Citazioni pittoriche e strategie ecfrastiche nell’opera di Vincenzo Consolo

foto Andersen Salone del libro Parigi marzo 2002

 di Dario Stazzone

L’articolo indaga l’intenso dialogo tra i romanzi consoliani e le arti figurative, in particolare la pittura. Un dialogo che si avvale di strategie molteplici, le icone autoriali annunciate spesso dai titoli tematici dei romanzi, il ricorso all’ekphrasis nascosta, gli inserti critici riferiti alle opere d’arte. Con particolare riferimento a Il sorriso dell’ignoto marinaio ed a Retablo prende in esame, per altro, l’uso che lo scrittore fa dell’ekphrasis, il suo valore metanarrativo e metadiegetico.

L’opera di Consolo riserva ampio spazio alle citazioni figurative.[1] Lo scrittore, intervistato da Giuseppe Traina, ha dato una spiegazione della ricchezza dei riferimenti pittorici riscontrabili nei suoi romanzi ricorrendo ad un assunto semiologico, affermando la volontà di superare la contrapposizione tra lo svolgimento temporale del linguaggio verbale e lo svolgimento spaziale dell’opera figurativa. Per Consolo la continua evocazione dell’immagine riscontrabile nella sua scrittura risponde all’esigenza di equilibrio tra temporalità e spazialità:

Credo ci sia bisogno di equilibrio tra suono e immagine, come una sorta di compenso, perché il suono vive nel tempo, invece la visualità vive nello spazio. Cerco di riequilibrare il tempo con lo spazio, il suono con l’immagine. Poi sono stati motivi d’ispirazione, di guida, le citazioni iconografiche di Antonello da Messina o di Raffaello. In Retablo c’è l’esplicitazione dell’esigenza della citazione iconografica: il “retablo” appartiene alla pittura ma è anche “teatro”, come nell’intermezzo di Cervantes.[2]

La stessa perigrafia dei romanzi consoliani rinvia spesso a suggestioni figurative o a palesi citazioni pittoriche, evidenti fin dai titoli: com’è noto Il sorriso dell’ignoto marinaio fa riferimento al dipinto di Antonello da Messina, il ritratto virile d’ignoto custodito nel Museo Mandralisca di Cefalù. Anche Retablo, romanzo pubblicato nel 1987 per i tipi Sellerio, evoca la pittura fin dal titolo. Il termine catalano retablo indica infatti una pala d’altare inquadrata architettonicamente: essa può articolarsi in diversi scomparti formando un dittico, un trittico o un polittico costituito da tavole dipinte, talvolta da sculture o dall’alternanza di dipinti e bassorilievi, tenendo insieme, in quest’ultimo caso, imagines pictae fictae. Il titolo scelto da Consolo, facendo riferimento ai polittici iberici, denunzia in primo luogo la vocazione pittorica del libro. Ma retablo è inteso dall’autore come un significante polisemico, come un lessema evocativo di rara e remota sonorità che contiene, ad un tempo, riferimenti figurativi, teatrali e letterari: «La parola retablo (parola oscura e sonora, che forse ci viene dal latino retrotàbulum: il senso, per me, dietro o oltre le parole, vale a dire metafora) l’ho assunta nelle varie accezioni: pittorica, shahrazadiana, cervantesiana».[3] Tra l’altro il lemma spagnolo rinvia alla memoria del Retablo de las meravillas di Miguel de Cervantes. L’evocazione cervantesiana può essere intesa anche come un riferimento al tratto illusorio dell’arte, motivo a cui il romanzo dedica più di una riflessione. Attraverso la scelta di un titolo di carattere tematico[4] l’autore allude, infine, all’organizzazione narrativa del libro, articolato per scene e quadri successivi che potrebbero essere considerati come delle tavole sovrapposte, pur mantenendo la loro autonomia narrativa. Il testo consoliano si configura dunque come un polittico, come una successione di quadri narrativi al centro dei quali sta il motivo odeporico, ovvero il viaggio del cavaliere Fabrizio Clerici nella Sicilia del XVIII secolo, e una tarsia di citazioni che ne fanno uno dei romanzi più complessi e levigati della letteratura italiana del secondo Novecento.

Ritratto fotografico di Vincenzo Consolo, di Giuseppe Leone (1985 ca.)
foto Giuseppe Leone

Per dare un titolo all’ampia intervista concessa all’IMES nel 1993, lo scrittore, ancora una volta, ha usato un riferimento pittorico evocando Fuga dall’Etna di Guttuso.[5] Consolo ha riproposto il nome che il pittore siciliano ha dato ad una tela di vaste dimensioni realizzata tra il 1938 e il 1939, la sua prima composizione corale, lungamente meditata e preparata attraverso studi, ritratti e paesaggi realizzati tra la Sicilia e la Sila.[6] Nel dipinto un’eruzione etnea assume un più ampio significato sociale e diventa l’occasione per rappresentare masse di contadini in fuga concitata, arditi scorci di cavalli che negli stilemi e nell’esemplificazione formale rivelano la memoria di Guernica di Picasso: un’allusione alla sofferenza del mondo contadino e al dramma della migrazione, anch’esso un vulnus iscritto nella storia del Novecento. Non è un caso che Consolo si sia ricordato del telero guttusiano: nell’intervista, infatti, l’autore ripercorre il suo itinerario biografico e intellettuale, parla dell’allontanamento dall’isola natale, della condizione di erranza, della metafora odissiaca che attraversa i suoi romanzi, del nostos impossibile e del trasferimento giovanile a Milano. La citazione di Fuga dall’Etna testimonia, tra l’altro, dell’amicizia tra lo scrittore e Guttuso che si traduce nelle argute allusioni presenti in diversi romanzi. Si veda, ad esempio, il cenno, incastonato nelle pagine di Retablo, al «pittore celebrato […] della Bagarìa», anacronisticamente collocato in un elenco di artisti siciliani d’epoca manierista o barocca: «Siete meglio del Monrealese, meglio dello Zoppo di Ganci, del Monocolo di Racalmuto, meglio di quel pittore celebrato (non ricordo il nome) della Bagarìa».[7] L’allusione consoliana, che qui assume le connotazioni di un ammiccante gioco a nascondere, non è dissimile dalla scelta di fare dell’amico Clerici, pittore lombardo inquieto e surreale, il protagonista del libro.

Renato Guttuso, Fuga dall’Etna, olio su tela, 1940
Fuga dall’Etna di Renato Guttuso

Anche l’ultimo romanzo di Consolo, Lo Spasimo di Palermo, fa riferimento a un’opera pittorica, il dipinto di Raffaello un tempo custodito nella chiesa palermitana di Santa Maria dello Spasimo e oggi esposto nelle sale del Museo del Prado. Secondo la narrazione del Vasari la tavola dell’Urbinate sarebbe giunta in Sicilia per mare, attraverso fortunosi accadimenti.[8] La citazione dello Spasimo (ovvero della raffaellesca Andata al Calvario di Cristo) è usata per conferire una connotazione martirologica alla narrazione. Il romanzo, infatti, si confronta col tema dell’impotentia scribendi, con lo smarrimento del protagonista e, nelle pagine conclusive, allude alla strage di via D’Amelio, all’attentato che determinò la morte di Paolo Borsellino. Il simbolismo sotteso dal riferimento pittorico è intensificato dalla riproduzione di una pagina dello spartito del Dies irae del compositore augustese Manuele d’Astorga.[9] La citazione pittorica, il ricercato recupero di un testo musicale d’epoca barocca, i riferimenti cinematografici portano al massimo grado l’orchestrazione plurima dei codici, facendo culminare la narrazione in una successione di suggestioni sinestetiche che conferiscono forza al tragico explicit.

Oltre alla perigrafia, alle tarsie intertestuali ed alle note icone autoriali di Consolo, ovvero alle esplicite costruzioni ecfrastiche dedicate al ritratto virile di Antonello da Messina nel Sorriso dell’ignoto marinaio, all’oratorio serpottiano di San Lorenzo in Retablo, al caravaggesco Seppellimento di Santa Lucia ne L’olivo e l’olivastro ed alla tavola raffaellesca nello Spasimo, Miguel Ángel Cuevas ha messo in evidenza il ricorso, da parte dello scrittore, alla strategia dell’«ekphrasis nascosta».[10] Cuevas, attraverso lo studio variantistico delle opere consoliane, ha sottolineato come l’autore tenda all’occultamento dell’originario costrutto ecfrastico, restituendo al lettore non la descrizione di un’immagine, ma la sua immediatezza:

L’occultamento della dimensione ecfrastica del testo finisce per far diventare l’immagine un’alterità senza equivalenze, senza punto di riferimento: un’alterità assoluta; le figure si palesano in una loro ambiguità atopica, all’interno della quale la persistenza di segni elocutivi descrittivi potrebbe essere interpretata – non solo, ma almeno anche – come indizio del flusso di coscienza, come l’apparire, in ogni caso, di una diversa voce narrante: che paradossalmente provoca effetti di denarrativizzazione.[11]

Se l’ekphrasis, figura di pensiero per aggiunzione che la retorica ha considerato da sempre il mediumtra la letteratura e le arti, è la descrizione verbale di una rappresentazione visuale, se, come ha affermato Mengaldo, la «descrizione verbale non mima l’opera, ma lo sguardo che percorre l’opera»,[12] la strategia di opacizzazione referenziale adottata da Consolo rende ancora più complessi i rapporti intercorrenti tra testo e immagine. Il ricercato equilibrio tra temporalità e spazialità, di cui lo scrittore ha parlato nell’intervista concessa a Traina, rivela risvolti assai complessi considerando che spesso, nelle narrazioni consoliane, la visività verbale si pone come controfigura di un’immagine non dichiarata: «rapporti, in definitiva, basati su convergenze o parallelismi che incrinano, mostrandone l’obsolescenza, le tradizionali ed escludenti collocazioni delle immagini su un asse spaziale in rapporto al logos che si svolge sulla temporalità».[13]

In sintesi il rapporto tra i romanzi di Consolo e la pittura si avvale di strategie molteplici: la retorica della citazione e le icone autoriali che spesso sono preannunciate dal titolo tematico dell’opera; le ekphrasis nascoste, incastonate in una scrittura sempre caratterizzata da forte pittorialità; inserti critici e metadiegetici riferiti alle opere d’arte che testimoniano la raffinata formazione dell’autore e contribuiscono ad accentuare l’antinarratività delle sue opere dalla densa struttura ‘palinsestica’.[14] Un’ulteriore riflessione, sulla scorta degli studi di Michele Cometa dedicati alla retorica visuale, si impone in rapporto alle diverse forme di integrazione dell’ekphrasis nelle opere consoliane.

1. Il sorriso dell’ignoto marinaio: la funzione metapoetica e metanarrativa dell’ekphrasis

Si è già notato che Il sorriso dell’ignoto marinaio fa riferimento, fin dal titolo, ad un dipinto antonelliano, il ritratto virile custodito al Museo Mandralisca di Cefalù. La tavola quattrocentesca, che una tradizione suggestiva ma infondata indicava come il ritratto di un marinaio, è alla base dell’ordine delle somiglianze che attraversa il romanzo. Fin dall’incipit il protagonista, barone Enrico Pirajno di Mandralisca, tiene la tavola dipinta sotto braccio, riportandola da Lipari, dove l’ha fortunosamente scoperta, al suo palazzo cefaludese. L’antefatto del primo capitolo fa da sintesi del viaggio dell’aristocratico collezionista e vi dà un’esatta collocazione cronotopica, datandolo 12 settembre 1852: «Viaggio in mare di Enrico Pirajno barone di Mandralisca da Lipari a Cefalù con la tavoletta del ritratto d’ignoto di Antonello recuperata da un riquadro dello stipo della bottega dello speziale Carnevale».[15]

Leggendo il romanzo si scopre che il volto effigiato nel dipinto è somigliante a quello del patriota Giovanni Interdonato, l’uomo che il barone ha scorto, travestito da marinaio per sfuggire alle rappresaglie borboniche, nell’imbarcazione che lo riportava alla sua dimora. L’Interdonato avrà un ruolo essenziale nel determinare la presa di coscienza politica del Mandralisca. Otto anni dopo il viaggio alle Eolie, infatti, nel crinale storico del 1860, il Pirajno abbandonerà i suoi studi eruditi, la passione per la malacologia, il suo interesse per il collezionismo di mirabilia naturalia et antiquaria perseguito secondo l’habitus aristocratico e, essendosi rispecchiato nel volto dell’amico, muoverà da un generico liberalismo ad una più profonda comprensione della questione sociale.

Incastonata nel primo capitolo del Sorriso è la celebre ekphrasis del quadro di Antonello, ospitato tra le collezioni del Mandralisca:

Apparve la figura d’un uomo a mezzo busto. Da un fondo verde cupo, notturno, di lunga notte di paura e incomprensione, balzava avanti il viso luminoso. […] L’uomo era in quella giusta età in cui la ragione, uscita salva dal naufragio della giovinezza, s’è fatta lama d’acciaio, che diventerà sempre più lucida e tagliente nell’uso ininterrotto. L’ombra sul volto di una barba di due giorni faceva risaltare gli zigomi larghi, la perfetta, snella linea del naso terminante a punta, le labbra, lo sguardo. Le piccole, nere pupille scrutavano dagli angoli degli occhi e le labbra appena si stendevano in un sorriso. Tutta l’espressione di quel volto era fissata, per sempre, nell’increspatura sottile, mobile, fuggevole dell’ironia, velo sublime d’aspro pudore con cui gli esseri intelligenti coprono la pietà. Al di qua del lieve sorriso, quel volto sarebbe caduto nella distensione pesante della serietà e della cupezza, sull’orlo dell’astratta assenza per dolore, al di là, si sarebbe scomposto, deformato nella risata aperta, sarcastica, impietosa o nella meccanica liberatrice risata comune a tutti gli uomini.[16]

La descrizione del ritratto è anche una sua interpretazione oscillante tra etopea e prosopografia, ricca di connotazioni fisiognomiche che verranno riproposte per stabilire il complesso gioco di rifrazioni e proiezioni identificative tra i personaggi del romanzo.

