originariamente straniera, immigrata, ma secondo le fonti storiche “progredita”, costringe l’attenzione sul rischio della perdita in termini di biodiversità culturale, e l’interesse per gli antichi coloni greci diventa traccia ecocritica. Ha a che fare con la volontà di valorizzare il passato greco dell’isola anche il ricorso al mito. Oltre al viaggio di Ulisse, Consolo ama ricordare la vicenda di Demetra, la madre disperata che, in cerca di sua figlia Kore, vaga per il Mediterraneo59, leggenda molto siciliana, in virtù dei luoghi coinvolti: ad Enna c’era l’antica sede della dea60, e proprio lì si svolse il rapimento di Kore, mentre poco più a
 pp. 163-164; M. Gras, H. Tréziny, Mégara Hyblaea: le domande e le risposte, in Alle origini della magna Grecia, Mobilità migrazioni e fondazioni, Atti del cinquantesimo convegno di studi sulla Magna Grecia, Taranto 1-4 ottobre 2010, Stampa Sud, Mottola 2012, pp. 1133-1147. 58 L’olivo e l’olivastro, pp. 783-784, ma anche Retablo, p. 432; La Sicilia passeggiata, pp. 94-95; Malophoros, in Le pietre di Pantalica, p. 578. 59 Più volte Consolo esibisce citazioni dall’Inno a Demetra (nella traduzione di F. Cassola del 1975). In Retablo ad esempio (Retablo, p. 409) i primi due versi (“Demetra dalle belle chiome, dea veneranda, io comincio a cantare, / e con lei la figlia dalle belle caviglie, che Aidoneo / rapì”) sono esempio di suprema poesia per Clerici che sta sperimentando, nell’esperienza sublime dell’accoglienza da parte di Nino Alaimo, tra l’altro dedito al culto di una Grande Madre mediterranea, una sorta di possessione divina. La Sicilia passeggiata (p. 7) si apre con un’epigrafe tratta dall’Inno (Inno a Demetra, vv. 401-403) che pone l’attenzione sull’esito felice della vicenda, ovvero sul momento del ricongiungimento delle dee e sul ritorno della primavera; più avanti nel testo invece (La Sicilia passeggiata, p. 57) leggiamo anche i vv. 305-311 che descrivono l’amarezza di Demetra dopo la perdita della figlia e le conseguenze nefaste per gli uomini. In L’olivo e l’olivastro (p. 843) i versi 40-44 inquadrano i luoghi come scenario del vagabondaggio sofferente di Demetra. 60 La Sicilia passeggiata, p. 58; L’olivo e l’olivastro, p. 822. Al tradizionale luogo del culto di Demetra Consolo si riferisce anche nella prefazione al
Sud, nell’area dello zolfo, la tradizione colloca il regno di Plutone61. La scelta autoriale chiama in causa le dinamiche di rappresentazione del Mediterraneo, ma anche l’identità profonda degli spazi geografici, evidentemente compromessa con il mito. Immaginario collettivo e prospettiva razionalizzante si intrecciano, nell’evidenziare il legame esistente tra Sicilia e Grecia, tra due differenti rive di uno stesso mare. Il culto e il mito, infatti, sarebbero conseguenza della colonizzazione greca62.
Nel mito personale di un mondo antico vivace, fatto di intrecci e incroci alla presenza greca si aggiunge quella cartaginese o quella elima. La vicenda di quest’ultimo popolo, in bilico tra storia e mito, ha a che fare, già secondo Tucidide (VI 2), con l’arrivo in Sicilia dei Troiani: lo storico riferisce che la migrazione, successiva al crollo di Ilio, ebbe come effetto lo stanziamento in territori prossimi a quelli dei Sicani e tale vicinanza portò alla denominazione unica di Elimi per i due popoli; i centri più importanti di questa nuova civiltà furono Segesta e Erice. Consolo, pur conoscendo sicuramente il dato riportato dallo storico, è più sensibile in questo caso alla fonte poetica virgiliana. In La Sicilia passeggiata, ad esempio, il mistero sull’origine di Segesta – o Egesta – richiama i versi 755-758 del V libro dell’Eneide che proprio alla ktisis fanno riferimento63. La quale ktisis si conclude con la fondazione del tempio della dea Venere sulla vetta del monte Erice, com’è ricordato dai vv. 759-760 del V libro virgiliano che Consolo sceglie di citare in La Sicilia passeggiata (“Poi vicino alle stelle, in vetta all’Erice, fondano / un tempio a Venere Idalia”)64, quasi invitando a seguire nell’area occiden
volume di F. Fontana dedicato a Morgantina (V. Consolo, Che non consumi tu tempo vorace, cit., p. 11-13) 61 Consolo ricorda questa associazione tra mito e luogo geografico in La Sicilia passeggiata, p. 62; Uomini e paesi dello zolfo, in Di qua dal faro, p. 985. 62 Molti gli studi sulla questione che evidenziano la difficoltà di definire la reale provenienza del culto di Demetra e Kore. Si veda ad esempio P. Anello, Sicilia terra amata dalle dee, in T. Alfieri Tonini (a cura di), Mythoi siciliani in Diodoro, Atti del seminario di studi, Università degli studi di Milano, 12-13 febbraio 2007 = in “Aristonothos, scritti per il mediterraneo antico”, 2, 2008, pp. 9-24. 63 La Sicilia passeggiata, p. 106. 64 Ivi, p. 108. Consolo precisa il dato poetico aggiungendo che in realtà il tempio è antecedente all’arrivo dei Troiani: parla infatti di un sacello sicano, elimo o fenicio già dedicato al culto della dea dell’amore. Si fa riferimento al tempio anche in Retablo (Retablo, p. 458) e in L’olivo e l’olivastro (L’olivo e l’olivastro, p. 860), dove ritroviamo la citazione dei versi dell’Eneide. In L’olivo e l’olivastro sono ricordati “il bosco e la spiaggia del funerale,
 tale dell’isola le orme del passaggio di Enea, sulla base delle indicazioni fornite dall’Eneide: un cammino attento potrebbe permettere di scoprire non solo l’area sacra ericina ma anche il bosco consacrato ad Anchise, la spiaggia dei sacrifici e delle gare65. La scelta di citare proprio i versi del rito di fondazione è interessante perché evidenzia la fusione tra popolazione straniera migrante, i Troiani, e popolazione locale, gli Elimi66. Da tutto ciò risulta evidente per Consolo che gli incontri, gli scambi tra popoli di culture diverse sono stati da sempre causa del cammino della civiltà, e che la chiusura, il rifiuto dell’ignoto che arriva da fuori, è perdita, regressione67. Perciò, egli, servendosi di una frase di Zanzotto, “Ci troviamo oggi tra un mare di catarro e un mare di sperma”, descrive il vecchio continente come perennemente arroccato nelle sue posizioni. “Vecchia” davvero è l’Europa, vecchia l’Italia, non solo per l’età media della popolazione, ma per una cecità di fronte all’arrivo delle masse disperate dei profughi che non riconosce la ricchezza dell’accoglienza e addirittura produce morboso attaccamento ai privilegi, difesi con pericolosi atteggiamenti xenofobi68. All’imperativo dell’accoglienza umanitaria, a cui implicitamente alludono nell’articolo Gli ultimi disperati del canale di Sicilia le immagini tremende del mare-cimitero (“bare di
delle gare in onore d’Anchise” (Ivi, p. 861), menzionati anche in Lo spazio in letteratura (Di qua dal faro, p. 1241). Al mito dell’arrivo dei Troiani in Sicilia si riferisce anche in Retablo l’onomastica relativa al fiume “Criniso o Scamandro” (p. 415). 65 Virgilio narra che Enea, fermatosi presso Drepano – l’attuale Trapani – dopo la parentesi di Cartagine, viene ospitato da Aceste e, con lui e i suoi, celebra gli onori funebri in onore di Anchise, lì seppellito un anno prima. Alla ospitalità già ricevuta da parte di Aceste si riferisce Aen. I 195. La morte di Anchise invece è accennata in Aen. III 707-710. Gli onori funebri in suo onore e i giochi successivi sono al centro del V libro (vv 42-103 e 104-603). 66 Dopo che le donne, istigate da Giunone, hanno dato fuoco alle navi (Aen. V 604-699), l’eroe, ispirato dalla visione di suo padre, decide di fondare una nuova città che sarà abitata da una parte del suo seguito e dai troiani dell’isola. Aceste e i suoi, infatti, che sono già in Sicilia (Aen. V 30 e 35-41) appartengono ad un’antica stirpe troiana. 67 Quando i Lombardi emigrarono in Sicilia, in “Corriere della Sera”, 4 maggio 1991. 68 Gli ultimi disperati del canale di Sicilia, in “La Repubblica”, 18 settembre 2007. La frase di Zanzotto è ripresa da A. Zanzotto, In questo progresso scorsoio. Conversazione con M. Breda, cit., pp. 68-69. Il poeta la usa per commentare la situazione dell’Italia, sospesa tra “un’Europa invecchiante e le esplosioni demografiche vicine”.
ferro nei fondali del mare”) e dell’orrenda pesca dei morti (“i corpi degli annegati nelle reti dei pescatori siciliani”), si accompagna nella prospettiva autoriale l’invito ad una valutazione delle possibilità economiche e culturali che derivano dai flussi di migranti69. Estremamente significativo nel dibattito risulta per Consolo il caso della doppia migrazione da e verso il Maghreb. C’è stato un tempo lontano in cui il braccio di mare tra la Sicilia e le coste africane non era “frontiera, barriera fra due mondi, ma una via di comunicazione e di scambio”70, un tempo in cui era normale per i lavoratori di Sicilia, di Calabria o di Sardegna cercare fortuna nelle terre degli “infedeli”. Tale familiarità tra i due mondi è stata confermata dall’emigrazione ottocentesca, intellettuale e borghese prima, poi anche di braccianti dell’Italia meridionale, verso le coste nordafricane71. Si tratta di un fenomeno che sta molto a cuore a Consolo72. Non a caso egli lo accoglie nella narrazione di Nottetempo, casa per casa.
 69 Negli stimoli offerti dall’emigrazione contemporanea Consolo scorge una possibilità di rinascita anche letteraria: così nell’intervista con A. Bartalucci (A. Bartalucci, op. cit., pp. 201-204, a p. 204). 70 Il ponte sul canale di Sicilia, in Di qua dal faro, p. 1193. Consolo si è soffermato prima sulla seconda novella della quinta giornata del Decameron di Boccaccio che propone il tranquillo soggiorno di pescatori cristiani, trapanesi, nella musulmana Tunisia. Ma si veda anche in Retablo l’incontro di Clerici, accompagnato dal fido Isidoro e dal brigante, con Spelacchiata e i suoi compagni barbareschi, che si traduce in uno scambio di cerimonie (Retablo, pp. 438-440). L’episodio tiene conto dell’affinità culturale e della consuetudine dei rapporti tra paesi mediterranei. A proposito del valore della “rotta per Cartagine”, ovvero dell’attenzione consoliana per le relazioni storiche di contiguità e vicinanza tra Sicilia e Nord Africa, P. Montefoschi, Vincenzo Consolo: ritorno a Cartagine, in Id., Il mare al di là delle colline. Il viaggio nel Novecento letterario italiano, Carocci, Roma 2012, pp. 54-60; specificamente sull’episodio di Spelacchiata in Retablo, p. 55. 71 A proposito dell’emigrazione italiana in Tunisia si veda lo studio di F. Blandi: F. Blandi Appuntamento a La Goulette, Navarra Editore, Palermo 2012. 72 Del fenomeno Consolo fornisce dati precisi in diverse occasioni. Si veda in particolare Il ponte sul canale di Sicilia, in Di qua dal faro, pp. 1195-1196; Il Mediterraneo tra illusione e realtà, integrazione e conflitto nella storia e in letteratura, in G. Interlandi (a cura di), La salute mentale nelle terre di mezzo. Per costruire insieme politiche di inclusione nel Mediterraneo, Atti del Convegno di Psichiatria Democratica, Caltagirone, 12-13 marzo 2009, numero monografico di “Fogli di informazione”, terza serie, 13-14, gennaio-giugno 2010, pp. 5-7.
La fuga di Petro, nuovo Enea73, si inserisce proprio nel contesto storico della migrazione verso l’Africa settentrionale. La sua vicenda non è eccezionale, se non forse per le motivazioni, ma rientra nella normalità di un flusso migratorio consolidato74. La stessa presenza del personaggio storico di Paolo Schicchi, con cui Petro ha un breve colloquio sulla nave, obbedisce alla storicità del fenomeno. L’anarchico siciliano, infatti, non fu il solo a cercare rifugio in Tunisia per ragioni politiche: esisteva sulla sponda sud del Mediterraneo una nutrita comunità di antifascisti e addirittura una vera e propria comunità anarchica siciliana a Tunisi75.
 Il romanzo si chiude proprio con l’arrivo dall’altra parte del mare: i colori, le architetture, la vegetazione e gli uccelli sanciscono l’approdo ad un nuovo inizio, proprio come accadeva a coloro che emigravano in Tunisia76. Il nuovo spazio su cui si affaccia la nave si carica di attese, di possibilità, innesca un confronto con il passato, con la terra abbandonata, accende speranze, suscita decisioni. Petro lascia significativamente cadere in mare il libro che l’anarchico Schicchi gli ha consegnato durante il viaggio, a sancire il suo rifiuto per ogni forma di violenza, la sua volontà di essere “solo come un emigrante, in cerca di lavoro, casa, di rispetto”77.
La prospettiva di chi guarda e vive il passaggio ad un nuovo spazio definisce e ridefinisce i contorni della realtà, quella che ha lasciato e quella a cui va incontro. La Tunisia non è per Petro un luogo neutro e nemmeno lo è la Sicilia. Allo stesso modo la terra di partenza e la Milano dell’arrivo vengono ridiscusse nell’esperienza
73 Non a caso il capitolo finale reca l’epigrafe virgiliana Longa tibi exilia et vastum maris aequor arandum (Aen. II 780) che permette di associare la Sicilia in preda all’alba fascista ad una Ilio in rovina e Petro in fuga all’eroe costretto a cercare una nuova terra. 74 Nottetempo, casa per casa, p. 752. Nell’intervista con Gambaro (F. Gambaro, V. Consolo, op. cit., p. 102) Consolo evidenzia l’importanza degli scambi tra le due rive del Mediterraneo, proprio a partire della vicenda degli italiani emigrati, perché essi permettono un arricchimento culturale e letterario. 75 Nottetempo, casa per casa, pp. 753-754. A proposito della comunità italiana in Tunisia si veda lo studio di Marinette Pendola (Gli italiani di Tunisia. Storia di una comunità (XIX-XX secolo), Ed. Umbra, “I Quaderni del Museo dell’emigrazione”, Foligno, 2007), curatrice anche del sito www.italianiditunisia.com, denso di informazioni storiche. 76 Nottetempo, casa per casa, p. 755. 77 Ibidem.
di migrazione che conduce i meridionali, negli anni del miracolo economico, alla volta del Nord. Come accade, d’altronde, allo stesso Consolo che, sebbene non si muova per fame ma per realizzazione intellettuale, sperimenta il passaggio, vive una ridefinizione dei luoghi. L’insistenza dell’autore sulla presenza significativa degli italiani in Maghreb e sugli innumerevoli scambi avvenuti tra l’una e l’altra riva del mare fin dal Medioevo va considerata in relazione al suo interesse per quell’emigrazione africana in Italia che ha avuto origine negli anni Sessanta e che non si è più arrestata. Le riflessioni a tal proposito sono estremamente lucide e inquadrano precocemente la questione. I primi lavoratori tunisini, forniti del semplice passaporto con il visto turistico e sprovvisti di quell’autorizzazione che permetteva un regolare contratto di lavoro, giungevano in Sicilia nel 1968. La presenza di questi primi immigrati, costretti a ritornare in patria alla scadenza del visto turistico, rispondeva alla domanda di lavoro a buon mercato da parte di proprietari terrieri e di armatori, per i quali reclutare questa manodopera e sfruttarne la condizione abusiva era senza dubbio un vantaggio. Ai primi immigrati si aggiunsero allora parenti e amici e il fenomeno si allargò78. “L’emigrazione in Italia dei poveri del Terzo Mondo”79 ha inizio a Mazara, proprio lì dove il 17 giugno 827 – ricorda Consolo citando Amari – sbarcavano i musulmani, città splendida e prestigiosa secondo il geografo Idrisi80. A distanza di secoli, scomparsa la bellezza del passato, dopo che miseria e crollo avevano generato quell’altra migrazione, “di pescatori, muratori, artigiani, contadini di là dal mare, a La Goulette di Tunisi, nelle campagne di Soliman, di Sousse, di Biserta”81, il miracolo economico degli anni Sessanta attivava di nuovo la rotta dal Nord Africa82.
78 Sul fenomeno si veda A. Cusumano, Il ritorno infelice, Sellerio, Palermo 1978. Consolo lo cita in diverse occasioni, ad esempio, Il ponte sul canale di Sicilia, Di qua dal faro, p. 1197. 79 L’olivo e l’olivastro, p. 865. 80 Ivi, p. 864. 81 Ivi, p. 865. 82 Ibidem. Si veda anche Il ponte sul canale di Sicilia, in Di qua dal faro, pp. 1197-1198. Molti gli articoli sul caso di Mazara, ad esempio I guasti del miracolo, cit.; Morte per acqua, cit; “Ci hanno dato la civiltà”, cit. Ancora precedente l’articolo uscito su “Sans frontières” nel 1980 che si sofferma sulla storia di Mazara prima di concentrarsi sulla quarta guerra punica o guerra
L’inversione di rotta, di cui Consolo evidenzia la specularità rispetto a quella italiana, va a riempire i vuoti lasciati dall’altro flusso migratorio, quello dei meridionali verso il Nord, e, anche se il caso di Mazara ha una sua indiscussa esemplarità, il fenomeno, come si è detto, già all’origine riguarda un po’ tutto il trapanese: una terra che ha più di un tratto in comune con la regione di partenza83. Ma mentre, accennando alla somiglianza geografica e culturale delle due rive del Mediterraneo, riporta l’attenzione sulla vicinanza tra i popoli e sui risvolti positivi dello scambio del passato, Consolo lascia emergere la stortura del presente e individua in questa nuova migrazione l’inizio di una lunga serie di episodi di xenofobia e persecuzione84. Gli immigrati maghrebini, infatti, a Mazara in maniera significativa, ma anche altrove, divennero presto oggetto di sfruttamento, divennero strumento di speculazione politica, furono vittime di razzismo, caccia, di rimpatrio coatto. Nel 1999, in Di qua dal faro Consolo già lamenta l’assenza di previsioni, progettazioni, di accordi tra governi85. La vicenda dei tunisini del trapanese e quella di tutti coloro che hanno attraversato e attraversano le acque del Mediterraneo – ma in alcune pagine il discorso si estende al mondo intero – alla ricerca di una nuova vita sono parte di un’unica drammatica storia scandita dalle tragedie quotidiane di corpi senza vita86.
del pesce i cui protagonisti erano proprio i tunisini immigrati della casbah: Quatrième guerre punique, in “Sans frontières”, 30 settembre 1980. 83 Alla somiglianza tra Italia meridionale e Nord Africa Consolo fa riferimento in“Ci hanno dato la civiltà”, cit.. Sulla questione anche un articolo del 1981, Immigration africaine en Italie (“Sans frontières”, 3 gennaio 1981): l’Italia è la prima tappa dei migranti per necessità geografiche ma anche perché è una terra non veramente straniera. 84 L’olivo e l’olivastro, p. 865; Il ponte sul canale di Sicilia, in Di qua dal faro, p. 1197. Nel precedente I guasti del miracolo (cit.) Consolo rileva lo scandalo del dopo terremoto di Mazara (7 giugno 1981): ai tunisini vengono negate le tende, perché stranieri e perché non votanti e quindi ininfluenti nelle imminenti elezioni regionali. 85 Il ponte sul canale di Sicilia, in Di qua dal faro, pp. 1197-1198. 86 Uomini sotto il sole, in Di qua dal faro, p. 1202. In particolare l’espressione “d’altri, scoperti, gettati in pasto ai pescecani” allude ad un episodio specifico, già tema del racconto Memoriale di Basilio Archita (Le pietre di Pantalica, pp. 639-646): nel maggio 1984, l’equipaggio della nave Garyfallia, che al comando di Antonis Plytzanopoulos era salpata dal porto di Mombasa da poche ore, si rese colpevole della morte, in mare aperto, proprio in pasto ai
L’ombra del mito antico si affaccia a rappresentare il destino dei migranti: essi ripetono l’esilio di Ulisse, ma soprattutto sono Enea in fuga da una terra in fiamme, oppure sono Troiane, fatte schiave e costrette ad allontanarsi dalla propria patria87.
La condizione degli esseri umani nel mare nostrum sembra così trovare una sintesi nella citazione da Braudel – “in tutto il Mediterraneo l’uomo è cacciato, rinchiuso, venduto, torturato”88–, originariamente riferita all’età di Filippo II. Ma ancor di più i versi eliotiani di Morte per acqua, che ritornano con frequenza sorprendente nei testi giornalistici e nelle prove narrative, riescono a parlare della realtà contemporanea. Già in Retablo l’episodio in cui la statua dell’efebo di Mozia si perde nel mare suscita la riflessione su un’altra perdita, che è ben più grave, quella delle vite umane che in ogni tempo si sono spente e si spengono nell’acqua, “sciolte nelle ossa” come Phlebas il fenicio89. In L’olivo e l’olivastro la citazione si lega esplicitamente alla memoria di un fatto di cronaca: nel 1981 il giovane Bugawi, vittima del naufragio del Ben Hur di Mazara, rimane in fondo al mare e “una corrente sottomarina / gli spolpò le
 pescecani, di un gruppo di clandestini. I migranti non vengono sacrificati solo nel Mediterraneo: la vicenda, infatti, come ricorda anche la voce narrante del racconto, il siciliano Basilio Archita, si svolge al largo delle coste del Kenia. I responsabili sono un “manipolo di orribili greci, dai denti guasti e le braccia troppo corte, mostri assetati di sangue e di violenza” (S. Giovanardi, Imbroglio siciliano, in “La Repubblica”, 2 novembre 1988; Id., Le pietre di Pantalica, in S. Zappulla Muscarà, Narratori siciliani del secondo dopoguerra, cit., pp. 179-182), insomma non hanno niente a che fare con i valori dell’antica Grecia. E anche la citazione di Kavafis, in bocca ad uno di loro, stride nel confronto con il terribile delitto. 87 Gli ultimi disperati del canale di Sicilia, cit., o in I muri d’Europa, cit., p. 25. Entrambi i testi si aprono con citazione dalle Troiane di Euripide (vv. 45-47) e dall’Eneide di Virgilio (II 707-710). 88 Ad esempio a conclusione di Il ponte sul canale di Sicilia, in Di qua dal faro, p. 1198; Il mare, in La mia isola è Las Vegas, p. 222; Gli ultimi disperati del canale di Sicilia, cit.; I muri d’Europa, cit., p. 30; nel discorso al convegno per Psichiatria democratica, Il Mediterraneo tra illusione e realtà, integrazione e conflitto nella storia e in letteratura, cit. La citazione è tratta da F. Braudel, Civiltà e imperi del Mediterraneo nell’età di Filippo II (F. Braudel, Civiltà e imperi del Mediterraneo nell’età di Filippo II, cit., pp. 981-982). 89 Retablo, p. 453.
ossa in sussurri”90. Ma anche i naufraghi di Scoglitti91 sono Phlebas il fenicio, e lo sono tutti i morti del Mediterraneo, tutti quelli che le carrette stracariche e le responsabilità umane hanno lasciato affogare92. Dal 2002 in poi Consolo interviene in maniera decisa e con la consueta indignazione sull’intensificarsi del fenomeno migratorio e sulle responsabilità della politica. Già un testo del ‘90 evidenzia l’ampliamento smisurato del braccio di mare tra Sicilia e Nord Africa, ovvero, la distanza economica creatasi tra i due mondi93. Ancora di più gli articoli successivi, suscitati in particolare dalla legge Bossi Fini, si concentrano sul contrasto evidentissimo, soprattutto a Lampedusa e nelle altre Pelasgie, tra l’opulenza del turismo nella natura incontaminata e la disperazione dell’approdo dei migranti94. Il procedimento antifrastico con cui Consolo si finge sostenitore delle ragioni dei ricchi vacanzieri contro gli sbarchi invadenti degli stranieri evidenzia lo stridere dei due mondi: “Ma lì, a Lampedusa, inopinatamente vi giungono anche, mannaggia, gli emigranti clandestini”95. Così la bella Lampedusa diventa nuovamente scenario di guerra contro l’infedele, come nel poema ariostesco. Se la Lipadusa del Furioso, “piena d’umil mortelle e di ginepri / ioconda solitudi
90 L’episodio è rievocato, con citazione da Eliot, in L’olivo e l’olivastro, pp. 865-866. Nel giugno del 1981 appena dopo il terremoto che aveva colpito Mazara, gli armatori ebbero fretta di rimandare in acqua le navi. Nel naufragio del Ben Hur morirono cinque mazaresi e due tunisini. L’identità di questi rimase ignota per diversi giorni: un indizio della condizione di sfruttamento e illegalità in cui lavoravano gli stranieri. Sullo stesso episodio, sempre con riferimento a Phlebas il fenicio, si veda il già citato Morte per acqua, cit., o “Ci hanno dato la civiltà”, cit. 91 Dedicato ai morti per acqua, in “L’Unità”, 29 settembre 2002. La citazione dei versi di Eliot chiude l’articolo e, che mi risulti, è l’unico caso in cui il passo è riportato per intero. Consolo si riferisce a quanto avvenuto il 24 settembre 2002: uno scafista abbandona a 300 metri dalla spiaggia di Scoglitti il suo carico di migranti; le onde impediscono l’approdo, muoiono 14 persone. 92 Gli ultimi disperati del canale di Sicilia, cit., o in I muri d’Europa, cit., p. 29. Meno esplicito il riferimento a Eliot in Immigrati avanzi del mare, in “L’Unità”, 18 giugno 2003, dove è l’aggettivo “spolpato” (“qualche corpo gonfio o spolpato finisce nelle reti dei pescatori”) che allude a Phlebas il fenicio. 93 Cronache di poveri venditori di strada, cit. 94 Il mondo di Bossi Fini stupido e spietato, in “L’Unità”, 29 agosto 2002. 95 Ibidem.
ne e remota / a cervi, a daini, a caprioli, a lepri”96, ospita il triplice duello di Orlando, Brandimarte e Oliviero contro i saracini Gradasso, Agramante e Sobrino, nel Duemila l’isola, divenuta da “remoto scoglio”, “meta ambitissima del turismo esclusivo”, è luogo d’approdo di pescherecci e gommoni che rovesciano il loro carico di clandestini: “i nuovi turchi, i nuovi invasori saracini”97. E – ancora è dominante l’antifrasi –, se non ci sono gli antichi paladini a combatterli e neppure le navi militari auspicate da Bossi, c’è però il mare “quel fascinoso mare azzurro e trasparente che d’improvviso s’infuria e travolge ogni gommone o peschereccio”98. Tanto più assurde si rivelano le leggi per gestire gli arrivi e, se già prima della Bossi Fini, Consolo lamentava la violazione sistematica dei diritti dell’uomo, dopo il 2002 è ancora più duro. Bersaglio polemico sono le nuove normative, più rigide di quelle previste dalla legge Martelli o dalla Turco-Napolitano: le nuove disposizioni prevedono che le carrette siano bloccate in acque extraterritoriali, “forse anche speronate e affondate. Con tutto il loro carico umano”99. Bersaglio polemico sono i centri di prima accoglienza che – scrive – non meriterebbero questo nome, perché piuttosto di lager si tratta, luoghi atroci, di violenza e umiliazione100. Bersaglio polemico è la diffusione di sentimenti xenofobi, suscitati dalla politica nella mentalità comune, ben rappresentata dall’io narrante del racconto eponimo di La mia isola è Las Vegas che invoca la costruzione di muri d’acciaio per arrestare la marea dei migranti101. In quest’ottica di critica alla nuova legge e all’inadempienza del dovere morale verso i migranti va letta la netta opposizione di Consolo al progetto di un museo della migrazione a Lampedusa, promosso nel 2004 dalla deputata regionale dell’Udc Giusy Savarino. A lei l’autore si rivolge pubblicamente dalle pagine di “La
96 Ariosto, Orlando Furioso, XL 45 vv. 3-4. Il passo è ricordato da Consolo in Lampedusa è l’ora delle iene, “L’Unità”, 28 giugno 2003. Ma si veda anche Isole dolci del dio, cit., pp. 33-35. 97 Lampedusa è l’ora delle iene, cit. 98 Ibidem. 99 Il mondo di Bossi Fini stupido e spietato, cit. 100 Ibidem ma anche Immigrati avanzi del mare, cit. 101 La mia isola è Las Vegas, in La mia isola è Las Vegas, p. 217.
Repubblica”, accusando l’ipocrisia profonda di una tale iniziativa102 e riflettendo su quanto sia irrimediabilmente compromessa l’identità dello spazio mediterraneo. Che cosa rimane del mare di miti e storia? Che cosa della mirabile convivenza tra culture diverse? Il monito dei reperti archeologici, delle narrazioni risulta poca cosa di fronte al mutamento dello sguardo collettivo sancito da leggi xenofobe e lager mascherati da centri di accoglienza: il mare si è fatto frontiera, confine, che gli altri, gli stranieri, non devono superare. Ed è contemporaneamente cimitero, spazio del sacrificio, della tragedia. Perciò il progetto di un museo a Lampedusa, l’isoletta dell’ariostesca lotta contro l’infedele, è, per Consolo, strumento di una retorica ipocrita, che non è giusto appoggiare: che senso avrebbe un monumento all’emigrazione, quando proprio i migranti vengono combattuti, respinti, lasciati morire in mare? Ma, d’altra parte, è il mondo intero ad aver subito una metamorfosi: si è mutato agli occhi dell’autore in un “im-mondo”, ovvero negazione di se stesso, perché preda della follia. La ripetizione dell’aggettivo “nostro”, associato sia allo spazio stravolto che alla massa di cadaveri, assume, nel testo in versi Frammento, toni accusatori, richiamando gli esseri umani alle proprie responsabilità nei confronti della morte di innocenti.

Nostri questi morti dissolti
nelle fiamme celesti,
questi morti sepolti
sotto tumuli infernali,
nostre le carovane d’innocenti
sopra tell di ceneri e di pianti.
Nostro questo mondo di follia.
 Quest’im-mondo che s’avvia…
103

102 Solo un monumento per gli immigrati, in “La Repubblica”, 21 agosto 2004. Sulla questione Consolo si era già espresso qualche giorno prima: Perché non voglio quel museo, in “La Repubblica”, 19 agosto 2004. 103 Frammento, in Per una Carta “visiva” dei Diritti civili, Viennepierre, Milano 2001, anche in “Microprovincia”, 48, gennaio-dicembre 2010, p. 5.

L’opera di Vincenzo Consolo e l’identità culturale del Mediterraneo, fra conflitto e integrazione

Gianni Turchetta*
I
ntroduzione

  1. Siciliano e milanese
    Il libro che avete fra le mani nasce da un Convegno internazionale tenutosi a Milano il 6 e 7 marzo 2019, presso l’Università degli Studi di Milano, nella prestigiosa Sala Napoleonica di Palazzo Greppi.
    Tenevo molto alla realizzazione di questo Convegno e ora sono felice di aprire questo volume. Tornerò subito sull’importanza di Consolo scrittore e intellettuale. Ma voglio anzitutto sottolineare fino a che punto il sicilianissimo Vincenzo Consolo, (nato a Sant’Agata di Militello il 18 febbraio 1933), che per tutta la vita ha parlato e scritto quasi solo della Sicilia, avesse messo radici a Milano, dove ha vissuto dal 1° gennaio 1968 (una data singolarmente simbolica) fino alla morte, avvenuta il 21 gennaio 2012. Questo volume esce anche ormai a ridosso del decennale della scomparsa, di cui intende aprire le celebrazioni. Come molti altri scrittori siciliani, Consolo si è trasferito a Milano: e come non pochi altri, Vittorini in testa, c’è rimasto poi fino alla fine. È vero anche però che, in non pochi momenti della sua vita, egli ha meditato seriamente sulla possibilità di andarsene, di tornare in Sicilia, o quanto meno al sud, per vari motivi: per nostalgia, forse per tutta la vita, ma fors’anche mai
    convintamente; perché il sud avrebbe avuto bisogno di una guida intellettuale (soprattutto all’indomani della morte di Sciascia, tra fine anni Ottanta e inizio anni Novanta, anche per le sollecitazioni di Goffredo Fofi, a sua volta tornato da Milano a Napoli); perché deluso da un nord affarista e rapace, traditore della grande tradizione illuminista (si veda Retablo), politicamente sempre più a destra (soprattutto all’indomani dell’elezione di Formentini a Sindaco di Milano, nel 1993), e poco dopo berlusconiano. Eppure, nonostante tutto, Consolo alla fine è rimasto a Milano, per tante altre ragioni. E dunque non si fa certo una forzatura considerandolo, così come tanti altri meridionali diventati milanesi d’adozione (mi ci metto anch’io), non solo siciliano, ma anche milanese. Certamente Milano ha dato molto a Consolo. E d’altro canto Consolo ha ricambiato con una fedeltà profonda, più di quanto potrebbe apparire a prima vista. Era dunque doveroso che Milano, finalmente, gli dedicasse un grande Convegno, e che questo Convegno non restasse solo un
    evento, ma diventasse una tappa importante nella bibliografia critica consoliana, diventata ormai molto ampia e ricchissima di contributi di studiosi non italiani, o trasferiti da molto tempo in sedi estere. Prima di entrare nel merito dell’argomento cui sono dedicati i saggi qui raccolti, voglio ancora fare due osservazioni preliminari. La prima riguarda la necessità di acquisire in pianta stabile Consolo alla percezione diffusa della letteratura italiana contemporanea, a quello che potremmo chiamare il senso comune o, se preferite, il canone. La pubblicazione delle opere di Vincenzo Consolo nei Meridiani Mondadori ne sancisce del resto definitivamente la statura di “classico”, di scrittore destinato a restare. Sfruttando la prestigiosa auctoritas di Cesare Segre: «Consolo è stato il maggiore scrittore italiano della sua generazione»1, quella cioè degli anni Trenta. Segre ha certo ragione, ma noi possiamo allargare anche di più la sua affermazione, ribadendo, senza mezzi termini, che Consolo è tout court uno dei massimi scrittori italiani del Secondo Novecento. La seconda osservazione ha a che vedere con la scelta di inquadrare Consolo in relazione all’identità mediterranea, o piuttosto all’intreccio inestricabile di identità che caratterizza il Mediterraneo. Guardare a Consolo da questa prospettiva significa certo, in prima approssimazione, ribadire la costanza e la profondità dei suoi discorsi sulla Sicilia: ma tenendo sempre presente che per Consolo
    la Sicilia, come vedremo fra poco, è fisicamente centro e simbolicamente luogo esemplare di una realtà più ampia e complessa: quella appunto del Mediterraneo. Lo testimonia, fra, le altre cose, anche l’importante antologia in lingua inglese degli scritti di Consolo, Reading and writing the Mediterranean, curata da Norma Bouchard e Massimo Lollini2. Allo stesso tempo, leggere Consolo
    sub specie Mediterranei ha significato collocarsi in una specola privilegiata, dalla quale egli appare fin dal primo momento in tutta la sua complessità, di scrittore ma anche di intellettuale a tutto tondo, impegnato senza tregua anche sul piano politico-culturale. Sarei quasi tentato di parlare di una sorta di paradosso che governa il lavoro di Vincenzo Consolo: ma credo sia più opportuno parlare di una tensione costitutiva, che fa del resto tutt’uno con la sua straordinarietà. Sperimentalismo e eticità: fra scrittura e militanza La scrittura consoliana nasce certo da una vocazione implacabile, tutta tesa verso un’idea di letteratura come linguaggio speciale, tanto
    denso da sfidare la concretezza stessa del reale. In questa prospettiva, Consolo assegna alla letteratura una missione insieme impossibile e necessaria, che ha una profonda valenza etica e politica. Dopo la fine della stagione dell’engagement, Consolo chiede alla letteratura di essere pienamente, ferocemente letteratura, di distinguersi sempre dalle altre forme di comunicazione: comprese quella della quotidiana battaglia politico-culturale, condotta soprattutto sui quotidiani e in genere sui periodici a larga diffusione.
    Questa duplicità gli consente di affiancare due operazioni molto diverse, se non antitetiche: denunciare le ingiustizie del mondo, da un lato, producendo parole che potrebbero, nonostante tutto, contribuire a cambiarlo; ma anche, da un altro lato, valorizzare senza sosta la bellezza e la ricchezza della vita. Non è certo un caso che questa duplicità permei in profondità proprio la rappresentazione della Sicilia, come mostra esemplarmente, fra gli altri, un romanzoromanzo
    come Retablo.
    Se la scrittura propriamente letteraria è protesa verso la mission impossibile di sfidare la densità delle cose e della realtà, d’altro canto Consolo non smette di praticare senza sosta un’idea
    fortemente militante del lavoro intellettuale, mediante il quale lo scrittore, pur consapevole dei propri limiti, si batte per denunciare le ingiustizie del mondo, intervenendo senza soluzione di continuità nel dibattito culturale, in tutte le sedi disponibili. A fianco alla produzione propriamente letteraria, Consolo ha così realizzato un’immensa produzione saggistica e giornalistica, ancora pochissimo studiata, e che è necessario indagare. Egli ha infatti collaborato per decenni (dal 1966 al 2010) con numerosissime testate, fra le quali «L’Ora», «Il Messaggero», «La Stampa», il «Corriere della Sera», «l’Unità», «il Manifesto», «Repubblica», «L’Espresso». Solo una piccola parte di questa produzione è stata raccolta e ripubblicata in volume: il che equivale a dire che fra i lavori da fare ci sono non poche possibili nuove edizioni. Per ora in volume troviamo anzitutto i magnifici saggi, di impianto prevalentemente storico e letterario, raccolti in Di qua dal faro3, un libro che a sua volta riprende altri più piccoli volumi precedenti. Già questo volume affronta la storia, la cultura e la
    letteratura siciliane in una prospettiva che si apre verso il Mediterraneo tutto, anticipando prospettive di studio oggi molto frequentate e ai quali certo il presente volume intende ricollegarsi.
    Ma Di qua dal faro raccoglie solo una piccola parte della vasta produzione saggistica di Consolo. Sul versante giornalistico, possiamo leggere in volume anche un’antologia degli articoli pubblicati sul quotidiano di Palermo «L’Ora» tra la fine degli anni Sessanta e la metà degli anni Settanta4, durante la stagione straordinaria della direzione di Vittorio Nisticò5. È poi disponibile una scelta quasi completa dei suoi scritti sulla mafia6: dove, di nuovo, emergono l’urgenza e la drammaticità di tematiche legate alla Sicilia e al Meridione d’Italia, nella loro peculiarità ma anche nel loro più
    ampio rapporto con i processi di modernizzazione della penisola. La maggior parte degli scritti saggistici e militanti di Consolo resta però sparpagliata nelle diverse sedi in cui è uscita e in una piccola galassia di libretti di pressoché impossibile reperibilità. Consolo ha svolto un’attività giornalistica di ampiezza e intensità davvero straordinarie: mi permetto di rimandare, a questo proposito, alla bibliografia da me curata per il Meridiano7, che nella sua (quasi) esaustività consente di farsi un’idea precisa e fondata. E pensare che alcuni critici hanno detto che Consolo era “pigro”: bibliografia alla mano, pare proprio difficile sostenerlo! È vero solo, semmai, che egli ha scritto un numero relativamente limitato di libri propriamente di letteratura: questo è avvenuto proprio perché, quando scriveva «letteratura», costruiva delle macchine semiotiche ed espressive di natura assai diversa da quelle realizzate negli articoli e nei saggi, macchine che chiedevano una costruzione lentissima, sviluppata nel corso di anni interi. D’altro canto, per tutta la vita, o per lo meno dagli
    anni immediatamente successivi all’esordio con La ferita dell’aprile 8, la scrittura letteraria è stata sempre affiancata da quella lato sensu giornalistica. Già i volumi a nostra disposizione ci consentono di cogliere fino a che punto Consolo fosse presente con grande costanza nella vita pubblica e nella vita politica, sempre ben salvaguardando la sua specificità di intellettuale, secondo un modello che deriva dalla cultura francese, da Émile Zola e dallo stesso Jean-Paul Sartre (entrambi citati più volte nei suoi scritti militanti). Consolo era, insomma, un intellettuale sempre pronto a parlare della realtà, del presente, della quotidianità, spesso toccando temi caldi e problematici, con un coraggio e una spregiudicatezza mai disponibili al compromesso, segnati da un’eticità rigorosissima, senza incrinature. Per dirla in modo un po’ colloquiale: Consolo non le mandava mai a dire, e questo, non lo si dimentichi, gli ha procurato non poche ostilità, delle quali si curava poco o nulla. Anche da questo punto di vista il suo esempio è davvero ammirevole. Vorrei persino dire che, pur rifiutando sempre le non poche sollecitazioni a scendere in politica9, a suo modo Consolo ha sempre fatto politica, per quanto in maniera molto diversa e lontana da quella dei politici professionali.
  2. “Io non so che voglia sia questa”: l’ossessione della Sicilia Cominciamo a dirlo con le sue parole:
    Io non so che voglia sia questa, ogni volta che torno in Sicilia, di volerla girare e girare, di percorrere ogni lato, ogni capo della costa, inoltrarmi all’interno, sostare in città e paesi, in villaggi e luoghi sperduti, rivedere vecchie persone, conoscerne nuove. Una voglia, una smania che non mi lascia star fermo in un posto. Non so. Ma sospetto sia questo una sorta d’addio, un volerla vedere e toccare prima che uno dei due sparisca.10
    Consolo ha sempre in mente la Sicilia, ne parla sempre. Un po’ la vuole, e un po’ però è lui il primo a non volerci tornare: la ama e non la sopporta, la desidera e gli ripugna. Rappresentare la Sicilia da
    lontano ha significato per lui anche vivere l’ossessione della Sicilia nei termini, consapevolmente contraddittori di necessità del ritorno, ma anche di impossibilità del ritorno. Significativamente, egli ha reinventato il mito di Ulisse alla sua maniera, parlandoci di un Ulisse che non ha più un’Itaca dove tornare, della quête ormai impossibile di una patria e di un’origine che ormai non esistono più. Consolo è ossessionato da questa sua patria che non è più quella di prima, che non è più patria: ma parlando della Sicilia parla con ogni evidenza di tutto un mondo dove la perdita delle radici è la regola, dove non è più possibile affidarsi a un’appartenenza originaria, che rischia di essere mistificata e mistificatoria. Ma che Sicilia è la Sicilia di Consolo? Ancora una volta la contraddizione è vitale: da un lato è una Sicilia costruita con un’attenzione documentaria rigorosa. Da questo punto di vista, Consolo si comporta in molti casi quasi come uno specialista, uno storiografo di professione. Frequentando a lungo le sue carte ho potuto vedere bene in che modo egli arrivasse a costruire i suoi testi letterari, quasi sempre raccogliendo documenti e materiali vari per anni. Nel caso del Sorriso dell’ignoto marinaio (la cui costruzione ha richiesto tredici anni di lavoro) Consolo narra della cruenta rivolta contadina di Alcàra Li Fusi, del maggio 1860, poi repressa con violenza. Per ricostruirla non solo studia libri di storia, ma va in archivio, cercando le carte di quella vicenda: si procura, per
    esempio, i certificati di morte dei rivoltosi condannati alla fucilazione. Quando infatti, alla fine del Sorriso, leggiamo proprio un certificato di morte, quello del bracciante Peppe Sirna, non siamo davanti a un’invenzione, ma a un documento autentico, che certo ha anche la funzione simbolica di farci percepire il contrasto terribile fra la nuda povertà di un certificato di morte, delle sue poche, gelide, burocratiche parole, che sono un quasi-nulla, e la vigorosa intensità della vita in corso, in particolare quella che avevamo percepito nel cap. V, dove la rappresentazione passa proprio attraverso il punto di vista di Peppe Sirna, messo in scena nelle sue fatiche, nelle sue percezioni e nei suoi pensieri. Consolo lavora così in molte occasioni: raccoglie i materiali come uno storiografo e si confronta con la documentazione, nella sua oggettività. Ma al tempo stesso non smette di mostrarci la soggettività di ogni punto di vista e la prospetticità di ogni visione del mondo. La Sicilia che egli rappresenta è del resto sì concretissima, ma può essere anche sottoposta a una torsione mitizzante che la rende persino fiabesca, come accade soprattutto in Lunaria, ma anche in Retablo. In ogni caso, la sua Sicilia è, come dire?, una Sicilia-Sicilia, fedele alla propria identità, ma al tempo stesso non
    cessa di essere anche “altro”, di funzionare come una metafora ad alta densità, dotata di una energica tensione generalizzante. Anche la Sicilia di Consolo, com’era accaduto alla Lucania di Carlo Levi, si fa intensa rappresentazione del Sud del mondo e dei processi di modernizzazione che distruggono il mondo contadino: li vediamo all’opera in Italia, ma anche in tante altre nazioni, soprattutto extraeuropee. Anche se ci parla di come i processi di modernizzazione stiano distruggendo molte civiltà, in Consolo non c’è mai un atteggiamento nostalgico, la facile retorica sui bei tempi andati. È necessario ricordare, a questo proposito, come lo stesso plurilinguismo consoliano nasca dall’intenzione di conservare, attraverso la letteratura, parole che rischiano di perdersi, e, attraverso le parole, le culture, i punti di vista sul mondo, i modi di vita che esse portano
    in sé. Nella scrittura di Consolo vi è insomma una grande preoccupazione antropologica, oltre che storica, coerentemente con la sua costante attenzione alla longue durée. Parlando della Sicilia Consolo ci racconta una storia drammatica, anche perché molte volte i cambiamenti sono parsi offrire delle possibilità di rinnovamento, di liberazione, che poi però sono andate perdute e hanno deluso. Al di qua e al di là della Storia, per Consolo la Sicilia è però anche una densa metafora dell’ambivalenza della vita. In fondo in Sicilia c’è tutto quello che si potrebbe desiderare per
    essere felici: una cultura millenaria, con straordinari monumenti, dalla protostoria alla Magna Grecia, dalla romanità al Medioevo, al Barocco, al Liberty; una natura rigogliosa e varia; una cultura stratificata e ricchissima; anche, perché no?, una cucina tra le più raffinate del mondo. Detto in due parole, la Sicilia potrebbe forse essere il migliore dei mondi possibili. Eppure per molti versi è quasi il
    contrario: è un mondo tragicamente violento e corrotto, pieno di orrori, tanto da rendersi persino proverbiale, visto che nel mondo intero è proprio una parola siciliana, mafia, a indicare tutte le forme
    di criminalità organizzata. Rispetto alla rappresentazione dell’ambivalenza della Sicilia, Retablo11 è un testo esemplare: vi troviamo deliziosi incontri tra amici e nuove amicizie che nascono; ma al tempo stesso assistiamo alla rappresentazione di un orrore innominabile, senza fine. Si pensi, fra le altre, alla scena delle prostitute a cui per punizione viene tagliato il naso12. Una violenza atroce, quella delle mutilazioni come pena legale, che si praticava nel mondo passato, certo (e dunque… come idealizzarlo?): ma che continua ad accadere ancora oggi in non poche parti del mondo…
    La Sicilia appare dunque in Consolo come un luogo in cui vi è tutto il male e tutto il bene, ed è di conseguenza anche per questo un’immagine della vita tutta, un luogo «bellissimo e tremendo», per
    riprendere un’espressione di Consolo stesso13. La Sicilia si fa insomma metafora della vita, della sua bellezza straordinaria e della sua terribile violenza, che convivono. D’altro canto, Consolo non
    cade mai in un vizio tipico dei letterati: quello di collocare tutto in «un tempo senza tempo», di parlare di ogni violenza e di ogni tristezza come di qualcosa di eterno, segno di un destino immodificabile e senza scampo. Non a caso del resto Consolo polemizza duramente con chi, come Tomasi di Lampedusa, pensa che la Storia sia inesorabilmente uguale a se stessa, che in essa «cambia tutto» perché «non cambi niente». Tutt’al contrario, Consolo ci ricorda in continuazione che i cambiamenti sono storicamente determinati: e che quindi bisogna continuare a combattere per provare a cambiare. “Non un paesaggio ma innumerevoli paesaggi”: il mosaico Mediterraneo
    Se la Sicilia funziona come chiave per la lettura del mondo tutto, questo avviene anche e proprio perché la Sicilia è per Consolo una sorta di sintesi del Mediterraneo, cioè di un’area talmente ricca sul piano storico e culturale da poter valere come equivalente del mondo tutto: Perché è da qui che vogliamo partire, per un nostro viaggio, per una nostra ricognizione della Sicilia, per inventarci, liberi come siamo da confini di geografia, da limiti d’epoca storica o da barriere tematiche, un modo, tra infiniti altri, per conoscere quest’isola al centro del Mediterraneo, questo luogo d’incrocio d’ogni
    vento e assalto, d’ogni dominio e d’ogni civilizzazione.14 L’ambiguità sintattica, che permette di interpretare sia la Sicilia sia il Mediterraneo come il “luogo d’incrocio d’ogni vento e assalto, d’ogni dominio e d’ogni civilizzazione” finisce per ribadire sul piano semantico la possibilità che la Sicilia sia una sorta di equivalente del Mediterraneo tutto, con le sue caratteristiche di molteplicità e, di più,
    di totalità. Già i saggi contenuti in Di qua dal faro15 vanno del resto, fin dal titolo, in una direzione apertamente mediterranea. Il titolo infatti evoca polemicamente un modo di dire dei Borboni, che con l’espressione «Di là dal faro» designavano appunto la Sicilia, vista dal continente, e più specificamente da Napoli, come la parte del loro regno collocata al di là del faro di Messina: una regione a cui guardavano evidentemente con sufficienza e distacco. La prospettiva opposta, quella «di qua dal faro», implica invece uno sguardo partecipe, ma al tempo stesso, mentre sottolinea la
    centralità della Sicilia, intende sottolineare proprio la necessaria apertura verso il Mediterraneo tutto: la Sicilia, dunque, come mondo “altro”, ma emblematico di un mondo più vasto. Quanto ricco sia il
    Mediterraneo di Consolo verrà mostrato con ampiezza e profondità dai saggi qui raccolti. E voglio ricordare anche la recente uscita di un’importante monografia di Ada Bellanova su La rappresentazione degli spazi nell’opera di Vincenzo Consolo, un volume che indaga ampiamente la mediterraneità di Consolo16. La dimensione mediterranea dell’opera di Consolo chiama in causa, come accennato poco sopra, un’identità che va declinata su una profondità storica straordinaria, plurimillenaria, di longue durée. In questa chiave, la storia si fa antropologia, anche perché chiama in
    causa gesti antichi, azioni che fondano le comunità umane: la raccolta e la produzione dei cibi, la produzione di oggetti, l’acquisizione delle risorse, e, in generale, quelle che potremmo chiamare le azioni del lavoro umano. Non a caso, in Di qua dal faro si trovano tante “storie” (straordinarie) che ci parlano direttamente di queste azioni, di questi gesti: si pensi alle ricostruzioni della storia dell’estrazione dello zolfo, una grande vicenda economica e antropologica della storia italiana, o della pesca del tonno17. Certo il Mediterraneo è uno spazio fortemente identitario. Ma si tratta di
    un’identità caratteristicamente plurale, perché composta da un mosaico complessissimo di tempi lingue culture etnie. Il Mediterraneo è un piccolo mare, certo, ma che tocca in un piccolo spazio tre continenti, in un’area segnata da una storia tanto antica da configurarsi per molti aspetti come la culla non di una, ma di molte civiltà. Ce lo ricordano, fra molte altre, le parole di uno dei più
    grandi esperti di tutti i tempi della storia mediterranea, Fernand Braudel: Che cos’è il Mediterraneo? Mille cose insieme. Non un paesaggio, ma innumerevoli paesaggi. Non un mare, ma un susseguirsi di mari. Non una civiltà, ma una serie di civiltà accatastate le une sulle altre. Viaggiare nel Mediterraneo significa incontrare il mondo romano in Libano, la preistoria in Sardegna, le città
    greche in Sicilia, la presenza araba in Spagna, l’Islam turco in Iugoslavia. Significa profondare nell’abisso di secoli, fino alle costruzioni megalitiche di Malta o alle piramidi d’Egitto. Significa incontrare realtà antichissime, ancora vive, a fianco dell’ultramoderno: accanto a Venezia, nella sua falsa immobilità, l’imponente agglomerato industriale di Mestre; accanto alla barca del pescatore, che è ancora quella di Ulisse, il peschereccio devastatore dei fondi marini o le enormi petroliere.
    Significa immergersi nell’arcaismo dei mondi insulari e nello stesso tempo stupire di fronte all’estrema giovinezza di città molto antiche, aperte a tutti i venti della cultura e del profitto, e che da secoli sorvegliano e consumano il mare.18 Lettore attento di Braudel, con ogni evidenza anche Consolo colloca il Mediterraneo sotto il segno della pluralità, che ritroviamo in tutti gli studi più autorevoli sul mare nostrum. Mi verrebbe persino da dire che la stessa scrittura consoliana, così programmaticamente plurale, intende in qualche modo echeggiare proprio quella pluralità.
    Spazio millenario di intensi scambi e di ricchissima produzione culturale, nel Mediterraneo culture diversissime si sono mescolate, integrandosi prodigiosamente (si pensi alla civiltà arabo-sicula, o a
    un fenomeno linguistico come il sabir, la lingua franca dei porti del Mediterraneo, che mescola lingue romanze e lingue semitiche) o tragicamente scontrandosi e combattendosi. Le scritture di Consolo evocano continuamente lo spessore storico delle vicende che hanno attraversato il Mediterraneo, proiettandole in modo sistematico sull’attualità, e mostrando come la straordinaria ricchezza multilinguistica e multi-culturale del Mediterraneo possa costituire un punto di riferimento per l’interpretazione della realtà contemporanea e per l’individuazione di strategie di integrazione.
    La forza del riferimento all’identità mediterranea sta anche nel fatto che lo spazio del Mediterraneo rende problematiche molte opposizioni che siamo soliti dare per scontate, a cominciare da quelle, insieme geografiche e metaforiche, di nord vs sud e est vs ovest. Ragionare in termini di mediterraneità significa così, di necessità, fare sempre riferimento a un’identità composita, che nega
    ogni semplificazione identitaria: proprio quel tipo di semplificazione da cui derivano le elementari, forzatissime e opportunistiche narrazioni sovraniste e populiste. Per sua stessa costituzione,
    proprio l’identità mediterranea ci chiede continuamente di essere di nuovo decifrata, ci impone di non smettere mai di fare i conti con qualcosa che è sempre stata problematica, e che, per sovrapprezzo, gli ultimi anni hanno, drammaticamente, reso ancora più problematica e conflittuale. A questo proposito, è difficile trovare parole più esatte di quelle di un altro gigante degli studi mediterranei, Predrag Matvejević: l’Europa, il Magreb e il Levante; il giudaismo, il cristianesimo e l’Islam; il Talmud, la Bibbia e il Corano; Gerusalemme, Atene e Roma; Alessandria, Costantinopoli,
    Venezia; la dialettica greca, l’arte, la democrazia; il diritto romano, il foro e la repubblica; la scienza araba; il Rinascimento in Italia, la Spagna delle varie epoche, celebri e atroci; gli Slavi del sud sull’Adriatico e molte altre cose ancora. Qui popoli e razze per secoli hanno continuato a mescolarsi, fondersi e contrapporsi gli uni negli altri, come forse in nessuna ragione di questo pianeta. Si
    esagera evidenziando le loro convergenze e somiglianze, e trascurando invece i loro antagonismi e le differenze.19 Fra conflitto e integrazione, appunto, come nel nostro titolo. Parlare di Mediterraneo, non a caso, significa così anche denunciare la violenza che in questo spazio è stata e continua a essere esercitata. Ce lo ricorda ancora Braudel, in un passo che Consolo ha non a caso citato più di una volta: “In tutto il Mediterraneo l’uomo è cacciato, rinchiuso, venduto, torturato, e vi conosce tutte le miserie, gli orrori e le santità degli universi concentrazionari”20. Consolo è stato, non per caso, uno dei più lucidi e tempestivi nel cogliere le nuove direzioni della violenza nel Mediterraneo, a cominciare da quella esercitata sui migranti, su cui torneremo fra pochissimo. Pochi come lui hanno capito subito, fin dagli anni Ottanta, che Il Mediterraneo oggi, forse per la prima volta nella propria storia millenaria vede intaccato il mito che costantemente lo ha accompagnato, quello della culla delle culture, delle civiltà, delle tre grandi religioni monoteistiche, per vederlo sostituire da un mito sommario, cumulativo, a grappolo, quasi, ed è quello che presenta il Mediterraneo come un mare pericoloso 21 La vibrata, lucida polemica di Andrea Gialloreto, Srećko Jurišić, Eliana Moscarda Mirković ci riporta, dolorosamente, a un contesto odierno dove purtroppo il confitto sembra prevalere sull’integrazione. Non sono pochi gli scenari in cui il peggioramento e il degrado sono
    tragicamente evidenti, è fin troppo facile ricordarli: a cominciare dalla Siria, per proseguire con l’Algeria, la Libia, l’Egitto. Caterina Consolo ricordava con rimpianto gli anni in cui lei e Vincenzo potevano viaggiare da soli in vari paesi del Magreb, semplicemente noleggiando una macchina e girando in tutta tranquillità. Difficile immaginare oggi qualcosa di simile. Certo, il degrado dell’oggi
    rimanda a tanti altri momenti e luoghi in cui sono prevalse la violenza e la conflittualità. A questo proposito, è opportuno ricordare che la tesi di laurea in Giurisprudenza di Consolo, discussa il 18 giugno 1960, si intitolava La crisi attuale dei diritti delle persone 22. Una volta di più, la prospettiva consoliana si mostra acutissima, sempre lucida davanti alla realtà presente. Per vari aspetti risulta impressionante, per la sua tempestività, l’insistenza di Consolo nel segnalare il dramma dei migranti africani e la frequenza delle tragedie in mare legate ai loro flussi attraverso il Mediterraneo, fin dagli anni Ottanta: si pensi a un racconto come il Memoriale di Basilio Archita 23, scritto addirittura nel 1984, una data incredibilmente precoce. Già allora, Consolo intuiva quanto Ian Chambers oggi può affermare senza incertezze: Il migrante moderno è colui che più intensamente delinea questa costellazione [attuale dell’ordine planetario]. Sospeso nell’intersecarsi di un’espropriazione
    economica, politica e culturale, è colui/colei che porta le frontiere dentro di sé. […] Il/la migrante non è puramente un sintomo storico della modernità; piuttosto è l’interrogazione condensata dell’identità vera e propria del soggetto politico moderno.24 Va aggiunto peraltro che Consolo ha dato anche costante attenzione alla pluri-direzionalità e periodicità dei flussi migratori. Si pensi, in particolare, ai suoi ripetuti riferimenti all’emigrazione dei siciliani in Tunisia: ancora oggi un quartiere di Tunisi si chiama “Petite Sicile”. Proprio in Tunisia emigra, fra gli altri, il protagonista Petro Marano al termine di Nottetempo, casa per casa25. Vi proporrò ora, per avviarmi al termine del mio percorso, un esempio molto caratteristico della capacità di Consolo di leggere lucidamente, criticamente la realtà, e insieme però di fondere la lettura del presente con la possibilità di attribuirgli, tramite la tensione espressiva e la forza mitizzante della letteratura, una più ampia dimensione simbolica: così da far convivere metafora e storia, sperimentazione e tensione etica, poesia e politica, in una miscela che non smette di essere rarissima. Certo, oggi abbiamo tutti
    presente ciò che sta succedendo in Europa e nel mondo: dove migliaia, centinaia di migliaia, milioni di persone migrano, si spostano e spesso muoiono nel tentativo di emigrare. Moltissimi, lo sappiamo, soccombono tragicamente nel canale di Sicilia e al largo delle coste dell’Egeo, uccisi “dall’acqua”. In tempi molto lontani Consolo ha cominciato a cogliere questo movimento che oggi è sotto gli occhi di tutti e che ha preso proporzioni così ampie da diventare uno degli argomenti centrali in discussione nell’agenda politica dell’Unione Europea. Se ne parla tutti i giorni, e ci si scontra su questo: i muri, le quote, i soldi alla Turchia e i ricatti di Erdogan, gli imbarazzi politici
    della Merkel e di Macron, le polemiche di Salvini e di Meloni. Come abbiamo visto, Consolo ha capito prestissimo la rilevanza del fenomeno. È chiaro: egli guarda al presente, alla storia, al Meridione nostro e al Meridione del mondo, cogliendo il suo e nostro presente con rara tempestività e profondità, prima di tanti altri. Ma se consideriamo questa sua percezione da un altro lato, ci
    accorgeremo che, ben da molto prima, Consolo dà corpo anche a un’ossessione letteraria, ben più antica, che lo rincorre fin dai primissimi racconti (si veda Un sacco di magnolie, 195726) e poi
    ricorrerà per tutta la sua carriera di scrittore: l’immagine del morto in acqua e “per acqua”. Ben prima che le migrazioni nel Mediterraneo diventassero cronaca quotidiana, Consolo riprende infatti più e più volte l’immagine della Death by water della Waste Land di Thomas Stearns Eliot, sezione IV, con la figura di Phlebas il fenicio, morto nell’affondamento della sua nave. La forza mitizzante di lungo
    periodo della letteratura diventa così a sua volta uno strumento privilegiato per cogliere la realtà presente. Una volta di più, metafora e storia si incontrano: così che l’ossessione letteraria fa tutt’uno con la profondità e la lucidità nello scandaglio del reale. La grandezza di Consolo sta anche qui.
    I saggi raccolti nel presente volume concentrano l’attenzione su un amplissimo ventaglio tematico relativo all’emergere, in molteplici forme, delle questioni mediterranee in tutta l’opera di Consolo, sia
    nelle opere propriamente letterarie, sia nelle prose saggistiche e giornalistiche. Ma è noto che uno dei tratti caratteristici della scrittura di Consolo sta anche nel rimescolare generi e stili. La ricchezza
    della proposta interpretativa qui proposta vuole rispondere anche e proprio sia alla pluralità così caratteristica della dimensione mediterranea, sia alla pluralità che caratterizza costitutivamente la
    scrittura di Consolo, e anche, più largamente, la sua fisionomia intellettuale e umana. In pochi rapidi cenni, ricorderò ora che Dominique Budor (Université Sorbonne Nouvelle), con “Gli inverni della storia” e le patrie immaginarie, approfondisce il ruolo dell’immagine di Milano, “patria immaginaria”, da un lato, e della Francia da un altro. Sebastiano Burgaretta, con L’illusione di Consolo tra metafora e realtà, mette a fuoco soprattutto la produzione saggistica di Consolo dedicata alla Sicilia (includendovi anche un testo peculiare per genere e per tono come La Sicilia passeggiata), nell’ottica privilegiata del discorso sul Mediterraneo di cui la Sicilia è centro e crocevia. Miguel Ángel Cuevas (Universidad de Sevilla), in Della natura equorea dello Scill’e Cariddi: testimonianze consoliane inedite su Stefano D’Arrigo, ripercorre il rapporto profondo e per certi aspetti portante fra Consolo e l’autore di Hocynus Orca, indagandone diramazioni letterarie e linguistiche. Rosalba Galvagno (Università degli Sudi di Catania), con Il «mondo delle meraviglie e del contrasto». Il Mediterraneo di Vincenzo Consolo, delinea un denso e intenso ritratto del Mediterraneo consoliano, che diventa una chiave privilegiata per delineare “il destino, cioè il senso” della sua scrittura. Salvatore Maira, in Parole allo specchio, ci regala un intenso, vivo ricordo, legato soprattutto alla scrittura condivisa della sceneggiatura cinematografica derivata da Il sorriso dell’ignoto marinaio: vicenda che diventa la specola per guardare a Consolo da un punto di vista originale. Nicolò Messina (Universitat de València) costruisce un’attenta Cartografia delle migrazioni in Consolo: una questione cruciale, come abbiamo visto, che Messina indaga a partire da un censimento pressoché completo delle occorrenze della parola Mediterraneo e dei suoi derivati. Facendo perno sull’antitesi fra conflitto e integrazione, Messina mette a fuoco appunto “l’idea di un’identità del Mediterraneo, esaltata proprio dalle migrazioni e dai suoi attori”27. Daragh O’Connell (University College Cork), in La notte della ragione:
    Nottetempo, casa per casa fra poetica e politica, studia nel dettaglio, nella chiave qui proposta, il ruolo del secondo romanzo storico consoliano, strategico anche perché, come ebbe a dire l’autore, nato da “un sentimento nuovo di responsabilità all’indomani del vuoto lasciato da Sciascia nel panorama della letteratura europea e italiana”28. Marina Paino (Università degli Sudi di Catania), in La scrittura e l’isola, indaga in profondità soprattutto le relazioni fra la scrittura di Consolo, “i miti mediterranei del nostos e dell’isola” e “la scrittura o meglio gli autori siciliani”29. Carla Riccardi (Università degli Studi di Pavia), con Da Lunaria a Pantalica: fuga e ritorno alla storia?, costruisce un denso percorso fra alcune opere consoliane, lette come una “ricerca su come afferrare la realtà, la storia con tutta la strumentazione che si vale di parole”30, in una fascinosa varietà di generi e stili. Irene Romera Pintor (Universitat de València), in All’ombra di Vincenzo Consolo: esperienze a confronto, rende conto felicemente delle molte sfide poste dalla traduzione in spagnolo di
    Consolo, nella consapevolezza dell’importanza delle traduzioni per comunicare al pubblico del presente e del futuro l’“immensa ricchezza culturale, linguistica e umana”31 della Sicilia, e del mondo, che lo scrittore santagatese ha voluto trasmettere. Corrado Stajano, con Un grande amico, ci offre un lucido e insieme toccante ricordo delle tappe cruciali di una grande, profonda, amicizia, durata tutta una vita, nelle sue complesse vicissitudini. Infine Giuseppe Traina (Università degli Sudi di Catania), in Per un Consolo arabomediterraneo, interpreta in modo articolato e persuasivo i diversi
    modi, fra loro intrecciati, in cui Consolo ci parla della presenza araba: quello “memoriale, di marca geografico-artistica”32; quello storico-sociologico; quello più marcatamente letterario; quello politico. Per finire, il quadro che emerge ci mostra, se ce ne fosse stato ancora bisogno, fino a che punto la scrittura di Consolo continui a interrogare il nostro presente. Nei suoi testi balena del resto, con grande forza, una percezione della Storia molto vicina a quella di un altro autore a lui molto caro, Walter Benjamin: “La storia è oggetto di una costruzione il cui luogo non è il tempo omogeneo e vuoto, ma quello pieno di «attualità»”33. Che scriva romanzi storico-metaforici, testi dalla problematica identità di genere (come Lunaria o L’olivo e l’olivastro), saggi o articoli di quotidiano, Consolo continua comunque a mettere in questione il nostro presente, e a ricordarci che la Storia è sempre adesso.

    Ringraziamenti
    Grazie all’Università degli Studi di Milano, che ha ospitato il
    Convegno, e concesso i fondi di ricerca che hanno consentito la
    pubblicazione del presente volume. Grazie al Rettore Elio Franzini,
    ai colleghi Paola Catenaccio e Dino Gavinelli, che sono intervenuti
    all’apertura del Convegno. Un ringraziamento speciale all’amico
    Stefano Raimondi, che ha voluto con forza la collana in cui il volume
    esce, e a Francesca Adamo, che con la consueta perizia ne ha
    curato la redazione. Grazie di cuore a tutti i relatori, e anche ai non
    pochi colleghi che avrebbero voluto partecipare al Convegno: non
    era possibile invitare tutti, ma anche il desiderio di esserci è una
    bella testimonianza dell’ammirazione e della passione che
    circondano Consolo, in Sicilia, a Milano, e in molti altri paesi.
  • Università degli Studi di Milano
    1 C. SEGRE, Un profilo di Vincenzo Consolo, in V. CONSOLO, L’opera completa,
    a cura e con un saggio introduttivo di G. Turchetta e uno scritto di C. Segre,
    Mondadori, Milano 2015, p. XI.
    2 V. Consolo, Reading and writing the Mediterranean. Essays by Vincenzo
    Consolo, a cura di N. Bouchard e M. Lollini, University of Toronto Press,
    Toronto-Buffalo-London 2006.
    3 V. Consolo, Di qua dal faro, Milano, Mondadori, 1999; ora in Id., L’opera
    completa, cit., pp. 977-1260.
    4 V. Consolo, Esercizi di cronaca, a cura di S. Grassia, Prefazione di S.S.
    Nigro, Sellerio, Palermo 2013.
    5 Di cui possiamo leggere il lucido e appassionato racconto in V. Nisticò,
    Accadeva in Sicilia. Gli anni ruggenti dell’«Ora» di Palermo, Sellerio, Palermo
    2001.
    6 V. Consolo, Cosa loro, a cura di N. Messina, Bompiani, Milano 2017.
    7 Bibliografia, Opere di Vincenzo Consolo, in V. Consolo, L’opera completa,
    cit., pp. 1481-1517.
    8 La ferita dell’aprile, Milano, Mondadori, 1963; poi Torino, Einaudi, 19772; poi
    Milano, Mondadori 19893 (con introduzione di G. C. Ferretti); ora in Consolo,
    V., L’opera completa, cit., pp. 3-122.
    9 In particolare nel 1988-1989, quando Consolo venne sollecitato a candidarsi
    come indipendente nelle liste del PCI per le elezioni europee da Aurelio
    Grimaldi prima, e poi dallo stesso Segretario del Partito Achille Occhetto; cfr.
    G. Turchetta, Cronologia, in V. Consolo, L’opera completa, cit., p. CXXXIII.
    10 V. Consolo, Comiso, in Le pietre di Pantalica, Milano, Mondadori, 1988;
    19902 (a cura e con introduzione di G. Turchetta, G.); ora in V. CONSOLO,
    L’opera completa, cit., p. 632.
    11 V. Consolo, Retablo, Palermo, Sellerio, 1987; ora a in V. CONSOLO, L’opera
    completa, cit., pp. 365-475.
    12 Ivi, p. 400.
    13 V. Consolo, Viaggio in Sicilia, in Id., Di qua dal faro, Milano, Mondadori,
    1999; poi in Id., L’opera completa, cit., p. 1224.
    14 V. Consolo, La Sicilia passeggiata, ERI, Torino, 1991; poi con Prefazione di
    G. Turchetta, Mimesis, Sesto San Giovanni (MI) 2021, p. 18.
    15 Id. Di qua dal faro, Milano, Mondadori, 1999; ora in V. CONSOLO, L’opera
    completa, cit., pp. 987-1260.
    16 A. Bellanova, Un eccezionale Baedeker. La rappresentazione degli spazi
    nell’opera di Vincenzo Consolo, Mimesis, Sesto San Giovanni (MI) 2021.
    17 Un uomo di alta dignità, Introduzione a ‘Nfernu veru. Uomini & immagini dei
    paesi dello zolfo, a cura di A. Grimaldi, Edizioni Lavoro, Roma 1985, pp. 9-
    32, poi col titolo Uomini e paesi dello zolfo, in Di qua dal faro, cit., pp. 981-
    1006; La pesca del tonno in Sicilia, in La pesca del tonno in Sicilia, con saggi
    di R. Lentini, F. Terranova ed E. Guggino; schede di S. Scimè; glossario di M.
    Giacomarra, Sellerio, Palermo 1986, pp. 13-30; poi in Di qua dal faro, cit., pp.
    1007-1039.
    18 F. Braudel, Il Mediterraneo. Lo spazio, la storia, gli uomini, le tradizioni
    (1985), trad. it. di E. De Angeli, Bompiani, Milano 1987, 20193, pp. 5-6.
    19 P. Matvejević, Breviario mediterraneo (1987), trad. ital. di S. Ferrari,
    Garzanti, Milano 1991, 20062, pp. 18-19.
    20 F. Braudel, Civiltà e Imperi del Mediterraneo nell’età di Filippo II (1949), trad.
    it. di C. Pischedda, Einaudi, Torino 1976, vol. I, pp. 921-922.
    21 A. Gialloreto, S. Jurišić, E. Moscarda Mirković, Introduzione, in Oceano
    Mediterraneo. Naufragi, esili, derive, approdi, migrazione e isole lungo le rotte
    mediterranee della letteratura italiana, a cura di Id., Franco Cesati, Firenze
    2020, p. 9.
    22 Per ulteriori dettagli si veda G. Turchetta, Cronologia, in V. Consolo, L’opera
    completa, cit., p. CV.
    23 Uscito per la prima volta con il titolo Il capitano ordinò “buttateli agli squali”,
    «L’Espresso», 3 giugno 1984, pp. 55-64, venne poi inserito con il titolo
    Memoriale di Basilio Archita in Le pietre di Pantalica, cit., pp. 639-646. Per
    ulteriori dettagli si veda G. Turchetta, Note e notizie sui testi, in V. Consolo,
    L’opera completa, cit., pp. 1371-1372 e 1383.
    24 I. Chambers, Mediterranean Crossings. The Politics of an Interrupted
    Modernity (2007), trad. ital. di S. Marinelli, Le molte voci del Mediterraneo,
    Raffaello Cortina Editore, Milano 2007, p. 7.
    25 V. Consolo, Nottetempo, casa per casa, Milano, Mondadori, 1992; ora in V.
    CONSOLO, L’opera completa, cit., p. 755.
    26 Ora in V. Consolo, La mia isola è Las Vegas, a cura di N. Messina,
    Mondadori, Milano 2012, pp. 7-10.
    27 Cfr. infra, p. 109.
    28 Cfr. infra, p. 134.
    29 Cfr. infra, p. 156.
    30 Cfr. infra, p. 167.
    31 Cfr. infra, p. 197.
    32 Cfr. infra, p. 209.
    33 W. Benjamin, Tesi di filosofia della Storia (1940), Tesi n. 14, in Id., Angelus
    Novus. Saggi e frammenti (1955), trad. e introduzione di R. Solmi, Einaudi,
    Torino, 1962, 19813, p. 83
    .

LO SPASIMO DI PALERMO FRA CRISI E MEMORIA


Cinzia Gallo
Università di Catania

Riassunto Lo Spasimo di Palermo è esempio di una crisi che ha ripercussioni nella forma espressiva: da una parte, emerge la consapevolezza che «sul ciglio dell’abisso la parola si raggela, si fa […] simbolo sfuggente», dall’altra il romanzo appare un «genere scaduto, corrotto, impraticabile». Il conflitto generazionale fra Chino e Mauro rientra pure in quest’ambito. Da qui derivano varie soluzioni che portano al «poema narrativo» di Consolo e testimoniano il disorientamento prevalente: accumuli paratattici, metafore, figure retoriche, figure del discorso. Le suggestioni pittoriche trovano il loro centro nello Spasimo di Sicilia di Raffaello, simbolo di una sofferenza che da Palermo arriva alla Sicilia e a tutto il mondo, mentre gli spazi hanno una grande importanza e mostrano la perdita della memoria storica, responsabile della crisi.