Antonello da Messina, Ritratto d’ignoto, olio su tavola, 1465-1476
Ritratto – Antonello Da Messina

La giusta età della ragione, l’ironia che si pone come tertium tra l’eccesso di severità e il riso aperto, sarcastico o spietato, anticipa il percorso di maturazione politica ed esistenziale del protagonista. Consolo piega così a particolare partitura quella vocazione fisiognomica presente nei romanzi di molti scrittori siciliani, da De Roberto a Tomasi di Lampedusa, da Sciascia ad Addamo. Del resto a indirizzare il lettore verso un’attenta interpretazione del testo è la citazione in esergo, tratta dall’Ordine delle somiglianze di Sciascia: «Il giuoco delle somiglianze è in Sicilia uno scandaglio delicato e sensibilissimo, uno strumento di conoscenza […]. I ritratti di Antonello “somigliano”; sono l’idea stessa, l’arché della somiglianza […]. A chi somiglia l’ignoto del Museo Mandralisca?».[17] Nell’economia narrativa del Sorriso sono diverse le ipostasi del riconoscimento e del rispecchiamento che stabiliscono la tensione speculare tra i personaggi principali. Significativamente il momento in cui l’aristocratico individua nell’Interdonato il marinaio già scorto nel viaggio del 1852 è anche il momento in cui egli si accorge della straordinaria somiglianza tra il patriota e l’uomo effigiato nella tavola antonelliana.[18]

Il ritratto di Antonello, nella Memoria che il Mandralisca invia all’Interdonato sui fatti di Alcàra Li Fusi, vero e proprio nucleo ideologico del romanzo, diventa anche l’emblema di una ragione distaccata, condizionata dalla nascita, dalla posizione di casta o dalle necessità di carriera. Rispecchiandosi nel ritratto antonelliano, in altre parole, il Mandralisca pone una spietata critica a se stesso, alla sua classe sociale, alle sue «imposture»,[19] alla stessa intellettualità progressista che concepisce comodi ideologemi e interessate teleologie, a partire dalla stessa retorica risorgimentale.

Cuore di molteplici tensioni narrative, simboliche e proiettive, la tavola di Antonello assolve dunque ad un ruolo capitale nel romanzo, ben lontana dall’essere una semplice citazione iconica. Usando il linguaggio di Cometa è utile indagare, in quest’opera consoliana, l’«integrazione per trasposizione»[20] dell’ekphrasis.La riflessione dello studioso, sulla scorta della rilettura di un testo classico come le Immagini di Filostrato, categorizza diverse forme di integrazione ecfrastica, da intendersi come integrazione da parte del lettore nel suo repertorio.[21] Scrive Cometa: «Il lettore è dunque invitato non solo a penetrare con lo sguardo nell’immagine ma anche a integrarla con le proprie preconoscenze e con la propria esperienza pregressa».[22] Naturalmente nel Sorriso si possono riconoscere forme molteplici di integrazione dell’ekphrasis, e tra esse l’«integrazione ermeneutica»,[23] forse il procedimento più ricercato alla base del patto ecfrastico: nel Sorriso la descrizione dell’opera d’arte si avvale delle consapevolezze critiche, iconografiche e iconologiche di Consolo, in dialogo con quel lettore colto che le possieda e le sappia intendere. Come vedremo in seguito gli inserti critici e metadiscorsivi hanno una parte significativa nel Sorriso. Ma il romanzo del 1976 rimane un caso esemplare in cui l’opera d’arte assume un vero e proprio ruolo genetico, al punto che l’intero plot è stato concepito attraverso costanti rinvii ad essa. È parimenti evidente che la descrizione del ritratto antonelliano assolve alle funzioni metapoetica e metanarrativa, nel senso postulato da Cometa che ha recuperato motivi propri della poetologia schlegeliana e romantica, secondo cui l’ekphrasis permette di prefigurare ed anticipare il senso di un romanzo, costituendo un dispositivo in cui l’opera letteraria si «rispecchia», una lente in cui si scorge un’«immagine unitaria della narrazione».[24]

Oltre al caso dell’icona antonelliana, si possono individuare nel Sorriso molteplici esempi di ekphrasis nascosta; per tutti la descrizione, incastonata nel primo capitolo, di un cavatore di pomice liparitano sofferente, osservato dal Mandralisca durante il viaggio da Lipari a Cefalù. Come ha messo in evidenza Cuevas, nella descrizione dell’uomo si riconosce un dettaglio della Crocefissione di Anversa, una tavola antonelliana in cui il ladrone di sinistra si attorce in un ultimo spasimo che precede la morte.[25] Vi è nel Sorriso un’essenziale e ben nota triangolazione di riferimenti figurativi: il ritratto antonelliano, la Crocefissione di Anversa e Los desastres de la Guerra di Goya, i cui titoli scandiscono la narrazione del settimo capitolo, dedicato alla sanguinosa rivolta contadina di Alcàra Li Fusi ed alla sua repressione.[26] Come ha sottolineato Rosalba Galvagno alcune ekphrasis del Sorriso possono essere ricondotte alle incisioni de Los desastres.[27] Ma il novero dei rinvii meno evidenti alle arti plastiche e figurative è molto ampio. Non manca chi ha individuato nella rappresentazione dello studiolo del Mandralisca un probabile riferimento al San Gerolamo di Vittore Carpaccio, alle opere di Filippino Lippi o a quelle del ceroplasta siracusano Matteo Durante.[28]

Tra i tanti riferimenti espliciti alle arti sono riscontrabili cenni alla statuaria ed alla produzione ceramica greca, all’icona marmorea del Giovane con la tunica del Museo Whitaker di Mozia ed al cratere del Pittore di Lipari rappresentante la vendita del tonno. Altri riferimenti evocano il Trionfo della morte di Palermo (l’affresco tardogotico di Palazzo Sclafani che ha ispirato Guernica di Picasso, citato spesso anche da Sciascia e Bufalino), le sculture rinascimentali di Francesco Laurana ed Antonello Gagini, le tele del secentista Pietro Novelli. La descrizione delle collezioni messe insieme dal Mandralisca restituisce una fitta successione di citazioni pittoriche:

Venne il momento della visita al museo. Guidati dal barone Mandralisca, fecero il giro della quadreria disposta in doppia fila alle pareti. Sentirono distratti elogiare la luce dell’Alba a Cefalù del Bevelacqua, l’espressione intensa della Sant’Anna del Novelli, la sapienza prospettica dell’Ultima Cena della scuola del Ruzzolone, dove le figure erano così tonde e grosse, così sazie, che sembrava quella sì un’ultima cena, ma il cui inizio non si conosceva, con portate continue di maccheroni al sugo. E così avanti, per le tavole bizantine, per ignoti siciliani, per i napoletani e gli spagnoli, fino a quello della giovane formosa che offre alle labbra di un vecchio rinsecchito il capezzolo rosa d’una mammella bianca che sbuca dallo scuro in piena luce.[29]

Nella rappresentazione dei dipinti non mancano increspature ironiche, come nel rapporto che viene stabilito, con un improvviso abbassamento del tono della narrazione, tra il motivo iconografico dell’Ultima cena e le «portate continue di maccheroni al sugo»: un’allusione al succulento banchetto che è probabilmente l’unico motivo per cui gli ospiti hanno accettato l’invito del barone a recarsi nella sua dimora e «godere la visione di una nuova opera unitasi alla loro collezione».[30] La stessa capacità rovesciante è rivelata nella descrizione di un dipinto che fa riferimento alla lactatio, tradizionale emblema di una delle Virtù Teologali, la Carità. Lo statuto iconografico che, nella tradizione figurativa barocca era l’occasione per rappresentare la nudità e la procacità femminili, esplicita qui il suo sottointeso erotico e diventa un’allusione alla ben poco edificante brama di un «vecchio rinsecchito»,[31] con un evidente riferimento alle Sette opere di Misericordia di Caravaggio.

Consolo, nel Sorriso, recupera un motivo letterario e parodico, quello dell’antiquario, della sua greve erudizione, della sua mania collezionistica che ha un archetipo nella goldoniana Famiglia dell’antiquario e conosce significative riprese anche nei romanzi di Capuana e De Roberto.[32] Non è un caso che, scorgendo una statua classica tra i marmi accatastati in un’imbarcazione, immaginando di accaparrarsela, il Pirajno si ponga in fantasiosa competizione con altri aristocratici dediti alla raccolta di nobilia opera del passato. Rappresentando la brama del Mandralisca, lo scrittore incastona nella narrazione un elenco dei maggiori collezionisti siciliani realmente esistiti ed attivi tra il XVIII e il XIX secolo:

Uh, ah, cazzo, le bellezze! Ma dove si dirigeva quella ladra speronara, alla volta di Siracusa, bianca, euriala e petrosa, o di Palermo, rossa, ràisa e palmosa? Pirata, pirata avrebbe voluto essere il barone, e assaltare con ciurma grifagna quella barca, tirarsela fino all’amato porto sotto alla rocca […]. Avrebbe fottuto il Bìscari, l’Asmundo Zappalà, l’Alessi canonico, magari il cardinale, il Pèpoli, il Bellomo e forse il Landolina.[33]

L’ironia consoliana raggiunge il culmine nella descrizione dei crateri attici radunati nella collezione Mandralisca, con le loro scene erotiche ed altre raffigurazioni ispirate ai baccanalia, certamente non confacenti alla morale del XIX secolo:

Oltre al Venditore di tonno, oltre a matrone languide, sdraiate, con ancelle attorno che le aiutavano a fare toilette, i vasi neri e rossi mostravano fauni impudichi e sporcaccioni, con tutta l’evidenza dritta della infoiatura, che abbrancavano per la vita, per le reni ninfe sgambettanti per portarsele, poverette, chissà dove; altre scene di fughe e rapimenti, altre di ragazze estatiche davanti a giovanotti inghirlandati e con bordoni in mano di cui non si capivano le intenzioni. Gli uomini si davano gomitate, facevano ammiccamenti, azzardavano sottovoce interpretazioni, mentre il barone li informava sull’epoca e sul luogo della provenienza di quelle antichità.[34]

Concependo il suo romanzo come un «antiromanzo storico»,[35] sullo sfondo di un Risorgimento gramscianamente inteso come mancata rivoluzione, Consolo ha usato la sua conoscenza della storia dell’arte per fare il verso al barone collezionista, per rappresentare la vacuità della sua classe sociale. L’integrazione ermeneutica dei costrutti ecfrastici vuole il concorso esegetico del lettore, la sua comprensione dei passaggi ironici. La «plurivocità» del Sorriso,[36] oltre che nei processi parodici, è ravvisabile nella stessa contraddittorietà e complessità di un personaggio come il Mandralisca che, in ultimo, riuscirà ad allontanarsi dalla concezione erudita ed esornativa della cultura propria della sua classe sociale, destinata ad un ineluttabile declino, acquisendo un’acuta e demistificante consapevolezza politica.

2. Retablo, o delle rifrazioni ad infinitum

Consolo ha fatto del pittore milanese Clerici il protagonista di Retablo. Le allusioni a Clerici e Guttuso non sono casuali. Ad ispirare il romanzo, infatti, è stato un viaggio in compagnia dei due artisti nella Sicilia orientale, un’occasione in cui lo scrittore ha rivisto i templi dorici di Segesta, Selinunte e Agrigento percorrendo alcune delle tappe canoniche del Grand Tour d’Italie.[37] Consolo, dunque, ispirandosi ad un fatto realmente accaduto, ha dato un doppio letterario al suo amico. A complicare il gioco di allusioni vi è la perigrafia, la scelta di illustrare la prima di copertina della prima edizione del libro con un dettaglio di un dipinto di Clerici,[38] ed ancora la scelta di incastonare nel testo diverse ekphrasis ispirate all’opera dello stesso artista. Non sembra un caso che il pittore milanese sia stato anche il protagonista di un romanzo di Savinio, Ascolto il tuo cuore, città, ed abbia fatto conoscere a Sciascia La tentazione di Sant’Antonio, la tela del manierista Rutilio Manetti in cui è effigiato il diavolo con gli occhiali, investito di forti valori simbolici nel romanzo Todo modo.[39]Le vertiginose rifrazioni del libro consoliano sono degne della teoria di rispecchiamenti de Las Meninas di Velázquez, dipinto emblematico della temperie barocca.

La rappresentazione di un viaggio in Sicilia nel XVIII secolo, la ricchezza di riferimenti figurativi e la diffusa retorica dello sguardo fanno di Retablo l’opera consoliana in cui il rapporto tra letteratura e pittura si fa più intenso e insistito.[40] I rimandi figurativi, per altro, agiscono in profondità, fino a dare forma alla stessa architettura ed alla focalizzazione del racconto. Il romanzo, infatti, è ripartito in tre capitoli o tavole: OratorioPeregrinazione Veritas. A ciascuna di queste parti corrisponde una diversa voce narrante, quella di Isidoro in Oratorio, quella di Clerici in Peregrinazione e quella di Rosalia in Veritas. Un intreccio di voci che restituisce al lettore gli stessi accadimenti osservati da angolazioni diverse, moltiplicando prismaticamente le visioni e le possibili interpretazioni della realtà.

Ad incipitdi Oratorio è posto il celebre inno che Isidoro innalza a Rosalia: una petitio amorosa, una laica preghiera, una litania o un delirio in cui la scomposizione del nome dell’amata in Rosa e Lia, il moltiplicarsi delle figure fonetiche ed etimologiche, l’intertestualità non priva di echi danteschi e petrarcheschi, l’investimento ambiguo ed ambivalente della donna si spingono ad un parossistico virtuosismo. Subito dopo Isidoro, dedito alla questua e alla vendita delle bolle, narra in prima persona l’amore concepito per la giovane che, quotidianamente, gli appariva alla finestra insieme alla madre. Le due donne hanno ordito il raggiro dell’inesperto questuante facendogli credere di poter sposare la ragazza e, fattesi consegnare il denaro delle bolle, sono scomparse nel nulla. Cacciato dunque dal convento, il fraticello è ridotto alla condizione di facchino alla Cala di PalermoQui, finalmente, gli appare il cavaliere Clerici, sceso da una nave che ha il nome simbolico di Aurora.[41] L’aristocratico viaggiatore prende con sé Isidoro, lo allontana dalla vita dura ed ambigua del porto e ne fa il suo accompagnatore nel viaggio in Sicilia volto all’osservazione e alla riproduzione dei monumenti antichi. Quando Clerici fa conoscere al fraticello il cavaliere Serpotta e gli mostra l’oratorio palermitano di San Lorenzo, questi scorge nella statua della Veritas il sembiante dell’amata Rosalia, va in escandescenze e sviene.

Come si vede da questa veloce sintesi il primo capitolo di Retablo consegna subito al lettore una pluralità di toni: l’incipitlirico, la seduzione e il raggiro di Isidoro che rinvia all’archetipo novellistico di Boccaccio, la rappresentazione della baraonda della Cala, non priva di dettagli bassi, spuri e scatologici, la descrizione dettagliata dell’oratorio serpottiano. Il primo apparire di Rosalia tra i vicoli di Palermo è una delle tante ekphrasis nascoste che costellano la narrazione, annunciata da un preciso riferimento al «riquadro», ovvero alla finestra da cui si sporge la ragazza in compagnia della madre:

Alzai gli occhi e vidi nel riquadro, ah, la mia sventura!, la donna che teneva la funicella del panaro e accanto una fanciulla di quindici o sedici anni, la mantellina a lutto sulla testa che lei fermava con graziosa mano sotto il mento. E gli occhi tenea bassi per vergogna, ma da sotto il velario delle ciglia fuggivan lampi d’un fuoco di smeraldo. Mai m’ero immaginato, mai avevo visto in vita mia, in carne o pittato, un angelo, un serafino come lei.[42]

La scena, più che un generico riferimento all’Annunciata antonelliana di palazzo Abatellis, rinvia ad un’opera di Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, Las Gallegas, ovvero Due donne galiziane alla finestra, custodita alla National Gallery di Londra: un riferimento fino ad oggi non evidenziato dalla letteratura critica, tuttavia ricco di impliciti che contribuiscono a connotare la figura di Rosalia. Nel dipinto appaiono due donne, una giovane e una matura, che affacciandosi alla finestra ammiccano al passante-spettatore: un espediente che, attraverso lo sguardo muliebre, tende ad oltrepassare lo spazio della tela, come spesso accade nelle opere del secentista spagnolo. Si tratta di un dipinto di genere popolaresco, una scena di seduzione in cui è forse raffigurata una giovane prostituta con la sua mezzana. Il dettaglio della mantellina fermata con la mano sotto il mento è puntualmente riscontrabile nella descrizione di Retablo e si fa indice dell’esatta referenzialità del testo consoliano. L’ekphrasis delinea dunque l’immagine ambivalente della giovane, il cui atteggiamento, in apparenza pudico, dissimula una capacità seduttiva rivelata dallo sguardo che, «sotto il velario delle ciglia», emana, secondo una significativa sinestesia, «lampi d’un fuoco di smeraldo».[43]

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, Las Gallegas, olio su tela, 1670

Fin dalla prima apparizione, dunque, Rosalia è rappresentata secondo le valenze ambigue della donna levatrice e sprofondatrice, una duplicità iscritta nel suo stesso nome composto che rinvia alla patrona palermitana, quella Santa Rosalia nella cui iconografia, inventata nei primi decenni del Seicento, confluiscono non pochi statuti rappresentativi della Maddalena.[44] Un percorso iconografico certo non ignoto a Consolo che, nell’inno di Isidoro, si avvale dell’oscillazione tra la figura laica e quella profana di Rosalia, facendo riferimento alla statua marmorea della santa venerata nel santuario di Monte Pellegrino.[45]

Già in Oratorio, dunque, la giovane donna appare ad una finestra, tecnema della visione non dissimile dalla cornice di un dipinto,[46] viene ricordata attraverso il simulacro marmoreo della santa, la si immagina rappresentata in una delle figure in stucco dell’oratorio serpottiano, è evocata ripetutamente nelle catene paronomastiche e nella dimensione ecoica dell’inno incipitario che scompone e richiama ripetutamente il suo nome: tutti simulacra del sentimento amoroso concepito da Isidoro, espressione dell’ossessione del fraticello e dell’intangibilità di uno sfuggente oggetto del desiderio.[47] Per altro, nella rappresentazione laico-profana di Rosalia e nelle reduplicazioni della sua immagine, è facile scorgere la suggestione de Gli elisir del diavolo di Hoffmann.

Tra le statue che ritraggono Rosalia vi è l’allegoria serpottiana della Verità che, secondo lo statuto iconografico, è rappresentata come Nuda Veritas. La descrizione del teatro plastico settecentesco è una delle più note icone autoriali incastonate nel libro che nasconde, nella stessa rappresentazione degli stucchi rischiarati da un raggio di sole, l’ekphrasis di un dipinto di Clerici. Il raggio che penetra nell’aula, che colpisce una ninfa di cristallo e, rifrangendosi, illumina le statue, è lo stesso che si può scorgere in una tela del pittore milanese, La grande confessione palermitana: il chiarore diffuso dal raggio solare, consustanziale al «bianco puro»[48] dell’oratorio, rivela nel dipinto una natura luttuosa che lega le candide statue all’immagine funerea dei corpi imbalsamati delle catacombe dei Cappuccini di Palermo. Ecco che il testo consoliano, in una vertiginosa sovrapposizione, include in una descriptio un’altra ekphrasis. Come ha rilevato Maria Rizzarelli: «L’ordine delle somiglianze che nel Sorriso costituiva il principio gnoseologico della conversione ideologico-sociale del Mandralisca, diviene qui ordine delle apparenze, da fondamento conoscitivo si trasforma, attraverso l’esasperante trionfo della figura del doppio, in ordine dell’illusione con cui s’identifica l’arte».[49]

La rappresentazione dell’oratorio è il punto culminante del capitolo iniziale di Retablo. Se in questa prima parte del romanzo si incontrano alcuni grandi pittori e artisti (un rapido cenno è dedicato anche al dipinto palermitano di Caravaggio, la Natività), il secondo capitolo, Peregrinazione, è totalmente incentrato sulla figura di Clerici che, accompagnato da Isidoro, intraprende il suo viaggio e la sua esplorazione della Sicilia.

Palermo, Oratorio di San Lorenzo

Anche Clerici viaggia per l’isola con l’intento di dimenticare la donna amata, Teresa Blasco, futura sposa di Cesare Beccaria e dunque futura nonna di Alessandro Manzoni.[50] Alla nobildonna milanese, il cui padre ha origine spagnola e la madre siciliana, il cavaliere dedica il suo diario di viaggio. Fin dalla Dedicatoria, indirizzata a Teresa, Clerici si dice intenzionato a illustrare e a narrare la patria materna della donna, rivelando così l’intenzione di avvalersi sia della parola che dell’immagine, di usare entrambi i codici per rappresentare la Sicilia.[51] Del resto, già in Oratorio, l’aristocratico viaggiatore è stato presentato da Isidoro in virtù della sua abilità di disegnatore: «Quel don Fabrizio che sbarcò in Palermo, con la fortuna mia, per viaggiare l’Isola, scoprire l’anticaglie e disegnar su pergamene con chine e acque tinte templi e colonne e statue di cittate ultrapassate».[52] Lo stesso cavaliere, ben presto, sente l’esigenza di porre sotto gli occhi di donna Teresa non solo le immagini del mondo classico, i monumenti antichi, ma anche le brutture della società contemporanea. Clerici si rivela, dunque, un viaggiatore assai lontano da compiacimenti arcadici e vagheggiamenti idilliaci, dall’eterno archetipo della pastorale teocritea e dalle sue riprese settecentesche. Le sue intenzioni e il suo sguardo disilluso preannunciano un motivo che diventerà dominante nei successivi romanzi consoliani, il contrasto tra la memoria del passato e un presente di rovina, immemore e degradato.

Il percorso di Clerici ricalca parzialmente quello del Grand Tour nella Sicilia occidentale: Palermo, la vicina Monreale, Alcamo, Segesta, Selinunte, Mozia e Trapani. Retablo rimodula dunque, attraverso una complessa trama intertestuale, temi e motivi propri dell’odeporica settecentesca, configurandosi come un Voyage pittoresque, un Conte philosophique e un romanzo picaresco. Lo sguardo di Clerici è quello straniante del pittore, aduso a scrutare le fisionomie, a indovinare l’animo di chi gli sta di fronte. La sua visione è arguta e disincantata, in altre parole è quella di uno smaliziato e inquieto viaggiatore novecentesco, anche se le illusioni, gli apparati effimeri, le rifrazioni, le quinte teatrali e i retabli ingannevoli appaiono ad ogni passo del suo viaggio, adatte a rappresentare le oltranze immaginative di pittori, scultori e architetti della Sicilia barocca o tardobarocca. Il trionfo della teatralità e la voglia di destare meraviglia trovano il culmine nella descrizione di Alcamo, la patria del Soldano Lodovico, il luogo dove si riunisce l’Accademia de’ Ciulli Ardenti che, con la sua poesia edulcorata e pretenziosa, non rende onore all’autore del Contrasto. È qui che, in occasione della festa del paese, appare il Retablo de las meravillas, un apparato aniconico e illusorio in cui ogni spettatore può proiettare e scorgere i suoi fantasmi.

Nell’ultimo capitolo di RetabloVeritas, Rosalia racconta finalmente la sua verità: realmente innamorata di Isidoro, è divenuta una cantante che si appresta a debuttare in una rappresentazione della Vergine del Sole di Cimarosa. Ospite nel palazzo di un munifico marchese, è stata educata al bel canto da don Gennaro Affronti, un artista castrato che le ha fatto da «padre» e da «madre».[53] Rosalia si è dunque mantenuta fedele ad Isidoro, convinta che per preservare un amore sia necessaria la sua cristallizzazione. Per questo esorta l’amato a ritornare alla vita passata ed alla sicurezza claustrale.

Ogni aspetto della vita e dell’arte, in Retablo, si rivela illusorio: l’amore di Isidoro e Rosalia verrà preservato solo a costo di una monacazione spirituale; l’amore concepito da Clerici per donna Teresa Blasco non è ricambiato. Frequenti sono i dubbi, espressi dallo stesso Clerici, sulla possibilità di rappresentare quant’egli ha osservato nel suo viaggio: l’impotenza dell’arte è metaforizzata dalla condizione del castrato don Gennaro, ovvero dalla sua impotentia generandi. L’uso sapiente dei costrutti ecfrastici e delle rifrazioni che sembrano riproporsi ad infinitum allude all’intangibilità della realtà. Motivi che percorrono in modo insistito l’opera di Consolo e, dopo essersi affacciati in Retablo, passando per un testo capitale come Catarsi, giungono alle pagine intensamente patemiche dello Spasimo. Ma anche per viam negationis l’autore, col vertiginoso spessore palinsestico della sua opera, ha riaffermato la necessità dell’arte e della scrittura, del nesso intimo tra parola e immagine, del loro irrinunciabile valore tetico.


1 Cfr. M. Á. Cuevas, ‘Ut Pictura: El imaginario iconográfico en la obra de Vincenzo Consolo’, Quaderns d’Italià, 10, 2005, pp. 63-77.

2 G. Traina, Vincenzo Consolo, Fiesole (FI), Cadmo, 2001, p. 130.

3 La citazione è tratta da S. Puglisi, Soli andavamo per la rovina. Saggio sulla scrittura di Vincenzo Consolo, Acireale-Roma, Bonanno, 2008, p. 207.

4 Cfr. G. Genette, I titoli, in Id., Soglie. I dintorni del testo, Torino, Einaudi, 1989, pp. 55-101.

5 V. Consolo, Fuga dall’Etna, Roma, Donzelli, 1993.

6 Per le immagini di Fuga dall’Etna e dei suoi bozzetti cfr. F. Carapezza Guttuso (a cura di), Guttuso. Capolavori dai musei, Milano, Mondadori Electa, 2005, pp. 60-61.

7 V. Consolo, Retablo, Palermo, Sellerio, 1987, ora in Id., L’opera completa, a cura di G. Turchetta, Milano, Mondadori (I Meridiani), 2015, p. 417. Tutte le successive citazioni saranno tratte da questa edizione.