Consolo, crisi, memoria, storia Secondo Ugo Dotti,

Lo Spasimo di Palermo è caratterizzato dal «contrapporsi di storia a memoria, nel vano bisogno di conforto che il . 8 ricordo potrebbe dare e che suscita al contrario un cocente sentimento di patimento, di sconfitta, di spasimo» (Dotti, 2012, 315). Dunque, uno stretto nesso fra storia, crisi e memoria percorre l’intero testo, anche se esso è, innanzitutto, specchio di una crisi, sia collettiva che individuale. Consolo presenta non solo «il fallimento della generazione del dopoguerra nel creare una società più giusta e più civile» (O’Connell, 2008, 173), per cui terrorismo e mafia risultano uniti «in un clima da fine dei tempi, che nega la storia» (Donnarumma, 2011, 446), ma anche la sconfitta di Chino, padre e scrittore. Da ciò l’impossibilità di narrare, cioè di utilizzare i tradizionali mezzi espressivi. Raccontare è però necessario, come attestano le due battute del Prometeo incatenato di Eschilo poste in epigrafe: «Rivela tutto, grida il tuo racconto… / Il racconto è dolore, ma anche il silenzio è dolore» (Consolo, 1998, 7). Quest’urgenza di dire si realizza subito tramite la letteratura, come nella conclusione di Nottetempo, casa per casa, in cui essa appare «ultima consolazione […] e ultima possibilità di spiegazione del “dolore” del mondo» (Luperini, 1999, 166). Lo stesso Consolo chiarisce: «[…] è caduta la fiducia nella comunicazione, nella possibilità […] della funzione sociale, politica della scrittura. Non rimane […] che l’urlo o il pianto, o l’unica forza oppositiva alla dura e sorda notte, la forza della poesia» (Consolo, 1993, 58). Il gioco citazionistico è, quindi, subito in primo piano: l’iniziale «Allora tu, […] ed io» (Consolo, 1998, 9), con cui il narratore si rivolge a Chino, è stato collegato da O’Connell (2008, 181) al celebre verso di Eliot «Let us go then – you and I», con cui, peraltro, si chiude il quinto capitolo. Un’altra citazione eliotiana («In my beginning is my end» [Consolo, 1998, 9]), rimandando al consueto simbolo consoliano della chiocciola, della spirale, rileva invece l’importanza della memoria, necessaria per recuperare un’identità veicolata dai nomi («il nome tuo d’un tempo, il punto di partenza» [Consolo, 1998, 9]), di cui Consolo sottolinea spesso l’importanza come segno identitario. Queste citazioni forniscono subito una prima chiave di lettura, in quanto Eliot utilizza termini spesso non uniti fra loro da legami logici, alterna espressioni auliche con altre colloquiali, mescola svariate lingue, rappresentando così la crisi esistenziale dell’uomo: similmente si comporta Consolo. Anche nel nostro testo, comunque, il narrare significa «rappresentare il mondo, cioè ricrearne un altro sulla carta» (Consolo, 2012, 92), che «assolva la tua pena, il tuo smarrimento» (Consolo, 1998,10). Questi stati d’animo, già nel primo capitolo, sono rapportati da Chino, giunto a Parigi per incontrare il figlio, con la parola che «si fa suono fermo, […] simbolo sfuggente» (Consolo, 1998, 12). Egli, dunque, respinge come false la lingua accademica («Stendono prose piane i professori, […] decorano le accademiche palandre di placche luccicanti» [Consolo, 1998, 12]) e quella giornalistica («Nul n’échappe décidément, au journalisme ou voudrait-il…» [Consolo, 1998, 12]), e nega il potere evocativo del linguaggio: se dapprima, infatti, il prete oppone alla forza delle armi quella delle parole (Giacomo – Marcellesi, 2004, 73-74), quando chiede, all’inizio dei bombardamenti, «di cantare l’aria con parole senza senso» (Consolo, 1998, 14), queste, poi, non servono a disincantare una «trovatura» (Consolo, 1998, 19). Tornano in mente a Chino, invece, termini legati ad epoche passate («Il maggiore parlò in un modo che credeva ancora di quel luogo» [Consolo, 1998, 13]). Per Consolo, difatti, «la vera scrittura […] poggia sulla memoria letteraria soprattutto» (Consolo, 2006, 71 – 72). O’Connell l’ha definita «un ricco mosaico di intertestualità, le cui tessere sono fatte di testi sia antichi sia moderni», in quanto pone accanto «linguaggi e dialetti diversi e spesso stridenti tra di loro», oscillando «tra registro alto e basso» (O’Connell, 2008, 164). Nei primi due capitoli, alcuni termini dialettali o colloquiali («anciove» [Consolo, 1998,15]; «caruso», «scarparo» [Consolo, 1998, 26]; «buatta» [Consolo, 1998, 32]; «a forma di lasagne» [Consolo, 1998, 25]) coesistono, dunque, con altri più elevati, o desueti, formando uno strano impasto linguistico, espressione dello smarrimento in cui vive Chino nel tentativo di superare i fantasmi del passato. Lo stesso Consolo ha dichiarato, in un’intervista: «sono stato […] sperimentatore, senza però arrivare all’estensione linguistica e alla straordinaria polifonia gaddiana, ma operando verticalmente, nel senso di riportare in superficie, […] parole e strutture di lingue sepolte» (Ciccarelli, 2005, 96). Si inserisce in tale ambito il termine «marabutto», di origine araba e perciò legato alla storia della Sicilia, che ritornando varie volte nel nostro testo, ne suggellerà l’andamento circolare svelando il suo carattere di «metafora malinconica» (Traina, 2001, 107). Rientra in questa circolarità anche il rilievo dato alle immagini, in quanto Consolo avverte «Sempre […] l’esigenza di equilibrare la seduzione […] della parola con la visualità, con […] una concretezza visiva» (O’Connell, 2004, 241). . 10 Il primo capitolo, così, accosta, secondo una tecnica cinematografica, parti quasi autonome, corrispondenti alle vicende affiorate alla memoria di Chino. Non a caso l’albergo di Parigi in cui egli soggiorna, oltre a chiamarsi La dixième muse, mostra alle pareti foto di vari divi del cinema, e alla mente di Chino ritorna l’immagine del IUDEX, protagonista del serial cinematografico di Feuillade che adesso egli vede per intero, dopo cinquant’anni, e che sarà richiamato anche alla fine del libro. L’ultimo segmento del capitolo presenta invece il dolore di Chino quale dolore collettivo attraverso il tipico uso consoliano delle figure retoriche, confermando l’orientamento dello scrittore verso il ben noto poema narrativo: Lo strazio fu di tutti, di tutti [anadiplosi] nel tempo il silenzio fermo [allitterazione], la dura pena, il rimorso scuro [chiasmo], come d’ognuno ch’è ragione, […] d’un fatale arresto, d’ognuno che qui resta, o di qua d’un muro, d’una grata, parete di fenolo [metafora], vacuo d’una mente, davanti alla scia in mare, all’arco in cielo che dispare di cherosene [iperbato]. L’esilio è nella perdita, l’assenza, in noi l’oblio, la cieca indifferenza (Consolo, 1998, 24). Un’anastrofe («il tempo suo più avventuroso» [Consolo, 1998, 25]) conclude invece le enumerazioni con cui si esprime lo stato di abbandono di Chino dopo la morte del padre. Analogamente, le enumerazioni indicano il disordine, il caos che contraddistinguono il viaggio di Chino ed Urelia, il loro arrivo a Palermo: Il viaggio fu infinito, nel fumo, nel freddo, raffiche di vento, pioggia, spruzzi delle onde, stretti fra reduci, sbandati, intrallazzisti, donne scasate e di mestiere, ragazzi fuggitivi, frati di questua e ceffi di galera. […] Mai erano stati Urelia e Chino nella città, mai avevano udito tanto chiasso, urla richiami imbonimenti, visto tanto correre e affannarsi tra macerie, travi fili ferri lamiere tufi calcinacci, cantoni in bilico, tappezzerie e maioliche esposte all’aria, giare e bidoni su lastrici crollati, statue riverse, guglie mozzate e cupole sventrate (Consolo, 1998, 31). piccano l’aggettivo dialettale «scasate», il neologismo «intrallazzisti» tra termini più elevati, quali «questua», «fuggitivi», mentre gli aggettivi «riverse», «mozzate», «sventrate» umanizzano gli oggetti, rendendo più forte la sensazione di sofferenza. A Palermo, i «ciechi vaiolosi, storpi, appestati d’ogni sorta che dallo Spasimo si recavano ogni giorno per mangiare alla Dogana» (Consolo, 1998, 32) ricordano l’ «orda di mendichi, ciechi, storpi, nani, malformati» che, in Retablo, si presentano davanti a Clerici, «con lamenti, cantilene e preghiere strazianti» (Consolo, 1992, 51). Con queste autocitazioni, Lo Spasimo di Palermo si conferma, come la critica unanime ha riconosciuto, testo che riassume l’evoluzione artistica ed ideologica di Consolo. Dopo un’ellissi, intanto, tornati nel tempo primo della narrazione, il terzo capitolo inizia, significativamente, con la parola «orrore» (Consolo, 1998, 33): è lo stato d’animo di Chino davanti al suo volto ritratto nello specchio, segno, perciò, quasi, di un’intima dissociazione, che egli descrive, grazie alle enumerazioni, espressionisticamente. Del resto, Norma Bouchard ha riscontrato, ne Lo Spasimo, «[…] an expressionism so radical that it has baffled more than one critic» (Bouchard, 2005, 6). Il pensiero subito rivolto al padre testimonia la persistenza di una lacerante distanza, messa in risalto dall’interrogativa: «Fosse vissuto, sarebbe scaduto così anche suo padre, avrebbe avuto quella faccia, quella sagoma avvilita, si sarebbe piegata la sua testa, il suo orgoglio si sarebbe [chiasmo] con gli anni incenerito [metafora]?» (Consolo, 1998, 33). La stessa incomunicabilità impernia, adesso, il suo rapporto con il figlio Mauro: le parole appaiono infatti «una pazzia recitata, un teatro dell’inganno» (Consolo, 1998, 35) quando i due si incontrano, in un clima di precarietà evidenziato da metafore: «Chi può sapere in questo mulinello di sagome simili e cangianti, questo turbinio di figure, quest’infinito scorrer d’apparenze?» (Consolo, 1998, 34). Se, da una parte, tale incertezza si manifesta, nuovamente, a livello individuale, per cui Chino è consapevole di non essere «riuscito a placare» i suoi «assilli» (Consolo, 1998, 36), «il panico, l’arresto, […] l’impotenza, l’afasia, il disastro» della sua vita, dall’altra lo «scadimento» (Consolo, 1998, 37) è generale, rappresentato dai gusti letterari dei frequentatori della libreria che Daniela ha voluto, per tentare di diffondere romanzi e poesie fra i compagni, «ignari e sprezzanti d’ogni forma letteraria» (Consolo, 12 1998, 37). Responsabile è l’omologazione, lo smarrimento della memoria storica, il predominio delle «mode» (Consolo, 1998, 37): nella vetrina della libreria, antifrasticamente chiamata «La porta d’Ishtar», notiamo allora «la foto d’un giovanotto levigato, riccioletti e occhio vellutato [omoteleuto], ultimo autore di successo, mistico e divo della tivù, […]» (Consolo, 1998, 36). Rafforza questo svilimento della memoria culturale il menu del ristorante Les philosophes: «Cotolette Spinoza – Salade Bergson – Salade Platon – Salade Aristote – Coupe Virgile – Coupe Socrate» (Consolo, 1998, 38). Mauro, poi, che enumera i mali italiani («Sempre nel marasma, nel fascismo inveterato, nell’ingerenza del pretame, nella mafia statuale il paese beneamato?» [Consolo, 1998, 39]), sottolineando le responsabilità del fascismo con l’omoteleuto («inveterato […] beneamato») e l’allitterazione («marasma […] fascismo»), rivolge al padre delle accuse ben precise, rese più incisive dalle metafore, dall’omoteleuto (ornamento-annientamento), dall’anafora, e che coinvolgono tutti i letterati: «tu e i soavi letterati siete le epigrafi d’ornamento, la lapide incongrua e compiaciuta sul muro di quel carcere mentale, quel manicomio d’annientamento» (Consolo, 1998, 39). I riferimenti al romanzo El recurso del método di Carpentier, autore particolarmente caro a Consolo, alla vicenda di Camille Rodin ribadiscono, poi, ancora, la volontà di distacco da una realtà costituita da un «tempo feroce e allucinato» (Consolo, 1998, 42). Il capitolo IV si apre allora con un lungo periodo che accosta immagini metaforiche apparentemente distinte, in realtà accomunate da un senso di negatività, dolore, precarietà, sottolineato dalle enumerazioni miste ad anafore e assonanze: Muro che crolla, interno che si mostra, fuga affannosa, segugio che non molla [assonanza], esito fra ruderi sferzati dalla pioggia, ironiche statue in prospettiva, teschi sui capitelli, maschere sui bordi delle fosse, botteghe incenerite, volumi che in mano si dissolvono, lei al centro d’un quadrivio accovacciata, lei distesa nella stanza che urla e che singhiozza, ritorna dall’estrema soglia, dall’ insulinico terrore, entra ed esce per la porta sull’abisso, il tempo è fisso nel continuo passaggio, nell’assenza, nel fondo sono le sequenze, i nessi saldi e veri (Consolo, 1998, 45). La serie di metafore può apparentarsi al flusso di coscienza di Joyce, il cui Ulisse Consolo definisce «L’odissea dei vinti»[1] (Consolo, 1999, 111). D’altra parte, vedere il film della sua giovinezza non risolve i problemi di Chino ma gli fa capire l’importanza dell’immaginazione e della memoria[2]: «Il tempo, la memoria esalta, abbellisce ogni pochezza, ogni squallore, la realtà più vera. Per la memoria, la poesia, l’umanità si è trasfigurata, è salita sull’Olimpo della bellezza e del valore» (Consolo, 1998, 53). La reazione di Mauro («”Ne hanno combinate i letterati!”» [Consolo, 1998, 53]) conferma che il contrasto generazionale con il padre coinvolge pure la funzione della letteratura e dei letterati, come si chiarirà nella conclusione. L’incomunicabilità fra i due sembra venir meno solo quando Chino dice al padre: «Portale [alla madre, Lucia] per me, quando sarà fiorito, il gelsomino» (Consolo, 1998, 55), mostrando così che, pure per lui, i legami con la Sicilia, di cui quel fiore è simbolo, al pari di quello che avviene ne L’olivo e l’olivastro, sono ineludibili. Per Chino, invece, ritornare in Sicilia significa ripercorrere le vicende della propria vita, che somiglia sempre più ad una fuga, per placare le proprie angosce. Milano e la Sicilia, ovvero i «due poli» entro cui si svolge la vicenda di questo e di molti testi consoliani, si precisano quali simboli «di una condizione di esilio perenne» (Lollini, 2005, 32). Da qui le tantissime «metafore dell’esilio, dell’erranza» (Lollini, 2005, 29), la ricorrenza dei termini ‘esilio-esule’, ‘fuga-fuggire, ‘partire-partenza’, ‘evadere-scappare’, insieme a quelli relativi al campo semantico del dolore. Il quinto capitolo registra questi concetti in modo particolare. Il primo segmento esprime ancora il disagio di Chino con i procedimenti già notati: brevi proposizioni cooordinate per asindeto, enumerazioni. Spicca il chiasmo «lame squame gemini binari» (Consolo, 1998, 57), in cui i due aggettivi aulici (‘squame’, antico; ‘gemini’, latinismo) sono incastonati fra i sostantivi ‘lame, binari’, del registro quotidiano. Segue un’analessi in cui vita e letteratura appaiono strettamente unite, visto che i libri hanno scandito le varie tappe dell’esistenza di Chino. Inverano, intanto, lo spazio: Chino si reca con Lucia, infatti, a visitare la tonnara e il mare descritti nelle [1] Un’allusione all’Ulysses di Joyce e «the re-inauguration of the modern nostos into twentieth-century literary culture», si troverebbe, secondo O’Connell (2012, 246), nel seguente passo: «Ascesero man mano e si dispersero per i vari cieli, entro le celle di quella Sandycove dell’introibo, teca babelica, averno del viaggio» (Consolo, 1998, 46). [2] Secondo O’Connell (Consolo narratore cit., 178), si ha qui un richiamo al saggio Angelus Novus di Benjamin, che peraltro Consolo cita in I ritorni, ed esattamente ai concetti di «rimembranza» e memoria. 14 Osservazioni pratiche intorno la pesca, corso e cammino dei tonni. Quando i poliziotti perquisiscono la sua casa, come si narra anche in Un giorno come gli altri, i suoi libri sparpagliati sembrano «storie perenti, lasche prosodie, tentativi inceneriti, miseri testi della sua illusione, del suo fallimento» (Consolo, 1998, 66), dovuto, comunque, al «tempo feroce, disumano» (Consolo, 1998, 67) in cui vive. Lo testimoniano i procedimenti espressivi. Il «boemo paonazzo», in cui si riconosce Milan Kundera, definisce infatti «merde» gli intellettuali insensibili ai problemi della primavera di Praga nella discussione tra le signore che, con allusione ad Eliot, «in seriche casacche orientali andavano e venivano, […] rivolgevano domande a Saul Bellow» (Consolo, 1998, 66). Il narratore, poi, inserisce la parola antica ‘grascia’ in un’enumerazione («ingombro, grascia, fermento, trionfo di laidume, baccano d’osceno carnevale» [Consolo, 1998, 68]) per raffigurare la disastrosa situazione di Milano. Essa, la «città ignota» è poi descritta con una citazione da Excelsior di Luigi Manzotti («“D’improvviso la scena si trasforma, la Luce e la Civiltà trovansi abbracciate…”» [Consolo, 1998, 69]), menzionato pure in Sopra il vulcano, e una dai Promessi Sposi («“Quel contrapposto di gale e di cenci, di superfluità e di miseria”» [Consolo, 1998, 70]). Il segmento successivo rielabora il brano I barboni, scritto nel 1995 per il catalogo di Ottavio Sgubin, che termina con una citazione dell’Odissea, l’unica di tutto Lo Spasimo («Di’ perché piangi e nel tuo animo gemi / quando odi la sorte…» [Consolo, 1998, 72]), che, non a caso, rimanda ad una condizione di sofferenza. Lo stesso Consolo ne chiarisce, ne Lo spazio in letteratura, il significato, collegando il nostro testo con L’olivo e l’olivastro. Quindi risponde alla richiesta contenuta nella citazione dell’Odissea sostenendo l’impossibilità della narrazione: «“Io sono… no, no, l’aridità, la lingua spessa, l’oblio d’ogni nesso… illuso ancora dell’ascolto, tu procedi”» (Consolo, 1998, 72), affermazione apparentemente in contrasto con il montaliano «varco» che avrebbe condotto Chino, all’inizio del capitolo, «nel passato, nel racconto, in cui […] tutto sembrava decifrabile» (Consolo, 1998, 69). In effetti, nell’analessi in cui il narratore rievoca la vita familiare inizialmente felice di Chino, di Lucia e poi devastata dalle circostanze, la letteratura è dapprima celebrata come depositaria della «verità umana» («“Là si trova” […] “negli assoluti libri, la verità umana”») ma poi, di fronte al precipitare degli eventi, ritenuta inadeguata a riprodurre correttamente la realtà («Ogni parola ora, povera, incapace, riduce quell’incanto, […]» [Consolo, 1998, 73]). Consolo, allora, da un canto adotta una tecnica cinematografica, mostrando i vari eventi (le intimidazioni, la conversazione con il commissario, la vendita della casa) come fotogrammi, dall’altro ritorna alla ‘narrazione poematica’ propria de L’olivo e l’olivastro[3], a confermare la corrispondenza tra i due testi. Così è facile riconoscere degli endecasillabi quando il narratore riferisce la decisione di Chino di lasciare Palermo per andare sulle tracce dell’originaria ed autentica identità siciliana. E il viaggio, vero e proprio topos per Consolo, avviene, significativamente, durante la Pasqua, momento di resurrezione: «S’era fatta smunta, pallida, inquieta /, […] Chino decise di rompere l’assedio, / d’evadere, fuggire dalla casa, / […] Andò con l’infelice per le strade, / […]. Andò in un aprile, nel tempo della Pasqua [due settenari]» (Consolo, 1998, 76-77). Una serie di immagini, combinate con un’anafora e un endecasillabo finale, presenta la Sicilia quale metafora del mondo: «Era là il centro dello spazio, la visione sconfinata, là il cuore della terra, / del mito più oscuro e luminoso» (Consolo, 1998, 77). Il nome di Borges, del resto, rimanda non solo ai «sogni», agli «incubi», agli «specchi», ai «labirinti» (Consolo, 1998, 80), temi presenti nel nostro testo, ma al suo prevalente carattere metaforico. La vicenda di Lucia, con il suo «precipitare nel gorgo medicale, nell’ignoranza, nel dominio, nel cinico interesse di luminari, case di cura, […] rete di sciacalli» (Consolo, 1998, 78) e quella di Chino testimoniano i danni causati dalla perdita della memoria storica: Palermo è, difatti, ormai, una città «stravolta, squallida nell’uniforme volto, nell’anonima sua morsa, nel cieco manto sopra ogni verde luce, nella grigia muraglia avanti a vecchi squarci, immobili macerie, […]» (Consolo, 1998, 79). All’insegna della metafora si svolge, allora, il capitolo settimo. «un re che narra e che governa, elude la metafora, annulla la contraddizione della prosa» (Consolo, 1998, 83) è, intanto, il personaggio principale del racconto letto dal glottologo protagonista de La perquisizione, dietro cui la critica ha scorto Un giorno come gli altri. La metafora si precisa, dunque, quale una necessità, legata a una narrazione in crisi, che tratta di periodi in crisi: appaiono così chiari i rapporti di Consolo con il postmodernismo. Da [3] Esso è l’«apice» di una vera e propria «sperimentazione “poetica”» (Francese, 2015, 70) . 16 una parte vi sembrerebbero rimandare il citazionismo, il plurilinguismo, il tema del complotto; dall’altra, però, Consolo se ne mantiene distante, proprio per l’importanza attribuita alla memoria e alla storia, come Norma Bouchard ha puntualizzato: «it is important to point out that even though Consolo’s novels exhibit many of the rhetorical devices that we have come to associate with postmodern writing practices, they also remain fundamentally distinct from dominant, majoritarian forms of postmodernism» (Bouchard, 2005, 10-11). Una «metafora perenne» giudica poi Chino il romanzo di Manzoni, modello per Consolo di romanzo storico, in quanto allude «alle pesti in ogni tempo di Milano» (Consolo, 1998, 85). Il «lazzaretto più appestato» sembra a Chino «una piazzetta» in cui, avvolti in un’omologazione che cancella ogni identità, «Stavano ragazzi barcollanti o immobili, il busto avanti, piegati sui ginocchi. Sembravano bloccati in quelle pose, pietrificati […]» (Consolo, 1998, 85). Modellato sull’Addio ai monti di Manzoni è, inoltre, l’Addio che Consolo rivolge a Milano, «Città perduta» (Consolo, 1998, 91) non meno della Milano di Berlusconi e della Lega Nord, condannata attraverso la consueta tecnica dell’accumulo: Illusione infranta, amara realtà, scacco pubblico e privato, castello rovinato, sommerso dall’acque infette, dalla melma dell’olona, dei navigli, […] scala del corrotto melodramma, palazzo della vergogna, duomo del profitto, basilica del fanatismo e dell’intolleranza, banca dell’avventura e dell’assassinio, fiera della sartoria mortuaria, teatro della calligrafia, stadio della merce e del messaggio, video dell’idiozia e della volgarità (Consolo, 1998, 91). Così, quando Mauro chiede al padre se stia scrivendo, egli risponde negativamente. E se il suo comportamento è differente da quello di altri scrittori (Calvino, Moravia, Sciascia, indicati con delle metafore – «il castoro ligure, il romano indifferente, l’amaro tuo amico siciliano»), ciò accade perché essi hanno «la forza […] della ragione, […] la geometria civile dei francesi» (Consolo, 1998, 88): non vivono cioè una condizione di disorientamento. Costituiscono dunque, queste parole, opinioni dello stesso Consolo (Chino Martinez sarebbe cioè un alter ego dello scrittore), che, proseguendo il suo discorso, una sorta di dichiarazione di poetica, confessa: «mi perdo nel ristagno dell’affetto, l’opacità del lessico, la vanità del suono…» (Consolo, 1998, 88). La letteratura, però, deve essere, soprattutto, espressione di una società, tant’è che Mauro, in carcere, chiede al padre di portargli I demoni di Dostoevskij, L’affaire Moro di Sciascia, Scritti corsari di Pasolini, Une saison en enfer, Illuminations di Rimbaud. Chino, allora, abbina alla letteratura, che perciò rappresenterebbe un’ancora di salvezza come nella conclusione di Nottetempo (si rifugia nella biblioteca, per esempio), il valore della memoria, delle radici, individuali e collettive. Sul treno per Napoli, infatti, ascoltando parlare dei ragazzi, individua facilmente, e con piacere, «le città e i paesi da cui quei ragazzi provenivano. […] Leggeva in quel concerto la storia d’ogni luogo, i segni […] superstiti delle migrazioni, dei remoti insediamenti» (Consolo, 1998, 95). Egli, pertanto, considera negativamente, al punto da definirla «trucida» (Consolo, 1998, 94), la nuova lingua annunciata da Pasolini, in quanto segno di un’omologazione negatrice della storia. Di questa sono testimonianza i luoghi, lo spazio, che Consolo ritiene, sempre, molto importanti. In prossimità di Palermo Chino scorge, difatti, «il piano di Sant’Erasmo, la foce melmosa dell’Oreto, […] la Porta dei Greci, […] gli antichi palazzi dietro nobiliari, le cupole e i campanili delle chiese, il Càssaro Morto e la Porta Felice, Santa Maria della Catena, la conca stagna affollata d’alberi di lussuose barche della Cala» ma anche «le palazzate nuove del sacco mafioso» (Consolo, 1998, 98). Attraverso lo spazio, cioè, è possibile leggere i cambiamenti della società. Se i luoghi, allora, come la letteratura, manifestano la memoria storica, Chino sente di dover «ricominciare» dai libri, oltre che «dalla chiara geografia» (Consolo, 1998, 102). Si presentano, questi, strettamente uniti, interdipendenti nelle pagine finali dello Spasimo, che, perciò, chiarisce e conclude l’esperienza letteraria di Consolo, rappresentando «al contempo la mediazione verso» quella che Consolo considera una vera e propria «impasse e la risposta ad essa» (O’Connell, 2008, 174). Così, dopo aver raccolto notizie sul musicista D’Astorga, da cui prende nome la strada in cui abita, ed aver scoperto il quartiere intorno, aver collegato il castello della Favara ad alcuni versi del poeta arabo Ab dar-Rahmân, Chino decide di «indagare sulla prigionia in Algeri di Cervantes», su quella di Antonio Veneziano[4] e di scrivere «della [4] Ne L’olivo e l’olivastro (1994, 105), Consolo afferma che, ad Algeri, Cervantes scrive dei versi per Antonio Veneziano. 18 pena vera di due poeti, fuori da ogni invenzione» (Consolo, 1998, 105). Infatti, Aborriva il romanzo, questo genere scaduto, corrotto, impraticabile. Se mai ne aveva scritti, erano i suoi in una diversa lingua, dissonante, in una furia verbale ch’era finita in urlo, s’era dissolta nel silenzio. Si doleva di non avere il dono della poesia, la sua libertà, la sua purezza, la sua distanza dall’implacabile logica del mondo (Consolo, 1998, 105). Consolo ripropone, in tal modo, le riserve nei confronti del romanzo manifestate in altri testi (Fuga dall’ Etna, Nottetempo, L’olivo e l’olivastro). Un «libro raro» (Consolo, 1998, 106), in spagnolo, trovato in biblioteca, conferma le sue convinzioni. Vi legge di ogni regione d’Italia e del mondo, apprende i vari significati, positivi, del termine ‘marabutto’. È consapevole, anche per questo, di come i tragici eventi che avevano portato alla morte del padre avessero costituito una stortura. Poi, dopo aver vagato per le strade di Palermo ed aver visto, nella «casba di Seralcadio» (Consolo, 1998, 108), un’altra faccia della città, come avvenuto a Milano, si ferma nella chiesa di Santa Maruzza, luogo carico di ricordi, personali e letterari, opposto al drammatico presente. Difatti, «Dentro era l’accesso, racconta il Natoli, alle caverne, alle camere segrete dei processi e delle sentenze dei giustizieri» (Consolo, 1998, 108). Ma al tribunale dei Beati Paoli si lega il vero Palazzo di Giustizia, a cui Chino giunge seguendo un «corteo, fantasmatico» (Consolo, 1998, 109). Il suo pensiero va, allora, al lavoro dei magistrati contro i gruppi mafiosi e, in particolare, al «figlio della sua dirimpettaia» (Consolo, 1998, 109), cioè il giudice Borsellino. L’incontro fra i due avviene nel segno dei libri e conferma come Chino sia alter ego di Consolo «Ho letto i suoi libri… difficili, dicono» (Consolo, 1998, 115), dice il giudice che, dopo aver citato un passo de Le pietre di Pantalica («Palermo è fetida, infetta. In questo luglio fervido esala odore dolciastro di sangue e gelsomino…» [Consolo, 2012, 132]), commenta: «Ma nulla è cambiato, creda. Vedrà, il prossimo luglio sarà uguale… o forse peggio» (Consolo, 1998, 115). Egli legittima, in tal modo, la funzione civile della letteratura, legata anche ad altre arti. Chino trova, infatti, nella «memoria d’un anonimo spagnolo», delle notizie sulla tela che Raffaello dipinge per la chiesa di Santa Maria dello Spasimo, e che intitola «sgomento della Vergine e Spasimo del Mondo» (Consolo, 1998, 112). Giustamente, dunque, la Sicilia è metafora del mondo: la sua crisi, la sua degenerazione sono generali, così come «questo Spasimo, da Palermo» (Consolo, 1998, 112) coinvolge la Sicilia e il mondo tutto. E i luoghi, come la letteratura testimonia, lo confermano: Lesse di Santa Maria dello Spasimo abbandonata dai frati per il nuovo baluardo di difesa che a ridosso il viceré don Ferrante Gonzaga fece costruire. Della magnifica chiesa che divenne poi nel tempo teatro, lazzaretto nella peste, granaio, magazzino, albergo di poveri, sifilicomio, cronicario, luogo di dolore, solitudine, abbandono (Consolo, 1998, 113). Una metafora indica il perdurare di questa condizione, ormai generalizzata, al presente: lo scirocco è un «sudario molle» (Consolo, 1998, 113). Le immagini mettono poi, in parallelo, la peste e il colera, che nel passato hanno oppresso Palermo, con la mafia. Al «paranzello o brigantino» che arrivava a Palermo «con l’infetto» (Consolo, 1998, 113) corrisponde «il corpo sfatto, quasi scheletrico» (Consolo, 1998, 116) rinvenuto dentro il pilastro del portico del palazzo dove abita Chino, il quale ricorda i vv. 10-12 del quarto canto dell’Inferno quale metafora dell’incapacità di trovare una soluzione a questa situazione: «Oscura e profonda era e nebulosa / tanto che, per ficcar lo viso a fondo, / io non vi discernea alcuna cosa» (Consolo, 1998, 118). L’ultimo capitolo si svolge dunque la domenica successiva al Festino di Santa Rosalia, per sottolineare come pure la Santa che aveva salvato Palermo dalla peste, nel 1624, sia adesso impotente. La conformazione della città, con «il fitto ammasso dei palazzi, il cantiere dietro il muro, la corta via d’Astorga [allitterazione]», mostra la perdita di ogni memoria storica, «sepolta sotto il cemento» (Consolo, 1998, 123). Le enumerazioni, mettendo insieme termini di origine araba (‘càssaro’, ‘kalsa’), spagnola (‘criadi’), neologismi (‘villena’), rappresentano questa condizione di disordine, che la metafora conclusiva suggella: «Congiura, contagio e peste in ogni tempo» (Consolo, 1998, 123). 9, 2020. 20 Alla memoria storica, invece, ci riporta il fioraio che in «questa città infernale» (Consolo, 1998, 126), in cui ogni ragionevolezza sembra essere venuta meno, si chiama, non a caso (il riferimento è ad Erasmo da Rotterdam e al suo Elogio della follia), Erasmo, e che, dopo aver donato a Chino dei gelsomini, gli rivolge delle parole, apparentemente oscure, inquietanti, ma che legano il suo passato al suo presente: «Ddiu ti scanza d’amici e nnimici, e di chiddi / chi ti manciunu lu pani. / Ddiu ti scanza di marabutta» (Consolo, 1998, 124). Ciò è evidente nella lettera che Chino scrive al figlio, in cui troviamo insieme i cinque romanzi che Massimo Onofri ha individuato fra le pagine de Lo Spasimo: «un romanzo sul rapporto Italia – Sicilia; un romanzo sul rapporto padre e figlio (il padre di Gioacchino / Chino e Chino); un secondo romanzo padre – figlio (Chino e Mauro); […] un romanzo d’amore (Chino e Lucia); e […] un romanzo di “oblio e dimenticanza”» (Onofri, 2004, 183). Si precisano qui, quando Chino allude all’omicidio del giudice Falcone, le corrispondenze con il passo de Le pietre di Pantalica citato da Borsellino: «Questa città, lo sai, è diventata un campo di battaglia, un macello quotidiano. Sparano, fanno esplodere tritolo, straziano vite umane, carbonizzano corpi, spiaccicano membra su alberi e asfalto – ah l’infernale cratere sulla strada per l’aeroporto! – E’ una furia bestiale, uno sterminio»[5] (Consolo, 1998, 128). Ne Le pietre di Pantalica aveva detto: «Questa città è un macello, le strade sono carnazzerie con pozzanghere, rivoli di sangue coperti da giornali e lenzuola. […] La guerra contro la civiltà, la cultura, la decenza» (Consolo, 2012, 132 – 134). E, ne L’olivo e l’olivastro, si indica in modo chiarissimo come responsabile di questa situazione, non limitata a Palermo ma diffusa in tutta Italia, sia la perdita della memoria storica: «Via, via, lontano da quella città che ha disprezzato probità e intelligenza, memoria, eredità di storia, arte, ha ucciso i deboli e i giusti. / Ma è Palermo o è Milano, Bologna, Brescia, Roma, Napoli, Firenze?» (Consolo, 1994, 125). Ne Lo Spasimo, questa situazione di crisi comporta una divaricazione tra letteratura e società. Chino ne matura la consapevolezza: Un paradosso questo del mantello nero in cui si muta qui la toga di chi inquisisce e giudica usando la forza della legge. E per me anche letterario. Voglio dire: oltre che in Inghilterra, nella [5] Da sottolineare come i quattro verbi (sparano-straziano-carbonizzano-spiaccicano) abbiano la stessa finale. Francia dello Stato e del Diritto è fiorita la figura del giustiziere che giudica e sentenzia fuori dalle leggi. Balzac, Dumas, Sue ne sono i padri, con filiazioni vaste, fino al Bernède e al Feuillade di Judex e al Natoli nostro, […]. In questo Paese invece, in quest’accozzaglia di famiglie, questo materno confessionale d’assolvenza, dove lo stato è occupato da cosche o segrete sette di Dévorants, […], dove tutti ci impegniamo, governanti e cittadini, ad eludere le leggi, a delinquere, il giudice che applica le leggi ci appare come un Judex, un giustiziere insopportabile, da escludere, da rimuovere. O da uccidere (Consolo, 1998, 129-130). Il letterato, dunque, l’intellettuale vive in una condizione di esilio, non è adeguatamente apprezzato, tant’è che quando Chino tenta di fermare Borsellino mentre suona al citofono, il giudice si gira ma non lo riconosce. Nell’attentato viene colpito Erasmo che, morendo, recita due versi de La storia di la Baronissa di Carini, ad attestare come, anche se al presente la letteratura non è ascoltata, è da questa, voce della tradizione, della memoria storica, che deve venire la salvezza:

O gran mano di Diu, ca tantu pisi, cala, manu di Diu, fatti palisi!



(Consolo, 1998, 131). 9, 2020. 22 Bibliografia Bouchard, Norma (2005). Vincenzo Consolo and the Postmodern Writing of Melancholy. Italica, 82, (1), 5 – 23. Ciccarelli Andrea (a cura di) (2005). Intervista a Vincenzo Consolo. Italica, 82, (1), 92 – 97. Consolo, Vincenzo (1988). Le pietre di Pantalica. Milano: Mondadori. Consolo, Vincenzo (1992). Retablo. Milano: Mondadori. Consolo, Vincenzo (1993). Fuga dall’Etna. Roma: Donzelli. Consolo, Vincenzo (1994). L’olivo e l’olivastro. Milano: Mondadori. Consolo, Vincenzo (1998). Lo Spasimo di Palermo. Milano: Mondadori. Consolo, Vincenzo (1999). Di qua dal faro. Milano: Mondadori. Consolo, Vincenzo (2006). «Ma la luna, la luna…». In Pintor Romera I. (a cura di). Lunaria. Vent’anni dopo. València: Generalitat Valenciana, Conselleria de Cultura, Educació i Esport. Consolo, Vincenzo (2012). La mia isola è Las Vegas. Milano: Mondadori. Donnarumma, Raffaele (2011). Storia, immaginario, letteratura: il terrorismo nella letteratura italiana (1969 – 2010). In Aa. Vv., Per Romano Luperini. Palermo: Palumbo. Dotti, Ugo (2012). Il senso della storia nell’opera di Vincenzo Consolo. In Ugo Dotti, Gli scrittori e la storia. La narrativa dell’Italia unita e le trasformazioni del romanzo (da Verga a oggi). Torino: Nino Aragno editore. Francese, Joseph (2015). Vincenzo Consolo: gli anni de «l’Unità» (1992 – 2012), ovvero la poetica della colpa – espiazione. Firenze: Firenze University Press. Lollini, Massimo (2005). Intrecci mediterranei. La testimonianza di Vincenzo Consolo, moderno Odisseo. Italica, 82, (1), 24 – 43. Luperini, Romano (1999). Controtempo. Napoli: Liguori. Marcellesi – Giacomo, Mathée (2004). Vincenzo Consolo: l’alchimie du logos. Croniques italiennes. 2-3, 197 – 214. Onofri, Massimo (2004). Il sospetto della realtà: Saggi e paesaggi italiani novecenteschi, Cava de’ Tirreni: Avagliano. O’Connell, Daragh (2004). Il dovere del racconto: Interview with Vincenzo Consolo. The Italianist. 24: II, 238 – 253. DOI: 10.1179 / ita.2004.24.2.238 O’Connell, Daragh (2008). Consolo narratore e scrittore palincestuoso. Quaderns d’Italià, (13), 161 – 184. O’Connell, Daragh (2012). «Tizzone d’Inferno»: Sciascia on Joyce. Totomodo, 237 – 248. Traina, Giuseppe (2001). Vincenzo Consolo. Fiesole: Cadmo.


Summary
Lo Spasimo di Palermo is example of a crisis that has repercussions on the expressive form: on the one hand, the consciousness that «sul ciglio dell’abisso la parola si raggela, si fa […] simbolo sfuggente» comes out, on the other hand novel seems a «genere scaduto, corrotto, impraticabile». The generational conflict between Chino and Mauro is included in this sphere too. Hence it follows many solutions that lead to Consolo’s «poema narrativo» and testify the prevailing disorientation: paratactic accumulation, metaphors, literary quotations, figures of speech. Pictorial suggestions find its centre in Raphael’s Lo Spasimo di Sicilia, symbol of a pain that from Palermo arrives to Sicily and all world, while the spaces have a great importance and show the loss of historical memory, responsible for crisis. Key words: Consolo, crisis, memory, history


IL RISCHIO DELLA FINE IN NOTTETEMPO, CASA PER CASA DI VINCENZO CONSOLO

 

ANITA VIRGA (University of the Witwatersrand)

Questo saggio intende analizzare il romanzo di Vincenzo Consolo Nottetempo, casa per casa (1992) utilizzando il motivo della fine del mondo come chiave interpretativa dell’opera ed elemento unificante i diversi piani su cui la narrativa si sviluppa. Se da una parte La nascita della tragedia di Friedrich Nietzsche costituisce un modello intellettuale di riferimento e di confronto per il romanzo consoliano, dall’altra le considerazioni dell’antropologo Ernesto De Martino sull’apocalisse ci permetteranno di proporre Nottetempo come una risposta psicologica, culturale e letteraria al rischio della “fine” esperito in questi tre diversi ambiti.  Nel volume postumo che raccoglie gli appunti preparatori all’opera rimasta incompiuta La fine del mondo, De Martino approccia il tema dell’apocalisse derivando una connessione tra il senso di fine del mondo vissuto nel disagio psicologico individuale e le grandi apocalissi culturali elaborate dalle società o da singoli attori collettivi operanti in esse. Anticipando i temi di questa ricerca in un articolo comparso un anno prima della morte dell’antropologo su Nuovi argomenti, egli chiariva il nesso tra apocalisse individuale e apocalisse collettiva nei seguenti termini: “i caratteri esterni delle apocalissi psicologiche sembrano riprodursi anche in quelle culturali, dato che anche le apocalissi culturali racchiudono l’annunzio di catastrofi imminenti, il rifiuto radicale dell’ordine mondano attuale, la tensione estrema dell’attesa angosciosa e l’euforico abbandono alle immaginazioni di qualche privatissimo paradiso irrompente nel mondo” (De Martino, 1964:111). Il compito delle apocalissi culturali sarà allora proprio quello di scongiurare la fine, costituendosi come difesa e reintegrazione del rischio della fine esperito nell’apocalisse psicopatologica: esse, cioè, hanno il compito di rivalorizzare a livello collettivo e condiviso ciò che nella crisi personale diventa perdita di senso, incapacità di dare valore e incapacità di operare nel mondo quotidiano, decretandone così la sua fine. Tuttavia, avverte De Martino, “se il dramma delle apocalissi culturali acquista rilievo come esorcismo solenne, sempre rinnovato, contro l’estrema insidia delle apocalissi psicopatologiche, è anche vero che questo esorcismo può riuscire in varia misura, e di fatto può sbilanciarsi sempre di nuovo verso la crisi radicale” (De Martino, 1964:113). Anche le apocalissi culturali, dunque, possono incorrere nel rischio di essere “nuda crisi” senza possibilità di rinnovamento, “senza escaton”, rischio che De Martino intravedeva nell’apocalisse dell’occidente contemporaneo che “conosce il tema della fine al di fuori di qualsiasi ordine religioso di salvezza, e cioè come disperata catastrofe del mondano, del domestico, dell’appaesato, del significante e dell’operabile” (De Martino, 2002:470). Il doppio piano della crisi psicopatologica individuale e della crisi esperita dalla società nel suo insieme è colta da Consolo in Nottetempo attraverso il dispiegamento di una fantasmagoria di personaggi reali e fittizi e attraverso l’ambientazione storica. Il contesto storico nel quale tali personaggi operano (i primordi del Fascismo), infatti, è rappresentato  e interpretato secondo i modi di una apocalisse storica che rischia di essere “nuda crisi”, catastrofe senza rinnovamento. Essa, inoltre, fa eco e diventa metafora per il presente: l’inizio del Ventennio fascista, infatti, diventa anche il mezzo per parlare dell’inizio della Seconda Repubblica1 – l’anno di 
*                                                   

 1  Lo stesso autore, chiarendo come il passato sia una metafora per il presente, evidenzia il carattere “apocalittico” di tale passato e tale presente: “Dopo il Sorriso, ho continuato a scrivere romanzi storici […]. L’ultimo, Nottetempo, casa per casa, è ambientato negli anni

**

pubblicazione del libro si colloca proprio nel passaggio tra la fine di un mondo e l’inizio di una nuova era per la società italiana, nonché pare profeticamente avvertire la crisi culturale che sarà presto inaugurata dall’ascesa di Berlusconi al potere. Come De Martino, Consolo avverte nel presente il senso di una fine che non prevede un nuovo inizio, mentre individua nel passato eventi apocalittici che hanno segnato un rinnovamento: ne è esempio concreto la rinascita della Val di Noto attraverso il barocco dopo il terremoto del 16932. Con Nottetempo siamo, dunque, nella Cefalù dei primi anni Venti e un uomo corre forsennatamente nella notte, in preda al “male catubbo”, una forma di depressione in cui l’interpretazione popolare riconosce il licantropismo 3, o “male di luna”, come aveva già mirabilmente descritto Pirandello in una sua omonima novella. Veniamo in seguito a sapere che egli è il padre di una famiglia tormentata dal male interiore, per cui il licantropismo cui è soggetto non può essere spiegato solamente con una diagnosi scientifica, ma ha ragioni ben più profonde. La moglie (“troppo presto assente”) è morta e le due figlie sono affette da problemi psicologici: l’una, Lucia (“che sola e orgogliosa se n’andava per altra strada”), è mentalmente instabile e verrà rinchiusa in una clinica, l’altra, Serafina (“torbida, di pietra”, 106), vive in uno stato catatonico. Petro, il figlio eventi,                                                                                                       

, che mi sembrano terribilmente somiglianti a questi che stiamo vivendo, anni di crisi ideologica e politica, di neo-metafisiche, di chiusure particolaristiche, di scontri etnici, di teocrazie, integralismi […] Il Sorriso e Nottetempo formano un dittico. […] Nel primo ho voluto insomma raccontare la nascita di un’utopia politica, della speranza di un nuovo assetto sociale; nel secondo, il crollo di quella speranza, la follia degli uomini e la follia della storia, il dolore e la fuga” (Consolo, 1993:47-48). 2  Nel capitoletto La rinascita del Val di Noto compreso in Di qua del faro, Consolo descrive il terremoto che distrusse la Sicilia orientale alla fine del ’600 proprio usando il termine “apocalisse” e riconoscendo nell’arte barocca un valore escatologico: “E però il Barocco non è stato solamente il frutto di una coincidenza storica. Quello stile fantasioso e affollato, tortuoso e abbondante è, nella Sicilia dei continui terremoti della natura, degli infiniti rivolgimenti storici, del rischio quotidiano della perdita d’identità, come un’esigenza dell’anima contro lo smarrimento della solitudine, dell’indistinto, del deserto, contro la vertigine del nulla” (Consolo, 2001a:99). 3  Spiega Consolo: “Il padre si ammala di depressione, che nel mondo contadino arcaico viene chiamata licantropia. Questo fenomeno è stato studiato dalla principessa di Lampedusa, che era una psicanalista che ha associato la licantropia alla depressione: nel mondo rurale questi poveretti che soffrivano terribilmente, uscivano fuori di casa, magari urlavano e venivano scambiati per lupi mannari” (Consolo, 2001b). protagonista del romanzo, è affetto dalla malinconia, da una tristezza le cui origini egli stesso rintraccia in un tempo primordiale, un tempo perso nel tempo, di cui il nome della famiglia, Marano4, ne è spia: “‘Da quale offesa, sacrilegio viene questa sentenza atroce, questa malasorte?’ si chiedeva Petro. Forse, pensava, da una colpa antica, immemorabile. Da quel cognome suo forse di rinnegato, di marrano di Spagna o di Sicilia, che significava eredità di ànsime, malinconie, rimorsi dentro nelle vene” (42). E più oltre riflette ancora che quel dolore sembra essere sorto “da qualcosa che aveva preceduto la sua, la nascita degli altri” (106). La famiglia del protagonista e Petro stesso rappresentano così un articolato inventario dell’apocalisse psicopatologica: ognuno, chiuso nella propria incomunicabile individualità, esperisce solitariamente il “delirio di fine del mondo”, cioè la perdita della “normalità” del mondo e della possibilità  dell’intersoggettività dei valori che lo rendono un mondo possibile e umano.  Del male che affligge la famiglia, tuttavia, si intravede anche una motivazione più contingente e precisa in quel cambiamento di status, peraltro non giustificato dalle convenzioni sociali, che verghianamente aleggia sulla famiglia come una rovina: il padre ha ricevuto infatti l’eredità di un signore locale che ha preferito beneficiare la famiglia Marano piuttosto che suo nipote, il barone Don Nenè, legittimo erede. La menzione di questo avanzamento sociale, all’origine anche dell’inimicizia fra Petro e Don Nenè, viene lasciata cadere qua e là nel romanzo come fosse la colpa da cui discende tutto il male che gravita sulla famiglia. La ragione dell’impossibilità del matrimonio fra Lucia e Janu è quella verghiana5 che impedisce        
*                                            

 4  “Ho adottato questo nome perché ha due significati per me. Marano significa marrano, cioè è l’ebreo costretto a rinnegare la sua religione e a cristianizzarsi, perché in Sicilia con la cacciata degli Ebrei nel 1492 – così come in Spagna, – ci furono quelli che andarono via ma anche quelli che rimasero e furono costretti a convertirsi. È stata una forma di violenza. Ho dato il nome di Marano a questa famiglia con questa memoria di violenza iniziale e poi per rendere omaggio allo scrittore Jovine che chiama il suo personaggio principale Marano ne Le terre del sacramento, quindi è un omaggio a una certa letteratura” (Consolo, 2001b). 5  E Verga, non a caso, costituisce modello forte e necessario per Consolo, non solo a livello tematico in quanto “cantore” degli umili e ultimi, ma anche a livello stilistico in quanto sperimentatore: “La mia opzione è stata sulla scrittura espressiva che aveva come archetipo un mio conterraneo, Giovanni Verga, che è stato il primo grande rivoluzionario stilistico nella letteratura moderna. Da lui si passava, attraverso altri scrittori, come Gadda e

**

inizialmente ad Alfio Mosca di prendere in moglie la Mena. Lucia si innamorerà poi di un uomo il cui mancato ritorno dalla guerra le procurerà la ferita fondamentale che la porterà alla pazzia; Petro riflette allora che Janu “quell’uomo buono, schietto, avrebbe forse rasserenato la sorella […], cambiato la sua sorte, e provò pena per lui, per Lucia, rabbia per quell’assurdo vallone che s’era aperto fra loro due” (63). Ma su questo motivo verghiano della condizione di classe si innesta quello della roba inteso come voracità di accumulo sconsiderato di beni; si instaura il dubbio che la vera causa della perdita della ragione, il dolore che porta alla pietrificazione, possa trovarsi in quell’accumulo, in quella roba: “Petro si diceva come sarebbe stato meglio per Serafina, per Lucia, non aver avuto nulla, essere incerte nella roba, ma salde nella persona, nel volere, coscienti e attive” (114). Si intravede qui, solo accennata, anche una critica al capitalismo sfrenato e al consumismo, che è in definitiva accumulo di roba per la roba, senza altra finalità. La condizione psicopatologica individuale, dunque, prende forma e mette radice anche in una condizione di “malattia” più generale della società feticizzata, che per questa ragione non è più in grado di generare valori umani ma si accascia su se stessa senza rinnovamento e nuovo significato. Accanto ai Marano, compare poi tutta una sfilza di personaggi che ruotano attorno all’arrivo a Cefalù di un individuo alquanto eccentrico e realmente esistito, il satanista inglese Alastair Crowley, il quale si insedia in una villa poco fuori paese e lì celebra i propri riti coinvolgendo diverse persone. Le proteste contadine e le azioni degli squadristi fascisti, infine, connotano il clima storico e sociale all’interno del quale le vicende si muovono.

 Pasolini” (Consolo, 2001b). Lo stesso concetto è ribadito qualche anno dopo in un’altra intervista: “in generale mi sono sempre mosso nel solco gaddiano (solco tracciato per primo, nella letteratura italiana moderna, da Verga)” (Ciccarelli, 2006:96). Si veda anche il commento di Ferroni: “Il suo espressionismo tutto siciliano parte da Verga, dal serrato confronto con lo scrittore verista con il parlato e con la tradizione letteraria, e giunge come a rendere più densa e aggrovigliata la miscela verghiana” (Adamo, 2007:7). Infine, si legga anche il capitolo “Verghiana” in Di qua dal faro.

I tempi dell’apocalisse consoliana: moto e impetramento

Il senso della fine del mondo, cioè la caduta o perdita di questo mondo possibile, si manifesta nel romanzo attraverso due movimenti tra loro opposti che si estremizzano senza armonia: da una parte un moto vano e dall’altra una stasi pietrificata. De Martino individua in questi due poli due segni uguali e contrari della fine del mondo: 

Il mondo che diventa “immobile”, il divenire che perde la sua “fluidità”, la vita che si devalorizza costituiscono un momento vissuto dell’ethos del trascendimento che muta di segno: l’altro momento è l’universo in tensione, la onniallusività dei vari ambiti in cerca di semanticità, la forza che travaglia questi ambiti e li sospinge ad andare oltre i loro limiti in modo irrelato, e che li fa partecipare caoticamente a tutto il reale e a tutto il possibile, senza sosta e senza offrire mai un appiglio operativo efficace. La polarità di immobilità e tensione, di rigidezza e forza onniallusiva, di crollo degli appigli operativi e di irrelata scarica psicomotoria, porta il segno dell’alterità radicale e dell’essere-agito-da, cioè il segno dell’alienazione nel senso patologico del termine: in tutti i vissuti cui dà luogo, si manifesta infatti il diventar altro proprio di ciò che sta alla radice dell’io e del mondo, l’annientarsi dell’energia valorizzante delle presenza, il non poter emergere come presenza al mondo e l’esperire la catastrofica demondanizzazione del mondo, il suo “finire”. (De Martino, 2002:631)

Tutti i personaggi di Nottetempo sono tesi ora verso un polo ora verso l’altro, manifestando e vivendo in maniera diversa il disagio della catastrofe imminente. Il movimento cui si abbandonano alcuni personaggi, tra cui in primo luogo il satanista inglese – e che a livello sociale richiama anche l’imperativo all’azione degli squadristi fascisti – diventa un’agitarsi vano e inconcludente, un muoversi legato al caos e irrelato al mondo degli oggetti, dunque privo di significato e incapace di crearne. Questo agitarsi vano è anche un modo per nascondere e non dover fermarsi a fissare il dolore che permea l’esistenza umana; infatti, fissare questo dolore può portare alla pietrificazione, alla stasi completa, se non si riesce ad elaborare tale sofferenza in maniera produttiva. Osservare questa profonda realtà in un momento in cui l’individuo o la società nella sua interezza non riescono a creare valore e significato per tale sofferenza può essere tanto rischioso quanto guardare negli occhi la Gorgone: è un atto che conduce alla pietrificazione, la stasi, che racchiude in sé tutto ciò che è mancante di movimento, ma anche assenza di parola, impossibilità del dire, del rappresentare e del comunicare. A questa condizione dell’esistenza umana corrisponde in Consolo quella narrativa, sospesa tra il rischio di dire troppo dicendo nulla – il vuoto della retorica6 – e la pagina bianca, il non scrivere e il non dire.  Nei poli dell’apocalisse consoliana possiamo riconoscere una degenerazione dei due impulsi che concorrono a formare la tragedia greca così come è descritta dal filosofo tedesco Friedrich Nietzsche in La nascita della tragedia greca: il dionisiaco e l’apollineo. Il dionisiaco, che dà origine al coro della tragedia, è l’ebbrezza estatica in cui grazie all’annullamento della soggettività l’uomo può entrare in contatto con l’“unità originaria” del tutto e riconciliarsi con la natura; è movimento, danza, musica, scatenamento degli istinti e delle pulsioni vitali. L’apollineo, invece, è contemplazione, sogno, creazione di immagini, rappresentazione; nella tragedia è l’“oggettivazione dello stato dionisiaco” (Nietzsche, 2003:122) del coro, dunque la scena, il dramma. Nell’apollineo si intravede la qualità statica della contemplazione, di immagini nelle quali si riduce l’azione; una staticità che Nietzsche definisce come “silenziosa bonaccia della contemplazione apollinea” (Nietzsche, 2003:103). L’interazione e l’equilibrio tra l’apollineo e il dionisiaco è ciò che dona forma alla tragedia greca; Consolo, tuttavia, vede nella modernità la perdita di questo equilibrio e la perdita della forza creatrice dei due impulsi nietzschiani: il dionisiaco diventa disumanità, movimento falso, scatenamento di istinti bestiali che invece di connettere l’uomo con una supposta unità originaria, lo  
*                                                  

 6  “La rottura del rapporto tra intellettuale e società ha lasciato un vuoto di cui si è impadronita una comunicazione che è sempre impostura; è la voce del più forte, la verità falsata del potere” (Consolo in Papa, 2003:193).

**

disconnette dall’umano, dalla comunità e non lo lega né alla dimensione del divino, né alla dimensione di una realtà o verità profonda; e l’apollineo è pura stasi, è l’essere intrappolati nella contemplazione di immagini di dolore. Questi due impulsi generano in Consolo un presente caratterizzato da una tragedia degenerata, priva di catarsi, priva di conclusione; egli stesso lo spiega a commento della propria opera: “l’anghelos, il narratore, non appare più sulla scena poiché ormai la cavea è vuota, deserta. Sulla scena è rimasto solo il coro, il poeta, che in tono alto, lirico, in una lingua non più comunicabile, commenta e lamenta la tragedia senza soluzione, la colpa, il dolore senza catarsi” (Consolo 1996:258).  In un’opera successiva, L’olivo e l’olivastro (1994), lo scrittore individuerà nella metafora dell’“olivo”, l’albero innestato, l’albero che nasce dalla cultura e dalla civiltà, e dell’“olivastro”, l’albero selvatico, un’altra metafora per esprimere il senso di perdita dell’armonia di due opposti impulsi che, come l’apollineo e il dionisiaco, dovrebbero formare il senso e il valore della civiltà, di un mondo umanamente abitabile: “spuntano da uno stesso tronco questi due simboli del selvatico e del coltivato, del bestiale e dell’umano, spuntano come presagio di una biforcazione di sentiero o di destino, della perdita di sé, dell’annientamento dentro la natura e della salvezza in seno a un consorzio civile, una cultura” (Consolo, 2012a:13-14). Essi “non si combattono: al contrario, si completano. Essi si uniscono in lui [in Ulisse] armoniosamente come il ceppo materno e il ceppo paterno” (Consolo, 1999:25). Ma il dramma della modernità, ciò che porta la civiltà occidentale a vivere la propria apocalisse, è il sopravvento dell’olivastro sull’olivo: “Ecco, nell’odissea moderna è avvenuta la separazione tra il selvatico e il coltivato. L’olivastro ha invaso il campo” (Consolo, 1999:25). Come l’apollineo e il dionisiaco hanno perso la loro forma rendendo la tragedia moderna priva di catarsi, così l’olivo e l’olivastro non coesistono più armonicamente nel tronco della civiltà portando questa verso il suo tramonto.

Primo tempo: il movimento artificioso

In Nottetempo, come già accennato, il polo del movimento è rappresentato in primo luogo dall’inglese satanista e reso con particolare efficacia in un capitolo, La Grande Bestia 666, che reca significativamente in esergo una citazione dall’apocalisse di Giovanni. Aleister Crowley inscena un allucinante e allucinato rito orgiastico che dovrebbe in qualche modo rifarsi all’Arcadia greca, riproporne i miti, riconnettersi con un mondo antico e aureo, ma che nella realtà non è che una degradata imitazione di forme vuote e, soprattutto, una degradata riproduzione di un rito dionisiaco in cui l’ebrezza, la musica, la danza dovrebbero portare alla visione estatica. Il capitolo principia, infatti, con la descrizione di un ballo, che ci immette subito nella sfera del movimento senza arresto, nonché nel regno dionisiaco. È Aleister, immedesimato in una ballerina, a compiere prodezze sostenuto “nella felice trascendenza dai vapori d’oppio, d’etere, di hashish, di cocaina” (85). Il ritmo diventa sempre più incalzante, i lunghi elenchi che riempiono la pagina riproducono il “suono della vibrante cetra, dei cembali tinnanti, dell’acciarino acuto, del timpano profondo” (83) con cui si apre il capitolo; si veda, a titolo di esempio, questa lista di nomi che connotano l’essenza fittizia di Aleister, senza sosta, in un ritmo incalzante che toglie il fiato alla lettura: In lui c’era stato il tebano Ankh-f-n-Khonsu, Ko Hsuan discepolo di Lao-Tze, Alessandro VI Borgia, Cagliostoro, un giovane morto impiccato, il mago nero Heinrich Van Dorn, Padre Ivan il bibliotecario, un ermafrodita deforme, il medium dalle orecchie mozze Edward Kelley, il dottor John Dee, l’evocatore d’Apollonio di Tyana, il gran cabalista Eliphas Levi, in lui, il gentiluomo di Cambridge, Aleister MacGregor, Laird di Boleskine, principe Chioa Khan, conte Vladimir Svareff, Sir Alastor de Kerval, in lui, la Grande Bestia Selvaggia, To Mega Thérion 666, Il Vagabondo della Desolazione, Aleister Crowley (dàttilo e trochèo). (84)

È un elenco dal ritmo vorticoso, che confonde in una sorta di ubriacatura di parole: Consolo rende in tal modo, con un linguaggio che si fa nietzscheanamente metafora del suono7, il senso di un vano agitarsi. Questo moto, sostenuto dall’uso delle droghe, si connota come anormale e nella collezione di identità in cui di volta in volta Aleister Crowley si identifica possiamo vedere un sintomo di schizofrenia e psicopatologia connessa a uno stato epilettico, analizzando il quale De Martino individua il principio del moto distorto come una delle sue caratteristiche: “in tutto sta in primo piano l’elemento del moto: l’alterazione del movimento, la perdita dell’equilibrio, lo scuotimento della sicurezza e della tranquillità nel mondo delle cose, conducono alla conclusione: il mondo crolla, sprofonda” (De Martino 2002:38).  Ma quando Janu, “this sicilian caprone” (80) – il satiro – rifiuta di prendere parte al rito, di consumare l’orgia, e scappa, il movimento vorticoso si arresta; il cielo di carta pirandellianamente si squarcia e la messa in scena rivela il proprio carattere fittizio, scoprendo per un attimo la falsità della vita stessa che il rito attraverso il vortice del ballo cercava di occultare: “Declamò ancora più forte la danzatrice in terra. Restò immobile. Attese. S’era interrotta ogni musica, ogni nota, sospeso ogni sussurro, fiato, il silenzio freddo era calato nella sala” (88). È l’assenza di movimento e di parola a rivelare la realtà, a svelarla: 

Sentì ch’era sopraggiunto quel momento, quell’attimo tremendo in cui cadeva dal mondo ogni velario, illusione, inganno, si frantumava ogni finzione, fantasia, s’inceneriva ogni estro, entusiasmo, desiderio, la realtà si rivelava nuda, in tutta l’insopportabile evidenza, cava si faceva la testa, arido il cuore. […] Guardava il mondo in quello stato, si guardava intorno, e ogni cosa gli appariva squallida, perduta. (89)

 7  Il linguaggio, secondo il filosofo tedesco, nasce da un impulso nervoso che si trasferisce in immagine e poi in suono. Il linguaggio della poesia del canto popolare è quello che meglio di qualunque altro riesce “nella imitazione della musica” (Nietzsche, 2003:101).

È il momento drammatico della rivelazione. Il rischio è la stasi, ma Aleister la scongiura chiedendo che gli venga data altra droga per ridiscendere nella condizione di trance e ricreare un mondo fittizio. Il capitolo, tuttavia, si chiude bruscamente con un altro svelamento, un altro squarcio che irrompe in questa realtà: l’annuncio che l’infante, il figlio di Aleister, è morto. Segue “tutto un trambusto, un irrompere all’aperto, un correre nella notte” (99), ma ovviamente invano, perché la stasi suprema, la morte, si è già impossessata della piccola Poupée.  Nella scomparsa dell’infante è da leggersi, metaforicamente, la morte di ogni speranza e del futuro. È anche presagio della futura “apocalisse” che si abbatterà un ventennio dopo su tutta l’Europa nella forma della Seconda Guerra Mondiale causata dai fascismi. Aleister, infatti, rappresenta anche l’irrazionalità e la bestialità del fascismo, se è vero che intorno a lui si convogliano personaggi simpatizzanti e legati al fascismo, come il barone Nenè e la sua cricca, e che lo stesso inglese viene nominato come Superuomo, “colui che aveva varcato ogni confine, violato ogni legge, che aveva osato l’inosabile, lui, la Grande Bestia dell’Apocalisse” (90). Ed egli, nel tentativo di ricreare un mondo antico attraverso una messa in scena irrazionale, si fa simulacro del progetto di Mussolini e del Duce stesso, di colui che ha “varcato ogni confine” umano, reale e metaforico. Per Consolo apocalisse è anche questa: l’andar oltre il limite, il troppo, il movimento che travalica il confine, come l’ultimo viaggio dell’Ulisse dantesco oltre le colonne d’Ercole. In molti, infatti, hanno riconosciuto nei personaggi dello scrittore siciliano dei moderni Ulisse condannati a una continua peregrinazione dove non esiste l’Itaca a cui tornare8 – tema d’altronde, quello della perdita di Itaca, comune a molta letteratura moderna italiana, per cui il ritorno è sempre impossibile, a iniziare dal ‘Ntoni verghiano. E proprio i personaggi del romanzo di Aci Trezza sono descritti da Consolo in                                                     

 8  Si veda su tutti l’articolo di Massimo Lollini “La testimonianza di Vincenzo Consolo, moderno Odisseo.” Italica 82.1 (Spring 2005), in cui l’autore analizza le varie figure ulissiache di Consolo, tra cui il personaggio inglese Alastair, il barone Nenè e Petro di Nottetempo. Lollini arriva a far coincidere la figura di Ulisse con quella di Consolo stesso, testimone dello spaesamento e del peregrinamento dell’uomo moderno, descritto “in toni che a tratti si fanno apocalittici” (38), soprattutto quando lo sguardo cade sulle odierne devastazioni che occorrono lungo il Mediterraneo.

L’olivo e l’olivastro come in continua preda di un movimento, una frenesia che ha esplicitamente i caratteri dell’apocalisse: “[il popolo di formiche] visse in quell’apocalisse del movimento rapido, nella vitalità guizzante, nella ferocia del possesso, nel tetro accumulo, nel tumore divorante” (Consolo, 2012a:40). L’Ulisse consoliano è privo di connotazioni romantiche ed eroiche, divenendo anzi spesso simbolo non solo dello spaesamento dell’uomo moderno ma anche della sua folle ricerca di un superamento dell’umano e dei suoi limiti contingenti: “Il soggetto etico di cui i romanzi di Consolo si fanno portavoce […] insiste sull’importanza di una riflessione sui limiti stessi della scrittura, che poi sono i limiti della civiltà, del tentativo di apprezzare e definire i contorni di una cultura della finitudine umana” (Lollini, 2005:34).  Il movimento e il dionisiaco degenerato si connotano, perciò, in termini distruttivi e apocalittici quando significano tentativo di superamento dell’umano, che è anche sempre violenza disumana, bestiale. Il varcare le colonne d’Ercole si pone dunque per Consolo entro una dimensione etica che non riguarda più solamente l’individuo e il suo singolare confronto con la divinità, con l’oltre, ma riguarda l’individuo in quanto parte di una comunità9: questo Ulisse moderno senza possibilità di ritorno non è un eroe solitario in lotta contro forze superiori, ma è uomo le cui scelte e le cui azioni sono e si iscrivono sempre entro una dimensione etica che riguarda tutta la comunità circostante. In questo vediamo delinearsi la responsabilità del satanista inglese Alaister che non può essere circoscritta geograficamente e temporalmente all’interno di ciò che avviene nella villa a Santa Barbara, la villa appartata che egli sceglie come dimora. Alaister diventa emblema e portavoce di un modello di ricerca che sfocia nel disumano e che ha come vittima il più piccolo, nonché futuro, della comunità. La vittima, tuttavia, non è prevista dal rito e perciò non è sacrificale; essa, rimanendo legati al significato etimologico del termine, non entra nel regno del sacro e non si connette con una spiritualità superiore, ma rimane ancorata al senso profano, alla materialità terrena, non assume nessun valore superiore.                                                      

 9  Così, d’altra parte, lo intende anche Dante, collocando Ulisse nell’inferno non già perché ha sfidato gli dei, quanto piuttosto perché si è allontanato dalla comunità degli uomini, trascinando alla rovina anche i suoi compagni.

Diventa una morte disumana, legata al superamento del limite, e non una morte sacra, una morte che può trascendere nel significato.

Secondo tempo: l’incedere umano

È, dunque, attraverso il recupero del senso dell’umano che il movimento può ritrovare il suo giusto ritmo, la sua misura, e non eccedere verso il limite dell’apocalittico, che è superamento dell’umano. Un passo del capitolo successivo a La Grande Bestia 666 collega le tematiche del movimento apocalittico e della stasi con la ricerca di una dimensione umana che possa scongiurare i due estremi. La riflessione avviene in occasione dell’incontro tra Petro e Janu, che per tanti mesi era scomparso e ora appare cambiato:

Pensò Petro a come si può cangiare in poco tempo, al tempo che scorre, precipita e niente lascia uguale. Che solo la disgrazia, la pena grave blocca il movimento, il cuore la memoria, come una bufera immota, un terremoto fermo, una paura assidua che rode, dissecca, spegne volere gioia. E sbianca e invecchia, mentre che dentro la ferita è aperta, ferma a quel momento, nella sfasatura, nella disarmonia mostruosa. Una suprema forza misericordia immensa potrebbe forse sciogliere lo scempio, far procedere il tempo umanamente. (105, corsivo mio)

Petro, dunque, minacciato costantemente come i suoi familiari dal pericolo dell’arresto del tempo, dell’immobilità, scorge dentro sé una via diversa da quella del satanista inglese o del fascismo: movimento sì, movimento che significa vita, ma che “proceda umanamente”. Appare evidente il contrasto con il movimento vorticoso, ossessivo, ritmico e in definitiva artificiale che ha animato il rito delle pagine precedenti. Solo nel tempo umano c’è la possibilità di salvarsi dall’apocalisse. È questo il tempo della memoria, il tempo che può essere articolato dalla coscienza umana, il tempo entro cui può risiedere l’umano. È perciò anche progetto di scavo, archeologia del tempo, del passato da cui recuperare frantumi, frammenti di umanità, come nota Bouchard: “Consolo allows the ruins of the past to haunt the surface of his narratives with the intent of making current the wounds and the lacerations of history. Since these are wounds and lacerations that can no longer be abreacted by a successful work of mourning, they give rise to an interminable writing of melancholy that displaces the ontological certainty of our reality while pointing towards a better future that can only be built out of the memory traces of the past” (Bouchard, 2005:17).

Terzo tempo: “il male di pietra”

Il tempo che scorre umanamente è costantemente minacciato dall’altra possibilità: dall’arresto. È questa la metafora più efficace e pregnante in Consolo, poiché è il rischio che egli stesso in quanto scrittore – e in quanto uomo – corre, è il pericolo che costantemente gravita sulla sua scrittura e che ritorna quasi ossessivamente da una pagina all’altra: è il pericolo che incombe su chi acquista la consapevolezza della realtà, chi sente la sofferenza declinata sia come male di vivere dell’uomo sia nella sua contingenza come male dell’epoca contemporanea. Consolo, rifiutando l’uso di un linguaggio comune troppo abusato e vuoto, cioè la parola che danza ma non dice, cede inevitabilmente il passo alla pietrificazione, alla stasi della parola. Ed è dunque su questo punto che si arrovella, è questo il cruccio della sua scrittura nonché quasi il paradosso dell’urgenza del dire in un mondo dove non è più possibile dire. È questa la degenerazione apollinea di una rappresentazione, qui propriamente intesa come drama, che si pietrifica in un’unica immagine di sofferenza. Ben giustamente Arqués cita Calvino e il suo saggio sulla leggerezza a proposito di Consolo, ma lo fa per stabilire un parallelo tra la narrazione storica dello scrittore siciliano e Perseo, o, meglio, tra la realtà presente e la Gorgone, che non può essere guardata negli occhi, pena la pietrificazione. La metafora, tuttavia, acquista maggior pertinenza se nella figura della Gorgone non proiettiamo semplicemente il presente, ma il dolore, la realtà profonda che soggiace a ogni esistenza, quel male di vivere che non può essere nominato se non con una descrizione e che a seconda di chi parla e del momento può assumere forme diverse, ma che è anche sostrato universale che accomuna l’uomo di tutte le epoche e i luoghi. È quel senso di verità e dolore che, appunto, se viene fissato direttamente, scoperto e guardato nella sua cruda interezza pietrifica, proprio come il mostro mitologico. Calvino userà allora la leggerezza come specchio per guardare quella pesantezza dell’esistere; Consolo, invece, sa che anche il linguaggio è costantemente minacciato dal vano agitarsi di parole e perciò sente di non poter più praticare una lingua troppo tarata da forme vuote; correrà perciò sempre il rischio, come i suoi personaggi, di pietrificarsi fissando la medusa. In Nottetempo il personaggio cui è assegnata la sfida di trovare la giusta misura, il tempo umano, è Petro, che nel nome porta chiaramente il significato di quel cadere nella contemplazione del male d’esistere. Il primo capitolo, nel quale si svolge l’inseguimento notturno di Petro nei confronti del padre affetto dal “male catubbo”, stabilisce il campo semantico entro cui ci dobbiamo confrontare: il licantropismo, fenomeno dell’uomo tramutato in lupo, ci pone nel regno delle metamorfosi. Qui il riferimento classico è ovviamente Ovidio10, di cui la studiosa Galvagno riconosce una caratteristica fondamentale: “La métamorphose ovidienne, soit humaine, animale, végétale, liquide ou minérale (y compris les catastérismes), présuppose comme son moyau le plus intime une pétrification, une immebolité, une fixité de l’être métamorphosé” (Galvagno, 2007:179). Ora tale tratto della pietrificazione dell’essere sarebbe presente, secondo la studiosa, nella scrittura di Consolo – e abbiamo già citato, non casualmente, il mito di Perseo.  Tutto in Nottetempo sembra essere sull’orlo della pietrificazione: personaggi, azioni, eventi, il tempo, la scrittura. Pietrificazione                                                     

 10  Esistono differenti possibilità di interpretazione e stratificazioni di significato nella figura dell’uomo trasformato in lupo, nonché naturalmente differenti storie e tradizioni e appropriazioni di tali tradizioni da parte della letteratura,  ma vale forse qui la pena ricordare il racconto che fa Ovidio di Licàone, trasformato in lupo da Giove perché progettava di uccidere il dio. Giove  racconta: “[…] io con fuoco vendicatore faccio crollare quella casa indegna del suo padrone. Lui fugge, atterrito, e raggiunti i silenzi della campagna si mette a ululare: invano si sforza di emettere parole” (Ovidio, 1994:15). E dopo Giove invocherà l’apocalisse: la distruzione del genere umano, perché indegno, corrotto e criminale. Si legga, per confronto, il passo di Consolo: “Si spalancò la porta d’una casa e un ululare profondo, come di dolore crudo e senza scampo, il dolore del tempo, squarciò il silenzio di tutta la campagna” (6). E subito dopo l’episodio del lupo mannaro, comparirà sulla scena il satanista Aleister. richiama sia la stasi, l’assenza di movimento, di parola, sia il senso del peso, come aveva rilevato Calvino: la pesantezza dell’essere. E infatti chi si pietrifica è chi fissa, immobile, e contempla tale pesantezza, diventando egli stesso o ella stessa di pietra, avvertendo su di sé tutta la pesantezza del male e sprofondando nel silenzio. Il silenzio e l’impossibilità dell’esprimersi si associano all’assenza di movimento, alla pietrificazione, divenendo l’uno spia dell’altro. Fanno da contraltare le urla disumane, suoni che spesso non si articolano in parole intellegibili (come gli ululati del lupo mannaro) e che esprimono al pari del silenzio il dolore umano; molte volte l’urlo e il silenzio si ritrovano insieme come due espressioni dello stesso concetto di sofferenza. Molti sono gli esempi sparsi nel testo che esprimono il senso della stasi e/o del silenzio; si leggano questi: “il confine del dolore fermo, del vuoto immoto” (9), “ma là era silenzio e stasi, era riposo” (9), “Guardava il silenzio sulle case, ad ogni strada, piano, baglio, il silenzio al meriggio” (13), “nella sublime assenza, nella carenza di ragione” (37), “‘Uuuhhh…’ ululò prostrato a terra ‘uuhh… uhm… um… mmm… mmm… mmm…’” (38, e questa volta è Petro che emette suoni incomprensibili), “nell’attasso del cuore, canto del pendolo bloccato” (42), “nella segreta sua torre d’urla, di lamento” (51), “Siamo un ribollìo celato d’emozioni, un rattenuto pianto” (66), “E tu, e noi chi siamo? Figure emergenti, palpiti, graffi indecifrati. Parola, sussurro, accenno, passo nel silenzio” (67), “la pena grave blocca il movimento” (103), “Serafina torbida, di pietra” (106), “la pietra del dolore” (135). Sono tutte espressioni di sofferenza e legate alla consapevolezza della sofferenza, alla sua contemplazione che sottrae l’azione e la parola. Già nel Sorriso dell’ignoto marinaio (1976) era presente l’idea della pietrificazione come espressione del male, essa però era legata a una contingenza – i cavatori di pomice  – che diventava metafora per una sofferenza più generale, quella degli ultimi: “‘Male di pietra’ continuò il marinaio ‘È un cavatore di pomice di Lipari. Ce ne sono a centinaia come lui in quell’isola. Non arrivano neanche ai quarant’anni’” (Consolo, 2010:8). Ma successivamente in L’olivo e l’olivastro la metafora “male di pietra” si approfondisce e diventa l’ossessione costante con cui dire la sofferenza umana. Nelle pagine iniziali ritornano i cavatori come a stabilire quel paragone, fondare quella metafora della pietra che poi diventa il nucleo lessicale fondamentale per esprimere il dolore: “[…] entrò nelle caverne della pomice, parlò con i cavatori silicotici […] Erano secchi e grigi i cavatori, avevano denti corrosi dalla polvere, prendevano anelettici, cardiotonici: cresceva dentro loro poco a poco una corazza di pietra, il cuore s’ingrossava, si smorzava il fiato, si spegneva” (Consolo, 2012a:26-27). E qui in questo testo allora abbondano non tanto – o non solo – espressioni diverse che indicano l’impossibilità del dire e del fare, quanto piuttosto in maniera più specifica lemmi legati alla radice “pietra”: “Che arrestò al suo accadere, pietrificò illusioni, speranze, rese di lava la vita” (34), “un vecchio poeta afasico, irrigidito nel giovanile errore, pietrificato nella follia ribelle” (36), “Una barca di pietra, la pietra in cui si mutò la barca feacica che aveva portato in patria l’eroe punito, l’eroe assolto dopo il lungo racconto–che in pietra si muti la barca, si saldi al fondale prima d’ogni ritorno, poiché nel ritorno, così nel racconto, consiste lo strazio” (39), “si pietrifica per il dolore, perde vigore e ragione” (41), “la Catania pietrosa e inospitale” (52), “la ferma maschera, quasi impietrita del nobile vegliardo” (59), “la loro tragedia s’è svolta in un attimo lasciando impietriti” (125). La pietrificazione è legata all’esperienza personale, alla scrittura, ma anche alla società. In un articolo pubblicato sul Corriere della Sera nel 1977, Paesaggio metafisico di una folla pietrificata, e che O’Connell riconosce come uno degli avantesti di Nottetempo per quell’incipit del tutto simile, Consolo attribuisce alla Sicilia, che sta sempre in rapporto sineddotico con la società, quell’impulso alla pietrificazione come forma generale e risposta alla consapevolezza del male: “c’è una depressione più inclemente e disumana di questa, ed è quella che non arriva all’estremo livello, ma si ferma al di qua, a un passo dall’insopportabilità. È lo stadio che blocca la vita, la congela, la pietrifica” (Consolo 1977:1). E la Sicilia sembra, per lo scrittore, bloccata “in questo limbo, in questa metafisica paralisi”, unica reazione con cui ha controbattuto il movimento artificiale, del quale ne diviene simbolo l’autostrada, “moderno feticcio dell’accelerazione spasmodica”. E pure qui la contrapposizione si ritrova anche sul piano della comunicazione, poiché in questa Sicilia “sequestrata e pietrificata” chi ha cercato “di fare e di dire”, cioè di cambiare la situazione, è stato costretto al silenzio e sulla lunga tradizione letteraria isolana, da Verga a Sciascia, ora domina “la parola vuota, l’inutile incanto, la retorica” (Consolo, 1977:1). In questo precedente di Nottetempo c’è dunque l’esplicitazione di come la metafora dell’impetramento e del movimento, del silenzio e della “vuota parola”, che permea il romanzo sia da leggersi anche sempre come condizione sociale oltreché intellettuale ed esistenziale. Queste considerazioni ci riportano a De Martino e all’associazione tra l’apocalisse psicopatologica e quella culturale. Se gli stati epilettici e la schizofrenia sono caratterizzati da un senso di moto che in ultima analisi veicola il senso della fine del mondo, lo stato catatonico è l’insania che al contrario si lega all’assenza di movimento e diventa negazione del tempo e della storia, cioè ancora del mondo: “Tutte le cose sono diventate immobili, in uno stato senza tempo. Il corpo risponde a questo mondo non muovendosi più: il catatonico sta fermo e dritto come una statua in un museo di curiosità, mentre per noi, non catatonici, il mondo parla così chiaramente di movimento, è così visibilmente in “moto”, che possiamo rispondere al suo appello solo con i movimenti del nostro corpo” (De Martino, 2002:57). Se per il non catatonico il mondo può procedere secondo un tempo che è umano, il catatonico bloccandosi come una statua rifiuta tale tempo e porta il mondo al suo precipitare. In Petro e nella famiglia Marano l’arresto e la catatonia concretizzano la metafora di “folla pietrificata” in una società sull’orlo dell’apocalisse.