8 Cfr. G. Vasari, Le vite de’ più eccellenti architetti, pittori, et scultori italiani, da Cimabue, insino a’ tempi nostri, Torino, Einaudi, 1991, pp. 630-631.

9 Per uno studio della fitta intertestualità de Lo Spasimo di Palermo mi permetto di rinviare a D. Stazzone, ‘Testi e intertesti in Vincenzo Consolo: Lo Spasimo di Palermo’, in F. Cattani, D. Meneghelli (a cura di), La rappresentazione allo specchio. Testo letterario e testo pittorico, premessa di S. Albertazzi, M. Cometa, M. Fusillo, Roma, Meltemi, 2008, pp. 185-201.

10 Adotto qui le definizioni di «icona autoriale» ed «ekphrasis nascosta» proposte in M. Á. Cuevas, ‘L’arte a parole. Intertesti figurativi nella scrittura di Vincenzo Consolo’, in R. Galvagno (a cura di), «Diverso è lo scrivere». Scrittura poetica dell’impegno in Vincenzo Consolo, introduzione di A. Di Grado, Avellino, Biblioteca di Sinestesie, 2015, pp. 17-37. Di notevole valore teorico è l’introduzione alla raccolta degli scritti per artisti di Consolo: M. Á. Cuevas, ‘L’arte a parole’, in V. Consolo, L’ora sospesa ed altri scritti per artisti, Valverde (CT), Le Farfalle, 2018, pp. 9-16.

11 M. Á. Cuevas, L’arte a parole, p. 29.

12 P. V. Mengaldo, Tra due linguaggiArti figurative e critica, Torino, Bollati Boringhieri, 2005, p. 38.

13 M. Á. Cuevas, L’arte a parole, p. 30.

14 Quanto al palinsesto consoliano cfr. D. O’ Connell, ‘Consolo narratore e scrittore palincestuoso’, Quaderns d’Italià, 13, 2008, pp. 161-185; D. O’ Connell, ‘Furor melancholicus: poetica pittorica nella narrativa di Vincenzo Consolo’, in D. Perrone, N. Tedesco (a cura di), Letteratura, musica e arti figurative tra Settecento e Novecento, Firenze, Franco Cesati, 2014, pp. 147-160.

15 V. Consolo, Il sorriso dell’ignoto marinaio, Milano, Mondadori, 1976, ora in Id., L’opera completa, p. 127. Tutte le successive citazioni saranno tratte da questa edizione. Per una storia critico-genetica ed alcune valutazioni filologiche sul Sorriso cfr. N. Messina, ‘«Il sorriso dell’ignoto marinaio» di Vincenzo Consolo. Un approccio a III Morti sacrata’, in J. Eynaud (a cura di), Interferenze di sistemi linguistici e culturali nell’italiano, Atti del X Congresso AIPI (Università di Malta, La Valletta, 3-6 settembre 1992), Zabbar (Malta), Gutemberg Press, 1993, pp. 141-163; N. Messina, Per un’edizione critico-genetica dell’opera narrativa di Vincenzo Consolo «Il sorriso dell’ignoto marinaio», tesi di Dottorato, Universitad Complutense, Madrid, 2007, [accessed 17 February 2020]; D. O’ Connell, ‘“And he a face still forming”: Genesis Gestation and Variation in Vincenzo Consolo’s Il sorriso dell’ignoto marinaio’, Italian Studies, 1, 2008, pp. 119-140.

16 V. Consolo, Il sorriso dell’ignoto marinaio, p. 143-144.

17 Sul rapporto tra Consolo e Sciascia cfr. C. Madrignani, Dopo Sciascia’, La rivista dei libri, novembre 2001, pp. 26-29; M. Á. Cuevas, ‘Parole incrociate: Sciascia e Consolo’, in L. Trapassi, Leonardo Sciascia, un testimone del secolo XIX, Acireale-Roma, Bonnanno, 2012, pp. 195-206. Quanto alla funzione delle epigrafi nell’opera consoliana mi permetto di citare D. Stazzone, ‘Tra palinsesto e paratesto: le epigrafi di Consolo’, Quaderns d’Italià, 21, 2016, pp. 183-192.

18 V. Consolo, Il sorriso dell’ignoto marinaio, p. 161.

19 Ivi, p. 219.

20 M. Cometa, La scrittura delle immagini. Letteratura e cultura visuale, Milano, Raffaello Cortina, 2012, p. 135.

21 Si fa cenno alla nozione di «repertorio» elaborata da W. Iser, L’atto di lettura. Una teoria della risposta estetica, Bologna, il Mulino, 1987.

22 M. Cometa, La scrittura delle immagini,p. 116.

23 Ivi, p. 121. 24 Ivi, p. 140.

25 La Crocefissione, custodita al Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunstern di Anversa, è un olio su tavola realizzato da Antonello nel 1475, durante la sua permanenza a Venezia. Cfr. M. Lucco (a cura di), Antonello da Messina. L’opera completa, Cinisiello Balsamo (MI), Silvana Editoriale, 2006, pp. 216-221.

26 Cfr. M. Á. Cuevas, ‘Ancora su Antonello’, Testo, 59, 2010, pp. 117-124.

27 Cfr. R. Galvagno, ‘«Bella la verità». Figure della verità in alcuni testi di Vincenzo Consolo’, in Ead. (a cura di), «Diverso è lo scrivere»,pp. 39-64.

28 Cfr. S. Grassia, La ricreazione della mente. Una lettura del «Sorriso dell’ignoto marinaio», Palermo, Sellerio, 2011, p. 44. Per l’iconografia di San Gerolamo cfr. H. Friedmann, A Bestiary for Saint Jerome. Animal Symbolism in European Religious Art, Washington D.C., Smithsonian Institution Press, 1980, pp. 291-293. Per l’iconografia di San Gerolamo nelle opere consoliane cfr. S. S. Nigro, ‘Gerolamo e Agrippino’, La Sicilia, 15 novembre 1988.

29 V. Consolo, Il sorriso dell’ignoto marinaio, pp. 141-142.

30 Ivi, p. 135. 31 Ivi, p. 142.

32 Si pensi al don Eugenio Uzeda dei Vicerè di De Roberto o al don Tindaro del Marchese di Roccaverdina di Capuana.

33 V. Consolo, Il sorriso dell’ignoto marinaio, pp. 134-135.

34 Ivi, p. 142. 35 V. Consolo, Fuga dall’Etna, p. 45.

36 C. Segre, ‘La costruzione a chiocciola nel Sorriso dell’ignoto marinaio di Vincenzo Consolo’, in Id., Intrecci di vociLa polifonia nella letteratura del Novecento, Torino, Einaudi,1991, p. 83.

37 Cfr. V. Consolo, Conversazione a Siviglia, a cura di M. Á. Cuevas, Caltagirone (CT), Lettera da Qalat, 2016, pp. 45-46.

38 Si tratta di un dettaglio de La grande confessione palermitana, riprodotto nella prima copertina di V. Consolo, Retablo, Torino, Sellerio, 1987.

39 Il racconto della scoperta sciasciana del dipinto di Manetti è in F. Clerici, ‘L’eremo, l’abate e il diavolo’, in Id., Di profilo, a cura di M. Carapezza, Milano, Novecento, 1989, pp. 267-271.

40 Per alcune valutazioni complessive su Retablo cfr. N. Zago, ‘C’era una volta la Sicilia. Su «Retablo» e altre cose di Consolo…’, in Id., L’ombra del moderno, da Leopardi a Sciascia, Caltanissetta-Roma, Sciascia, 1992; G. Turchetta, ‘Il luogo della vita: una lettura di «Retablo»’, in M. Lanzillotta, G. Lo Castro, E. Porciani, C. Verbaro (a cura di), Visitare la letteratura. Studi per Nicola Merola, Pisa, 2014, ETS, pp. 647-656.

41 È evidente il simbolismo onomastico adottato da Consolo: il cavaliere Clerici, infatti, approdando a Palermo, salva Isidoro, lo trae dall’abisso in cui era sprofondato e gli permette di rinascere a nuova vita. Ma il nome del «pacchetto Aurora», nel continuo gioco di allusioni che caratterizza la scrittura consoliana, rinvia anche all’incrociatore russo che, nel dicembre 1908, portò soccorso alla popolazione di Messina dopo il terremoto che aveva raso al suolo la città siciliana e Reggio Calabria. L’Aurora, per altro, ebbe un ruolo di primo piano nella rivoluzione d’Ottobre, sparando il primo colpo d’arma da fuoco dal castello di prua, segnale dell’inizio della rivoluzione.

42 V. Consolo, Retablo, p. 371. 43 Ibidem.

44 Per l’iconografia della patrona palermitana Santa Rosalia cfr. M. Cometa, Descrizione e desiderio. I quadri viventi di E. T. A. Hoffmann, Roma, Meltemi, 2005.

45 V. Consolo, Retablo, p. 369.

46 Quanto alla finestra, alla sua funzione di tecnema della visione e al suo ruolo nelle descrizioni letterarie cfr. P. Hamon, Imagerie. Littérature et imageau XIX e siècle, Paris, Édition José Corti, 2001.

47 Cfr. il saggio di R. Galvagno, «Bella la verità», pp. 39-64.

48Ibidem.

49 M. Rizzarelli, ‘Un Retablo come uno specchio. Le voyage pittoresque del cavaliere Fabrizio Clerici’, in A. Ottieri (a cura di), Ai margini della letteratura. Le “scritture contaminate”, Sinestesie, IV, 2006, p. 92.

50 Per i rapporti tra Retablo e l’Illuminismo lombardo cfr. G. Albertocchi, ‘Dietro il Retablo. «Addio Teresa Blasco, addio marchesina Beccaria». Leggere Vincenzo Consolo’, Quaderns d’Italià, 10, 2005, pp. 95-111, ora in G. Albertocchi, «Non vedo l’ora di vederti». Legami, affetti, ritrosie nei carteggi di Porta, Grossi e Manzoni, Firenze, Clinamen, 2011, pp. 141-159.

51 Cfr. V. Consolo, Retablo, p. 379. 52 Ivi, p. 370. 53 Ivi, p. 473.

da Arabeschi n. 15

La Sicilia tra mito e storia. Da Sant’Agata a Cefalù. La Gnoseologia dei luoghi nell’opera di Vincenzo Consolo

Vincenzo Consolo lettore di Pirandello

CINZIA GALLO

L’attenzione e l’interesse di Consolo per Pirandello sono costanti, come dimostrano i numerosi riferimenti, espliciti od impliciti, allo scrittore agrigentino che Consolo dissemina in gran parte dei suoi lavori. La figura di Pirandello sembra intanto esemplificare la profonda influenza esercitata dai luoghi sugli individui. Infatti, se «si può cadere su questo mondo per caso, […] non si nasce in un luogo impunemente. […] senza essere subito segnati, nella carne, nell’anima da questo stesso luogo» (Consolo 2012: 135)2. In Uomini e paesi dello zolfo, allora, Consolo asserisce: «E, come Pirandello, ogni siciliano credo possa dire “son figlio del Caos”. È il caos prima della formazione del cosmo, la materia informe, la “mescolanza di cose frammiste” di cui parla Empedocle (anch’egli nato nel “caos” d’Agrigento)» (Consolo 1999: 9). Ovviamente Consolo si riferisce alla grandissima varietà della terra siciliana3, dal punto di vista fisico, che gli eventi storici, però, riproducono: 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, qua e là, diversi, distinti dagli altri e in conflitto: 1 Cinzia Gallo, Università di Catania. 2 Consolo ricorda, anche, quanto Pirandello asserisce su se stesso: «Una notte di giugno caddi come una lucciola sotto un gran pino solitario in una campagna d’olivi saraceni…» (Consolo 2012: 135). 3 Sottolinea Consolo: «[…] la Sicilia, […] quest’isola in mezzo al Mediterraneo è quanto fisicamente di più vario possa in sé raccogliere una piccola terra. Un vasto campionario di terreni, argille, lave, tufi, rocce, gessi, minerali… E quindi varietà di colture, boschi, giardini, uliveti, vigne, seminativi, pascoli, sabbie, distese desertiche. In questa terra sembra che la natura abbia subìto come un arresto nella sua evoluzione, si sia come cristallizzata nel passaggio dal caos primordiale all’amalgama, all’uniformazione, alla serena ricomposizione, alla benigna quiete. Sì, crediamo che tutta la Sicilia sia rimasta per sempre quel caos fisico come quella campagna di Girgenti in cui vide la luce Pirandello da qui, forse, tutto il malessere, tutta l’infelicità storica della Sicilia, il modo difficile d’essere uomo di quell’isola, e lo smarrimento del siciliano, e il suo sforzo continuo della ricerca d’identità. Ma questi problemi ci porterebbero lontano, nel magma esistenziale o nel procelloso mare pirandelliano, ed è meglio quindi che rimaniamo ancorati alla terra (Consolo 1999: 10). Dunque, proprio perché Pirandello è «Uomo di zolfo» (Consolo 1999: 26), vissuto a stretto contatto con lo zolfo, ne tratta compiutamente nelle sue opere, che assumono carattere di denunzia. Consolo sottolinea così come nella novella Il fumo appaia chiaramente la «distruzione della campagna da parte della zolfara» (Consolo 1999: 18), mentre in Ciàula scopre la luna «la condizione del caruso […] viene fuori in tutta la sua straziante pena; e […] nei vecchi e i giovani […] il tema dello zolfo serpeggia, prima sommessamente, […] fino ad esplodere nel finale con la rivolta degli zolfatari e con l’eccidio dell’ingegner Aurelio Costa e della sua amante […]» (Consolo 1999: 27). Questi temi, attestanti la funzione civile della letteratura, sempre presente in Consolo, si articolano però in una filosofia «che non è sistema chiuso e definitivo, ma progressione verso […] la poesia» (Consolo 1999: 26). Sembrerebbe, questa, una giustificazione, una spiegazione della narrazione poematica a cui Consolo approda, a partire da L’olivo e l’olivastro, anche se già ne Il sorriso dell’ignoto marinaio se ne notano delle avvisaglie. Pirandello, «un certo Pirandello novelliere e romanziere» rappresenterebbe, inoltre, la letteratura della Sicilia occidentale, «zona fortemente implicata con la storia, […] marcata da temi di ordine relativo – la storia, la cultura, la civiltà, la pace o la guerra sociale», mentre Verga simboleggerebbe la letteratura della Sicilia orientale, «contrassegnata […] da temi di ordine assoluto: la vita, la morte, il mito, il fato […]» (Consolo 2012: 134)4. È stato perciò Pirandello – sottolinea Consolo – a dare ai personaggi siciliani «l’arma della dialettica, del sofisma» (Consolo 1999: 121), in sostituzione della violenza, delle passioni istintive che guidavano i contadini di Verga5. Lo spazio ristretto del villaggio di Trezza, allora, «si restringe ancora di più, si riduce alla stanza borghese, in quella che Giovanni Macchia chiama “la stanza della tortura”, dove si compie ogni violenza, lacerazione, crisi, frantumazione della realtà, perdita di identità. Il movimento, in quella stanza, è solo verbale» (Consolo 1999: 269). 4 Consolo aveva espresso queste idee già nel 1986, in Sirene siciliane, considerando, però, questa «Divisione ideale, immaginaria, […]. E questa idealità è subito contraddetta fatalmente dalla realtà, da spostamenti di autori da una parte verso l’altra: di un poeta come l’abate Meli, per esempio, verso l’Arcadia, verso la mitologia dell’Oriente, o del grande De Roberto verso la storia o lo storicismo d’Occidente» (Consolo 1999: 178-179). 5 Queste idee sono confermate nel 1999, ne Lo spazio in letteratura. Pirandello avrebbe rotto «il cerchio linguistico verghiano», portandolo «su una infinita linearità attraverso il processo verbale, la perorazione, la dialettica, i dissoi lógoi: […] squarcia la scena con la lama dell’umorismo, trasforma l’antica tragedia nel moderno dramma» (Consolo 1999: 269). Non stupisce, dunque, che i due autori, Pirandello e Verga, siano posti uno di fronte all’altro ne L’olivo e l’olivastro. E non è certamente un caso che sia Pirandello, in questo testo, a rendersi conto dell’isolamento, dell’estraneità, nel suo stesso ambiente, retrivo, di Verga, estraneità che un sapiente uso dell’aggettivazione, delle figure retoriche (anafore, metafore, enumerazioni) sottolinea, costituendo, appunto, un 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 (Consolo 1994: 67). «Follia del presente» (Consolo 1994: 67) è sicuramente anche quella descritta da Consolo in gran parte dei suoi lavori: pensiamo alla realtà distorta, stravolta, frantumata propria di tutti i testi consoliani, da Il sorriso dell’ignoto marinaio a Lo Spasimo di Palermo. Giustamente, quindi, Consolo è, sostiene Anna Frabetti, un «autore di linea pirandelliana […] in cui il sublime precipita in umoristico, il dramma borghese […] degenera nella “vastasata”, nella farsa del mondo rovesciato, privo di centro» (1995: 1). Una «Vastasata» (Consolo 1985: 10), del resto, è presente in Lunaria, in cui il Vicerè recita «la sua parte di sovrano» (Consolo 1985: 26), definisce «finzione la vita» (Consolo 1985: 66), si mostra consapevole, ricorrendo ad interrogative retoriche ed enumerazioni, della vanità, del carattere relativo del reale: «Dov’è Abacena, Apollonia, Agatirno, Entella, Ibla, Selinunte? Dov’è Ninive, Tebe, Babilonia, Menfi, Persepoli, Palmira? Tutto è maceria, sabbia, polvere, erbe e arbusti ch’hanno coperto i loro resti» (Consolo 1985: 61); e Tutti commentano, con sapiente uso delle figure retoriche: «Così è stato e così [anafora] sempre sarà [poliptoto]: rovinano potenze, tramontano imperi regni civiltà [enumerazione], cadono astri, si sfaldano, si spengono [climax], uguale sorte hanno mitologie credenze religioni. Ogni fine è dolore, smarrimento ogni mutazione [chiasmo], stiamo saldi, pazienza, in altri teatri, su nuove illusioni nascono certezze» (Consolo 1985: 34). E la Sesta donna: «Tutto si frantuma, / cade, passa [climax]» (Consolo 1985: 54). Su questa scia, nella prima sezione di Retablo, Isidoro scorge, nella chiesa di S. Lorenzo, una statua, che reca sul piedistallo la parola«VERITAS» (Consolo 1992: 19), dalle fattezze simili a quelle di Rosalia, ad attestare il carattere apparente, relativo del reale. Lo stesso significato ha, nella terza sezione, l’espressione «Bella, la verità» (Consolo 1992: 149)6 ripetuta da Rosalia che, del resto, sottolinea esplicitamente il contrasto fra apparenza e realtà: «Bagascia, sì, all’apparenza, ma per il bene nostro, tuo e mio»; «Fu per questo che scappai, ch’accettai questa parte dell’amante, questa figura della mantenuta» (Consolo 1992: 149, 155). Se pirandelliana è la costrizione dell’individuo in una forma, Pirandello offre pure le coordinate con cui spiegare l’aspirazione ad essere diversi da quello che si è e con cui si ritiene che ciò sia possibile modificando l’aspetto esteriore, la propria forma, a svuotare di consistenza ruoli e funzioni. Ecco che Consolo, ne Le vele apparivano a Mozia, ricorda come l’«autista-inserviente-guardiano» del pittore Guttuso7, «dal bel nome greco dalla Spagna poi donato alla Sicilia d’Isidoro8 […] come nella novella di Pirandello Sua Maestà, in un desiderio di mimesi, di immedesimazione, si vestiva alla stessa maniera del padrone: giacca e pantaloni blu, camicia azzurra, pullover rosso, fazzoletto rosso che trabocca dal taschino» (Consolo 2012: 124). Anche l’importanza data ai nomi si pone, del resto, sulla scia di Pirandello, che – è noto – istituisce uno stretto «rapporto» fra «nome – identità dei personaggi» (De Villi2013: 278), «per affinità o per antifrasi» (De Villi 2013: 277). Analogamente Consolo esclama: «il destino dei nomi!» (Consolo 2012: 128)9. E la parola, il nome è spesso segno di predestinazione o di destino. Dei nomi dati agli uomini, voglio dire, e dei destini degli uomini: il destino dei nomi. Ma non sappiamo se è l’uomo sul nascere, già segnato da un destino, che si versa e assesta dentro il suo giusto e appropriato involucro di nome (e cognome) oppure se sono il nome e il cognome che, capitati per caso sulla pelle di un uomo come maglietta e brache, ne incidono le carni, ne determinano cioè il destino (Consolo 2012: 66). Definisce, così, le poesie della poetessa Assunta Della Musa, «fra le più ispirate, le più eccitate, le più squisite e belle tra le poesie d’amore scritte in tutti i tempi e in tutti i luoghi. […] Può una donna di nome Assunta Della Musa, coniugata ad Apollo Barilà, non scrivere poesie, essere della poesia, essere la poesia? Essere Erato, la poesia erotica?» (Consolo 2012: 69). Perciò, non a caso, con chiara allusione al leopardiano Dialogo di Plotino e Porfirio, in cui quest’ultimo è 6 Cfr., su questo argomento, Galvagno 2015: 39-64. 7 È, questi, l’unico pittore a cui Consolo attribuisce, ne L’enorme realtà, «il dono della capacità del racconto, della rappresentazione […] che hanno avuto scrittori come Verga, come Pirandello, come Sciascia» (Consolo 1999: 271). 8 Con caratteristiche simili, a confermare l’importanza dei nomi, in Lunaria si chiama Isidoro il maestro di cerimonie del Vicerè, attento alle apparenze, «intransigente custode di […] inderogabili forme palatine» (16). 9 In Lunaria, gli abitanti della «selvaggia Contrada senza nome» sono «uomini senza legge, senza lingua, senza storia, anime boschive, […]» (61).
consapevole della «vanità di ogni cosa» (Leopardi 1978: 530), si chiama Porfirio il valletto di Casimiro, il vicerè di Lunaria, che non prende mai la parola, ma è consapevole della «recitazione» (Consolo 1985: 10) del suo signore. Lucia, poi, si chiama – per antifrasi in rapporto all’etimologia del nome –, la sorella di Petro Marano, affetta da disturbi mentali. E il quinto capitolo di Nottetempo, casa per casa, che la mostra, alla fine, pazza, reca, in epigrafe, una battuta di Come tu mi vuoi: «Chiami, chi sa da qual momento lontano… felice…/ della tua vita, a cui sei rimasta sospesa… là…» (Consolo 1992: 59). Erasmo, ancora, con probabile riferimento ad Erasmo da Rotterdam e al suo Elogio della follia – oltre che, a confermare la rilevanza attribuita dal nostro scrittore allo spazio – al piano di sant’Erasmo, nei dintorni di Palermo, si chiama il «vecchietto lindo, bizzarro» (Consolo 1998: 103) de Lo Spasimo di Palermo, a cui è affidato il compito di mettere in evidenza, alla fine del romanzo, l’importanza della letteratura. Costui, infatti, coinvolto nell’attentato al giudice Borsellino, recita, in punto di morte, 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) E, ancora, Consolo dichiara: «La salvezza è stata solo nel linguaggio. Nella capacità di liberare il mondo dal suo caos, di rinominarlo, ricrearlo in un ordine di necessità e di ragione» (Consolo 1999: 272). Petro Marano, perciò, si aggrappa «alla parole, ai nomi di cose vere, visibili, concrete», desideroso di «rinominare, ricreare il mondo» (Consolo 1992: 42-43). Egli, poi, alla fine si rifugia a Tunisi, così come anche Lando Laurentano avrebbe voluto imbarcarsi per Malta o per Tunisi (Pirandello 1953: 394). Consolo, quindi, mette in relazione, attraverso la figura di Antonio Crisafi de La pallottola in testa, il disagio, l’estraneità dell’intellettuale nella moderna società, sia quella del «Meridione depresso» (Consolo 2012: 157) sia quella legata all’avvento dei mass media, della televisione, all’isolamento del professor Lamis de L’eresia catara di Pirandello. Ed anche in Un giorno come gli altri, discutendo della funzione dell’intellettuale, Consolo si richiama a Pirandello. A proposito, infatti, della differenza, instaurata da Moravia e Vittorini, fra artista e intellettuale, egli asserisce: A me la distinzione sembra vecchia, mi ricorda l’affermazione di Pirandello: “La vita, o la si scrive o la si vive”. Ché l’alternativa, oltre a valere per tutti, non solo per l’artista, dopo Marx non ha più senso. Oggi siamo tutti intellettuali, siamo tutti politici, […]. Il problema mi sembra che stia nel voler essere o no dentro le “regole”, nel voler essere o no, totalmente, incondizionatamente, dentro un partito, dentro la logica “politica” di un partito. Questo mi sembra il punto, il punto di Vittorini (Consolo 2012: 91-92). Arriva, quindi, alla sua celebre distinzione fra scrivere e narrare: Riprendo a lavorare a un articolo per un rotocalco sul poeta Lucio Piccolo. Mi accorgo che l’articolo mi è diventato racconto, che più che parlare di Piccolo […] in termini razionali, critici, parlo di me, della mia adolescenza in Sicilia, di mio nonno, del mio paese: mi sono lasciato prendere la mano dall’onda piacevole del ricordo, della memoria. […] È […] il narrare, operazione che attinge quasi sempre alla memoria, […]. Diverso è lo scrivere, […] operazione […] impoetica, estranea alla memoria, che è madre della poesia, come si dice. E allora è questo il dilemma, se bisogna scrivere o narrare. Con lo scrivere si può forse cambiare il mondo, con il narrare non si può, perché il narrare è rappresentare il mondo, cioè ricrearne un altro sulla carta (Consolo 2012: 92)10. Pirandello simboleggia la Sicilia, insieme a Verga, Meli, Capuana, secondo il mafioso catanese, sottoposto al 41 bis nel carcere di Opera – Milano, dopo aver «fatto un bel po’ di strada negli affari, appalti, commerci vari» (Consolo 2012: 216): Consolo ironizza sulla politica separatista, portata avanti dal Movimento indipendentista siciliano di Finocchiaro Aprile e, di conseguenza, sulla politica della Lega Nord, sottolineando ancora una volta l’importanza della memoria storica. Si pone, ancora, accanto a Pirandello, dichiarando che Il sorriso dell’ignoto marinaio «era d’impianto storico» ma «voleva anche dire metaforicamente del momento che allora si viveva, a Milano e altrove» (Consolo 2012: 119): «(si svolgeva negli anni del Risorgimento e dell’impresa garibaldina: nodo di passaggio storico importante per il Meridione e banco di prova della maggior parte degli scrittori siciliani – Verga, De Roberto, Pirandello, Lampedusa, Sciascia…)» (Consolo 2012: 119)11, accomunati tutti, «da Verga a De Roberto, a Pirandello», da «un costante immobilismo» (Consolo 1999: 169)12, pur nella diversità delle posizioni ideologiche. In particolare, se la rinuncia a rappresentare la rivolta parrebbe accomunare Il sorriso dell’ignoto marinaio a I vecchi e i giovani, le motivazioni dei due scrittori sono differenti. Consolo, consapevole «dei limiti di classe degli intellettuali», nutre «sfiducia nella possibilità, da parte della letteratura, di rendere la visione e il sentire delle classi subalterne senza stravolgimenti mistificatori»; Pirandello, invece, è mosso da un profondo «pessimismo» che lo induce «a svalutare anche gli eventi più tragici ed epocali come frutto di vane illusioni e follie destinate ad essere cancellate dal 10 Nel 1997, richiamandosi alle tesi espresse da Walter Benjamin in Angelus novus, Consolo preciserà: «E c’è, nella narrazione, un’idea pratica di giustezza e di giustizia, un’esigenza di moralità». (Consolo 1999: 144). Per quest’argomento, cfr. Francese 2015. L’influsso di Benjamin su Consolo è stato evidenziato anche da Daragh O’Connell (2008: 161-184), che ricorda la traduzione in italiano de Il narratore di Benjamin effettuata, per Einaudi, da Renato Solmi nel 1962 (162, nota 2). 11 Pure ne Il sorriso, vent’anni dopo, Consolo asserisce che il suo romanzo è nato da una «rilettura della letteratura che investe il Risorgimento, soprattutto siciliana, ch’era sempre critica, antirisorgimentale, che partiva da Verga e, per De Roberto e Pirandello, arrivava allo Sciascia de Il Quarantotto, fino al Lampedusa de Il Gattopardo» (Consolo 1999: 279). 12 Consolo ricorda come i critici di orientamento lukácsiano avessero posto Il Gattopardo accanto a I Vicerè di De Roberto e a I vecchi e i giovani di Pirandello (Consolo 1999: 173). tempo, […]» (Baldi 2014: 254). In entrambi i romanzi, però, il Risorgimento si risolve in una «disillusione del vecchio sogno della terra» (Consolo 2012: 109)13 e nei pensieri di Lando Laurentano si scorge un’eco di quei contrasti di classe che Consolo pone in primo piano14: «Da una parte il costume feudale, l’uso di trattar come bestie i contadini, e l’avarizia e l’usura; dall’altra l’odio inveterato e feroce contro i signori e la sconfidenza assoluta nella giustizia, si paravano come ostacoli insormontabili a ogni tentativo per quella cooperazione» (Pirandello 1953: 392)15. E precedentemente, ascoltando il discorso di Cataldo Sclàfani, considera: «Una buona legge agraria, una lieve riforma dei patti colonici, un lieve miglioramento dei magri salarii, la mezzadria a oneste condizioni, come quelle della Toscana e della Lombardia, come quelle accordate da lui nei suoi possedimenti, sarebbero bastati a soddisfare e a quietare quei miseri […]» (Pirandello 1953: 288). Ne Il sorriso dell’ignoto marinaio, del resto, anche la figura di Garibaldi, su cui si concentrano le aspettative dei ‘giovani’ (Roberto Auriti, Mauro Mortara, Corrado Selmi, Rosario Trigona), consente di stabilire delle corrispondenze con Pirandello. Consolo, difatti, sottolinea il favore ottenuto da Garibaldi («[…] vanno dicendo che [Garibaldi] gli dà giustizia e terre.»), ritenuto però, al tempo stesso, un «Brigante. Nemico di Dio e di Sua Maestà il Re […] Scanna monache e brucia conventi, rapina chiese, preda i galantuomini e protegge avanzi di galera…» (Consolo 2004: 66). E ribadisce le sue riserve su Garibaldi anche in altri testi. Parlando, nel 1982, della rivolta di Bronte, dell’agosto 1860, Consolo, oltre ad evidenziare la «crudeltà», la «sommarietà di giustizia» (Consolo 2012: 108) di Bixio, afferma riguardo Garibaldi: In questa annata di celebrazione garibaldinesca in chiave post-moderna, in cui tutti gli stili, le citazioni, i repêchages si fanno stile, in cui le pagine chiare e oscure, le glorie e le vergogne, le vittime e gli scheletri, più che nascosti nell’armadio, esibiti si fanno levigato stile eroico, gloriosa epopea da consumo, soffermarsi 13 Scrive Pirandello: «Sì, aveva esposto la verità dei fatti quel deputato siciliano: quei contadini di Sicilia, […] s’erano recati a zappare le terre demaniali usurpate dai maggiorenti del paese, amministratori ladri dei beni patrimoniali del Comune: intimoriti dall’intervento dei soldati, avevano sospeso il lavoro ed erano accorsi a reclamare al Municipio la divisione di quelle terre; […]» (Pirandello 1953: 238). 14 Pensiamo a quest’episodio, che trova corrispondenza nella terza scritta al nono capitolo: «“Ah ah, puzzo di merda, papà, ah ah” sentirono ancora alle spalle che faceva Salvatorino, grasso come ‘na femmina, babbalèo, mammolino, ancora a quindici anni sempre col dito in bocca, la bava e il moccio, unico erede, presciutto tesoro calasìa, al padre professore Ignazio e al nonno sindaco, il notaio Bàrtolo. / Tanticchia girò la testa sopra il tronco e lo guatò sbieco. / “Garrusello e figlio di garruso alletterato!” disse, e poi sputò per terra, bianco e sodo, tondo come un’onza» (Consolo 2004: 95-96). 15 Lo stesso Consolo ricorda le «Insurrezioni che spesso non sono solo contro i borbonici, ma di contadini e braccianti contro i loro nemici di sempre, i nobili e i borghesi che quasi dappertutto avevano usurpato terre demaniali» (Consolo 2012: 107). 178 su un episodio come quello di Bronte, estrapolarlo dal contesto post-moderno, appunto, può farci apparire fuori moda, arretrati, forse striduli (Consolo 2012: 107) Ma che Consolo consideri in modo non del tutto positivo Garibaldi e il suo influsso è dimostrato, ancora, dai giudizi formulati nell’articolo Il più bel monumento: Questo ironico (speriamo) e autoironico personaggio, nella sua campagna d’Italia, non fece che imitare, nel dire, nel fare e nel posare, il monumento di sé ch’era già idealmente eretto, in uno spassoso scambio tra l’immagine e il reale, in gara di esaltazione e in doppio accrescimento senza fine. Tutti rimasero vittime del giuoco, e ogni città e villa non poté che innalzargli il monumento. […] Ed era questo che Garibaldi in fondo desiderava: volare, volare in un teatrino d’invenzione per dimenticare le colpe e sopire i rimorsi che dentro gli rodevano (Consolo 2012: 70-71). Analogamente, nella novella pirandelliana L’altro figlio, Garibaldi è colui che «fece ribellare a ogni legge degli uomini e di Dio campagne e città» (Pirandello 1955: 242). E Maragrazia prosegue, servendosi di enumerazioni, metafore, esclamazioni, paragoni, puntini di sospensione, per coinvolgere emotivamente il lettore e rendere il suo racconto più persuasivo: […] vossignoria deve sapere che questo Canebardo diede ordine, quando venne, che fossero aperte tutte le carceri di tutti i paesi. Ora, si figuri vossignoria che ira di Dio si scatenò allora per le nostre campagne! I peggiori ladri, i peggiori assassini, bestie selvagge, sanguinarie, arrabbiate da tanti anni di catena… Tra gli altri, ce n’era uno, il più feroce, un certo Cola Camizzi, capo-brigante, che ammazzava le povere creature di Dio, così, per piacere, come se fossero mosche, per provare la polvere, – diceva – per vedere se la carabina era parata bene. […] Ah, che vidi! […] Giocavano… là, in quel cortile… alle bocce… ma con teste d’uomini… nere, piene di terra… le tenevano acciuffate pei capelli… e una, quella di mio marito… la teneva lui, Cola Camizzi… e me la mostrò. […] cane assassino! (Pirandello 1955: 242-244). Pirandello è per Consolo, ancora, il termine di paragone attraverso cui giudicare i testi della contemporaneità, a metterne in evidenza la vitalità, il carattere paradigmatico. Asserisce così: «La storia di Creatura di sabbia [di Tahar Ben Jelloun] è una delle più felici invenzioni letterarie del romanzo contemporaneo, uguale forse, per la metafora, per la verità profonda che riesce a liberare, a quella de Il fu Mattia Pascal di Pirandello» (Consolo 1999: 232-233). Analogamente, pure vari aspetti della produzione di Sciascia sono spiegati in rapporto a Pirandello. Nella prefazione a Le epigrafi di Leonardo Sciascia di Pino Di Silvestro, Consolo considera quale «più grande epigrafe di tutta l’opera di Sciascia, non scritta ma vistosamente implicita, […] la stanza della tortura pirandelliana declinata sul piano della storia, sul palcoscenico della violenza, della sconfitta» (Consolo 1999: 202). Tre anni più tardi, nel 1999, Consolo, evidenziando la funzione civile sottesa all’opera di Sciascia, gli attribuisce il merito di avere spostato «la dialettica pirandelliana dalla stanza alla piazza, nella civile agorà» (Consolo 1999: 269). Sciascia, allora, in questa sua «conversazione loica e laica sui fatti sociali e politici» si rivela «figlio di Pirandello» (Consolo 1999: 186), al punto tale che il personaggio narrante di Todo modo è «nato e per anni vissuto in luoghi pirandelliani, tra personaggi pirandelliani – al punto [dice] che tra le pagine dello scrittore e la vita che avevo vissuto fin oltre la giovinezza, non c’era più scarto, e nella memoria e nei sentimenti» (Consolo 1999: 187-188). Quest’interesse, questa consonanza di idee con Pirandello, porta Consolo a riunire in Di qua dal faro, con il titolo di Asterischi su Pirandello, alcuni saggi dedicati allo scrittore agrigentino, pubblicati fra il 1986 e il 1997. In Album Pirandello Consolo ribadisce la funzione modellizzante che lo spazio ha esercitato su tutta la famiglia dello scrittore agrigentino: «quell’albero genealogico […] dispiega i suoi rami contro un cielo di luce crudele, affonda le sue radici in quell’asperrimo terreno che è la Sicilia, in quel caos di marne e di zolfi che è Girgenti» (Consolo 1999: 150). E così anche l’eclissi di sole a cui assistette «graverà sul mondo dello scrittore» (Consolo 1999: 150) e si combinerà con «quella […] della città in cui si trovò a vivere, di Girgenti. Una città dove è morta la storia, la civiltà, lasciando il vuoto, il deserto, […] la stasi, l’immobilità» (Consolo 1999: 150-151). Ricordiamo, difatti, che Consolo, ne L’olivo e l’olivastro e ne Lo Spasimo di Palermo, per esempio, individua, nella perdita della memoria storica, la causa della crisi del presente. Scrive così: «si può mai narrare senza la memoria?»; «Non è vero, io non so scrivere di Milano, non ho memoria» (Consolo 2012: 88, 97). Unica soluzione, allora, l’evasione, come quelle di Mattia Pascal o di Enrico IV, oppure rivestire delle forme, difenderle con le armi della dialettica, del sofisma, della retorica. L’operazione di Pirandello sembra perciò trovare dei riscontri nell’età contemporanea, in cui «l’io s’è perso nell’indistinta massa, la vita nelle prigioni sempre più disumane delle forme imposte dal potere, l’essere nell’apparire fantasmatico dei media» (Consolo 1999: 152). E non dimentichiamo che pure Consolo considera negativamente l’omologazione. Gioacchino Martinez, per esempio, sul treno che lo conduce a Palermo, prova piacere «a risentire quei suoni, quelle cadenze meridionali, quelle parlate che non erano più dialetto, ma non ancora la trucida nuova lingua nazionale» (Consolo 1998: 94-95) annunciata da Pasolini. Il viaggiatore de L’olivo e l’olivastro, poi, giudica «vacui» i giovani che, «con l’orecchino al lobo, i lunghi capelli legati sulla nuca» (Consolo 1994: 112), affollano la piazza di Avola. Altri legami fra Pirandello e Consolo ne L’ulivo e la giara. Gli stucchi di Giacomo Serpotta, che lo scrittore agrigentino ebbe modo, molto probabilmente, di osservare nella chiesa di Santo Spirito, con il loro carattere «mortuario […] fantasmatico» che «ha colto il pittore Fabrizio Clerici nella sua Confessione palermitana» (Consolo 1999: 156), hanno influenzato pure Consolo, il quale, in Retablo, chiama Fabrizio Clerici il protagonista e descrive le sculture in stucco dell’oratorio di via Immacolatella di Procopio Serpotta, figlio di Giacomo. «La bianca, spettrale fantasmagoria serpottiana» (Consolo 1999: 156), inoltre, richiama la «servetta Fantasia» attraverso cui i vari personaggi delle opere letterarie si materializzano, così come Macchia per Pirandello e Carandente per Serpotta parlano del «cannocchiale rovesciato» (Consolo 1999: 157). Analogamente, la superiorità di Cefalù su Palermo, sostenuta da Consolo varie volte16, è colta anche da Pirandello. Consolo immagina che questi, in viaggio da Palermo a Sant’Agata, in preda alla profonda suggestione «che gli suscitavano i nomi dei paesi: Solunto, Himera, Cefalù, Halaesa, Calacte…», si accorge che, «dopo Cefalù, il mondo colorato, vociante e brulicante del Palermitano andava a poco a poco stemperandosi [per] a prendere gradualmente una misura più dimessa, ma forse più serena» (Consolo 1999: 157-158). Pirandello, a confermare l’importanza dei luoghi, ebbe sicuramente presente, secondo Consolo, «il ricordo di quel suo lontano viaggio nel Val Dèmone» (Consolo 1999: 161) nello scrivere La giara, «la prima fuga nella memoria e nel ricordo, fuga dalla sua vita e dai fantasmi “pirandelliani” che lo assediavano» (Consolo 1999: 160). La novella, perciò, giudicata di recente una «divertita denuncia dell’intrinseca capziosità sia delle vicende che delle soluzioni giuridiche, calata in pieghe di umoristica densità» (Zappulla Muscarà 2007: 143), acquista nuovo significato nell’interpretazione di Consolo. La giara è per lui, infatti, a richiamare la sua tipica figura chiave della chiocciola, della spirale, sia «l’involucro della nascita, l’utero» sia «la tomba», mentre «quell’olio che la giara avrebbe dovuto contenere viene sì dall’ulivo saraceno, ma viene anche dall’albero sacro ad Atena, dea della sapienza» (Consolo 1999: 161-162), a ricordare la commistione delle due culture, araba e greca, della Sicilia. Consolo può allora vedere nel pino di Pirandello, tranciato, un simbolo degli «scadimenti, delle perdite, reali e simboliche, nel nostro Paese» (Consolo 1999: 163), a confermare la «visione del mondo, della vita come caos, mutamento incessante di forme, […] approdo all’assenza, al nulla» (Consolo 1999: 165). Anche in ciò Consolo si trova in consonanza con Sciascia17, che commenta, alla fine di Fuoco dell’anima: «Questa è la classe dirigente – per meglio dire digerente – che preferisce fare il pino di plastica piuttosto che salvare quello vero. Ed è così per tante, tante altre cose…» (Consolo 1999: 164). Con tutto questo, Consolo mostra l’importanza della ricezione dei testi letterari, avvicinandosi al lector in fabula descritto da Eco (1979). 16 Mi sia consentito, per questo, un rimando a Gallo 2017: 287-296. 17 Gianni Turchetta sottolinea, a proposito del termine ‘impostura’ de Il sorriso dell’ignoto marinaio, i legami di Consolo con Sciascia (2015: 1304-1305). Ne Lo Spasimo di Palermo, inoltre, Gioacchino Martinez legge, ne La corda pazza, la vita di Antonio Veneziano (115) e il narratore ricorda il «rifugio in Solferino dove Sciascia patì la malattia, sua del corpo e insieme quella mortale del Paese» (93-94). Vincenzo Consolo lettore di Pirandello 181