La torre dell’urlo e del silenzio

Le sorelle di Petro, come abbiamo già accennato, sono chiuse e sprofondate nell’impetramento dell’anima e del corpo. Serafina, col nome programmatico di chi non appartiene a questo mondo e di chi ha una pace che non è terrestre, è immobile in uno stato quasi catatonico, persa in vagheggiamenti religiosi che non hanno più alcun referente nel contingente: “E Serafina, ch’aveva preso prima il ruolo della madre e poi s’era seduta, fatta muta ogni giorno, immobile, di pietra, dentro nella scranna, il solo movimento delle dita che sgranano il rosario di poste innumerevoli, di meccaniche preghiere senza sosta” (42). Serafina nella storia non c’è, è personaggio serrato in questa impossibilità di essere e di comunicare; è solamente evocata e l’unica volta che compare è un’immagine di chiusa pazzia: “Era prona la sorella, ai piedi del comò acconciato come altare, pieno il marmo di fiori ceri avanti a quadri, immaginette, duplicati nello specchio. Faceva un canto mesto, come un lamento” (158); ma naturalmente le sue parole sono inintelligibili.   L’altra sorella, invece, Lucia, cade in una pazzia che prima ancora di essere assenza e distanza è urlo innaturale, parole sconclusionate11, perse in un passato disordinato e non recuperabile. In Lucia, infatti, si racchiude anche il tema fondamentale del recupero del passato, ma un recupero che fallisce, poiché il disordine dei frammenti rimane un disordine che non è in grado di tracciare nessuna via, per quanto precaria e labile. Il ricordo delle ferite che riemerge in lei è un ricordo che riproduce meccanicamente il trauma ma non lo supera mai; si legga la scena fondamentale dove, dopo l’“oltraggio” subìto dalla famiglia Marano a causa dell’antagonismo fra Petro e Don Nenè, Lucia farnetica pezzi di frasi che riportano alla luce un passato non attinente all’evento appena accaduto e incapaci di produrre conoscenza, comunicazione o presa sulla realtà: “‘Ah, tana di cani corsi, di mastini […]’ riprese a dire la sorella ‘Ah, quanto piangere di madri, d’innocenti […] Attento, Petro, non uscire!’ […] ‘Che fa Janu, non viene? Dobbiamo andare o no alla mandra, a mangiare la ricotta? […] Si fece tardi ormai […] No, no, aiuto! […]’ e indietreggiò, si portò le mani alle orecchie” (158).   Lucia, in un certo senso, è andata oltre il limite umano, ha varcato un confine oltre il quale l’uomo non può accedere rimanendo uomo, tanto che Petro osserva parlando all’amico Janu: “Né io né tu possiamo più raggiungerla” (68). Ella rappresenta attraverso l’urlo e il movimento irragionevole ciò che Serafina rappresenta attraverso la stasi e il silenzio. Lucia, al contrario della sorella, è visibile, agisce, ha una personalità forte e inquieta, va per la campagna con il fratello Petro e l’amico Janu, è promessa sposa; ma il giovane che ha chiesto la sua mano non torna dalla guerra. In quel dolore Lucia si chiude, si    
*                                                

 11  Ancora con De Martino possiamo leggere: “In generale il dominio della follia diventa comprensibile come caduta dell’ethos del trascendimento, della presentificazione valorizzante, e come costruzione di difesa fittizia che accentuano il recedere verso l’incomunicabile, il privato, il senza-valore-intersoggettivo” (De Martino, 2002:85).
**

pietrifica, ma esplode in urlo piuttosto che cadere nel silenzio, esplode in suoni che non possono articolare e razionalizzare quel dolore: “Finché un giorno, un mezzogiorno che Petro tornava dalla scuola, non si mise a urlare disperata dal balcone, a dire che dappertutto, dietro gli ulivi le rocce il muro la torre la sipale, c’erano uomini nascosti che volevano rapirla, farla perdere, rovinare” (46). E poco oltre: “Lanciò improvviso un urlo e scappò via, si mise a correre, correre per il sentiero, come presa da frenesia, da tormenti” (47). È la fuga di Lucia oltre il limite dell’umano, eppure anch’ella è figura statica, immobile, figura che s’impetra nel dolore e lo fissa perdendo la capacità di vedere altro e cioè anche la capacità di creare e vedere altre visioni apollinee: rimane una sola visione senza drama e in essa Lucia si ferma. Così ecco che anche il suo nome acquista pregnanza, nel momento in cui il testo ci ripete insistentemente nello stretto volgere di un paragrafo che Lucia – che vuol dire luce ma che è anche patrona dei non vedenti e degli oculisti – non vede più, è diventata cieca nella fissità: “La portò via da casa […] perché si dissolvesse in lei l’idea fissa. […] Ma era come lei non vedesse […] era come se avesse gli occhi sempre altrove, fissi dentro un pozzo” (47) – dove quel “pozzo” sta per la profondità del dolore. Lucia è anche figura pietrificata in quel suo guardarsi continuamente allo specchio, atto autoriflessivo che non comunica con il mondo esterno ma ricade sulla persona medesima; ella fissa se stessa e la sofferenza che ha guardato con i propri occhi ora riflessi allo specchio. Atto solipsistico e chiuso, come chiusa è lei nella propria camera: “E stava ore e ore chiusa nella stanza, avanti alla toletta a pettinarsi, in incantesimo, il guardo trasognato, perso nel guardo suo di fronte dentro lo specchio” (46).  La sofferenza familiare si racchiude metaforicamente nella concretezza della “torre”, ovviamente fatta in pietra (“la sua voce roca sembrava vorticare per le pietre della torre” 37), che assurge a simbolo di chiusura e solitudine – torre è quel tipo di edificio caratterizzato da una dimensione in altezza nettamente maggiore rispetto alla dimensione della base e che dunque si isola rispetto alle costruzioni circostanti; torre per antonomasia è quella di Babele, dove regna il caos, il disordine e la confusione, principio delle lingue diverse che impedirono all’uomo di comunicare l’uno con l’altro12. Nella torre dove sono chiusi i membri della famiglia Marano la comunicazione non è possibile, le parole non assumono un significato che possa essere compreso dagli altri, decifrato: “‘Pietà, pietà’ implorò in quella solitudine sicura, dentro quel rifugio della torre, quel segreto oratorio d’urla, pianto, sfogo” (38). L’urlo è il simbolo di questo dolore, sfogo inarticolato, contraltare del silenzio: “nella segreta sua torre d’urla” (51), “E nella torre ora, dopo le urla, il pianto”.   L’urlo, come il silenzio, è una comunicazione bloccata. Petro allora si rende conto che è necessario recuperare le parole per uscire dalla torre. È questo un momento fondamentale del testo, che è sia riflessione sulla sofferenza umana sia sulla scrittura cui è affidato il compito di esprimere tale sofferenza. Nottetempo è allora anche e “innanzitutto la storia di una vocazione alla scrittura” (Traina, 2001:92). Il tentativo di uscire dalla torre di pietra e scongiurare l’afasia si pone come uno dei temi centrali del testo. Attraverso questo percorso del protagonista, si assiste anche alla lotta che lo stesso Consolo conduce per non cadere nell’impetramento della scrittura, nell’impossibilità del dire, del parlare, nell’apocalisse della parola.

Afasia

Nottetempo è anche romanzo autobiografico, non tanto perché ci siano elementi biografici dello scrittore che possano essere riconosciuti nella vicenda di Petro, quanto piuttosto perché la storia di Petro, la sua uscita dalla torre, è anche il viaggio intellettuale dello scrittore Consolo. Riconosciuta l’oppressione del silenzio familiare e dell’esilio dalla ragione e dalla parola delle due sorelle, nel protagonista del romanzo nasce il desiderio di uscire dalla torre ricomponendo un linguaggio attraverso cui poter di nuovo comunicare una realtà, riconnettersi con essa:

  *                                                  

 12  “Ma il Signore scese a vedere la città e la torre che gli uomini stavano costruendo. Il Signore disse: ‘Ecco, essi sono un solo popolo e hanno tutti una lingua sola; questo è l’inizio della loro opera e ora quanto avranno in progetto di fare non sarà loro impossibile. Scendiamo dunque e confondiamo la loro lingua, perché non comprendano più l’uno la lingua dell’altro’” (Genesi 11:5-7).

**

Sentì come ogni volta di giungere a un limite, a una soglia estrema. Ove gli era dato ancora d’arrestarsi, ritornare indietro, di tenere vivo nella notte il lume, nella bufera. E s’aggrappò alle parole, ai nomi di cose vere, visibili, concrete. Scandì a voce alta: “Terra. Pietra. Sènia. Casa. Forno. Pane. Ulivo. Carrubo. Sommacco. Capra. Sale. Asino. Rocca. Tempio. Cisterna. Mura. Ficodindia. Pino. Palma. Castello. Cielo. Corvo. Gazza. Colomba. Fringuello. Nuvola. Sole. Arcobaleno […]” scandì come a voler rinominare il mondo, ricreare il mondo. (38-39)

Questo elenco precede quello che poi ritroveremo nelle pagine dedicate al rito satanico di Alaister e si pone su uno stesso piano di complementarietà: come quello nasceva dal movimento artificioso del dionisiaco degenerato, questo nasce dall’impetramento afasico dell’apollineo degenerato. In entrambi la parola è mimesi del gesto: lì c’è la ricreazione del movimento, in cui il segno della virgola dà il senso del ritmo della danza e della musica, qui c’è la riproduzione della stasi, marcata dal punto che segue ogni parola e che indica la pausa, una cesura di tempo e di spazio, la difficoltà dell’esprimere una parola dietro l’altra, l’inarticolazione di un discorso. E se là il vortice delle parole serviva a confondere, ad allontanare dalla realtà, qui c’è l’avvicinamento, o per lo meno il tentativo di avvicinarsi a qualcosa che si è perso da tempo – o mai avuto. È un elenco di parole semplici, in cui tuttavia si può riconoscere una catena logica di riferimenti che dalla terra vanno al cielo, dalla “pietra” al senso di libertà del volo degli uccelli e alla luce del sole. Attraverso questo “rinominare il mondo” Petro cerca di riattivare un legame con la realtà, o, per dirla ancora con Nietzsche, cerca parole che non esprimono altro che “relazioni delle cose con gli uomini” (Nietzsche, 1964:359); cerca dunque di ritrovare questa relazione con le cose.   Nel processo dell’elencare riemerge una realtà frantumata, che si dà appunto solo in frammenti; ed è solo così, in quei frantumi testimoniati dall’accumulo di lemmi che si può cogliere una realtà la cui unità, come il discorso, come il narrare, non può essere  (ri)composta. Anche la scrittura, infatti, si arresta, si blocca sull’orlo dell’impossibilità di esprimere, di connettere parole con realtà; così fallisce il tentativo di Petro: “cercò di scrivere nel suo quaderno – ma intinge la penna nell’inchiostro secco, nel catrame del vetro, nei pori della lava, nei grumi dell’ossidiana, cosparge il foglio di polvere, di cenere, un soffio, e si rivela il nulla, l’assenza di ogni segno, rivela l’impotenza, l’incapacità di dire, di raccontare la vita, il patimento” (53).  Petro è come l’uomo dionisiaco descritto da Nietzsche: simile a lui cerca la salvezza nell’arte, cerca un’“illusione” che lo salvi dallo sguardo che ha gettato sull’orrore delle cose; egli ha la conoscenza del dolore e rischia per via di essa di rimanere pietrificato, di perdere la volontà dell’azione e dire “no” alla vita. “In questo senso” dice Nietzsche “l’uomo dionisiaco è simile ad Amleto: entrambi una volta hanno gettato uno sguardo vero nell’essenza delle cose, hanno conosciuto, e agire li nausea; poiché la loro azione non può cambiare niente nell’essenza eterna delle cose, essi sentono come ridicolo o infame che venga loro chiesto di rimettere in sesto il mondo uscito fuori dai cardini” (113). Consolo, attraverso il personaggio di Petro, ci descrive allora il viaggio verso l’esaltazione dionisiaca, che qui altro non è che volontà e capacità di esserci ancora, di agire in questo mondo – e di scrivere, di dire. Assistiamo così all’uscita metaforica di Petro dalla torre, alla sua presa di coscienza politica (che passa tramite lo sputo al barone, l’amicizia con il Miceli, la partecipazione alle manifestazioni di piazza, l’“oltraggio” subito e infine l’attentato perpetrato) e alla promessa, a fine romanzo, di una nuova scrittura attraverso cui sciogliere il grumo del dolore: “Pensò al suo quaderno. Pensò che ritrovata calma, trovate le parole, il tono, la cadenza, avrebbe racconto, sciolto il grumo dentro. Avrebbe dato ragione, nome a tutto quel dolore” (171).  Questa scrittura, sappiamo, sarà il rifiuto delle parole cerimoniose e della falsa retorica, si distanzierà tanto dal libro dell’anarchico lasciato cadere in mare quanto dalle “parole rare e abbaglianti” di D’annunzio o quelle “roboanti” (112) di Rapisardi. La vicenda di Petro si conclude perciò in quella dei satiri del coro, nel recupero attraverso la scrittura di un dionisiaco non degenerato: Nella coscienza di una verità, ormai contemplata, l’uomo adesso vede dappertutto soltanto l’orrore o l’assurdità dell’essere […]. Qui, in questo supremo pericolo della volontà, si avvicina, come maga che salva e risana, l’arte: soltanto essa può piegare quei pensieri nauseati per l’orrore o l’assurdità dell’esistenza in rappresentazioni con cui si possa vivere. (Nietzsche, 2003:114)  

Questo è anche il percorso intrapreso dal Consolo scrittore, che approda alla tragedia di Catarsi (1989) come simbolo di un modo di scrivere; dice nel saggio Per una metrica della parola: “La tragedia rappresenta l’esito ultimo della mia ideologia letteraria, l’espressione estrema della mia ricerca stilistica. Un esito, come si vede, in forma teatrale e poetica, in cui si ipotizza che la scrittura, la parola, tramite il gesto estremo del personaggio, si ponga al limite dell’intellegibilità, tenda al suono, al silenzio” (Consolo, 2002:250).  Come ultima possibilità in una società dalla lingua corrotta e degradata, dallo sfaldamento della comunicazione, dalla rottura del rapporto tra scrittore e suo pubblico, suo referente in tale società, come ultima risorsa prima di cadere nell’afasia, nel silenzio, c’è il recupero dello spirito dionisiaco (e apollineo) che si esprime più compiutamente nel coro della tragedia, come si verifica nel Prologo a Catarsi:

La tragedia è la meno convenzionale,  la meno compromessa delle arti, la parola poetica e teatrale,  la parola in gloria raddoppiata, la parola scritta e pronunciata. Al di là è la musica. E al di là è il silenzio. Il silenzio tra uno strepito e l’altro del vento, tra un boato e l’altro del vulcano. Al di là è il gesto. O il grigio scoramento,  il crepuscolo, il brivido del freddo, l’ala del pipistrello; è il dolore nero,  senza scampo, l’abisso smisurato; è l’arresto oppositivo, l’impietrimento. (Consolo, 2002:13)

Allora in Nottetempo dobbiamo leggere questo approdo al canto del coro della tragedia, approdo di Petro dietro cui non sarà difficile riconoscere il percorso della scrittura e della poetica di Consolo stesso, teso tra il rifiuto della parola vuota e l’attrazione per quel silenzio che racchiude tutto il dolore.  Petro è dunque il personaggio che incrocia tutti e tre i piani tematici su cui si dispone il romanzo e su cui si dispiega il senso dell’apocalisse: quello esistenziale, quello storico-culturale e quello della scrittura. A livello narrativo egli funziona come elemento unificatore di questi piani e, a livello contenutistico, si configura come chiave per trascendere il pericolo dell’apocalisse nel valore che possa rinnovare i mondi (quello interiore, quello sociale e quello letterario) infondendo loro nuovo significato. Più che romanzo “apocalittico”, dunque, Nottetempo è romanzo del “rischio della fine” e dell’inserimento di tale rischio in un’ottica che ne accenni e ne indichi il superamento e la reintegrazione.

Bibliografia

Adamo, G. 2007 La parola scritta e pronunciata. Nuovi saggi sulla narrativa di Vincenzo Consolo. Lecce: Manni. Arqués 2005 Teriomorfismo e malinconia. Una storia notturna della Sicilia: Nottetempo, casa per casa di Consolo. Quaderns D’Italià 10:7994. Calvino, I. 2000 Lezioni americane. Milano: Mondadori. Bouchard, N. 2005 Vincenzo Consolo and the Postmodern Writing of Melancholy. Italica 82.1:5-23. Spring. Ciccarelli, A. 2005 Intervista a Vincenzo Consolo. Italica 82.1: 92-97. Spring. Consolo, V. 1977 Paesaggio metafisico di una folla pietrificata. Corriere della sera: 1. 19 Ottobre.  1993 Fuga dall’Etna. La Sicilia e Milano, la memoria e la storia. Roma: Donzelli.  1996 Per una metrica della memoria. Cuadernos de Filología Italiana 3 (1996):249-259.  2001a Di qua dal faro. Milano: Mondadori.  2001b Le interviste di Italialibri: Vincenzo Consolo. Italialibri. Web.  2002 Catarsi. In Oratorio. Lecce: Manni.  2010 Il sorriso dell’ignoto marinaio. Milano: Mondadori.  2012a L’olivo e l’olivastro. Milano: Mondadori.  2012b Nottetempo, casa per casa. Milano: Mondadori. Consolo, V. e    Nicolao, M. 1999 Il viaggio di Odisseo. Milano: Bompiani. De Martino, E. 1964 Apocalissi culturali e apocalissi psicopatologiche. Nuovi argomenti 69-71:105-141.  2002 La fine del mondo. Contributo all’analisi delle apocalissi culturali. Torino:  Einaudi. Galvagno, R. 2007 “Male Catubbo”. Les avatars d’une métamorphose dans le roman Nottetempo, casa per casa. In Vincenzo Consolo, éthique et écriture. Ed. Dominique Budor. Paris: Presses de la Sorbonne Nouvelle: 177-91. Lollini, M. 2005 La testimonianza di Vincenzo Consolo, moderno Odisseo.  Italica  82.1:24-43. Spring. Nietzsche, F. 1964 Su verità e menzogna in senso extramorale. Opere Di Friedrich Nietzsche. Vol. III. Milano: Adelphi.  2003 La nascita della tragedia. Milano: Mondadori. O’Connell, D. 2008 Consolo narratore e scrittore palincestuoso. Quaderns D’Italià 13:161-84. Ovidio, P. 1994 Metamorfosi. Torino: Einaudi.

Papa, E. 2003 Vincenzo Consolo. Belfagor 58.2:179-98. Pirandello, L. 1990 Novelle per un anno. Milano: Mondadori. Traina, G. 2001 Vincenzo Consolo. Fiesole (FI): Cadmo.



Abstract This essay aims to analyse the novel, Nottetempo, casa per casa (1992), by Vincenzo Consolo, considering the motif of the end of the world as a central and unifying element of the different levels on which the narrative unfolds. While The Birth of Tragedy by Friedrich Nietzsche is the intellectual reference for the novel, the considerations by the anthropologist Ernesto De Martino on the apocalypse allows us to interpret Nottetempo as a response to the psychological, cultural and literary risk of the “end” experienced in these three different areas.

Italian Studies in Southern Africa/Studi d’Italianistica nell’Africa Australe Vol 27 No 2 (2014)

L’olivo e l’olivastro di Vincenzo Consolo tra finzioni e funzioni della letteraturatura

In L’Italianistica oggi: ricerca e didattica, Atti del XIX Congressodell’ADI – Associazione degli Italianisti (Roma, 9-12 settembre 2015), a cura di B. Alfonzetti, T. Cancro, V. Di Iasio, E. Pietrobon, Roma, Adi editore, 2017

CINZIA GALLO

L’olivo e l’olivastro di Vincenzo Consolo tra finzioni e funzioni della letteratura

L’olivo e l’olivastro (1994) costituisce una tappa importante nella ricerca espressiva di Consolo, che asserendo, in apertura, «Ora non può narrare», pone subito in evidenza la distinzione fra scrivere e narrare e il tema dell’«afasia». Come dichiara, infatti, un’ intervista, «Ci sono momenti in cui la disperazione è tale che non trovi più interlocutori […]. Ci sono due tipi di afasia: quella del potere, che per definizione non vuole comunicare, e quella dell’artista che si oppone a questo potere». In primo piano è, perciò, la funzione civile dello scrittore che, però, mette in pericolo «il corpo letterario del racconto». Da qui il carattere ibrido del nostro testo: i diciassette capitoli si snodano, quasi indipendenti l’uno dall’altro, in una sorta di collage, fra narrazione, diario di viaggio, poesia, saggio, digressioni, descrizioni. Analogamente, il gioco citazionistico – con ricorso, anche, alla memoria interna (l’allusione a Lunaria, ed altri testi consoliani)-, la tecnica dell’accumulo, la finzione letteraria – con le varie voci narranti -, rappresentano un’ulteriore riflessione sull’ autoreferenzialità della letteratura. L’olivo e l’olivastro fornisce, dunque, un chiaro esempio di metaletteratura.

L’olivo e l’olivastro (1994) rappresenta una tappa importante nella ricerca ideologica edespressiva di Vincenzo Consolo. Già il titolo mostra l’intreccio di finzioni e funzioni su cui si basa. Ne Lo spazio in letteratura, del 1999, Consolo spiega, difatti:

Anche chi qui scrive, nella sua vicenda letteraria, […] è risalito, soprattutto nei due ultimi libri, L’olivo e l’olivastro e Lo Spasimo di Palermo, all’archetipo omerico, a quell’Odissea da cui siamo partiti. Lo spazio, in questi due romanzi, si dispiega fra due poli, Milano e la Sicilia. Ma l’Odissea , sappiamo, è una metafora della vita, del viaggio della vita. Casualmente nasciamo in un’Itaca dove tramiamo i nostri affetti, dove piantiamo i nostri olivi, dove attorno all’olivo costruiamo il nostro talamo nuziale, dove generiamo i nostri figli. Ecco, noi oggi, esuli, erranti, non aneliamo che a ritornare a Itaca, a ritrovare l’olivo. Lo scacco consiste nel fatto che sull’olivo ha prevalso l’olivastro, l’olivo selvatico. 1

Il testo omerico, dunque, costituisce, secondo la terminologia genettiana, un vero e proprio ‘ipotesto’ per Consolo, che organizza, attraverso delle particolari finzione narrative, la funzione ideologico-civile a cui ha sempre mirato, come precisa in Memorie:

La prosa dunque della narrazione nasce per me da un contesto storico e allo stesso contesto si rivolge. Si rivolge con quella parte logica, di comunicazione che sempre ha in sé il racconto. Che è, per questa sua origine per questo suo destino, un genere letterario “sociale”. Sociale voglio dire soprattutto perché, in opposizione tematica e linguistica al potere, responsabile del malessere sociale […] il narratore vuole rimediare almeno l’infelicità contingente. 2

Il secondo capitolo de L’olivo e l’olivastro presenta perciò Ulisse che, dopo essere approdato, «Spossato, lacero, […] in preda a smarrimento, panico […]», nella terra dei Feaci, «trova riparo in una tana» posta «tra un olivo e un olivastro»3 (O, 17). Il carattere simbolico di queste piante

  • subito chiarito da Consolo:
  • spuntano da uno stesso tronco questi due simboli del selvatico e del coltivato, del bestiale e dell’umano, spuntano come presagio d’una biforcazione di sentiero o di destino, della perdita di sé, dell’annientamento dentro la natura e della salvezza in seno a un consorzio civile, una cultura (O, 17-18).

In realtà, tutta la vicenda di Ulisse è ripercorsa in senso simbolico: non solo «diventa metafora che consente a Consolo di ritrovare nel mito e nella letteratura un senso drammatico e

  1. V.CONSOLO, Lo spazio in letteratura, in Di qua dal faro, Milano, Mondadori, 1999, 270.
  • CONSOLO, Memorie, in La mia isola è Las Vegas, Milano, Mondadori, 2012, 136.
  • Tutte le citazioni dal nostro testo, indicato con la lettera O, sono tratte da: V. CONSOLO, L’olivo e l’olivastro, Milano, Mondadori, 1994.

complesso dell’esistenza personale e collettiva»,4 ma costituisce un’esortazione, per tutti gli uomini, alla lucidità, alla ragione, a non cadere in errori generati da vicende esterne o interiori. Mentre, difatti, la terra dei Feaci, con «il rigoglioso giardino, la […] fastosa reggia, la saggia […] regina, […] l’accogliente corte, il popolo amico; e l’esercizio in loro della ragione, l’amore per il canto, la poesia», rappresenta «una città ideale, un regno d’armonia» (O, 18), il viaggio di Ulisse in seguito alla disfatta di Troia è «il luogo dove il reale, il concreto, si sfalda, vanifica, e insorge l’irreale, s’installa il sogno, l’allucinazione: il genitore dei mostri, immagini delle nostre paure, dei nostri rimorsi» (O, 19). Ulisse si è reso colpevole, difatti, di aver costruito il cavallo con cui Troia è stata distrutta, perciò «il racconto del viaggio di ritorno fatto da Odisseo è quello della colpa e espiazione, della catarsi soggettiva».5 La vicenda di Odisseo, dunque, è «Metafora di quel che riserva la vita a chi è nato per caso nell’isola dai tre angoli: epifania crudele, periglioso sbandare nella procella del mare, nell’infernale natura; salvezza possibile dopo tanto travaglio, approdo a un’amara saggezza, a una disillusa intelligenza» (O, 22). Consolo esprime allora il disorientamento del siciliano, simbolo di tutti gli uomini, attraverso varie figure retoriche (enumerazioni, antitesi, anafore, chiasmi), ponendo termini aulici accanto ad altri più comuni, mettendo in evidenza la sua propensione verso quella forma espressiva che egli stesso definisce «poema narrativo» (O, 48).

Il nostro testo, difatti, esprime all’inizio («Ora non può narrare» [O, 9]) l’impossibilità di narrare, cioè di portare avanti, di condurre una «scrittura creativa».6 Appunto per questo non c’è, ne L’olivo, «una chiara diegesi, né all’interno dei singoli capitoli, né che li colleghi fra di loro: invece, la narrazione procede seguendo una serie di immagini ‘poetiche’, largamente connesse, del passato».7 Fra queste, solo il meccanico terremotato racconta la propria storia in prima persona, come accadrà alla fine del quattordicesimo capitolo, quando il viaggiatore esprimerà il proprio disorientamento; le altre figure, chiaramente autobiografiche, di emigranti, parlano in terza persona, in quanto, «nella modernità le colpe non sono più soggettive, sono oggettive, sono della storia»: di conseguenza «l’introspezione non è necessaria».8 Consolo, allora, da una parte arricchisce i suoi exempla con citazioni autoriali (Dante, Pisacane, Ungaretti, per esempio), dall’altra dà nuovo significato all’ antitesi classica fra città e campagna. A Messina, Roma, Milano, tutte rappresentate negativamente, si contrappone la «Bellissima Toscana contadina», simbolo dei valori «del lavoro, della fatica umana» e perciò «civilissima» (O, 13). L’esplosione della raffineria di Milazzo, ricordata nel terzo capitolo, è l’esempio, invece, di come l’intervento dell’uomo, sull’ambiente, non sia stato sempre positivo. La raffineria è infatti in contrasto con «il castello, le mura saracene, sveve e aragonesi, i torrioni […] la grotta di Polifemo, […] il porto, il Borgo, le chiese, i conventi. […] la vasta piana […] ricca di agrumi, ulivi, viti, orti. Ricca di gelsomini» (O, 24) fra cui si aggirava il ragazzo, recatosi a visitare i parenti nelle Eolie (altra proiezione autobiografica, in quanto Consolo ha realmente una sorella sposata con un notaio di Lipari, come appare nel quarto capitolo), aspettando il treno che l’avrebbe riportato a casa. Narrare allora, con chiara allusione a Il Narratore di Benjamin, «significa socializzare esperienze ricordate. La narrazione […] “attinge sempre alla memoria” e la memoria […] è “madre della poesia”, che […] è […] l’espressione di verità condivisibili riguardo la nostra umana condizione».9 In altre parole, il «narratore benjaminiano […] impartisce conoscenza e cerca

  • M. LOLLINI, Intrecci mediterranei. La testimonianza di Vincenzo Consolo, moderno Odisseo, in «Italica», 82, 1 (Spring 2005), 24-43: 25.
  • V. CONSOLO – M. NICOLAO, Il viaggio di Odisseo, Milano, Bompiani, 1999, 21.
  • J. FRANCESE, Vincenzo Consolo, Firenze, Firenze University Press, 2015, 4.
  • Ivi, 27.
  • CONSOLO – NICOLAO, Il viaggio…, 22.
  • FRANCESE, Vincenzo Consolo, 86. Lo stesso Consolo spiega il termine «narrazione» richiamandosi a Benjamin: «Dico narrazione nel senso in cui l’ha definita Walter Benjamin in Angelus Novus. Dice in sintesi, il critico, che la narrazione è antecedente al romanzo, che essa è affidata più all’oralità che alla scrittura, che è il resoconto di un’esperienza, la relazione di un viaggio. “Chi viaggia, ha molto da raccontare” dice. “E il narratore è sempre colui che viene da lontano. C’è sempre dunque, nella narrazione, una

attivamente di trasformare il presente raccontando un passato personale eppur condivisibile, passato che, per analogia, può guidare il suo pubblico verso il futuro».10 L’obiettivo è raggiunto attraverso quella che Consolo definisce «narrazione poematica», che comporta da una parte «la frantumazione del flusso diegetico attraverso l’inserzione di incisi, […] immagini», dall’altra l’uso di «exempla, eventi elevati a metafora».11 Ecco, allora, che Consolo, rifacendosi a quella che Genette chiama funzione di attestazione, menziona alcuni passi dell’ Enciclopedia Italiana Treccani, della Enciclopedia sistematica del regno vegetale, del testo Flora sicula. Dizionario trilingue illustrato, per mettere in rilievo le origini arabe del gelsomino, simbolo, così, del sincretismo culturale della Sicilia ma anche della bellezza incontaminata della pianura di Milazzo. Quella che lo storico Giuseppe Piaggia, infatti, ritiene «uno de’ più incantevoli teatri dell’intera Sicilia», in cui cresceva il gelsomino, «pascolavano gli armenti del Sole», ricordati nell’Odissea, è diventata «una vasta e fitta città di silos, di tralicci, di ciminiere che perennemente vomitano fiamme e fumo, una metallica, infernale città di Dite che tutto ha sconvolto e avvelenato: terra, cielo, mare, menti, cultura» (O, 28). Affiora così in primo piano la funzione ideologica: come i compagni di Ulisse sono puniti per aver ucciso le vacche del Sole, così i superstiti dell’esplosione della raffineria di Milazzo si augurano che «le neri pelli dei compagni striscino, svolazzino nelle notti di rimorsi e sudori dei petrolieri, urlino le membra di dolore e furore nei sogni dei ministri» (O, 28). Sotto questo segno si conclude, anche, il quarto capitolo («Altre tempeste, altre eruzioni, piogge di ceneri e scorrere di lave, altre incursioni di corsari investirono e distrussero le sue Eolie, le Planctai, le isole lievi e trasparenti, sospese in cielo, ferme nel ricordo» [O, 32]), grazie all’anafora, ai parallelismi, all’antitesi («sospese» – «ferme»). «lievi, […] sospese in cielo» (O, 29) sono apparse le isole anche all’inizio del capitolo, a suggerire la struttura circolare, propria di Consolo, su cui è costruito L’olivo e l’olivastro: alla fine, difatti, rivedremo il meccanico di Gibellina che ripeterà: «Sono nato a Gibellina, di anni ventitrè» (O, 9, 147). Le assonanze («lievi» – «trasparenti»; «sospese» – «ferme»), d’altra parte, sottolineano l’importanza degli aggettivi, uniti in quelle enumerazioni che formano la «ritrazione musicale» caratteristica del poema narrativo («un ibrido, un incontro di logico e di magico, di razionale-comunicativo e di lirico -poetico»12). Grazie all’ enumerazione, poi, il ricordo personale si fonde con la memoria di una civiltà, attraverso la finzione del resoconto di un viaggio, in perfetta consonanza con il narratore descritto da Benjamin («il narratore è pre-borghese, è colui che riferisce un’esperienza che ha vissuto, è soprattutto quello che viene da lontano, che ha compiuto un viaggio»13). Gli esempi sono innumerevoli, in questo senso. Osserviamo quanto accade ad Augusta:

Il vento di Borea, sceso dalle anguste gole del Peloro, lo sospinse alla costa dei coloni venuti da Micene, Megara Nisea, Calcide, Corinto, tra Megara Hyblea e Thapsos, lo portò nel golfetto più in là di punta Izzo, nel témenos di smarrimento e allucinazione, d’incanto e rapimento

, dove, nella luce aurorale d’un agosto, al giovane studioso di dialetti ionici, apparve, emergendo dal mare, la creatura sublime e brutale, adolescente e millenaria, innocente e sapiente, la sirena silente [omoteleuto] che invade e possiede, trascina nelle immote dimore [assonanza], negli abissi senza tempo, senza suono (O, 33).

In altri casi le immagini del mito, inserite in metafore, combinate con altre figure retoriche (anafore, enumerazioni), servono a rafforzare la degenerazione del presente:

Corre sulla strada per Siracusa, lungo la costa bianca e porosa di calcare, ai piedi del tavolato degli Iblei, va oltre Tauro, Brùcoli, Villasmundo, va dentro l’immenso inferno di ferro e fiamme, vapori e fumi, dentro fabbriche di cementi e concimi, acidi e diossine, centrali termoelettriche e raffinerie, dentro Melilli e Priolo di cilindri e piramidi, serbatoi di

lontananza di spazio e di tempo”. E c’è, nella narrazione, un’idea pratica di giustezza e di giustizia, un’esigenza di moralità» (I ritorni, in Di qua dal faro, 144).

  1. Ivi, 64.
  2. Ivi, 71.
  3. CONSOLO, L’invenzione della lingua, in «MicroMega», 5 (1996), 115

nafte, oli, benzine, dentro il regno sinistro di Lestrigoni potenti, di feroci giganti che calpestano uomini, leggi, morale, corrompono e ricattano, devìa per Agosta, l’Austa sul chersoneso fra due porti, Xifonio e Megarese, nell’isola congiunta alla terra da due ponti. La città dei due Augusti, il romano e lo svevo, chiusa nel superbo castello, nei baluardi, nelle mura, circondata da scogli con forti dai nomi sonanti, Ávalos, García, Vittoria, crollati per terremoti e guerre e sempre ricostruiti, varcata la Porta Spagnola, gli appare nella luce cinerea, nella tristezza di un’Ilio espugnata e distrutta, nella consunzione dell’abbandono, nell’avvelenamento di cielo, mare, suolo (O, 34).

Attraverso un inciso («Come sempre le guerre»), poi, il narratore dà valore generale alla singola esperienza, che pone sullo stesso piano lo scempio causato dagli uomini e quello determinato dalle calamità naturali:

Contro lo sfondo di caserme mimetiche e hangar vuoti e forati da raffiche e schegge, contro lo scenario fermo di un’ultima guerra di follia e massacro, come sempre le guerre, erano le nuove macerie del terremoto d’una notte di dicembre che aveva aperto tetti, mura di case, chiese, inclinato colonne, paraste, mutilato statue, distrutte e rese fantasma le case della Borgata (O, 34).

Sono allora le città del passato, come asserito anche in Retablo, a rappresentare gli aspetti positivi, i valori smarriti al presente, con palese richiamo all’ «inversione storica»14 di Bachtin. Lo sottolineano le anafore, le enumerazioni, il poliptoto, le metafore:

Ama quella sua città, non vede quelle mura dirute, quelle chiese puntellate da travi, quelle case deserte, quel porto, quel mare oleoso invaso da petroliere, quella campagna intorno di ulivi e mandorli neri, quelle spiagge caliginose e affollate di bagnanti, quell’orizzonte, quello sky-line di tralicci, di tubi, di silos. Amano [poliptoto], lui e lo zio professore, pensionato della scuola, la città del passato, antecedente a quella dei Romani, a quella che il gran Federico munì di castello e privilegi, la remota città che conoscono in ogni pietra, in ogni vicenda, su cui insieme scrivono una notizia, una guida: amano un sogno, un mondo lontano, lontano [anadiplosi] dall’orrore presente (O, 35).

Rappresentano dunque, questi moduli espressivi, l’unica possibilità in un periodo di crisi. I rapporti «tra parola e realtà nella società contemporanea»15 sono del resto discussi nel sesto capitolo, di chiaro orientamento metaletterario, che ripropone, in apertura, la situazione già presentata in Catarsi. Anche qui, infatti, Pausania dichiara di essere «il messaggero, l’ ánghelos», a cui «è affidato il dovere del racconto: conosco i nessi, la sintassi, le ambiguità, le malizie della prosa, del linguaggio..» (O, 39). Ma Empedocle, analogamente che in Catarsi, definisce «ogni parola […] misera convenzione» (O, 41), per cui pronuncia «parole d’una lingua morta, / di corpo incenerito, privo delle scorie / putride dello scambio, dell’utile / come la lingua alta, irraggiungibile, / come la lingua altra, oscura, / della Pizia o la Sibilla / che dall’antro libera al vento mugghii, foglie…» (O, 44). Queste posizioni, d’altra parte, porteranno Consolo a dichiarare, in I ritorni:

Ma oggi, in questa nostra civiltà di massa, in questo mondo mediatico, esiste ancora la possibilità di scrivere il romanzo? Crediamo che oggi, per la caduta di relazione tra la scrittura letteraria e la situazione sociale, non si possano che adottare, per esorcizzare il silenzio, i moduli stilistici della poesia; ridurre, per rimanere nello spazio letterario, lo spazio comunicativo, logico e dialogico proprio del romanzo. 16

  1. M.BACHTIN, Estetica e romanzo, Einaudi, Torino 1979, 294.
  1. M.ATTANASIO, Struttura-azione di poesia e narratività nella scrittura di Vincenzo Consolo, in «Quaderns d’Italià», 10, 2005, 26.
  1. CONSOLO, I ritorni, 145.

E ne Lo Spasimo di Palermo:

Abborriva il romanzo, questo genere scaduto, corrotto, impraticabile. Se mai ne aveva scritti, erano i suoi in una diversa lingua, dissonante, in una furia verbale ch’era finita in urlo, s’era dissolta nel silenzio. Si doleva di non avere il dono della poesia, la sua libertà, la sua purezza, la sua distanza dall’implacabile logica del mondo. 17

Consolo concludeva, in tal modo, un discorso iniziato precedentemente, in Fuga dall’Etna e in

Nottetempo, casa per casa. Nel primo, aveva asserito:

Il romanzo […] sta degenerando […] Si stampano tanti romanzi oggi, e più se ne stampano più il romanzo si allontana dalla letteratura. Un modo per riportarlo dentro il campo letterario penso sia quello di verticalizzarlo, caricarlo di segni, spostarlo verso la zona della poesia, a costo di farlo frequentare da ‘felici pochi’. 18

  • in Nottetempo, casa per casa:
  • è possibile ancora la scansione, l’ordine, il racconto? E’ possibile dire dei segni, dei colori, dei bui e dei lucori, de grumi e degli strati, delle apparenze deboli, delle forme che oscillano all’ellisse, si stagliano a distanza, palpitano, svaniscono? E tuttavia per frasi monche, parole difettive, per accenni, allusioni, per sfasature e afonie tentiamo di riferire di questo sogno, di questa emozione. 19

Modello, allora, della nuova forma narrativa sono I Malavoglia, privi di «intreccio […] di romanzesco» (O, 48). I suoi moduli espressivi corrispondono a un dolore assoluto:

Un poema narrativo, un’epica popolana, un’odissea chiusa, circolare, che dà il senso, nelle formule lessicali, nelle forme sintattiche, nel timbro monocorde, nel tono salmodiante, nei proverbi gravi e immutabili come sentenze giuridiche o versetti di sacre scritture, Bibbia, Talmud o Corano, dà il senso della mancanza di movimento, dell’assenza di sviluppo, suggerisce l’immagine della fissità: della predestinazione, della condanna, della pena senza rimedio (O, 48).

Ma, secondo Consolo, al presente la situazione è degenerata: la speculazione edilizia ha fatto sparire «le casipole, le barche, i fariglioni. […] gli scogli, la rupe del castello di Aci, il Capo Mulini, l’intero orizzonte» (O, 49), in contrapposizione a Vizzini, luogo carico di memorie verghiane. Si verifica, di conseguenza, la «fine del poema», con un «turbinìo di parole, suoni privi di senso, di memoria» (O, 49). Un esempio è l’accumulo di termini che descrivono il procedere del viaggiatore lungo la costa catanese:

Va dentro il frastuono, la ressa, l’anidride, il piombo, lo stridore, le trombe, gli insulti, la teppaglia che caracolla, s’accosta, frantuma il vetro, preme alla tempia la canna agghiacciante, scippa, strappa anelli collane bracciali, scappa ridendo nella faccia di ceffo fanciullo, scavalca, s’impenna, zigzaga fra spazi invisibili, vola rombando, dispare. Va lungo la nera scogliera, il cobalto del mare, la palma che s’alza dai muri, la buganvillea, l’agave che sboccia tra i massi, va sopra l’asfalto in cui sfociano tutti gli asfalti che ripidi scendono dalle falde in cemento del monte, da Cibali Barriera Canalicchio Novalucello, oltrepassa Ognina, la chiesa, il porto d’Ulisse, coperti da cavalcavie rondò svincoli raccordi motel palazzi – urlano ai margini venditori di pesci, di molluschi di nafta -, oltrepassa la rupe e il castello di lava a picco sul mare, giunge al luogo dello stupro, dell’oltraggio (O, 46-47).

  1. V. CONSOLO, Lo Spasimo di Palermo, Milano, Mondadori, 1998, 105.
  1. V. CONSOLO, Fuga dall’Etna. La Sicilia e Milano, la memoria e la storia, Roma, Donzelli, 1993, 60-61.
  1. V. CONSOLO, Nottetempo, casa per casa, Milano, Mondadori, 1992, 68-69.

Che Catania sia «pietrosa e inospitale, emblema d’ogni luogo fermo o imbarbarito» (O, 58),

  • dimostrato dalla scarsa attenzione riservata, già dai suoi stessi contemporanei, a Verga, che viene così a rappresentare l’intellettuale esule nella sua stessa città, un «inferno [….] che sempre e in continuo fu coperta dalle lave, squassata e rovinata dai tremuoti» (O, 57). Da qui la «sfida spavalda e irridente» (O, 57) degli abitanti, che rivolgono, invece, la loro attenzione a Rapisardi, «il versificatore vuoto e roboante» (O, 58). Quando, perciò, Catania organizza una cerimonia per festeggiare gli ottant’anni di Verga, costui vede ben chiare «le due facce […] di quella odiosamata sua città, di quel paese: la maschera ottusa, buffona e ruffiana della farsa e quella furba e falsa della retorica, dell’eroismo teatrale e decadente» (O, 62). E non è certamente un caso che sia Pirandello a rendersi conto dell’estraneità di Verga, che un sapiente uso dell’aggettivazione, delle figure retoriche (anafore, metafore, enumerazioni) sottolineano, costituendo un ulteriore esempio di scrittura poematica:

Pirandello lo osservò ancora e gli sembrò lontano, irraggiungibile, chiuso in un’epoca remota, irrimediabilmente tramontata. Temette che né il suo, né il saggio di Croce, né il vasto studio del giovane Russo avrebbero mai potuto cancellare l’offesa dell’insulsa critica, del mondo stupido e perduto, a quello scrittore grande, a quell’Eschilo e Leopardi della tragedia antica, del dolore, della condanna umana. Pensò che, al di là dell’esterna ricorrenza, delle formali onoranze, in quel tempo di lacerazioni, di violenza, di menzogna, in quel tramonto, in quella notte della pietà e dell’intelligenza, il paese, il mondo, avrebbe ancora e più ignorato, offeso la verità, la poesia dello scrittore. Pensò che quel presente burrascoso e incerto, sordo alla ritrazione, alla castità della parola, ebbro d’eloquio osceno, poteva essere rappresentato solo col sorriso desolato, con l’umorismo straziante, con la parola che incalza e che tortura, la rottura delle forme, delle strutture, la frantumazione delle coscienze, con l’angoscioso smarrimento, il naufragio, la perdita dell’io. Pensò che la Demente, la sua Antonietta, la suor Agata della Capinera, la povera madre, il fratello suicida di San Secondo, ogni pura fragile creatura che s’allontana, che sparisce, non è che un barlume persistente, segno di un’estrema sanità nella malattia generale, nella follia del presente (O, 67).

.

Difatti, se, come è noto, Consolo individua una differenza fra la cultura della parte orientale dell’isola, in cui collochiamo Verga, interessata ai temi dell’esistenza, della natura, e quella della parte occidentale, di cui è rappresentante Pirandello, orientata ai problemi della storia, sono questi, adesso, ad essere considerati più urgenti. Nel decimo capitolo, perciò, il viaggiatore, giunto a Caltagirone, incontra la sua amica Maria Attanasio, un vero e proprio modello di intellettuale e scrittrice. Vive in disparte «dal mondo», in quanto, consapevole degli aspetti negativi della sua terra, «come tutti i poeti ama un altro mondo, un altro paese» (O, 71). Analogamente alla protagonista del suo romanzo Correva l’anno 1698 e in città avvenne il fatto memoriabile, Maria, allora, «s’era mascherata da uomo, da poliziotto, per combattere l‘incuria, ildisordine amministrativo, il sopruso mafioso» (O, 75), che si riflettono nella conformazione della città, in linea con la grande importanza che Consolo attribuisce, sempre, alla geografia, agli spazi. «Al di qua del paese saraceno, giudeo, genovese e spagnolo, […] è sulla piana un altro paese speculare di cemento: quartieri e quartieri uniformi di case nuove e vuote, deserte. […] mostruosità nate dalla cultura di massa, […]» (O, 70). La condanna di questa, che ha provocato la perdita della memoria, della storia, testimoniate dalle ceramiche delle facciate di edifici pubblici e privati – a rivelare il carattere visivo-figurativo20 della scrittura consoliana, è senz’appello, grazie, sempre, alle figure retoriche utilizzate:

  • Infatti, «[…] la historia de la escritura de Vincenzo Consolo puede reconstruire idealmente a partir de una percepción cromática desarrollada en una página inédita, […] El narrador incipiente […] estaría ofreciendo ya una de las claves de construcción – y de lectura – de su obra futura: “Pensate a un quadro”» (M.Á. CUEVAS, Ut Pictura: El imaginario iconográfico en la obra de Vincenzo Consolo, in «Quaderns d’Italià», 10 (2005), 63-77: 64). Lo stesso Consolo, del resto, dichiara in un’intervista: «Sempre ho avvertito l’esigenza di equilibrare la seduzione […] della parola con la visualità, con la visione di una concretezza visiva» (D. O’CONNELL, Il dovere del racconto: Interview with Vincenzo Consolo, in «The Italianist», 24: II, 2004, 251)-

Sembra così, questo piccolo paese nel cuore della Sicilia, il plastico, l’emblema del più grande paese, della vecchia Italia che ha generato dopo i disastri del fascismo, nei cinqant’anni di potere, il regime democristiano, la trista, alienata, feroce nuova Italia del massacro della memoria, dell’identità, della decenza e della civiltà, l‘Italia corrotta, imbarbarita, del saccheggio, delle speculazioni, della mafia, delle stragi, della droga, delle macchine, del calcio, della televisione e delle lotterie, del chiasso e dei veleni. Il plastico dell’Italia che creerà altri orrori, altre mostruosità, altre ciclopiche demenze (O, 71).

I danni della cultura di massa, verso cui Consolo è sempre molto critico,21 sono chiari a Gela, dove un ragazzo, «nutrito» di una «demente cultura», di «libri di vuote chiacchiere», «della furbastra e volgare letteratura sulla degradazione e la marginalità sociale», come appare nei «serials televisivi, […] Piovra 1, Piovra 2, Piovra 3…», dimenticando «ogni cognizione del giusto e dell’ingiusto, della pietà e della ferocia, ogni fraterno affetto» (O, 80-81), ha ucciso il fratello per futili motivi. Il verbo ‘nutrire’, ripetuto in anafora, è ovviamente usato in funzione antifrastica, in quanto è evidente che la cultura ha perso ogni aspetto formativo e solo la scrittura poematica può alludere a tale degenerazione («Dire di Gela nel modo più vero e forte, dire di questo estremo disumano, quest’olivastro, questo frutto amaro, questo feto osceno del potere e del progresso, dire del suo male infinite volte detto, dirlo fuor di racconto, di metafora, è impresa ardua o vana» [O, 77]). Riprendendo infatti quanto asserito in Memorie («in questo ibrido letterario che è il racconto», la «parte logica [ …] può invadere per altissima febbre civile tutta la colonnina, […] con […] rischi mortali per il corpo letterario del racconto»,22 Consolo adesso dichiara: «Ma oltre Gela o Milazzo, Augusta o Catania, è in questo tempo per chi scrive un mortale rischio tradire il campo, uscire dal racconto, negare la finzione e il miele letterario, riferire d’una realtà vera, d’un ritorno amaro, d’un viaggio nel disastro [O, 77]). L’intellettuale, difatti, al presente non è ascoltato. Consolo, di conseguenza, svela le cause del malessere di Gela attraverso una prosa che adotta, ancora una volta, l’andamento ritmico della poesia (grazie all’anafora, all’enumerazione, alla metafora, all’allitterazione) e in cui convivono termini aulici («obliato»), anche di memoria montaliana («cocci», «muraglia»), con altri più comuni:

Da quei pozzi, da quelle ciminiere sopra templi e necropoli, da quei sottosuoli d’ammassi di madrepore e di ossa, di tufi scanalati, cocci dipinti, dall’acropoli sul colle difesa da muraglie, dalla spiaggia aperta a ogni sbarco, dal secco paese povero e obliato partì il terremoto, lo sconvolgimento, partì l’inferno d’oggi. Nacque la Gela repentina e nuova della separazione tra i tecnici, i geologi e i contabili giunti da Metanopoli, chiusi nei lindi recinti coloniali, palme pitosfori e buganvillee dietro le reti, guardie armate ai cancelli, e gli indigeni dell’edilizia selvaggia e abusiva, delle case di mattoni e tondini lebbrosi in mezzo al fango e all’immondizia di quartieri incatastati, di strade innominate, la Gela dal mare grasso d’oli, dai frangiflutti di cemento, dal porto di navi incagliate nei fondali, inclinate sopra un fianco, isole di ruggini, di plastiche e di ratti; nacque la Gela della perdita d’ogni memoria e senso, del gelo della mente e dell’afasìa, del linguaggio turpe della siringa e del coltello, della marmitta fragorosa e del tritolo (O, 78-79).

  • In un’intervista del 2007, Consolo osserva che con la mutazione antropologica «teorizzata da Pasolini. Il nostro Paese si modernizzava velocemente, subendo però i modelli importati dall’esterno. Da qui un asservimento culturale, linguistico negli usi, nei costumi e nei consumi. […] Da qui la perdita di ogni forza espressiva e di ogni verità storica» («Consolo ‘Le ombre della nostra cultura’». Intervista. laRepubblica.it,
  • novembre 2007, 1). Tre anni prima, del resto, ha ricordato con piacere come «il poeta ed etnologo Antonino Uccello, […] nel momento della grande mutazione antropologica, vale a dire della fine della civiltà contadina», sia riuscito a raccogliere «antichi canti popolari» (Consolo, Pino Veneziano e la canzone popolare, Milano 19 luglio 2004, pinoveneziano.altervista.org/consolo_e_fo.html). Critiche alla televisione sono anche contenute in La pallottola in testa (La mia isola è Las Vegas, 157-162).
  • CONSOLO, Memorie…, 136.


Ed è proprio l’importanza attribuita alla storia e alla memoria a tenere lontano Consolo dal postmodernismo, come ha puntualizzato Norma Bouchard.23 Consolo immagina allora che dalle rovine del tempio di Atena, che quindi si pongono come depositarie e custodi di autentici valori, si elevino alcuni versi dell’Agamennone di Eschilo («Quale erba cresciuta / nel veleno, quale acqua

  • sgorgata dal fondo del mare / hai ingoiato...» [O, 81]). Analogamente, le citazioni che,nell’undicesimo capitolo, descrivono Siracusa24 non possono essere ricondotte al gioco citazionistico del postmodernismo, ma mettono in evidenza come questa città, «d’antica gloria», rappresenti «la storia dell’umana civiltà e del suo tramonto» (O, 84). Siracusa, descritta con la consueta tecnica dell’accumulo («Molteplice città, di cinque nomi, d’antico fasto, di potenza, d’ineguagliabile bellezza, di re sapienti e di tiranni ciechi, di lunghe paci e rovinose guerre [chiasmo], di barbarici assalti e di saccheggi» [O, 83]), oppone, alla decadenza del presente, i valori della storia e della poesia, in quanto costituisce la «patria d’ognuno […] che conserva cognizione dell’umano, della civiltà più vera, della cultura» (O, 84). Appunto per questo Consolo ricorda il soggiorno a Siracusa di importanti personaggi (Maupassant, Von Platen), i quali, spinti «a viaggiare per quel Sud mediterraneo che, nell’abbaglio, nella mitologia poetica, aveva ereditato dalla Grecia la Bellezza», vi trovano una città «dell’infinito tramonto e dell’abbandono» (O, 102). È proprio il verbo ‘trovare’, ripetuto in anafora, ad attestare lo scarto tra le aspettative di Von Platen, che cerca «come consolazione al suo male, rimedio al suo scontento, solo bellezza ed armonia greca» (O, 103), e la realtà:

Trova vento e tempesta quell’inizio d’inverno a Siracusa, la tramontana che sferza il mare del porto Grande, piega i ficus della passeggiata Adorno, i papiri del Ciane, illividisce la facciata barocca del Duomo d’Atena e di Santa Lucia, le colonne dei templi, le pareti delle latomie. Trova solitudine e disperazione, consunto dalla febbre, dal vomito, dalla dissenteria, trova la morte nella povera locanda Aretusa di via Amalfitania (O, 103).

Due secoli prima, del resto, pure Caravaggio ha giudicato Siracusa un «ammasso di macerie», un «fosso di miseria e d’abbandono» (O, 90). La pochezza intellettuale della città è dimostrata dal discorso del vescovo di fronte al quadro di Santa Lucia commissionato a Caravaggio, discorso perfettamente in linea con l’idea consoliana del racconto come genere «ibrido»,25 in cui le enumerazioni si combinano con le anafore («non possiamo», «nostro-nostra»), con l’anadiplosi («perdoni, perdoni»):

  • La Santa nostra Lucia ci perdoni, perdoni la nostra stoltezza e il nostro inganno. Noi non possiamo ora celebrare, avanti a questo scempio, a quei brutali ignudi incombenti sull’altare, al cadavere reale della donna, a una santa priva di nimbo, a quello squarcio sanguinoso sul suo collo, ai fedeli impiccioliti, al vescovo nascosto…, non possiamo celebrare il santo sacrificio della Messa, non possiamo benedire questo quadro. L’artista capisca e si studi d’aggiustare… (O, 94-95).

La reazione di Caravaggio, che sembra ricordare Fabrizio Clerici di Retablo per il suo legame con il paggio Martino e per aver visto una «turba d’infelici, accattoni e infermi»26 (O, 91) nelle strade della città, è di uscire «nella piazza vasta, nella luce del mattino» (O, 95): vastità di spazi e

  • «It is important to point out that even though Consolo’s novels exhibit many of the rhetorical devices that we have come to associate with postmodern writing practices, they also remain fundamentally distinct from dominant, majoritarian forms of postmodernism» (N. BOUCHARD, Consolo and the Postmodern Writing of Melancholy, «Italica», 82, 1 [Spring 2005, 5-23: 10-11]).
  • «’I’ son Lucia; / lasciatemi pigliar costui che dorme; / sì l’agevolerò per la sua via’» (Purgatorio, XI, 55-57), (O,

83); «Calava a Siracusa senza luna / La notte e l’acqua plumbea / E ferma nel suo fosso riappariva, / Soli andavamo dentro la rovina, / Un cordaro si mosse dal remoto (G. UNGARETTI, Ultimi cori per la terra promessa, in Vita d’un uomo. Tutte le poesie, a cura di L. PICCIONI, Milano, Mondadori, 1982, 281), (O, 84).

  • CONSOLO, Memorie…, 136.
  • Clerici incontra, per le strade di Palermo, «una folla d’accattoni, finti storpi o affetti da morbi repugnanti» (CONSOLO, Retablo, Milano, Mondadori, 2000, 11).

luce, in sostanza, in contrapposizione alle tenebre dell’ignoranza.27 Ma, al presente, la degenerazione è tale che gli spazi, i luoghi non riescono più ad influire sul modo di pensare. Se, perciò, ad Avola, «La vasta piazza quadrata, il centro del quadrato inscritto nell’esagono, lo spazio in cui sfociano le strade del mare, dei monti, di Siracusa, di Pachino, fu sempre il teatro d’ogni incontro, convegno, assemblea, dibattito civile, la scena dove si proclamò il progetto, si liberò il lamento, l’invettiva» (O, 110), adesso essa è «vuota, deserta, sfollata come per epidemia o guerra» (O, 112). Responsabile è l’omologazione, l’avvento della cultura di massa: tanti giovani, «con l’orecchino al lobo, i lunghi capelli legati sulla nuca, che fumano, muti e vacui fissano la vacuità della piazza come in attesa di qualcuno, di qualcosa che li scuota, che li salvi. O li uccida» (O, 112). Tutte le costruzioni umane, dunque, anche quelle che insistono nello spazio, testimoniano la crisi: il viaggiatore che giunge a Siracusa, di conseguenza, ritiene giusto che le lacrime della Vergine, «nel presente oscuro e allarmante, si siano unite, solidificate nel cemento di una immensa lacrima» [il santuario della Medonna delle Lacrime] (O, 100). L’impressione negativa causata dal degrado, dall’incuria in cui versano gli edifici di Noto è rafforzata, ancora una volta, dalle enumerazioni, dall’accurata scelta di aggettivi, sostantivi, verbi:

Il suo tufo dorato si è corroso, sfaldato, le sue architetture di stupore si sono incrinate, i fregi son crollati per vecchiezza, inquinamento, incuria, per le infinite, ricorrenti scosse del suolo. […] chiese e palazzi e conventi pericolanti, imbracati, puntellati da fitti tubi di ferro, da tavole e travi, invasi nelle fenditure, nelle crepe, nei làstrici, nelle logge evacuate, da cespugli di rovi, da edere, fichi selvatici. […] un liceo, un vasto edificio sulla via principale puntellato da travi. Dentro era tutto disfatto, corroso, divorato dal cancro, invaso dalle erbe, sepolto dalla polvere del tufo (O, 116-117).

I luoghi, però, mettendo in modo il meccanismo della memoria, consentono di tramandare dei principi che dovrebbero far riflettere. Il viaggiatore, infatti, ricordando, davanti al mare, un viaggio compiuto in Africa, fino ad Utica, dove il ricordo dei versi di Dante fa sentire ancora vivo l’esempio di Catone, come altri «luoghi antichi e obliati, bagnati da quel Mediterraneo, […] Tindari, Solunto, Camarina, Eraclea, Mozia, Nora, e Argo, Thuburbo Majus, Cirene, Leptis Magna, Tipaza… […] Algeri, dove don Miguel scriveva l’ottava […] per il poeta Antonio Veneziano», sente di odiare «la sua isola terribile, barbarica, la sua terra di massacro, d’assassinio, odia il suo paese piombato nella notte, l’Europa deserta di ragione» (O, 105). Quest’immagine è amplificata dapprima attraverso l’anafora, l’enumerazione, il richiamo al sacrificio di Ifigenia, poi con la citazione di un passo del Lamento della città caduta di Ducas, presente pure, come epigrafe,28 in Retablo. Questo esempio di memoria interna, insieme ai riferimenti a Lunaria,29 a Lo Spasimo di Palermo, a Il sorriso dell’ignoto marinaio, a Le pietre di Pantalica attesta i profondi legami esistenti fra le varie opere di Consolo, la loro sostanziale unitarietà oltre che una riflessione sull’ autoreferenzialità della letteratura. A questa, in sostanza, spetta mantenere in vita un patrimonio di idee destinato, altrimenti, a tramontare. Il viaggiatore nota, difatti, non solo che la vecchia madre ha dimenticato tutto il «carico di pene, di ricordi» (O,

  1. della sua esistenza, ma pure che la casa dove era cresciuto con la sua famiglia è stata abbattuta per far posto a un nuovo quartiere. Nato in un paese «ai piedi dei Nèbrodi» (O, 122), egli, dietro cui è ormai facile scorgere lo stesso Consolo, decide di viaggiare, di andare «verso occidente, verso i luoghi della storia» (O, 123), che attestano il sincretismo culturale sempre
  • Cfr., sul motivo della luce nei testi di Consolo, P. CAPPONI, Della luce e della visibilità. Considerazioni in margine all’opera di Vincenzo Consolo, in «Quaderns d’Italià», 10, 2005, 49-61.
  • L’importanza, la funzione delle epigrafi sono chiarite da Consolo in Le epigrafi, (Di qua dal faro,198-202).
  • A Noto, il viaggiatore ricorda di avere assistito, «anni prima alla rappresentazione di un’operetta barocca, una favola in cui si narrava d’un viceré malinconico e d’una luna che si sfalda e che cade. / Ma la Luna, la Luna la Luna / la maculata Luna è dissonanza, / è creatura atonica, scorata, / caduta dalla traccia del suo cerchio, / vagante negli spazi desolanti» (O, 117). Questi versi sono, appunto, in Lunaria (Torino, Einaudi, 1985,52).

molto caro al nostro autore. Egli si innamora, infatti, di Cefalù, in cui le radici arabe e normanne sono perfettamente fuse, «siccome accanto e in armonia stavano il gran Duomo o fortezza o castello di Ruggiero e le casipole con archi, altane e finestrelle del porto saraceno, del Vascio o la Giudecca»30 (O, 124). A Cefalù trova il ritratto dell’Ignoto, «che un barone, un erudito, amante d’arte, aveva trovato nelle Eolie e insieme poi ad una sua raccolta aveva lasciato in dono al suo paese» (O, 124). Il percorso compiuto dal quadro, «dal mare verso la terra», descritto in apertura de Il sorriso dell’Ignoto marinaio, sembra perciò coincidere con quello del viaggiatore, cioè «dall’esistenza alla storia, dalla natura alla cultura» (O, 124), alla grande storia di Palermo. Ma la crisi, il decadimento è tale che il quadro di Antonello non può più costituire un punto di riferimento: esso è diventato, semmai, “Le pitture nere” di Goya. Arrivato a Palermo, allora, il viaggiatore decide di non fermarsi. Se, al solito, le enumerazioni marcano questa raffigurazione negativa, riprendendo quanto affermato ne Le pietre di Pantalica31 («Non volle fermarsi in quel luogo dell’agguato, del crepitio dei kalashnikov e del fragore del tritolo, delle membra proiettate contro alberi e facciate, delle strade di crateri e di sangue, dell’intrigo e del ricatto, delle massonerie e delle cosche, in quel luogo dell’Opus Dei, degli eterni Gesuiti del potere e dei politici di retorica e spettacolo, della plebe più cieca e feroce, della borghesia più avida e ipocrita, della nobiltà più decaduta e dissennnata»), un’interrogativa rileva come, ormai, il disfacimento sia generale («Ma è Palermo o è Milano, Bologna, Brescia, Roma, Napoli, Firenze?» [O, 125]). Nemmeno i luoghi delle antiche civiltà, allora, possono dirsi custodi di antichi, autentici valori: Segesta è «dissacrata» dagli incendi dolosi, dalle «comitive chiassose» (O, 126), così come lo è il teatro greco di Siracusa, ne Le pietre di Pantalica. Analogamente, Trapani, «città d’un tempo degli scambi, del porto affollato di velieri, della rotta per Tunisi e Algeri, della civiltà dei commerci, di banchi, di mercati, di ràbati e giudecche, di botteghe», è adesso «caduta nel dominio delle logge, delle cosche mafiose più segrete e più feroci» (O, 129). Dimostra questi concetti, sottolineati da assonanze (banchi-mercati- ràbati; giudecche -botteghe) ed allitterazioni, l’omicidio del giudice Ciaccio Montalto, tanto più grave in quanto il giudice «crea una verità, quella giuridica, definitiva e incontrovertibile, di fronte alla quale la verità storica non ha più valore» (O, 132). E a testimoniare lo stravolgimento di valori e principi, il viaggiatore vede, in una stanza del museo, di un luogo, cioè, che di per sé custodisce le memorie del passato, una ghigliottina, rimasta in funzione fino agli anni successivi all’unificazione italiana. Gli appare quale «rappresentazione della giustizia assurta a crudele astrazione, a geometrica follia, a demente iterazione rituale, a terrifica recitazione» (O, 130): ciò significa attribuire una motivazione storica alla contemporanea degenerazione della Sicilia. Consolo, del resto, si mostra attento ai fatti di Bronte,32 alle rivolte di Cefalù, di Alcàra Li Fusi. Solo dalla letteratura, dunque, potrebbe giungere una salvezza, come sarà evidenziato ne Lo Spasimo di Palermo. Perciò, se scrittori come Hugo, Camus guardano con «raccapriccio» (O, 130) allaghigliottina, Consolo immagina che, ad Erice, mentre gli scienziati «Parlano e parlano, enunciano teorie, scoperte, espongono programmi, [… ] contrastano come gli antichi cerusici al capezzale del malato» (O, 134), il suo amico Nino De Vita scriva «poemi in vernacolo alto, in una pura, classica lingua simile all’arabo, al greco, all’ebraico» (O, 135), poemi, quindi, che scavano in verticale nella storia della Sicilia, «barbarica» (O, 141) al presente. Infatti, mentre Michele Amari ricorda che l’arrivo degli Arabi «diede risveglio, ricchezza, cultura, fantasia» (O,

  1. alla Sicilia, Mazara, in seguito agli aiuti economici ricevuti dal Governo negli anni Sessanta del Novecento, ha fatto registrare tantissimi casi di razzismo contro Arabi e Neri. I fatti di cronaca si mescolano così alle memorie del passato, personali e collettive, dando vita ad un
  • Il particolare significato che Consolo attribuisce a Cefalù è spiegato ne La corona e le armi (La mia isola è Las Vegas, 98-102).
  • Qui Consolo ha scritto: «Questa città è un macello, le strade sono carnezzerie con pozzanghere, rivoli di sangue coperti da giornali e lenzuola. I morti ammazzati, legati mani e piedi come capretti, strozzati, decapitati, evirati, chiusi dentro neri sacchi di plastica, dentro i bagagliai delle auto, dall’inizio di quest’anno, sono più di settanta» (Le pietre di Pantalica, Milano, Mondadori, 1995, 132).
  • Cfr. E poi arrivò Bixio, l’angelo della morte, in La mia isola è Las Vegas, 103-110.

testo che si pone «fuori da ogni vincolo di genere letterario».33 Alla letteratura, però, continua a guardare Consolo. Sono infatti «i racconti scritti di Tomasi di Lampedusa e quelli orali di Lucio Piccolo di Calanovella» a guidare il viaggiatore nell’ultima tappa del suo viaggio, un vero e proprio «itinerario di conoscenza e amore, lungo sentieri di storia» (O, 143). Ancora, tra le macerie di Gibellina, vede Carlo Levi, sente «le sue parole di speranza rivolte ai contadini intorno» (O, 144), vede Ignazio Buttitta, Leonardo Sciascia, tutti scrittori che concepiscono la loro attività in funzione civile. 34 Non sempre, però, i nuovi tempi lo consentono. Già Consolo si

  • chiesto: «Cos’è successo a colui che qui scrive, complice a sua volta o inconsapevole assassino? Cos’è successo a te che stai leggendo?» (O, 81). Sotto il segno di una finzione, che è mezzo per affermare la funzione civile della letteratura, si conclude, allora, il nostro testo. Consolo immagina che, «sopra il colle che fu di Gibellina» (O, 148), si rappresenti la tragedia di Masada nell’interpretazione di Giuseppe Flavio, a suggellare la volontà di difendere i valori autentici del consorzio civile dall’attacco omologante della società di massa, del degrado portato avanti da un falso sviluppo tecnologico, incarnato dai romani «con tute di pelle, […] caschi, […] motociclette» (O, 149):
  • Da gran tempo avevamo deciso, o miei valorosi, di non riconoscere come nostri padroni né i romani né alcun altro all’infuori del dio… In tale momento badiamo a non coprirci di vergogna… Siamo stati i primi a ribellarci a loro e gli ultimi a deporre le armi. Credo sia una grazia concessa dal dio questa di poter morire con onore e in libertà… Muoiano le nostre mogli senza conoscere il disonore e i nostri figli senza provare la schiavitù… (O, 148).

«Narra una voce» (O, 148): solo così, cioè, salvaguardando la propria humanitas, gli uomini possono creare letteratura, la cui funzione propria è ‘politica’. Consolo lo dichiara esplicitamente:

Ma: cos’è la letteratura, la narrativa soprattutto, con la sua scrittura in prosa più o meno di comunicazione, immediatamente o mediatamente, se non politica? Politica nel senso che nasce, essa letteratura, da un contesto storico e sociale e ad esso si rivolge? E si rivolge, naturalmente, con linguaggio suo proprio, col linguaggio letterario (leggeremmo, se no, trattati di storia, perorazioni politiche, relazioni giornalistiche …). Linguaggio che fa sì che il fatto narrato sia quello storico, sia quello politico, ma insieme sia altro oltre la significazione storica; altro nel senso della generale ed eterna condizione umana. Linguaggio che muovendo dalla comunicazione verso l’espressione attinge quindi alla poesia. 35

  • G. FERRONI, Il calore della protesta, in «Nuove Effemeridi», VIII, 29 (1995/I), 174.
  • Si evince dalle pagine che Consolo dedica a questi scrittori negli articoli riuniti in Di qua dal faro e ne Le pietre di Pantalica.
  • CONSOLO, Uomini sotto il sole, in Di qua dal faro, 229.