Bibliografia
Baldi G., 2014, Microscopie, Napoli, Liguori. Consolo V., 1985, Lunaria, Torino, Einaudi. Consolo V., 1992, Nottetempo, casa per casa, Milano, Mondadori. Consolo V., 1992, Retablo, Milano, Mondadori. Consolo V., 1994, L’olivo e l’olivastro, Milano, Mondadori. Consolo V., 1998, Lo Spasimo di Palermo, Milano, Mondadori. Consolo V., 1999, Di qua dal faro, Milano, Mondadori. Consolo V., 2004, Il sorriso dell’ignoto marinaio, Milano, Mondadori. Consolo V., 2012, La mia isola è Las Vegas, Milano, Mondadori. Consolo V., 2015, L’opera completa, a cura e con un saggio introduttivo di Gianni Turchetta e uno scritto di Cesare Serge, Milano, Mondadori, «I Meridiani». De Villi A. I., 2013, «Pasquale Marzano, Quando il nome è “cosa seria”. L’onomastica nelle novelle di Luigi Pirandello», (Pisa, ETS, 2008, 206 p.), OBLIO III, 9-10, p. 277-279. Eco U., 1979, Lector in fabula, Milano, Bompiani. Frabetti A., 1995, «L’“infinita derivanza”. Intertestualità e parodia in Vincenzo Consolo», Bollettino ‘900, n. zero, maggio, n. 1, http://www.comune.bologna. it/iperbole/boll900/consolo.htm Francese J., 2015, Vincenzo Consolo, Firenze, University Press. Gallo C., 2017, La Yoknapatawpha di Vincenzo Consolo, in: Sgavicchia S., Tortora M., Geografie della modernità letteraria, Pisa, ETS, I, p. 287-296. Galvagno R., 2015, «“Bella, la verità”. Figure della verità in alcuni testi di Vincenzo Consolo,» in: Diverso è lo scrivere. Scrittura poetica dell’impegno in Vincenzo Consolo, Avellino, Edizioni Sinestesie, p. 39-64. Leopardi G., 1978, I Canti. Operette morali, Roma, Casa Editrice Bietti. O’Connell D., 2008, «Consolo narratore e scrittore palincestuoso», Quaderns d’Italià, 13, p. 161-184. Pirandello L., 1953, I vecchi e i giovani, in: Tutti i romanzi, vol. II, Milano, Mondadori. Pirandello L., 1955, Novelle per un anno, Milano, Mondadori, vol. II. Turchetta G., 2015, «Note e notizie sui testi», in: Consolo V., L’opera completa, p. 1271-1455. Zappulla Muscarà S., 2007, «La Giara e La patente fra narrativa e teatro ovvero Pirandello nell’isola del sofisma», in: Lauretta E., Novella di Pirandello: dramma, film, musica, fumetto, Pesaro, Metauro, p. 143-167.700