Ports as locus of the Mediterranean imaginary Jean-Claude Izzo and Vincenzo Consolo

by
Maria Roberta Vella
In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements of the Degree of
Master of Arts in Literary Tradition and Popular Culture
August 2014
Faculty of Arts
University of Malta

I dedicate this thesis to you, dear father. You showed me with your constant love, that whatever I do with persistence and commitment will open the doors to my destiny. The long nights I spent awake, reading and researching reminded me of the long nights you spent awake working, pennitting me to study and build my future. Your sacrifices are always accompanied by a constant smile that continuously gives me courage in difficult moments.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
The number of people to whom I owe my accomplishments is far too long to fit on this page, as many have inspired me and given me their constant support which has helped me realize that knowledge could open doors I did not even know existed. Nevertheless, there are a number of people who I would like to mention as they have been there for me during tough times and have given me the support I needed. I would like to thank my family without whom I would not have been able to further my studies, my boyfriend Terry, who has always believed in me and has always been there to support me with his constant love, and my uncle Carlo, who from an early age fed me with books and literature that fostered my love of knowledge and the curiosity to find my inner self. I would also like to thank my dearest colleague Ray Cassar, who always helped me grow both academically and as a person, as well as my tutor and mentor Adrian Grima, who directed me, allowing me to ground and express my ideas better whilst always respecting and valuing my opinions.
II
Table of Contents
1 Introduction …………………………………………………………………………………………. 2
1.1 The Harbour as Threshold ………………………………………………………………. 7
1.2 The Port as a Cultural Lighthouse ………………………………………………….. 10
1.3 The Mediterranean Imaginary of Izzo and Consolo Inspired by the Port12
1.4 Conclusion ………………………………………………………………………………….. 16
2 The Harbour as Threshold …………………………………………………………………… 1 7
2.1 Natural Landscape and the Development of Literature …………………….. 20
2.2 Instability vs. Stability in the Mediterranean Harbour ………………………. 23
2.3 The Prototypical Sailor …………………………………………………………………. 27
2.4 The Harbour as a Metaphorical Door ……………………………………………… 34
3 The Port as a Cultural Lighthouse ………………………………………………………… 38
3.1 Religious Cultural Mobility ………………………………………………………….. 43
3.2 The Lingua Franca Mediterranea as a Mode of Communication ………. 49
4 The Mediterranean Imaginary of Jean-Claude Izzo and Vincenzo Consolo
Inspired by the Port ………………………………………………………………………………….. 58
4.1 The Mediterranean Imaginary in Izzo and Consolo ………………………….. 60
4.2 The Mediterranean Imaginary in Popular Culture ……………………………. 69
4.3 Conclusion ………………………………………………………………………………….. 76
5 Conclusion ………………………………………………………………………………………… 78
5.1 The ‘Imaginary’ of the Mediterranean ……………………………………………. 80
5.2 The Mediterranean ‘Imaginary’ Beyond the Harbour ……………………….. 84
6 BIBLIOGRAPHY……………………………………………………………….. .. 9?.
III
Abstract

The Mediterranean harbour is a place of meeting, of encounters between
civilizations, of clashes, wars, destructions, peace; a place where culture comes to live, where art is expressed in various ways and where authors and thinkers have found inspiration in every comer. The harbour imposes a number of thresholds to the person approaching it. This threshold could have different fonns which could be emotional, geographical, spiritual or cultural. Authors such as Jean-Claude Izzo and Vincenzo Consolo lived and experienced the Mediterranean harbour in all its aspects and expressions; their powerful experience resulted in the formation of important images referred to as ‘imaginary’. The Mediterranean imaginary is the vision of various authors who have been able to translate facts and create figures and images that represent a collective, but at the same time singular imagination. The harbour is an important part of the Mediterranean geographical structure and thus it has been the main point of study for many examining the region. Factors such as language have transformed and suited the needs of the harbour, being a cultural melting pot.
1 Introduction
The Mediterranean is represented by chaos, especially in the harbour cities that are witness to the myriad of cultures which meet each and every day to discuss and interact in the harbour. It is imperative to state that chaos, as the very basis of a Mediterranean discourse has been fed through the different voices fonned in the region. These same voices, images and interpretations have found a suitable home in the Mediterranean harbours, places where literature and culture managed to flourish and where the so-called ‘margins’, both geographical and social, found centrality. The harbour has acquired significance in the discourse on the Mediterranean and thus on how literature and cultural expedients and the vaiious authors and artists recall the harbour as an anchorage point for their deep thoughts about the region. 1
Nowadays, the unification of the Mediterranean seems a ‘utopia’, since the Mediterranean is politically perceived as a region full of borders and security plans. One may easily mention the various strategic moves put forward by the European Union to safeguard the northern Mediterranean countries from migration from North African shores. By applying and reinforcing these security plans, the Mediterranean has become ever increasingly a region of borders. It is also important not to idealize the Mediterranean past as a unified past, because the 1 Georges Duby Gli ideali def Mediterraneo, storia, jilosojia e letteratura nella cultura europea
(Mesogea, 2000) pp.80-104
2
region was always characterized by conflict and chaos. Despite the chaos that was always part of the Mediterranean, being a region of clashing civilizations, it managed to produce a mosaic of various cultures that is visible to the eye of the philosopher or the artist. The artist and the philosopher manage to project their thoughts and ambitions for the region; therefore they are able to see hannony in a region that seems so incoherent. The aim of my thesis is to understand why the harbour is crucial in the construction of the Mediterranean imaginary. Both open space and border, the port, as in the case of Alexandria or Istanbul, has for a long time been a center for trade, commerce and interaction. Therefore, it is imperative to focus on the study of the harbour and harbour cities to be able to give substance to a study about the Mediterranean as a complex of imaginaries. The boundaries in the study about the Mediterranean have a special place; in fact a boundary that may be either geographical or political has the ability to project and create very courageous individuals that manage to transgress and go over their limits when facing the ‘other’. In the Mediterranean we perceive that the actual reason for transgressing and overcoming a limit is the need of confonning or confronting the ‘other’, sometimes a powerful ‘other’ able to change and shift ideas, able to transpose or impose cultural traits. Yet, the Mediterranean in its multicultural environment has been able to maintain certain traits that have shaped what it is today. Through movement of people in the region, the Mediterranean has been able to produce a number of great innovations, such as the movement of the Dorians who moved from the south all along the 3 Greek peninsula, and also the ‘sea people’ that came from Asia and, being hungry and thirsty, destroyed whatever they found. The same destruction and movement resulted in the creation of three important factors for the Mediterranean: the creation of currency, the alphabet, and marine navigation as we know it today. The various movements also contributed to the fonnation of the person as a free being with the ability to move freely. Therefore, movement and the overcoming of boundaries in the Mediterranean have contributed greatly to the fonnation of civilization itself.2 A board, today found in the museum of Damascus, with an alphabet very similar to the Latin one written on it, was very useful as it was very simple in its structure. This confirms a high level of democracy, as civilization meant that each individual had the possibility of knowing and understanding what his leaders understood. We get to understand that in the Mediterranean each person can practice his freedom by travelling out at sea and engage in trading. All this was made possible by the same interactions and conflicts raised in the region. Conflicts though are not the only factor that promoted the interaction and the fonnation of interesting cultural and literature in the Mediterranean, as we know it today. Art and culture have been means by which the various conflicts and interactions took life and expressed the deep feelings that inhabited the soul 2 Georges Duby Gli ideali de! Mediterraneo, storia, filosofia e letteratura nella cultura europea (Mesogea,2000) pp. 80-104
4
of the artist. Karl Popper3 states that the cultural mixture alone is not sufficient to put the grounds for a civilization and he gives the example of Pisistratus, a Greek tyrant that ordered to collect and copy all the works of Homer. This made it possible to have a book fair a century later and thus spread the knowledge of Homer. Karl Popper wants to tell us that art and culture have deeply influence the fonnation of a general outset of the region and that the fonnation of the general public is not something that comes naturally, but is rather encouraged. The Greeks in this sense were directly fed the works of Homer by the diffusion of the works themselves. On the other hand, the majority of Greeks already knew how to read and write, further enabling the diffusion of knowledge. Art and architecture are two important factors that have detennined the survival of empires and cultures through time. When artists such as Van Gogh were exposed to the Mediterranean, they expressed art in a different way and when Van Gogh came in contact with the Mediterranean region, the French Riviera and Provence in particular, he discovered a new way of conceiving art. In a letter that Van Gogh wrote to his sister in 1888, he explained that the impact the Mediterranean had on him had changed the way he expressed art itself. He told her that the colours are now brighter, being directly inspired by the nature and passions of the region. The Mediterranean inspired Van Gogh to use a different kind of colour palette. If the art expressed by Van Gogh that is inspired by the Mediterranean is directly 3 Georges Duby Gli ideali del Mediterraneo, storia, jilosofia e letteratura nella cultura europea (Mesogea,2000) pp. 80-104
5 represented and interpreted by the spectator, the region manages to be transposed through the action of art itself.4 The way in which the thesis is structured aims to focus on the vanous images created by poets, popular music and art. Each chapter provides evidence that the harbour has been the centre of attention for the many authors and thinkers who wrote, discussed and painted the Mediterranean. The thesis aims to prove that certain phenomena such as language and religion have contributed to a knit of imaginaries, the layout of certain events such as the ex-voto in the Mediterranean and the use of Sabir or Lingua Franca Mediterranea, which shows how the harbour managed to be the center of events that shaped the cultural heritage of the Mediterranean. The language and religious movement mentioned have left their mark on the Mediterranean countries, especially the harbour cities, which were the first cities encountered. The choice of the harbour cities as the representation and the loci of a Mediterranean imaginary vision is by no means a casual one. In fact, the harbour for many centuries has been the anchorage point not only in the physical sense but also emotionally and philosophically for many authors and thinkers, two of which are Jean-Claude Izzo and Vincenzo Consolo, extensively mentioned in the dissertation. These two authors are relevant for the purpose of this study as they manage to create a vision of the Mediterranean, based on their personal experience and influenced by 4 Georges Duby Gli ideali de! Mediterraneo, storia, jilosojia e letteratura nella cultura europea (Mesogea,2000) pp.43-55
6 the harbour from which they are looking at the region and observing the
Mediterranean. Popular culture ‘texts’ such as movies and music based on the interaction between the person and the Mediterranean region have an important role in the study, as they represent the first encounter with the harbour. It is a known fact that in the postmodern era where technological means have a broader and deeper reach, popular culture has become the first harbour in which many find anchorage. Therefore it would be difficult to mention literature works that have shaped the Mediterranean without mentioning the popular texts that have constructed images about the region that intertwine and fonn a complete and powerful image. The relevance of each factor is well defined in this study, delving deep in not only popular culture but also in language and various historical events that have transformed the Mediterranean, providing examples of how factors such as geographical elements, spirituality, devotion and passion have transfonned the way in which we perceive a region.
1.1 The Harbour as Threshold The first chapter focuses on the harbour as a threshold between stability and instability, between wealth and poverty, between mobility and ilmnobility. The various elements that constitute the harbour always convey a sense of ‘in between’ to the person approaching. The very fact that the harbour seems to be a place of insecurity gives the artists and authors a more stimulating environment to 7 write about their feelings and to contrast them with the ever-changing and chaotic enviromnent of the harbour. The way in which the natural landscape manages to influence the poetic and artistic expression is of great relevance to the study of the Mediterranean region, especially with regards to the study of the harbour. Poets such as Saba and Montale wrote about the way in which nature felt as a personified figure, able to give hope and change the way poets look at the world. 
They also wrote about nature in the Mediterranean as being an impmiant feature
shaping the way in which history and culture developed.
The sailor as a representation of a Mediterranean traveller is often found in
literature especially with regards to the notion of the harbour as an image of the
Mediterranean culture. Many authors such as Jean-Claude Izzo and Vincenzo
Consolo wrote about the figure of the sailor in relation to the sea and everyday life in Mediterranean harbours. The novels fl Sorriso dell ‘Ignoto Marinaio by
Vincenzo Consolo and Les Marins Perdus by Jean-Claude Izzo are written in two
different geographical areas of the Mediterranean and reflect two different
periods, but they are tied by an expression of a Meditemm~im i1rn1eirn1ry and
somehow recall common features and aspects of the harbour. Both novels manage to transpose their authors’ personal encounter with the Mediterranean, therefore
recalling their own country of birth. The novels are somewhat personal to the
authors; Consolo recalls Sicily while Izzo often refers to Marseille. The fact that
the novels are projecting two different areas and two different points of view on
8
the Mediterranean proves that by gathering different experiences related to the
region, a rich imaginary is created.
The harbour is a door, an entryway to a new world, and borders. Security
and expectations are all part of the experience of the threshold when entering a
country, especially in the Mediterranean, where thresholds are constantly present and signify a new and exciting experience that leads to a new interpretation of a Mediterranean imaginary. The way in which the harbour acts as an entryway suggests that what lies beyond the harbour is sometimes a mystery to the traveller.
Literature greatly contributes to the fonnation of ideas, especially in regard to the fonnation of thoughts such as the idea of a Mediterranean imaginary, but there is another element of fundamental importance to the formation of ideas on a generic line, which is popular culture. High-culture, referring to elements such as art, literature, philosophy and scholarly writings, creates a common understanding between an educated public. Popular culture refers to the section of culture that has a common understanding between the public. High-culture and popular culture have the power to transform what is mostly regarded as pertaining to high society; literature is constantly being reinterpreted and transfonned by popular culture to be able to reach a greater audience.
9
1.2 The Port as a Cultural Lighthouse The imp01iance of natural landscape which detennines the success or failure of a harbour, also detennines a number of historical events. In this sense, the Mediterranean is a region that has been naturally set up with a number of very important harbours that consequently fonned a particular history. The image of the harbour could be compared to the image of the lighthouse, which is part of the harbour itself but at the same is a distinct entity that in some cases had a role which went beyond its initial role of guidance and assumed almost a function of spiritual assistance. 5 The symbol of the lighthouse is also tied to knowledge and therefore the lighthouse has the ability to give knowledge to the lost traveller at sea, it is able to show the way even in uncertainties. The lighthouses in the Mediterranean had the ability to change through ages and maintain a high historical and cultural meaning; their function is a matter of fact to give direction to the traveller, but in certain cases it has been used to demarcate a border or as a symbol of power.
The Mediterranean Sea has witnessed different exchanges, based on belief,
need and sometimes even based solely on the search of sel£ Among these modes
of exchange and these pretexts of voyage in the Mediterranean, we find the exvoto and the movement of relics. Both types of exchange in the region have in
common at the basis religion that instilled in the traveller a deep wish to follow a
5 Predrag Matvejevic Breviario Mediterraneo (Garzanti: 2010)
10
spiritual path. These exchanges resulted in an increasing cultural exchange. The
ex-voto6 shows a number of things. One of these things is that the very existence
of ex-voto proves a deep connection with the geographical aspect in the
Mediterranean and therefore proving that the region is a dangerous one. In this
sense, people in the Mediterranean have shown their gratitude to God or the
Virgin Mary in the fonn of ex-voto after a difficult voyage at sea. On the other
hand, the ex-voto shows how popular culture mingles with the spiritual experience and the way in which a person expresses gratitude to the divine. The ex-voto paintings have a special way of being identified. The saint or in most cases Virgin Mary, is usually set in a cloud or unattached from the sea in a tempest. Another element that shows if a painting is or is not part of an ex-voto collection, is the acronyms found in the bottom of every painting V.F.G.A (votum facit et gratiam accepit). The use of Latin demonstrates the vicinity to Christianity, whilst the words meaning that ‘I made a vow and I received grace’ prove the tie between the tragedies at sea and the grace given by God. The difficult Mediterranean geographical predisposition, discussed by Femand Braudel7 has developed an abundance of devotion that transformed to shrines and objects of adoration and gratitude. These same shrines, objects and materials that were most of the time exchanged and taken from one place to another, have deeply enriched the Mediterranean with cultural objects and the same shrines are nowadays part of a collective cultural heritage.
6 Joseph Muscat Il-Kwadri ex-voto Martittimi Maltin (Pubblikazzjonijiet Indipendenza, 2003) 7 Fernand Braudel The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean world in the age of Philip II
(Fontana press: 19 8 6)
11
1.3 The Mediterranean Imaginary of Izzo and Consolo Inspired by the
Port The Mediten-anean for Jean-Claude Izzo and Vincenzo Consolo revolves around the idea of a harbour that gives inspiration because it is in essence a border where ideas meet and sometimes find concretization. The Mediterranean harbour for centuries has been a meeting place for people and cultures, thus creating a region full of interactions on different levels. The imaginary for both authors has been shaped by both cultural elements and by the literary elements that find a special place in the mindset of the author. Culture as a popular expression of the concept of the Mediten-anean has developed in different ways, one of which is the projection of the harbour and the Mediterranean itself through media and advertising. Various elements such as the touristic publicity or the actual reportage about the harbour and the Mediten-anean have widened the horizon and the imaginary of the region. In advertisements, the Mediterranean has been idealized in some ways and tends to ignore controversial issues such as ‘migration’; advertising also tends to generalize about the Mediterranean and so mentions elements such as the peaceful and relaxing way of life in the region. Advertisement obviously has its own share in the building of an ‘imaginary’ of the region, but it may also create confusion as to what one can expect of the region. On the other hand, the reportage about the Mediterranean harbour and the region itself focuses more on everyday life in the Mediterranean and common interactions such as encounters with fishennen. Nevertheless, when mentioning 12 the MediteITanean even the reportage at times makes assumptions that try to unite the MediteITanean into an ideal space and it sometimes aims to give an exotic feel to the region. Yet there are a number of informative films that have gathered important material about the MediteITanean, such as the French production Mediteranee Notre Mer a Taus, produced by Yan Arthus-Bertrand for France 2.8 The difference between the usual promotional or adve1iising video clips and the documentary film produced for France 2 was that in the latter the focus points were an expression of the beauty of the whole, whereas in the fonner, beauty usually lies in the common features that for marketing purposes aim to synthesize the image of the Mediterranean for a better understating and a more clear approach to the region. The harbour and other vanous words associated to the concept of the harbour have been used in many different spaces and areas of study to signify many different things other than its original meaning, and this makes us realize that the harbour itself may hold various metaphorical meanings. We have seen the way in which the harbour served as a first spiritual refuge or as an initial salvation point, but it is also interesting to note how the harbour is conceptually seen today,
in an era where globalization has shortened distances and brought down barriers. Nowadays, the harbour is also used as a point of reference in the various technological terms especially in relation to the internet, where the ‘port’ or 8 Yan Arthus-Betrand Mediteranee notre mer a taus (France 2, 2014)
www.yannarthusbertrand.org/ en/films-tv/–mediterranee-notre-mer-a-tous (accessed February,
2014)
13
‘portal’ refers to a point of entry and thus we perceive the main purpose of the harbour as being the first point of entry as is in the context of infonnation technology. The concept of core and periphery has deeply changed in the world of Internet and technology, as the concept of core and periphery almost disappeared. Similarly, the Mediterranean’s core and pe1iphery have always been in a way different from what is considered to be the nonn. Geographically, the core could be seen as the central area, the place where things happen, whereas in the Mediterranean, the periphery acquires almost the function of the core. The harbour is the geographical periphery; neve1iheless, it acquires the function of the core. The islands for example are usually centres, whereas in the Mediterranean they are crossroads rather than real centres of power. In nonnal circumstances the relation between core and periphery is something that denotes not only the geographical location of a place but it usually also refers to economical, social and cultural advancement. Therefore, in the Mediterranean region the concept of geographical centre and economical and social centres are different from their usual intended meaning.
The Mediterranean imaginary has developed in such a way that it
purposely distorted the concepts such as the standard core and periphery or the usual relationship between men and nature or between men and the various borders. In the Mediterranean imaginary, which as we have mentioned is being fed by various authors and popular discourse, has the ability to remain imprinted in our own thoughts and thus has the ability to reinterpret the region itself; we find 14 that the usual conceptions change because they suit not only the region but the author that is writing about the region. The way in which the various authors and artists who describe the Mediterranean are faced with the ongoing challenges presented by the region shows how in essence each and every author has their own personal approach to the region. Their works are essentially a personal project which lead to the enriclunent of the region’s imaginary. The differences between each and every author makes the ‘imaginary’ and the accounts about the Mediterranean much more interesting and ersonalized. 
Consolo9 and Izzo10 have different ways of perceiving the region and
although they both aim to create an ‘imaginary’ that may recall similar features, it is undeniable that there are substantial differences in their approach. Consolo on the one hand focuses a lot on the image of Ulysses as a figure that represents him in his voyage in search of the self. Ulysses for Consolo is a figure that manages to preserve a meaning even in the modem era, a figure that is able to travel through time all the while reinventing the Mediterranean. Izzo as well feels that the figure of Ulysses is imperative to the study of the Mediterranean, but he mostly focuses on the impact of the present experience of the region on the conception of a Mediterranean ‘imaginary’ rather than focusing on the past as a representation of the present situation. 9 Vincenzo Consolo Il Sorriso dell’Ignoto Marinaio (Oscar Mondadori: 2012) 10 Jean-Claude Izzo Marinai Perduti (Tascabili e/o: 2010) 15
1.4 Conclusion
The Mediterranean has been seen as a region full of inconsistencies,
contradictions and conflicts, based mainly on the divergent ideas and cultures residing in the same area. The Mediterranean imaginary does not exclude the conflicts that are present in the region and does not aim to unify the region, and in doing so it aims to give voice to the region. For the various authors and thinkers that are mentioned in the thesis, the Mediterranean has transmitted an emotion or has been able to create the right environment to express ideas and fonn thoughts. The relevance of each and every author within the framework of this thesis shows that without analyzing the single expression about the region, through the various works, one cannot fonn an imaginary of the Mediterranean region. The various concepts of borders, thresholds, conflicts and cultural clashes manage to mingle with each other in everyday life in the Mediterranean – greater ideas and fundamental questions find resonance and meaning in simple everyday interaction between a common sailor and a woman at a bar. The Mediterranean in essence is the voyage between the search for deep roots and the analysis of the clashes that result from this search for roots. The study of the Mediterranean is the constant evaluation of boundaries and the search for the ‘self’ through a wholly subjective analysis of the ‘other’. The imaginary plays a fundamental role in bringing near the ‘roots’ and the ‘present’, and the ‘self’ and the ‘other’.
16
2 The Harbour as Threshold The Mediterranean harbour for many authors and thinkers is a starting point as well as a dying point of the so called ‘Mediterranean culture’. In fact many sustain that the ‘MediteITanean culture’ takes place and transfonns itself in its harbours. This concept does not have to confuse us in assuming that a ‘Mediterranean culture’ in its wholesomeness really does exist. There are elements and features that seem to tie us; that the sea so generously brought ashore. On the other hand the same sea has been keeping things well defined and separate. The harbour as the first encounter with land has always maintained an important role in the formation of ideas and collective imagination. The harbour is not selective in who can or cannot approach it and so the fonnation of this collective imagination is a vast one. It is also important to state that the harbour in itself is a place of contradictions, a place where everything and nothing meet. The contrasting elements and the contradictions that reside in Mediterranean ports are of inspiration to the various authors and thinkers who study the Mediterranean. In this sense they have contributed in the formation of this Mediterranean imagination. Literature is an important factor that contributes to a fonnation of a collective imagination; it would be otherwise difficult to analyze the Mediterranean without the help of literature, as the fonnation of a collective imagination was always fed through literature and cultural expedients.
17
The Mediterranean region, as we shall see, is an area that is somehow
constructed; a person in France may not be aware of what a person in Morocco or in Turkey is doing. The concept of a constructed Mediterranean may be tied to the anthropological study conducted by Benedict Anderson 11 where he states that the ‘nation’ is a constructed concept and may serve as a political and somehow economic pretext. The sea is navigated by both tragic boat people and luxurious cruise liners, and these contradictions seem to be legitimized in the Mediterranean region. To give two recent examples we can observe on a political sphere, the European Union’s decision to fonn a Task Force for the Mediterranean (TFM) whose aims are to enhance the security of its shores and to drastically reduce deaths at sea. The TFM is a recent initiative that follows a number of proposals at a political level that have the Mediterranean security at heart. 12 This idea was triggered by a particular event that saw the death of 500 migrants off Lampedusa. It clearly poses a question whether the Mediterranean is a safe place or not, and whether it remains in this sense appealing to touristic and economic investment. The TFM probably reinforces the idea that the Mediterranean is a problematic region and thus requires ongoing ‘security’. To reconnect to the main idea, the TFM reinforces the notion that the Mediterranean is a constructed idea where access from one shore to another is denied and where one shore is treated as a security threat whereas the other shore is treated as an area to be protected or an 11 Benedict Anderson, Imagined communities (Verso, 1996)
12 Brussels, 4.12.2013 COM (2013) 869 Communicationjiwn the commission to the European Parliament and the council on the work of the Task Force Mediterranean 18 area that is unreachable. The contradictions keep on adding up when we see the way the Mediterranean is portrayed for economic and touristic purposes. One example is the ‘Mediterranean port association’ that helps the promotion of cruising in the Mediterranean region providing assistance to tourists who would like to travel in the region. In this context the Mediterranean is used in a positive way in relation to the touristic appeal it may have. The construction of a Mediterranean idea is by no means restricted to an economical or a political discourse; it has deeper roots and meanings that have fonned through a history of relations between countries and of fonnations of literary expedients. For Franco Cassano13, the Mediterranean is a region that in essence is made of differences, it would be otherwise difficult to justify the clashes that have characterized the Mediterranean history, if it was not for the fact that we are all aware that it is a region made up of dissimilarities On the other hand it is due to these dissimilarities that the Mediterranean is an appealing region both for authors and for travelers alike.
13 Franco Cassano,Danilo Zolo L ‘alternativa mediterranea (Milano:Feltrinelli, 2007)
19
2.1 Natural Landscape and the Development of Literature Nature and literature are two elements that intertwine and thus create a collective imagination around the concept of the Mediterranean harbour. In fact, the dialectic between natural landscape and poetic expression was always a matter of great relevance as nature constantly managed to aid the development of poetic expression. The natural landscape helps the fonnation of existential thoughts, such as life, death and the existence of men – thoughts that are always reinterpreted and reinvented through literature. This relation between men and nature was always important in configuring spaces and detennining them according to a common understanding. 14 In the poem of Giacomo Leopardi Dialogo delta Natura e di un Islandese, Nature is personified, and although the indifference and coldness of nature is palpable, we sense that the poet is being aided by nature in fanning his ideas about life itself. Through time and especially through globalization, the world is being interpreted in terms of geographical maps and technology is subsequently narrowing our concept of space and enlarging our concept of life. In the new modem dimension, where the concept of space has acquired an abstract meaning, literature leaves the possibility of dialectic relationship between men and nature, thus enabling men to perceive the places they inhabit as a significant part of their self-construction process. This concept takes us to the perception created around the Mediterranean region and especially the way people look at 14 Massimo Lollini fl Mediterraneo de/la contingenza metafisica di montale all’apertura etica di Saba (Presses Universitaires Paris Quest: 2009) pp.358-372
20
figures such as the sea, the ports and the shores. In Giambattista Vico’s15 poetic geography we understand that the representation of geography through poetic expression is something that dates back in time, through a cosmic representation of senses and feelings. In this regard, Montale and Saba both express in a relatively modem tone the deep representation of the Mediterranean through a mixture of contrasting feelings and ideas. The image of the harbor and any other images in the Mediterranean are deeply felt and analyzed, through the eyes of the poets that live in the region. Montale uses the dialectic of memory to explain his relationship with the Mediterranean, a region locked in its golden age that lives through the memory of poets and authors. He refers to the Mediterranean as ‘Antico ‘ emphasizing the fact that it is an old region. The word ‘Antico ‘ does not merely refer to oldness, but to oldness combined with prestige. The memory characterizes the Mediterranean for Montale, the image of the sea for instance is an archaic image that notwithstanding holds a modem and yet spiritual meaning as it expresses a sense of purification. The sea with its movement brings ashore all the useless and unwanted elements. On the other hand the sea may be seen as a fatherly figure that becomes severe in its actions and makes the poet feel insignificant and intimidated. Montale’s aim was to overcome the threshold between artistic expression and natural landscape through a dialogue with the Mediterranean Sea. This aim was not fulfilled. Montale tried hard to express artistically what the Mediterranean Sea meant but ended his poem humbly putting himself at a lower stage in comparison to the greatness of the Sea. Montale fills 15Massimo Lollini Il Mediterraneo della contingenza metafisica di montale all’apertura etica di Saba (Presses Universitaires Paris Ouest: 2009)
21 his poetry with a mixture of humility and paradoxes; two elements that keep on repeating themselves in the poetry concerning the MeditelTanean.
Furthennore, in Umberto Saba’s ‘Medite1Taneet16 we encounter the same
contrasts and paradoxes used by Montale to develop the figure of the
MeditetTanean Sea. Saba uses the microcosm of Trieste to explain a larger
macrocosm: The MeditetTanean. This technique renders his work more personal and gives it a deeper meaning. Saba and Montale both rely on the memory to express a feeling of deep ties with the element of the sea and the life of the MeditelTanean harbour. Saba’s MeditelTanean resides in his microcosm, personal encounters and experiences fonn his ideas about the region; a region he perceives as being full of fascinating contradictions.

‘Ebbri canti si levano e bestemmie
nell’Osteria suburbana. Qui pure
-penso- e Mediterraneo. E il mio pensiero
all’azzulTo s’inebbria di quel nome.’ 17
‘Drunken songs and curses rise up
in the suburban tavern. Here, too,
I think, is the Mediterranean. And my mind is
drunk with the azure of that name.’ 18
16 Umberto Saba, translated by George Hochfield: Song book the selected poems of Umberto Saba
\V\V\V. worldrepublicofletters.com/excerpts/songbook excerpt.pdf (accessed, July 2014)
17 Massimo Lollini fl Mediterraneo della contingenza metafisica di montale all’apertura etica di Saba (Presses Universitaires Paris Ouest: 2009) pp.358-372
22
Saba mingles his personal classicist fonnation expressed in the ‘all’azzurro’
with the poorest part of the Mediterranean harbour ‘l’osteria’. Both factors are intertwining, and so, the Mediterranean for Saba is the combination of both the richness of classicist thoughts that fonned in the Mediterranean as well as the meager elements that fonned in its po1is; yet they embellish and enrich the concept of the Mediterranean. Saba is searching for his personal identity through the search for a definition to the Mediterranean. In his art he attempts to portray the very heart of the MediteITanean which is found in his abyss of culture and knowledge with the everyday simple life of the harbours. 2.2 Instability vs. Stability in the Mediterranean Harbour In Saba and Montale’s works, the fascinating inconsistencies in the Mediterranean seem to find a suitable place in the ports and in the minds of each and every author and thinker who encounters it. The notion of stability and instability finds its apex in the port. The sea is the synonym of instability, especially in the Mediterranean, being depicted as dangerous and unpredictable. As in the recounts of the Odyssey, the sea, and the Mediterranean as a whole, is a synonym of instability and thus prone to natural catastrophes. The Homeric recounts of Ulysses’ journey explore the Mediterranean that was previously an unknown place. Although the places mentioned by Homer are fictitious, they now 18 Umberto Saba, translated by George Hochfield: Song book the selected poems of Umberto Saba
www.worldrepublicofletters.com/excerpts/song:book _excerpt.pdf (accessed, July 2014)
23
have a general consensus over the definition of the actual places. As time went by historians and authors went on confinning what Homer had depicted in his Odyssey – a Mediterranean that constantly poses a challenge, danger and fascination at the same time. Femand Braudel in his ‘Mediterranean and the Mediterranean world in the age of Philip the II’ 19 sustains the view of a difficult Mediterranean, of a succession of events that have helped the success of the Mediterranean for a period of time. Its instability and complication have not aided the area in maintaining its ‘golden age’. This discourse was reinvented by Horden and Purcell in ‘The Corrupting Sea’20 where the Mediterranean meets geographically, historically and anthropologically. In ‘The Corrupting Sea’ the view of Femand Braudel is expanded into what the Mediterranean meant
geographically and historically, therefore Horden and Purcell explain that the inconsistencies and natural features in the Mediterranean really contributed to bring the ‘golden age’ to an end, but they were the same features that brought on the rich culture around the Mediterranean countries in the first place. Where literature is concerned, the inconsistencies and natural features served as an inspiration to various authors who went on fonning the collective imagination around the Mediterranean. Therefore, it could be argued that the geographical
complexity of the region is in fact the tying point to the ‘Mediterranean’ itself that resides in the unconscious and that otherwise would have died with its economical shift towards other areas of interest. The problematic identity and the challenging 19 Femand Braudel The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean world in the age of Philip II (Fontana press: 1986)
20 Peregring Horden, Nicholas Purcell The Corrupting sea, a study of the Mediterranean histmy (Blackwell publishing: 2011)
24
natural enviromnent brought by an ongomg sense of curiosity and attraction towards the Mediterranean region. The port is the first encounter with stability after a journey that is characterized by instability, at the surprise of the inexperienced traveler. However, the port does not always covey immovability. The p01i gives a sense of limbo to the traveller that has just arrived. It is a safe place on the one hand but on the other hand due to its vicinity to the sea, it is as unpredictable as the sea itself The sailor is a frequent traveler who knows and embraces the sea. He chose or has been forced to love the sea, to accept the sea as his second home. The sailor is in fact the figure that can help us understand the fascination around the Mediterranean and its ports. It is not an unknown factor that sailors and their voyages have captured the attention of many authors that tried extensively to understand the affinity sailors have to the sea. The sailor21 is a man defined by his relation with the sea and is a recurrent figure in a number of literature works all over Europe and the rest of the world. The sailor is the incarnation of the concept of human marginality, he lives in the margin of life and he embraces the marginality of the harbour with the different aspects of the port. The thresholds present in the port are represented by the sailor; a figure that lives between the sea and land, between betrayal and pure love,
between truth and lie. Like the portrayal of Odysseus, the concept of a sailor has 21 Nora Moll Marinai Ignoti,perduti (e nascosti). fl Mediterraneo di Vincenzo Consolo, JeanClaude Izzo e Waciny Lare} (Roma: Bulzoni 2008) pp.94-95
25
infidelic properties. He carnally betrays his loved one, but he is psychologically anchored to one women for his whole life; a women who is always present in various thoughts but at the same time she is always physically distant. As we will see in various works, the sailor is in constant search of knowledge – the very same knowledge that brought him to love and embrace the sea. The knowledge that is conveyed through the action of travelling itself is another question that would require a deep analysis, but for the sake of our study the fact that knowledge is transmitted through the depth of the sea is enough to make a com1ection with the purpose by which the sailor travels. The sailor fluctuates between sea and land, between danger and security, between knowledge and inexperience. The thresholds are constantly overcome by the curious and free spirited sailor that embarks in this voyage to the discovery of his inner-self. The literary voyage of the sailor in the Mediterranean takes a circular route while it goes deep in ancient history and ties it to modem ideas. Since the sailor is not a new character but a recurring one in literature and culture it has the ability to transfonn and create ideas giving new life to the Mediterranean harbours. While the seamen are the link between the high literature and the popular culture, the sailor does not have a specific theme in literature but the archetype of ‘the sailor’ has a deep resonance in many literary themes. As Nora Moll states in one of her studies about the image of the sailor, she puts forward a list of common themes associated with the image of the sailor:
26
‘Tra i complessi tematici, a cm m parte ho gia accem1ato,si
annoverano l’avventura, il viaggio, l’eros, l’adulterio, il ritorno, il
superamento di limiti (interiori) e di sfide ( esterne ), la liberta, la vita
come “navigatio” e come intrigo conflittuale di esperienze. ’22
‘Amongst the complex themes, which I partly already mentioned, we
find adventure, travel, Eros, adultery, the return, the overcoming of
limits (interior) and challenges (exterior), freedom, life as “navigatio”
and as a conflictual intrigue (or scheme) of experiences.’
2.3 The Prototypical Sailor The interesting fact about the study conducted by Nora Moll is that the sailor in her vision is not merely a figure tied to a specific social class, but as we can see the themes listed are themes that can be tied also to the figure of Ulysses. It is difficult to say that Ulysses or the image of the sailor own a predestined set of themes, and in fact they do not necessarily do so. Ulysses is a character that comprehends certain themes, but these change and shift in accordance to space, time and circumstances. What does not change is the thresholds that are always present in the life of a sailor, the limits that are constantly there to be overcome and the external challenges that need to be confronted. The harbour conveys a 22 Nora Moll Marinai Jgnoti,perduti (e nascosti). I! Mediterraneo di Vincenzo Consolo, JeanClaude Izzo e Waciny Larej (Roma: Bulzoni 2008) pp.94-95
27
number of thresholds; as we have seen these are embodied in the figure of the manner. Jean Claude Izzo in his Les Marins Perdus23 wrote about the discomfort of sailors having to forcedly stay on land and their relationship with the harbor, a passing place that has a special meaning. The harbor is in fact a special place for the mariner, as it is the only place where they can have human contact beyond that of the crew. The mariner in Jean Clause Izzo does not feel that he belongs to any nation or country. He belongs to the sea; a sea that managed to give meaning to his life but at the same time managed to destroy it. Jean Claude Izzo uses strong images of the port to describe the tie the sailor has to the harbour itself, he uses sexual and erotic images and ties them to legends and popular culture expedients. The story is interesting because of the way Jean Claude Izzo reverses the way sailors live. In fact he recreates a story where the sailor is trapped in the harbour and so he is forced to view the sea from land and not the other way round as he usually does. The psychological discomfort that Jean Claude Izzo creates portrays the Mediterranean archetypes and the life in the ports from a reverse point of view. Everyday life in the harbour is analyzed through a succession of tragedies that on one hand recall the classicist view of the Mediterranean, and on the other hand, due to references to everyday life elements, may be easily connected to the modem conception of the Mediterranean port. The links created by Jean Claude Izzo are made on purpose to create an ongoing bond between the classic Homeric 23 Jean-Claude Izzo Marinai Perduti (Tascabili e/o: 2010) pp.238
28
Mediterranean and the modem Mediterranean. In fact, Diamantis -the mam character of the novel- is portrayed as a modem Ulysses trying to cope with ongoing temptations and with the constant drive for knowledge. The Odyssey is for Diamantis a point of anchorage. He reads the Odyssey while attempting to define himself: ‘In effetti l’Odissea non ha mai smesso di essere raccontata, da una taverna all’altra,di bar in bar: … e Ulisse e sempre fra noi. La sua eterna giovinezza e nelle storie che continuiamo a raccontarci anche oggi se abbiamo ancora un avvenire nel Mediterraneo e di sicuro li. [ … ]I porti del Mediterraneo … sono delle strade. ’24 ‘Yes … In fact, the Odyssey has constantly been retold, in every tavern
or bar … And Odysseus is still alive among us. Eternally young, in the
stories we tell, even now. If we have a future in the Mediterranean,
that’s where it lies.” [ … ] “The Mediterranean means … routes. Sea
routes and land routes. All joined together. Connecting cities. Large
and small. Cities holding each other by the hand.’ In this quote we see the continuous threshold between space and time being overcome, that serves to keep alive the Mediterranean itself. It is clear that the classic Homeric recount is always reinterpreted and reinvented. The Odyssey
is not the only point of reflection for Diamantis. In fact the protagonist is seen as a 24 Jean-Claude Izzo Marinai Perduti (Tascabili e/o: 2010) pp.238
29
deep character that reflects on the various incidents in his life and it could be argued that Diamantis is the expression of Jean Claude Izzo’s thoughts. The sailors in Jean Claude Izzo’s novel chose to be Mediterranean; naval commerce exists beyond the enclosed sea, but these men chose to sail with inadequate ships in a region where geographical beauty and historical richness meet. The port for Izzo, has multiple meanings and he defines the Mediterranean harbours as differing from other harbours, because of the way they are accessed. Izzo uses the image of the harbour as a representation of love: ‘Vedi, e’ il modo in cui puo essere avvicinato a detenninare la natura di un porto. A detenninarlo veramente [ … ] Il Mediterraneo e’ un mare di prossimita’. ’25
‘You see, it’s the way it can be approached that detennines the nature of
a port. Really detennines it. [ … ] The Mediterranean, a sea of closeness.’
This passage shows the influence of thought, Izzo inherited from
Matvej evic. In fact the approach used to describe the harbour and to depict the nature is very similar to the one used by Matvejevic in his ‘Breviario Mediterraneo’. 26 We perceive that the harbour is substantially a vehicle of devotion, love, passion and Eros, though we may also observe the threshold between the love and passion found in the port and the insecurity and natural brutality that the sea may convey. In this novel, the port is transfonned in a secure 25 Jean-Claude Izzo Marinai Perduti (Tascabili e/o: 2010) ppl22 26 Predrag Matvejevic Breviario Mediterraneo (Garzanti:2010)
30
place whilst the sea is a synonym of tragedy. At the same time the port is seen as a filthy and conupt place. While for Izzo the past is used as a background to tie with the present and moreover to show a link with the future, Consolo uses a different technique. He goes deep in one focal historical point to highlight certain Mediterranean features and problematic issues. Consolo uses the period of time where Sicily was undergoing various political changes. He describes the revolution and the Italian unification, and portrays real events and characters tied to Sicilian history. In Vincenzo Consolo, the image of the sailor is used as a metaphor through the work of Antonello ‘il Sorriso dell’Ignoto Marinaio’.27 The title itself gives us a hint of the tie between art and everyday life. The voices that intertwine and form the discourse around the Mediterranean are hard to distinguish as they have fanned the discourse itself to a point where a voice or an echo is part of another. The work of Consolo28 goes through a particular historical period in Sicily to describe present situations and ongoing paradoxes in the Mediterranean region. It is difficult to resume and give a name and specific allocation to the works on the Mediterranean as the multiple faces and voices have consequently fanned a variety of literature and artistic works. The beauty behind works on the Mediterranean is that archetypes such as the concept of a ‘sailor’ or the ‘harbour’ are revisited and reinterpreted, thus acquiring a deeper meaning and at the same time enriching the meaning of ‘the Mediterranean’ itself.
27 Vincenzo Consolo fl sorriso dell’Jgnoto Marinaio (Oscar Mondadori:2012)
28 Vincenzo Consolo fl sorriso dell’lgnoto Marinaio (Oscar Mondadori:2012)
31
Consolo focuses on the microcosm of Sicily and he portrays a fluctuation
between sea and land. He locates Sicily in an ideal sphere where the thresholds are nonexistent: ‘La Sicilia! La Sicilia! Pareva qualcosa di vaporoso laggiù nell’azzurro tra mare e cielo, me era l’isola santa! ’29 ‘Sicily! Sicily! It seemed something vaporous down there in the blue between sea and sky, but it was the holy island!’ Sicily is placed in an ideal sphere where beautiful natural elements coexist with famine, degradation and war. The imagery created around the island of Sicily may be comparable to the imagery around the Mediterranean region. As for the harbour it is described by Consolo as a place of contradictions, comparable to the ones found in the whole Mediterranean. The detail given to the life in the port is extremely in depth and the type of sentences used expresses the frenetic lifestyle of the port itself: ‘Il San Cristofaro entrava dentro il porto mentre ne uscivano le barche, caicchi e gozzi, coi pescatori ai rami alle corde vele reti lampe sego stoppa feccia, trafficanti con voce urale e con richiami, dentro la barca, tra barca e barca, tra barca e la banchina, affollata di vecchi, di donne e di bambini, urlanti parimenti e agitati [ … ].’30 29 Vincenzo Consolo fl sorriso dell’Jgnoto Marinaio (Oscar Mondadori:2012) pp:56
30 Vincenzo Consolo fl so1-riso dell’Jgnoto Marinaio (Oscar Mondadori:2012) pp:29
32
‘The San Cristoforo sailed into the harbour whilst the boats, caiques
and other fishing boats, sailed out with the fishennen holding the
ropes sails nets tallow oakum lee, traffickers beckoning with an ural
voice, inside the boat, from one boat to another, from one boat to the
quay, crowded with the elderly, women and children, screaming
equally and agitated’ [ … ] The tension around the port is well transmitted in the explanation given by Consolo, there seems to be a point of nothingness and a point of departure at the same time. We perceive that there is plenty of life in the port but at the same time confusion reigns, therefore we could argue that people in ports are not really conscious of life and that they are letting things turn. Nevertheless, the port is the starting point of life that develops either in the sea or inland. Both by Consolo and in Izzo we are made aware of the importance of life at the ‘starting point’, therefore the port in the works of both authors acquires the title of a ‘threshold’ between life and death, consciousness and unconsciousness, love and hatred, nature and artifice, aridity and fertility. In the microcosm described by Consolo, the Sicilian nature and its contradictions seem to recall the ones in the rest of the region. For example, the painting ‘Ignoto Marinaio’ is described as a contradictory painting. In fact, the sailor is seen as an ironic figure that smiles notwithstanding the tragedies he has encountered. The ‘Ignoto Marinaio’ has seen the culture and history of the Mediterranean unveil, he has therefore a strange smile that 33 expresses the deep knowledge acquired through his experience and a deep look that convey all the suffering he has come upon. In the novel by Consolo, the painting serves as a point of reference and in fact, the ‘Ignoto Marinio’ resembles another important character in the novel; Intemodato. Both figures share the ironic and poignant smile and the profound look. Intemodato is seen as a typical Sicilian revolutionary who embraces the sea but at the same time is not psychologically unattached to the situations that happened on land. He is part of the revolution and integral part of the Sicilian history.
2.4 The Harbour as a Metaphorical Door Consolo and Izzo with their accounts of sailors and the life in Mediterranean harbours brought us to the interpretation of the harbour as a metaphorical door. As in the seminal work of Predrag Matvejevic ‘Breviario Mediterraneo’,31 the harbour is tied to the concept of a metaphorical door. In Latin both ‘porto’ and ‘porta’ have the same root and etymological derivation. A harbour in fact is a metaphorical and physical entryway to a country. In the Roman period, the god Portunos was the deity of the harbour who facilitated the marine commerce and the life in the port in general. The various deities related to the sea in the Roman 31 Predrag Matvejevic II Mediterraneo e I ‘Europa, lezioni al college de France e altri saggi (Garzanti elefanti:2008)
34
and Greek traditions are an indication of a deep relation between the figure of the harbour and the physical and geographical figure of the door or entryway. The door may have many different shapes and may divide different spaces but it always signifies a threshold from one point to another. In literature the harbour signifies a metaphorical door between fantasy and reality, history and fiction, love and hatred, war and peace, safety and danger. The image of the door is concretized through the various border controls, visas and migration issues and in this regard the entryway becomes a question of membership. A piece of paper in this case detennines the access through that doorway, but from a cultural and
identity point of view the Mediterranean threshold is overcome through the encounter with history and fiction. Thierry Fabre in his contribution to the book series ‘Rappresentare ii Mediterraneo’; 32 in relation to the Mediterranean identity he states; ” … Non si situa forse proprio nel punto di incorcio tra la storia vera e i testi letterari che danno origine all’immaginario Mediterraneo?”33 ‘ Isn’t perhaps situated exactly at the meeting point between the real stories and the literature texts that give birth to the Mediterranean imagination?’ Fabre is conscious of the fact that the discourse about the Mediterranean limits itself to a constructed imaginary, the poet or artist in general that enters this metaphorical door is expected to conceive the Mediterranean imaginary; blending reality with fiction. The door is not always a static figure but is sometimes blurred and does not 32 Jean Claude Izzo, Thierry Fabre Rappresentare il Mediterraneo, lo sguardo fiwicese (Mesogea: 2000) 33 Ibid (Mesogea: 2000) pp.25
35
clearly divide and distinguish. The Mediterranean itself is a region of unclear lines the fonnation of a port and of a nation itself is sometimes not that clear. In Matvejevic’s ‘Il Mediterraneao e l’Europa’34 literature blends with facts and culture so does the geography around the Mediterranean region: ‘Tra terra e mare, in molti luoghi vi sono dei limiti: un inizio o una
fine, l’immagine o 1 ‘idea che li uniscono o li separano. Numerosi sono
i tratti in cui la terra e il mare s’incontrano senza irregolarita ne rotture,
al punto che non si puo detenninare dove comincia uno o finisce
l’altro.Queste relazioni multiple e reversibili, danno fonna alla costa. ’35 
‘Between land and sea, there are limits in many places: a start or a
finish, the image or the idea that joins or separates them. The places
where sea meets land without any irregularities or breaks are
numerous, to the extent that it’s not possible to detennine where one
starts or the other finishes. These multiple and reversible links that
give shape to the coast.’ The coast in this sense is made up of a set of relations between figures and fonns that meet without touching each other, the door is not always present; it sometimes disappears to give room to imagination and the fonnation of literature.
34 Predrag Matvejevic Il Mediterraneo e !’Europa, Lezioni al College de France e Altri Saggi
(Garzanti elefanti: 2008)
35 Ibid (Garzanti: 2008) pp.53
36
The concept of literature allows the analysis of culture and the way it 1s
envisioned and spread through Mediterranean harbours. The fluctuations of varied thoughts that have shaped the Mediterranean imagery through its harbours have no ties with everyday life, if not by the transmission of culture and the means of popular culture that served as a point of anchorage and sometimes as a point of departure for the fonnation of a deeply rooted but also enriching and contested collective imagination.
37
3 The Port as a Cultural Lighthouse The harbour for many centuries has been an anchorage point and a safe place for sailors and travellers that navigate the Mediterranean. We perceive the safety of the harbour as something that is sometimes naturally part of its very makeup, as on such occasions where we encounter natural harbours. In other cases, to suit their needs, people have built around the shores and transfonned paii of the land into an artificial harbour which is able to welcome the foreigner and trade and at the same time to defend if needed the inland. Femand Braudel36 in his The Afediterranean and the Mediterranean World in thP AgP nf Philip TT <liscusse<l the importance of the Mediterranean shores for the traveller in an age when people were already able to explore the outer sea, but yet found it reassuring to travel in a sea where the shore was always in sight. The Mediterranean Sea has always instilled a sense of uncertainty in the traveller, because of its natural instability. Nevertheless, the fact that the shores and ts are always in the vicinity, the Mediterranean traveller is reassured that he can seek refuge whenever needed. The fascinating thing is that the ports in the age delineated by Femand Braudel were not only a means of safety but most of all of communication – a type of economic and cultural c01mnunication that went beyond 36 Fernand Braudel The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean world in the age of Philip II (Fontana press: 19 8 6)