Vincenzo Consolo e Andrea Zanzotto: un «archeologo della lingua» e un «botanico di grammatiche»

Laura Toppan.

Nella conversazione  Le Pietre di Pantalica – uscita sul Corriere della Sera del 13 febbraio 1989 –, Consolo risponde che la sua «consonanza con Zanzotto è evidente». Una consonanza stilistico-formale, con la sola differenza che il poeta di Pieve di Soligo l’ha declinata in poesia e Consolo in prosa. Zanzotto è un poeta che egli ha «moltissimo amato e letto» e va da sé che la stima profonda fosse reciproca, a giudicare anche, come vedremo, dal tono della recensione di Zanzotto e dall’omaggio esplicito di Consolo allo stesso poeta ne Lo Spasimo di Palermo (1998). I due autori si sono frequentati poco, ma ‘studiati’ da lontano, con un’attenzione costante al lavoro dell’altro. Due autori profondamente diversi, ma animati entrambi dalla volontà di resistere alla mercificazione e alla corruzione del linguaggio e di tentare l’ardua impresa di restituire una dignità alla lingua letteraria attraverso la tradizione, rinnovandola e, in un certo senso, ‘stravolgendola’ anche, quella tradizione che il Gruppo ’63 cercava in qualche modo di ‘azzerare’ e da cui sia Consolo che Zanzotto si sentivano lontanissimi, seppur ne fossero incuriositi, e con cui si dovettero comunque misurare.

2Dal confronto / scontro con i “Novissimi” si sono quindi ‘sprigionati’ due percorsi molto originali, in linea più con il Pasolini (2000: 5-24) delle Nuove questioni linguistiche del ’64, che con i Neoavanguardisti del ’63. Nel suo saggio Pasolini non si proponeva di definire un modello ideale di lingua nazionale, ma si concentrava piuttosto su un’analisi socio-linguistica del contesto italiano del dopoguerra e in particolare degli anni del boom economico. Egli vedeva nell’italiano della nuova civiltà industriale delle trasformazioni portate dall’arrivo del lessico tecnico, tipico del settore industriale. In effetti, mentre dal dopoguerra sino agli anni Sessanta aveva prevalso piuttosto l’asse delle parlate Roma-Napoli, a partire dagli anni Sessanta in poi prevarrà soprattutto quello dell’asse Milano-Torino, polo industriale attrattivo per tutta una massa di persone provenienti dall’Est e dal Nord del paese. Pasolini registrava quindi la cessazione, per l’italiano, dell’osmosi con il latino e intuiva che la guida della lingua non sarebbe più stata la letteratura, ma la tecnica, che il fine della lingua sarebbe ora rientrato nel ciclo produzione-consumo. Contro queste trasformazioni Pasolini cerca di resistere, e così fanno Consolo e Zanzotto che, attentissimi ai mutamenti del cosiddetto italiano ‘standard’, si costruiscono un percorso tutto personale in materia di sperimentazione linguistica, di lingua poetica, diverso comunque anche dall’operazione dello stesso Pasolini. Lo scrittore siciliano infatti scriverà:

La mia sperimentazione […] non andava verso la verghiana irradiazione dialettale del codice toscano né verso la digressione dialettale di Pasolini o la degradazione polifonica di Gadda, ma verso un impasto linguistico o una “plurivocità”, come poi l’avrebbe chiamata Segre (nell’Introduzione a Il Sorriso dell’ignoto marinaio), che mi permetteva di non adottare un codice linguistico imposto (Consolo 1993: 16)

  • 2 Cfr. Zanzotto 1999: 1104: «Certo anche un fenomeno come quello da loro rappresentato ha pienezza (…)

Zanzotto, dal canto suo, in un’intervista dal titolo L’italiano siamo noi (otto brevi risposte)2 del ’62 osservava:

Il latino è oggi una faglia che s’apre nel terreno discusso dell’italiano, è più un richiamo agli Inferi (come i dialetti, seppure con diverso significato) che ai Superi. (Zanzotto 1999: 1104)

Il ’62 è anche l’anno della recensione di Zanzotto in cui prende distanza dai Novissimi (Zanzotto 1999: 1105-1113), oltre che della pubblicazione di IX Ecloghe, raccolta in cui la lingua inizia ad aprirsi agli inserti che derivano dal registro scientifico tecnologico (mucillagini, cariocinesi, geyser, anancasma, macromolecola) e che convivono con latinismi, arcaismi, recuperi danteschi e letterari in generale. Il latino, in particolare, interviene spesso a fungere da ‘mediatore’ tra il repertorio tradizionale e la terminologia tecnica (Dal Bianco 2011: XXV).

3Fin dai loro esordi letterari, quindi, sia Consolo che Zanzotto cercano di costruirsi una lingua poetica, una lingua della creazione che attraversi tutta la tradizione letteraria italiana ed europea (ed extra-europea) risalendo verticalmente sino alle origini della/e lingua/e, in un’immersione da cui poi le parole risalgano rigenerate o vengano riscoperte. Consolo spiegherà:

[le parole] le trovo nella mia memoria, nel mio patrimonio linguistico, ma sono frutto anche di mie ricerche, di miei scavi storico-lessicali. Sin dal primo libro sono partito da una estremità linguistica, mi sono collocato, come narrante, in un’isola linguistica, in una colonia lombarda di Sicilia, San Fratello, dove si parla un antico dialetto, il gallo-italico. […] Quelle parole, irreperibili nei vocaboli italiani, hanno però una loro storia, una loro dignità filologica: la loro etimologia la si può trovare nel greco, nell’arabo, nel francese, nello spagnolo…Quei materiali lessicali li utilizzo per una mia organizzazione di suoni oltre che di significati. (Consolo 1993: 54)

  • 3 Si veda Consolo 2015: XCIX: «C’era il cognatino di un mio fratello, che era qui [a Milano], all’U (…)
  • 4 Intervista a Vincenzo Consolo: R.A.I., serie Scrittori per un anno, http://www.letteratura.rai.it (…)
  • 5 Interessanti sono gli scritti di Consolo sulla mafia, che vanno dai primi anni Settanta sino al 2 (…)

4Ma se la sperimentazione linguistica dello scrittore siciliano e del poeta di Pieve di Soligo – ormai due “classici” del secondo Novecento italiano – è un punto forte e comune, il loro percorso di vita è, potremmo dire, all’opposto. Consolo parte dalla Sicilia all’inizio degli anni Cinquanta per andare a studiare a Milano3, città che poi sceglierà per vivere e lavorare, anche perché «era la stessa in cui operava Vittorini, dove aveva passato circa un ventennio Verga nell’Ottocento e dove aveva avuto luogo la rivoluzione industriale»4, secondo le parole dello stesso Consolo in un’intervista per la R.A.I. della serie Scrittori per un anno. Il capoluogo lombardo diventa il luogo privilegiato da cui osservare la propria isola e il mondo, con continue partenze e ritorni tra Nord e Sud e frequenti viaggi all’estero, per quella sua necessità irrefrenabile di movimento spaziale, nel tentativo di capire e di interpretare i grandi eventi epocali: le nuove migrazioni, le ingiustizie, le connivenze, come il fenomeno mafioso a cui Consolo dedicherà molte riflessioni5. La scrittura diventa quindi un’arma per opporsi ai poteri, denuncia contro i mali del nostro tempo. Zanzotto, al contrario, rimane praticamente ‘stanziale’ per tutta la vita, se escludiamo brevi soggiorni a Milano e il periodo in cui partì per la Svizzera tra il ’46 e il ’47 per un’esperienza di lavoro: entro il perimetro geografico della sua Pieve, ai piedi delle Alpi trevigiane e attorniato dal paesaggio dei colli, egli osserva il mondo locale e globale, cercando di interpretarne i cambiamenti. Questo piccolo centro, la sua Pieve, ha rappresentato non il punto fermo di un universo in movimento, ma un luogo che il poeta ha visto ‘girare e muoversi’ secondo ritmi sempre più rapidi, sino a diventare quasi irriconoscibile, inghiottito dalla mostruosa conurbazione che va dal Garda al Friuli e che è chiamata «la Los Angeles veneta». In Consolo, invece, sarà la sua isola, la Sicilia, ad essere sempre il punto di partenza: «Io porto in me questo unico punto del mondo, questo paese» (Consolo 2014: 137-138), e aggiunge:

  • 6 Cfr. lo scritto Memorie, in Consolo 2014.