38
the simple purpose of the port itself. The same simple modes of communications that Braudel describes may seem irrelevant when studying the Mediterranean history in its entirety, but we get to understand that they are actually the building blocks of the Mediterranean itself:
‘This is more that the picturesque sideshow of a highly coloured
history. It is the underlying reality. We are too inclined to pay attention only to the vital communications; they may be interrupted or
restored; all is not necessarily lost or saved. ‘ 37 The primordial modes of communication, the essential trade and the mixture of language and culture all have contributed to the creation of what we now sometimes romantically call the Mediterranean. The truth lies in the fact that
the harbour has always been prone to receiving and giving back; it has been a passing place of objects, customs and of words. We surely cannot deny the fact that trade has shifted not only by moving from different areas of interest but it also shifted into different forms changing the harbour’s initial function. This basic fonn of communication has contributed highly to the formation of a Mediterranean imaginary and a mixture of cultures that have left a deep resonance in language, literature and cultural expression as a whole.
37 Femand Braudel The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean world in the age of Philip II (Fontana press: 1986) pp.I 08
39
The risk and insecurity delivered by the sea have contributed to the
fonnation of various symbols that from their end contribute to the fonnation of an imaginary concerning the Mediterranean harbour. Amidst the uncertainties and hazards at sea, the light of the lighthouse that shows the surest path and warns the person travelling of the possible dangers, reassures the traveller while leading the way. The symbol of the lighthouse is tied to the representation of light and thus knowledge. Finding light in the middle of the sea gives the traveller the necessary means to have greater awareness of what is approaching. The geographical position and the architecture of the lighthouse are all an indication of their meaning beyond their primary objective. During the Roman period for example, the lighthouse was primarily an important source of safekeeping,38 but at the same time it represented a high expression of architectural and engineering knowledge. One example is the ancient roman lighthouse in Messina. Studies show that the architecture used was very functional, but at the same time it portrayed Neptune, thus mingling popular beliefs and superstitions. On the other hand, it was also a powerful way of delineating borders between Sicily and the Italian peninsula. Today the lighthouse in Messina has been replaced by fort San Remo and the architecture of the lighthouse has changed to a more functional one. Another powerful example is the ancient lighthouse in Alexandria, built on the island of Pharos where it stood alone as if wanting to replace the harbour itself. In Alexandria it is Poseidon who guards
the harbour, and the myth blends with the social and geographical importance of the lighthouse. Originally, the lighthouse in Alexandria was simply a landmark, but 38 Turismo La Coruna, Roman Lighthouses in the Mediterranean (2009) www.torredeherculesacoruna.com/index.php?s=79&l=en (accessed September, 2014)
40
eventually during the Roman Empire, it developed into a functional lighthouse. In the case of the old lighthouse built during the Roman period at the far eastern end of Spain, its dimension and position reflect the way Romans saw the world and how they believed Spain marked the far end of the world. What these lighthouses had in common was the fact that they were not just there to aid and support the traveller in his voyage but to define a border and to give spiritual assistance to the lost passenger. The symbol of the lighthouse is somehow deeply tied to a spiritual experience. In Messina where Neptune guarded the sea, and in many other places and different eras, the lighthouse was positioned in such way that it attracted a spiritual resonance and the light that emanated from the lighthouse may be compared to a spiritual guide. Matvejevic in his Breviario Mediterraneo39 compares lighthouses to sanctuaries and the lighthouse guardian to a spiritual hennit. He also adds that the crews responsible for the running of the lighthouse resemble a group of 1ponks, rather than sailors: ‘Gli equipaggi dei fari, cioe personale che somiglia piuttosto ai monaci dei conventi di un tempo che non ai marinai’ .40 ‘The crews of the lighthouses, that is staff that resembles more the convent’s monks of yore rather than the sailors’. The comparison is by no means striking, considering the mystical importance of the lighthouse. The lighthouse and its crew are seen and respected by the traveller, as they are their first encounter with land, safety and refuge. The link with spirituality is something that comes 39 Predrag Matvejevic Breviario Mediterraneo (Garzanti:2010) pp.55-56 40 Predrag Matvejevic Breviario Mediterraneo (Garzanti:2010) pp.56 41
naturally. The lighthouse crew for example is in some cases part of the ex-voto paintings found in the monasteries and convents. This illustrates the deep c01mection with the spiritual aspect. The question sometimes is to detennine whether the harbour and the lighthouse need to be two distinct features in the same space or whether they are part of the same geographical, social and cultural space. The answer may vary according to the way one perceives it. The lighthouse is the first encounter with land, but it is almost a feeling that precedes the real encounter with land, whilst the harbour is the first physical contact with land. The two elements may be taken into account separately, but for the purpose of this study they need to be taken in conjunction. The cultural value of both these elements goes beyond their physical value. In fact, both the lighthouse and the harbour share a common proximity to the sea, and receive cultural and social contributions from every traveller. The lighthouse and the harbour do not distinguish between different types of travellers -they accept everyone and their main gift for this act of pure love is the enrichment of culture, customs, language and food. The different elements intertwine and create a beautiful atmosphere that mixes sounds and tastes from various countries. This is not always distinguishable and it may not in all cases recreate the same atmosphere
in more than one country. What is sure is that the elements present in the harbours are of great relevance to what is portrayed on a higher artistic and cultural level. In this regard the harbour acts as a lighthouse for the country and sometimes for the region too, this time not to alann the traveller but to guide him spiritually and 42 artistically. The harbour was and still is a meeting place, where artists and thinkers stop and reflect. What comes out of these reflections sets deep roots in the cultural knit of the harbour and expands and grows until all the roots intertwine and create such a beautifully varied cultural atmosphere. Although the process may seem an easy and flowing one, we must not forget that the mixture of cultures and the setting up of such a variegated cultural atmosphere was not always flowing and peaceful. 3.1 Religious Cultural Mobility
The way the Mediterranean is geographically set up, contributed to an
expansion of religious pilgrimages that intertwined with marine commerce and
cultural richness. The image of the lighthouse and the harbour instil a sense of
spiritual refuge, and the large number of harbours and lighthouses in the
Mediterranean contribute to the mysticism of the region. Religious pilgrimage
throughout the Mediterranean is something that belongs to an older era and that
could have possibly started very early in the Greek empire, where Gods were
adored and ports and lighthouses had deep ties with different deities. As
Christianity started spreading in the Mediterranean, the Greek and Roman gods
were joined by saints and shrines for adoration.41 The coexistence of both pagan
and monotheistic religious expressions confinned a cultural motif related to
41 Peregring Horden, Nicholas Purcell The Corrupting sea, a study of the Mediterranean histmy (Blackwell publishing:2011)
43
divinity that has been a constant throughout Mediterranean history. In the Middle Ages the phenomena of the religious pilgrimage and the movement of saints’ relics gave to the Mediterranean voyage a different dimension. As noted in Borden and Purcell’s The Corrupting Sea, this age of pilgrimage and movement for religious purposes was brought about by a new discovery of sea routes in the Mediterranean and a different conception of religion as a c01mnodity. ‘Through the translation of his remains the saint himself, like the images of pre-Christian deities before him, in a very intense expression of the link between religion and redistribution, became a commodity’ .42 The redistribution of relics brought a new type of secular economy that involved bargaining and bartering. The movement of relics not only created a new wave of economic activity around the Mediterranean but also a movement of tales and accounts that pictured saints and voyages at sea, ‘Tales which echo real webs of communication, such as that of the arrival of St. Restitua from Carthage to Ischia’ .43 The stories seem to recall older stories from Greek culture, but are adapted to a newer setting.
The parallelism between good and bad, projected on the perilous voyage in
the Mediterranean, was always part of the account of a voyage itself, as we can
also recall in the various episodes of Ulysses’ journey. We are thus able to see that
in the voyages of pilgrims, the relationship between good and bad is often
projected onto the hard and extreme weather conditions in the Mediterranean.
42 Ibid pp.443
43 Ibid pp.443
44
Religious travellers had their own way of reading the map of the Mediterranean,
interpreting every danger and threat through religious imagery. From a cultural point of view, the accounts and echoes of religious travellers shaped the Mediterranean Sea itself and gave new life to the ports they anchored in. Apart from the movement of relics, another testimony of the great communication and cultural heritage -as we have previously mentioned- is the exvoto in the Mediterranean shores which gives witness to the cultural interaction and
customs based on faith. In many instances the objects collected for the ex-voto
have been taken up over time and placed in marine museums where cultural
interaction and exchange takes place. One example could be the ex-voto in
Marseille,44 where nowadays the objects collected are part of a collective cultural memory. In France, during the late seventies and the early eighties we have seen a great rediscovery of the ex-voto heritage that led to a deep cultural resonance in the area. The discovery of the ex-voto brought by a new inquiry of religious and harbour customs that were probably ignored previously. The paintings and objects dedicated to the saints and most of the time to the Virgin Mary represented the everyday life of sailors and travellers, the dangers at sea and most of all the miracles encountered during the arduous voyages. In the various exhibitions about ex-voto in France the concept of a Mediterranean ex-voto emerged and we are aware that at the time when the ex-voto was practiced in the majority of cases the 44 Jacques Bouillon ‘Ex-voto du terroir marsellais’ Revue d’histoire modern et contemporaine (1954) pp.342-344 45
voyage routes were sole1m1ly around the Mediterranean and the fact that marine exhibitions concerning the ex-voto claim a Mediterranean heritage calls for a collective cultural expe1ience. It is difficult though to distinguish between a
personal encounter with the harbour and a Mediterranean experience; one may
intertwine with the other. In this case, the Mediterranean reference is imposed and not implied, and one might therefore wonder if there are elements that are c01mnon in the region and thus justify the use of the word Mediterranean. In the case of the ex-voto, it has been noted that certain elements are common to the whole region.
It is interesting to note the areas of interest and the social groups to whom
the ex-voto applies. This may give a clearer idea of the criteria and the cultural
sphere that surrounded the practice of the ex-voto. In the majority of cases the exvoto represented the medium bourgeoisie and the lower classes, the setting mostly represented small nuclear families. In most of the ex-voto paintings, one can see that the terrestrial elements intertwine with celestial elements ‘Dans sa structure, un ex-voto presente deux espaces, celeste et terrestre’ .45 The anthropological and cultural importance of the ex-voto emerges through the various figures that appear especially in the paintings dedicated to the saints and the Virgin Mary. These figures have a particular placement in these paintings that reveals a deep connection with the cult of miracles and devotion.
In Malta, as in France, the ex-voto was a widespread custom that left a
great cultural heritage. The paintings and objects donated to the ex-voto, especially 45 Jacques Bouillon ‘Ex-voto du terroir marsellais’ Revue d’histoire modern et contemporaine (1954) pp.342-344 46
in connection to the sea, reveal a number of historical events and geographical
catastrophes that are tied with the Mediterranean region. The fact that the sea is
unpredictable makes the practice of the ex-voto much more relevant in an era
where the only means of transportation in the Mediterranean was by ways of sea. In the Maltese language there is a saying ‘il-bahar iaqqu ratba u rasu iebsa ‘ which literally translates to ‘the sea has a soft stomach but it is hard headed’. This saying is very significant as it shows the profound awareness of the Maltese community of the dangers at sea. The sea is unpredictable and therefore only through divine intercession can the traveller find peace and courage to overcome any dangerous situation. The different types of paintings that were donated portray different types of vessels and so indicate a precise period in history. At the Notre Dame de la Garde in Marseille, one finds a number of models of different vessels from various historical periods. We also encounter very recent models of boats. This confirms that in a way the ex-voto is still present nowadays. Even in Malta, the practice of the ex-voto is still relatively present, although one may notice that the advance in technology and the new fonns of transport through the Mediterranean aided the voyage itself and therefore diminished the threats and deaths at sea. The types of vessels used in the paintings also shows the different modes of economic trading voyages in the Mediterranean. For example, in Malta during the nineteenth century, a great number of merchants were travellmg across the Mediterranean. This resulted in a number of ex-voto paintings that pictured merchants’ vessels and one could be made aware of their provenance. Various details in the ex-voto 47
paintings show many important aspects of the Mediterranean history as a whole
and of the connectivity in the region that went on building through time.
One interesting fact common to almost all the ex-voto paintings is the
acronyms V.F.G.A (votum facit et gratiam accepit) and sometimes P.G.R (Per
Grazia Ricevuta) that categorizes certain paintings into the ex-voto sphere. The
acronyms literally mean that we made a vow and we received grace and P.G.R
stands for the grace received. The acronyms are in Latin, for a long period of time which was the official language of Christianity. These acronyms, which may have indicated the tie of high literature -through the knowledge of Latin- and popular culture -through the concept of the ex-voto, usually associated to a medium to lower class- demonstrate that the use of language may tie the various social classes. Although everyone understood the acronyms, it doesn’t mean that Latin was fully understood amongst sailors and merchants of the sea. Language was a barrier to merchants, traders and seamen most of the time. The Mediterranean has a variety of languages coexist in the region; Semitic languages at its south and Romance languages at its north. The lines of intersection and influence of languages are not at all clear and the geography of the Mediterranean region forced its people to move and shift from one place to another for commerce or for other reasons which brought by a deep need for modes of communication.
48
3.2 The Lingua Franca Mediterranea as a Mode of Communication
The communication barrier between people in the Mediterranean coupled
with the profound need for interaction brought by a deep need of a common
language or at least common signals which would be understood by everyone. In
the case of the ex-voto, language or at least a reference made to a certain language, gives the possibility for people from different countries to understand the underlying message. In the Mediterranean harbours where interaction between people from different lands was the order of the day, the need for common signals and language was always deeply felt. Languages in the Mediterranean region contain linguistic elements that throughout history have been absorbed from other languages. In the Mediterranean region especially during the fifteenth century, the great need for communication resulted in the creation of a so-called Lingua fiw1ca, a spoken language that allowed people to communicate more freely within Mediterranean ports. One such language was known as ‘Sabir’, with words mainly from Italian and Spanish, but also words from Arabic and Greek. The interesting fact about Sabir was that the amount of words coming from different languages around the Mediterranean was an indication of the type of c01mnerce that was taking place at the time. Therefore, if at a given moment in time the amount of words from the Italian language was higher than that from the Spanish language, it meant that commerce originating and involving from Italy predominated. As Eva Martinez Diaz explains in her study about the Lingua ji-anca Mediterranea:
49
‘They created a new language from a mixture whose lexical and
morphological base – the base of pidgin – is the Romance component,
exactly the language of the most powerful group in these relations and
which varies according to historical period. ’46 During the 16th Century, for example, the Lingua franca Mediterranea acquired more Spanish vocabulary, due to certain historical events that shifted maritime commerce. This was also an indication of certain political events that shaped Mediterranean history. When a country invaded or colonialized another, as happened in Algeria after the French colonization, linguistic repercussions were observed. This mostly affected everyday language communication, especially with the simpler and more functional mixture of words and phrases from different languages in ports and the areas around them rather than at a political level. In Mediterranean ports, the need among sea people and traders to communicatee led to the creation of a variety like Sabir. Sabir comes from the Spanish word saber (to know), although, it is mostly noticeable that Italian fonned it in its prevalence.47 Sabir is known to be a pidgin language. A pidgin is a language used between two or more groups of people that 46 Eva Martinez Diaz ‘An approach to the lingua franca of the Mediterranean’ Quaderns de la Mediteranea, universidad de Barcelona pp: 224
47 Riccardi Contini, ‘Lingua franca in the Mediterranean by John Wansbrough’ Quaderni di Studi Arabi, Litermy Innovation in Modern Arabic Literature. Schools and Journals. Vol. 18 (2000) (pp. 245-247)
50
speak a different language but need to have a business relation, and so, need to find a common language or mode of communication. The word ‘pidgin’ is said to come from the Chinese pronunciation of the word ‘business’. The Lingua fi’anca
Mediterranea was a language that started fonning in the Mediterranean throughout the 15th century and continued to shape and change itself depending on where the political and commercial hub lay; Sabir, specifically as an offshoot of the lingua fiw1ca mediterranea, fonned after the 17th century. The first time that reference was made to sabir was in 1852, in the newspaper ‘L ‘Algerien’ in an article entitled ‘la langue sabir. Apart from a few references made to the language, it is quite rare to find sabir in writing because it was mostly used for colloquial purposes, but in some cases it may be found in marine records. When it was actually written down, the lingua franca mediterranea used the Latin alphabet, and the sentence structure and grammar were very straightforward. In Sabir the verb was always in the infinitive, as, for example, in ‘Quand moi gagner drahem, moi achetir moukere’48, that means ‘when I will have enough money, I will buy a wife’. The use of the infinitive indicated a less complex grammar that made it more functional to the user, as it was a secondary language mostly used for commerce. Although Sabir was in most cases referred to as a variety of the lingua franca mediterranea, we perceive that in the popular culture sphere the word Sabir is mostly used to refer to the common and functional language used in MeditelTanean harbours for communication. It is deceiving in fact, because the 48 Guido Cifoletti ‘Aggiomamenti sulla lingua franca Mediterranea’ Universita di Udine pp: 146
51
lingua fi’anca mediterranea, is the appropriate reference that needs to be made
when talking in general about the language used in harbours around the
Mediterranean. On the other hand, if we want to refer to Sabir we are reducing the
lingua fi’anca mediterranea to a definite period of time and almost a defined
territory association. Nevertheless, both Sabir and lingua fiw1ca mediterranea are two different words that express almost the same thing, it is thus important to establish the minimal difference between the two tenns. In arguing that the lingua franca mediterranea refers to a more general language used in the Mediterranean harbours during the Middle Ages and that went on changing and fonning and changing-assuming different fonns according to the harbour and place where it was spoken- we are looking at the language in a broader way. It is undeniable though that Sabir as a reference to a specific language that fonned in Algeria during the 17th century, is most of the time more appropriate to address specific arguments, especially when it comes to popular culture expedients. Popular culture and literature have expressed their interest in the language through expressions such as poems and songs recalling Sabir as a language that managed to mingle more words of different derivation into single cultural spaces. Nowadays, Sabir is no longer used; in fact we notice that English and Chinese are developing into new pidgin languages, understood almost by everyone, especially when it comes to trade and busmess.
In the Mediterranean we have encountered the rediscovery of Sabir in
culture as a language that has a deep cultural value for Mediterranean countries as 52 a whole. One of the examples of the presence of Sabir in cultural expedients is the famous play by Moliere Le bourgeois gentilhomme49 that was represented for the first time in 1967 at the court of Louis XIV. The story was a satiric expression of the life at court, Moliere was well aware of the life at court and he wanted to show that there was no difference between royals and nonnal people, especially with regards to emotions. Moliere associates the Sabir to the foreign Turks that by means of Sabir they managed to communicate:
‘Se ti sabir,
Ti respondir;
Se non sabir,
Tazir, tazir. ‘ 50
The use of Sabir for Moliere indicated a common language understood both by
French and Turks in this case. The fact that Moliere used Sabir, it meant that
gradually the resonance of Sabir could reach out to a different audience, than it’s
main purpose. In this case the meeting place as the harbour was not present but we may perceive that the mixture of cultures and the need for communication led to the use of Sabir as the common language. 49 Moliere, le bourgoise gentilhomme www.writingshome.com/ebook _files/l 3 l .pdf
50 Moliere, le bourgoise gentilhomme www.writingshome.com/ebook _files/13 l.pdf pp.143
53
Coming to the present day, it is difficult to say that Sabir or the lingua
franca mediterranea own a particular important space in the cultural sphere or in the language per se. We are mostly sure that in the Mediterranean harbours Sabir has no relevance anymore, nevertheless, we find the use of Sabir in popular culture. One example is the aiiist Stefano Saletti,51 who in his songs uses Sabir. Its use was obviously intentional. Saletti looked at the new uprisings in the North African countries and he could recall the same feelings, faces and atmosphere that southern European countries went through thirty years prior. With this in mind, he decided to use a language that had co1mnon elements to all Mediterranean languages, and so he chose Sabir. His albums are inspired by the notion of music and culture as a tie to the whole Mediterranean, being conscious on the other hand of the numerous contradictions and differences in the Mediterranean region. The CD Saletti and the Piccola banda ikona explain what Sabir is and why they chose this language to communicate a c01mnon message through the music: ‘Once upon a time there was a tongue shared by the peoples of the Mediterranean. This was Sabir, a lingua franca which sailors, pirates,
fishennen, merchants, ship-owners used in the ports to communicate
with each other. From Genoa to Tangiers, from Salonika to Istanbul,
from Marseilles to Algiers, from Valencia to Palenno, until the early
decades of the twentieth century this kind of sea-faring “Esperanto”
developed little by little availing of tenns from Spanish, Italian,
51 Stefano Saletti www.stefanosaletti.it/schede/ikonaeng.htm (accessed July, 2014)
54
French and Arabic. We like this language. We like to mix sounds and
words. We play Sabir. We sing Sabir.’ 52 The importance of Sabir for Saletti shows that the harbour’s cultural value has been transmitted through time. Does the use of Sabir by Saletti indicate a recreation of a language that was used in the harbour as a functional and common means of communication or does it have the pretext to artificially recreate a common language? It is difficult to understand the importance and relevance an old pidgin language used for a specific purpose might hold today. Nevertheless, the use of this specific language in the music of Saletti reveals a profound search for common cultural traits in the Mediterranean region, that in this case aim to opt for cultural and educational approach to unite a region that is fractured in its own
basis. Saletti refers to Sabir as resembling Esperanto; a failed attempt to
linguistically unite a region that cannot be united. Although we may find the same concept in Esperanto and Sabir, we are aware that they differ in the way they came to be. Esperanto was artificially constructed, whereas, Sabir was born and evolved in an almost natural way by a need that went beyond the actual artifice. This is probably the reason why Sabir and the lingua franca mediterranea lasted for a long period of time, while Esperanto was at its birth a failed attempt to create a language for a detennined sector in society. It is a fact that the main difference between the two languages is that one aimed to create a broader understanding based on a functional everyday life need, whereas the other aimed to create a 52 Stefano Saletti www.stefanosaletti.it/schede/ikonaeng.htm (accessed July, 2014)
55
language understood by few. In Saletti’s and Moliere’s works, we perceive the Mediterranean harbour as a point of intersection of cultures and ways of living that left a spill-over of cultural traits in the abovementioned artistic works and in many other works by various authors around the Mediterranean region. It is important to notice that the harbour in the expression of the ex-voto, Sabir, lingua franca mediterranea and various literal and artistic expressions, served almost as a lighthouse, where culture was projected and created, and recreated and changed to fit the ever changing needs of the Mediterranean differing cultures. In Jean-Claude Izzo’s Les Marins Perdus, the language used in the harbour is not mentioned often, although he refers to language
as a barrier that finds its purpose in the basic everyday needs. Jean-Claude Izzo
mentions an important point on language in Les Marins Perdus as he delves in the way the word ‘Mediterranean’ is seen in different languages across the region: ‘Il Mediterraneo e di genere neutro nelle lingue slave e latine. E in
maschile in italiano. Femminile in francese. Maschile e femminile in
spagnolo, dipende. Ha due nomi maschili in arabo. E il greco, nelle
sue molteplici definizioni, gli concede tutti I generi. ‘ 53
‘The Mediterranean is neutral in the Slavonic languages, and in Latin.
It’s masculine in Italian. Feminine in French. Sometimes masculine,
sometimes feminine in Spanish. It has two masculine names in Arabic.
53 Jean-Claude IzzoMarinai Perduti (Tascabili e/o: 2010) pp.237
56
And Greek has many names for it, in different genders.’ Jean-Claude Izzo wants to prove that the word ‘Mediterranean’ in language is a sufficient proof of how people around the shores view the region. The gender of the word Mediterranean does in fact show that the languages in the region have
developed their own way of understanding and perceiving the region. Language as we have seen has deep ties to how popular culture and ideas have evolved and
developed. Sabir in its essence has proved that although the region has a myriad of contradictions and differing cultures, the harbour and everyday needs managed to combine the different languages into one. At the same time it is undeniable that the differences in the Mediterranean region make the region itself not only vast but also wonderful and enticing to the traveller and the artist. Literature and culture have fonned and mingled together, yet each maintained its distinct features at the the Mediterranean harbours; the place of various particular encounters. Jean Claude Izzo, Salletti and Moliere all managed to create a powerful work of art that has deep ties to the culture created and recreated over time in the Mediterranean harbours. Sabir and the ex-voto are only two examples of how harbours throughout
the Mediterranean have been a point of anchorage but also a locus of
Mediterranean cultural development. Harbours have been able to unite, divide and create such a diverse and yet common culture.
57
4 The Mediterranean Imaginary of Jean-Claude Izzo and Vincenzo Consolo Inspired by the Port The Mediterranean as a discourse has been interpreted and reinterpreted, and idealized and mystified by a myriad of authors, thinkers and artists. In this modem era where globalization of thought is the nonn, the Mediterranean discourse is by far a difficult expression that finds obstacles in the concretization of its own thought. Nevertheless, today the Mediterranean is still capable of producing new artists and new expressions by which the discourse gets richer and deeper. The Mediterranean, as its name suggests, is a sea that is in between two lands, and as Franco Cassano 54 states, has never had the ambition to limit itself to only one of its shores. The Metlitenanean was fm a periotl of time consecutively and simultaneously Arab, Roman and/or Greek; it was everything and nothing at the same time. The Mediterranean never aspired to have a specific identity, and its strength lies in its conflicting identity; it embraces multiple languages and cultures in one sea. Franco Cassano in his L ‘alternativa mediterranea states that borders are always ahead of centres, ‘Il confine e sempre piu avanti di ogni centro’55, and this concept is very relevant when we think about the significance of the harbour, as a place at the border of the country and yet the centre of every interaction.
Cassano goes on explaining how the centre celebrates identity, whereas the border is always facing contradiction, war and suffering. The border cannot deny the suffering by which the conflicting and inhomogeneous Mediterranean identity has 54 Franco Cassano, Danilo Zolo L ‘alternativa mediterranea (Milano: Feltrinelli, 2007) 55 Franco Cassano, Danilo Zolo L ‘alternativa mediterranea (Milano: Feltrinelli, 2007) pp.80
58
been built upon. The border is the true expression of the Mediterranean and it is
undeniable here that the most important interactions and historical events in the
region have taken place.
The border is an important concept in the study of the Mediterranean
itself, and as already mentioned, the majority of intersection and cultural
exchanges have taken place in the harbours, which are the borders of a country yet the centre of every interaction. For the concept of a ‘Mediterranean identity’ to arise, the harbour has been a pivotal place economic and religious interactions
which consequently left an undeniable cultural baggage whose strong presence
allowed the Mediterranean shores to benefit from an enriching cultural melange.
Being a sea of proximity, the Mediterranean has always been prone to receive the
‘other’ with all its cultural baggage, and therefore the concept of fusion and
amalgamation of different aspects of every country has always contributed to the
region’s culture. Accounts about the Mediterranean and those set in it have always put at their centre the concept of ‘differences’ and the ‘other’ in contraposition to the conflicts found in the harbours and in its centres. Nevertheless, without expecting the ends to meet to a degree of totality, the Mediterranean has been able to create places where ends do not merely meet but coexist. The coexistence of different races, cultures and languages has been the founding stone of the region.
As Cassano states, an identity that claims to be pure is an identity that is destined
to fail because it is in the essence of a culture that it repels the ‘other’, and
therefore sees the answer to every problem in the elimination of the ‘other’. The
59
Mediterranean, on the other hand has embraced ‘the other’ or on occasion, ‘other’ has forcedly penetrated the Mediterranean, giving birth to a region of different cultures based on a coexistence which is sometimes peaceful but often hard. The Mediterranean nowadays has overcome the complex of Olientalism and moved forward from a vision of an exotic south or border; ‘non e piu una frontiera o una barriera tra il nord e il sud, o tra l’ est e l’ ovest, ma e piuttosto un luogo di incontli e correnti … di transiti continui’ .56 ‘it is not a border or bamer between North and South, or East and West anymore, but it is rather a place of encounters and trends of continuous transits’. The Mediterranean has become a region of transit and a meeting place.
Upon travelling across the Mediterranean, an important thing which makes
itself evident is the imaginary that keeps on building through the interaction
between authors and thinkers, especially through their works that focus on the
importance of stating a discourse about the Mediterranean.
4.1 The Mediterranean Imaginary in Izzo and Consolo
‘Il Mediterraneo none una semplice realta geografica, ma un temtorio
simbolico, un luogo sovraccalico di rappresentazioni. ’57
56 Franco Cassano,Danilo Zolo L ‘alternativa mediterranea (Milano: Feltrinelli, 2007) pp.92 57Jean-Claude Izzo,Thierry Fabre Rappresentare il Mediterraneo, Lo sguardo francese
(Mesogea: 2000) pp.7
60
‘The Mediterranean is not a simple geographical reality, but a
symbolic territory, a place overloaded with representations.’
The Mediterranean is a region full of symbolism and representationswhich
would not exist if it were not supp01ied by the literature and culture that has
fonned on and around its shores. The Mediterranean as a region of imaginaries
built on the integration of different voices and stories has produced a number of
authors and thinkers that left a cultural and artistic patrimony to the discourse
about the Mediterranean. We have already seen how the harbour transmits a sense of insecurity and plays a role of threshold which is testified through the works of Izzo and Consolo. Both authors have not only shown the importance of the harbour but have also contributed arduously to the fonnation of a Mediterranean imaginary. The word imaginary, comprehends a number of images, figures and fonns that are created by the observers to define something -not solemnly by the mere reflection of facts and historical events, but by a personal evaluation- that sometimes goes beyond reality. In this sense, it is undeniable that the Mediterranean has gathered a number of observers who have been able to translate facts and create figures and images that represent a collective in a singular imagination. Consolo and Izzo have transfonned their personal encounter with the Mediterranean into a powerful imaginary.
Jean-Claude Izzo was born and raised in Marseille in a family of Italian
immigrants. His background and geographical position highly influenced his
61
writing. Both Izzo and Consolo shared a deep love for their country of origin
especially for the microcosm surrounding them. Vincenzo Consolo wrote about
his beloved Sicily, while Izzo always mentions Marseille. Both authors transpose
the love for the microcosm into a broader vision of the Mediterranean as a whole.
Jean Claude Izzo’s Mediterranean is based on a passionate encounter with the
region and states that his Mediterranean differs from the one found at travel
agencies, where beauty and pleasure are easily found.
‘Cio che avevo scoperto non era il Mediterraneo preconfezionato che
ci vendono i mercanti di viaggi e di sogni facili. Che era propio un
piacere possibile quello che questo mare offriva.’ 58
‘I had discovered a Mediterranean beyond the pre-packaged one
usually sold and publicised by Merchants, as an easy dream. The
Mediterranean offered an achievable pleasure.’
The Mediterranean hides its beauty only to reveal it to anyone who
wants to see it. The Mediterranean for Izzo is a mixture of tragedy and pleasure,
and one element cannot exist without the other. This image of beauty and
happiness shared with tragedy and war is a recurring one in the study of the
Mediterranean. Consolo’s writing is based on the concept of suffering. He
pictures human grief and misery as an integral part of the Mediterranean
58 Jean-Claude Izzo, Thierry Fabre Rappresentare il Mediterraneo, Lo sguardo francese (Mesogea:
2000) pp.17
62
imaginary and he feels that poetry and literature have the responsibility to transmit the human condition. Izzo in his writings not only shows that the Mediterranean imaginary is made up of tragedy, suffering and war but also shows that there is hope in the discourse about the Mediterranean itself. For Izzo, the Mediterranean is part of his future, part of his destiny, embodied in the geography of the region and in the tales and accounts that inhabit every comer of the region. Through his beloved Marseille, Izzo manages to look at the Mediterranean and thus find himself.
The word ‘imaginary’ in the academic sphere is tied to a concept used
for the definition of spaces, a definition that goes beyond the way things seem
externally, a definition that puts much more faith in how an author, thinker or
artist expresses and describes the space. In the case of the Mediterranean, since
the region is not an officially recognized political entity, identity is based on
interpretation more than anywhere else and the concept of an imaginary proves
that there are paths that still lead to thought about the Mediterranean. With this in mind, one cam1ot deny the fact that in the political or social sphere, the concept of Medite1Tanean is still being mentioned; however, one could argue that the Mediterranean that is being mentioned in a political and social sphere is somehow a constructed ‘Mediterranean’. The Mediterranean’s relevance nowadays is found in the hearth of the author and artist that from Tangiers or from Marseille is able to write about a sea that has thought him to be mobile, to travel not only physically but mentally and emotionally from one shore to another. Jean-Claude Izzo’s troubled identity gives us a hint of the way in which the Mediterranean is 63
perceived as a region and the way in which the personal ‘imaginary’ for Izzo was
fonned. Izzo himself was from a family of mixed origins and was raised in a
constant state of travel. Izzo found his Mediterranean identity in the imaginary
other authors had created but also found his roots in the very absence of more
organic roots. Every story and every country may be part of his own identity, and
so, the Mediterranean has the ability to preserve in the depths of its sea the stories and feelings collected from every shore and give a curious traveller the
opportunity to retrieve these treasures and make them his own.
The historical approach to the Mediterranean has been based on a
comparison between south and north, between the Mediterranean and Europe, and it usually focused much more on the contrasting elements than on its conjunctions and similarities. Braudel59 saw the Mediterranean as a static and unchanging region. Today, modem thought has led to a new perception of the Mediterranean, focusing rather on the points of conjunction than on the differences and contrasting elements, yet accepting the fact that the Mediterranean is diverse in its essence. In a paper by Miriam Cooke about the Mediterranean entitled Mediterranean thinking: from Netizen to Metizen60
, she delves into the importance of the juxtaposition between the liquidity of the sea and the immobility of the land in the rethinking process of the Mediterranean. In the Mediterranean imaginary, the sea serves as a mirror and as a fluid that is able to connect and remain welldefined.
It is able to give a sense of time that is very different from the one on
59 Femand Braudel The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean world in the age of Philip II (Fontana press: 1986) 60 Miriam Cooke ‘Mediterranean thinking: From Netizen to Medizen’ Geographical review, vol 89 pp.290-300
64
land. As we perceive in Jean-Claude Izzo, time is something that is completely
lost at the border between sea and land and especially in contact with the sea.
Sailors in Les Marins Perdus61 realize the concept of time only when they live in
the harbor and in other words, the sea has been able to preserve the sailor’s spirit in the illusion that time on land was as static as it was at sea. In the study about the Mediterranean region, the sea plays a fundamental role that must not be underestimated. Jean-Claude Izzo and Vincenzo Consolo both refer extensively to the figure of the sea when addressing the Mediterranean imaginary. When pondering on the Mediterranean, Izzo always places himself facing the sea, embracing the liquidity of this region, whereas in his stories, Consolo always uses the sea as the main mode of transportation and giving it a mystical attribute.
The Mediterranean has a different meaning for the two authors, because
it is perceived from two different places and two different conceptions of the
Mediterranean arise. In much of Consolo’ s writing, the Mediterranean is seen
through the image of Odysseus which is an image that holds a special meaning for Consolo and to which he feels deeply tied. For Consolo, The Odyssey is a story
that has no specific ending and this is done on purpose because it is directly tied to the future. The door to the future was kept open with the specific purpose of
letting the figure of Odysseus trespass time. The importance of Ulysses in
Consolo’s discourse extends to a deep and personal search for identity and it is
identity itself and the search for knowledge that led Ulysses to embark on a
61 Jean-Claude Izzo Marinai Perduti (Tascabili e/o: 2010)
65
voyage around the Mediterranean region and afterwards to return to Ithaca. Like
Izzo, Consolo finds the essence of a Mediterranean imaginary in the act of
travelling and sometimes wandering from coast to coast, from harbour to harbour, somehow like a modem Ulysses that aims to find himself and find knowledge through the act of travelling and meandering. Many authors that have focused their attention on the figure of Ulysses have focused on Ulysses’ return to Ithaca in particular and the search for a Mediterranean identity through this return.
Consolo, however, mainly uses the metaphor of travel and wandering, and he
manages to tie them to the question of a Mediterranean imaginary that is being
built upon the various images that the author is faced with through his voyage. For Consolo the voyage and the constant search for knowledge are the founding
stones of a Mediterranean imaginary. This urge to push further and thus reach a
greater level of knowledge has driven the Mediterranean people to practice
violence, and therefore Consolo believes that violence tied to the expression of a
deep search for knowledge is what has constituted the Mediterranean region. In
L ‘Olivo e L ‘Olivastro 62
, Vincenzo Consolo uses Ulysses’ voyage as a metaphor of his own voyage and his personal relation with Sicily; being his homeland it holds
a special place for Consolo especially in his writings. Constant change in the
modern concept of a Mediterranean has left a deep impact on the Mediterranean
imaginary. The wandering Ulysses returns to a changed and metamorphosed
Ithaca, which is a recurring image in the Mediterranean. Consolo finds his home
62 Norma Bouchard, Massimo Lollini, ed, Reading and Writing the Mediterranean, Essays by Vincenzo Consolo (University of Toronto Press, 2006)
66 island ‘Sicily’ deeply changed by industrialization and although it may have
maintained features that recall the past, it has changed greatly. Images of the
harbour and of the Mediterranean itself have deeply changed. Change may be
positive, negative or may hold a nostalgic tone, although change is always a
positive factor that contributes to the fonnation of an ‘imaginary’. The way
Ulysses and authors such as Consolo and Izzo have wandered and fought their
battles in the Mediterranean has contributed to the change that we now perceive in the region. Through the voyage of Ulysses, Consolo gives testimony of the
Mediterranean violence and change to the rest of the world. For Consolo the
imaginary created around the Mediterranean is a mixture of his own reality such
as a modem Sicily devastated by industrialization and modernization, and the
recurring image of Ulysses. In fl Sorriso dell ‘Ignoto Marinaio, Consolo focuses
on the microcosm of Sicily as a metaphor of the larger Mediterranean. His
imaginary is characterized by the concept of conflict – a conflict that keeps on
repeating itself in the Mediterranean and is somehow tied to a general conception of the Mediterranean. The harbour acquires an important space in the novel, being the hub of the whole story. The violence mentioned in the novel is a projection of violence in view of an attempt at unifying two different spheres, in this case the unification of Italy, but in a broader sense the possible unification of a Mediterranean. The attempt is not only a failure but results in a continuous war to establish a dominant culture rather than a possible melange of cultures that manage to keep their personal identities.
67
Izzo on the other hand wrote about the Mediterranean imaginary from
the point of view of sailors, who construct a Mediterranean imaginary based on
the concept of a difficult intercultural relationship and a strange bond with the
Mediterranean harbour. In Les Marins Perdus, the microcosm of Marseille
managed to represent the macrocosm of the Mediterranean, and the figures of the sailors represents a modem Ulysses, with the aim of bringing about a
Mediterranean imaginary that mingled old and traditional conceptions of the
region with new and modem ideas. Jean Claude Izzo’s sailors had different ways
of perceiving the Mediterranean, but they had a similar way of seeing and
identifying the ‘sea’. Izzo’s protagonist, much like Consolo’s protagonist,
develops an interesting habit of collecting old Mediterranean maps. For the sailor, the collection of maps represents in a certain way the concretization of a
Mediterranean and the unification of the geographical conception of the region.
The act of collecting may be considered as an attempt at identifying something
that is common, something that is part of a collective memory.
The works of Consolo and Izzo are the literal expressions of a
Mediterranean imaginary, based on their personal encounter with the region and
on their individual research on the subject. The way in which literal texts shape
our conception and ideas with their powerful imagery proves that the personal
encounter becomes a collective encounter in the translation of facts that each
author perfonns in his writings. However, what is most fascinating is the meeting
of ideas brought about through writing which also share elements with popular
68
culture. In essence, popular culture manages to reach a higher audience but it
often takes inspiration directly from literature and its various expressions. In the
sphere of popular culture one may see that the concept of adve1iising and of
mixing various means of communication to reach a specific goal come into action. 
Popular culture comp1ises various levels of cultural and artistic expression, and is therefore well placed to reach a larger audience and to imprint in the audience
various powerful images related to the subject chosen. In this case, the
Mediterranean has collected a large amount of popular culture expressions that
managed to create a knit of ideas and interpretations that succeed in intertwining and creating ideas through the use of old traditions and seminal literal texts.
4.2 The Mediterranean Imaginary in Popular Culture
The way in which the Mediterranean has been projected in the sphere of
popular culture owes a lot to the dichotomy between sea and land, between a fixed object and a fluid matter. The fascination around the two contrasting elements managed to create an even more fascinating expression of popular culture, thus an idea about the region that is based on the way in which Mediterranean people view the sea and view the stable and immobile element of land. Moreover, the Mediterranean popular culture focuses a lot on the element of the harbour, a place where the two elements of water and land manage to intertwine, meet, discuss ideas and at times fight over who dominates. The conflict between the two elements, projected in the geographical distribution of the region, has deep 69 resonance in the emotional encounter with the region. Thus, the authors, artists and travellers are emotionally part of this dichotomy that is consequently reflected in their artistic expressions.
To talk about the Mediterranean nowadays is to reinvent the idea behind
the region in an innovative and appealing way. Culture and literature are new
means by which we re-conceptualize the region. The Medite1Tanean has been
compared to the Internet, because it is a place where near and far are not too well defined, where space is something fluid and where infonnation and culture are transmitted through a network of connections. In her study, Miriam Cooke63 notes how even the tenninology used on the Internet derives from marine tenninology.
One example could be the ‘port’ or ‘portal’. In relation to the web, it is defined as
a place of entry and usually signifies the first place that people see when entering
the web. Although virtually, the concept of harbour remains the first and most
relevant encounter a person makes when approaching a country or ‘page’ on the
internet. Although air transportation has gained a great deal of importance,
shipping networks used for merchandise are common and still very much in use.
The parallelism between the Mediterranean and the Internet opens a new way of
conceptualizing the Mediterranean as a physical and cybernetic space. Miriam
Cooke explains how the Mediterranean itself, just like the Internet, changes the
traditional concept of core and periphery: 63 Miriam Cooke ‘Mediterranean thinking: From Netizen to Medizen’ Geographical review, vol 89 pp.290-300
70
‘The islands that are geographically centered in the Mediterranean are
rarely centers of power; rather, they are crossroads, sometimes sleepy
but sometimes also dangerous places of mixing, where power is most
visibly contested and where difficult choices must be made.’ 64
The way in which the Mediterranean is seen geographically most of the
time does not appear to be consistent with the actual function and thought of the
place. As in the case of the islands in the Mediterranean, their main function lies
in the fact that they are crossroads rather than real centres. Usually, the
geographical centre of a country is the actual political, social and economic
centre, however, in the Mediterranean, the centre is where ideas are fonned, and
this usually lies in the harbours and in the cities located in close proximity to the
sea. The centre and marginality of a place according to Cooke depends on the
position of the viewer. Therefore, the explained and conceptualized Mediterranean may have different centres and borders depending on who is writing about it. The function of popular culture is to somehow give a view on where the centre is and where the margins lie.
When discussing the Mediterranean in advertisements and in the media
m general, there is a tendency to start from the past, from a presumed
Mediterranean origin that seems to tie the whole region. In this assumption, there is no truth but just a commercial way of proposing the historical elements that 64 Ibid pp.296 71
unite the region, therefore making it appealing at a touristic level. The audience at times does not have a precise idea of the differing elements and cultures residing in the region. To make it more appealing and coherent, especially in advertising, culture seems to be portrayed as a feature that holds similar elements that recur throughout the region. Even tastes and sometimes sounds seem to be homogenized tlu·oughout the region. The French documentary film entitled Mediteranee Notre Mer a Taus produced by Yan Arthus-Bertrand for France 2, aims to give an overview of the Mediterranean by focusing not just on the common features, but most of all on the fascination of the differences. The
documentary film traces how the Mediterranean has transfonned and shifted over time and it aims to show the deep cultural heritage it left in Europe. Rather than an advertisement or promotional video, this is an educational movie that rotates around the Mediterranean to explain each and every place while delineating its features and importance. The interesting fact about the movie is that it is filmed from above, giving almost an overview of the region, and that it talks about a Mediterranean future that ultimately lies in a supposed c01mnon past. When advertising a harbour in the Mediterranean, most of the short clips focus on the multiculturalism of the harbour and the projection of the place within a broader Mediterranean vision.
72
A particular advertising video, promoting Tangier65 as a harbour city
that looks onto the Mediterranean but remains predominantly African, focuses on the emotions that it can deliver and on the particular features that can attract the tourist such as traditional food and music. In everyday life, certain music and
traditional food would have probably disappeared, but in the projection of a place that needs to attract the tourist, the sensational aspect prevails and the tradition needs to be prioritized. In all the movies concerning advertisement of the Mediterranean harbours, what prevails is the conception of the harbours as
crossroads, as places where cultures meet, and obviously leave deep cultural
heritage. The movement of people in these short clips is shown as a movement
that has brought richness and cultural heritage to the country, ignoring the
ongoing debates about migration. These clips tend to ignore the ongoing problems in the Mediterranean and this is obviously done to increase tourism and project a nicer image of the region, succeeding in having a positive impact on the mind of the viewer.
Another peculiarity that is noticeable both in the clips about the
Mediterranean harbours and in many movies and stories is a concept of time
which is very different from reality. In short clips, such as the one portraying
Tangiers or the one promoting Valletta, it is noticeable that time slows down. In
the transposition of the novel Les Marins Perdus into a movie66, the concept of
65 Fabounab,Tangiers, port of Aji-ica and the Mediterranean (uploaded May, 2010) www.youtube.com/watch?v=E_IJ3zmxC6g (accessed July, 2014)
66 Les Marins Perdus, Claire Devers (2003)
73 time is a fundamental element, because it drastically slows down. The first scene opens up with the overview of the Aldebaran, the ship on which the story unfolds.
This scene is a very long scene that gives the viewer a hint of approaching trouble, from sea to land. It achieves this in a very calm and slow way. Throughout the movie the sense of time being slower than usual is something that finds its apex in the last minutes of the movie when all the tragedies unfold. The way in which the Mediterranean is described in short clips and in this movie shows a common perception of the Mediterranean people as a people who enjoy life at a slower rhytlnn, although in certain cases it might be true that this assumption lacks accuracy. Although it is undeniable that the juxtaposition between land and sea which we especially perceive in the harbour gives a sense of time as a rather fictitious concept, one may recall the Odyssey, where the voyage in the Mediterranean took an unusually long time. The Odyssey in fact bases on the fact that time almost seemed to have stopped and in fact, the time span that Odysseus spent travelling at sea does not match with the actual time that was passing on land in Ithaca. On the other hand we perceive that time is passing by rather slowly for Penelope who patiently raised her son and safeguarded Ithaca while waiting Odysseus.
What the concept of time in the Mediterranean proves is that the various
images that one finds both in writing and in new popular culture are constantly fed to our conception of the region and through time these various concepts fonn an imaginary. In many cases, when we look at popular culture we find elements that 74 we can reconnect to literature. This proves that the means by which an imaginary is constrncted is based on different elements but usually one may find recmTing elements both in popular culture and literature. In the concept of time we also find a common way of seeing life itself. Time in the Mediterranean seems to be stuck therefore we may argue that literature and popular culture have contributed to the fonnation of our ideas about life per se, whilst obviously not denying that everyday life was of constant inspiration to literature and culture. The way in which both popular culture and everyday life intersect, connect and find common points is something of fundamental importance in the study of the Mediterranean imaginary, as it gives different points of view and visions of the subject and therefore creates an imaginary that manages in a subtle way to unite what seems so distant. Jean-Claude Izzo, Vincenzo Consolo and many other authors, as well as different ‘texts’ of popular culture, create an ethos about the Mediterranean that aims to join what appears separate. The fact that nowadays the Mediterranean is still present in popular culture, as in the case of the previously mentioned film shown by France 2, proves that discourse about the region and the Mediterranean imaginary are still alive and they have a presence in the mind of the receiver.
The imaginary of the Mediterranean harbour is also constrncted by the
way it is advertised. A short, recent videob1 advertising the Maltese harbour
repeatedly used the word ‘Mediterranean’ to highlight the connection between
67 Valletta Waterfront, Valletta Cruise Port Malta- the door to the Mediterranean, (uploaded February, 2012) www.youtube.com/watch?v=FMThbEG95WA (accessed May, 2014)
75
Europe and Africa. The way in which the harbour is projected in the French
movie shows a deep connection to the historical and cultural heritage of the
country but it also aims to show how historically and culturally varied the country is. The advertisement’s aim was to create a sense of uniqueness whilst focusing on the broader vision of the Mediterranean as a whole. On the one hand it focuses on the fact that Malta is part of the European Union, therefore boasting high standards of security and maritime services, and on the other hand it promotes the various hist01 ical influences on Malta and its Grand Harbour and portrays it as the gateway both to the northern and to the southern shore. Being an island in the Mediterranean gave Malta the possibility to create its uniqueness, but also to affiliate itself to both Europe and Africa. In this sense, the sea serves as a unifying factor but at the same time it was always able to maintain the individuality of each place. The discourse about the Mediterranean is rendered possible thanks to the various factors that inhabit the region – factors that may differ from one shore to another, thus making the region a more interesting one to study.
4.3 Conclusion The discourse about the Mediterranean has always revolved around the projection of different images that supposedly recall a common feeling and common grounds. The Mediterranean is a region that is in essence a combination of a myriad of cultures; this factor is very relevant in the discourse on the region 76 as the attempt to unite the region in one cultural sphere is somehow a failed attempt. It is relevant to mention that in the production of literature and culture, these different expressions especially concerning the Mediterranean have produced a knit of sensations and feelings that are now mostly recognized as being ‘Mediterranean’. The harbour in this case has always been the locus of the Mediterranean imaginary because sea and land meet in the harbour, and therefore many cultures meet and interact in the harbours.
Harbours are places that live an ‘in between’ life but that still manage to
mingle the differences in a subtle way that feels almost nonnal and natural. The
harbour has inspired many authors as it has built a sense of awaiting and hope in the person. The Mediterranean port seems to suggest that everything is possible, and that imageries and ideas can unfold in the same harbour.
77
5 Conclusion
The Mediterranean city is a place where two myths come together: the
myth of the city and the myth of the Mediterranean. Both myths have developed
independently because both managed to create symbols and connotations that
have been able to survive till today. The myth of the city in relation to the myth of
the Mediterranean has been for a long time regarded independently and therefore it created a succession of elements that was able to reside in the same place but was in essence two different elements. 68
From antiquity, the ‘city’ has been seen as a symbol of social order – as a
place where reason and civilization reign in contrast with the ignorance of the
outskirts. The concept of a ‘city’ that is able to unify ideals and control society by
maintaining high levels of education and increasing cultural standards has
developed a division between the rural areas and the city itself. In conjunction
with the harbour, the concept of a civilized ‘city’ mingles with the idea of a
cultural mixture that is able to absorb what the sea has to offer.
In the Mediterranean port cities, the cultural emancipation and the centre
of trade and business in a way managed to intenningle with the idea of ‘squalor’,
most of the time being associated to the harbour. Nevertheless, in the
68 Georges Duby Gli ideali de! Mediterraneo (Mesogea 2000) pp.83-100
78
Mediterranean harbour cities, the idea of cultural richness and emancipation was a concept that found concretization in the idealization of the ‘city’ itself by its
inhabitants. The ‘city’ as much as the Mediterranean itself found deep resonance
with the growth of literature. In the case of the ‘city’, various treaties and
literature expedients that promoted it as a centre of cultural riclmess and
architectural rigor helped the ‘city’ itself to find a place in the mind of the person
approaching it. The obvious consequence of this new fonnation of cities as a
symbol of 1igor and proliferation was that a great number of people migrated from the rural areas to the cities. The myth of the harbour cities as being the centre of business and a locus of culture went on cultivating with the accounts about these cities written by various authors. They managed to give life to a succession of images that are now imprints of harbour cities throughout the Mediterranean.
The Mediterranean appears unified in anthropological69 discourse in which
assumptions are made about the way ‘Mediterraneaninsm’ is constituted and the
‘Mediterranean way of life’. A group of cultural anthropologists aimed to view
the Mediterranean as a whole for the purpose of identifying elements that
managed to tie the region and gave meaning to the unification itself. On the one
hand they managed to give international relevance to studies about the region
because they constructed what they regarded as common Mediterranean attributes.
On the other hand they were constructing a discourse that said more about their
own vision than about a region that is varied in its essence. In a way they also
69 Georges Duby Gli ideali de! Mediterraneo (Mesogea 2000) pp.83-100
79 rendered the region ‘exotic’. The way in which anthropology managed to create an idea about the Mediterranean is interesting even though a person living in the region might argue that the picture given is incorrect. In this sense the imaginary of the Mediterranean projected by literature does not aspire to give a detailed account of life in the region but rather to actually transmit the feelings and passions that the region has. In this sense, literature was able to transfonn a passion and a detailed account of one’s own perspective about the region into an imaginary that is in its turn able to remain imprinted in the person’s conception of the Mediterranean. Literature and art in the Mediterranean had the ability to prove that there are common feelings in the region but they are distinguishable in their very essence and the harbour with its strategic position was able to give inspiration to the artist that approached it. The creation of an imaginary about the Mediterranean goes beyond the very need of knowing and apprehending facts that may be or may not be common to the whole region. In this sense, the artistic expedients and the literal world managed to relate to the reader and the spectator in a very special way by creating powerful images that construct society.
5.1 The ‘imaginary’ of the Mediterranean
One important definition of the ‘imaginary’ is given by Castoriadis in his
The Imaginary Institution of Society 70 in which he states that the human being
cannot exist without the collective and that the collective is fonned by different
7° Kostantino Kavoulakas Cornelius Castoriadis on social imaginaiy and truth(University of Crete, September 2000) pp.202-213
80
elements. One of the elements that is of great importance in the fonnation of the
collective is the symbol. The symbol or the collection of symbols is fonned from
reality and from an imaginary. In the composition of the imaginary, whatever
stems from reality and whatever stems from fiction remains in essence a question which is not resolved or which probably does not intend to be resolved. Therefore, the imaginary explained by Castoriadis gives a social meaning to certain questions that are fundamental in the complexity of reality. For example, the symbol of God was created for various reasons but its creation per se does not distinguish between elements that are true in its essence and elements that are imagined. The example given by Castoriadis on the symbol of God leads us to the conception of the Mediterranean region as a region fonned in its imaginary by reality and myth which intertwine and are not distinguishable. The Mediterranean created by the various authors and artists mentioned reinforces the imaginary that has at its basis the aim of giving a picture of the region which is not far from reality but on the other hand which is not that structured. Therefore we can argue that the difference between an anthropologist’s approach to the region and an artist’s approach is based on the difference in their point of focus. This statement one does not deny the importance of the anthropologist’s approach to the region where in fact social
structure appears and thus one can easily understand the way by which society is fonned. To fuiiher the study and understand it in its complexity one cannot deny the importance of literature and culture in the creation of an imaginary.
Castoriadis 71 states that society shares a number of undeniable truths that are
71 Kostantino Kavoulakas Cornelius Castoriadis on social imaginaiy and truth (University of 81
accepted by everyone. By analyzing the imaginary one manages to go beyond
these undeniable truths and thus manages to extend the life of the imaginary itself.
Therefore, if the Mediterranean exists, it is because it managed to create a number of myths and symbols able to renew themselves. The impo1iance of the imaginary for the region itself is based on the fruits that it gives. The Mediterranean that is being mentioned in the various books and poems is supported by the emotions and passions of each and every author. If the author is not moved by passion for the region it would be difficult to create an imaginary. The Mediterranean region is still present in our mind thanks to the imaginary created by the various authors and thinkers.
The choice of the harbour as the locus of a Mediterranean imaginary
comes almost naturally as the harbours facing the Mediterranean Sea have a great impact on culture in the Mediterranean and the threshold between sea and land is on the one hand the very basis of the Mediterranean life. The harbour and the city as two separate and yet same elements intertwine and are able to create rich and variegated cultures, yet they were also the first spectators of conflicts and wars.
From this point of view, it is undeniable that the harbour in the Mediterranean
holds a special place for the author and may be seen by many authors and thinkers as a place of inspiration where ideas concretize and where the emotions, thoughts and ideas brought by the voyage at sea are still very present in the memory.
Crete, September 2000) pp.202-213
82
Through the image of the harbour we come across the image of the sailor
who to many authors has been a point of reflection for the discourse on the
Mediterranean and has helped the connection between the real, almost “filthy” life of the harbor, and the ideas and concepts that fonn in the city. The various authors that integrated the image of the sailor to the idea of the harbour in the
Mediterranean were able to reinforce the Mediterranean imaginary by joining
different images and by giving them life and purpose in a way that goes beyond
the truth. The sailor in Jean-Claude Izzo’ s imaginary has a deep and developed
curiosity and a great knowledge of The Odyssey. While it is not be a surprise that
a sailor has a passion for literature, the point that Jean-Claude Izzo makes is that
Homer’s Mediterranean has definitely changed, yet it is still alive in the heart of
the ones that live the region in all its essence. Therefore, the sailor who is an
everyday image and thus is able to relate to a greater audience acquires almost
different attributes that do not match reality, but that are in essence part of a
shared Mediterranean imaginary.
The way in which authors and thinkers contribute to the fonnation of the
Mediterranean has been the principal focus of this dissertation. The pattern
created by art and literature all over the Mediterranean highlights the differences in the region but it also portrays the similarities that are able to give birth to a unified Mediterranean. As discussed throughout, the process of finding
similarities and the fonnation of an imaginary that is able to constitute the
83
Mediterranean was not a smooth one. The Mediterranean does not in fact appear
as a place that has a lot of common features. Even though politically and
sometimes socially it has been portrayed as a unified region, the unifying factors
are few. Literature does not aim to give a picture of the Mediterranean as one but
aims rather to give various personal and interpersonal interpretations of the region to fonn an imaginary able to be transported and reinterpreted in different
circumstances. It is important to understand that the word ‘imaginary’ does not
aim to conduct a political or social inquiry about the region and that the word in
itself actually aims to understand the underlying concept of the Mediterranean. It does not aim to state facts about the region but rather to give an account that is
able to connect the historical roots of the region to personal experience.
5.2 The Mediterranean ‘Imaginary’ Beyond the Harbour
Although the harbour was my main focus in identifying the Mediterranean
imaginary, it is definitely not the only point in the Mediterranean that could be
taken into account when studying its imaginary. Other aspects of the
Mediterranean could be of great relevance when expanding the various images of the region. One important aspect in all the literature expedients taken into account was the relationship of every author with their nation and their complex identity.
Therefore, in relation to the study conducted, it would be of great interest to expand the notion of ‘nationhood’ and the fonnation of various and complex
84
identities created in the Mediterranean. The Mediterranean nowadays is seen as a region where ‘nationhood’ and identity are created through a complex of knits and relations. The latest ‘citizenship’ programs in all of the northern Mediterranean countries show how the borders and the concept of ‘nationhood’ are deeply changing, most probably opening to further possibilities that range from cultural enrichment to economic advance. When thinking about the Mediterranean JeanClaude Izzo emphasized the fact that he felt that part of himself resided in every harbour and his ‘identity’ was not limited to one place. He makes us realize that the Mediterranean existed before the creation of ‘nations’ and so, each Mediterranean person feels like he can relate to more than one country and more than one culture. The harbour has been the first impact with a deep association to the region, and the person approaching a Mediterranean harbour automatically abandons his roots and is able to relate to what the harbour has to offer. In this sense we have seen how the harbour was vital to the creation of a powerful imaginary. The question of identity and complex relations in the Mediterranean would be a next step in analysing the complexity of the region. The Mediterranean harbour teaches us that all Mediterranean people are prone to the ‘other’ and are open to various cultures, including the exposure to a number of languages and the creation of a lingua .fi’anca to facilitate communication. Therefore, with this exposure promoted by the harbour, the Mediterranean created various identities that sometimes are not distinguishable.
85
Jean-Claude Izzo felt he could relate to almost every country in the
Mediterranean and that part of him resided in every harbour. Nevertheless, he
always saw Marseille as a point of reference and as an anchorage point where his thoughts concretized. Contrarily, the difficult relation of Vincenzo Consolo with the Italian peninsula makes the issue of complex identitites particularly relevant. For a number of years, Consolo worked in northern Italy where he felt like a stranger in his own country. However, with the difference of enviromnent and in a way, a dissimilarity of culture, he was able to contemplate the meaning of the Mediterranean and his native ‘country’, Sicily. The question of a possible or
rather an impossible identity in the Mediterranean does not enrich or denigrate the concept of an ‘imaginary’ but rather enables the person studying the region to understand certain dynamics and the way in which authors and thinkers approach the region. It is rather difficult to paint a clear picture of the Mediterranean through understanding the complexity of ‘identity’, though it would be of great interest to find the way in which each and every Mediterranean person manages to relate to the concept of identity, which is an integral part of his or her social accomplishment. Society instils a deep sense of fulfilment and accomplishment in a person who is able to fully relate to their country of origin, and as Amin Maalouf states in In the Nmne of Identity, 72 identity is something that most of the time may lead to war between countries, and so it is undeniable that it plays a fundamental role in the way we view things.
72 Maalouf Amin, In the name of Identity: violence and the need to belong (Penguin books, 2000)
86
Amin Maalouf is an author of mixed origins. He is Lebanese but has lived
most of his life in France and when asked which of the two countries is his ‘real’
country, he found it difficult to answer as he states that both countries are part of
his identity. Thus identity for Amin Maalouf is something very personal. A person
living in France fonn a number of years has the ability to emich his previous
identity, therefore acquires an added identity to the previous one. The same person cannot deny the previous identity, yet he cannot deny that the present identity plays an important role in his personal fonnation. The Mediterranean as a region has always promoted the mixture of cultures and the voyage itself, therefore contributing to the fonnation of complex and variegated identities. Nowadays, we manage to relate both to a Greek and Roman descent, therefore geographically and historically the Mediterranean has been united in ideas and concepts that are now far from each other but yet undeniable.
The same geography and architectural heritage left by the Greeks and
Romans is still visible in most of the Mediterranean cities and harbours. This is
evident in the lighthouses that were for most of the time a symbol of greatness and architectural splendour, and we encountered a succession of ideas and cultures that mingled with the necessity of the lighthouse. Therefore the lighthouse that was on the one hand a powerful expression of artistic and cultural splendour, managed to create ideas and thoughts that stemmed from the actual need of ‘light’ and guidance. All these elements intertwine in the Mediterranean, rendering the 
87
concept of identity somewhat a complex one. Each person has an identity as
explained by Tarek Abdul Razek in his study about the Mediterranean identity:
‘Each one of us is the depositary of a dual legacy: the first is vertical,
coming from our ancestors, the traditions of our people and religious
c01mnunities; the other is horizontal and derives from our era and
contemporaries. Vertical identity is connected to memory and the past;
it is limited to a given territory within a given area. It usually
corresponds to national identity, the outcome of cultural policy
choices. Instead, horizontal identity extends towards the future,
though it remains open to the contemporary, reaching beyond national
borders, within a social context, in a postmodern approach. Thus,
horizontal identity is a project, a project for the future and not merely
a legacy of the past.’ 73
In relation to the Mediterranean, the horizontal and vertical identity may
be tied to the deep varied history that the Mediterranean holds. If Mediterranean
history is based on the interaction between people and cultures, then each and
everyone’s identity cannot just be based on the value of the nation as it is now.
The horizontal identity that leaves a door open to the future is in this sense very
important and gives substance to the discourse of a Mediterranean imaginary,
73 Abdul Razek ‘Common Mediterranean identity’ The Euro-Mediterranean student research multi-conference EMUNI RES (2009) pp.1-8
88
being the main contributor to the future of the Mediterranean. The imaginary that is the bringing together of both the vertical and horizontal identities manages to give hope to future discourse about the region. The imaginary does not deny the complexity of a possible Mediterranean identity, but merely shows a past where ideas flourished and have now become an integral paii of our own identity. It also proves that the future of a region is not solely made up of geographical, political and social features but is also made of different elements that manage to inte1iwine fanning a knit of images able to reside in the mind of every reader, artist and philosopher.
A search for a common identity is surely not the path to be taken in
understanding the relations in the Mediterranean because a common identity
usually instituted by the idea of a nation instills in the person a set of common
goals and ideals. In the case of the Mediterranean, the various conflicts and wars
show that there is no co1mnon identity tying the region. Therefore, it is quite
difficult to analyze a common identity and it should not be the purpose of a study
itself. It is interesting, however, to delve in the way authors and thinkers that
contributed to the fonnation of an imaginary in the Mediterranean deal with their personal identity, whether it is problematic for a great number of authors or whether authors find that their identity is not limited to their ‘national identity’.
All these factors could be of great interest to the person studying the region in the
sense that if each author writing about the Mediterranean finds the impulse to
write about the region, then he must feel a sense of association to the region,
89 irrespective of his roots or his identity, or the historical elements that he finds
residing in all the Mediterranean. This ‘affiliation’ has an element of identity that
I find interesting in the discourse about the Mediterranean. Jean-Claude Izzo in
his Les Marins Perdus states that every person travelling in the Mediterranean
needs to have a personal reason for it, and this personal reason resides mostly in
the search for an identity. One of the characters in Jean-Claude Izzo’s Les Marins
Perdus was in constant search of an identity; a personal one that could tie him
psychologically and emotionally to a harbour or to a land. The Mediterranean, as
a region, was the place where he could c01mnent, argue and question his own
identity. Whether the search actually resulted in finding his identity is not the
actual point of the novel but the focal point is that the constant search for an
‘affiliation’ and an anchorage point brought out a rich imaginary that is able to be
transported through time.
The Mediterranean imaginary constructed by the various authors and
thinkers created a vision of various concepts such as the sailor, the metaphor of
the harbour, and the thresholds that hold both a geographical and metaphorical
meaning. The imaginary of the region is meant to go beyond the initial sociopolitical meanings that the media tries to portray. The Mediterranean for
anthropologists, authors, politicians and the Mediterranean people themselves has in essence a different meaning for each person, and therefore by analyzing the narration and images about the region, it is possible to understand the relationship between each component of the Mediterranean society to society itself.
90
The aim of analyzing the imaginary in the Mediterranean through the help
of the harbour as a conceptual and geographical area was to focus on the way in
which literature and culture through the help of metaphors and the personal
encounter with the region, manages to leave an imprint on the imaginary of the
region. The region is not only a place where these figures meet, intertwine and are reinvented but it is also a place where politics should be discussed considering the deep historical and geographical ties as well as a place where issues such as ‘migration’ should be viewed with the history of the region in mind. The importance of the Mediterranean does not lie in the accomplishment of a common identity but in realizing that each and every complex identity that resides in and writes about the Mediterranean can contribute to the fonnation of the ‘imaginary’ to which everyone can relate – images and figures with which each Mediterranean person, with their diverse identities, can identify. The imaginary is the result of images, narratives and depictions that from a personal meaning and manage to acquire a deeper and more global meaning. The Mediterranean people would not feel that these common ideas and values are in any way limiting their freedom or restricting their identity, but on the contrary, feel that it is enriching to their personalized and contradictory identity.
91
6 BIBLIOGRAPHY
Annstrong A. John, ‘Braudel’s Mediterranean: Un Defi Latin’ World Politics,
Vol. 29, No. 4 (July 1977) pp. 626-636 Anderson Benedict, Imagined Communities (Verso, 1996) Abulafia David, The Great Sea: A Human History of the Mediterranean (Penguin books, 2012)
Brann Conrad Max Benedict, ‘Reflexions Sur la Langue Franque (Lingua
Franca): Origine et Actualite’ La Linguistique, Vol. 30, Fasc. 1, Colloque de
Coimbra 1993 (1994), pp.149-159
Biray Kolluoglu and Meltem Toks6z, Cities of the Mediterranean: From the
Ottomans to the Present Day (New York: LB. Tami.s & Co Ltd, 2010)
Braudel Fernand, Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of
Philip II (William Collins and sons. ltd., 1972)
Blondy Alain, Malte et Marseille au XVIIIeme siecle (Fondation de Malte, 2013)
Bouchard Norma and Lollini Massimo, ed, Reading and Writing the
Mediterranean, Essays by Vincenzo Consolo (University of Toronto Press, 2006)
Cousin Bernard, ‘L’Ex-voto, Document d’Histoire, Expression d’une Societe’
Archives de Sciences Socia/es des Religions, 24e Annee, no.48.1, pp.107-124
Cousin Bernard, ‘Devotion et societe en Provence: Les ex-voto de Notre-Damede-
Lumieres’ Ethnologie Fram;:aise, Nouvelles Serie, (1977) pp.121-142
92 Cassano Franco and Zolo Danilo, L ‘Alternativa Mediterranea (Milano: Feltrinelli, 2007)
Cooke Miriam, ‘Mediterranean Thinking: From Netizen to Medizen’
Geographical Review, Vol. 89, No2, Oceans Connect (April 1999) pp.290-300
Consolo Vincenzo, fl Sorriso dell’Ignoto Marinaio (Oscar Mondadori, 2004)
Cifoletti Guido, ‘La Lingua Franca Barbaresca’ InKoj Philosophy & Artificial
Languages (September 30, 2012)
Debrune Jerome, ‘Le Systeme de la Mediterranee de Michel Chevalier’
Confluences Mediterranee (2001) pp. 187-194
Dubry Georges, Gli ideali del A1editerraneo (Mesogea, 2000)
Devers Claire, Les Marins Perdus (2003)
Davi Laura and Jampaglia Claudio, ‘Primo Report Medlink uno Sguardo
Incrociato tra Report e Statistiche Internazionali su: Sviluppo, Genere, Liberta,
Conflitti e Mobilita nel Bacino del Mediterraneo ‘
www.medlinknet.org/report/medreport-en. pdf [accessed February, 2014]
European Commission, European Atlas of the Sea, (last updated July, 2014)
ec. europa. eu/maritimeaff airs/ atlas/ seabasins/medi terranean/long/index en.htm [accessed May 201’1] Francesca Mazzucato, Louis Brauquier – fl Poeta del Mondo Meticcio di Marsiglia (Modena) Kult Virtual Press
www.kultvirtualpress.com 93
Fabounab, Tangiers, Port of Africa and the Mediterranean (uploaded May, 2010)
www.youtube.com/watch?v=E_IJ3zmxCGg [accessed July, 2014]
Gerald H. Blake, ‘Coastal State Sovereignty in the Mediterranean Sea: The Case
of Malta’ GeoJournal, Malta: At the Crossroads of the Mediterranean Vol. 41,
No.2 (February 1997) pp.173-180
Grima Adrian, ‘The Mediterranean as Segregation’ Babelmed.net
W\¥W .babelmed.net/index.php? c=3 8 8&m=&k=&l=en
Haller, Dieter ‘The Cosmopolitan Mediterranean: Myth and Reality’ Zeitschrifi
far Ethnologie, (2004) pp. 29-47
Homi Bhabha, ‘Of Mimicry and Man: The Ambivalence of Colonial Discourse’
Discileship: A Special Issue on Psychoanalysis, Vol. 28 (Spring, 1984) pp.125-
133 Borden Peregrine and Purcell Nicholas, The Corrupting sea, A study of the
Mediterranean History (Blackwell, 2000)
Harris, W.V, Rethinking the Mediterranean (Oxford University Press, 2005)
Izzo Jean-Claude, Les Marins Perdus (Flammarion, 1997)
Izzo Jean-Claude and Fabre Thierry, Rappresentare il Mediterraneo, Lo sguardo
Francese (Mcsogca, 2000) Jacques Bouillon, ‘Ex-voto du Terroir marseillais’ Revue d’Histoire Modem et Contemporaine (1954) pp.342-344
94
Jo o de Pina-Cabral, ‘The Mediterranean as a Category of Regional Comparison:
A Critical View’ Chicago Journals, Current Anthropology, Vol. 30, No. 3 (June
1989) pp.399-406 Kavoulakas Kostantino, ‘Cornelius Castoriadis on Social Imaginary and Truth’ (University of Crete, September 2000) pp.202-213
Massimo Lollini, ‘Intrecci Mediterranei. La Testimonianza di Vincenzo Consolo,
Moderno Odisseo’ Italica, Vol. 82, No.I (Spring, 2005) pp.24-43
Matvejevic Predrag, Breviario Mediterraneo (Garzanti, 2010)
Maalouf Amin, In the name of Identity: Violence and the Need to Belong (Penguin
books, 2000) Medcruise, The Association of Mediterranean Cruise Ports (2014)
http://medcruise.com [accessed June, 2014] Mollat Michelle, ‘Inventaire des ex-voto Marins en France’ Ethnologie Frarn;aise,
nouvelles serie (1979) pp.187-189
Moliere, Il Borghese Gentiluonw. Writingshome.com
www.writingshome.com/book.php?id=ebOOOOOOO 131 [accessed May, 2014]
Muscat Joseph, Il-Kwadri ex-voto Martittimi Maltin (Pubblikazzjonijiet
Indipcndcnzu, 2003) Nabiloo Ali Reza, ‘Mediterranean Features and Wonders in the Persian Literature’ Impact Journals Vol.2, Issue 1(January2014)
Moll Nora, Marinai Ignoti, Perduti (e nascosti). Il Mediterraneo di Vincenzo
Consolo, Jean-Claude Izzo e Waciny Lare} (Roma: Bulzoni 2008)
95 Resta Caterina, Geofilosofia def Mediterraneo (Mesogea, 2012)
Riccardi Contini, ‘Lingua Franca in the Mediterranean by John Wansbrough’
Quaderni di Studi Arabi, Litermy Innovation in Modern Arabic Literature.
Schools and Journals. Vol. 18 (2000) pp. 245-247
Saba Umberto, translated by Hochfield George: Song book: the selected poems of
Umberto Saba www.worldrepublicofletters.com/excerpts/songbook excerpt.pdf
(Yale University,2008) (accessed, July 2014)
Starrett, Gregory. Zarinebaf, Fariba, ‘Encounters in the Mediterranean’ Review of
Middle East Studies, Vol. 46, No. 2 (Winter 2012) pp.289-291
Sarga Moussa, ‘Le Sabir du Drogman’ Arabica, Vol. 54, No. 4 (October 2007)
pp.554-567 Sarton George, ‘The Unity and Diversity of the Mediterranean World’ Osiris, Vol.2 (1936), pp.406-463 Salletti Stefano, Stefano Salletti
http://www.stefanosaletti.it/schede/discografia.html [accessed May, 2014]
Thayer Bill, Ostia – A Mediterranean Port (1999)
www.ostiu-untica.org/med/med.htm#2 [accessed June, 201!1]
Turismo La Coruna, Roman Lighthouses in the Mediterranean (2009)
www.torredeherculesacoruna.com/index.php?s=79&l=en [accessed September,
2014]
96 Valletta European Capital of Culture, Valletta 2018
www.valletta2018.org/credits [accessed June, 2014]
Valletta Waterfront, Valletta Cruise Port Malta- The door to the Mediterranean,
(uploaded February, 2012) www.youtube.com/watch?v=FMThbEG95WA [accessed May, 2014] Winter Werner, ‘The Lingua Franca in the Levant: Turkish Nautical Tenns of Italian and Greek Origin by Henry Kahane: Renee Kahane: Andreas Tietze’ Language, Vol.36 (September 1960) pp.454-462
Yann Arthus Bertrand, Mediterranee Notre Mer a Taus (January, 2014)
97 

I dedicate this thesis to you, dear father. You showed me with your constant love, that whatever I do with persistence and commitment will open the doors to my destiny. The long nights I spent awake, reading and researching reminded me of the long nights you spent awake working, pennitting me to study and build my future. Your sacrifices are always accompanied by a constant smile that continuously gives me courage in difficult moments.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
The number of people to whom I owe my accomplishments is far too long to fit on this page, as many have inspired me and given me their constant support which has helped me realize that knowledge could open doors I did not even know existed. Nevertheless, there are a number of people who I would like to mention as they have been there for me during tough times and have given me the support I needed. I would like to thank my family without whom I would not have been able to further my studies, my boyfriend Terry, who has always believed in me and has always been there to support me with his constant love, and my uncle Carlo, who from an early age fed me with books and literature that fostered my love of knowledge and the curiosity to find my inner self. I would also like to thank my dearest colleague Ray Cassar, who always helped me grow both academically and as a person, as well as my tutor and mentor Adrian Grima, who directed me, allowing me to ground and express my ideas better whilst always respecting and valuing my opinions.
II
Table of Contents
1 Introduction …………………………………………………………………………………………. 2
1.1 The Harbour as Threshold ………………………………………………………………. 7
1.2 The Port as a Cultural Lighthouse ………………………………………………….. 10
1.3 The Mediterranean Imaginary of Izzo and Consolo Inspired by the Port12
1.4 Conclusion ………………………………………………………………………………….. 16
2 The Harbour as Threshold …………………………………………………………………… 1 7
2.1 Natural Landscape and the Development of Literature …………………….. 20
2.2 Instability vs. Stability in the Mediterranean Harbour ………………………. 23
2.3 The Prototypical Sailor …………………………………………………………………. 27
2.4 The Harbour as a Metaphorical Door ……………………………………………… 34
3 The Port as a Cultural Lighthouse ………………………………………………………… 38
3.1 Religious Cultural Mobility ………………………………………………………….. 43
3.2 The Lingua Franca Mediterranea as a Mode of Communication ………. 49
4 The Mediterranean Imaginary of Jean-Claude Izzo and Vincenzo Consolo
Inspired by the Port ………………………………………………………………………………….. 58
4.1 The Mediterranean Imaginary in Izzo and Consolo ………………………….. 60
4.2 The Mediterranean Imaginary in Popular Culture ……………………………. 69
4.3 Conclusion ………………………………………………………………………………….. 76
5 Conclusion ………………………………………………………………………………………… 78
5.1 The ‘Imaginary’ of the Mediterranean ……………………………………………. 80
5.2 The Mediterranean ‘Imaginary’ Beyond the Harbour ……………………….. 84
6 BIBLIOGRAPHY……………………………………………………………….. .. 9?.
III
Abstract

The Mediterranean harbour is a place of meeting, of encounters between
civilizations, of clashes, wars, destructions, peace; a place where culture comes to live, where art is expressed in various ways and where authors and thinkers have found inspiration in every comer. The harbour imposes a number of thresholds to the person approaching it. This threshold could have different fonns which could be emotional, geographical, spiritual or cultural. Authors such as Jean-Claude Izzo and Vincenzo Consolo lived and experienced the Mediterranean harbour in all its aspects and expressions; their powerful experience resulted in the formation of important images referred to as ‘imaginary’. The Mediterranean imaginary is the vision of various authors who have been able to translate facts and create figures and images that represent a collective, but at the same time singular imagination. The harbour is an important part of the Mediterranean geographical structure and thus it has been the main point of study for many examining the region. Factors such as language have transformed and suited the needs of the harbour, being a cultural melting pot.
1 Introduction
The Mediterranean is represented by chaos, especially in the harbour cities that are witness to the myriad of cultures which meet each and every day to discuss and interact in the harbour. It is imperative to state that chaos, as the very basis of a Mediterranean discourse has been fed through the different voices fonned in the region. These same voices, images and interpretations have found a suitable home in the Mediterranean harbours, places where literature and culture managed to flourish and where the so-called ‘margins’, both geographical and social, found centrality. The harbour has acquired significance in the discourse on the Mediterranean and thus on how literature and cultural expedients and the vaiious authors and artists recall the harbour as an anchorage point for their deep thoughts about the region. 1
Nowadays, the unification of the Mediterranean seems a ‘utopia’, since the Mediterranean is politically perceived as a region full of borders and security plans. One may easily mention the various strategic moves put forward by the European Union to safeguard the northern Mediterranean countries from migration from North African shores. By applying and reinforcing these security plans, the Mediterranean has become ever increasingly a region of borders. It is also important not to idealize the Mediterranean past as a unified past, because the 1 Georges Duby Gli ideali def Mediterraneo, storia, jilosojia e letteratura nella cultura europea
(Mesogea, 2000) pp.80-104
2
region was always characterized by conflict and chaos. Despite the chaos that was always part of the Mediterranean, being a region of clashing civilizations, it managed to produce a mosaic of various cultures that is visible to the eye of the philosopher or the artist. The artist and the philosopher manage to project their thoughts and ambitions for the region; therefore they are able to see hannony in a region that seems so incoherent. The aim of my thesis is to understand why the harbour is crucial in the construction of the Mediterranean imaginary. Both open space and border, the port, as in the case of Alexandria or Istanbul, has for a long time been a center for trade, commerce and interaction. Therefore, it is imperative to focus on the study of the harbour and harbour cities to be able to give substance to a study about the Mediterranean as a complex of imaginaries. The boundaries in the study about the Mediterranean have a special place; in fact a boundary that may be either geographical or political has the ability to project and create very courageous individuals that manage to transgress and go over their limits when facing the ‘other’. In the Mediterranean we perceive that the actual reason for transgressing and overcoming a limit is the need of confonning or confronting the ‘other’, sometimes a powerful ‘other’ able to change and shift ideas, able to transpose or impose cultural traits. Yet, the Mediterranean in its multicultural environment has been able to maintain certain traits that have shaped what it is today. Through movement of people in the region, the Mediterranean has been able to produce a number of great innovations, such as the movement of the Dorians who moved from the south all along the 3 Greek peninsula, and also the ‘sea people’ that came from Asia and, being hungry and thirsty, destroyed whatever they found. The same destruction and movement resulted in the creation of three important factors for the Mediterranean: the creation of currency, the alphabet, and marine navigation as we know it today. The various movements also contributed to the fonnation of the person as a free being with the ability to move freely. Therefore, movement and the overcoming of boundaries in the Mediterranean have contributed greatly to the fonnation of civilization itself.2 A board, today found in the museum of Damascus, with an alphabet very similar to the Latin one written on it, was very useful as it was very simple in its structure. This confirms a high level of democracy, as civilization meant that each individual had the possibility of knowing and understanding what his leaders understood. We get to understand that in the Mediterranean each person can practice his freedom by travelling out at sea and engage in trading. All this was made possible by the same interactions and conflicts raised in the region. Conflicts though are not the only factor that promoted the interaction and the fonnation of interesting cultural and literature in the Mediterranean, as we know it today. Art and culture have been means by which the various conflicts and interactions took life and expressed the deep feelings that inhabited the soul 2 Georges Duby Gli ideali de! Mediterraneo, storia, filosofia e letteratura nella cultura europea (Mesogea,2000) pp. 80-104
4
of the artist. Karl Popper3 states that the cultural mixture alone is not sufficient to put the grounds for a civilization and he gives the example of Pisistratus, a Greek tyrant that ordered to collect and copy all the works of Homer. This made it possible to have a book fair a century later and thus spread the knowledge of Homer. Karl Popper wants to tell us that art and culture have deeply influence the fonnation of a general outset of the region and that the fonnation of the general public is not something that comes naturally, but is rather encouraged. The Greeks in this sense were directly fed the works of Homer by the diffusion of the works themselves. On the other hand, the majority of Greeks already knew how to read and write, further enabling the diffusion of knowledge. Art and architecture are two important factors that have detennined the survival of empires and cultures through time. When artists such as Van Gogh were exposed to the Mediterranean, they expressed art in a different way and when Van Gogh came in contact with the Mediterranean region, the French Riviera and Provence in particular, he discovered a new way of conceiving art. In a letter that Van Gogh wrote to his sister in 1888, he explained that the impact the Mediterranean had on him had changed the way he expressed art itself. He told her that the colours are now brighter, being directly inspired by the nature and passions of the region. The Mediterranean inspired Van Gogh to use a different kind of colour palette. If the art expressed by Van Gogh that is inspired by the Mediterranean is directly 3 Georges Duby Gli ideali del Mediterraneo, storia, jilosofia e letteratura nella cultura europea (Mesogea,2000) pp. 80-104
5 represented and interpreted by the spectator, the region manages to be transposed through the action of art itself.4 The way in which the thesis is structured aims to focus on the vanous images created by poets, popular music and art. Each chapter provides evidence that the harbour has been the centre of attention for the many authors and thinkers who wrote, discussed and painted the Mediterranean. The thesis aims to prove that certain phenomena such as language and religion have contributed to a knit of imaginaries, the layout of certain events such as the ex-voto in the Mediterranean and the use of Sabir or Lingua Franca Mediterranea, which shows how the harbour managed to be the center of events that shaped the cultural heritage of the Mediterranean. The language and religious movement mentioned have left their mark on the Mediterranean countries, especially the harbour cities, which were the first cities encountered. The choice of the harbour cities as the representation and the loci of a Mediterranean imaginary vision is by no means a casual one. In fact, the harbour for many centuries has been the anchorage point not only in the physical sense but also emotionally and philosophically for many authors and thinkers, two of which are Jean-Claude Izzo and Vincenzo Consolo, extensively mentioned in the dissertation. These two authors are relevant for the purpose of this study as they manage to create a vision of the Mediterranean, based on their personal experience and influenced by 4 Georges Duby Gli ideali de! Mediterraneo, storia, jilosojia e letteratura nella cultura europea (Mesogea,2000) pp.43-55
6 the harbour from which they are looking at the region and observing the
Mediterranean. Popular culture ‘texts’ such as movies and music based on the interaction between the person and the Mediterranean region have an important role in the study, as they represent the first encounter with the harbour. It is a known fact that in the postmodern era where technological means have a broader and deeper reach, popular culture has become the first harbour in which many find anchorage. Therefore it would be difficult to mention literature works that have shaped the Mediterranean without mentioning the popular texts that have constructed images about the region that intertwine and fonn a complete and powerful image. The relevance of each factor is well defined in this study, delving deep in not only popular culture but also in language and various historical events that have transformed the Mediterranean, providing examples of how factors such as geographical elements, spirituality, devotion and passion have transfonned the way in which we perceive a region.
1.1 The Harbour as Threshold The first chapter focuses on the harbour as a threshold between stability and instability, between wealth and poverty, between mobility and ilmnobility. The various elements that constitute the harbour always convey a sense of ‘in between’ to the person approaching. The very fact that the harbour seems to be a place of insecurity gives the artists and authors a more stimulating environment to 7 write about their feelings and to contrast them with the ever-changing and chaotic enviromnent of the harbour. The way in which the natural landscape manages to influence the poetic and artistic expression is of great relevance to the study of the Mediterranean region, especially with regards to the study of the harbour. Poets such as Saba and Montale wrote about the way in which nature felt as a personified figure, able to give hope and change the way poets look at the world. 
They also wrote about nature in the Mediterranean as being an impmiant feature
shaping the way in which history and culture developed.
The sailor as a representation of a Mediterranean traveller is often found in
literature especially with regards to the notion of the harbour as an image of the
Mediterranean culture. Many authors such as Jean-Claude Izzo and Vincenzo
Consolo wrote about the figure of the sailor in relation to the sea and everyday life in Mediterranean harbours. The novels fl Sorriso dell ‘Ignoto Marinaio by
Vincenzo Consolo and Les Marins Perdus by Jean-Claude Izzo are written in two
different geographical areas of the Mediterranean and reflect two different
periods, but they are tied by an expression of a Meditemm~im i1rn1eirn1ry and
somehow recall common features and aspects of the harbour. Both novels manage to transpose their authors’ personal encounter with the Mediterranean, therefore
recalling their own country of birth. The novels are somewhat personal to the
authors; Consolo recalls Sicily while Izzo often refers to Marseille. The fact that
the novels are projecting two different areas and two different points of view on
8
the Mediterranean proves that by gathering different experiences related to the
region, a rich imaginary is created.
The harbour is a door, an entryway to a new world, and borders. Security
and expectations are all part of the experience of the threshold when entering a
country, especially in the Mediterranean, where thresholds are constantly present and signify a new and exciting experience that leads to a new interpretation of a Mediterranean imaginary. The way in which the harbour acts as an entryway suggests that what lies beyond the harbour is sometimes a mystery to the traveller.
Literature greatly contributes to the fonnation of ideas, especially in regard to the fonnation of thoughts such as the idea of a Mediterranean imaginary, but there is another element of fundamental importance to the formation of ideas on a generic line, which is popular culture. High-culture, referring to elements such as art, literature, philosophy and scholarly writings, creates a common understanding between an educated public. Popular culture refers to the section of culture that has a common understanding between the public. High-culture and popular culture have the power to transform what is mostly regarded as pertaining to high society; literature is constantly being reinterpreted and transfonned by popular culture to be able to reach a greater audience.
9
1.2 The Port as a Cultural Lighthouse The imp01iance of natural landscape which detennines the success or failure of a harbour, also detennines a number of historical events. In this sense, the Mediterranean is a region that has been naturally set up with a number of very important harbours that consequently fonned a particular history. The image of the harbour could be compared to the image of the lighthouse, which is part of the harbour itself but at the same is a distinct entity that in some cases had a role which went beyond its initial role of guidance and assumed almost a function of spiritual assistance. 5 The symbol of the lighthouse is also tied to knowledge and therefore the lighthouse has the ability to give knowledge to the lost traveller at sea, it is able to show the way even in uncertainties. The lighthouses in the Mediterranean had the ability to change through ages and maintain a high historical and cultural meaning; their function is a matter of fact to give direction to the traveller, but in certain cases it has been used to demarcate a border or as a symbol of power.
The Mediterranean Sea has witnessed different exchanges, based on belief,
need and sometimes even based solely on the search of sel£ Among these modes
of exchange and these pretexts of voyage in the Mediterranean, we find the exvoto and the movement of relics. Both types of exchange in the region have in
common at the basis religion that instilled in the traveller a deep wish to follow a
5 Predrag Matvejevic Breviario Mediterraneo (Garzanti: 2010)
10
spiritual path. These exchanges resulted in an increasing cultural exchange. The
ex-voto6 shows a number of things. One of these things is that the very existence
of ex-voto proves a deep connection with the geographical aspect in the
Mediterranean and therefore proving that the region is a dangerous one. In this
sense, people in the Mediterranean have shown their gratitude to God or the
Virgin Mary in the fonn of ex-voto after a difficult voyage at sea. On the other
hand, the ex-voto shows how popular culture mingles with the spiritual experience and the way in which a person expresses gratitude to the divine. The ex-voto paintings have a special way of being identified. The saint or in most cases Virgin Mary, is usually set in a cloud or unattached from the sea in a tempest. Another element that shows if a painting is or is not part of an ex-voto collection, is the acronyms found in the bottom of every painting V.F.G.A (votum facit et gratiam accepit). The use of Latin demonstrates the vicinity to Christianity, whilst the words meaning that ‘I made a vow and I received grace’ prove the tie between the tragedies at sea and the grace given by God. The difficult Mediterranean geographical predisposition, discussed by Femand Braudel7 has developed an abundance of devotion that transformed to shrines and objects of adoration and gratitude. These same shrines, objects and materials that were most of the time exchanged and taken from one place to another, have deeply enriched the Mediterranean with cultural objects and the same shrines are nowadays part of a collective cultural heritage.
6 Joseph Muscat Il-Kwadri ex-voto Martittimi Maltin (Pubblikazzjonijiet Indipendenza, 2003) 7 Fernand Braudel The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean world in the age of Philip II
(Fontana press: 19 8 6)
11
1.3 The Mediterranean Imaginary of Izzo and Consolo Inspired by the
Port The Mediten-anean for Jean-Claude Izzo and Vincenzo Consolo revolves around the idea of a harbour that gives inspiration because it is in essence a border where ideas meet and sometimes find concretization. The Mediterranean harbour for centuries has been a meeting place for people and cultures, thus creating a region full of interactions on different levels. The imaginary for both authors has been shaped by both cultural elements and by the literary elements that find a special place in the mindset of the author. Culture as a popular expression of the concept of the Mediten-anean has developed in different ways, one of which is the projection of the harbour and the Mediterranean itself through media and advertising. Various elements such as the touristic publicity or the actual reportage about the harbour and the Mediten-anean have widened the horizon and the imaginary of the region. In advertisements, the Mediterranean has been idealized in some ways and tends to ignore controversial issues such as ‘migration’; advertising also tends to generalize about the Mediterranean and so mentions elements such as the peaceful and relaxing way of life in the region. Advertisement obviously has its own share in the building of an ‘imaginary’ of the region, but it may also create confusion as to what one can expect of the region. On the other hand, the reportage about the Mediterranean harbour and the region itself focuses more on everyday life in the Mediterranean and common interactions such as encounters with fishennen. Nevertheless, when mentioning 12 the MediteITanean even the reportage at times makes assumptions that try to unite the MediteITanean into an ideal space and it sometimes aims to give an exotic feel to the region. Yet there are a number of informative films that have gathered important material about the MediteITanean, such as the French production Mediteranee Notre Mer a Taus, produced by Yan Arthus-Bertrand for France 2.8 The difference between the usual promotional or adve1iising video clips and the documentary film produced for France 2 was that in the latter the focus points were an expression of the beauty of the whole, whereas in the fonner, beauty usually lies in the common features that for marketing purposes aim to synthesize the image of the Mediterranean for a better understating and a more clear approach to the region. The harbour and other vanous words associated to the concept of the harbour have been used in many different spaces and areas of study to signify many different things other than its original meaning, and this makes us realize that the harbour itself may hold various metaphorical meanings. We have seen the way in which the harbour served as a first spiritual refuge or as an initial salvation point, but it is also interesting to note how the harbour is conceptually seen today,
in an era where globalization has shortened distances and brought down barriers. Nowadays, the harbour is also used as a point of reference in the various technological terms especially in relation to the internet, where the ‘port’ or 8 Yan Arthus-Betrand Mediteranee notre mer a taus (France 2, 2014)
www.yannarthusbertrand.org/ en/films-tv/–mediterranee-notre-mer-a-tous (accessed February,
2014)
13
‘portal’ refers to a point of entry and thus we perceive the main purpose of the harbour as being the first point of entry as is in the context of infonnation technology. The concept of core and periphery has deeply changed in the world of Internet and technology, as the concept of core and periphery almost disappeared. Similarly, the Mediterranean’s core and pe1iphery have always been in a way different from what is considered to be the nonn. Geographically, the core could be seen as the central area, the place where things happen, whereas in the Mediterranean, the periphery acquires almost the function of the core. The harbour is the geographical periphery; neve1iheless, it acquires the function of the core. The islands for example are usually centres, whereas in the Mediterranean they are crossroads rather than real centres of power. In nonnal circumstances the relation between core and periphery is something that denotes not only the geographical location of a place but it usually also refers to economical, social and cultural advancement. Therefore, in the Mediterranean region the concept of geographical centre and economical and social centres are different from their usual intended meaning.
The Mediterranean imaginary has developed in such a way that it
purposely distorted the concepts such as the standard core and periphery or the usual relationship between men and nature or between men and the various borders. In the Mediterranean imaginary, which as we have mentioned is being fed by various authors and popular discourse, has the ability to remain imprinted in our own thoughts and thus has the ability to reinterpret the region itself; we find 14 that the usual conceptions change because they suit not only the region but the author that is writing about the region. The way in which the various authors and artists who describe the Mediterranean are faced with the ongoing challenges presented by the region shows how in essence each and every author has their own personal approach to the region. Their works are essentially a personal project which lead to the enriclunent of the region’s imaginary. The differences between each and every author makes the ‘imaginary’ and the accounts about the Mediterranean much more interesting and ersonalized. 
Consolo9 and Izzo10 have different ways of perceiving the region and
although they both aim to create an ‘imaginary’ that may recall similar features, it is undeniable that there are substantial differences in their approach. Consolo on the one hand focuses a lot on the image of Ulysses as a figure that represents him in his voyage in search of the self. Ulysses for Consolo is a figure that manages to preserve a meaning even in the modem era, a figure that is able to travel through time all the while reinventing the Mediterranean. Izzo as well feels that the figure of Ulysses is imperative to the study of the Mediterranean, but he mostly focuses on the impact of the present experience of the region on the conception of a Mediterranean ‘imaginary’ rather than focusing on the past as a representation of the present situation. 9 Vincenzo Consolo Il Sorriso dell’Ignoto Marinaio (Oscar Mondadori: 2012) 10 Jean-Claude Izzo Marinai Perduti (Tascabili e/o: 2010) 15
1.4 Conclusion
The Mediterranean has been seen as a region full of inconsistencies,
contradictions and conflicts, based mainly on the divergent ideas and cultures residing in the same area. The Mediterranean imaginary does not exclude the conflicts that are present in the region and does not aim to unify the region, and in doing so it aims to give voice to the region. For the various authors and thinkers that are mentioned in the thesis, the Mediterranean has transmitted an emotion or has been able to create the right environment to express ideas and fonn thoughts. The relevance of each and every author within the framework of this thesis shows that without analyzing the single expression about the region, through the various works, one cannot fonn an imaginary of the Mediterranean region. The various concepts of borders, thresholds, conflicts and cultural clashes manage to mingle with each other in everyday life in the Mediterranean – greater ideas and fundamental questions find resonance and meaning in simple everyday interaction between a common sailor and a woman at a bar. The Mediterranean in essence is the voyage between the search for deep roots and the analysis of the clashes that result from this search for roots. The study of the Mediterranean is the constant evaluation of boundaries and the search for the ‘self’ through a wholly subjective analysis of the ‘other’. The imaginary plays a fundamental role in bringing near the ‘roots’ and the ‘present’, and the ‘self’ and the ‘other’.
16
2 The Harbour as Threshold The Mediterranean harbour for many authors and thinkers is a starting point as well as a dying point of the so called ‘Mediterranean culture’. In fact many sustain that the ‘MediteITanean culture’ takes place and transfonns itself in its harbours. This concept does not have to confuse us in assuming that a ‘Mediterranean culture’ in its wholesomeness really does exist. There are elements and features that seem to tie us; that the sea so generously brought ashore. On the other hand the same sea has been keeping things well defined and separate. The harbour as the first encounter with land has always maintained an important role in the formation of ideas and collective imagination. The harbour is not selective in who can or cannot approach it and so the fonnation of this collective imagination is a vast one. It is also important to state that the harbour in itself is a place of contradictions, a place where everything and nothing meet. The contrasting elements and the contradictions that reside in Mediterranean ports are of inspiration to the various authors and thinkers who study the Mediterranean. In this sense they have contributed in the formation of this Mediterranean imagination. Literature is an important factor that contributes to a fonnation of a collective imagination; it would be otherwise difficult to analyze the Mediterranean without the help of literature, as the fonnation of a collective imagination was always fed through literature and cultural expedients.
17
The Mediterranean region, as we shall see, is an area that is somehow
constructed; a person in France may not be aware of what a person in Morocco or in Turkey is doing. The concept of a constructed Mediterranean may be tied to the anthropological study conducted by Benedict Anderson 11 where he states that the ‘nation’ is a constructed concept and may serve as a political and somehow economic pretext. The sea is navigated by both tragic boat people and luxurious cruise liners, and these contradictions seem to be legitimized in the Mediterranean region. To give two recent examples we can observe on a political sphere, the European Union’s decision to fonn a Task Force for the Mediterranean (TFM) whose aims are to enhance the security of its shores and to drastically reduce deaths at sea. The TFM is a recent initiative that follows a number of proposals at a political level that have the Mediterranean security at heart. 12 This idea was triggered by a particular event that saw the death of 500 migrants off Lampedusa. It clearly poses a question whether the Mediterranean is a safe place or not, and whether it remains in this sense appealing to touristic and economic investment. The TFM probably reinforces the idea that the Mediterranean is a problematic region and thus requires ongoing ‘security’. To reconnect to the main idea, the TFM reinforces the notion that the Mediterranean is a constructed idea where access from one shore to another is denied and where one shore is treated as a security threat whereas the other shore is treated as an area to be protected or an 11 Benedict Anderson, Imagined communities (Verso, 1996)
12 Brussels, 4.12.2013 COM (2013) 869 Communicationjiwn the commission to the European Parliament and the council on the work of the Task Force Mediterranean 18 area that is unreachable. The contradictions keep on adding up when we see the way the Mediterranean is portrayed for economic and touristic purposes. One example is the ‘Mediterranean port association’ that helps the promotion of cruising in the Mediterranean region providing assistance to tourists who would like to travel in the region. In this context the Mediterranean is used in a positive way in relation to the touristic appeal it may have. The construction of a Mediterranean idea is by no means restricted to an economical or a political discourse; it has deeper roots and meanings that have fonned through a history of relations between countries and of fonnations of literary expedients. For Franco Cassano13, the Mediterranean is a region that in essence is made of differences, it would be otherwise difficult to justify the clashes that have characterized the Mediterranean history, if it was not for the fact that we are all aware that it is a region made up of dissimilarities On the other hand it is due to these dissimilarities that the Mediterranean is an appealing region both for authors and for travelers alike.
13 Franco Cassano,Danilo Zolo L ‘alternativa mediterranea (Milano:Feltrinelli, 2007)
19
2.1 Natural Landscape and the Development of Literature Nature and literature are two elements that intertwine and thus create a collective imagination around the concept of the Mediterranean harbour. In fact, the dialectic between natural landscape and poetic expression was always a matter of great relevance as nature constantly managed to aid the development of poetic expression. The natural landscape helps the fonnation of existential thoughts, such as life, death and the existence of men – thoughts that are always reinterpreted and reinvented through literature. This relation between men and nature was always important in configuring spaces and detennining them according to a common understanding. 14 In the poem of Giacomo Leopardi Dialogo delta Natura e di un Islandese, Nature is personified, and although the indifference and coldness of nature is palpable, we sense that the poet is being aided by nature in fanning his ideas about life itself. Through time and especially through globalization, the world is being interpreted in terms of geographical maps and technology is subsequently narrowing our concept of space and enlarging our concept of life. In the new modem dimension, where the concept of space has acquired an abstract meaning, literature leaves the possibility of dialectic relationship between men and nature, thus enabling men to perceive the places they inhabit as a significant part of their self-construction process. This concept takes us to the perception created around the Mediterranean region and especially the way people look at 14 Massimo Lollini fl Mediterraneo de/la contingenza metafisica di montale all’apertura etica di Saba (Presses Universitaires Paris Quest: 2009) pp.358-372
20
figures such as the sea, the ports and the shores. In Giambattista Vico’s15 poetic geography we understand that the representation of geography through poetic expression is something that dates back in time, through a cosmic representation of senses and feelings. In this regard, Montale and Saba both express in a relatively modem tone the deep representation of the Mediterranean through a mixture of contrasting feelings and ideas. The image of the harbor and any other images in the Mediterranean are deeply felt and analyzed, through the eyes of the poets that live in the region. Montale uses the dialectic of memory to explain his relationship with the Mediterranean, a region locked in its golden age that lives through the memory of poets and authors. He refers to the Mediterranean as ‘Antico ‘ emphasizing the fact that it is an old region. The word ‘Antico ‘ does not merely refer to oldness, but to oldness combined with prestige. The memory characterizes the Mediterranean for Montale, the image of the sea for instance is an archaic image that notwithstanding holds a modem and yet spiritual meaning as it expresses a sense of purification. The sea with its movement brings ashore all the useless and unwanted elements. On the other hand the sea may be seen as a fatherly figure that becomes severe in its actions and makes the poet feel insignificant and intimidated. Montale’s aim was to overcome the threshold between artistic expression and natural landscape through a dialogue with the Mediterranean Sea. This aim was not fulfilled. Montale tried hard to express artistically what the Mediterranean Sea meant but ended his poem humbly putting himself at a lower stage in comparison to the greatness of the Sea. Montale fills 15Massimo Lollini Il Mediterraneo della contingenza metafisica di montale all’apertura etica di Saba (Presses Universitaires Paris Ouest: 2009)
21 his poetry with a mixture of humility and paradoxes; two elements that keep on repeating themselves in the poetry concerning the MeditelTanean.
Furthennore, in Umberto Saba’s ‘Medite1Taneet16 we encounter the same
contrasts and paradoxes used by Montale to develop the figure of the
MeditetTanean Sea. Saba uses the microcosm of Trieste to explain a larger
macrocosm: The MeditetTanean. This technique renders his work more personal and gives it a deeper meaning. Saba and Montale both rely on the memory to express a feeling of deep ties with the element of the sea and the life of the MeditelTanean harbour. Saba’s MeditelTanean resides in his microcosm, personal encounters and experiences fonn his ideas about the region; a region he perceives as being full of fascinating contradictions.

‘Ebbri canti si levano e bestemmie
nell’Osteria suburbana. Qui pure
-penso- e Mediterraneo. E il mio pensiero
all’azzulTo s’inebbria di quel nome.’ 17
‘Drunken songs and curses rise up
in the suburban tavern. Here, too,
I think, is the Mediterranean. And my mind is
drunk with the azure of that name.’ 18
16 Umberto Saba, translated by George Hochfield: Song book the selected poems of Umberto Saba
\V\V\V. worldrepublicofletters.com/excerpts/songbook excerpt.pdf (accessed, July 2014)
17 Massimo Lollini fl Mediterraneo della contingenza metafisica di montale all’apertura etica di Saba (Presses Universitaires Paris Ouest: 2009) pp.358-372
22
Saba mingles his personal classicist fonnation expressed in the ‘all’azzurro’
with the poorest part of the Mediterranean harbour ‘l’osteria’. Both factors are intertwining, and so, the Mediterranean for Saba is the combination of both the richness of classicist thoughts that fonned in the Mediterranean as well as the meager elements that fonned in its po1is; yet they embellish and enrich the concept of the Mediterranean. Saba is searching for his personal identity through the search for a definition to the Mediterranean. In his art he attempts to portray the very heart of the MediteITanean which is found in his abyss of culture and knowledge with the everyday simple life of the harbours. 2.2 Instability vs. Stability in the Mediterranean Harbour In Saba and Montale’s works, the fascinating inconsistencies in the Mediterranean seem to find a suitable place in the ports and in the minds of each and every author and thinker who encounters it. The notion of stability and instability finds its apex in the port. The sea is the synonym of instability, especially in the Mediterranean, being depicted as dangerous and unpredictable. As in the recounts of the Odyssey, the sea, and the Mediterranean as a whole, is a synonym of instability and thus prone to natural catastrophes. The Homeric recounts of Ulysses’ journey explore the Mediterranean that was previously an unknown place. Although the places mentioned by Homer are fictitious, they now 18 Umberto Saba, translated by George Hochfield: Song book the selected poems of Umberto Saba
www.worldrepublicofletters.com/excerpts/song:book _excerpt.pdf (accessed, July 2014)
23
have a general consensus over the definition of the actual places. As time went by historians and authors went on confinning what Homer had depicted in his Odyssey – a Mediterranean that constantly poses a challenge, danger and fascination at the same time. Femand Braudel in his ‘Mediterranean and the Mediterranean world in the age of Philip the II’ 19 sustains the view of a difficult Mediterranean, of a succession of events that have helped the success of the Mediterranean for a period of time. Its instability and complication have not aided the area in maintaining its ‘golden age’. This discourse was reinvented by Horden and Purcell in ‘The Corrupting Sea’20 where the Mediterranean meets geographically, historically and anthropologically. In ‘The Corrupting Sea’ the view of Femand Braudel is expanded into what the Mediterranean meant
geographically and historically, therefore Horden and Purcell explain that the inconsistencies and natural features in the Mediterranean really contributed to bring the ‘golden age’ to an end, but they were the same features that brought on the rich culture around the Mediterranean countries in the first place. Where literature is concerned, the inconsistencies and natural features served as an inspiration to various authors who went on fonning the collective imagination around the Mediterranean. Therefore, it could be argued that the geographical
complexity of the region is in fact the tying point to the ‘Mediterranean’ itself that resides in the unconscious and that otherwise would have died with its economical shift towards other areas of interest. The problematic identity and the challenging 19 Femand Braudel The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean world in the age of Philip II (Fontana press: 1986)
20 Peregring Horden, Nicholas Purcell The Corrupting sea, a study of the Mediterranean histmy (Blackwell publishing: 2011)
24
natural enviromnent brought by an ongomg sense of curiosity and attraction towards the Mediterranean region. The port is the first encounter with stability after a journey that is characterized by instability, at the surprise of the inexperienced traveler. However, the port does not always covey immovability. The p01i gives a sense of limbo to the traveller that has just arrived. It is a safe place on the one hand but on the other hand due to its vicinity to the sea, it is as unpredictable as the sea itself The sailor is a frequent traveler who knows and embraces the sea. He chose or has been forced to love the sea, to accept the sea as his second home. The sailor is in fact the figure that can help us understand the fascination around the Mediterranean and its ports. It is not an unknown factor that sailors and their voyages have captured the attention of many authors that tried extensively to understand the affinity sailors have to the sea. The sailor21 is a man defined by his relation with the sea and is a recurrent figure in a number of literature works all over Europe and the rest of the world. The sailor is the incarnation of the concept of human marginality, he lives in the margin of life and he embraces the marginality of the harbour with the different aspects of the port. The thresholds present in the port are represented by the sailor; a figure that lives between the sea and land, between betrayal and pure love,
between truth and lie. Like the portrayal of Odysseus, the concept of a sailor has 21 Nora Moll Marinai Ignoti,perduti (e nascosti). fl Mediterraneo di Vincenzo Consolo, JeanClaude Izzo e Waciny Lare} (Roma: Bulzoni 2008) pp.94-95
25
infidelic properties. He carnally betrays his loved one, but he is psychologically anchored to one women for his whole life; a women who is always present in various thoughts but at the same time she is always physically distant. As we will see in various works, the sailor is in constant search of knowledge – the very same knowledge that brought him to love and embrace the sea. The knowledge that is conveyed through the action of travelling itself is another question that would require a deep analysis, but for the sake of our study the fact that knowledge is transmitted through the depth of the sea is enough to make a com1ection with the purpose by which the sailor travels. The sailor fluctuates between sea and land, between danger and security, between knowledge and inexperience. The thresholds are constantly overcome by the curious and free spirited sailor that embarks in this voyage to the discovery of his inner-self. The literary voyage of the sailor in the Mediterranean takes a circular route while it goes deep in ancient history and ties it to modem ideas. Since the sailor is not a new character but a recurring one in literature and culture it has the ability to transfonn and create ideas giving new life to the Mediterranean harbours. While the seamen are the link between the high literature and the popular culture, the sailor does not have a specific theme in literature but the archetype of ‘the sailor’ has a deep resonance in many literary themes. As Nora Moll states in one of her studies about the image of the sailor, she puts forward a list of common themes associated with the image of the sailor:
26
‘Tra i complessi tematici, a cm m parte ho gia accem1ato,si
annoverano l’avventura, il viaggio, l’eros, l’adulterio, il ritorno, il
superamento di limiti (interiori) e di sfide ( esterne ), la liberta, la vita
come “navigatio” e come intrigo conflittuale di esperienze. ’22
‘Amongst the complex themes, which I partly already mentioned, we
find adventure, travel, Eros, adultery, the return, the overcoming of
limits (interior) and challenges (exterior), freedom, life as “navigatio”
and as a conflictual intrigue (or scheme) of experiences.’
2.3 The Prototypical Sailor The interesting fact about the study conducted by Nora Moll is that the sailor in her vision is not merely a figure tied to a specific social class, but as we can see the themes listed are themes that can be tied also to the figure of Ulysses. It is difficult to say that Ulysses or the image of the sailor own a predestined set of themes, and in fact they do not necessarily do so. Ulysses is a character that comprehends certain themes, but these change and shift in accordance to space, time and circumstances. What does not change is the thresholds that are always present in the life of a sailor, the limits that are constantly there to be overcome and the external challenges that need to be confronted. The harbour conveys a 22 Nora Moll Marinai Jgnoti,perduti (e nascosti). I! Mediterraneo di Vincenzo Consolo, JeanClaude Izzo e Waciny Larej (Roma: Bulzoni 2008) pp.94-95
27
number of thresholds; as we have seen these are embodied in the figure of the manner. Jean Claude Izzo in his Les Marins Perdus23 wrote about the discomfort of sailors having to forcedly stay on land and their relationship with the harbor, a passing place that has a special meaning. The harbor is in fact a special place for the mariner, as it is the only place where they can have human contact beyond that of the crew. The mariner in Jean Clause Izzo does not feel that he belongs to any nation or country. He belongs to the sea; a sea that managed to give meaning to his life but at the same time managed to destroy it. Jean Claude Izzo uses strong images of the port to describe the tie the sailor has to the harbour itself, he uses sexual and erotic images and ties them to legends and popular culture expedients. The story is interesting because of the way Jean Claude Izzo reverses the way sailors live. In fact he recreates a story where the sailor is trapped in the harbour and so he is forced to view the sea from land and not the other way round as he usually does. The psychological discomfort that Jean Claude Izzo creates portrays the Mediterranean archetypes and the life in the ports from a reverse point of view. Everyday life in the harbour is analyzed through a succession of tragedies that on one hand recall the classicist view of the Mediterranean, and on the other hand, due to references to everyday life elements, may be easily connected to the modem conception of the Mediterranean port. The links created by Jean Claude Izzo are made on purpose to create an ongoing bond between the classic Homeric 23 Jean-Claude Izzo Marinai Perduti (Tascabili e/o: 2010) pp.238
28
Mediterranean and the modem Mediterranean. In fact, Diamantis -the mam character of the novel- is portrayed as a modem Ulysses trying to cope with ongoing temptations and with the constant drive for knowledge. The Odyssey is for Diamantis a point of anchorage. He reads the Odyssey while attempting to define himself: ‘In effetti l’Odissea non ha mai smesso di essere raccontata, da una taverna all’altra,di bar in bar: … e Ulisse e sempre fra noi. La sua eterna giovinezza e nelle storie che continuiamo a raccontarci anche oggi se abbiamo ancora un avvenire nel Mediterraneo e di sicuro li. [ … ]I porti del Mediterraneo … sono delle strade. ’24 ‘Yes … In fact, the Odyssey has constantly been retold, in every tavern
or bar … And Odysseus is still alive among us. Eternally young, in the
stories we tell, even now. If we have a future in the Mediterranean,
that’s where it lies.” [ … ] “The Mediterranean means … routes. Sea
routes and land routes. All joined together. Connecting cities. Large
and small. Cities holding each other by the hand.’ In this quote we see the continuous threshold between space and time being overcome, that serves to keep alive the Mediterranean itself. It is clear that the classic Homeric recount is always reinterpreted and reinvented. The Odyssey
is not the only point of reflection for Diamantis. In fact the protagonist is seen as a 24 Jean-Claude Izzo Marinai Perduti (Tascabili e/o: 2010) pp.238
29
deep character that reflects on the various incidents in his life and it could be argued that Diamantis is the expression of Jean Claude Izzo’s thoughts. The sailors in Jean Claude Izzo’s novel chose to be Mediterranean; naval commerce exists beyond the enclosed sea, but these men chose to sail with inadequate ships in a region where geographical beauty and historical richness meet. The port for Izzo, has multiple meanings and he defines the Mediterranean harbours as differing from other harbours, because of the way they are accessed. Izzo uses the image of the harbour as a representation of love: ‘Vedi, e’ il modo in cui puo essere avvicinato a detenninare la natura di un porto. A detenninarlo veramente [ … ] Il Mediterraneo e’ un mare di prossimita’. ’25
‘You see, it’s the way it can be approached that detennines the nature of
a port. Really detennines it. [ … ] The Mediterranean, a sea of closeness.’
This passage shows the influence of thought, Izzo inherited from
Matvej evic. In fact the approach used to describe the harbour and to depict the nature is very similar to the one used by Matvejevic in his ‘Breviario Mediterraneo’. 26 We perceive that the harbour is substantially a vehicle of devotion, love, passion and Eros, though we may also observe the threshold between the love and passion found in the port and the insecurity and natural brutality that the sea may convey. In this novel, the port is transfonned in a secure 25 Jean-Claude Izzo Marinai Perduti (Tascabili e/o: 2010) ppl22 26 Predrag Matvejevic Breviario Mediterraneo (Garzanti:2010)
30
place whilst the sea is a synonym of tragedy. At the same time the port is seen as a filthy and conupt place. While for Izzo the past is used as a background to tie with the present and moreover to show a link with the future, Consolo uses a different technique. He goes deep in one focal historical point to highlight certain Mediterranean features and problematic issues. Consolo uses the period of time where Sicily was undergoing various political changes. He describes the revolution and the Italian unification, and portrays real events and characters tied to Sicilian history. In Vincenzo Consolo, the image of the sailor is used as a metaphor through the work of Antonello ‘il Sorriso dell’Ignoto Marinaio’.27 The title itself gives us a hint of the tie between art and everyday life. The voices that intertwine and form the discourse around the Mediterranean are hard to distinguish as they have fanned the discourse itself to a point where a voice or an echo is part of another. The work of Consolo28 goes through a particular historical period in Sicily to describe present situations and ongoing paradoxes in the Mediterranean region. It is difficult to resume and give a name and specific allocation to the works on the Mediterranean as the multiple faces and voices have consequently fanned a variety of literature and artistic works. The beauty behind works on the Mediterranean is that archetypes such as the concept of a ‘sailor’ or the ‘harbour’ are revisited and reinterpreted, thus acquiring a deeper meaning and at the same time enriching the meaning of ‘the Mediterranean’ itself.
27 Vincenzo Consolo fl sorriso dell’Jgnoto Marinaio (Oscar Mondadori:2012)
28 Vincenzo Consolo fl sorriso dell’lgnoto Marinaio (Oscar Mondadori:2012)
31
Consolo focuses on the microcosm of Sicily and he portrays a fluctuation
between sea and land. He locates Sicily in an ideal sphere where the thresholds are nonexistent: ‘La Sicilia! La Sicilia! Pareva qualcosa di vaporoso laggiù nell’azzurro tra mare e cielo, me era l’isola santa! ’29 ‘Sicily! Sicily! It seemed something vaporous down there in the blue between sea and sky, but it was the holy island!’ Sicily is placed in an ideal sphere where beautiful natural elements coexist with famine, degradation and war. The imagery created around the island of Sicily may be comparable to the imagery around the Mediterranean region. As for the harbour it is described by Consolo as a place of contradictions, comparable to the ones found in the whole Mediterranean. The detail given to the life in the port is extremely in depth and the type of sentences used expresses the frenetic lifestyle of the port itself: ‘Il San Cristofaro entrava dentro il porto mentre ne uscivano le barche, caicchi e gozzi, coi pescatori ai rami alle corde vele reti lampe sego stoppa feccia, trafficanti con voce urale e con richiami, dentro la barca, tra barca e barca, tra barca e la banchina, affollata di vecchi, di donne e di bambini, urlanti parimenti e agitati [ … ].’30 29 Vincenzo Consolo fl sorriso dell’Jgnoto Marinaio (Oscar Mondadori:2012) pp:56
30 Vincenzo Consolo fl so1-riso dell’Jgnoto Marinaio (Oscar Mondadori:2012) pp:29
32
‘The San Cristoforo sailed into the harbour whilst the boats, caiques
and other fishing boats, sailed out with the fishennen holding the
ropes sails nets tallow oakum lee, traffickers beckoning with an ural
voice, inside the boat, from one boat to another, from one boat to the
quay, crowded with the elderly, women and children, screaming
equally and agitated’ [ … ] The tension around the port is well transmitted in the explanation given by Consolo, there seems to be a point of nothingness and a point of departure at the same time. We perceive that there is plenty of life in the port but at the same time confusion reigns, therefore we could argue that people in ports are not really conscious of life and that they are letting things turn. Nevertheless, the port is the starting point of life that develops either in the sea or inland. Both by Consolo and in Izzo we are made aware of the importance of life at the ‘starting point’, therefore the port in the works of both authors acquires the title of a ‘threshold’ between life and death, consciousness and unconsciousness, love and hatred, nature and artifice, aridity and fertility. In the microcosm described by Consolo, the Sicilian nature and its contradictions seem to recall the ones in the rest of the region. For example, the painting ‘Ignoto Marinaio’ is described as a contradictory painting. In fact, the sailor is seen as an ironic figure that smiles notwithstanding the tragedies he has encountered. The ‘Ignoto Marinaio’ has seen the culture and history of the Mediterranean unveil, he has therefore a strange smile that 33 expresses the deep knowledge acquired through his experience and a deep look that convey all the suffering he has come upon. In the novel by Consolo, the painting serves as a point of reference and in fact, the ‘Ignoto Marinio’ resembles another important character in the novel; Intemodato. Both figures share the ironic and poignant smile and the profound look. Intemodato is seen as a typical Sicilian revolutionary who embraces the sea but at the same time is not psychologically unattached to the situations that happened on land. He is part of the revolution and integral part of the Sicilian history.
2.4 The Harbour as a Metaphorical Door Consolo and Izzo with their accounts of sailors and the life in Mediterranean harbours brought us to the interpretation of the harbour as a metaphorical door. As in the seminal work of Predrag Matvejevic ‘Breviario Mediterraneo’,31 the harbour is tied to the concept of a metaphorical door. In Latin both ‘porto’ and ‘porta’ have the same root and etymological derivation. A harbour in fact is a metaphorical and physical entryway to a country. In the Roman period, the god Portunos was the deity of the harbour who facilitated the marine commerce and the life in the port in general. The various deities related to the sea in the Roman 31 Predrag Matvejevic II Mediterraneo e I ‘Europa, lezioni al college de France e altri saggi (Garzanti elefanti:2008)
34
and Greek traditions are an indication of a deep relation between the figure of the harbour and the physical and geographical figure of the door or entryway. The door may have many different shapes and may divide different spaces but it always signifies a threshold from one point to another. In literature the harbour signifies a metaphorical door between fantasy and reality, history and fiction, love and hatred, war and peace, safety and danger. The image of the door is concretized through the various border controls, visas and migration issues and in this regard the entryway becomes a question of membership. A piece of paper in this case detennines the access through that doorway, but from a cultural and
identity point of view the Mediterranean threshold is overcome through the encounter with history and fiction. Thierry Fabre in his contribution to the book series ‘Rappresentare ii Mediterraneo’; 32 in relation to the Mediterranean identity he states; ” … Non si situa forse proprio nel punto di incorcio tra la storia vera e i testi letterari che danno origine all’immaginario Mediterraneo?”33 ‘ Isn’t perhaps situated exactly at the meeting point between the real stories and the literature texts that give birth to the Mediterranean imagination?’ Fabre is conscious of the fact that the discourse about the Mediterranean limits itself to a constructed imaginary, the poet or artist in general that enters this metaphorical door is expected to conceive the Mediterranean imaginary; blending reality with fiction. The door is not always a static figure but is sometimes blurred and does not 32 Jean Claude Izzo, Thierry Fabre Rappresentare il Mediterraneo, lo sguardo fiwicese (Mesogea: 2000) 33 Ibid (Mesogea: 2000) pp.25
35
clearly divide and distinguish. The Mediterranean itself is a region of unclear lines the fonnation of a port and of a nation itself is sometimes not that clear. In Matvejevic’s ‘Il Mediterraneao e l’Europa’34 literature blends with facts and culture so does the geography around the Mediterranean region: ‘Tra terra e mare, in molti luoghi vi sono dei limiti: un inizio o una
fine, l’immagine o 1 ‘idea che li uniscono o li separano. Numerosi sono
i tratti in cui la terra e il mare s’incontrano senza irregolarita ne rotture,
al punto che non si puo detenninare dove comincia uno o finisce
l’altro.Queste relazioni multiple e reversibili, danno fonna alla costa. ’35 
‘Between land and sea, there are limits in many places: a start or a
finish, the image or the idea that joins or separates them. The places
where sea meets land without any irregularities or breaks are
numerous, to the extent that it’s not possible to detennine where one
starts or the other finishes. These multiple and reversible links that
give shape to the coast.’ The coast in this sense is made up of a set of relations between figures and fonns that meet without touching each other, the door is not always present; it sometimes disappears to give room to imagination and the fonnation of literature.
34 Predrag Matvejevic Il Mediterraneo e !’Europa, Lezioni al College de France e Altri Saggi
(Garzanti elefanti: 2008)
35 Ibid (Garzanti: 2008) pp.53
36
The concept of literature allows the analysis of culture and the way it 1s
envisioned and spread through Mediterranean harbours. The fluctuations of varied thoughts that have shaped the Mediterranean imagery through its harbours have no ties with everyday life, if not by the transmission of culture and the means of popular culture that served as a point of anchorage and sometimes as a point of departure for the fonnation of a deeply rooted but also enriching and contested collective imagination.
37
3 The Port as a Cultural Lighthouse The harbour for many centuries has been an anchorage point and a safe place for sailors and travellers that navigate the Mediterranean. We perceive the safety of the harbour as something that is sometimes naturally part of its very makeup, as on such occasions where we encounter natural harbours. In other cases, to suit their needs, people have built around the shores and transfonned paii of the land into an artificial harbour which is able to welcome the foreigner and trade and at the same time to defend if needed the inland. Femand Braudel36 in his The Afediterranean and the Mediterranean World in thP AgP nf Philip TT <liscusse<l the importance of the Mediterranean shores for the traveller in an age when people were already able to explore the outer sea, but yet found it reassuring to travel in a sea where the shore was always in sight. The Mediterranean Sea has always instilled a sense of uncertainty in the traveller, because of its natural instability. Nevertheless, the fact that the shores and ts are always in the vicinity, the Mediterranean traveller is reassured that he can seek refuge whenever needed. The fascinating thing is that the ports in the age delineated by Femand Braudel were not only a means of safety but most of all of communication – a type of economic and cultural c01mnunication that went beyond 36 Fernand Braudel The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean world in the age of Philip II (Fontana press: 19 8 6)

38
the simple purpose of the port itself. The same simple modes of communications that Braudel describes may seem irrelevant when studying the Mediterranean history in its entirety, but we get to understand that they are actually the building blocks of the Mediterranean itself:
‘This is more that the picturesque sideshow of a highly coloured
history. It is the underlying reality. We are too inclined to pay attention only to the vital communications; they may be interrupted or
restored; all is not necessarily lost or saved. ‘ 37 The primordial modes of communication, the essential trade and the mixture of language and culture all have contributed to the creation of what we now sometimes romantically call the Mediterranean. The truth lies in the fact that
the harbour has always been prone to receiving and giving back; it has been a passing place of objects, customs and of words. We surely cannot deny the fact that trade has shifted not only by moving from different areas of interest but it also shifted into different forms changing the harbour’s initial function. This basic fonn of communication has contributed highly to the formation of a Mediterranean imaginary and a mixture of cultures that have left a deep resonance in language, literature and cultural expression as a whole.
37 Femand Braudel The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean world in the age of Philip II (Fontana press: 1986) pp.I 08
39
The risk and insecurity delivered by the sea have contributed to the
fonnation of various symbols that from their end contribute to the fonnation of an imaginary concerning the Mediterranean harbour. Amidst the uncertainties and hazards at sea, the light of the lighthouse that shows the surest path and warns the person travelling of the possible dangers, reassures the traveller while leading the way. The symbol of the lighthouse is tied to the representation of light and thus knowledge. Finding light in the middle of the sea gives the traveller the necessary means to have greater awareness of what is approaching. The geographical position and the architecture of the lighthouse are all an indication of their meaning beyond their primary objective. During the Roman period for example, the lighthouse was primarily an important source of safekeeping,38 but at the same time it represented a high expression of architectural and engineering knowledge. One example is the ancient roman lighthouse in Messina. Studies show that the architecture used was very functional, but at the same time it portrayed Neptune, thus mingling popular beliefs and superstitions. On the other hand, it was also a powerful way of delineating borders between Sicily and the Italian peninsula. Today the lighthouse in Messina has been replaced by fort San Remo and the architecture of the lighthouse has changed to a more functional one. Another powerful example is the ancient lighthouse in Alexandria, built on the island of Pharos where it stood alone as if wanting to replace the harbour itself. In Alexandria it is Poseidon who guards
the harbour, and the myth blends with the social and geographical importance of the lighthouse. Originally, the lighthouse in Alexandria was simply a landmark, but 38 Turismo La Coruna, Roman Lighthouses in the Mediterranean (2009) www.torredeherculesacoruna.com/index.php?s=79&l=en (accessed September, 2014)
40
eventually during the Roman Empire, it developed into a functional lighthouse. In the case of the old lighthouse built during the Roman period at the far eastern end of Spain, its dimension and position reflect the way Romans saw the world and how they believed Spain marked the far end of the world. What these lighthouses had in common was the fact that they were not just there to aid and support the traveller in his voyage but to define a border and to give spiritual assistance to the lost passenger. The symbol of the lighthouse is somehow deeply tied to a spiritual experience. In Messina where Neptune guarded the sea, and in many other places and different eras, the lighthouse was positioned in such way that it attracted a spiritual resonance and the light that emanated from the lighthouse may be compared to a spiritual guide. Matvejevic in his Breviario Mediterraneo39 compares lighthouses to sanctuaries and the lighthouse guardian to a spiritual hennit. He also adds that the crews responsible for the running of the lighthouse resemble a group of 1ponks, rather than sailors: ‘Gli equipaggi dei fari, cioe personale che somiglia piuttosto ai monaci dei conventi di un tempo che non ai marinai’ .40 ‘The crews of the lighthouses, that is staff that resembles more the convent’s monks of yore rather than the sailors’. The comparison is by no means striking, considering the mystical importance of the lighthouse. The lighthouse and its crew are seen and respected by the traveller, as they are their first encounter with land, safety and refuge. The link with spirituality is something that comes 39 Predrag Matvejevic Breviario Mediterraneo (Garzanti:2010) pp.55-56 40 Predrag Matvejevic Breviario Mediterraneo (Garzanti:2010) pp.56 41
naturally. The lighthouse crew for example is in some cases part of the ex-voto paintings found in the monasteries and convents. This illustrates the deep c01mection with the spiritual aspect. The question sometimes is to detennine whether the harbour and the lighthouse need to be two distinct features in the same space or whether they are part of the same geographical, social and cultural space. The answer may vary according to the way one perceives it. The lighthouse is the first encounter with land, but it is almost a feeling that precedes the real encounter with land, whilst the harbour is the first physical contact with land. The two elements may be taken into account separately, but for the purpose of this study they need to be taken in conjunction. The cultural value of both these elements goes beyond their physical value. In fact, both the lighthouse and the harbour share a common proximity to the sea, and receive cultural and social contributions from every traveller. The lighthouse and the harbour do not distinguish between different types of travellers -they accept everyone and their main gift for this act of pure love is the enrichment of culture, customs, language and food. The different elements intertwine and create a beautiful atmosphere that mixes sounds and tastes from various countries. This is not always distinguishable and it may not in all cases recreate the same atmosphere
in more than one country. What is sure is that the elements present in the harbours are of great relevance to what is portrayed on a higher artistic and cultural level. In this regard the harbour acts as a lighthouse for the country and sometimes for the region too, this time not to alann the traveller but to guide him spiritually and 42 artistically. The harbour was and still is a meeting place, where artists and thinkers stop and reflect. What comes out of these reflections sets deep roots in the cultural knit of the harbour and expands and grows until all the roots intertwine and create such a beautifully varied cultural atmosphere. Although the process may seem an easy and flowing one, we must not forget that the mixture of cultures and the setting up of such a variegated cultural atmosphere was not always flowing and peaceful. 3.1 Religious Cultural Mobility
The way the Mediterranean is geographically set up, contributed to an
expansion of religious pilgrimages that intertwined with marine commerce and
cultural richness. The image of the lighthouse and the harbour instil a sense of
spiritual refuge, and the large number of harbours and lighthouses in the
Mediterranean contribute to the mysticism of the region. Religious pilgrimage
throughout the Mediterranean is something that belongs to an older era and that
could have possibly started very early in the Greek empire, where Gods were
adored and ports and lighthouses had deep ties with different deities. As
Christianity started spreading in the Mediterranean, the Greek and Roman gods
were joined by saints and shrines for adoration.41 The coexistence of both pagan
and monotheistic religious expressions confinned a cultural motif related to
41 Peregring Horden, Nicholas Purcell The Corrupting sea, a study of the Mediterranean histmy (Blackwell publishing:2011)
43
divinity that has been a constant throughout Mediterranean history. In the Middle Ages the phenomena of the religious pilgrimage and the movement of saints’ relics gave to the Mediterranean voyage a different dimension. As noted in Borden and Purcell’s The Corrupting Sea, this age of pilgrimage and movement for religious purposes was brought about by a new discovery of sea routes in the Mediterranean and a different conception of religion as a c01mnodity. ‘Through the translation of his remains the saint himself, like the images of pre-Christian deities before him, in a very intense expression of the link between religion and redistribution, became a commodity’ .42 The redistribution of relics brought a new type of secular economy that involved bargaining and bartering. The movement of relics not only created a new wave of economic activity around the Mediterranean but also a movement of tales and accounts that pictured saints and voyages at sea, ‘Tales which echo real webs of communication, such as that of the arrival of St. Restitua from Carthage to Ischia’ .43 The stories seem to recall older stories from Greek culture, but are adapted to a newer setting.
The parallelism between good and bad, projected on the perilous voyage in
the Mediterranean, was always part of the account of a voyage itself, as we can
also recall in the various episodes of Ulysses’ journey. We are thus able to see that
in the voyages of pilgrims, the relationship between good and bad is often
projected onto the hard and extreme weather conditions in the Mediterranean.
42 Ibid pp.443
43 Ibid pp.443
44
Religious travellers had their own way of reading the map of the Mediterranean,
interpreting every danger and threat through religious imagery. From a cultural point of view, the accounts and echoes of religious travellers shaped the Mediterranean Sea itself and gave new life to the ports they anchored in. Apart from the movement of relics, another testimony of the great communication and cultural heritage -as we have previously mentioned- is the exvoto in the Mediterranean shores which gives witness to the cultural interaction and
customs based on faith. In many instances the objects collected for the ex-voto
have been taken up over time and placed in marine museums where cultural
interaction and exchange takes place. One example could be the ex-voto in
Marseille,44 where nowadays the objects collected are part of a collective cultural memory. In France, during the late seventies and the early eighties we have seen a great rediscovery of the ex-voto heritage that led to a deep cultural resonance in the area. The discovery of the ex-voto brought by a new inquiry of religious and harbour customs that were probably ignored previously. The paintings and objects dedicated to the saints and most of the time to the Virgin Mary represented the everyday life of sailors and travellers, the dangers at sea and most of all the miracles encountered during the arduous voyages. In the various exhibitions about ex-voto in France the concept of a Mediterranean ex-voto emerged and we are aware that at the time when the ex-voto was practiced in the majority of cases the 44 Jacques Bouillon ‘Ex-voto du terroir marsellais’ Revue d’histoire modern et contemporaine (1954) pp.342-344 45
voyage routes were sole1m1ly around the Mediterranean and the fact that marine exhibitions concerning the ex-voto claim a Mediterranean heritage calls for a collective cultural expe1ience. It is difficult though to distinguish between a
personal encounter with the harbour and a Mediterranean experience; one may
intertwine with the other. In this case, the Mediterranean reference is imposed and not implied, and one might therefore wonder if there are elements that are c01mnon in the region and thus justify the use of the word Mediterranean. In the case of the ex-voto, it has been noted that certain elements are common to the whole region.
It is interesting to note the areas of interest and the social groups to whom
the ex-voto applies. This may give a clearer idea of the criteria and the cultural
sphere that surrounded the practice of the ex-voto. In the majority of cases the exvoto represented the medium bourgeoisie and the lower classes, the setting mostly represented small nuclear families. In most of the ex-voto paintings, one can see that the terrestrial elements intertwine with celestial elements ‘Dans sa structure, un ex-voto presente deux espaces, celeste et terrestre’ .45 The anthropological and cultural importance of the ex-voto emerges through the various figures that appear especially in the paintings dedicated to the saints and the Virgin Mary. These figures have a particular placement in these paintings that reveals a deep connection with the cult of miracles and devotion.
In Malta, as in France, the ex-voto was a widespread custom that left a
great cultural heritage. The paintings and objects donated to the ex-voto, especially 45 Jacques Bouillon ‘Ex-voto du terroir marsellais’ Revue d’histoire modern et contemporaine (1954) pp.342-344 46
in connection to the sea, reveal a number of historical events and geographical
catastrophes that are tied with the Mediterranean region. The fact that the sea is
unpredictable makes the practice of the ex-voto much more relevant in an era
where the only means of transportation in the Mediterranean was by ways of sea. In the Maltese language there is a saying ‘il-bahar iaqqu ratba u rasu iebsa ‘ which literally translates to ‘the sea has a soft stomach but it is hard headed’. This saying is very significant as it shows the profound awareness of the Maltese community of the dangers at sea. The sea is unpredictable and therefore only through divine intercession can the traveller find peace and courage to overcome any dangerous situation. The different types of paintings that were donated portray different types of vessels and so indicate a precise period in history. At the Notre Dame de la Garde in Marseille, one finds a number of models of different vessels from various historical periods. We also encounter very recent models of boats. This confirms that in a way the ex-voto is still present nowadays. Even in Malta, the practice of the ex-voto is still relatively present, although one may notice that the advance in technology and the new fonns of transport through the Mediterranean aided the voyage itself and therefore diminished the threats and deaths at sea. The types of vessels used in the paintings also shows the different modes of economic trading voyages in the Mediterranean. For example, in Malta during the nineteenth century, a great number of merchants were travellmg across the Mediterranean. This resulted in a number of ex-voto paintings that pictured merchants’ vessels and one could be made aware of their provenance. Various details in the ex-voto 47
paintings show many important aspects of the Mediterranean history as a whole
and of the connectivity in the region that went on building through time.
One interesting fact common to almost all the ex-voto paintings is the
acronyms V.F.G.A (votum facit et gratiam accepit) and sometimes P.G.R (Per
Grazia Ricevuta) that categorizes certain paintings into the ex-voto sphere. The
acronyms literally mean that we made a vow and we received grace and P.G.R
stands for the grace received. The acronyms are in Latin, for a long period of time which was the official language of Christianity. These acronyms, which may have indicated the tie of high literature -through the knowledge of Latin- and popular culture -through the concept of the ex-voto, usually associated to a medium to lower class- demonstrate that the use of language may tie the various social classes. Although everyone understood the acronyms, it doesn’t mean that Latin was fully understood amongst sailors and merchants of the sea. Language was a barrier to merchants, traders and seamen most of the time. The Mediterranean has a variety of languages coexist in the region; Semitic languages at its south and Romance languages at its north. The lines of intersection and influence of languages are not at all clear and the geography of the Mediterranean region forced its people to move and shift from one place to another for commerce or for other reasons which brought by a deep need for modes of communication.
48
3.2 The Lingua Franca Mediterranea as a Mode of Communication
The communication barrier between people in the Mediterranean coupled
with the profound need for interaction brought by a deep need of a common
language or at least common signals which would be understood by everyone. In
the case of the ex-voto, language or at least a reference made to a certain language, gives the possibility for people from different countries to understand the underlying message. In the Mediterranean harbours where interaction between people from different lands was the order of the day, the need for common signals and language was always deeply felt. Languages in the Mediterranean region contain linguistic elements that throughout history have been absorbed from other languages. In the Mediterranean region especially during the fifteenth century, the great need for communication resulted in the creation of a so-called Lingua fiw1ca, a spoken language that allowed people to communicate more freely within Mediterranean ports. One such language was known as ‘Sabir’, with words mainly from Italian and Spanish, but also words from Arabic and Greek. The interesting fact about Sabir was that the amount of words coming from different languages around the Mediterranean was an indication of the type of c01mnerce that was taking place at the time. Therefore, if at a given moment in time the amount of words from the Italian language was higher than that from the Spanish language, it meant that commerce originating and involving from Italy predominated. As Eva Martinez Diaz explains in her study about the Lingua ji-anca Mediterranea:
49
‘They created a new language from a mixture whose lexical and
morphological base – the base of pidgin – is the Romance component,
exactly the language of the most powerful group in these relations and
which varies according to historical period. ’46 During the 16th Century, for example, the Lingua franca Mediterranea acquired more Spanish vocabulary, due to certain historical events that shifted maritime commerce. This was also an indication of certain political events that shaped Mediterranean history. When a country invaded or colonialized another, as happened in Algeria after the French colonization, linguistic repercussions were observed. This mostly affected everyday language communication, especially with the simpler and more functional mixture of words and phrases from different languages in ports and the areas around them rather than at a political level. In Mediterranean ports, the need among sea people and traders to communicatee led to the creation of a variety like Sabir. Sabir comes from the Spanish word saber (to know), although, it is mostly noticeable that Italian fonned it in its prevalence.47 Sabir is known to be a pidgin language. A pidgin is a language used between two or more groups of people that 46 Eva Martinez Diaz ‘An approach to the lingua franca of the Mediterranean’ Quaderns de la Mediteranea, universidad de Barcelona pp: 224
47 Riccardi Contini, ‘Lingua franca in the Mediterranean by John Wansbrough’ Quaderni di Studi Arabi, Litermy Innovation in Modern Arabic Literature. Schools and Journals. Vol. 18 (2000) (pp. 245-247)
50
speak a different language but need to have a business relation, and so, need to find a common language or mode of communication. The word ‘pidgin’ is said to come from the Chinese pronunciation of the word ‘business’. The Lingua fi’anca
Mediterranea was a language that started fonning in the Mediterranean throughout the 15th century and continued to shape and change itself depending on where the political and commercial hub lay; Sabir, specifically as an offshoot of the lingua fiw1ca mediterranea, fonned after the 17th century. The first time that reference was made to sabir was in 1852, in the newspaper ‘L ‘Algerien’ in an article entitled ‘la langue sabir. Apart from a few references made to the language, it is quite rare to find sabir in writing because it was mostly used for colloquial purposes, but in some cases it may be found in marine records. When it was actually written down, the lingua franca mediterranea used the Latin alphabet, and the sentence structure and grammar were very straightforward. In Sabir the verb was always in the infinitive, as, for example, in ‘Quand moi gagner drahem, moi achetir moukere’48, that means ‘when I will have enough money, I will buy a wife’. The use of the infinitive indicated a less complex grammar that made it more functional to the user, as it was a secondary language mostly used for commerce. Although Sabir was in most cases referred to as a variety of the lingua franca mediterranea, we perceive that in the popular culture sphere the word Sabir is mostly used to refer to the common and functional language used in MeditelTanean harbours for communication. It is deceiving in fact, because the 48 Guido Cifoletti ‘Aggiomamenti sulla lingua franca Mediterranea’ Universita di Udine pp: 146
51
lingua fi’anca mediterranea, is the appropriate reference that needs to be made
when talking in general about the language used in harbours around the
Mediterranean. On the other hand, if we want to refer to Sabir we are reducing the
lingua fi’anca mediterranea to a definite period of time and almost a defined
territory association. Nevertheless, both Sabir and lingua fiw1ca mediterranea are two different words that express almost the same thing, it is thus important to establish the minimal difference between the two tenns. In arguing that the lingua franca mediterranea refers to a more general language used in the Mediterranean harbours during the Middle Ages and that went on changing and fonning and changing-assuming different fonns according to the harbour and place where it was spoken- we are looking at the language in a broader way. It is undeniable though that Sabir as a reference to a specific language that fonned in Algeria during the 17th century, is most of the time more appropriate to address specific arguments, especially when it comes to popular culture expedients. Popular culture and literature have expressed their interest in the language through expressions such as poems and songs recalling Sabir as a language that managed to mingle more words of different derivation into single cultural spaces. Nowadays, Sabir is no longer used; in fact we notice that English and Chinese are developing into new pidgin languages, understood almost by everyone, especially when it comes to trade and busmess.
In the Mediterranean we have encountered the rediscovery of Sabir in
culture as a language that has a deep cultural value for Mediterranean countries as 52 a whole. One of the examples of the presence of Sabir in cultural expedients is the famous play by Moliere Le bourgeois gentilhomme49 that was represented for the first time in 1967 at the court of Louis XIV. The story was a satiric expression of the life at court, Moliere was well aware of the life at court and he wanted to show that there was no difference between royals and nonnal people, especially with regards to emotions. Moliere associates the Sabir to the foreign Turks that by means of Sabir they managed to communicate:
‘Se ti sabir,
Ti respondir;
Se non sabir,
Tazir, tazir. ‘ 50
The use of Sabir for Moliere indicated a common language understood both by
French and Turks in this case. The fact that Moliere used Sabir, it meant that
gradually the resonance of Sabir could reach out to a different audience, than it’s
main purpose. In this case the meeting place as the harbour was not present but we may perceive that the mixture of cultures and the need for communication led to the use of Sabir as the common language. 49 Moliere, le bourgoise gentilhomme www.writingshome.com/ebook _files/l 3 l .pdf
50 Moliere, le bourgoise gentilhomme www.writingshome.com/ebook _files/13 l.pdf pp.143
53
Coming to the present day, it is difficult to say that Sabir or the lingua
franca mediterranea own a particular important space in the cultural sphere or in the language per se. We are mostly sure that in the Mediterranean harbours Sabir has no relevance anymore, nevertheless, we find the use of Sabir in popular culture. One example is the aiiist Stefano Saletti,51 who in his songs uses Sabir. Its use was obviously intentional. Saletti looked at the new uprisings in the North African countries and he could recall the same feelings, faces and atmosphere that southern European countries went through thirty years prior. With this in mind, he decided to use a language that had co1mnon elements to all Mediterranean languages, and so he chose Sabir. His albums are inspired by the notion of music and culture as a tie to the whole Mediterranean, being conscious on the other hand of the numerous contradictions and differences in the Mediterranean region. The CD Saletti and the Piccola banda ikona explain what Sabir is and why they chose this language to communicate a c01mnon message through the music: ‘Once upon a time there was a tongue shared by the peoples of the Mediterranean. This was Sabir, a lingua franca which sailors, pirates,
fishennen, merchants, ship-owners used in the ports to communicate
with each other. From Genoa to Tangiers, from Salonika to Istanbul,
from Marseilles to Algiers, from Valencia to Palenno, until the early
decades of the twentieth century this kind of sea-faring “Esperanto”
developed little by little availing of tenns from Spanish, Italian,
51 Stefano Saletti www.stefanosaletti.it/schede/ikonaeng.htm (accessed July, 2014)
54
French and Arabic. We like this language. We like to mix sounds and
words. We play Sabir. We sing Sabir.’ 52 The importance of Sabir for Saletti shows that the harbour’s cultural value has been transmitted through time. Does the use of Sabir by Saletti indicate a recreation of a language that was used in the harbour as a functional and common means of communication or does it have the pretext to artificially recreate a common language? It is difficult to understand the importance and relevance an old pidgin language used for a specific purpose might hold today. Nevertheless, the use of this specific language in the music of Saletti reveals a profound search for common cultural traits in the Mediterranean region, that in this case aim to opt for cultural and educational approach to unite a region that is fractured in its own
basis. Saletti refers to Sabir as resembling Esperanto; a failed attempt to
linguistically unite a region that cannot be united. Although we may find the same concept in Esperanto and Sabir, we are aware that they differ in the way they came to be. Esperanto was artificially constructed, whereas, Sabir was born and evolved in an almost natural way by a need that went beyond the actual artifice. This is probably the reason why Sabir and the lingua franca mediterranea lasted for a long period of time, while Esperanto was at its birth a failed attempt to create a language for a detennined sector in society. It is a fact that the main difference between the two languages is that one aimed to create a broader understanding based on a functional everyday life need, whereas the other aimed to create a 52 Stefano Saletti www.stefanosaletti.it/schede/ikonaeng.htm (accessed July, 2014)
55
language understood by few. In Saletti’s and Moliere’s works, we perceive the Mediterranean harbour as a point of intersection of cultures and ways of living that left a spill-over of cultural traits in the abovementioned artistic works and in many other works by various authors around the Mediterranean region. It is important to notice that the harbour in the expression of the ex-voto, Sabir, lingua franca mediterranea and various literal and artistic expressions, served almost as a lighthouse, where culture was projected and created, and recreated and changed to fit the ever changing needs of the Mediterranean differing cultures. In Jean-Claude Izzo’s Les Marins Perdus, the language used in the harbour is not mentioned often, although he refers to language
as a barrier that finds its purpose in the basic everyday needs. Jean-Claude Izzo
mentions an important point on language in Les Marins Perdus as he delves in the way the word ‘Mediterranean’ is seen in different languages across the region: ‘Il Mediterraneo e di genere neutro nelle lingue slave e latine. E in
maschile in italiano. Femminile in francese. Maschile e femminile in
spagnolo, dipende. Ha due nomi maschili in arabo. E il greco, nelle
sue molteplici definizioni, gli concede tutti I generi. ‘ 53
‘The Mediterranean is neutral in the Slavonic languages, and in Latin.
It’s masculine in Italian. Feminine in French. Sometimes masculine,
sometimes feminine in Spanish. It has two masculine names in Arabic.
53 Jean-Claude IzzoMarinai Perduti (Tascabili e/o: 2010) pp.237
56
And Greek has many names for it, in different genders.’ Jean-Claude Izzo wants to prove that the word ‘Mediterranean’ in language is a sufficient proof of how people around the shores view the region. The gender of the word Mediterranean does in fact show that the languages in the region have
developed their own way of understanding and perceiving the region. Language as we have seen has deep ties to how popular culture and ideas have evolved and
developed. Sabir in its essence has proved that although the region has a myriad of contradictions and differing cultures, the harbour and everyday needs managed to combine the different languages into one. At the same time it is undeniable that the differences in the Mediterranean region make the region itself not only vast but also wonderful and enticing to the traveller and the artist. Literature and culture have fonned and mingled together, yet each maintained its distinct features at the the Mediterranean harbours; the place of various particular encounters. Jean Claude Izzo, Salletti and Moliere all managed to create a powerful work of art that has deep ties to the culture created and recreated over time in the Mediterranean harbours. Sabir and the ex-voto are only two examples of how harbours throughout
the Mediterranean have been a point of anchorage but also a locus of
Mediterranean cultural development. Harbours have been able to unite, divide and create such a diverse and yet common culture.
57
4 The Mediterranean Imaginary of Jean-Claude Izzo and Vincenzo Consolo Inspired by the Port The Mediterranean as a discourse has been interpreted and reinterpreted, and idealized and mystified by a myriad of authors, thinkers and artists. In this modem era where globalization of thought is the nonn, the Mediterranean discourse is by far a difficult expression that finds obstacles in the concretization of its own thought. Nevertheless, today the Mediterranean is still capable of producing new artists and new expressions by which the discourse gets richer and deeper. The Mediterranean, as its name suggests, is a sea that is in between two lands, and as Franco Cassano 54 states, has never had the ambition to limit itself to only one of its shores. The Metlitenanean was fm a periotl of time consecutively and simultaneously Arab, Roman and/or Greek; it was everything and nothing at the same time. The Mediterranean never aspired to have a specific identity, and its strength lies in its conflicting identity; it embraces multiple languages and cultures in one sea. Franco Cassano in his L ‘alternativa mediterranea states that borders are always ahead of centres, ‘Il confine e sempre piu avanti di ogni centro’55, and this concept is very relevant when we think about the significance of the harbour, as a place at the border of the country and yet the centre of every interaction.
Cassano goes on explaining how the centre celebrates identity, whereas the border is always facing contradiction, war and suffering. The border cannot deny the suffering by which the conflicting and inhomogeneous Mediterranean identity has 54 Franco Cassano, Danilo Zolo L ‘alternativa mediterranea (Milano: Feltrinelli, 2007) 55 Franco Cassano, Danilo Zolo L ‘alternativa mediterranea (Milano: Feltrinelli, 2007) pp.80
58
been built upon. The border is the true expression of the Mediterranean and it is
undeniable here that the most important interactions and historical events in the
region have taken place.
The border is an important concept in the study of the Mediterranean
itself, and as already mentioned, the majority of intersection and cultural
exchanges have taken place in the harbours, which are the borders of a country yet the centre of every interaction. For the concept of a ‘Mediterranean identity’ to arise, the harbour has been a pivotal place economic and religious interactions
which consequently left an undeniable cultural baggage whose strong presence
allowed the Mediterranean shores to benefit from an enriching cultural melange.
Being a sea of proximity, the Mediterranean has always been prone to receive the
‘other’ with all its cultural baggage, and therefore the concept of fusion and
amalgamation of different aspects of every country has always contributed to the
region’s culture. Accounts about the Mediterranean and those set in it have always put at their centre the concept of ‘differences’ and the ‘other’ in contraposition to the conflicts found in the harbours and in its centres. Nevertheless, without expecting the ends to meet to a degree of totality, the Mediterranean has been able to create places where ends do not merely meet but coexist. The coexistence of different races, cultures and languages has been the founding stone of the region.
As Cassano states, an identity that claims to be pure is an identity that is destined
to fail because it is in the essence of a culture that it repels the ‘other’, and
therefore sees the answer to every problem in the elimination of the ‘other’. The
59
Mediterranean, on the other hand has embraced ‘the other’ or on occasion, ‘other’ has forcedly penetrated the Mediterranean, giving birth to a region of different cultures based on a coexistence which is sometimes peaceful but often hard. The Mediterranean nowadays has overcome the complex of Olientalism and moved forward from a vision of an exotic south or border; ‘non e piu una frontiera o una barriera tra il nord e il sud, o tra l’ est e l’ ovest, ma e piuttosto un luogo di incontli e correnti … di transiti continui’ .56 ‘it is not a border or bamer between North and South, or East and West anymore, but it is rather a place of encounters and trends of continuous transits’. The Mediterranean has become a region of transit and a meeting place.
Upon travelling across the Mediterranean, an important thing which makes
itself evident is the imaginary that keeps on building through the interaction
between authors and thinkers, especially through their works that focus on the
importance of stating a discourse about the Mediterranean.
4.1 The Mediterranean Imaginary in Izzo and Consolo
‘Il Mediterraneo none una semplice realta geografica, ma un temtorio
simbolico, un luogo sovraccalico di rappresentazioni. ’57
56 Franco Cassano,Danilo Zolo L ‘alternativa mediterranea (Milano: Feltrinelli, 2007) pp.92 57Jean-Claude Izzo,Thierry Fabre Rappresentare il Mediterraneo, Lo sguardo francese
(Mesogea: 2000) pp.7
60
‘The Mediterranean is not a simple geographical reality, but a
symbolic territory, a place overloaded with representations.’
The Mediterranean is a region full of symbolism and representationswhich
would not exist if it were not supp01ied by the literature and culture that has
fonned on and around its shores. The Mediterranean as a region of imaginaries
built on the integration of different voices and stories has produced a number of
authors and thinkers that left a cultural and artistic patrimony to the discourse
about the Mediterranean. We have already seen how the harbour transmits a sense of insecurity and plays a role of threshold which is testified through the works of Izzo and Consolo. Both authors have not only shown the importance of the harbour but have also contributed arduously to the fonnation of a Mediterranean imaginary. The word imaginary, comprehends a number of images, figures and fonns that are created by the observers to define something -not solemnly by the mere reflection of facts and historical events, but by a personal evaluation- that sometimes goes beyond reality. In this sense, it is undeniable that the Mediterranean has gathered a number of observers who have been able to translate facts and create figures and images that represent a collective in a singular imagination. Consolo and Izzo have transfonned their personal encounter with the Mediterranean into a powerful imaginary.
Jean-Claude Izzo was born and raised in Marseille in a family of Italian
immigrants. His background and geographical position highly influenced his
61
writing. Both Izzo and Consolo shared a deep love for their country of origin
especially for the microcosm surrounding them. Vincenzo Consolo wrote about
his beloved Sicily, while Izzo always mentions Marseille. Both authors transpose
the love for the microcosm into a broader vision of the Mediterranean as a whole.
Jean Claude Izzo’s Mediterranean is based on a passionate encounter with the
region and states that his Mediterranean differs from the one found at travel
agencies, where beauty and pleasure are easily found.
‘Cio che avevo scoperto non era il Mediterraneo preconfezionato che
ci vendono i mercanti di viaggi e di sogni facili. Che era propio un
piacere possibile quello che questo mare offriva.’ 58
‘I had discovered a Mediterranean beyond the pre-packaged one
usually sold and publicised by Merchants, as an easy dream. The
Mediterranean offered an achievable pleasure.’
The Mediterranean hides its beauty only to reveal it to anyone who
wants to see it. The Mediterranean for Izzo is a mixture of tragedy and pleasure,
and one element cannot exist without the other. This image of beauty and
happiness shared with tragedy and war is a recurring one in the study of the
Mediterranean. Consolo’s writing is based on the concept of suffering. He
pictures human grief and misery as an integral part of the Mediterranean
58 Jean-Claude Izzo, Thierry Fabre Rappresentare il Mediterraneo, Lo sguardo francese (Mesogea:
2000) pp.17
62
imaginary and he feels that poetry and literature have the responsibility to transmit the human condition. Izzo in his writings not only shows that the Mediterranean imaginary is made up of tragedy, suffering and war but also shows that there is hope in the discourse about the Mediterranean itself. For Izzo, the Mediterranean is part of his future, part of his destiny, embodied in the geography of the region and in the tales and accounts that inhabit every comer of the region. Through his beloved Marseille, Izzo manages to look at the Mediterranean and thus find himself.
The word ‘imaginary’ in the academic sphere is tied to a concept used
for the definition of spaces, a definition that goes beyond the way things seem
externally, a definition that puts much more faith in how an author, thinker or
artist expresses and describes the space. In the case of the Mediterranean, since
the region is not an officially recognized political entity, identity is based on
interpretation more than anywhere else and the concept of an imaginary proves
that there are paths that still lead to thought about the Mediterranean. With this in mind, one cam1ot deny the fact that in the political or social sphere, the concept of Medite1Tanean is still being mentioned; however, one could argue that the Mediterranean that is being mentioned in a political and social sphere is somehow a constructed ‘Mediterranean’. The Mediterranean’s relevance nowadays is found in the hearth of the author and artist that from Tangiers or from Marseille is able to write about a sea that has thought him to be mobile, to travel not only physically but mentally and emotionally from one shore to another. Jean-Claude Izzo’s troubled identity gives us a hint of the way in which the Mediterranean is 63
perceived as a region and the way in which the personal ‘imaginary’ for Izzo was
fonned. Izzo himself was from a family of mixed origins and was raised in a
constant state of travel. Izzo found his Mediterranean identity in the imaginary
other authors had created but also found his roots in the very absence of more
organic roots. Every story and every country may be part of his own identity, and
so, the Mediterranean has the ability to preserve in the depths of its sea the stories and feelings collected from every shore and give a curious traveller the
opportunity to retrieve these treasures and make them his own.
The historical approach to the Mediterranean has been based on a
comparison between south and north, between the Mediterranean and Europe, and it usually focused much more on the contrasting elements than on its conjunctions and similarities. Braudel59 saw the Mediterranean as a static and unchanging region. Today, modem thought has led to a new perception of the Mediterranean, focusing rather on the points of conjunction than on the differences and contrasting elements, yet accepting the fact that the Mediterranean is diverse in its essence. In a paper by Miriam Cooke about the Mediterranean entitled Mediterranean thinking: from Netizen to Metizen60
, she delves into the importance of the juxtaposition between the liquidity of the sea and the immobility of the land in the rethinking process of the Mediterranean. In the Mediterranean imaginary, the sea serves as a mirror and as a fluid that is able to connect and remain welldefined.
It is able to give a sense of time that is very different from the one on
59 Femand Braudel The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean world in the age of Philip II (Fontana press: 1986) 60 Miriam Cooke ‘Mediterranean thinking: From Netizen to Medizen’ Geographical review, vol 89 pp.290-300
64
land. As we perceive in Jean-Claude Izzo, time is something that is completely
lost at the border between sea and land and especially in contact with the sea.
Sailors in Les Marins Perdus61 realize the concept of time only when they live in
the harbor and in other words, the sea has been able to preserve the sailor’s spirit in the illusion that time on land was as static as it was at sea. In the study about the Mediterranean region, the sea plays a fundamental role that must not be underestimated. Jean-Claude Izzo and Vincenzo Consolo both refer extensively to the figure of the sea when addressing the Mediterranean imaginary. When pondering on the Mediterranean, Izzo always places himself facing the sea, embracing the liquidity of this region, whereas in his stories, Consolo always uses the sea as the main mode of transportation and giving it a mystical attribute.
The Mediterranean has a different meaning for the two authors, because
it is perceived from two different places and two different conceptions of the
Mediterranean arise. In much of Consolo’ s writing, the Mediterranean is seen
through the image of Odysseus which is an image that holds a special meaning for Consolo and to which he feels deeply tied. For Consolo, The Odyssey is a story
that has no specific ending and this is done on purpose because it is directly tied to the future. The door to the future was kept open with the specific purpose of
letting the figure of Odysseus trespass time. The importance of Ulysses in
Consolo’s discourse extends to a deep and personal search for identity and it is
identity itself and the search for knowledge that led Ulysses to embark on a
61 Jean-Claude Izzo Marinai Perduti (Tascabili e/o: 2010)
65
voyage around the Mediterranean region and afterwards to return to Ithaca. Like
Izzo, Consolo finds the essence of a Mediterranean imaginary in the act of
travelling and sometimes wandering from coast to coast, from harbour to harbour, somehow like a modem Ulysses that aims to find himself and find knowledge through the act of travelling and meandering. Many authors that have focused their attention on the figure of Ulysses have focused on Ulysses’ return to Ithaca in particular and the search for a Mediterranean identity through this return.
Consolo, however, mainly uses the metaphor of travel and wandering, and he
manages to tie them to the question of a Mediterranean imaginary that is being
built upon the various images that the author is faced with through his voyage. For Consolo the voyage and the constant search for knowledge are the founding
stones of a Mediterranean imaginary. This urge to push further and thus reach a
greater level of knowledge has driven the Mediterranean people to practice
violence, and therefore Consolo believes that violence tied to the expression of a
deep search for knowledge is what has constituted the Mediterranean region. In
L ‘Olivo e L ‘Olivastro 62
, Vincenzo Consolo uses Ulysses’ voyage as a metaphor of his own voyage and his personal relation with Sicily; being his homeland it holds
a special place for Consolo especially in his writings. Constant change in the
modern concept of a Mediterranean has left a deep impact on the Mediterranean
imaginary. The wandering Ulysses returns to a changed and metamorphosed
Ithaca, which is a recurring image in the Mediterranean. Consolo finds his home
62 Norma Bouchard, Massimo Lollini, ed, Reading and Writing the Mediterranean, Essays by Vincenzo Consolo (University of Toronto Press, 2006)
66 island ‘Sicily’ deeply changed by industrialization and although it may have
maintained features that recall the past, it has changed greatly. Images of the
harbour and of the Mediterranean itself have deeply changed. Change may be
positive, negative or may hold a nostalgic tone, although change is always a
positive factor that contributes to the fonnation of an ‘imaginary’. The way
Ulysses and authors such as Consolo and Izzo have wandered and fought their
battles in the Mediterranean has contributed to the change that we now perceive in the region. Through the voyage of Ulysses, Consolo gives testimony of the
Mediterranean violence and change to the rest of the world. For Consolo the
imaginary created around the Mediterranean is a mixture of his own reality such
as a modem Sicily devastated by industrialization and modernization, and the
recurring image of Ulysses. In fl Sorriso dell ‘Ignoto Marinaio, Consolo focuses
on the microcosm of Sicily as a metaphor of the larger Mediterranean. His
imaginary is characterized by the concept of conflict – a conflict that keeps on
repeating itself in the Mediterranean and is somehow tied to a general conception of the Mediterranean. The harbour acquires an important space in the novel, being the hub of the whole story. The violence mentioned in the novel is a projection of violence in view of an attempt at unifying two different spheres, in this case the unification of Italy, but in a broader sense the possible unification of a Mediterranean. The attempt is not only a failure but results in a continuous war to establish a dominant culture rather than a possible melange of cultures that manage to keep their personal identities.
67
Izzo on the other hand wrote about the Mediterranean imaginary from
the point of view of sailors, who construct a Mediterranean imaginary based on
the concept of a difficult intercultural relationship and a strange bond with the
Mediterranean harbour. In Les Marins Perdus, the microcosm of Marseille
managed to represent the macrocosm of the Mediterranean, and the figures of the sailors represents a modem Ulysses, with the aim of bringing about a
Mediterranean imaginary that mingled old and traditional conceptions of the
region with new and modem ideas. Jean Claude Izzo’s sailors had different ways
of perceiving the Mediterranean, but they had a similar way of seeing and
identifying the ‘sea’. Izzo’s protagonist, much like Consolo’s protagonist,
develops an interesting habit of collecting old Mediterranean maps. For the sailor, the collection of maps represents in a certain way the concretization of a
Mediterranean and the unification of the geographical conception of the region.
The act of collecting may be considered as an attempt at identifying something
that is common, something that is part of a collective memory.
The works of Consolo and Izzo are the literal expressions of a
Mediterranean imaginary, based on their personal encounter with the region and
on their individual research on the subject. The way in which literal texts shape
our conception and ideas with their powerful imagery proves that the personal
encounter becomes a collective encounter in the translation of facts that each
author perfonns in his writings. However, what is most fascinating is the meeting
of ideas brought about through writing which also share elements with popular
68
culture. In essence, popular culture manages to reach a higher audience but it
often takes inspiration directly from literature and its various expressions. In the
sphere of popular culture one may see that the concept of adve1iising and of
mixing various means of communication to reach a specific goal come into action. 
Popular culture comp1ises various levels of cultural and artistic expression, and is therefore well placed to reach a larger audience and to imprint in the audience
various powerful images related to the subject chosen. In this case, the
Mediterranean has collected a large amount of popular culture expressions that
managed to create a knit of ideas and interpretations that succeed in intertwining and creating ideas through the use of old traditions and seminal literal texts.
4.2 The Mediterranean Imaginary in Popular Culture
The way in which the Mediterranean has been projected in the sphere of
popular culture owes a lot to the dichotomy between sea and land, between a fixed object and a fluid matter. The fascination around the two contrasting elements managed to create an even more fascinating expression of popular culture, thus an idea about the region that is based on the way in which Mediterranean people view the sea and view the stable and immobile element of land. Moreover, the Mediterranean popular culture focuses a lot on the element of the harbour, a place where the two elements of water and land manage to intertwine, meet, discuss ideas and at times fight over who dominates. The conflict between the two elements, projected in the geographical distribution of the region, has deep 69 resonance in the emotional encounter with the region. Thus, the authors, artists and travellers are emotionally part of this dichotomy that is consequently reflected in their artistic expressions.
To talk about the Mediterranean nowadays is to reinvent the idea behind
the region in an innovative and appealing way. Culture and literature are new
means by which we re-conceptualize the region. The Medite1Tanean has been
compared to the Internet, because it is a place where near and far are not too well defined, where space is something fluid and where infonnation and culture are transmitted through a network of connections. In her study, Miriam Cooke63 notes how even the tenninology used on the Internet derives from marine tenninology.
One example could be the ‘port’ or ‘portal’. In relation to the web, it is defined as
a place of entry and usually signifies the first place that people see when entering
the web. Although virtually, the concept of harbour remains the first and most
relevant encounter a person makes when approaching a country or ‘page’ on the
internet. Although air transportation has gained a great deal of importance,
shipping networks used for merchandise are common and still very much in use.
The parallelism between the Mediterranean and the Internet opens a new way of
conceptualizing the Mediterranean as a physical and cybernetic space. Miriam
Cooke explains how the Mediterranean itself, just like the Internet, changes the
traditional concept of core and periphery: 63 Miriam Cooke ‘Mediterranean thinking: From Netizen to Medizen’ Geographical review, vol 89 pp.290-300
70
‘The islands that are geographically centered in the Mediterranean are
rarely centers of power; rather, they are crossroads, sometimes sleepy
but sometimes also dangerous places of mixing, where power is most
visibly contested and where difficult choices must be made.’ 64
The way in which the Mediterranean is seen geographically most of the
time does not appear to be consistent with the actual function and thought of the
place. As in the case of the islands in the Mediterranean, their main function lies
in the fact that they are crossroads rather than real centres. Usually, the
geographical centre of a country is the actual political, social and economic
centre, however, in the Mediterranean, the centre is where ideas are fonned, and
this usually lies in the harbours and in the cities located in close proximity to the
sea. The centre and marginality of a place according to Cooke depends on the
position of the viewer. Therefore, the explained and conceptualized Mediterranean may have different centres and borders depending on who is writing about it. The function of popular culture is to somehow give a view on where the centre is and where the margins lie.
When discussing the Mediterranean in advertisements and in the media
m general, there is a tendency to start from the past, from a presumed
Mediterranean origin that seems to tie the whole region. In this assumption, there is no truth but just a commercial way of proposing the historical elements that 64 Ibid pp.296 71
unite the region, therefore making it appealing at a touristic level. The audience at times does not have a precise idea of the differing elements and cultures residing in the region. To make it more appealing and coherent, especially in advertising, culture seems to be portrayed as a feature that holds similar elements that recur throughout the region. Even tastes and sometimes sounds seem to be homogenized tlu·oughout the region. The French documentary film entitled Mediteranee Notre Mer a Taus produced by Yan Arthus-Bertrand for France 2, aims to give an overview of the Mediterranean by focusing not just on the common features, but most of all on the fascination of the differences. The
documentary film traces how the Mediterranean has transfonned and shifted over time and it aims to show the deep cultural heritage it left in Europe. Rather than an advertisement or promotional video, this is an educational movie that rotates around the Mediterranean to explain each and every place while delineating its features and importance. The interesting fact about the movie is that it is filmed from above, giving almost an overview of the region, and that it talks about a Mediterranean future that ultimately lies in a supposed c01mnon past. When advertising a harbour in the Mediterranean, most of the short clips focus on the multiculturalism of the harbour and the projection of the place within a broader Mediterranean vision.
72
A particular advertising video, promoting Tangier65 as a harbour city
that looks onto the Mediterranean but remains predominantly African, focuses on the emotions that it can deliver and on the particular features that can attract the tourist such as traditional food and music. In everyday life, certain music and
traditional food would have probably disappeared, but in the projection of a place that needs to attract the tourist, the sensational aspect prevails and the tradition needs to be prioritized. In all the movies concerning advertisement of the Mediterranean harbours, what prevails is the conception of the harbours as
crossroads, as places where cultures meet, and obviously leave deep cultural
heritage. The movement of people in these short clips is shown as a movement
that has brought richness and cultural heritage to the country, ignoring the
ongoing debates about migration. These clips tend to ignore the ongoing problems in the Mediterranean and this is obviously done to increase tourism and project a nicer image of the region, succeeding in having a positive impact on the mind of the viewer.
Another peculiarity that is noticeable both in the clips about the
Mediterranean harbours and in many movies and stories is a concept of time
which is very different from reality. In short clips, such as the one portraying
Tangiers or the one promoting Valletta, it is noticeable that time slows down. In
the transposition of the novel Les Marins Perdus into a movie66, the concept of
65 Fabounab,Tangiers, port of Aji-ica and the Mediterranean (uploaded May, 2010) www.youtube.com/watch?v=E_IJ3zmxC6g (accessed July, 2014)
66 Les Marins Perdus, Claire Devers (2003)
73 time is a fundamental element, because it drastically slows down. The first scene opens up with the overview of the Aldebaran, the ship on which the story unfolds.
This scene is a very long scene that gives the viewer a hint of approaching trouble, from sea to land. It achieves this in a very calm and slow way. Throughout the movie the sense of time being slower than usual is something that finds its apex in the last minutes of the movie when all the tragedies unfold. The way in which the Mediterranean is described in short clips and in this movie shows a common perception of the Mediterranean people as a people who enjoy life at a slower rhytlnn, although in certain cases it might be true that this assumption lacks accuracy. Although it is undeniable that the juxtaposition between land and sea which we especially perceive in the harbour gives a sense of time as a rather fictitious concept, one may recall the Odyssey, where the voyage in the Mediterranean took an unusually long time. The Odyssey in fact bases on the fact that time almost seemed to have stopped and in fact, the time span that Odysseus spent travelling at sea does not match with the actual time that was passing on land in Ithaca. On the other hand we perceive that time is passing by rather slowly for Penelope who patiently raised her son and safeguarded Ithaca while waiting Odysseus.
What the concept of time in the Mediterranean proves is that the various
images that one finds both in writing and in new popular culture are constantly fed to our conception of the region and through time these various concepts fonn an imaginary. In many cases, when we look at popular culture we find elements that 74 we can reconnect to literature. This proves that the means by which an imaginary is constrncted is based on different elements but usually one may find recmTing elements both in popular culture and literature. In the concept of time we also find a common way of seeing life itself. Time in the Mediterranean seems to be stuck therefore we may argue that literature and popular culture have contributed to the fonnation of our ideas about life per se, whilst obviously not denying that everyday life was of constant inspiration to literature and culture. The way in which both popular culture and everyday life intersect, connect and find common points is something of fundamental importance in the study of the Mediterranean imaginary, as it gives different points of view and visions of the subject and therefore creates an imaginary that manages in a subtle way to unite what seems so distant. Jean-Claude Izzo, Vincenzo Consolo and many other authors, as well as different ‘texts’ of popular culture, create an ethos about the Mediterranean that aims to join what appears separate. The fact that nowadays the Mediterranean is still present in popular culture, as in the case of the previously mentioned film shown by France 2, proves that discourse about the region and the Mediterranean imaginary are still alive and they have a presence in the mind of the receiver.
The imaginary of the Mediterranean harbour is also constrncted by the
way it is advertised. A short, recent videob1 advertising the Maltese harbour
repeatedly used the word ‘Mediterranean’ to highlight the connection between
67 Valletta Waterfront, Valletta Cruise Port Malta- the door to the Mediterranean, (uploaded February, 2012) www.youtube.com/watch?v=FMThbEG95WA (accessed May, 2014)
75
Europe and Africa. The way in which the harbour is projected in the French
movie shows a deep connection to the historical and cultural heritage of the
country but it also aims to show how historically and culturally varied the country is. The advertisement’s aim was to create a sense of uniqueness whilst focusing on the broader vision of the Mediterranean as a whole. On the one hand it focuses on the fact that Malta is part of the European Union, therefore boasting high standards of security and maritime services, and on the other hand it promotes the various hist01 ical influences on Malta and its Grand Harbour and portrays it as the gateway both to the northern and to the southern shore. Being an island in the Mediterranean gave Malta the possibility to create its uniqueness, but also to affiliate itself to both Europe and Africa. In this sense, the sea serves as a unifying factor but at the same time it was always able to maintain the individuality of each place. The discourse about the Mediterranean is rendered possible thanks to the various factors that inhabit the region – factors that may differ from one shore to another, thus making the region a more interesting one to study.
4.3 Conclusion The discourse about the Mediterranean has always revolved around the projection of different images that supposedly recall a common feeling and common grounds. The Mediterranean is a region that is in essence a combination of a myriad of cultures; this factor is very relevant in the discourse on the region 76 as the attempt to unite the region in one cultural sphere is somehow a failed attempt. It is relevant to mention that in the production of literature and culture, these different expressions especially concerning the Mediterranean have produced a knit of sensations and feelings that are now mostly recognized as being ‘Mediterranean’. The harbour in this case has always been the locus of the Mediterranean imaginary because sea and land meet in the harbour, and therefore many cultures meet and interact in the harbours.
Harbours are places that live an ‘in between’ life but that still manage to
mingle the differences in a subtle way that feels almost nonnal and natural. The
harbour has inspired many authors as it has built a sense of awaiting and hope in the person. The Mediterranean port seems to suggest that everything is possible, and that imageries and ideas can unfold in the same harbour.
77
5 Conclusion
The Mediterranean city is a place where two myths come together: the
myth of the city and the myth of the Mediterranean. Both myths have developed
independently because both managed to create symbols and connotations that
have been able to survive till today. The myth of the city in relation to the myth of
the Mediterranean has been for a long time regarded independently and therefore it created a succession of elements that was able to reside in the same place but was in essence two different elements. 68
From antiquity, the ‘city’ has been seen as a symbol of social order – as a
place where reason and civilization reign in contrast with the ignorance of the
outskirts. The concept of a ‘city’ that is able to unify ideals and control society by
maintaining high levels of education and increasing cultural standards has
developed a division between the rural areas and the city itself. In conjunction
with the harbour, the concept of a civilized ‘city’ mingles with the idea of a
cultural mixture that is able to absorb what the sea has to offer.
In the Mediterranean port cities, the cultural emancipation and the centre
of trade and business in a way managed to intenningle with the idea of ‘squalor’,
most of the time being associated to the harbour. Nevertheless, in the
68 Georges Duby Gli ideali de! Mediterraneo (Mesogea 2000) pp.83-100
78
Mediterranean harbour cities, the idea of cultural richness and emancipation was a concept that found concretization in the idealization of the ‘city’ itself by its
inhabitants. The ‘city’ as much as the Mediterranean itself found deep resonance
with the growth of literature. In the case of the ‘city’, various treaties and
literature expedients that promoted it as a centre of cultural riclmess and
architectural rigor helped the ‘city’ itself to find a place in the mind of the person
approaching it. The obvious consequence of this new fonnation of cities as a
symbol of 1igor and proliferation was that a great number of people migrated from the rural areas to the cities. The myth of the harbour cities as being the centre of business and a locus of culture went on cultivating with the accounts about these cities written by various authors. They managed to give life to a succession of images that are now imprints of harbour cities throughout the Mediterranean.
The Mediterranean appears unified in anthropological69 discourse in which
assumptions are made about the way ‘Mediterraneaninsm’ is constituted and the
‘Mediterranean way of life’. A group of cultural anthropologists aimed to view
the Mediterranean as a whole for the purpose of identifying elements that
managed to tie the region and gave meaning to the unification itself. On the one
hand they managed to give international relevance to studies about the region
because they constructed what they regarded as common Mediterranean attributes.
On the other hand they were constructing a discourse that said more about their
own vision than about a region that is varied in its essence. In a way they also
69 Georges Duby Gli ideali de! Mediterraneo (Mesogea 2000) pp.83-100
79 rendered the region ‘exotic’. The way in which anthropology managed to create an idea about the Mediterranean is interesting even though a person living in the region might argue that the picture given is incorrect. In this sense the imaginary of the Mediterranean projected by literature does not aspire to give a detailed account of life in the region but rather to actually transmit the feelings and passions that the region has. In this sense, literature was able to transfonn a passion and a detailed account of one’s own perspective about the region into an imaginary that is in its turn able to remain imprinted in the person’s conception of the Mediterranean. Literature and art in the Mediterranean had the ability to prove that there are common feelings in the region but they are distinguishable in their very essence and the harbour with its strategic position was able to give inspiration to the artist that approached it. The creation of an imaginary about the Mediterranean goes beyond the very need of knowing and apprehending facts that may be or may not be common to the whole region. In this sense, the artistic expedients and the literal world managed to relate to the reader and the spectator in a very special way by creating powerful images that construct society.
5.1 The ‘imaginary’ of the Mediterranean
One important definition of the ‘imaginary’ is given by Castoriadis in his
The Imaginary Institution of Society 70 in which he states that the human being
cannot exist without the collective and that the collective is fonned by different
7° Kostantino Kavoulakas Cornelius Castoriadis on social imaginaiy and truth(University of Crete, September 2000) pp.202-213
80
elements. One of the elements that is of great importance in the fonnation of the
collective is the symbol. The symbol or the collection of symbols is fonned from
reality and from an imaginary. In the composition of the imaginary, whatever
stems from reality and whatever stems from fiction remains in essence a question which is not resolved or which probably does not intend to be resolved. Therefore, the imaginary explained by Castoriadis gives a social meaning to certain questions that are fundamental in the complexity of reality. For example, the symbol of God was created for various reasons but its creation per se does not distinguish between elements that are true in its essence and elements that are imagined. The example given by Castoriadis on the symbol of God leads us to the conception of the Mediterranean region as a region fonned in its imaginary by reality and myth which intertwine and are not distinguishable. The Mediterranean created by the various authors and artists mentioned reinforces the imaginary that has at its basis the aim of giving a picture of the region which is not far from reality but on the other hand which is not that structured. Therefore we can argue that the difference between an anthropologist’s approach to the region and an artist’s approach is based on the difference in their point of focus. This statement one does not deny the importance of the anthropologist’s approach to the region where in fact social
structure appears and thus one can easily understand the way by which society is fonned. To fuiiher the study and understand it in its complexity one cannot deny the importance of literature and culture in the creation of an imaginary.
Castoriadis 71 states that society shares a number of undeniable truths that are
71 Kostantino Kavoulakas Cornelius Castoriadis on social imaginaiy and truth (University of 81
accepted by everyone. By analyzing the imaginary one manages to go beyond
these undeniable truths and thus manages to extend the life of the imaginary itself.
Therefore, if the Mediterranean exists, it is because it managed to create a number of myths and symbols able to renew themselves. The impo1iance of the imaginary for the region itself is based on the fruits that it gives. The Mediterranean that is being mentioned in the various books and poems is supported by the emotions and passions of each and every author. If the author is not moved by passion for the region it would be difficult to create an imaginary. The Mediterranean region is still present in our mind thanks to the imaginary created by the various authors and thinkers.
The choice of the harbour as the locus of a Mediterranean imaginary
comes almost naturally as the harbours facing the Mediterranean Sea have a great impact on culture in the Mediterranean and the threshold between sea and land is on the one hand the very basis of the Mediterranean life. The harbour and the city as two separate and yet same elements intertwine and are able to create rich and variegated cultures, yet they were also the first spectators of conflicts and wars.
From this point of view, it is undeniable that the harbour in the Mediterranean
holds a special place for the author and may be seen by many authors and thinkers as a place of inspiration where ideas concretize and where the emotions, thoughts and ideas brought by the voyage at sea are still very present in the memory.
Crete, September 2000) pp.202-213
82
Through the image of the harbour we come across the image of the sailor
who to many authors has been a point of reflection for the discourse on the
Mediterranean and has helped the connection between the real, almost “filthy” life of the harbor, and the ideas and concepts that fonn in the city. The various authors that integrated the image of the sailor to the idea of the harbour in the
Mediterranean were able to reinforce the Mediterranean imaginary by joining
different images and by giving them life and purpose in a way that goes beyond
the truth. The sailor in Jean-Claude Izzo’ s imaginary has a deep and developed
curiosity and a great knowledge of The Odyssey. While it is not be a surprise that
a sailor has a passion for literature, the point that Jean-Claude Izzo makes is that
Homer’s Mediterranean has definitely changed, yet it is still alive in the heart of
the ones that live the region in all its essence. Therefore, the sailor who is an
everyday image and thus is able to relate to a greater audience acquires almost
different attributes that do not match reality, but that are in essence part of a
shared Mediterranean imaginary.
The way in which authors and thinkers contribute to the fonnation of the
Mediterranean has been the principal focus of this dissertation. The pattern
created by art and literature all over the Mediterranean highlights the differences in the region but it also portrays the similarities that are able to give birth to a unified Mediterranean. As discussed throughout, the process of finding
similarities and the fonnation of an imaginary that is able to constitute the
83
Mediterranean was not a smooth one. The Mediterranean does not in fact appear
as a place that has a lot of common features. Even though politically and
sometimes socially it has been portrayed as a unified region, the unifying factors
are few. Literature does not aim to give a picture of the Mediterranean as one but
aims rather to give various personal and interpersonal interpretations of the region to fonn an imaginary able to be transported and reinterpreted in different
circumstances. It is important to understand that the word ‘imaginary’ does not
aim to conduct a political or social inquiry about the region and that the word in
itself actually aims to understand the underlying concept of the Mediterranean. It does not aim to state facts about the region but rather to give an account that is
able to connect the historical roots of the region to personal experience.
5.2 The Mediterranean ‘Imaginary’ Beyond the Harbour
Although the harbour was my main focus in identifying the Mediterranean
imaginary, it is definitely not the only point in the Mediterranean that could be
taken into account when studying its imaginary. Other aspects of the
Mediterranean could be of great relevance when expanding the various images of the region. One important aspect in all the literature expedients taken into account was the relationship of every author with their nation and their complex identity.
Therefore, in relation to the study conducted, it would be of great interest to expand the notion of ‘nationhood’ and the fonnation of various and complex
84
identities created in the Mediterranean. The Mediterranean nowadays is seen as a region where ‘nationhood’ and identity are created through a complex of knits and relations. The latest ‘citizenship’ programs in all of the northern Mediterranean countries show how the borders and the concept of ‘nationhood’ are deeply changing, most probably opening to further possibilities that range from cultural enrichment to economic advance. When thinking about the Mediterranean JeanClaude Izzo emphasized the fact that he felt that part of himself resided in every harbour and his ‘identity’ was not limited to one place. He makes us realize that the Mediterranean existed before the creation of ‘nations’ and so, each Mediterranean person feels like he can relate to more than one country and more than one culture. The harbour has been the first impact with a deep association to the region, and the person approaching a Mediterranean harbour automatically abandons his roots and is able to relate to what the harbour has to offer. In this sense we have seen how the harbour was vital to the creation of a powerful imaginary. The question of identity and complex relations in the Mediterranean would be a next step in analysing the complexity of the region. The Mediterranean harbour teaches us that all Mediterranean people are prone to the ‘other’ and are open to various cultures, including the exposure to a number of languages and the creation of a lingua .fi’anca to facilitate communication. Therefore, with this exposure promoted by the harbour, the Mediterranean created various identities that sometimes are not distinguishable.
85
Jean-Claude Izzo felt he could relate to almost every country in the
Mediterranean and that part of him resided in every harbour. Nevertheless, he
always saw Marseille as a point of reference and as an anchorage point where his thoughts concretized. Contrarily, the difficult relation of Vincenzo Consolo with the Italian peninsula makes the issue of complex identitites particularly relevant. For a number of years, Consolo worked in northern Italy where he felt like a stranger in his own country. However, with the difference of enviromnent and in a way, a dissimilarity of culture, he was able to contemplate the meaning of the Mediterranean and his native ‘country’, Sicily. The question of a possible or
rather an impossible identity in the Mediterranean does not enrich or denigrate the concept of an ‘imaginary’ but rather enables the person studying the region to understand certain dynamics and the way in which authors and thinkers approach the region. It is rather difficult to paint a clear picture of the Mediterranean through understanding the complexity of ‘identity’, though it would be of great interest to find the way in which each and every Mediterranean person manages to relate to the concept of identity, which is an integral part of his or her social accomplishment. Society instils a deep sense of fulfilment and accomplishment in a person who is able to fully relate to their country of origin, and as Amin Maalouf states in In the Nmne of Identity, 72 identity is something that most of the time may lead to war between countries, and so it is undeniable that it plays a fundamental role in the way we view things.
72 Maalouf Amin, In the name of Identity: violence and the need to belong (Penguin books, 2000)
86
Amin Maalouf is an author of mixed origins. He is Lebanese but has lived
most of his life in France and when asked which of the two countries is his ‘real’
country, he found it difficult to answer as he states that both countries are part of
his identity. Thus identity for Amin Maalouf is something very personal. A person
living in France fonn a number of years has the ability to emich his previous
identity, therefore acquires an added identity to the previous one. The same person cannot deny the previous identity, yet he cannot deny that the present identity plays an important role in his personal fonnation. The Mediterranean as a region has always promoted the mixture of cultures and the voyage itself, therefore contributing to the fonnation of complex and variegated identities. Nowadays, we manage to relate both to a Greek and Roman descent, therefore geographically and historically the Mediterranean has been united in ideas and concepts that are now far from each other but yet undeniable.
The same geography and architectural heritage left by the Greeks and
Romans is still visible in most of the Mediterranean cities and harbours. This is
evident in the lighthouses that were for most of the time a symbol of greatness and architectural splendour, and we encountered a succession of ideas and cultures that mingled with the necessity of the lighthouse. Therefore the lighthouse that was on the one hand a powerful expression of artistic and cultural splendour, managed to create ideas and thoughts that stemmed from the actual need of ‘light’ and guidance. All these elements intertwine in the Mediterranean, rendering the 
87
concept of identity somewhat a complex one. Each person has an identity as
explained by Tarek Abdul Razek in his study about the Mediterranean identity:
‘Each one of us is the depositary of a dual legacy: the first is vertical,
coming from our ancestors, the traditions of our people and religious
c01mnunities; the other is horizontal and derives from our era and
contemporaries. Vertical identity is connected to memory and the past;
it is limited to a given territory within a given area. It usually
corresponds to national identity, the outcome of cultural policy
choices. Instead, horizontal identity extends towards the future,
though it remains open to the contemporary, reaching beyond national
borders, within a social context, in a postmodern approach. Thus,
horizontal identity is a project, a project for the future and not merely
a legacy of the past.’ 73
In relation to the Mediterranean, the horizontal and vertical identity may
be tied to the deep varied history that the Mediterranean holds. If Mediterranean
history is based on the interaction between people and cultures, then each and
everyone’s identity cannot just be based on the value of the nation as it is now.
The horizontal identity that leaves a door open to the future is in this sense very
important and gives substance to the discourse of a Mediterranean imaginary,
73 Abdul Razek ‘Common Mediterranean identity’ The Euro-Mediterranean student research multi-conference EMUNI RES (2009) pp.1-8
88
being the main contributor to the future of the Mediterranean. The imaginary that is the bringing together of both the vertical and horizontal identities manages to give hope to future discourse about the region. The imaginary does not deny the complexity of a possible Mediterranean identity, but merely shows a past where ideas flourished and have now become an integral paii of our own identity. It also proves that the future of a region is not solely made up of geographical, political and social features but is also made of different elements that manage to inte1iwine fanning a knit of images able to reside in the mind of every reader, artist and philosopher.
A search for a common identity is surely not the path to be taken in
understanding the relations in the Mediterranean because a common identity
usually instituted by the idea of a nation instills in the person a set of common
goals and ideals. In the case of the Mediterranean, the various conflicts and wars
show that there is no co1mnon identity tying the region. Therefore, it is quite
difficult to analyze a common identity and it should not be the purpose of a study
itself. It is interesting, however, to delve in the way authors and thinkers that
contributed to the fonnation of an imaginary in the Mediterranean deal with their personal identity, whether it is problematic for a great number of authors or whether authors find that their identity is not limited to their ‘national identity’.
All these factors could be of great interest to the person studying the region in the
sense that if each author writing about the Mediterranean finds the impulse to
write about the region, then he must feel a sense of association to the region,
89 irrespective of his roots or his identity, or the historical elements that he finds
residing in all the Mediterranean. This ‘affiliation’ has an element of identity that
I find interesting in the discourse about the Mediterranean. Jean-Claude Izzo in
his Les Marins Perdus states that every person travelling in the Mediterranean
needs to have a personal reason for it, and this personal reason resides mostly in
the search for an identity. One of the characters in Jean-Claude Izzo’s Les Marins
Perdus was in constant search of an identity; a personal one that could tie him
psychologically and emotionally to a harbour or to a land. The Mediterranean, as
a region, was the place where he could c01mnent, argue and question his own
identity. Whether the search actually resulted in finding his identity is not the
actual point of the novel but the focal point is that the constant search for an
‘affiliation’ and an anchorage point brought out a rich imaginary that is able to be
transported through time.
The Mediterranean imaginary constructed by the various authors and
thinkers created a vision of various concepts such as the sailor, the metaphor of
the harbour, and the thresholds that hold both a geographical and metaphorical
meaning. The imaginary of the region is meant to go beyond the initial sociopolitical meanings that the media tries to portray. The Mediterranean for
anthropologists, authors, politicians and the Mediterranean people themselves has in essence a different meaning for each person, and therefore by analyzing the narration and images about the region, it is possible to understand the relationship between each component of the Mediterranean society to society itself.
90
The aim of analyzing the imaginary in the Mediterranean through the help
of the harbour as a conceptual and geographical area was to focus on the way in
which literature and culture through the help of metaphors and the personal
encounter with the region, manages to leave an imprint on the imaginary of the
region. The region is not only a place where these figures meet, intertwine and are reinvented but it is also a place where politics should be discussed considering the deep historical and geographical ties as well as a place where issues such as ‘migration’ should be viewed with the history of the region in mind. The importance of the Mediterranean does not lie in the accomplishment of a common identity but in realizing that each and every complex identity that resides in and writes about the Mediterranean can contribute to the fonnation of the ‘imaginary’ to which everyone can relate – images and figures with which each Mediterranean person, with their diverse identities, can identify. The imaginary is the result of images, narratives and depictions that from a personal meaning and manage to acquire a deeper and more global meaning. The Mediterranean people would not feel that these common ideas and values are in any way limiting their freedom or restricting their identity, but on the contrary, feel that it is enriching to their personalized and contradictory identity.
91
6 BIBLIOGRAPHY
Annstrong A. John, ‘Braudel’s Mediterranean: Un Defi Latin’ World Politics,
Vol. 29, No. 4 (July 1977) pp. 626-636 Anderson Benedict, Imagined Communities (Verso, 1996) Abulafia David, The Great Sea: A Human History of the Mediterranean (Penguin books, 2012)
Brann Conrad Max Benedict, ‘Reflexions Sur la Langue Franque (Lingua
Franca): Origine et Actualite’ La Linguistique, Vol. 30, Fasc. 1, Colloque de
Coimbra 1993 (1994), pp.149-159
Biray Kolluoglu and Meltem Toks6z, Cities of the Mediterranean: From the
Ottomans to the Present Day (New York: LB. Tami.s & Co Ltd, 2010)
Braudel Fernand, Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of
Philip II (William Collins and sons. ltd., 1972)
Blondy Alain, Malte et Marseille au XVIIIeme siecle (Fondation de Malte, 2013)
Bouchard Norma and Lollini Massimo, ed, Reading and Writing the
Mediterranean, Essays by Vincenzo Consolo (University of Toronto Press, 2006)
Cousin Bernard, ‘L’Ex-voto, Document d’Histoire, Expression d’une Societe’
Archives de Sciences Socia/es des Religions, 24e Annee, no.48.1, pp.107-124
Cousin Bernard, ‘Devotion et societe en Provence: Les ex-voto de Notre-Damede-
Lumieres’ Ethnologie Fram;:aise, Nouvelles Serie, (1977) pp.121-142
92 Cassano Franco and Zolo Danilo, L ‘Alternativa Mediterranea (Milano: Feltrinelli, 2007)
Cooke Miriam, ‘Mediterranean Thinking: From Netizen to Medizen’
Geographical Review, Vol. 89, No2, Oceans Connect (April 1999) pp.290-300
Consolo Vincenzo, fl Sorriso dell’Ignoto Marinaio (Oscar Mondadori, 2004)
Cifoletti Guido, ‘La Lingua Franca Barbaresca’ InKoj Philosophy & Artificial
Languages (September 30, 2012)
Debrune Jerome, ‘Le Systeme de la Mediterranee de Michel Chevalier’
Confluences Mediterranee (2001) pp. 187-194
Dubry Georges, Gli ideali del A1editerraneo (Mesogea, 2000)
Devers Claire, Les Marins Perdus (2003)
Davi Laura and Jampaglia Claudio, ‘Primo Report Medlink uno Sguardo
Incrociato tra Report e Statistiche Internazionali su: Sviluppo, Genere, Liberta,
Conflitti e Mobilita nel Bacino del Mediterraneo ‘
www.medlinknet.org/report/medreport-en. pdf [accessed February, 2014]
European Commission, European Atlas of the Sea, (last updated July, 2014)
ec. europa. eu/maritimeaff airs/ atlas/ seabasins/medi terranean/long/index en.htm [accessed May 201’1] Francesca Mazzucato, Louis Brauquier – fl Poeta del Mondo Meticcio di Marsiglia (Modena) Kult Virtual Press
www.kultvirtualpress.com 93
Fabounab, Tangiers, Port of Africa and the Mediterranean (uploaded May, 2010)
www.youtube.com/watch?v=E_IJ3zmxCGg [accessed July, 2014]
Gerald H. Blake, ‘Coastal State Sovereignty in the Mediterranean Sea: The Case
of Malta’ GeoJournal, Malta: At the Crossroads of the Mediterranean Vol. 41,
No.2 (February 1997) pp.173-180
Grima Adrian, ‘The Mediterranean as Segregation’ Babelmed.net
W\¥W .babelmed.net/index.php? c=3 8 8&m=&k=&l=en
Haller, Dieter ‘The Cosmopolitan Mediterranean: Myth and Reality’ Zeitschrifi
far Ethnologie, (2004) pp. 29-47
Homi Bhabha, ‘Of Mimicry and Man: The Ambivalence of Colonial Discourse’
Discileship: A Special Issue on Psychoanalysis, Vol. 28 (Spring, 1984) pp.125-
133 Borden Peregrine and Purcell Nicholas, The Corrupting sea, A study of the
Mediterranean History (Blackwell, 2000)
Harris, W.V, Rethinking the Mediterranean (Oxford University Press, 2005)
Izzo Jean-Claude, Les Marins Perdus (Flammarion, 1997)
Izzo Jean-Claude and Fabre Thierry, Rappresentare il Mediterraneo, Lo sguardo
Francese (Mcsogca, 2000) Jacques Bouillon, ‘Ex-voto du Terroir marseillais’ Revue d’Histoire Modem et Contemporaine (1954) pp.342-344
94
Jo o de Pina-Cabral, ‘The Mediterranean as a Category of Regional Comparison:
A Critical View’ Chicago Journals, Current Anthropology, Vol. 30, No. 3 (June
1989) pp.399-406 Kavoulakas Kostantino, ‘Cornelius Castoriadis on Social Imaginary and Truth’ (University of Crete, September 2000) pp.202-213
Massimo Lollini, ‘Intrecci Mediterranei. La Testimonianza di Vincenzo Consolo,
Moderno Odisseo’ Italica, Vol. 82, No.I (Spring, 2005) pp.24-43
Matvejevic Predrag, Breviario Mediterraneo (Garzanti, 2010)
Maalouf Amin, In the name of Identity: Violence and the Need to Belong (Penguin
books, 2000) Medcruise, The Association of Mediterranean Cruise Ports (2014)
http://medcruise.com [accessed June, 2014] Mollat Michelle, ‘Inventaire des ex-voto Marins en France’ Ethnologie Frarn;aise,
nouvelles serie (1979) pp.187-189
Moliere, Il Borghese Gentiluonw. Writingshome.com
www.writingshome.com/book.php?id=ebOOOOOOO 131 [accessed May, 2014]
Muscat Joseph, Il-Kwadri ex-voto Martittimi Maltin (Pubblikazzjonijiet
Indipcndcnzu, 2003) Nabiloo Ali Reza, ‘Mediterranean Features and Wonders in the Persian Literature’ Impact Journals Vol.2, Issue 1(January2014)
Moll Nora, Marinai Ignoti, Perduti (e nascosti). Il Mediterraneo di Vincenzo
Consolo, Jean-Claude Izzo e Waciny Lare} (Roma: Bulzoni 2008)
95 Resta Caterina, Geofilosofia def Mediterraneo (Mesogea, 2012)
Riccardi Contini, ‘Lingua Franca in the Mediterranean by John Wansbrough’
Quaderni di Studi Arabi, Litermy Innovation in Modern Arabic Literature.
Schools and Journals. Vol. 18 (2000) pp. 245-247
Saba Umberto, translated by Hochfield George: Song book: the selected poems of
Umberto Saba www.worldrepublicofletters.com/excerpts/songbook excerpt.pdf
(Yale University,2008) (accessed, July 2014)
Starrett, Gregory. Zarinebaf, Fariba, ‘Encounters in the Mediterranean’ Review of
Middle East Studies, Vol. 46, No. 2 (Winter 2012) pp.289-291
Sarga Moussa, ‘Le Sabir du Drogman’ Arabica, Vol. 54, No. 4 (October 2007)
pp.554-567 Sarton George, ‘The Unity and Diversity of the Mediterranean World’ Osiris, Vol.2 (1936), pp.406-463 Salletti Stefano, Stefano Salletti
http://www.stefanosaletti.it/schede/discografia.html [accessed May, 2014]
Thayer Bill, Ostia – A Mediterranean Port (1999)
www.ostiu-untica.org/med/med.htm#2 [accessed June, 201!1]
Turismo La Coruna, Roman Lighthouses in the Mediterranean (2009)
www.torredeherculesacoruna.com/index.php?s=79&l=en [accessed September,
2014]
96 Valletta European Capital of Culture, Valletta 2018
www.valletta2018.org/credits [accessed June, 2014]
Valletta Waterfront, Valletta Cruise Port Malta- The door to the Mediterranean,
(uploaded February, 2012) www.youtube.com/watch?v=FMThbEG95WA [accessed May, 2014] Winter Werner, ‘The Lingua Franca in the Levant: Turkish Nautical Tenns of Italian and Greek Origin by Henry Kahane: Renee Kahane: Andreas Tietze’ Language, Vol.36 (September 1960) pp.454-462
Yann Arthus Bertrand, Mediterranee Notre Mer a Taus (January, 2014)
97 

I dedicate this thesis to you, dear father. You showed me with your constant love, that whatever I do with persistence and commitment will open the doors to my destiny. The long nights I spent awake, reading and researching reminded me of the long nights you spent awake working, pennitting me to study and build my future. Your sacrifices are always accompanied by a constant smile that continuously gives me courage in difficult moments.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
The number of people to whom I owe my accomplishments is far too long to fit on this page, as many have inspired me and given me their constant support which has helped me realize that knowledge could open doors I did not even know existed. Nevertheless, there are a number of people who I would like to mention as they have been there for me during tough times and have given me the support I needed. I would like to thank my family without whom I would not have been able to further my studies, my boyfriend Terry, who has always believed in me and has always been there to support me with his constant love, and my uncle Carlo, who from an early age fed me with books and literature that fostered my love of knowledge and the curiosity to find my inner self. I would also like to thank my dearest colleague Ray Cassar, who always helped me grow both academically and as a person, as well as my tutor and mentor Adrian Grima, who directed me, allowing me to ground and express my ideas better whilst always respecting and valuing my opinions.
II
Table of Contents
1 Introduction …………………………………………………………………………………………. 2
1.1 The Harbour as Threshold ………………………………………………………………. 7
1.2 The Port as a Cultural Lighthouse ………………………………………………….. 10
1.3 The Mediterranean Imaginary of Izzo and Consolo Inspired by the Port12
1.4 Conclusion ………………………………………………………………………………….. 16
2 The Harbour as Threshold …………………………………………………………………… 1 7
2.1 Natural Landscape and the Development of Literature …………………….. 20
2.2 Instability vs. Stability in the Mediterranean Harbour ………………………. 23
2.3 The Prototypical Sailor …………………………………………………………………. 27
2.4 The Harbour as a Metaphorical Door ……………………………………………… 34
3 The Port as a Cultural Lighthouse ………………………………………………………… 38
3.1 Religious Cultural Mobility ………………………………………………………….. 43
3.2 The Lingua Franca Mediterranea as a Mode of Communication ………. 49
4 The Mediterranean Imaginary of Jean-Claude Izzo and Vincenzo Consolo
Inspired by the Port ………………………………………………………………………………….. 58
4.1 The Mediterranean Imaginary in Izzo and Consolo ………………………….. 60
4.2 The Mediterranean Imaginary in Popular Culture ……………………………. 69
4.3 Conclusion ………………………………………………………………………………….. 76
5 Conclusion ………………………………………………………………………………………… 78
5.1 The ‘Imaginary’ of the Mediterranean ……………………………………………. 80
5.2 The Mediterranean ‘Imaginary’ Beyond the Harbour ……………………….. 84
6 BIBLIOGRAPHY……………………………………………………………….. .. 9?.
III
Abstract

The Mediterranean harbour is a place of meeting, of encounters between
civilizations, of clashes, wars, destructions, peace; a place where culture comes to live, where art is expressed in various ways and where authors and thinkers have found inspiration in every comer. The harbour imposes a number of thresholds to the person approaching it. This threshold could have different fonns which could be emotional, geographical, spiritual or cultural. Authors such as Jean-Claude Izzo and Vincenzo Consolo lived and experienced the Mediterranean harbour in all its aspects and expressions; their powerful experience resulted in the formation of important images referred to as ‘imaginary’. The Mediterranean imaginary is the vision of various authors who have been able to translate facts and create figures and images that represent a collective, but at the same time singular imagination. The harbour is an important part of the Mediterranean geographical structure and thus it has been the main point of study for many examining the region. Factors such as language have transformed and suited the needs of the harbour, being a cultural melting pot.
1 Introduction
The Mediterranean is represented by chaos, especially in the harbour cities that are witness to the myriad of cultures which meet each and every day to discuss and interact in the harbour. It is imperative to state that chaos, as the very basis of a Mediterranean discourse has been fed through the different voices fonned in the region. These same voices, images and interpretations have found a suitable home in the Mediterranean harbours, places where literature and culture managed to flourish and where the so-called ‘margins’, both geographical and social, found centrality. The harbour has acquired significance in the discourse on the Mediterranean and thus on how literature and cultural expedients and the vaiious authors and artists recall the harbour as an anchorage point for their deep thoughts about the region. 1
Nowadays, the unification of the Mediterranean seems a ‘utopia’, since the Mediterranean is politically perceived as a region full of borders and security plans. One may easily mention the various strategic moves put forward by the European Union to safeguard the northern Mediterranean countries from migration from North African shores. By applying and reinforcing these security plans, the Mediterranean has become ever increasingly a region of borders. It is also important not to idealize the Mediterranean past as a unified past, because the 1 Georges Duby Gli ideali def Mediterraneo, storia, jilosojia e letteratura nella cultura europea
(Mesogea, 2000) pp.80-104
2
region was always characterized by conflict and chaos. Despite the chaos that was always part of the Mediterranean, being a region of clashing civilizations, it managed to produce a mosaic of various cultures that is visible to the eye of the philosopher or the artist. The artist and the philosopher manage to project their thoughts and ambitions for the region; therefore they are able to see hannony in a region that seems so incoherent. The aim of my thesis is to understand why the harbour is crucial in the construction of the Mediterranean imaginary. Both open space and border, the port, as in the case of Alexandria or Istanbul, has for a long time been a center for trade, commerce and interaction. Therefore, it is imperative to focus on the study of the harbour and harbour cities to be able to give substance to a study about the Mediterranean as a complex of imaginaries. The boundaries in the study about the Mediterranean have a special place; in fact a boundary that may be either geographical or political has the ability to project and create very courageous individuals that manage to transgress and go over their limits when facing the ‘other’. In the Mediterranean we perceive that the actual reason for transgressing and overcoming a limit is the need of confonning or confronting the ‘other’, sometimes a powerful ‘other’ able to change and shift ideas, able to transpose or impose cultural traits. Yet, the Mediterranean in its multicultural environment has been able to maintain certain traits that have shaped what it is today. Through movement of people in the region, the Mediterranean has been able to produce a number of great innovations, such as the movement of the Dorians who moved from the south all along the 3 Greek peninsula, and also the ‘sea people’ that came from Asia and, being hungry and thirsty, destroyed whatever they found. The same destruction and movement resulted in the creation of three important factors for the Mediterranean: the creation of currency, the alphabet, and marine navigation as we know it today. The various movements also contributed to the fonnation of the person as a free being with the ability to move freely. Therefore, movement and the overcoming of boundaries in the Mediterranean have contributed greatly to the fonnation of civilization itself.2 A board, today found in the museum of Damascus, with an alphabet very similar to the Latin one written on it, was very useful as it was very simple in its structure. This confirms a high level of democracy, as civilization meant that each individual had the possibility of knowing and understanding what his leaders understood. We get to understand that in the Mediterranean each person can practice his freedom by travelling out at sea and engage in trading. All this was made possible by the same interactions and conflicts raised in the region. Conflicts though are not the only factor that promoted the interaction and the fonnation of interesting cultural and literature in the Mediterranean, as we know it today. Art and culture have been means by which the various conflicts and interactions took life and expressed the deep feelings that inhabited the soul 2 Georges Duby Gli ideali de! Mediterraneo, storia, filosofia e letteratura nella cultura europea (Mesogea,2000) pp. 80-104
4
of the artist. Karl Popper3 states that the cultural mixture alone is not sufficient to put the grounds for a civilization and he gives the example of Pisistratus, a Greek tyrant that ordered to collect and copy all the works of Homer. This made it possible to have a book fair a century later and thus spread the knowledge of Homer. Karl Popper wants to tell us that art and culture have deeply influence the fonnation of a general outset of the region and that the fonnation of the general public is not something that comes naturally, but is rather encouraged. The Greeks in this sense were directly fed the works of Homer by the diffusion of the works themselves. On the other hand, the majority of Greeks already knew how to read and write, further enabling the diffusion of knowledge. Art and architecture are two important factors that have detennined the survival of empires and cultures through time. When artists such as Van Gogh were exposed to the Mediterranean, they expressed art in a different way and when Van Gogh came in contact with the Mediterranean region, the French Riviera and Provence in particular, he discovered a new way of conceiving art. In a letter that Van Gogh wrote to his sister in 1888, he explained that the impact the Mediterranean had on him had changed the way he expressed art itself. He told her that the colours are now brighter, being directly inspired by the nature and passions of the region. The Mediterranean inspired Van Gogh to use a different kind of colour palette. If the art expressed by Van Gogh that is inspired by the Mediterranean is directly 3 Georges Duby Gli ideali del Mediterraneo, storia, jilosofia e letteratura nella cultura europea (Mesogea,2000) pp. 80-104
5 represented and interpreted by the spectator, the region manages to be transposed through the action of art itself.4 The way in which the thesis is structured aims to focus on the vanous images created by poets, popular music and art. Each chapter provides evidence that the harbour has been the centre of attention for the many authors and thinkers who wrote, discussed and painted the Mediterranean. The thesis aims to prove that certain phenomena such as language and religion have contributed to a knit of imaginaries, the layout of certain events such as the ex-voto in the Mediterranean and the use of Sabir or Lingua Franca Mediterranea, which shows how the harbour managed to be the center of events that shaped the cultural heritage of the Mediterranean. The language and religious movement mentioned have left their mark on the Mediterranean countries, especially the harbour cities, which were the first cities encountered. The choice of the harbour cities as the representation and the loci of a Mediterranean imaginary vision is by no means a casual one. In fact, the harbour for many centuries has been the anchorage point not only in the physical sense but also emotionally and philosophically for many authors and thinkers, two of which are Jean-Claude Izzo and Vincenzo Consolo, extensively mentioned in the dissertation. These two authors are relevant for the purpose of this study as they manage to create a vision of the Mediterranean, based on their personal experience and influenced by 4 Georges Duby Gli ideali de! Mediterraneo, storia, jilosojia e letteratura nella cultura europea (Mesogea,2000) pp.43-55
6 the harbour from which they are looking at the region and observing the
Mediterranean. Popular culture ‘texts’ such as movies and music based on the interaction between the person and the Mediterranean region have an important role in the study, as they represent the first encounter with the harbour. It is a known fact that in the postmodern era where technological means have a broader and deeper reach, popular culture has become the first harbour in which many find anchorage. Therefore it would be difficult to mention literature works that have shaped the Mediterranean without mentioning the popular texts that have constructed images about the region that intertwine and fonn a complete and powerful image. The relevance of each factor is well defined in this study, delving deep in not only popular culture but also in language and various historical events that have transformed the Mediterranean, providing examples of how factors such as geographical elements, spirituality, devotion and passion have transfonned the way in which we perceive a region.
1.1 The Harbour as Threshold The first chapter focuses on the harbour as a threshold between stability and instability, between wealth and poverty, between mobility and ilmnobility. The various elements that constitute the harbour always convey a sense of ‘in between’ to the person approaching. The very fact that the harbour seems to be a place of insecurity gives the artists and authors a more stimulating environment to 7 write about their feelings and to contrast them with the ever-changing and chaotic enviromnent of the harbour. The way in which the natural landscape manages to influence the poetic and artistic expression is of great relevance to the study of the Mediterranean region, especially with regards to the study of the harbour. Poets such as Saba and Montale wrote about the way in which nature felt as a personified figure, able to give hope and change the way poets look at the world. 
They also wrote about nature in the Mediterranean as being an impmiant feature
shaping the way in which history and culture developed.
The sailor as a representation of a Mediterranean traveller is often found in
literature especially with regards to the notion of the harbour as an image of the
Mediterranean culture. Many authors such as Jean-Claude Izzo and Vincenzo
Consolo wrote about the figure of the sailor in relation to the sea and everyday life in Mediterranean harbours. The novels fl Sorriso dell ‘Ignoto Marinaio by
Vincenzo Consolo and Les Marins Perdus by Jean-Claude Izzo are written in two
different geographical areas of the Mediterranean and reflect two different
periods, but they are tied by an expression of a Meditemm~im i1rn1eirn1ry and
somehow recall common features and aspects of the harbour. Both novels manage to transpose their authors’ personal encounter with the Mediterranean, therefore
recalling their own country of birth. The novels are somewhat personal to the
authors; Consolo recalls Sicily while Izzo often refers to Marseille. The fact that
the novels are projecting two different areas and two different points of view on
8
the Mediterranean proves that by gathering different experiences related to the
region, a rich imaginary is created.
The harbour is a door, an entryway to a new world, and borders. Security
and expectations are all part of the experience of the threshold when entering a
country, especially in the Mediterranean, where thresholds are constantly present and signify a new and exciting experience that leads to a new interpretation of a Mediterranean imaginary. The way in which the harbour acts as an entryway suggests that what lies beyond the harbour is sometimes a mystery to the traveller.
Literature greatly contributes to the fonnation of ideas, especially in regard to the fonnation of thoughts such as the idea of a Mediterranean imaginary, but there is another element of fundamental importance to the formation of ideas on a generic line, which is popular culture. High-culture, referring to elements such as art, literature, philosophy and scholarly writings, creates a common understanding between an educated public. Popular culture refers to the section of culture that has a common understanding between the public. High-culture and popular culture have the power to transform what is mostly regarded as pertaining to high society; literature is constantly being reinterpreted and transfonned by popular culture to be able to reach a greater audience.
9
1.2 The Port as a Cultural Lighthouse The imp01iance of natural landscape which detennines the success or failure of a harbour, also detennines a number of historical events. In this sense, the Mediterranean is a region that has been naturally set up with a number of very important harbours that consequently fonned a particular history. The image of the harbour could be compared to the image of the lighthouse, which is part of the harbour itself but at the same is a distinct entity that in some cases had a role which went beyond its initial role of guidance and assumed almost a function of spiritual assistance. 5 The symbol of the lighthouse is also tied to knowledge and therefore the lighthouse has the ability to give knowledge to the lost traveller at sea, it is able to show the way even in uncertainties. The lighthouses in the Mediterranean had the ability to change through ages and maintain a high historical and cultural meaning; their function is a matter of fact to give direction to the traveller, but in certain cases it has been used to demarcate a border or as a symbol of power.
The Mediterranean Sea has witnessed different exchanges, based on belief,
need and sometimes even based solely on the search of sel£ Among these modes
of exchange and these pretexts of voyage in the Mediterranean, we find the exvoto and the movement of relics. Both types of exchange in the region have in
common at the basis religion that instilled in the traveller a deep wish to follow a
5 Predrag Matvejevic Breviario Mediterraneo (Garzanti: 2010)
10
spiritual path. These exchanges resulted in an increasing cultural exchange. The
ex-voto6 shows a number of things. One of these things is that the very existence
of ex-voto proves a deep connection with the geographical aspect in the
Mediterranean and therefore proving that the region is a dangerous one. In this
sense, people in the Mediterranean have shown their gratitude to God or the
Virgin Mary in the fonn of ex-voto after a difficult voyage at sea. On the other
hand, the ex-voto shows how popular culture mingles with the spiritual experience and the way in which a person expresses gratitude to the divine. The ex-voto paintings have a special way of being identified. The saint or in most cases Virgin Mary, is usually set in a cloud or unattached from the sea in a tempest. Another element that shows if a painting is or is not part of an ex-voto collection, is the acronyms found in the bottom of every painting V.F.G.A (votum facit et gratiam accepit). The use of Latin demonstrates the vicinity to Christianity, whilst the words meaning that ‘I made a vow and I received grace’ prove the tie between the tragedies at sea and the grace given by God. The difficult Mediterranean geographical predisposition, discussed by Femand Braudel7 has developed an abundance of devotion that transformed to shrines and objects of adoration and gratitude. These same shrines, objects and materials that were most of the time exchanged and taken from one place to another, have deeply enriched the Mediterranean with cultural objects and the same shrines are nowadays part of a collective cultural heritage.
6 Joseph Muscat Il-Kwadri ex-voto Martittimi Maltin (Pubblikazzjonijiet Indipendenza, 2003) 7 Fernand Braudel The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean world in the age of Philip II
(Fontana press: 19 8 6)
11
1.3 The Mediterranean Imaginary of Izzo and Consolo Inspired by the
Port The Mediten-anean for Jean-Claude Izzo and Vincenzo Consolo revolves around the idea of a harbour that gives inspiration because it is in essence a border where ideas meet and sometimes find concretization. The Mediterranean harbour for centuries has been a meeting place for people and cultures, thus creating a region full of interactions on different levels. The imaginary for both authors has been shaped by both cultural elements and by the literary elements that find a special place in the mindset of the author. Culture as a popular expression of the concept of the Mediten-anean has developed in different ways, one of which is the projection of the harbour and the Mediterranean itself through media and advertising. Various elements such as the touristic publicity or the actual reportage about the harbour and the Mediten-anean have widened the horizon and the imaginary of the region. In advertisements, the Mediterranean has been idealized in some ways and tends to ignore controversial issues such as ‘migration’; advertising also tends to generalize about the Mediterranean and so mentions elements such as the peaceful and relaxing way of life in the region. Advertisement obviously has its own share in the building of an ‘imaginary’ of the region, but it may also create confusion as to what one can expect of the region. On the other hand, the reportage about the Mediterranean harbour and the region itself focuses more on everyday life in the Mediterranean and common interactions such as encounters with fishennen. Nevertheless, when mentioning 12 the MediteITanean even the reportage at times makes assumptions that try to unite the MediteITanean into an ideal space and it sometimes aims to give an exotic feel to the region. Yet there are a number of informative films that have gathered important material about the MediteITanean, such as the French production Mediteranee Notre Mer a Taus, produced by Yan Arthus-Bertrand for France 2.8 The difference between the usual promotional or adve1iising video clips and the documentary film produced for France 2 was that in the latter the focus points were an expression of the beauty of the whole, whereas in the fonner, beauty usually lies in the common features that for marketing purposes aim to synthesize the image of the Mediterranean for a better understating and a more clear approach to the region. The harbour and other vanous words associated to the concept of the harbour have been used in many different spaces and areas of study to signify many different things other than its original meaning, and this makes us realize that the harbour itself may hold various metaphorical meanings. We have seen the way in which the harbour served as a first spiritual refuge or as an initial salvation point, but it is also interesting to note how the harbour is conceptually seen today,
in an era where globalization has shortened distances and brought down barriers. Nowadays, the harbour is also used as a point of reference in the various technological terms especially in relation to the internet, where the ‘port’ or 8 Yan Arthus-Betrand Mediteranee notre mer a taus (France 2, 2014)
www.yannarthusbertrand.org/ en/films-tv/–mediterranee-notre-mer-a-tous (accessed February,
2014)
13
‘portal’ refers to a point of entry and thus we perceive the main purpose of the harbour as being the first point of entry as is in the context of infonnation technology. The concept of core and periphery has deeply changed in the world of Internet and technology, as the concept of core and periphery almost disappeared. Similarly, the Mediterranean’s core and pe1iphery have always been in a way different from what is considered to be the nonn. Geographically, the core could be seen as the central area, the place where things happen, whereas in the Mediterranean, the periphery acquires almost the function of the core. The harbour is the geographical periphery; neve1iheless, it acquires the function of the core. The islands for example are usually centres, whereas in the Mediterranean they are crossroads rather than real centres of power. In nonnal circumstances the relation between core and periphery is something that denotes not only the geographical location of a place but it usually also refers to economical, social and cultural advancement. Therefore, in the Mediterranean region the concept of geographical centre and economical and social centres are different from their usual intended meaning.
The Mediterranean imaginary has developed in such a way that it
purposely distorted the concepts such as the standard core and periphery or the usual relationship between men and nature or between men and the various borders. In the Mediterranean imaginary, which as we have mentioned is being fed by various authors and popular discourse, has the ability to remain imprinted in our own thoughts and thus has the ability to reinterpret the region itself; we find 14 that the usual conceptions change because they suit not only the region but the author that is writing about the region. The way in which the various authors and artists who describe the Mediterranean are faced with the ongoing challenges presented by the region shows how in essence each and every author has their own personal approach to the region. Their works are essentially a personal project which lead to the enriclunent of the region’s imaginary. The differences between each and every author makes the ‘imaginary’ and the accounts about the Mediterranean much more interesting and ersonalized. 
Consolo9 and Izzo10 have different ways of perceiving the region and
although they both aim to create an ‘imaginary’ that may recall similar features, it is undeniable that there are substantial differences in their approach. Consolo on the one hand focuses a lot on the image of Ulysses as a figure that represents him in his voyage in search of the self. Ulysses for Consolo is a figure that manages to preserve a meaning even in the modem era, a figure that is able to travel through time all the while reinventing the Mediterranean. Izzo as well feels that the figure of Ulysses is imperative to the study of the Mediterranean, but he mostly focuses on the impact of the present experience of the region on the conception of a Mediterranean ‘imaginary’ rather than focusing on the past as a representation of the present situation. 9 Vincenzo Consolo Il Sorriso dell’Ignoto Marinaio (Oscar Mondadori: 2012) 10 Jean-Claude Izzo Marinai Perduti (Tascabili e/o: 2010) 15
1.4 Conclusion
The Mediterranean has been seen as a region full of inconsistencies,
contradictions and conflicts, based mainly on the divergent ideas and cultures residing in the same area. The Mediterranean imaginary does not exclude the conflicts that are present in the region and does not aim to unify the region, and in doing so it aims to give voice to the region. For the various authors and thinkers that are mentioned in the thesis, the Mediterranean has transmitted an emotion or has been able to create the right environment to express ideas and fonn thoughts. The relevance of each and every author within the framework of this thesis shows that without analyzing the single expression about the region, through the various works, one cannot fonn an imaginary of the Mediterranean region. The various concepts of borders, thresholds, conflicts and cultural clashes manage to mingle with each other in everyday life in the Mediterranean – greater ideas and fundamental questions find resonance and meaning in simple everyday interaction between a common sailor and a woman at a bar. The Mediterranean in essence is the voyage between the search for deep roots and the analysis of the clashes that result from this search for roots. The study of the Mediterranean is the constant evaluation of boundaries and the search for the ‘self’ through a wholly subjective analysis of the ‘other’. The imaginary plays a fundamental role in bringing near the ‘roots’ and the ‘present’, and the ‘self’ and the ‘other’.
16
2 The Harbour as Threshold The Mediterranean harbour for many authors and thinkers is a starting point as well as a dying point of the so called ‘Mediterranean culture’. In fact many sustain that the ‘MediteITanean culture’ takes place and transfonns itself in its harbours. This concept does not have to confuse us in assuming that a ‘Mediterranean culture’ in its wholesomeness really does exist. There are elements and features that seem to tie us; that the sea so generously brought ashore. On the other hand the same sea has been keeping things well defined and separate. The harbour as the first encounter with land has always maintained an important role in the formation of ideas and collective imagination. The harbour is not selective in who can or cannot approach it and so the fonnation of this collective imagination is a vast one. It is also important to state that the harbour in itself is a place of contradictions, a place where everything and nothing meet. The contrasting elements and the contradictions that reside in Mediterranean ports are of inspiration to the various authors and thinkers who study the Mediterranean. In this sense they have contributed in the formation of this Mediterranean imagination. Literature is an important factor that contributes to a fonnation of a collective imagination; it would be otherwise difficult to analyze the Mediterranean without the help of literature, as the fonnation of a collective imagination was always fed through literature and cultural expedients.
17
The Mediterranean region, as we shall see, is an area that is somehow
constructed; a person in France may not be aware of what a person in Morocco or in Turkey is doing. The concept of a constructed Mediterranean may be tied to the anthropological study conducted by Benedict Anderson 11 where he states that the ‘nation’ is a constructed concept and may serve as a political and somehow economic pretext. The sea is navigated by both tragic boat people and luxurious cruise liners, and these contradictions seem to be legitimized in the Mediterranean region. To give two recent examples we can observe on a political sphere, the European Union’s decision to fonn a Task Force for the Mediterranean (TFM) whose aims are to enhance the security of its shores and to drastically reduce deaths at sea. The TFM is a recent initiative that follows a number of proposals at a political level that have the Mediterranean security at heart. 12 This idea was triggered by a particular event that saw the death of 500 migrants off Lampedusa. It clearly poses a question whether the Mediterranean is a safe place or not, and whether it remains in this sense appealing to touristic and economic investment. The TFM probably reinforces the idea that the Mediterranean is a problematic region and thus requires ongoing ‘security’. To reconnect to the main idea, the TFM reinforces the notion that the Mediterranean is a constructed idea where access from one shore to another is denied and where one shore is treated as a security threat whereas the other shore is treated as an area to be protected or an 11 Benedict Anderson, Imagined communities (Verso, 1996)
12 Brussels, 4.12.2013 COM (2013) 869 Communicationjiwn the commission to the European Parliament and the council on the work of the Task Force Mediterranean 18 area that is unreachable. The contradictions keep on adding up when we see the way the Mediterranean is portrayed for economic and touristic purposes. One example is the ‘Mediterranean port association’ that helps the promotion of cruising in the Mediterranean region providing assistance to tourists who would like to travel in the region. In this context the Mediterranean is used in a positive way in relation to the touristic appeal it may have. The construction of a Mediterranean idea is by no means restricted to an economical or a political discourse; it has deeper roots and meanings that have fonned through a history of relations between countries and of fonnations of literary expedients. For Franco Cassano13, the Mediterranean is a region that in essence is made of differences, it would be otherwise difficult to justify the clashes that have characterized the Mediterranean history, if it was not for the fact that we are all aware that it is a region made up of dissimilarities On the other hand it is due to these dissimilarities that the Mediterranean is an appealing region both for authors and for travelers alike.
13 Franco Cassano,Danilo Zolo L ‘alternativa mediterranea (Milano:Feltrinelli, 2007)
19
2.1 Natural Landscape and the Development of Literature Nature and literature are two elements that intertwine and thus create a collective imagination around the concept of the Mediterranean harbour. In fact, the dialectic between natural landscape and poetic expression was always a matter of great relevance as nature constantly managed to aid the development of poetic expression. The natural landscape helps the fonnation of existential thoughts, such as life, death and the existence of men – thoughts that are always reinterpreted and reinvented through literature. This relation between men and nature was always important in configuring spaces and detennining them according to a common understanding. 14 In the poem of Giacomo Leopardi Dialogo delta Natura e di un Islandese, Nature is personified, and although the indifference and coldness of nature is palpable, we sense that the poet is being aided by nature in fanning his ideas about life itself. Through time and especially through globalization, the world is being interpreted in terms of geographical maps and technology is subsequently narrowing our concept of space and enlarging our concept of life. In the new modem dimension, where the concept of space has acquired an abstract meaning, literature leaves the possibility of dialectic relationship between men and nature, thus enabling men to perceive the places they inhabit as a significant part of their self-construction process. This concept takes us to the perception created around the Mediterranean region and especially the way people look at 14 Massimo Lollini fl Mediterraneo de/la contingenza metafisica di montale all’apertura etica di Saba (Presses Universitaires Paris Quest: 2009) pp.358-372
20
figures such as the sea, the ports and the shores. In Giambattista Vico’s15 poetic geography we understand that the representation of geography through poetic expression is something that dates back in time, through a cosmic representation of senses and feelings. In this regard, Montale and Saba both express in a relatively modem tone the deep representation of the Mediterranean through a mixture of contrasting feelings and ideas. The image of the harbor and any other images in the Mediterranean are deeply felt and analyzed, through the eyes of the poets that live in the region. Montale uses the dialectic of memory to explain his relationship with the Mediterranean, a region locked in its golden age that lives through the memory of poets and authors. He refers to the Mediterranean as ‘Antico ‘ emphasizing the fact that it is an old region. The word ‘Antico ‘ does not merely refer to oldness, but to oldness combined with prestige. The memory characterizes the Mediterranean for Montale, the image of the sea for instance is an archaic image that notwithstanding holds a modem and yet spiritual meaning as it expresses a sense of purification. The sea with its movement brings ashore all the useless and unwanted elements. On the other hand the sea may be seen as a fatherly figure that becomes severe in its actions and makes the poet feel insignificant and intimidated. Montale’s aim was to overcome the threshold between artistic expression and natural landscape through a dialogue with the Mediterranean Sea. This aim was not fulfilled. Montale tried hard to express artistically what the Mediterranean Sea meant but ended his poem humbly putting himself at a lower stage in comparison to the greatness of the Sea. Montale fills 15Massimo Lollini Il Mediterraneo della contingenza metafisica di montale all’apertura etica di Saba (Presses Universitaires Paris Ouest: 2009)
21 his poetry with a mixture of humility and paradoxes; two elements that keep on repeating themselves in the poetry concerning the MeditelTanean.
Furthennore, in Umberto Saba’s ‘Medite1Taneet16 we encounter the same
contrasts and paradoxes used by Montale to develop the figure of the
MeditetTanean Sea. Saba uses the microcosm of Trieste to explain a larger
macrocosm: The MeditetTanean. This technique renders his work more personal and gives it a deeper meaning. Saba and Montale both rely on the memory to express a feeling of deep ties with the element of the sea and the life of the MeditelTanean harbour. Saba’s MeditelTanean resides in his microcosm, personal encounters and experiences fonn his ideas about the region; a region he perceives as being full of fascinating contradictions.

‘Ebbri canti si levano e bestemmie
nell’Osteria suburbana. Qui pure
-penso- e Mediterraneo. E il mio pensiero
all’azzulTo s’inebbria di quel nome.’ 17
‘Drunken songs and curses rise up
in the suburban tavern. Here, too,
I think, is the Mediterranean. And my mind is
drunk with the azure of that name.’ 18
16 Umberto Saba, translated by George Hochfield: Song book the selected poems of Umberto Saba
\V\V\V. worldrepublicofletters.com/excerpts/songbook excerpt.pdf (accessed, July 2014)
17 Massimo Lollini fl Mediterraneo della contingenza metafisica di montale all’apertura etica di Saba (Presses Universitaires Paris Ouest: 2009) pp.358-372
22
Saba mingles his personal classicist fonnation expressed in the ‘all’azzurro’
with the poorest part of the Mediterranean harbour ‘l’osteria’. Both factors are intertwining, and so, the Mediterranean for Saba is the combination of both the richness of classicist thoughts that fonned in the Mediterranean as well as the meager elements that fonned in its po1is; yet they embellish and enrich the concept of the Mediterranean. Saba is searching for his personal identity through the search for a definition to the Mediterranean. In his art he attempts to portray the very heart of the MediteITanean which is found in his abyss of culture and knowledge with the everyday simple life of the harbours. 2.2 Instability vs. Stability in the Mediterranean Harbour In Saba and Montale’s works, the fascinating inconsistencies in the Mediterranean seem to find a suitable place in the ports and in the minds of each and every author and thinker who encounters it. The notion of stability and instability finds its apex in the port. The sea is the synonym of instability, especially in the Mediterranean, being depicted as dangerous and unpredictable. As in the recounts of the Odyssey, the sea, and the Mediterranean as a whole, is a synonym of instability and thus prone to natural catastrophes. The Homeric recounts of Ulysses’ journey explore the Mediterranean that was previously an unknown place. Although the places mentioned by Homer are fictitious, they now 18 Umberto Saba, translated by George Hochfield: Song book the selected poems of Umberto Saba
www.worldrepublicofletters.com/excerpts/song:book _excerpt.pdf (accessed, July 2014)
23
have a general consensus over the definition of the actual places. As time went by historians and authors went on confinning what Homer had depicted in his Odyssey – a Mediterranean that constantly poses a challenge, danger and fascination at the same time. Femand Braudel in his ‘Mediterranean and the Mediterranean world in the age of Philip the II’ 19 sustains the view of a difficult Mediterranean, of a succession of events that have helped the success of the Mediterranean for a period of time. Its instability and complication have not aided the area in maintaining its ‘golden age’. This discourse was reinvented by Horden and Purcell in ‘The Corrupting Sea’20 where the Mediterranean meets geographically, historically and anthropologically. In ‘The Corrupting Sea’ the view of Femand Braudel is expanded into what the Mediterranean meant
geographically and historically, therefore Horden and Purcell explain that the inconsistencies and natural features in the Mediterranean really contributed to bring the ‘golden age’ to an end, but they were the same features that brought on the rich culture around the Mediterranean countries in the first place. Where literature is concerned, the inconsistencies and natural features served as an inspiration to various authors who went on fonning the collective imagination around the Mediterranean. Therefore, it could be argued that the geographical
complexity of the region is in fact the tying point to the ‘Mediterranean’ itself that resides in the unconscious and that otherwise would have died with its economical shift towards other areas of interest. The problematic identity and the challenging 19 Femand Braudel The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean world in the age of Philip II (Fontana press: 1986)
20 Peregring Horden, Nicholas Purcell The Corrupting sea, a study of the Mediterranean histmy (Blackwell publishing: 2011)
24
natural enviromnent brought by an ongomg sense of curiosity and attraction towards the Mediterranean region. The port is the first encounter with stability after a journey that is characterized by instability, at the surprise of the inexperienced traveler. However, the port does not always covey immovability. The p01i gives a sense of limbo to the traveller that has just arrived. It is a safe place on the one hand but on the other hand due to its vicinity to the sea, it is as unpredictable as the sea itself The sailor is a frequent traveler who knows and embraces the sea. He chose or has been forced to love the sea, to accept the sea as his second home. The sailor is in fact the figure that can help us understand the fascination around the Mediterranean and its ports. It is not an unknown factor that sailors and their voyages have captured the attention of many authors that tried extensively to understand the affinity sailors have to the sea. The sailor21 is a man defined by his relation with the sea and is a recurrent figure in a number of literature works all over Europe and the rest of the world. The sailor is the incarnation of the concept of human marginality, he lives in the margin of life and he embraces the marginality of the harbour with the different aspects of the port. The thresholds present in the port are represented by the sailor; a figure that lives between the sea and land, between betrayal and pure love,
between truth and lie. Like the portrayal of Odysseus, the concept of a sailor has 21 Nora Moll Marinai Ignoti,perduti (e nascosti). fl Mediterraneo di Vincenzo Consolo, JeanClaude Izzo e Waciny Lare} (Roma: Bulzoni 2008) pp.94-95
25
infidelic properties. He carnally betrays his loved one, but he is psychologically anchored to one women for his whole life; a women who is always present in various thoughts but at the same time she is always physically distant. As we will see in various works, the sailor is in constant search of knowledge – the very same knowledge that brought him to love and embrace the sea. The knowledge that is conveyed through the action of travelling itself is another question that would require a deep analysis, but for the sake of our study the fact that knowledge is transmitted through the depth of the sea is enough to make a com1ection with the purpose by which the sailor travels. The sailor fluctuates between sea and land, between danger and security, between knowledge and inexperience. The thresholds are constantly overcome by the curious and free spirited sailor that embarks in this voyage to the discovery of his inner-self. The literary voyage of the sailor in the Mediterranean takes a circular route while it goes deep in ancient history and ties it to modem ideas. Since the sailor is not a new character but a recurring one in literature and culture it has the ability to transfonn and create ideas giving new life to the Mediterranean harbours. While the seamen are the link between the high literature and the popular culture, the sailor does not have a specific theme in literature but the archetype of ‘the sailor’ has a deep resonance in many literary themes. As Nora Moll states in one of her studies about the image of the sailor, she puts forward a list of common themes associated with the image of the sailor:
26
‘Tra i complessi tematici, a cm m parte ho gia accem1ato,si
annoverano l’avventura, il viaggio, l’eros, l’adulterio, il ritorno, il
superamento di limiti (interiori) e di sfide ( esterne ), la liberta, la vita
come “navigatio” e come intrigo conflittuale di esperienze. ’22
‘Amongst the complex themes, which I partly already mentioned, we
find adventure, travel, Eros, adultery, the return, the overcoming of
limits (interior) and challenges (exterior), freedom, life as “navigatio”
and as a conflictual intrigue (or scheme) of experiences.’
2.3 The Prototypical Sailor The interesting fact about the study conducted by Nora Moll is that the sailor in her vision is not merely a figure tied to a specific social class, but as we can see the themes listed are themes that can be tied also to the figure of Ulysses. It is difficult to say that Ulysses or the image of the sailor own a predestined set of themes, and in fact they do not necessarily do so. Ulysses is a character that comprehends certain themes, but these change and shift in accordance to space, time and circumstances. What does not change is the thresholds that are always present in the life of a sailor, the limits that are constantly there to be overcome and the external challenges that need to be confronted. The harbour conveys a 22 Nora Moll Marinai Jgnoti,perduti (e nascosti). I! Mediterraneo di Vincenzo Consolo, JeanClaude Izzo e Waciny Larej (Roma: Bulzoni 2008) pp.94-95
27
number of thresholds; as we have seen these are embodied in the figure of the manner. Jean Claude Izzo in his Les Marins Perdus23 wrote about the discomfort of sailors having to forcedly stay on land and their relationship with the harbor, a passing place that has a special meaning. The harbor is in fact a special place for the mariner, as it is the only place where they can have human contact beyond that of the crew. The mariner in Jean Clause Izzo does not feel that he belongs to any nation or country. He belongs to the sea; a sea that managed to give meaning to his life but at the same time managed to destroy it. Jean Claude Izzo uses strong images of the port to describe the tie the sailor has to the harbour itself, he uses sexual and erotic images and ties them to legends and popular culture expedients. The story is interesting because of the way Jean Claude Izzo reverses the way sailors live. In fact he recreates a story where the sailor is trapped in the harbour and so he is forced to view the sea from land and not the other way round as he usually does. The psychological discomfort that Jean Claude Izzo creates portrays the Mediterranean archetypes and the life in the ports from a reverse point of view. Everyday life in the harbour is analyzed through a succession of tragedies that on one hand recall the classicist view of the Mediterranean, and on the other hand, due to references to everyday life elements, may be easily connected to the modem conception of the Mediterranean port. The links created by Jean Claude Izzo are made on purpose to create an ongoing bond between the classic Homeric 23 Jean-Claude Izzo Marinai Perduti (Tascabili e/o: 2010) pp.238
28
Mediterranean and the modem Mediterranean. In fact, Diamantis -the mam character of the novel- is portrayed as a modem Ulysses trying to cope with ongoing temptations and with the constant drive for knowledge. The Odyssey is for Diamantis a point of anchorage. He reads the Odyssey while attempting to define himself: ‘In effetti l’Odissea non ha mai smesso di essere raccontata, da una taverna all’altra,di bar in bar: … e Ulisse e sempre fra noi. La sua eterna giovinezza e nelle storie che continuiamo a raccontarci anche oggi se abbiamo ancora un avvenire nel Mediterraneo e di sicuro li. [ … ]I porti del Mediterraneo … sono delle strade. ’24 ‘Yes … In fact, the Odyssey has constantly been retold, in every tavern
or bar … And Odysseus is still alive among us. Eternally young, in the
stories we tell, even now. If we have a future in the Mediterranean,
that’s where it lies.” [ … ] “The Mediterranean means … routes. Sea
routes and land routes. All joined together. Connecting cities. Large
and small. Cities holding each other by the hand.’ In this quote we see the continuous threshold between space and time being overcome, that serves to keep alive the Mediterranean itself. It is clear that the classic Homeric recount is always reinterpreted and reinvented. The Odyssey
is not the only point of reflection for Diamantis. In fact the protagonist is seen as a 24 Jean-Claude Izzo Marinai Perduti (Tascabili e/o: 2010) pp.238
29
deep character that reflects on the various incidents in his life and it could be argued that Diamantis is the expression of Jean Claude Izzo’s thoughts. The sailors in Jean Claude Izzo’s novel chose to be Mediterranean; naval commerce exists beyond the enclosed sea, but these men chose to sail with inadequate ships in a region where geographical beauty and historical richness meet. The port for Izzo, has multiple meanings and he defines the Mediterranean harbours as differing from other harbours, because of the way they are accessed. Izzo uses the image of the harbour as a representation of love: ‘Vedi, e’ il modo in cui puo essere avvicinato a detenninare la natura di un porto. A detenninarlo veramente [ … ] Il Mediterraneo e’ un mare di prossimita’. ’25
‘You see, it’s the way it can be approached that detennines the nature of
a port. Really detennines it. [ … ] The Mediterranean, a sea of closeness.’
This passage shows the influence of thought, Izzo inherited from
Matvej evic. In fact the approach used to describe the harbour and to depict the nature is very similar to the one used by Matvejevic in his ‘Breviario Mediterraneo’. 26 We perceive that the harbour is substantially a vehicle of devotion, love, passion and Eros, though we may also observe the threshold between the love and passion found in the port and the insecurity and natural brutality that the sea may convey. In this novel, the port is transfonned in a secure 25 Jean-Claude Izzo Marinai Perduti (Tascabili e/o: 2010) ppl22 26 Predrag Matvejevic Breviario Mediterraneo (Garzanti:2010)
30
place whilst the sea is a synonym of tragedy. At the same time the port is seen as a filthy and conupt place. While for Izzo the past is used as a background to tie with the present and moreover to show a link with the future, Consolo uses a different technique. He goes deep in one focal historical point to highlight certain Mediterranean features and problematic issues. Consolo uses the period of time where Sicily was undergoing various political changes. He describes the revolution and the Italian unification, and portrays real events and characters tied to Sicilian history. In Vincenzo Consolo, the image of the sailor is used as a metaphor through the work of Antonello ‘il Sorriso dell’Ignoto Marinaio’.27 The title itself gives us a hint of the tie between art and everyday life. The voices that intertwine and form the discourse around the Mediterranean are hard to distinguish as they have fanned the discourse itself to a point where a voice or an echo is part of another. The work of Consolo28 goes through a particular historical period in Sicily to describe present situations and ongoing paradoxes in the Mediterranean region. It is difficult to resume and give a name and specific allocation to the works on the Mediterranean as the multiple faces and voices have consequently fanned a variety of literature and artistic works. The beauty behind works on the Mediterranean is that archetypes such as the concept of a ‘sailor’ or the ‘harbour’ are revisited and reinterpreted, thus acquiring a deeper meaning and at the same time enriching the meaning of ‘the Mediterranean’ itself.
27 Vincenzo Consolo fl sorriso dell’Jgnoto Marinaio (Oscar Mondadori:2012)
28 Vincenzo Consolo fl sorriso dell’lgnoto Marinaio (Oscar Mondadori:2012)
31
Consolo focuses on the microcosm of Sicily and he portrays a fluctuation
between sea and land. He locates Sicily in an ideal sphere where the thresholds are nonexistent: ‘La Sicilia! La Sicilia! Pareva qualcosa di vaporoso laggiù nell’azzurro tra mare e cielo, me era l’isola santa! ’29 ‘Sicily! Sicily! It seemed something vaporous down there in the blue between sea and sky, but it was the holy island!’ Sicily is placed in an ideal sphere where beautiful natural elements coexist with famine, degradation and war. The imagery created around the island of Sicily may be comparable to the imagery around the Mediterranean region. As for the harbour it is described by Consolo as a place of contradictions, comparable to the ones found in the whole Mediterranean. The detail given to the life in the port is extremely in depth and the type of sentences used expresses the frenetic lifestyle of the port itself: ‘Il San Cristofaro entrava dentro il porto mentre ne uscivano le barche, caicchi e gozzi, coi pescatori ai rami alle corde vele reti lampe sego stoppa feccia, trafficanti con voce urale e con richiami, dentro la barca, tra barca e barca, tra barca e la banchina, affollata di vecchi, di donne e di bambini, urlanti parimenti e agitati [ … ].’30 29 Vincenzo Consolo fl sorriso dell’Jgnoto Marinaio (Oscar Mondadori:2012) pp:56
30 Vincenzo Consolo fl so1-riso dell’Jgnoto Marinaio (Oscar Mondadori:2012) pp:29
32
‘The San Cristoforo sailed into the harbour whilst the boats, caiques
and other fishing boats, sailed out with the fishennen holding the
ropes sails nets tallow oakum lee, traffickers beckoning with an ural
voice, inside the boat, from one boat to another, from one boat to the
quay, crowded with the elderly, women and children, screaming
equally and agitated’ [ … ] The tension around the port is well transmitted in the explanation given by Consolo, there seems to be a point of nothingness and a point of departure at the same time. We perceive that there is plenty of life in the port but at the same time confusion reigns, therefore we could argue that people in ports are not really conscious of life and that they are letting things turn. Nevertheless, the port is the starting point of life that develops either in the sea or inland. Both by Consolo and in Izzo we are made aware of the importance of life at the ‘starting point’, therefore the port in the works of both authors acquires the title of a ‘threshold’ between life and death, consciousness and unconsciousness, love and hatred, nature and artifice, aridity and fertility. In the microcosm described by Consolo, the Sicilian nature and its contradictions seem to recall the ones in the rest of the region. For example, the painting ‘Ignoto Marinaio’ is described as a contradictory painting. In fact, the sailor is seen as an ironic figure that smiles notwithstanding the tragedies he has encountered. The ‘Ignoto Marinaio’ has seen the culture and history of the Mediterranean unveil, he has therefore a strange smile that 33 expresses the deep knowledge acquired through his experience and a deep look that convey all the suffering he has come upon. In the novel by Consolo, the painting serves as a point of reference and in fact, the ‘Ignoto Marinio’ resembles another important character in the novel; Intemodato. Both figures share the ironic and poignant smile and the profound look. Intemodato is seen as a typical Sicilian revolutionary who embraces the sea but at the same time is not psychologically unattached to the situations that happened on land. He is part of the revolution and integral part of the Sicilian history.
2.4 The Harbour as a Metaphorical Door Consolo and Izzo with their accounts of sailors and the life in Mediterranean harbours brought us to the interpretation of the harbour as a metaphorical door. As in the seminal work of Predrag Matvejevic ‘Breviario Mediterraneo’,31 the harbour is tied to the concept of a metaphorical door. In Latin both ‘porto’ and ‘porta’ have the same root and etymological derivation. A harbour in fact is a metaphorical and physical entryway to a country. In the Roman period, the god Portunos was the deity of the harbour who facilitated the marine commerce and the life in the port in general. The various deities related to the sea in the Roman 31 Predrag Matvejevic II Mediterraneo e I ‘Europa, lezioni al college de France e altri saggi (Garzanti elefanti:2008)
34
and Greek traditions are an indication of a deep relation between the figure of the harbour and the physical and geographical figure of the door or entryway. The door may have many different shapes and may divide different spaces but it always signifies a threshold from one point to another. In literature the harbour signifies a metaphorical door between fantasy and reality, history and fiction, love and hatred, war and peace, safety and danger. The image of the door is concretized through the various border controls, visas and migration issues and in this regard the entryway becomes a question of membership. A piece of paper in this case detennines the access through that doorway, but from a cultural and
identity point of view the Mediterranean threshold is overcome through the encounter with history and fiction. Thierry Fabre in his contribution to the book series ‘Rappresentare ii Mediterraneo’; 32 in relation to the Mediterranean identity he states; ” … Non si situa forse proprio nel punto di incorcio tra la storia vera e i testi letterari che danno origine all’immaginario Mediterraneo?”33 ‘ Isn’t perhaps situated exactly at the meeting point between the real stories and the literature texts that give birth to the Mediterranean imagination?’ Fabre is conscious of the fact that the discourse about the Mediterranean limits itself to a constructed imaginary, the poet or artist in general that enters this metaphorical door is expected to conceive the Mediterranean imaginary; blending reality with fiction. The door is not always a static figure but is sometimes blurred and does not 32 Jean Claude Izzo, Thierry Fabre Rappresentare il Mediterraneo, lo sguardo fiwicese (Mesogea: 2000) 33 Ibid (Mesogea: 2000) pp.25
35
clearly divide and distinguish. The Mediterranean itself is a region of unclear lines the fonnation of a port and of a nation itself is sometimes not that clear. In Matvejevic’s ‘Il Mediterraneao e l’Europa’34 literature blends with facts and culture so does the geography around the Mediterranean region: ‘Tra terra e mare, in molti luoghi vi sono dei limiti: un inizio o una
fine, l’immagine o 1 ‘idea che li uniscono o li separano. Numerosi sono
i tratti in cui la terra e il mare s’incontrano senza irregolarita ne rotture,
al punto che non si puo detenninare dove comincia uno o finisce
l’altro.Queste relazioni multiple e reversibili, danno fonna alla costa. ’35 
‘Between land and sea, there are limits in many places: a start or a
finish, the image or the idea that joins or separates them. The places
where sea meets land without any irregularities or breaks are
numerous, to the extent that it’s not possible to detennine where one
starts or the other finishes. These multiple and reversible links that
give shape to the coast.’ The coast in this sense is made up of a set of relations between figures and fonns that meet without touching each other, the door is not always present; it sometimes disappears to give room to imagination and the fonnation of literature.
34 Predrag Matvejevic Il Mediterraneo e !’Europa, Lezioni al College de France e Altri Saggi
(Garzanti elefanti: 2008)
35 Ibid (Garzanti: 2008) pp.53
36
The concept of literature allows the analysis of culture and the way it 1s
envisioned and spread through Mediterranean harbours. The fluctuations of varied thoughts that have shaped the Mediterranean imagery through its harbours have no ties with everyday life, if not by the transmission of culture and the means of popular culture that served as a point of anchorage and sometimes as a point of departure for the fonnation of a deeply rooted but also enriching and contested collective imagination.
37
3 The Port as a Cultural Lighthouse The harbour for many centuries has been an anchorage point and a safe place for sailors and travellers that navigate the Mediterranean. We perceive the safety of the harbour as something that is sometimes naturally part of its very makeup, as on such occasions where we encounter natural harbours. In other cases, to suit their needs, people have built around the shores and transfonned paii of the land into an artificial harbour which is able to welcome the foreigner and trade and at the same time to defend if needed the inland. Femand Braudel36 in his The Afediterranean and the Mediterranean World in thP AgP nf Philip TT <liscusse<l the importance of the Mediterranean shores for the traveller in an age when people were already able to explore the outer sea, but yet found it reassuring to travel in a sea where the shore was always in sight. The Mediterranean Sea has always instilled a sense of uncertainty in the traveller, because of its natural instability. Nevertheless, the fact that the shores and ts are always in the vicinity, the Mediterranean traveller is reassured that he can seek refuge whenever needed. The fascinating thing is that the ports in the age delineated by Femand Braudel were not only a means of safety but most of all of communication – a type of economic and cultural c01mnunication that went beyond 36 Fernand Braudel The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean world in the age of Philip II (Fontana press: 19 8 6)

38
the simple purpose of the port itself. The same simple modes of communications that Braudel describes may seem irrelevant when studying the Mediterranean history in its entirety, but we get to understand that they are actually the building blocks of the Mediterranean itself:
‘This is more that the picturesque sideshow of a highly coloured
history. It is the underlying reality. We are too inclined to pay attention only to the vital communications; they may be interrupted or
restored; all is not necessarily lost or saved. ‘ 37 The primordial modes of communication, the essential trade and the mixture of language and culture all have contributed to the creation of what we now sometimes romantically call the Mediterranean. The truth lies in the fact that
the harbour has always been prone to receiving and giving back; it has been a passing place of objects, customs and of words. We surely cannot deny the fact that trade has shifted not only by moving from different areas of interest but it also shifted into different forms changing the harbour’s initial function. This basic fonn of communication has contributed highly to the formation of a Mediterranean imaginary and a mixture of cultures that have left a deep resonance in language, literature and cultural expression as a whole.
37 Femand Braudel The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean world in the age of Philip II (Fontana press: 1986) pp.I 08
39
The risk and insecurity delivered by the sea have contributed to the
fonnation of various symbols that from their end contribute to the fonnation of an imaginary concerning the Mediterranean harbour. Amidst the uncertainties and hazards at sea, the light of the lighthouse that shows the surest path and warns the person travelling of the possible dangers, reassures the traveller while leading the way. The symbol of the lighthouse is tied to the representation of light and thus knowledge. Finding light in the middle of the sea gives the traveller the necessary means to have greater awareness of what is approaching. The geographical position and the architecture of the lighthouse are all an indication of their meaning beyond their primary objective. During the Roman period for example, the lighthouse was primarily an important source of safekeeping,38 but at the same time it represented a high expression of architectural and engineering knowledge. One example is the ancient roman lighthouse in Messina. Studies show that the architecture used was very functional, but at the same time it portrayed Neptune, thus mingling popular beliefs and superstitions. On the other hand, it was also a powerful way of delineating borders between Sicily and the Italian peninsula. Today the lighthouse in Messina has been replaced by fort San Remo and the architecture of the lighthouse has changed to a more functional one. Another powerful example is the ancient lighthouse in Alexandria, built on the island of Pharos where it stood alone as if wanting to replace the harbour itself. In Alexandria it is Poseidon who guards
the harbour, and the myth blends with the social and geographical importance of the lighthouse. Originally, the lighthouse in Alexandria was simply a landmark, but 38 Turismo La Coruna, Roman Lighthouses in the Mediterranean (2009) www.torredeherculesacoruna.com/index.php?s=79&l=en (accessed September, 2014)
40
eventually during the Roman Empire, it developed into a functional lighthouse. In the case of the old lighthouse built during the Roman period at the far eastern end of Spain, its dimension and position reflect the way Romans saw the world and how they believed Spain marked the far end of the world. What these lighthouses had in common was the fact that they were not just there to aid and support the traveller in his voyage but to define a border and to give spiritual assistance to the lost passenger. The symbol of the lighthouse is somehow deeply tied to a spiritual experience. In Messina where Neptune guarded the sea, and in many other places and different eras, the lighthouse was positioned in such way that it attracted a spiritual resonance and the light that emanated from the lighthouse may be compared to a spiritual guide. Matvejevic in his Breviario Mediterraneo39 compares lighthouses to sanctuaries and the lighthouse guardian to a spiritual hennit. He also adds that the crews responsible for the running of the lighthouse resemble a group of 1ponks, rather than sailors: ‘Gli equipaggi dei fari, cioe personale che somiglia piuttosto ai monaci dei conventi di un tempo che non ai marinai’ .40 ‘The crews of the lighthouses, that is staff that resembles more the convent’s monks of yore rather than the sailors’. The comparison is by no means striking, considering the mystical importance of the lighthouse. The lighthouse and its crew are seen and respected by the traveller, as they are their first encounter with land, safety and refuge. The link with spirituality is something that comes 39 Predrag Matvejevic Breviario Mediterraneo (Garzanti:2010) pp.55-56 40 Predrag Matvejevic Breviario Mediterraneo (Garzanti:2010) pp.56 41
naturally. The lighthouse crew for example is in some cases part of the ex-voto paintings found in the monasteries and convents. This illustrates the deep c01mection with the spiritual aspect. The question sometimes is to detennine whether the harbour and the lighthouse need to be two distinct features in the same space or whether they are part of the same geographical, social and cultural space. The answer may vary according to the way one perceives it. The lighthouse is the first encounter with land, but it is almost a feeling that precedes the real encounter with land, whilst the harbour is the first physical contact with land. The two elements may be taken into account separately, but for the purpose of this study they need to be taken in conjunction. The cultural value of both these elements goes beyond their physical value. In fact, both the lighthouse and the harbour share a common proximity to the sea, and receive cultural and social contributions from every traveller. The lighthouse and the harbour do not distinguish between different types of travellers -they accept everyone and their main gift for this act of pure love is the enrichment of culture, customs, language and food. The different elements intertwine and create a beautiful atmosphere that mixes sounds and tastes from various countries. This is not always distinguishable and it may not in all cases recreate the same atmosphere
in more than one country. What is sure is that the elements present in the harbours are of great relevance to what is portrayed on a higher artistic and cultural level. In this regard the harbour acts as a lighthouse for the country and sometimes for the region too, this time not to alann the traveller but to guide him spiritually and 42 artistically. The harbour was and still is a meeting place, where artists and thinkers stop and reflect. What comes out of these reflections sets deep roots in the cultural knit of the harbour and expands and grows until all the roots intertwine and create such a beautifully varied cultural atmosphere. Although the process may seem an easy and flowing one, we must not forget that the mixture of cultures and the setting up of such a variegated cultural atmosphere was not always flowing and peaceful. 3.1 Religious Cultural Mobility
The way the Mediterranean is geographically set up, contributed to an
expansion of religious pilgrimages that intertwined with marine commerce and
cultural richness. The image of the lighthouse and the harbour instil a sense of
spiritual refuge, and the large number of harbours and lighthouses in the
Mediterranean contribute to the mysticism of the region. Religious pilgrimage
throughout the Mediterranean is something that belongs to an older era and that
could have possibly started very early in the Greek empire, where Gods were
adored and ports and lighthouses had deep ties with different deities. As
Christianity started spreading in the Mediterranean, the Greek and Roman gods
were joined by saints and shrines for adoration.41 The coexistence of both pagan
and monotheistic religious expressions confinned a cultural motif related to
41 Peregring Horden, Nicholas Purcell The Corrupting sea, a study of the Mediterranean histmy (Blackwell publishing:2011)
43
divinity that has been a constant throughout Mediterranean history. In the Middle Ages the phenomena of the religious pilgrimage and the movement of saints’ relics gave to the Mediterranean voyage a different dimension. As noted in Borden and Purcell’s The Corrupting Sea, this age of pilgrimage and movement for religious purposes was brought about by a new discovery of sea routes in the Mediterranean and a different conception of religion as a c01mnodity. ‘Through the translation of his remains the saint himself, like the images of pre-Christian deities before him, in a very intense expression of the link between religion and redistribution, became a commodity’ .42 The redistribution of relics brought a new type of secular economy that involved bargaining and bartering. The movement of relics not only created a new wave of economic activity around the Mediterranean but also a movement of tales and accounts that pictured saints and voyages at sea, ‘Tales which echo real webs of communication, such as that of the arrival of St. Restitua from Carthage to Ischia’ .43 The stories seem to recall older stories from Greek culture, but are adapted to a newer setting.
The parallelism between good and bad, projected on the perilous voyage in
the Mediterranean, was always part of the account of a voyage itself, as we can
also recall in the various episodes of Ulysses’ journey. We are thus able to see that
in the voyages of pilgrims, the relationship between good and bad is often
projected onto the hard and extreme weather conditions in the Mediterranean.
42 Ibid pp.443
43 Ibid pp.443
44
Religious travellers had their own way of reading the map of the Mediterranean,
interpreting every danger and threat through religious imagery. From a cultural point of view, the accounts and echoes of religious travellers shaped the Mediterranean Sea itself and gave new life to the ports they anchored in. Apart from the movement of relics, another testimony of the great communication and cultural heritage -as we have previously mentioned- is the exvoto in the Mediterranean shores which gives witness to the cultural interaction and
customs based on faith. In many instances the objects collected for the ex-voto
have been taken up over time and placed in marine museums where cultural
interaction and exchange takes place. One example could be the ex-voto in
Marseille,44 where nowadays the objects collected are part of a collective cultural memory. In France, during the late seventies and the early eighties we have seen a great rediscovery of the ex-voto heritage that led to a deep cultural resonance in the area. The discovery of the ex-voto brought by a new inquiry of religious and harbour customs that were probably ignored previously. The paintings and objects dedicated to the saints and most of the time to the Virgin Mary represented the everyday life of sailors and travellers, the dangers at sea and most of all the miracles encountered during the arduous voyages. In the various exhibitions about ex-voto in France the concept of a Mediterranean ex-voto emerged and we are aware that at the time when the ex-voto was practiced in the majority of cases the 44 Jacques Bouillon ‘Ex-voto du terroir marsellais’ Revue d’histoire modern et contemporaine (1954) pp.342-344 45
voyage routes were sole1m1ly around the Mediterranean and the fact that marine exhibitions concerning the ex-voto claim a Mediterranean heritage calls for a collective cultural expe1ience. It is difficult though to distinguish between a
personal encounter with the harbour and a Mediterranean experience; one may
intertwine with the other. In this case, the Mediterranean reference is imposed and not implied, and one might therefore wonder if there are elements that are c01mnon in the region and thus justify the use of the word Mediterranean. In the case of the ex-voto, it has been noted that certain elements are common to the whole region.
It is interesting to note the areas of interest and the social groups to whom
the ex-voto applies. This may give a clearer idea of the criteria and the cultural
sphere that surrounded the practice of the ex-voto. In the majority of cases the exvoto represented the medium bourgeoisie and the lower classes, the setting mostly represented small nuclear families. In most of the ex-voto paintings, one can see that the terrestrial elements intertwine with celestial elements ‘Dans sa structure, un ex-voto presente deux espaces, celeste et terrestre’ .45 The anthropological and cultural importance of the ex-voto emerges through the various figures that appear especially in the paintings dedicated to the saints and the Virgin Mary. These figures have a particular placement in these paintings that reveals a deep connection with the cult of miracles and devotion.
In Malta, as in France, the ex-voto was a widespread custom that left a
great cultural heritage. The paintings and objects donated to the ex-voto, especially 45 Jacques Bouillon ‘Ex-voto du terroir marsellais’ Revue d’histoire modern et contemporaine (1954) pp.342-344 46
in connection to the sea, reveal a number of historical events and geographical
catastrophes that are tied with the Mediterranean region. The fact that the sea is
unpredictable makes the practice of the ex-voto much more relevant in an era
where the only means of transportation in the Mediterranean was by ways of sea. In the Maltese language there is a saying ‘il-bahar iaqqu ratba u rasu iebsa ‘ which literally translates to ‘the sea has a soft stomach but it is hard headed’. This saying is very significant as it shows the profound awareness of the Maltese community of the dangers at sea. The sea is unpredictable and therefore only through divine intercession can the traveller find peace and courage to overcome any dangerous situation. The different types of paintings that were donated portray different types of vessels and so indicate a precise period in history. At the Notre Dame de la Garde in Marseille, one finds a number of models of different vessels from various historical periods. We also encounter very recent models of boats. This confirms that in a way the ex-voto is still present nowadays. Even in Malta, the practice of the ex-voto is still relatively present, although one may notice that the advance in technology and the new fonns of transport through the Mediterranean aided the voyage itself and therefore diminished the threats and deaths at sea. The types of vessels used in the paintings also shows the different modes of economic trading voyages in the Mediterranean. For example, in Malta during the nineteenth century, a great number of merchants were travellmg across the Mediterranean. This resulted in a number of ex-voto paintings that pictured merchants’ vessels and one could be made aware of their provenance. Various details in the ex-voto 47
paintings show many important aspects of the Mediterranean history as a whole
and of the connectivity in the region that went on building through time.
One interesting fact common to almost all the ex-voto paintings is the
acronyms V.F.G.A (votum facit et gratiam accepit) and sometimes P.G.R (Per
Grazia Ricevuta) that categorizes certain paintings into the ex-voto sphere. The
acronyms literally mean that we made a vow and we received grace and P.G.R
stands for the grace received. The acronyms are in Latin, for a long period of time which was the official language of Christianity. These acronyms, which may have indicated the tie of high literature -through the knowledge of Latin- and popular culture -through the concept of the ex-voto, usually associated to a medium to lower class- demonstrate that the use of language may tie the various social classes. Although everyone understood the acronyms, it doesn’t mean that Latin was fully understood amongst sailors and merchants of the sea. Language was a barrier to merchants, traders and seamen most of the time. The Mediterranean has a variety of languages coexist in the region; Semitic languages at its south and Romance languages at its north. The lines of intersection and influence of languages are not at all clear and the geography of the Mediterranean region forced its people to move and shift from one place to another for commerce or for other reasons which brought by a deep need for modes of communication.
48
3.2 The Lingua Franca Mediterranea as a Mode of Communication
The communication barrier between people in the Mediterranean coupled
with the profound need for interaction brought by a deep need of a common
language or at least common signals which would be understood by everyone. In
the case of the ex-voto, language or at least a reference made to a certain language, gives the possibility for people from different countries to understand the underlying message. In the Mediterranean harbours where interaction between people from different lands was the order of the day, the need for common signals and language was always deeply felt. Languages in the Mediterranean region contain linguistic elements that throughout history have been absorbed from other languages. In the Mediterranean region especially during the fifteenth century, the great need for communication resulted in the creation of a so-called Lingua fiw1ca, a spoken language that allowed people to communicate more freely within Mediterranean ports. One such language was known as ‘Sabir’, with words mainly from Italian and Spanish, but also words from Arabic and Greek. The interesting fact about Sabir was that the amount of words coming from different languages around the Mediterranean was an indication of the type of c01mnerce that was taking place at the time. Therefore, if at a given moment in time the amount of words from the Italian language was higher than that from the Spanish language, it meant that commerce originating and involving from Italy predominated. As Eva Martinez Diaz explains in her study about the Lingua ji-anca Mediterranea:
49
‘They created a new language from a mixture whose lexical and
morphological base – the base of pidgin – is the Romance component,
exactly the language of the most powerful group in these relations and
which varies according to historical period. ’46 During the 16th Century, for example, the Lingua franca Mediterranea acquired more Spanish vocabulary, due to certain historical events that shifted maritime commerce. This was also an indication of certain political events that shaped Mediterranean history. When a country invaded or colonialized another, as happened in Algeria after the French colonization, linguistic repercussions were observed. This mostly affected everyday language communication, especially with the simpler and more functional mixture of words and phrases from different languages in ports and the areas around them rather than at a political level. In Mediterranean ports, the need among sea people and traders to communicatee led to the creation of a variety like Sabir. Sabir comes from the Spanish word saber (to know), although, it is mostly noticeable that Italian fonned it in its prevalence.47 Sabir is known to be a pidgin language. A pidgin is a language used between two or more groups of people that 46 Eva Martinez Diaz ‘An approach to the lingua franca of the Mediterranean’ Quaderns de la Mediteranea, universidad de Barcelona pp: 224
47 Riccardi Contini, ‘Lingua franca in the Mediterranean by John Wansbrough’ Quaderni di Studi Arabi, Litermy Innovation in Modern Arabic Literature. Schools and Journals. Vol. 18 (2000) (pp. 245-247)
50
speak a different language but need to have a business relation, and so, need to find a common language or mode of communication. The word ‘pidgin’ is said to come from the Chinese pronunciation of the word ‘business’. The Lingua fi’anca
Mediterranea was a language that started fonning in the Mediterranean throughout the 15th century and continued to shape and change itself depending on where the political and commercial hub lay; Sabir, specifically as an offshoot of the lingua fiw1ca mediterranea, fonned after the 17th century. The first time that reference was made to sabir was in 1852, in the newspaper ‘L ‘Algerien’ in an article entitled ‘la langue sabir. Apart from a few references made to the language, it is quite rare to find sabir in writing because it was mostly used for colloquial purposes, but in some cases it may be found in marine records. When it was actually written down, the lingua franca mediterranea used the Latin alphabet, and the sentence structure and grammar were very straightforward. In Sabir the verb was always in the infinitive, as, for example, in ‘Quand moi gagner drahem, moi achetir moukere’48, that means ‘when I will have enough money, I will buy a wife’. The use of the infinitive indicated a less complex grammar that made it more functional to the user, as it was a secondary language mostly used for commerce. Although Sabir was in most cases referred to as a variety of the lingua franca mediterranea, we perceive that in the popular culture sphere the word Sabir is mostly used to refer to the common and functional language used in MeditelTanean harbours for communication. It is deceiving in fact, because the 48 Guido Cifoletti ‘Aggiomamenti sulla lingua franca Mediterranea’ Universita di Udine pp: 146
51
lingua fi’anca mediterranea, is the appropriate reference that needs to be made
when talking in general about the language used in harbours around the
Mediterranean. On the other hand, if we want to refer to Sabir we are reducing the
lingua fi’anca mediterranea to a definite period of time and almost a defined
territory association. Nevertheless, both Sabir and lingua fiw1ca mediterranea are two different words that express almost the same thing, it is thus important to establish the minimal difference between the two tenns. In arguing that the lingua franca mediterranea refers to a more general language used in the Mediterranean harbours during the Middle Ages and that went on changing and fonning and changing-assuming different fonns according to the harbour and place where it was spoken- we are looking at the language in a broader way. It is undeniable though that Sabir as a reference to a specific language that fonned in Algeria during the 17th century, is most of the time more appropriate to address specific arguments, especially when it comes to popular culture expedients. Popular culture and literature have expressed their interest in the language through expressions such as poems and songs recalling Sabir as a language that managed to mingle more words of different derivation into single cultural spaces. Nowadays, Sabir is no longer used; in fact we notice that English and Chinese are developing into new pidgin languages, understood almost by everyone, especially when it comes to trade and busmess.
In the Mediterranean we have encountered the rediscovery of Sabir in
culture as a language that has a deep cultural value for Mediterranean countries as 52 a whole. One of the examples of the presence of Sabir in cultural expedients is the famous play by Moliere Le bourgeois gentilhomme49 that was represented for the first time in 1967 at the court of Louis XIV. The story was a satiric expression of the life at court, Moliere was well aware of the life at court and he wanted to show that there was no difference between royals and nonnal people, especially with regards to emotions. Moliere associates the Sabir to the foreign Turks that by means of Sabir they managed to communicate:
‘Se ti sabir,
Ti respondir;
Se non sabir,
Tazir, tazir. ‘ 50
The use of Sabir for Moliere indicated a common language understood both by
French and Turks in this case. The fact that Moliere used Sabir, it meant that
gradually the resonance of Sabir could reach out to a different audience, than it’s
main purpose. In this case the meeting place as the harbour was not present but we may perceive that the mixture of cultures and the need for communication led to the use of Sabir as the common language. 49 Moliere, le bourgoise gentilhomme www.writingshome.com/ebook _files/l 3 l .pdf
50 Moliere, le bourgoise gentilhomme www.writingshome.com/ebook _files/13 l.pdf pp.143
53
Coming to the present day, it is difficult to say that Sabir or the lingua
franca mediterranea own a particular important space in the cultural sphere or in the language per se. We are mostly sure that in the Mediterranean harbours Sabir has no relevance anymore, nevertheless, we find the use of Sabir in popular culture. One example is the aiiist Stefano Saletti,51 who in his songs uses Sabir. Its use was obviously intentional. Saletti looked at the new uprisings in the North African countries and he could recall the same feelings, faces and atmosphere that southern European countries went through thirty years prior. With this in mind, he decided to use a language that had co1mnon elements to all Mediterranean languages, and so he chose Sabir. His albums are inspired by the notion of music and culture as a tie to the whole Mediterranean, being conscious on the other hand of the numerous contradictions and differences in the Mediterranean region. The CD Saletti and the Piccola banda ikona explain what Sabir is and why they chose this language to communicate a c01mnon message through the music: ‘Once upon a time there was a tongue shared by the peoples of the Mediterranean. This was Sabir, a lingua franca which sailors, pirates,
fishennen, merchants, ship-owners used in the ports to communicate
with each other. From Genoa to Tangiers, from Salonika to Istanbul,
from Marseilles to Algiers, from Valencia to Palenno, until the early
decades of the twentieth century this kind of sea-faring “Esperanto”
developed little by little availing of tenns from Spanish, Italian,
51 Stefano Saletti www.stefanosaletti.it/schede/ikonaeng.htm (accessed July, 2014)
54
French and Arabic. We like this language. We like to mix sounds and
words. We play Sabir. We sing Sabir.’ 52 The importance of Sabir for Saletti shows that the harbour’s cultural value has been transmitted through time. Does the use of Sabir by Saletti indicate a recreation of a language that was used in the harbour as a functional and common means of communication or does it have the pretext to artificially recreate a common language? It is difficult to understand the importance and relevance an old pidgin language used for a specific purpose might hold today. Nevertheless, the use of this specific language in the music of Saletti reveals a profound search for common cultural traits in the Mediterranean region, that in this case aim to opt for cultural and educational approach to unite a region that is fractured in its own
basis. Saletti refers to Sabir as resembling Esperanto; a failed attempt to
linguistically unite a region that cannot be united. Although we may find the same concept in Esperanto and Sabir, we are aware that they differ in the way they came to be. Esperanto was artificially constructed, whereas, Sabir was born and evolved in an almost natural way by a need that went beyond the actual artifice. This is probably the reason why Sabir and the lingua franca mediterranea lasted for a long period of time, while Esperanto was at its birth a failed attempt to create a language for a detennined sector in society. It is a fact that the main difference between the two languages is that one aimed to create a broader understanding based on a functional everyday life need, whereas the other aimed to create a 52 Stefano Saletti www.stefanosaletti.it/schede/ikonaeng.htm (accessed July, 2014)
55
language understood by few. In Saletti’s and Moliere’s works, we perceive the Mediterranean harbour as a point of intersection of cultures and ways of living that left a spill-over of cultural traits in the abovementioned artistic works and in many other works by various authors around the Mediterranean region. It is important to notice that the harbour in the expression of the ex-voto, Sabir, lingua franca mediterranea and various literal and artistic expressions, served almost as a lighthouse, where culture was projected and created, and recreated and changed to fit the ever changing needs of the Mediterranean differing cultures. In Jean-Claude Izzo’s Les Marins Perdus, the language used in the harbour is not mentioned often, although he refers to language
as a barrier that finds its purpose in the basic everyday needs. Jean-Claude Izzo
mentions an important point on language in Les Marins Perdus as he delves in the way the word ‘Mediterranean’ is seen in different languages across the region: ‘Il Mediterraneo e di genere neutro nelle lingue slave e latine. E in
maschile in italiano. Femminile in francese. Maschile e femminile in
spagnolo, dipende. Ha due nomi maschili in arabo. E il greco, nelle
sue molteplici definizioni, gli concede tutti I generi. ‘ 53
‘The Mediterranean is neutral in the Slavonic languages, and in Latin.
It’s masculine in Italian. Feminine in French. Sometimes masculine,
sometimes feminine in Spanish. It has two masculine names in Arabic.
53 Jean-Claude IzzoMarinai Perduti (Tascabili e/o: 2010) pp.237
56
And Greek has many names for it, in different genders.’ Jean-Claude Izzo wants to prove that the word ‘Mediterranean’ in language is a sufficient proof of how people around the shores view the region. The gender of the word Mediterranean does in fact show that the languages in the region have
developed their own way of understanding and perceiving the region. Language as we have seen has deep ties to how popular culture and ideas have evolved and
developed. Sabir in its essence has proved that although the region has a myriad of contradictions and differing cultures, the harbour and everyday needs managed to combine the different languages into one. At the same time it is undeniable that the differences in the Mediterranean region make the region itself not only vast but also wonderful and enticing to the traveller and the artist. Literature and culture have fonned and mingled together, yet each maintained its distinct features at the the Mediterranean harbours; the place of various particular encounters. Jean Claude Izzo, Salletti and Moliere all managed to create a powerful work of art that has deep ties to the culture created and recreated over time in the Mediterranean harbours. Sabir and the ex-voto are only two examples of how harbours throughout
the Mediterranean have been a point of anchorage but also a locus of
Mediterranean cultural development. Harbours have been able to unite, divide and create such a diverse and yet common culture.
57
4 The Mediterranean Imaginary of Jean-Claude Izzo and Vincenzo Consolo Inspired by the Port The Mediterranean as a discourse has been interpreted and reinterpreted, and idealized and mystified by a myriad of authors, thinkers and artists. In this modem era where globalization of thought is the nonn, the Mediterranean discourse is by far a difficult expression that finds obstacles in the concretization of its own thought. Nevertheless, today the Mediterranean is still capable of producing new artists and new expressions by which the discourse gets richer and deeper. The Mediterranean, as its name suggests, is a sea that is in between two lands, and as Franco Cassano 54 states, has never had the ambition to limit itself to only one of its shores. The Metlitenanean was fm a periotl of time consecutively and simultaneously Arab, Roman and/or Greek; it was everything and nothing at the same time. The Mediterranean never aspired to have a specific identity, and its strength lies in its conflicting identity; it embraces multiple languages and cultures in one sea. Franco Cassano in his L ‘alternativa mediterranea states that borders are always ahead of centres, ‘Il confine e sempre piu avanti di ogni centro’55, and this concept is very relevant when we think about the significance of the harbour, as a place at the border of the country and yet the centre of every interaction.
Cassano goes on explaining how the centre celebrates identity, whereas the border is always facing contradiction, war and suffering. The border cannot deny the suffering by which the conflicting and inhomogeneous Mediterranean identity has 54 Franco Cassano, Danilo Zolo L ‘alternativa mediterranea (Milano: Feltrinelli, 2007) 55 Franco Cassano, Danilo Zolo L ‘alternativa mediterranea (Milano: Feltrinelli, 2007) pp.80
58
been built upon. The border is the true expression of the Mediterranean and it is
undeniable here that the most important interactions and historical events in the
region have taken place.
The border is an important concept in the study of the Mediterranean
itself, and as already mentioned, the majority of intersection and cultural
exchanges have taken place in the harbours, which are the borders of a country yet the centre of every interaction. For the concept of a ‘Mediterranean identity’ to arise, the harbour has been a pivotal place economic and religious interactions
which consequently left an undeniable cultural baggage whose strong presence
allowed the Mediterranean shores to benefit from an enriching cultural melange.
Being a sea of proximity, the Mediterranean has always been prone to receive the
‘other’ with all its cultural baggage, and therefore the concept of fusion and
amalgamation of different aspects of every country has always contributed to the
region’s culture. Accounts about the Mediterranean and those set in it have always put at their centre the concept of ‘differences’ and the ‘other’ in contraposition to the conflicts found in the harbours and in its centres. Nevertheless, without expecting the ends to meet to a degree of totality, the Mediterranean has been able to create places where ends do not merely meet but coexist. The coexistence of different races, cultures and languages has been the founding stone of the region.
As Cassano states, an identity that claims to be pure is an identity that is destined
to fail because it is in the essence of a culture that it repels the ‘other’, and
therefore sees the answer to every problem in the elimination of the ‘other’. The
59
Mediterranean, on the other hand has embraced ‘the other’ or on occasion, ‘other’ has forcedly penetrated the Mediterranean, giving birth to a region of different cultures based on a coexistence which is sometimes peaceful but often hard. The Mediterranean nowadays has overcome the complex of Olientalism and moved forward from a vision of an exotic south or border; ‘non e piu una frontiera o una barriera tra il nord e il sud, o tra l’ est e l’ ovest, ma e piuttosto un luogo di incontli e correnti … di transiti continui’ .56 ‘it is not a border or bamer between North and South, or East and West anymore, but it is rather a place of encounters and trends of continuous transits’. The Mediterranean has become a region of transit and a meeting place.
Upon travelling across the Mediterranean, an important thing which makes
itself evident is the imaginary that keeps on building through the interaction
between authors and thinkers, especially through their works that focus on the
importance of stating a discourse about the Mediterranean.
4.1 The Mediterranean Imaginary in Izzo and Consolo
‘Il Mediterraneo none una semplice realta geografica, ma un temtorio
simbolico, un luogo sovraccalico di rappresentazioni. ’57
56 Franco Cassano,Danilo Zolo L ‘alternativa mediterranea (Milano: Feltrinelli, 2007) pp.92 57Jean-Claude Izzo,Thierry Fabre Rappresentare il Mediterraneo, Lo sguardo francese
(Mesogea: 2000) pp.7
60
‘The Mediterranean is not a simple geographical reality, but a
symbolic territory, a place overloaded with representations.’
The Mediterranean is a region full of symbolism and representationswhich
would not exist if it were not supp01ied by the literature and culture that has
fonned on and around its shores. The Mediterranean as a region of imaginaries
built on the integration of different voices and stories has produced a number of
authors and thinkers that left a cultural and artistic patrimony to the discourse
about the Mediterranean. We have already seen how the harbour transmits a sense of insecurity and plays a role of threshold which is testified through the works of Izzo and Consolo. Both authors have not only shown the importance of the harbour but have also contributed arduously to the fonnation of a Mediterranean imaginary. The word imaginary, comprehends a number of images, figures and fonns that are created by the observers to define something -not solemnly by the mere reflection of facts and historical events, but by a personal evaluation- that sometimes goes beyond reality. In this sense, it is undeniable that the Mediterranean has gathered a number of observers who have been able to translate facts and create figures and images that represent a collective in a singular imagination. Consolo and Izzo have transfonned their personal encounter with the Mediterranean into a powerful imaginary.
Jean-Claude Izzo was born and raised in Marseille in a family of Italian
immigrants. His background and geographical position highly influenced his
61
writing. Both Izzo and Consolo shared a deep love for their country of origin
especially for the microcosm surrounding them. Vincenzo Consolo wrote about
his beloved Sicily, while Izzo always mentions Marseille. Both authors transpose
the love for the microcosm into a broader vision of the Mediterranean as a whole.
Jean Claude Izzo’s Mediterranean is based on a passionate encounter with the
region and states that his Mediterranean differs from the one found at travel
agencies, where beauty and pleasure are easily found.
‘Cio che avevo scoperto non era il Mediterraneo preconfezionato che
ci vendono i mercanti di viaggi e di sogni facili. Che era propio un
piacere possibile quello che questo mare offriva.’ 58
‘I had discovered a Mediterranean beyond the pre-packaged one
usually sold and publicised by Merchants, as an easy dream. The
Mediterranean offered an achievable pleasure.’
The Mediterranean hides its beauty only to reveal it to anyone who
wants to see it. The Mediterranean for Izzo is a mixture of tragedy and pleasure,
and one element cannot exist without the other. This image of beauty and
happiness shared with tragedy and war is a recurring one in the study of the
Mediterranean. Consolo’s writing is based on the concept of suffering. He
pictures human grief and misery as an integral part of the Mediterranean
58 Jean-Claude Izzo, Thierry Fabre Rappresentare il Mediterraneo, Lo sguardo francese (Mesogea:
2000) pp.17
62
imaginary and he feels that poetry and literature have the responsibility to transmit the human condition. Izzo in his writings not only shows that the Mediterranean imaginary is made up of tragedy, suffering and war but also shows that there is hope in the discourse about the Mediterranean itself. For Izzo, the Mediterranean is part of his future, part of his destiny, embodied in the geography of the region and in the tales and accounts that inhabit every comer of the region. Through his beloved Marseille, Izzo manages to look at the Mediterranean and thus find himself.
The word ‘imaginary’ in the academic sphere is tied to a concept used
for the definition of spaces, a definition that goes beyond the way things seem
externally, a definition that puts much more faith in how an author, thinker or
artist expresses and describes the space. In the case of the Mediterranean, since
the region is not an officially recognized political entity, identity is based on
interpretation more than anywhere else and the concept of an imaginary proves
that there are paths that still lead to thought about the Mediterranean. With this in mind, one cam1ot deny the fact that in the political or social sphere, the concept of Medite1Tanean is still being mentioned; however, one could argue that the Mediterranean that is being mentioned in a political and social sphere is somehow a constructed ‘Mediterranean’. The Mediterranean’s relevance nowadays is found in the hearth of the author and artist that from Tangiers or from Marseille is able to write about a sea that has thought him to be mobile, to travel not only physically but mentally and emotionally from one shore to another. Jean-Claude Izzo’s troubled identity gives us a hint of the way in which the Mediterranean is 63
perceived as a region and the way in which the personal ‘imaginary’ for Izzo was
fonned. Izzo himself was from a family of mixed origins and was raised in a
constant state of travel. Izzo found his Mediterranean identity in the imaginary
other authors had created but also found his roots in the very absence of more
organic roots. Every story and every country may be part of his own identity, and
so, the Mediterranean has the ability to preserve in the depths of its sea the stories and feelings collected from every shore and give a curious traveller the
opportunity to retrieve these treasures and make them his own.
The historical approach to the Mediterranean has been based on a
comparison between south and north, between the Mediterranean and Europe, and it usually focused much more on the contrasting elements than on its conjunctions and similarities. Braudel59 saw the Mediterranean as a static and unchanging region. Today, modem thought has led to a new perception of the Mediterranean, focusing rather on the points of conjunction than on the differences and contrasting elements, yet accepting the fact that the Mediterranean is diverse in its essence. In a paper by Miriam Cooke about the Mediterranean entitled Mediterranean thinking: from Netizen to Metizen60
, she delves into the importance of the juxtaposition between the liquidity of the sea and the immobility of the land in the rethinking process of the Mediterranean. In the Mediterranean imaginary, the sea serves as a mirror and as a fluid that is able to connect and remain welldefined.
It is able to give a sense of time that is very different from the one on
59 Femand Braudel The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean world in the age of Philip II (Fontana press: 1986) 60 Miriam Cooke ‘Mediterranean thinking: From Netizen to Medizen’ Geographical review, vol 89 pp.290-300
64
land. As we perceive in Jean-Claude Izzo, time is something that is completely
lost at the border between sea and land and especially in contact with the sea.
Sailors in Les Marins Perdus61 realize the concept of time only when they live in
the harbor and in other words, the sea has been able to preserve the sailor’s spirit in the illusion that time on land was as static as it was at sea. In the study about the Mediterranean region, the sea plays a fundamental role that must not be underestimated. Jean-Claude Izzo and Vincenzo Consolo both refer extensively to the figure of the sea when addressing the Mediterranean imaginary. When pondering on the Mediterranean, Izzo always places himself facing the sea, embracing the liquidity of this region, whereas in his stories, Consolo always uses the sea as the main mode of transportation and giving it a mystical attribute.
The Mediterranean has a different meaning for the two authors, because
it is perceived from two different places and two different conceptions of the
Mediterranean arise. In much of Consolo’ s writing, the Mediterranean is seen
through the image of Odysseus which is an image that holds a special meaning for Consolo and to which he feels deeply tied. For Consolo, The Odyssey is a story
that has no specific ending and this is done on purpose because it is directly tied to the future. The door to the future was kept open with the specific purpose of
letting the figure of Odysseus trespass time. The importance of Ulysses in
Consolo’s discourse extends to a deep and personal search for identity and it is
identity itself and the search for knowledge that led Ulysses to embark on a
61 Jean-Claude Izzo Marinai Perduti (Tascabili e/o: 2010)
65
voyage around the Mediterranean region and afterwards to return to Ithaca. Like
Izzo, Consolo finds the essence of a Mediterranean imaginary in the act of
travelling and sometimes wandering from coast to coast, from harbour to harbour, somehow like a modem Ulysses that aims to find himself and find knowledge through the act of travelling and meandering. Many authors that have focused their attention on the figure of Ulysses have focused on Ulysses’ return to Ithaca in particular and the search for a Mediterranean identity through this return.
Consolo, however, mainly uses the metaphor of travel and wandering, and he
manages to tie them to the question of a Mediterranean imaginary that is being
built upon the various images that the author is faced with through his voyage. For Consolo the voyage and the constant search for knowledge are the founding
stones of a Mediterranean imaginary. This urge to push further and thus reach a
greater level of knowledge has driven the Mediterranean people to practice
violence, and therefore Consolo believes that violence tied to the expression of a
deep search for knowledge is what has constituted the Mediterranean region. In
L ‘Olivo e L ‘Olivastro 62
, Vincenzo Consolo uses Ulysses’ voyage as a metaphor of his own voyage and his personal relation with Sicily; being his homeland it holds
a special place for Consolo especially in his writings. Constant change in the
modern concept of a Mediterranean has left a deep impact on the Mediterranean
imaginary. The wandering Ulysses returns to a changed and metamorphosed
Ithaca, which is a recurring image in the Mediterranean. Consolo finds his home
62 Norma Bouchard, Massimo Lollini, ed, Reading and Writing the Mediterranean, Essays by Vincenzo Consolo (University of Toronto Press, 2006)
66 island ‘Sicily’ deeply changed by industrialization and although it may have
maintained features that recall the past, it has changed greatly. Images of the
harbour and of the Mediterranean itself have deeply changed. Change may be
positive, negative or may hold a nostalgic tone, although change is always a
positive factor that contributes to the fonnation of an ‘imaginary’. The way
Ulysses and authors such as Consolo and Izzo have wandered and fought their
battles in the Mediterranean has contributed to the change that we now perceive in the region. Through the voyage of Ulysses, Consolo gives testimony of the
Mediterranean violence and change to the rest of the world. For Consolo the
imaginary created around the Mediterranean is a mixture of his own reality such
as a modem Sicily devastated by industrialization and modernization, and the
recurring image of Ulysses. In fl Sorriso dell ‘Ignoto Marinaio, Consolo focuses
on the microcosm of Sicily as a metaphor of the larger Mediterranean. His
imaginary is characterized by the concept of conflict – a conflict that keeps on
repeating itself in the Mediterranean and is somehow tied to a general conception of the Mediterranean. The harbour acquires an important space in the novel, being the hub of the whole story. The violence mentioned in the novel is a projection of violence in view of an attempt at unifying two different spheres, in this case the unification of Italy, but in a broader sense the possible unification of a Mediterranean. The attempt is not only a failure but results in a continuous war to establish a dominant culture rather than a possible melange of cultures that manage to keep their personal identities.
67
Izzo on the other hand wrote about the Mediterranean imaginary from
the point of view of sailors, who construct a Mediterranean imaginary based on
the concept of a difficult intercultural relationship and a strange bond with the
Mediterranean harbour. In Les Marins Perdus, the microcosm of Marseille
managed to represent the macrocosm of the Mediterranean, and the figures of the sailors represents a modem Ulysses, with the aim of bringing about a
Mediterranean imaginary that mingled old and traditional conceptions of the
region with new and modem ideas. Jean Claude Izzo’s sailors had different ways
of perceiving the Mediterranean, but they had a similar way of seeing and
identifying the ‘sea’. Izzo’s protagonist, much like Consolo’s protagonist,
develops an interesting habit of collecting old Mediterranean maps. For the sailor, the collection of maps represents in a certain way the concretization of a
Mediterranean and the unification of the geographical conception of the region.
The act of collecting may be considered as an attempt at identifying something
that is common, something that is part of a collective memory.
The works of Consolo and Izzo are the literal expressions of a
Mediterranean imaginary, based on their personal encounter with the region and
on their individual research on the subject. The way in which literal texts shape
our conception and ideas with their powerful imagery proves that the personal
encounter becomes a collective encounter in the translation of facts that each
author perfonns in his writings. However, what is most fascinating is the meeting
of ideas brought about through writing which also share elements with popular
68
culture. In essence, popular culture manages to reach a higher audience but it
often takes inspiration directly from literature and its various expressions. In the
sphere of popular culture one may see that the concept of adve1iising and of
mixing various means of communication to reach a specific goal come into action. 
Popular culture comp1ises various levels of cultural and artistic expression, and is therefore well placed to reach a larger audience and to imprint in the audience
various powerful images related to the subject chosen. In this case, the
Mediterranean has collected a large amount of popular culture expressions that
managed to create a knit of ideas and interpretations that succeed in intertwining and creating ideas through the use of old traditions and seminal literal texts.
4.2 The Mediterranean Imaginary in Popular Culture
The way in which the Mediterranean has been projected in the sphere of
popular culture owes a lot to the dichotomy between sea and land, between a fixed object and a fluid matter. The fascination around the two contrasting elements managed to create an even more fascinating expression of popular culture, thus an idea about the region that is based on the way in which Mediterranean people view the sea and view the stable and immobile element of land. Moreover, the Mediterranean popular culture focuses a lot on the element of the harbour, a place where the two elements of water and land manage to intertwine, meet, discuss ideas and at times fight over who dominates. The conflict between the two elements, projected in the geographical distribution of the region, has deep 69 resonance in the emotional encounter with the region. Thus, the authors, artists and travellers are emotionally part of this dichotomy that is consequently reflected in their artistic expressions.
To talk about the Mediterranean nowadays is to reinvent the idea behind
the region in an innovative and appealing way. Culture and literature are new
means by which we re-conceptualize the region. The Medite1Tanean has been
compared to the Internet, because it is a place where near and far are not too well defined, where space is something fluid and where infonnation and culture are transmitted through a network of connections. In her study, Miriam Cooke63 notes how even the tenninology used on the Internet derives from marine tenninology.
One example could be the ‘port’ or ‘portal’. In relation to the web, it is defined as
a place of entry and usually signifies the first place that people see when entering
the web. Although virtually, the concept of harbour remains the first and most
relevant encounter a person makes when approaching a country or ‘page’ on the
internet. Although air transportation has gained a great deal of importance,
shipping networks used for merchandise are common and still very much in use.
The parallelism between the Mediterranean and the Internet opens a new way of
conceptualizing the Mediterranean as a physical and cybernetic space. Miriam
Cooke explains how the Mediterranean itself, just like the Internet, changes the
traditional concept of core and periphery: 63 Miriam Cooke ‘Mediterranean thinking: From Netizen to Medizen’ Geographical review, vol 89 pp.290-300
70
‘The islands that are geographically centered in the Mediterranean are
rarely centers of power; rather, they are crossroads, sometimes sleepy
but sometimes also dangerous places of mixing, where power is most
visibly contested and where difficult choices must be made.’ 64
The way in which the Mediterranean is seen geographically most of the
time does not appear to be consistent with the actual function and thought of the
place. As in the case of the islands in the Mediterranean, their main function lies
in the fact that they are crossroads rather than real centres. Usually, the
geographical centre of a country is the actual political, social and economic
centre, however, in the Mediterranean, the centre is where ideas are fonned, and
this usually lies in the harbours and in the cities located in close proximity to the
sea. The centre and marginality of a place according to Cooke depends on the
position of the viewer. Therefore, the explained and conceptualized Mediterranean may have different centres and borders depending on who is writing about it. The function of popular culture is to somehow give a view on where the centre is and where the margins lie.
When discussing the Mediterranean in advertisements and in the media
m general, there is a tendency to start from the past, from a presumed
Mediterranean origin that seems to tie the whole region. In this assumption, there is no truth but just a commercial way of proposing the historical elements that 64 Ibid pp.296 71
unite the region, therefore making it appealing at a touristic level. The audience at times does not have a precise idea of the differing elements and cultures residing in the region. To make it more appealing and coherent, especially in advertising, culture seems to be portrayed as a feature that holds similar elements that recur throughout the region. Even tastes and sometimes sounds seem to be homogenized tlu·oughout the region. The French documentary film entitled Mediteranee Notre Mer a Taus produced by Yan Arthus-Bertrand for France 2, aims to give an overview of the Mediterranean by focusing not just on the common features, but most of all on the fascination of the differences. The
documentary film traces how the Mediterranean has transfonned and shifted over time and it aims to show the deep cultural heritage it left in Europe. Rather than an advertisement or promotional video, this is an educational movie that rotates around the Mediterranean to explain each and every place while delineating its features and importance. The interesting fact about the movie is that it is filmed from above, giving almost an overview of the region, and that it talks about a Mediterranean future that ultimately lies in a supposed c01mnon past. When advertising a harbour in the Mediterranean, most of the short clips focus on the multiculturalism of the harbour and the projection of the place within a broader Mediterranean vision.
72
A particular advertising video, promoting Tangier65 as a harbour city
that looks onto the Mediterranean but remains predominantly African, focuses on the emotions that it can deliver and on the particular features that can attract the tourist such as traditional food and music. In everyday life, certain music and
traditional food would have probably disappeared, but in the projection of a place that needs to attract the tourist, the sensational aspect prevails and the tradition needs to be prioritized. In all the movies concerning advertisement of the Mediterranean harbours, what prevails is the conception of the harbours as
crossroads, as places where cultures meet, and obviously leave deep cultural
heritage. The movement of people in these short clips is shown as a movement
that has brought richness and cultural heritage to the country, ignoring the
ongoing debates about migration. These clips tend to ignore the ongoing problems in the Mediterranean and this is obviously done to increase tourism and project a nicer image of the region, succeeding in having a positive impact on the mind of the viewer.
Another peculiarity that is noticeable both in the clips about the
Mediterranean harbours and in many movies and stories is a concept of time
which is very different from reality. In short clips, such as the one portraying
Tangiers or the one promoting Valletta, it is noticeable that time slows down. In
the transposition of the novel Les Marins Perdus into a movie66, the concept of
65 Fabounab,Tangiers, port of Aji-ica and the Mediterranean (uploaded May, 2010) www.youtube.com/watch?v=E_IJ3zmxC6g (accessed July, 2014)
66 Les Marins Perdus, Claire Devers (2003)
73 time is a fundamental element, because it drastically slows down. The first scene opens up with the overview of the Aldebaran, the ship on which the story unfolds.
This scene is a very long scene that gives the viewer a hint of approaching trouble, from sea to land. It achieves this in a very calm and slow way. Throughout the movie the sense of time being slower than usual is something that finds its apex in the last minutes of the movie when all the tragedies unfold. The way in which the Mediterranean is described in short clips and in this movie shows a common perception of the Mediterranean people as a people who enjoy life at a slower rhytlnn, although in certain cases it might be true that this assumption lacks accuracy. Although it is undeniable that the juxtaposition between land and sea which we especially perceive in the harbour gives a sense of time as a rather fictitious concept, one may recall the Odyssey, where the voyage in the Mediterranean took an unusually long time. The Odyssey in fact bases on the fact that time almost seemed to have stopped and in fact, the time span that Odysseus spent travelling at sea does not match with the actual time that was passing on land in Ithaca. On the other hand we perceive that time is passing by rather slowly for Penelope who patiently raised her son and safeguarded Ithaca while waiting Odysseus.
What the concept of time in the Mediterranean proves is that the various
images that one finds both in writing and in new popular culture are constantly fed to our conception of the region and through time these various concepts fonn an imaginary. In many cases, when we look at popular culture we find elements that 74 we can reconnect to literature. This proves that the means by which an imaginary is constrncted is based on different elements but usually one may find recmTing elements both in popular culture and literature. In the concept of time we also find a common way of seeing life itself. Time in the Mediterranean seems to be stuck therefore we may argue that literature and popular culture have contributed to the fonnation of our ideas about life per se, whilst obviously not denying that everyday life was of constant inspiration to literature and culture. The way in which both popular culture and everyday life intersect, connect and find common points is something of fundamental importance in the study of the Mediterranean imaginary, as it gives different points of view and visions of the subject and therefore creates an imaginary that manages in a subtle way to unite what seems so distant. Jean-Claude Izzo, Vincenzo Consolo and many other authors, as well as different ‘texts’ of popular culture, create an ethos about the Mediterranean that aims to join what appears separate. The fact that nowadays the Mediterranean is still present in popular culture, as in the case of the previously mentioned film shown by France 2, proves that discourse about the region and the Mediterranean imaginary are still alive and they have a presence in the mind of the receiver.
The imaginary of the Mediterranean harbour is also constrncted by the
way it is advertised. A short, recent videob1 advertising the Maltese harbour
repeatedly used the word ‘Mediterranean’ to highlight the connection between
67 Valletta Waterfront, Valletta Cruise Port Malta- the door to the Mediterranean, (uploaded February, 2012) www.youtube.com/watch?v=FMThbEG95WA (accessed May, 2014)
75
Europe and Africa. The way in which the harbour is projected in the French
movie shows a deep connection to the historical and cultural heritage of the
country but it also aims to show how historically and culturally varied the country is. The advertisement’s aim was to create a sense of uniqueness whilst focusing on the broader vision of the Mediterranean as a whole. On the one hand it focuses on the fact that Malta is part of the European Union, therefore boasting high standards of security and maritime services, and on the other hand it promotes the various hist01 ical influences on Malta and its Grand Harbour and portrays it as the gateway both to the northern and to the southern shore. Being an island in the Mediterranean gave Malta the possibility to create its uniqueness, but also to affiliate itself to both Europe and Africa. In this sense, the sea serves as a unifying factor but at the same time it was always able to maintain the individuality of each place. The discourse about the Mediterranean is rendered possible thanks to the various factors that inhabit the region – factors that may differ from one shore to another, thus making the region a more interesting one to study.
4.3 Conclusion The discourse about the Mediterranean has always revolved around the projection of different images that supposedly recall a common feeling and common grounds. The Mediterranean is a region that is in essence a combination of a myriad of cultures; this factor is very relevant in the discourse on the region 76 as the attempt to unite the region in one cultural sphere is somehow a failed attempt. It is relevant to mention that in the production of literature and culture, these different expressions especially concerning the Mediterranean have produced a knit of sensations and feelings that are now mostly recognized as being ‘Mediterranean’. The harbour in this case has always been the locus of the Mediterranean imaginary because sea and land meet in the harbour, and therefore many cultures meet and interact in the harbours.
Harbours are places that live an ‘in between’ life but that still manage to
mingle the differences in a subtle way that feels almost nonnal and natural. The
harbour has inspired many authors as it has built a sense of awaiting and hope in the person. The Mediterranean port seems to suggest that everything is possible, and that imageries and ideas can unfold in the same harbour.
77
5 Conclusion
The Mediterranean city is a place where two myths come together: the
myth of the city and the myth of the Mediterranean. Both myths have developed
independently because both managed to create symbols and connotations that
have been able to survive till today. The myth of the city in relation to the myth of
the Mediterranean has been for a long time regarded independently and therefore it created a succession of elements that was able to reside in the same place but was in essence two different elements. 68
From antiquity, the ‘city’ has been seen as a symbol of social order – as a
place where reason and civilization reign in contrast with the ignorance of the
outskirts. The concept of a ‘city’ that is able to unify ideals and control society by
maintaining high levels of education and increasing cultural standards has
developed a division between the rural areas and the city itself. In conjunction
with the harbour, the concept of a civilized ‘city’ mingles with the idea of a
cultural mixture that is able to absorb what the sea has to offer.
In the Mediterranean port cities, the cultural emancipation and the centre
of trade and business in a way managed to intenningle with the idea of ‘squalor’,
most of the time being associated to the harbour. Nevertheless, in the
68 Georges Duby Gli ideali de! Mediterraneo (Mesogea 2000) pp.83-100
78
Mediterranean harbour cities, the idea of cultural richness and emancipation was a concept that found concretization in the idealization of the ‘city’ itself by its
inhabitants. The ‘city’ as much as the Mediterranean itself found deep resonance
with the growth of literature. In the case of the ‘city’, various treaties and
literature expedients that promoted it as a centre of cultural riclmess and
architectural rigor helped the ‘city’ itself to find a place in the mind of the person
approaching it. The obvious consequence of this new fonnation of cities as a
symbol of 1igor and proliferation was that a great number of people migrated from the rural areas to the cities. The myth of the harbour cities as being the centre of business and a locus of culture went on cultivating with the accounts about these cities written by various authors. They managed to give life to a succession of images that are now imprints of harbour cities throughout the Mediterranean.
The Mediterranean appears unified in anthropological69 discourse in which
assumptions are made about the way ‘Mediterraneaninsm’ is constituted and the
‘Mediterranean way of life’. A group of cultural anthropologists aimed to view
the Mediterranean as a whole for the purpose of identifying elements that
managed to tie the region and gave meaning to the unification itself. On the one
hand they managed to give international relevance to studies about the region
because they constructed what they regarded as common Mediterranean attributes.
On the other hand they were constructing a discourse that said more about their
own vision than about a region that is varied in its essence. In a way they also
69 Georges Duby Gli ideali de! Mediterraneo (Mesogea 2000) pp.83-100
79 rendered the region ‘exotic’. The way in which anthropology managed to create an idea about the Mediterranean is interesting even though a person living in the region might argue that the picture given is incorrect. In this sense the imaginary of the Mediterranean projected by literature does not aspire to give a detailed account of life in the region but rather to actually transmit the feelings and passions that the region has. In this sense, literature was able to transfonn a passion and a detailed account of one’s own perspective about the region into an imaginary that is in its turn able to remain imprinted in the person’s conception of the Mediterranean. Literature and art in the Mediterranean had the ability to prove that there are common feelings in the region but they are distinguishable in their very essence and the harbour with its strategic position was able to give inspiration to the artist that approached it. The creation of an imaginary about the Mediterranean goes beyond the very need of knowing and apprehending facts that may be or may not be common to the whole region. In this sense, the artistic expedients and the literal world managed to relate to the reader and the spectator in a very special way by creating powerful images that construct society.
5.1 The ‘imaginary’ of the Mediterranean
One important definition of the ‘imaginary’ is given by Castoriadis in his
The Imaginary Institution of Society 70 in which he states that the human being
cannot exist without the collective and that the collective is fonned by different
7° Kostantino Kavoulakas Cornelius Castoriadis on social imaginaiy and truth(University of Crete, September 2000) pp.202-213
80
elements. One of the elements that is of great importance in the fonnation of the
collective is the symbol. The symbol or the collection of symbols is fonned from
reality and from an imaginary. In the composition of the imaginary, whatever
stems from reality and whatever stems from fiction remains in essence a question which is not resolved or which probably does not intend to be resolved. Therefore, the imaginary explained by Castoriadis gives a social meaning to certain questions that are fundamental in the complexity of reality. For example, the symbol of God was created for various reasons but its creation per se does not distinguish between elements that are true in its essence and elements that are imagined. The example given by Castoriadis on the symbol of God leads us to the conception of the Mediterranean region as a region fonned in its imaginary by reality and myth which intertwine and are not distinguishable. The Mediterranean created by the various authors and artists mentioned reinforces the imaginary that has at its basis the aim of giving a picture of the region which is not far from reality but on the other hand which is not that structured. Therefore we can argue that the difference between an anthropologist’s approach to the region and an artist’s approach is based on the difference in their point of focus. This statement one does not deny the importance of the anthropologist’s approach to the region where in fact social
structure appears and thus one can easily understand the way by which society is fonned. To fuiiher the study and understand it in its complexity one cannot deny the importance of literature and culture in the creation of an imaginary.
Castoriadis 71 states that society shares a number of undeniable truths that are
71 Kostantino Kavoulakas Cornelius Castoriadis on social imaginaiy and truth (University of 81
accepted by everyone. By analyzing the imaginary one manages to go beyond
these undeniable truths and thus manages to extend the life of the imaginary itself.
Therefore, if the Mediterranean exists, it is because it managed to create a number of myths and symbols able to renew themselves. The impo1iance of the imaginary for the region itself is based on the fruits that it gives. The Mediterranean that is being mentioned in the various books and poems is supported by the emotions and passions of each and every author. If the author is not moved by passion for the region it would be difficult to create an imaginary. The Mediterranean region is still present in our mind thanks to the imaginary created by the various authors and thinkers.
The choice of the harbour as the locus of a Mediterranean imaginary
comes almost naturally as the harbours facing the Mediterranean Sea have a great impact on culture in the Mediterranean and the threshold between sea and land is on the one hand the very basis of the Mediterranean life. The harbour and the city as two separate and yet same elements intertwine and are able to create rich and variegated cultures, yet they were also the first spectators of conflicts and wars.
From this point of view, it is undeniable that the harbour in the Mediterranean
holds a special place for the author and may be seen by many authors and thinkers as a place of inspiration where ideas concretize and where the emotions, thoughts and ideas brought by the voyage at sea are still very present in the memory.
Crete, September 2000) pp.202-213
82
Through the image of the harbour we come across the image of the sailor
who to many authors has been a point of reflection for the discourse on the
Mediterranean and has helped the connection between the real, almost “filthy” life of the harbor, and the ideas and concepts that fonn in the city. The various authors that integrated the image of the sailor to the idea of the harbour in the
Mediterranean were able to reinforce the Mediterranean imaginary by joining
different images and by giving them life and purpose in a way that goes beyond
the truth. The sailor in Jean-Claude Izzo’ s imaginary has a deep and developed
curiosity and a great knowledge of The Odyssey. While it is not be a surprise that
a sailor has a passion for literature, the point that Jean-Claude Izzo makes is that
Homer’s Mediterranean has definitely changed, yet it is still alive in the heart of
the ones that live the region in all its essence. Therefore, the sailor who is an
everyday image and thus is able to relate to a greater audience acquires almost
different attributes that do not match reality, but that are in essence part of a
shared Mediterranean imaginary.
The way in which authors and thinkers contribute to the fonnation of the
Mediterranean has been the principal focus of this dissertation. The pattern
created by art and literature all over the Mediterranean highlights the differences in the region but it also portrays the similarities that are able to give birth to a unified Mediterranean. As discussed throughout, the process of finding
similarities and the fonnation of an imaginary that is able to constitute the
83
Mediterranean was not a smooth one. The Mediterranean does not in fact appear
as a place that has a lot of common features. Even though politically and
sometimes socially it has been portrayed as a unified region, the unifying factors
are few. Literature does not aim to give a picture of the Mediterranean as one but
aims rather to give various personal and interpersonal interpretations of the region to fonn an imaginary able to be transported and reinterpreted in different
circumstances. It is important to understand that the word ‘imaginary’ does not
aim to conduct a political or social inquiry about the region and that the word in
itself actually aims to understand the underlying concept of the Mediterranean. It does not aim to state facts about the region but rather to give an account that is
able to connect the historical roots of the region to personal experience.
5.2 The Mediterranean ‘Imaginary’ Beyond the Harbour
Although the harbour was my main focus in identifying the Mediterranean
imaginary, it is definitely not the only point in the Mediterranean that could be
taken into account when studying its imaginary. Other aspects of the
Mediterranean could be of great relevance when expanding the various images of the region. One important aspect in all the literature expedients taken into account was the relationship of every author with their nation and their complex identity.
Therefore, in relation to the study conducted, it would be of great interest to expand the notion of ‘nationhood’ and the fonnation of various and complex
84
identities created in the Mediterranean. The Mediterranean nowadays is seen as a region where ‘nationhood’ and identity are created through a complex of knits and relations. The latest ‘citizenship’ programs in all of the northern Mediterranean countries show how the borders and the concept of ‘nationhood’ are deeply changing, most probably opening to further possibilities that range from cultural enrichment to economic advance. When thinking about the Mediterranean JeanClaude Izzo emphasized the fact that he felt that part of himself resided in every harbour and his ‘identity’ was not limited to one place. He makes us realize that the Mediterranean existed before the creation of ‘nations’ and so, each Mediterranean person feels like he can relate to more than one country and more than one culture. The harbour has been the first impact with a deep association to the region, and the person approaching a Mediterranean harbour automatically abandons his roots and is able to relate to what the harbour has to offer. In this sense we have seen how the harbour was vital to the creation of a powerful imaginary. The question of identity and complex relations in the Mediterranean would be a next step in analysing the complexity of the region. The Mediterranean harbour teaches us that all Mediterranean people are prone to the ‘other’ and are open to various cultures, including the exposure to a number of languages and the creation of a lingua .fi’anca to facilitate communication. Therefore, with this exposure promoted by the harbour, the Mediterranean created various identities that sometimes are not distinguishable.
85
Jean-Claude Izzo felt he could relate to almost every country in the
Mediterranean and that part of him resided in every harbour. Nevertheless, he
always saw Marseille as a point of reference and as an anchorage point where his thoughts concretized. Contrarily, the difficult relation of Vincenzo Consolo with the Italian peninsula makes the issue of complex identitites particularly relevant. For a number of years, Consolo worked in northern Italy where he felt like a stranger in his own country. However, with the difference of enviromnent and in a way, a dissimilarity of culture, he was able to contemplate the meaning of the Mediterranean and his native ‘country’, Sicily. The question of a possible or
rather an impossible identity in the Mediterranean does not enrich or denigrate the concept of an ‘imaginary’ but rather enables the person studying the region to understand certain dynamics and the way in which authors and thinkers approach the region. It is rather difficult to paint a clear picture of the Mediterranean through understanding the complexity of ‘identity’, though it would be of great interest to find the way in which each and every Mediterranean person manages to relate to the concept of identity, which is an integral part of his or her social accomplishment. Society instils a deep sense of fulfilment and accomplishment in a person who is able to fully relate to their country of origin, and as Amin Maalouf states in In the Nmne of Identity, 72 identity is something that most of the time may lead to war between countries, and so it is undeniable that it plays a fundamental role in the way we view things.
72 Maalouf Amin, In the name of Identity: violence and the need to belong (Penguin books, 2000)
86
Amin Maalouf is an author of mixed origins. He is Lebanese but has lived
most of his life in France and when asked which of the two countries is his ‘real’
country, he found it difficult to answer as he states that both countries are part of
his identity. Thus identity for Amin Maalouf is something very personal. A person
living in France fonn a number of years has the ability to emich his previous
identity, therefore acquires an added identity to the previous one. The same person cannot deny the previous identity, yet he cannot deny that the present identity plays an important role in his personal fonnation. The Mediterranean as a region has always promoted the mixture of cultures and the voyage itself, therefore contributing to the fonnation of complex and variegated identities. Nowadays, we manage to relate both to a Greek and Roman descent, therefore geographically and historically the Mediterranean has been united in ideas and concepts that are now far from each other but yet undeniable.
The same geography and architectural heritage left by the Greeks and
Romans is still visible in most of the Mediterranean cities and harbours. This is
evident in the lighthouses that were for most of the time a symbol of greatness and architectural splendour, and we encountered a succession of ideas and cultures that mingled with the necessity of the lighthouse. Therefore the lighthouse that was on the one hand a powerful expression of artistic and cultural splendour, managed to create ideas and thoughts that stemmed from the actual need of ‘light’ and guidance. All these elements intertwine in the Mediterranean, rendering the 
87
concept of identity somewhat a complex one. Each person has an identity as
explained by Tarek Abdul Razek in his study about the Mediterranean identity:
‘Each one of us is the depositary of a dual legacy: the first is vertical,
coming from our ancestors, the traditions of our people and religious
c01mnunities; the other is horizontal and derives from our era and
contemporaries. Vertical identity is connected to memory and the past;
it is limited to a given territory within a given area. It usually
corresponds to national identity, the outcome of cultural policy
choices. Instead, horizontal identity extends towards the future,
though it remains open to the contemporary, reaching beyond national
borders, within a social context, in a postmodern approach. Thus,
horizontal identity is a project, a project for the future and not merely
a legacy of the past.’ 73
In relation to the Mediterranean, the horizontal and vertical identity may
be tied to the deep varied history that the Mediterranean holds. If Mediterranean
history is based on the interaction between people and cultures, then each and
everyone’s identity cannot just be based on the value of the nation as it is now.
The horizontal identity that leaves a door open to the future is in this sense very
important and gives substance to the discourse of a Mediterranean imaginary,
73 Abdul Razek ‘Common Mediterranean identity’ The Euro-Mediterranean student research multi-conference EMUNI RES (2009) pp.1-8
88
being the main contributor to the future of the Mediterranean. The imaginary that is the bringing together of both the vertical and horizontal identities manages to give hope to future discourse about the region. The imaginary does not deny the complexity of a possible Mediterranean identity, but merely shows a past where ideas flourished and have now become an integral paii of our own identity. It also proves that the future of a region is not solely made up of geographical, political and social features but is also made of different elements that manage to inte1iwine fanning a knit of images able to reside in the mind of every reader, artist and philosopher.
A search for a common identity is surely not the path to be taken in
understanding the relations in the Mediterranean because a common identity
usually instituted by the idea of a nation instills in the person a set of common
goals and ideals. In the case of the Mediterranean, the various conflicts and wars
show that there is no co1mnon identity tying the region. Therefore, it is quite
difficult to analyze a common identity and it should not be the purpose of a study
itself. It is interesting, however, to delve in the way authors and thinkers that
contributed to the fonnation of an imaginary in the Mediterranean deal with their personal identity, whether it is problematic for a great number of authors or whether authors find that their identity is not limited to their ‘national identity’.
All these factors could be of great interest to the person studying the region in the
sense that if each author writing about the Mediterranean finds the impulse to
write about the region, then he must feel a sense of association to the region,
89 irrespective of his roots or his identity, or the historical elements that he finds
residing in all the Mediterranean. This ‘affiliation’ has an element of identity that
I find interesting in the discourse about the Mediterranean. Jean-Claude Izzo in
his Les Marins Perdus states that every person travelling in the Mediterranean
needs to have a personal reason for it, and this personal reason resides mostly in
the search for an identity. One of the characters in Jean-Claude Izzo’s Les Marins
Perdus was in constant search of an identity; a personal one that could tie him
psychologically and emotionally to a harbour or to a land. The Mediterranean, as
a region, was the place where he could c01mnent, argue and question his own
identity. Whether the search actually resulted in finding his identity is not the
actual point of the novel but the focal point is that the constant search for an
‘affiliation’ and an anchorage point brought out a rich imaginary that is able to be
transported through time.
The Mediterranean imaginary constructed by the various authors and
thinkers created a vision of various concepts such as the sailor, the metaphor of
the harbour, and the thresholds that hold both a geographical and metaphorical
meaning. The imaginary of the region is meant to go beyond the initial sociopolitical meanings that the media tries to portray. The Mediterranean for
anthropologists, authors, politicians and the Mediterranean people themselves has in essence a different meaning for each person, and therefore by analyzing the narration and images about the region, it is possible to understand the relationship between each component of the Mediterranean society to society itself.
90
The aim of analyzing the imaginary in the Mediterranean through the help
of the harbour as a conceptual and geographical area was to focus on the way in
which literature and culture through the help of metaphors and the personal
encounter with the region, manages to leave an imprint on the imaginary of the
region. The region is not only a place where these figures meet, intertwine and are reinvented but it is also a place where politics should be discussed considering the deep historical and geographical ties as well as a place where issues such as ‘migration’ should be viewed with the history of the region in mind. The importance of the Mediterranean does not lie in the accomplishment of a common identity but in realizing that each and every complex identity that resides in and writes about the Mediterranean can contribute to the fonnation of the ‘imaginary’ to which everyone can relate – images and figures with which each Mediterranean person, with their diverse identities, can identify. The imaginary is the result of images, narratives and depictions that from a personal meaning and manage to acquire a deeper and more global meaning. The Mediterranean people would not feel that these common ideas and values are in any way limiting their freedom or restricting their identity, but on the contrary, feel that it is enriching to their personalized and contradictory identity.
91
6 BIBLIOGRAPHY
Annstrong A. John, ‘Braudel’s Mediterranean: Un Defi Latin’ World Politics,
Vol. 29, No. 4 (July 1977) pp. 626-636 Anderson Benedict, Imagined Communities (Verso, 1996) Abulafia David, The Great Sea: A Human History of the Mediterranean (Penguin books, 2012)
Brann Conrad Max Benedict, ‘Reflexions Sur la Langue Franque (Lingua
Franca): Origine et Actualite’ La Linguistique, Vol. 30, Fasc. 1, Colloque de
Coimbra 1993 (1994), pp.149-159
Biray Kolluoglu and Meltem Toks6z, Cities of the Mediterranean: From the
Ottomans to the Present Day (New York: LB. Tami.s & Co Ltd, 2010)
Braudel Fernand, Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of
Philip II (William Collins and sons. ltd., 1972)
Blondy Alain, Malte et Marseille au XVIIIeme siecle (Fondation de Malte, 2013)
Bouchard Norma and Lollini Massimo, ed, Reading and Writing the
Mediterranean, Essays by Vincenzo Consolo (University of Toronto Press, 2006)
Cousin Bernard, ‘L’Ex-voto, Document d’Histoire, Expression d’une Societe’
Archives de Sciences Socia/es des Religions, 24e Annee, no.48.1, pp.107-124
Cousin Bernard, ‘Devotion et societe en Provence: Les ex-voto de Notre-Damede-
Lumieres’ Ethnologie Fram;:aise, Nouvelles Serie, (1977) pp.121-142
92 Cassano Franco and Zolo Danilo, L ‘Alternativa Mediterranea (Milano: Feltrinelli, 2007)
Cooke Miriam, ‘Mediterranean Thinking: From Netizen to Medizen’
Geographical Review, Vol. 89, No2, Oceans Connect (April 1999) pp.290-300
Consolo Vincenzo, fl Sorriso dell’Ignoto Marinaio (Oscar Mondadori, 2004)
Cifoletti Guido, ‘La Lingua Franca Barbaresca’ InKoj Philosophy & Artificial
Languages (September 30, 2012)
Debrune Jerome, ‘Le Systeme de la Mediterranee de Michel Chevalier’
Confluences Mediterranee (2001) pp. 187-194
Dubry Georges, Gli ideali del A1editerraneo (Mesogea, 2000)
Devers Claire, Les Marins Perdus (2003)
Davi Laura and Jampaglia Claudio, ‘Primo Report Medlink uno Sguardo
Incrociato tra Report e Statistiche Internazionali su: Sviluppo, Genere, Liberta,
Conflitti e Mobilita nel Bacino del Mediterraneo ‘
www.medlinknet.org/report/medreport-en. pdf [accessed February, 2014]
European Commission, European Atlas of the Sea, (last updated July, 2014)
ec. europa. eu/maritimeaff airs/ atlas/ seabasins/medi terranean/long/index en.htm [accessed May 201’1] Francesca Mazzucato, Louis Brauquier – fl Poeta del Mondo Meticcio di Marsiglia (Modena) Kult Virtual Press
www.kultvirtualpress.com 93
Fabounab, Tangiers, Port of Africa and the Mediterranean (uploaded May, 2010)
www.youtube.com/watch?v=E_IJ3zmxCGg [accessed July, 2014]
Gerald H. Blake, ‘Coastal State Sovereignty in the Mediterranean Sea: The Case
of Malta’ GeoJournal, Malta: At the Crossroads of the Mediterranean Vol. 41,
No.2 (February 1997) pp.173-180
Grima Adrian, ‘The Mediterranean as Segregation’ Babelmed.net
W\¥W .babelmed.net/index.php? c=3 8 8&m=&k=&l=en
Haller, Dieter ‘The Cosmopolitan Mediterranean: Myth and Reality’ Zeitschrifi
far Ethnologie, (2004) pp. 29-47
Homi Bhabha, ‘Of Mimicry and Man: The Ambivalence of Colonial Discourse’
Discileship: A Special Issue on Psychoanalysis, Vol. 28 (Spring, 1984) pp.125-
133 Borden Peregrine and Purcell Nicholas, The Corrupting sea, A study of the
Mediterranean History (Blackwell, 2000)
Harris, W.V, Rethinking the Mediterranean (Oxford University Press, 2005)
Izzo Jean-Claude, Les Marins Perdus (Flammarion, 1997)
Izzo Jean-Claude and Fabre Thierry, Rappresentare il Mediterraneo, Lo sguardo
Francese (Mcsogca, 2000) Jacques Bouillon, ‘Ex-voto du Terroir marseillais’ Revue d’Histoire Modem et Contemporaine (1954) pp.342-344
94
Jo o de Pina-Cabral, ‘The Mediterranean as a Category of Regional Comparison:
A Critical View’ Chicago Journals, Current Anthropology, Vol. 30, No. 3 (June
1989) pp.399-406 Kavoulakas Kostantino, ‘Cornelius Castoriadis on Social Imaginary and Truth’ (University of Crete, September 2000) pp.202-213
Massimo Lollini, ‘Intrecci Mediterranei. La Testimonianza di Vincenzo Consolo,
Moderno Odisseo’ Italica, Vol. 82, No.I (Spring, 2005) pp.24-43
Matvejevic Predrag, Breviario Mediterraneo (Garzanti, 2010)
Maalouf Amin, In the name of Identity: Violence and the Need to Belong (Penguin
books, 2000) Medcruise, The Association of Mediterranean Cruise Ports (2014)
http://medcruise.com [accessed June, 2014] Mollat Michelle, ‘Inventaire des ex-voto Marins en France’ Ethnologie Frarn;aise,
nouvelles serie (1979) pp.187-189
Moliere, Il Borghese Gentiluonw. Writingshome.com
www.writingshome.com/book.php?id=ebOOOOOOO 131 [accessed May, 2014]
Muscat Joseph, Il-Kwadri ex-voto Martittimi Maltin (Pubblikazzjonijiet
Indipcndcnzu, 2003) Nabiloo Ali Reza, ‘Mediterranean Features and Wonders in the Persian Literature’ Impact Journals Vol.2, Issue 1(January2014)
Moll Nora, Marinai Ignoti, Perduti (e nascosti). Il Mediterraneo di Vincenzo
Consolo, Jean-Claude Izzo e Waciny Lare} (Roma: Bulzoni 2008)
95 Resta Caterina, Geofilosofia def Mediterraneo (Mesogea, 2012)
Riccardi Contini, ‘Lingua Franca in the Mediterranean by John Wansbrough’
Quaderni di Studi Arabi, Litermy Innovation in Modern Arabic Literature.
Schools and Journals. Vol. 18 (2000) pp. 245-247
Saba Umberto, translated by Hochfield George: Song book: the selected poems of
Umberto Saba www.worldrepublicofletters.com/excerpts/songbook excerpt.pdf
(Yale University,2008) (accessed, July 2014)
Starrett, Gregory. Zarinebaf, Fariba, ‘Encounters in the Mediterranean’ Review of
Middle East Studies, Vol. 46, No. 2 (Winter 2012) pp.289-291
Sarga Moussa, ‘Le Sabir du Drogman’ Arabica, Vol. 54, No. 4 (October 2007)
pp.554-567 Sarton George, ‘The Unity and Diversity of the Mediterranean World’ Osiris, Vol.2 (1936), pp.406-463 Salletti Stefano, Stefano Salletti
http://www.stefanosaletti.it/schede/discografia.html [accessed May, 2014]
Thayer Bill, Ostia – A Mediterranean Port (1999)
www.ostiu-untica.org/med/med.htm#2 [accessed June, 201!1]
Turismo La Coruna, Roman Lighthouses in the Mediterranean (2009)
www.torredeherculesacoruna.com/index.php?s=79&l=en [accessed September,
2014]
96 Valletta European Capital of Culture, Valletta 2018
www.valletta2018.org/credits [accessed June, 2014]
Valletta Waterfront, Valletta Cruise Port Malta- The door to the Mediterranean,
(uploaded February, 2012) www.youtube.com/watch?v=FMThbEG95WA [accessed May, 2014] Winter Werner, ‘The Lingua Franca in the Levant: Turkish Nautical Tenns of Italian and Greek Origin by Henry Kahane: Renee Kahane: Andreas Tietze’ Language, Vol.36 (September 1960) pp.454-462
Yann Arthus Bertrand, Mediterranee Notre Mer a Taus (January, 2014)
97 

La testimonianza di Vincenzo Consolo, moderno Odisseo

italica
Intrecci mediterranei.
La testimonianza di Vincenzo Consolo, moderno Odisseo

di Massimo Lollini

Cosa in comune quest’isola di culto, questo giardino, i suoi astanti, cosa l’ affabile algerino, tu coi cristiani di Bosnia, Sarajevo, i mercenari d’ogni Africa, i trafficanti d’armamenti, i boia d’ogni scarica e veleno, i Mafiosi del potere? Nel bronzo, si, e la crepa, il varco in ogni sacro testo, ogni decalogo, codice latino o d’altra lingua, dentro te, ognuno in questo tempo feroce e allucinato. (Lo spasimo di Palermo 41-42) Il mare, l’infinito e la guerra Concludendo un’importante riflessione sull’eredita mediterranea nella cultura europealo storico Georges Duby osservava un ventennio fa che “da circa un secolo il Mediterraneo offre a chi lo scruta, agli avamposti della speranza, un volto di violenza” (Duby 282). In realta questo volto violento richiama alla memoria storica la “parte piu tenebrosa” dell’eredita del classicismo greco-romano presente fin nelle origini della civilta mediterranea. Nella ricostruzione dei momenti fondamentali di questa civilta lo stesso Fernand Braudel ha sottolineato il carattere decisivo dei “conflitti tra civilta” da quelli brevi (Maratona, Lepanto) a quelli lunghi, come le tre guerre puniche o le crociate. Secondo Braudel questi conflitti mettono bene in evidenza “quali urti sordi, violenti e reiterati si scambino quegli animali possenti che sono le civilta”; e come le civilta siano “intrise di guerra e di odio, una immensa zona d’ombra che le divora quasi per meta” (Braudel, “La Storia” 110-11). Tuttavia le civilta non sono solo questo odio fabbricato e nutrito per l’altro. Esse rappresentano anche l'”eredita dell’intelligenza” l’accumulo dei beni culturali, sacrificio. Questi due elementi, quello “distruttivo” e quello “costruttivo,” appaiono strettamente intrecciati e appare quanto mai arduo e problematico il tentativo di separarli quasi fossero realta distinte ed autonome, come talora sembra proporre lo storico Braudel. La ricerca sul ruolo del Mediterraneo nella formazione dell’immaginario letterario europeo deve cogliere questo aspetto, se non vuole assecondare la marea montante di parole che puntano a derealizzare l’esistente e a costruire un mondo puramente ideologico che finisce per cancellare ogni consapevolezza della realta in cui si vive. Il saggio prende avvio da una riflessione sul nesso che si stabilisce nella cultura greca da una parte trail mare e l’orientamento verso l’infinito, e dall’altra trail mare e la guerra. Le due nozioni, quella di una ricerca intellettuale infinita e quella della guerra come esito inevitabile dell’attraversamento del mare, trovano un modello esemplare nella figura dell’Ulisse omerico, che i greci hanno lasciato in eredita alle letterature europee dall’antichita fino ai nostri giorni. L’esperienza della guerra di Troia ha segnato Ulisse in maniera profonda, rendendolo capace di un senso di pietas per il dolore proprio e altrui inconcepibile nel contesto dell’Iliade che rimane il “poema della forza” come ha scritto Simone Weil. L’episodio di Odisseo nella reggia feacia che piange sentendo il canto di Demodoco (da lui stesso richiesto) dove si racconta l’inganno del cavallo di Troia, e senza dubbio rivelativo di un profondo mutamento dell’eroe nel passaggio dal primo al secondo poema omerico (Odissea, libro VIII). Ma e la catabasi raccontata nel canto XI che rende manifesto in maniera inequivocabile il cambiamento rispetto al codice dell’eroismo al centro dell’Iliade. L’episodio piu potente rimane l’incontro con l’anima di Achille che preferirebbe essere un servo di una padrone povero piuttosto che essere morto. Emerge qui con forza la novita piu profonda dell’Odissea, il riconoscimento del dolore della propria morte e la scoperta della privazione dell’identita che essa comporta. La discesa di Odisseo nell’Ade rimane centrale nell’economia del racconto omerico cosi come si articola nei due poemi. Odisseo desidera ardentemente incontrare non solo Tiresia per conoscere il proprio destino, ma anche le anime di molti defunti per interrogarle sulle modalith e il senso della morte. In essi Odisseo trova una sapienza che e estranea ai vivi, la consapevolezza profonda del dolore che pervade la vitae il limite invalicabile rappresentato dalla morte. Altri momenti significativi del viaggio di Odisseo nell’Ade sono l’incontro con l’anima del compagno Elpenore e quello con la madre piangente. L’anima di Elpenore e la prima che si fa incontro ad Odisseo e lo implora di seppellire e compiangere il suo corpo rimasto in casa di Circe senza sepoltura. La dimensione del compianto e del lamento funebre per la morte dell’altro e al centro anche dell’incontro con l’ombra della madre. Il figlio vivo si trova qui unito alia madre morta nel comune desiderio di dare espressione al proprio dolore e al proprio pianto. Il viaggio nell’Ade e il lamento funebre sono importanti per Odisseo e la cultura greca e mediterranea almeno nella stessa misura del viaggio in mare. (4) Il viaggio in mare rappresenta cio che si teme piu profondamente, l’esposizione al pericolo infinito e incondizionato, la paura di una morte negli abissi marini senza sepoltura umana. Il viaggio nell’Ade e la sepoltura rappresentano la riconciliazione con gli esseri umani e divini, il conforto rappresentato dal lamento funebre che aiuta a vivere e a dare un senso sia pure straziante alla morte. Ma anche se tu tornassi se le distanze si accorciassero e la guida fiammeggiasse nel tuo sembiante tragico o nel tuo terrore intimo, sempre per me tu saresti la storia della partenza per sempre tu saresti in una terra senza promessa in una terra senza ritorno. Anche se tu tornassi, Ulisse. (Adonis Poesie) Questi versi, letti insieme a quelli di un’altra poesia di Adonis, L’erranza, bastano da soli a far comprendere come la condizione dell’esilio e dell’erranza siano una condizione irreversibile nella cultura mediterranea moderna sia nel mondo cristiano che in quello arabo. I versi di Adonis sono veramente significativi, soprattutto se letti insieme alle sue dichiarazioni di poetica (5): L’erranza, l’erranza L’erranza ci salva e guida i nostri passi L’erranza e chiarezza E il resto e solamente maschera L’erranza ci lega a tutto quello che e altro Ai nostri sogni imprime il volo dei mari E l’erranza e attesa. (Adonis Poesie) Nel verso “L’erranza ci lega a tutto quello che e altro” e contenuto il senso profondo della condizione dell’Odisseo moderno cosi come si manifesta nella tradizione mediterranea araba e cristiana, con molti punti in contatto con analoghe concezioni ebraiche che pure non si riferiscono al mito di Ulisse ma a quello di Abramo. Si tratta di una condizione di continuo esilio che rifiuta ogni certezza in nome di un apprezzamento intrinseco di tutto cio che e altro. Pur comprendendola Dante condanna la ricerca intellettuale di Ulisse dal momento che non e illuminata dalla luce divina. Per questo il viaggio di Ulisse rimane un “folle volo” che mantiene comunque qualcosa in comune con qualunque aspirazione alla conoscenza autentica e creativa, come sapeva bene Dante e come sanno gli scrittori moderni e contemporanei che sono venuti dopo di lui. Vincenzo Consolo dedica un capitolo de L’olivo e l’olivastro (1994) alla riscrittura del viaggio di Odisseo che viene presentato come metafora dell’esperienza del viaggio dello scrittore siciliano attraverso la sua isola e, piu in generale, come figura dell’uomo moderno e dello sradicamento esistenziale e storico provocato dalla civilta tecnologica da lui creata. Dopo la risoluzione del conflitto Ulisse si trova di nuovo immerso nella vastita del mare. Il suo viaggio questa volta procede in verticale e si presenta come “una discesa negli abissi, nelle ignote dimore, dove, a grado a grado, tutto diventa orrifico, subdolo, distruttivo” (19). Il viaggio di Odisseo nasce dall’orrore della guerra e dal senso di colpa per le morti e le distruzioni, e il viaggio di un sopravissuto. (9) E un viaggio dal mare verso la terra, da Oriente ad Occidente, “dall’esistenza alla storia, dalla natura alla cultura” (124) un viaggio al termine del quale non c’e la patria agognata, ma la condizione perenne dell’esilio. L’Itaca che trova l’Ulisse moderno non esiste pit perche e sottoposta ad una continua distruzione, del tutto simile a quella che esperimenta durante la guerra. Per questo, scrive Consolo, Ulisse comprende che Itaca coincide con Troia ed e costretto a ripartire, condannato ad una condizione di erranza. Nessun viaggio penitenziale o liberatorio appare possibile allo scrittore siciliano. Itaca la citta del mito non esiste pit; le citth della memoria e della letteratura appaiono sempre piu lontane. Siamo Iontani dal modello rappresentato da Conversazione in Sicilia di Vittorini che pure ha ispirato gli ultimi due romanzi di Consolo. Il romanzo di Vittorini poteva ancora contare sulla “conversazione” come mezzo per una rigenerazione spirituale e morale. Il ritorno di Silvestro in Sicilia serve proprio a questo e si nutre di un potente linguaggio lirico e simbolico che aiuta il protagonista a ritornare ormai deciso e maturo nella Milano del lavoro, dell’industria e della lotta politica per la costruzione di una nuova Itaca. La critica della cultura per Consolo non si nutre piu di alcuna utopia, mentre la posizione privilegiata della coscienza che valuta e giudica l’ordine delle cose appare sempre piu pervasa da domande inquietanti. Il paesaggio che ci descrive Consolo ha perduto la dimensione lirica e simbolica assumendo una sostanza allegorica in cui non si intravede una via di riscatto. E un paesaggio di rovine quello a cui approda l’Odisseo moderno. Un paesaggio in cui l’immagine di Itaca appare sbiadita al punto da scomparire. L’unica alternativa per lui sembra essere quella, gia indicata da Dante, del naufragio definitivo come conseguenza del “folle volo” di Ulisse. Si tratta di un’immagine drammatica, che Primo Levi ha fatto sua a conclusione del capitolo “Il canto di Ulisse” che non a caso ha un ruolo centrale in Se questo e un uomo. Per Consolo, come per Primo Levi (e Italo Calvino), la posizione etica delia scrittura consiste sempre piu in questa volonta di testimonianza che pone questioni fondamentali sul destino della civilta europea, e si esprime in domande radicali che coinvolgono il gesto stesso della scrittura, intesa come strumento fondamentale della cultura, della tecnologia e del sapere occidentale. Occorre allora chiedersi se la nozione di “esilio” su cui Consolo stesso ha insistito, sia la piu adeguata e dar conto dello spessore della sua ricerca intellettuale. Ritorneremo su questa importante questione nell’ultima parte del saggio. Le domande dello scriba menzogna l’intelligibile, la forma, o verita ulteriore? (Nottetempo 164) E questa la situazione in cui si muove anche il protagonista de Lo spasimo di Palermo (1998), Gioacchino Martinez, scrittore in crisi che si trova sempre piu perplesso e sgomento di fronte al gesto della scrittura: Aveva tentato infinite volte la scrittura, lettere memorie resoconti, ma l’orrore nasceva puntuale per quell’ordine assurdo, quel raggelare la ferita, quella codificazione miserevole dell’assenza prima e poi assoluta, dell’improvviso vuoto, dello sgomento fisso. (53) Questi ragionamenti sulla scrittura, piuttosto che ridursi a puro gesto autoriflessivo e solipsistico, rappresentano la linfa profonda che collega la riflessione di Consolo nella trilogia romanzesca rappresentata dal Sorriso dell’ignoto marinaio, Nottetempo, casa per casa e Lo spasimo di Palermo. Come accade in Primo Levi, Italo Calvino e nei maggiori scrittori del Novecento, Consolo inserisce nell’orizzonte della scrittura letteraria la presenza di un soggetto filosofico che riflette sulla propria attivita, nel tentativo di comprenderne l’orizzonte e il senso. Accade cosi chela domanda sulla possibilita del racconto e della scrittura e la parallela aspirazione a dare una testimonianza vera dei processi storici possono trovare espressione non tanto nella dissoluzione della forma e della soggettivith, ma nel “vuoto della forma” e nella decisione in base alia quale il soggetto filosofico trova nella contingenza della propria vita il proprio modo di abitare la verith (Lollini). Non posso dire di ricordare esattamente come e quando il mio greco scaturi dal nulla. In quei giorni e in quei luoghi, poco dopo il passaggio del fronte, un vento alto spirava sulla faccia della terra: il mondo intorno a noi sembrava tornato al Caos primigenio, e brulicava di esemplari umani scaleni, difettivi, abnormi; e ciascuno di essi si agitava in moil ciechi o deliberati, in ricerca affannosa della propria sede, della propria sfera, come poeticamente si narra delle particelle dei quattro elementi nelle cosmogonie degli antichi. (I: 226; mia l’enfasi) In maniera significativa la stessa metafora ritorna alia fine, nell’ultima pagina del libro in cui si spiega perche il viaggio di ritorno non e stato ne poteva essere un viaggio liberatorio: … non ha cessato di visitarmi, ad intervalli ora fitti, ora radi, un sogno pieno di spavento. E un sogno entro un altro sogno, vario nei particolari, unico nella sostanza. Sono a tavola con la famiglia, o con amici, o al lavoro, o in una campagna verde: in un ambiente insomma placido e disteso, apparentemente privo di tensione e di pena; eppure provo un’ angoscia sottile e profonda, la sensazione definita di una minaccia che incombe. E infatti, al procedere del sogno, a poco a poco o brutalmente, ogni volta in modo diverso, tutto cade o si disfa intorno a me, lo scenario, le pareti, le persone e l’angoscia si fa piu intensa e piu precisa. Tutto e ora volto in caos: sono solo al centro di un nulla grigio e torbido, ed ecco, io so che cosa questo significa, ed anche so di averlo sempre saputo: sono di nuovo in Lager, e nulla era vero all’infuori del Lager. Il resto era breve vacanza, o l’inganno dei sensi, sogno: la famiglia, la natura in fiore, la casa. (I: 395; mia l’enfasi) Alla fine del lungo e avventuroso cammino che, come buona parte della narrativa di viaggio ha come modello appunto l’Odissea di Omero, Levi deve constatare di non essere riuscito ad allontanarsi dal Campo e che anche nella sua Itaca la memoria del Lager ritorna ossessiva e implacabile: Testimonianza e alterita Non riconosci la terra da cui eri partito. Chi sia, domandano, il reduce avvolto nella nebbia, nascosto dietro la vizza maschera del viso, privo di doni, di bottino. (Lo spasimo di Palermo 101) Le vicende storiche piu recenti, dalla guerra nella ex-Jugoslavia agli attuali conflitti in Afghanistan e Iraq, non fanno che confermare le tendenze remote della storia Europea nell’era della globalizzazione. L’attraversamento del mare finisce per dar luogo anche oggi al conflitto armato e alla fondazione di un ordine mondiale fondato sulla forza e sul mancato riconoscimento dei valori positivi insiti nella diversith culturale. E significativo che l’operazione bellica che ha portato all’ulteriore distruzione dell’Afghanistan gia stremato dalla poverta e dalla guerra pluridecennale sia stata chiamata “Giustizia infinita.” In quell’ aggettivo e da riconoscere un orientamento antico della civilta occidentale nata sulle sponde del mare greco. Ancora una volta il mare non appare un luogo di incontro e di comunicazione, ma di conflitto e di conquista che oggi assumono dimensioni planetarie. L’era attuale e stata preparata dalle rivoluzioni scientifiche e spaziali del diciassettesimo secolo. Sul piano scientifico, come ha scritto Koire si e passati dal mondo cosmico e chiuso della scienza antica aristotelica e tomistico-medievale all’universo infinito della scienza moderna, introdotta dal canocchiale di Galileo. La metafora geometrica e spaziale serve a introdurre la grande rivoluzione della concezione della spazio di cui ha parlato Carl Schmitt che vede in questo secolo e nelle scoperte geografiche che lo hanno preparato l’affermarsi di una dimensione “oceanica” della storia universale, con un’enorme dilatazione dello spazio, fattosi infinito e “vuoto.” Schmitt parla del passaggio dal nomos della terra fondato sulla condizione continentale europea e caratterizzato dal carattere locale dei conflitti al nomos del mare, in cui predomina l’infinito, dell’incondizionato, il movimento e la volonta di potenza, la guerra totale e lo spirito della tecnica senza piu limiti. Il mare di cui parla Schmitt non e piu il Mediterraneo, ma l’Oceano che e il vero protagonista della rivoluzione spaziale moderna e serve per comprendere la dimensione mediterranea in un orizzonte piu vasto e attuale. Schmitt vedeva nella condizione insulare dell’Inghilterra (e a suo modo degli Staff Uniti) il simbolo di questa rivoluzione spaziale alle origini della modernita (Schmitt). Sono fenomeni ancora in corso che si manifestano nei conflitti sempre piu numerosi e incontrollati. Consolo-Odisseo moderno continua i suoi viaggi nel Mediterraneo per portare testimonianza di questi processi violenti in toni che a tratti si fanno apocalittici e profetici. In questa prospettiva si collocano gli scritti giornalistici usciti negli ultimi anni sul Corriere della sera o l’Espresso. Tra questi ultimi spiccano “Viaggio a Sarajevo” e “Viaggio in Israele/Palestina del PIE.” Nel primo testo Consolo racconta di un viaggio fatto con altri scrittori italiani per testimoniare la guerra sanguinosa della ex Jugoslavia. (12) Ritroviamo qui il paesaggio di rovine e distruzione che hanno colpito soprattutto Sarajevo, una citta un tempo civile e fiorente nella tolleranza religiosa ed etnica. La testimonianza di Consolo insiste sulle atrocita commesse da uomini ormai privi di ragione e ridotti a natura, tanto che l’immagine di Sarajevo devastata dalla violenza umana a suoi occhi assomiglia alle immagini di Assisi colpita da un terribile terremoto nei giorni in cui egli si trovava a Sarajevo. n questo ambito di scritti tra testimonianza e profezia occorre ricordare anche il “Memoriale di Basilio Archita” (Consolo, Le pietre di Pantalica 183-91), un breve racconto-saggio dove lo scrittore testimonia di un’altra tragedia che insanguina il Mediterraneo nei nostri giorni. Si tratta del racconto della morte violenta di un gruppo di africani che imbarcatisi clandestinamente su una nave greca sono poi gettati in mare e divorati dai pescecani. La tragedia dei clandestini che muoiono nel tentativo disperato di attraversare il mare per sfuggire ad un destino di fame e poverta non aveva ancora assunto le dimensioni attuali quando Consolo scrive questo testo. Le sue parole assumono qui un ruolo veramente profetico nel mostrare il livello di degenerazione raggiunto dalla civilta greca e mediterranea. I versi del poeta greco Kavafis recitati dal vicecomandante della nave greca non fanno che confermare la decadenza di una cultura priva di un senso di responsabilita o di una visione etica e civile della convivenza umana. Si tratta di una cultura ormai incapace di riconoscere se stessa. La voce narrante del racconto, e quella di Basilio Archita un giovane sfruttato a bordo della nave greca che pure esprime un elementare senso di solidarieta con le vittime. Tuttavia egli non e affatto consapevole dell’origine greca del suo nome e trova un senso di identita unicamente nell’abbigliamento offerto dal consumismo di massa. In questa situazione per tanti aspetti distruttiva risulta veramente preoccupante il venir meno di un vigile senso critico nella cultura contemporaneo come si vede nell’accettazione sempre piu passiva dei fenomeni distruttivi in corso, e nel consenso diffuso che hanno incontrato in occidente le parole d’ordine di guerra dopo gli eventi del terribile il settembre 2001. Minoranze sempre piu esigue si oppongono con la forza della ragione a questo stato di cose dove la violenza del terrorismo e quella degli stati belligeranti non sembra aver piu limiti. Questa situazione ci aiuta oggi a capire il senso profondo delle opere di scrittori come Levi e Consolo che hanno denunciato il carattere pervasivo della maledizione tecnologica e del contagio della violenza distruttiva che domina la storia dell’Occidente. Proprio in questa testimonianza consiste l’attualith e la forza del loro messaggio non tanto nell’adesione al pensiero dell’erranza e dell’esilio che pure e presente nei loro scritti. NOTE (1) Della Weil the considera la guerra come “il principale motore della vita sociale” (Quaderni 1: 189), si veda il fondamentale saggio “L’Iliade poema della forza” (Weil 10-41). Cfr. anche la raccolta di saggi Sulla guerra. Hannah Arendt indica l’esistenza di un rapporto strutturale tra polemos e polis. Sostiene the la violenza e la guerra di per se non sono politiche ma fondano tuttavia la politica. Si veda la raccolta di saggi Arendt tradotia in italiano con il titolo Politica e menzogna (Milano: SugarCo, 1985). Su tutta la questione si veda Esposito. (2) Su questo aspetto si veda Boitani che intende Ulisse come “figura” o umbra nel senso di Auerbach. (3) Su questo punio, si veda Gentiloni. Put criticando l’impostazione schematica di Levinas Gentiloni sottolinea le differenze tra Ulisse e Abramo e indica nel cerchio la metafora della cultura greca e nella freccia quella della cultura ebraica, la logica contro il suo superamento (121). (4) Ernesto de Martino ha mostrato l’esistenza di una modalita mediterranea del lamento funebre a partite da uno studio sul pianio rituale delle donne lucane. Cfr. De Martino. La prima edizione del saggio e del 1958. (5) Adonis sostiene the la modernita non e specifica di un paese o di un popolo. Il suo aspetto universale consiste nello sviluppo scientifico che non si puo evitare. Adonis sostiene una visione creativa della modernita e conclude: .” .. the questions ‘What is knowledge?’, ‘What is truth?’, ‘What is poetry?’ remain open, … knowledge is never complete and truth is a continuing search” (Adonis, An Introduction to Arab Poetics 101). Cacciari, Massimo. Geo-Filosofia dell’Europa. Milano: Adelphi, 1994. Consolo, Vincenzo. Le pietre di Pantalica. Milano: Mondadori, 1988. –. Nottetempo, casa per casa. Milano: Mondadori, 1992. –. L’olivo e l’olivastro. Torino: Einaudi, 1994. –. Lo spasimo di Palermo. Milano: Mondadori, 1998. –. Di qua dal faro. Milano: Mondadori, 1999. –. Il sorriso dell’ignoto marinaio. 1976. Torino: Einaudi, 2000. Consolo, Vincenzo, e Franco Cassano. Rappresentare il Mediterraneo. Lo sguardo Italiano. Messina: Mesogea, 2000. Consolo, Vincenzo, e Mario Nicolao. Il viaggio di Odisseo. Milano: Bompiani, 1999. De Crescenzo, Assunta. “Paesaggio e mito Mediterraneo Nell’opera di Luigi Pirandello.” Il mare ciclope. Per un’identita Mediterranea. III Concerto Spettacolo. Atti del Convegno di Napoli 24 Aprile 1999. Ed. Assuta De Crescenzo e Aristide La Rocca. Napoli: Liguori, 2003. De Martino, Ernesto. Morte e pianto rituale nel mondo antico. Torino: Einaudi, 1958. Duby, Georges. “L’eredita.'” Il Mediterraneo: lo spazio, la storia, gli uomini, le tradizioni. Ed. Fernand Braudel. 1985. Milano: Bompiani, 2003. 267-82. Esposito, Roberto. L’origine della politica. Hannah Arendt o Simone Weil? Roma: Donzelli, 1996. Gentiloni, Filippo. “Il viaggio fra mito e religione: Abramo Contro Ulisse.” Il viaggio. Ed. Di Giovanni Gasparini. Roma: Edizioni Lavoro, 2000. 117-32. Koyre, Alexandre. Dal mondo chiuso all’universo infinito. Milano: Feltrinelli, 1988. Levi, Primo. Opere. Ed. Marco Belpoliti. 2 vols. Torino: Einaudi, 1997. Levinas, E. “La signification et le sens.” Revue de Metaphysique et de Morale 2 (1964): 125-56. Lollini, Massimo. Il vuoto della forma. Scrittura, testimonianza e verita. Genova: Marietti 1820, 2001. Mondolfo, Rodolfo. L’infinito nel pensiero dell’antichita classica. Firenze: La Nuova Italia, 1956. Montanari, Franco. “I1 viaggio come motivo mitico. Odisseo, il ritorno al passato e un pensiero a Edipo.” Da Ulisse a Ulisse: il viaggio come mito letterario. Atti Del Convegno Internazionale Imperia, 5-6 Ottobre 2000. Ed. Giorgetta Revelli. Pisa: Istituti editoriali e poligrafici intemazionali, 2001. 37-48. Propp Ja, Vladimir. Morfologia della fiaba–le radici storiche dei racconti di magia. Roma: Newton Compton, 2003. Schmitt, Carl. Terra e mare. Milano: Giuffre, 1986. Shay, Jonayhan. Achilles in Vietnam. Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character. New York: Atheneum Macmillan, 1994. Spinazzola, Vittorio. Itaca, addio. Vittorini, Pavese, Meneghello, Satta: il romanzo del ritorno. Milano: Il Saggiatore, 2001. Weil, Simone. “L’iliade poema della forza.” La Grecia e le intuizioni precristiane. Roma: Borla, 1984. –. Quaderni. A cura di Giancarlo Gaeta. Vol. 1. Milano: Adelphi, 1982. –. Sulla guerra. Scritti 1933-1943. Milano: Pratiche, 1998. MASSIMO LOLLINI University of Oregon Bibliography for: “Intrecci mediterranei. La testimonianza di Vincenzo Consolo, moderno Odisseo” Massimo Lollini “Intrecci mediterranei. La testimonianza di Vincenzo Consolo, moderno
Odisseo”.

Italica. FindArticles.com. 21 Feb, 2012.