Mi sono ispirato, narrando, a questo mio paese, mi sono allontanato da lui per narrare altre storie, di altri paesi, di altre forme. Però sempre, in quel poco che ho scritto, ho fatalmente portato con me i segni incancellabili di questo luogo. (Consolo 2014: 135)6

  • 7 Zanzotto 1999: CXIII-CXIV: «[…] terminato l’anno scolastico [il poeta] ’45-’46 decide di emigrare (…)

E il narrare è da intendersi nell’accezione definita da Benjamin (2011) nel saggio Il narratore. Considerazioni sull’opera di Nicola Leskov, per il quale il narratore è pre-borghese (rispetto al romanziere), è colui che «riferisce di un’esperienza che ha vissuto, è soprattutto quello che viene da lontano, che ha compiuto un viaggio» . Per Zanzotto, al contrario, Pieve di Soligo è il punto da cui allontanarsi ogni tanto, ma sempre centro del suo vivere. Nei mesi dopo il 25 aprile e durante l’estate del ’45, egli si reca più volte a Milano, compiendo il viaggio su convogli di camion partigiani che, dai paesi devastati della zona intorno al Piave, erano alla ricerca di viveri e di materiali, in assenza di una rete di rifornimenti. Nel ’46, al referendum per determinare la forma di governo che dovrà guidare l’Italia postbellica e che mobilita l’opinione pubblica, Zanzotto sostiene il voto in favore della Repubblica e si troverà in contrasto con la propaganda ecclesiastica. La direzione del collegio Balbi-Valier dove ha da poco ottenuto una supplenza, fa intendere ai dipendenti il gradimento per una scelta anche politica e Zanzotto quindi, terminato l’anno scolastico ’45-’46, decide di emigrare in Svizzera, dove rimarrà per più di un anno7. Una volta rientrato nella sua Pieve, inizierà da lì il suo percorso letterario, tanto che la definizione consoliana relativa ai tanti scrittori siciliani che avevano rinunciato alla ‘fuga’ dall’isola, ovvero che appartenevano ad una «letteratura della distanza logica» (Calcaterra 2014: 33), può forse essere applicata anche all’opera del poeta del solighese. Nella conversazione con Calcaterra, Consolo affermava che «esiste una letteratura della distanza spaziale, o dell’esilio» (Calcaterra 2014: 33) e «una letteratura della distanza logica» (Calcaterra 2014: 33): per lui, ancor più incisiva della distanza spaziale è la distanza intellettuale, poiché si riesce ad «affinare una grande saggezza e lucidità rispetto alle cose» (Calcaterra 2014: 32) e al mondo che si osserva. Lucidità che Zanzotto ebbe tutto lungo il suo percorso ‘scosceso’: pensiamo solo, a titolo di esempio, al volume In questo progresso scorsoio (Zanzotto 2009) in cui il poeta, dialogando con l’amico giornalista Marzio Breda, affronta temi capitali come le emergenze climatiche e le crisi ambientali, i conflitti per l’energia e i fondamentalismi religiosi, il ‘turbocapitalismo’ in panne e l’eclissi degli idiomi minori. Per Zanzotto, agli esordi del nuovo millennio, ci troviamo immersi in un tempo che «strapiomba», in cui si aprono nuove difficili sfide di cui a volte siamo addirittura inconsapevoli. Una certa teoria del progresso, sordida e indifferente all’etica, rischia così di portarci verso l’autodistruzione.

5Pur con dodici anni di differenza – Zanzotto nato nel ’21 e Consolo nel ’33 – entrambi vivranno in prima persona il trauma della Seconda Guerra Mondiale: Consolo prima da bambino, sotto i bombardamenti degli Americani sulla Sicilia nell’estate del ’43, in particolare a Palermo e a Messina; in seguito da sfollato, e poi tramite i giochi pericolosi delle bombe e delle mine disseminate sul territorio che lasceranno tracce indelebili nella sua memoria. Zanzotto invece, all’epoca della Seconda Guerra Mondiale, è poco più che ventenne e partecipa in prima persona alla Resistenza veneta nelle Brigate di “Giustizia e Libertà” occupandosi della stampa e della propaganda del movimento. Si era formata la Brigata Mazzini che, pur essendo sotto il controllo del Partito Comunista, accoglieva anche altre forze antifasciste e Zanzotto, avendo deciso di non far uso delle armi, partecipò alla realizzazione di manifesti e fogli informativi. Nell’inverno del ’44 Pieve di Soligo diventa una sorta di campo di concentramento e il poeta viene reclutato a forza e inviato al lavoro coatto. Nel ’45 riprenderà l’attività partigiana di propaganda sulle colline e in quel periodo non scriverà quasi nulla, tranne qualche frammento diaristico e una poesia per i morti fucilati del paese (Zanzotto 1999: CXII). Gli scontri continuano sino al 30 aprile, data a partire dalla quale la zona viene liberata dalle truppe alleate e si avvia verso il processo di normalizzazione.

6Le tracce della guerra nei Nostri si trasmisero anche attraverso i padri: il padre di Consolo era stato in prima linea sul Carso nella Guerra del ’15-’18, mentre il padre di Zanzotto, pittore-decoratore, a causa delle sue posizioni apertamente antifasciste era dovuto partire per l’esilio in Francia nel ’25 e nel ’26 e, successivamente, a Santo Stefano di Cadore, in montagna. La Storia entra quindi violentemente nella vita dei due autori e segnerà profondamente la loro opera, anche per contrasto al fenomeno della cancellazione della memoria del nostro tempo che entrambi hanno denunciato in più occasioni in varie interviste. Consolo affermava che funzione della letteratura rimane quello di portare alla luce le verità nascoste, di svelare, smascherare, denunciare. Lo scrittore deve riscoprire la forza della parolaverticalizzare la scritturarenderla più possibile densa e pregna di significatitrovare strumenti più incisivi e graffianti, perché lo scandalo venga raccontato, la colpa denunciata, il misfatto scoperto, l’ingiustizia rivelata8. E il paesaggio da cui scaturisce questa parola è il testimone di questa ricerca: per Consolo è la Sicilia, con il suo Mar Mediterraneo carico di approdi e di tragedie; per Zanzotto è il Veneto, quello delle Prealpi sino alla Laguna e all’Adriatico, «luoghi ricchi di lontananze ed intrecci di tempo-spazio» (Zanzotto 2013: 142), li definisce il poeta ne La memoria della lingua, tanto che per lui:

muoversi, aggirarsi, stare […] in una di queste aree porta sempre un senso di sprofondamento, di peso sulle spalle, e insieme di spinta verso altri orizzonti, verso altezze atmosferiche e perfino stellari. (Zanzotto 2013: 142)

8Anche Consolo, probabilmente, ha avuto un senso di sprofondamento aggirandosi nella sua isola, ma è proprio da quel peso, paradossalmente, che si è mosso, che è partito verso un’avventura «archeologica» della lingua e della Storia siciliana, che è poi Storia italiana, europea, mondiale. Allo stesso modo Zanzotto, sin dall’infanzia, ha «avvertito gli spostamenti entro la geografia [veneta] come spostamenti nella storia» (Zanzotto 2013: 143), legati alla terra in modo radicale e ciò dovuto in parte «alla frequenza ossessiva delle commemorazioni della Grande Guerra» (Zanzotto 2013: 143). Di conseguenza egli si è «interiormente segnato un tracciato particolare, quello dell’ubicazione degli Ossari, che inneva la linea del Piave». Per il poeta di Pieve di Soligo, infatti:

una vera memoria è propria della lingua, prima ancora della letteratura, nelle profondità in cui diviene continuamente e continua ad essere ‘lingua nascente’ […] in contatto […] con la “fisica” antropologica e [la] geografia dell’ambiente, in continue interazioni. (Zanzotto 2013: 142)

Zanzotto cerca di recuperare la memoria della lingua e alla stessa impresa ha dedicato tutta la sua opera Consolo, come mette in evidenza Cesare Segre nel Profilo del Meridiano:

[egli] mostra […] che tutta la vicenda della Sicilia può essere riportata alla luce tramite la lingua che i siciliani, secondo i momenti, hanno usato: da quella dei Greci delle colonie, e poi dei Romani, a quella dei poeti di corte sotto Federico II, sino a quella degli scrittori delle classi subalterne. (Segre 2015: XX-XXI)

Ecco allora che, attraverso il plurilinguismo, Consolo apre degli orizzonti verso i momenti significativi della storia siciliana: «archeologo della lingua» o «delle lingue», egli scava in altri dialetti siciliani e nell’italiano per riportare alla luce significati perduti, originari, con innesti da varie lingue. La sua sperimentazione si svolge sia sul piano della storia che della lingua nelle sue diverse stratificazioni (Domenico 2014: 53). E sempre secondo Segre:

ciò che tiene insieme questo plurilinguismo è un fatto musicale, [grazie alla] tecnica del pastiche [e al ricorso di] frammenti [di] altre [e numerose] lingue. (Segre 2015: XXI)

  • 9 Intervista a Vincenzo Consolo: R.A.I., serie Scrittori per un anno, http://www.letteratura.rai.it

9Gianni Turchetta, inoltre, nella sua ricchissima Introduzione al Meridiano, evidenzia che «il dialetto siciliano è di norma italianizzato e l’italiano spesso sicilianizzato» (Turchetta 2015: XXXI), mentre in un’intervista Consolo precisa che in Sicilia esistono sette aree linguistiche di gallo-italico, ovvero dialetti che sono arrivati con i Normanni e quindi con residui di lombardo9. Di conseguenza:

gli strati siciliani della lingua di Consolo attingono ad un’impressionante molteplicità di varietà locali: [il] siciliano orientale, che ha più riconoscibili radici greco-bizantine […]: [il] sanfratellano, […] oltre al toscano, al napoletano e al milanese. (Turchetta 2015: XXXI)

  • 10 Il sabir era chiamata anche petit mauresqueferenghi‘ajnabi o aljamia. Il nome sabir è forse u (…)
  • 11 Per le citazioni dalle opere di Consolo (dal «Meridiano»), ricorriamo alle seguenti abbreviazioni (…)

Si tratta di «lacerti di lingue vive e morte, corrette o deformate: il greco classico, il latino classico, liturgico e medioevale, il francese, lo spagnolo, l’inglese, l’arabo, il sabir10» (Turchetta 2015: XXXI), che è la lingua franca del Mediterraneo. Diamo qui solo qualche esempio11: per il latino della liturgia, «Regem venturum Dominum / Venite Adoremus / Ecce Dominus veniet, et erit in die illa lux magna» (FA: 8); per il greco, «Agios o Théos / Agios ischirós / Agios athanós, / eléison imás» (FA: 76); «chiocciola, kochlías nella lingua greca, còchlea nella latina» (S: 235); per il francese, «Montesquieu, nel suo essé titolato Esprit des lois» (R: 445); per lo spagnolo, uno dei personaggi principali, Doña Sol, è spagnola: «También, Madre de Dios?! Hombre sin nervio, debilidad, ságoma sin vida, sombra sin consistencia, ausencia, lástima de mi vida, cojón de algodón!» (L: 278); per l’inglese, «(Broccolino, Broccolino), che alla lunga identificai con Brooklyn» (PP: 493); per un mélange di francese e di arabo, parlato da un tunisino in Sicilia, «E l’alìve? Sitròn e alìve. E tomasso, pecorino ‘o puavr’». (PP: 502); per l’arabo, «Inshallah» (R: 440) e per un dialogo a più lingue (PP: 569):

«Alò» gli fece uno dei giovinotti per rompere il silenzio e l’imbarazzo. «Hallo» gli rispose Robert. «Do you speak english?» Silenzio dall’altra parte. «Habla español?» Silenzio. «Parlez-vous français?» «Moi, je parle français» rispose il Piancimòre. «Êtes-vous allé en France?» «Non, je suis allé en Belgique, à travailler, dans les mines» «…» «Et êtes-vous américain?» «Non, non, je suis hongrois, mais j’habite en France.» «Ah, la France, le pays de Prudhon et de Victor Hugo!» escalamó il Pinciamòre. «Oui, de Proudhon, de Hugo et bien d’autres…» rispose Robert ridendo apertamente. Ma capì subito di fronte a chi si trovava, e pensò, guardando la faccia del suo interlocutore, ai contadini catalani di Durruti, ai duri minatori delle Asturie. «Dites-moi, était-il de ce pays le cardinal Mazarin?» chiese il francese. «Bah, ici il n’y a jamais eu un cardinal, mais seulement des prêtres, des religieuses et des capucins. Nous en avons déjà assez!» Robert gli tese la mano sorridendo e l’altro gliela strinse. «Au revoir» disse «au revoir» «Au revoir» rispose il Pinciamòre «Vive la France!» «Oh…Vive le monde tout entier!» disse Robert. (Consolo 2015: 569)

10Consolo ricorre poi a una pluralità di termini appartenenti ad una lista impressionante di settori, quali «la pesca, la marineria, la botanica, l’agricoltura, la zoologia, la cucina, l’architettura, la tessitura, la medicina e l’astronomia» (Turchetta 2015: XXXII), solo per citarne alcuni, e in questi «impasti linguistici, la lingua di Consolo lavora sistematicamente e progressivamente sugli estremi» (Turchetta 2015: XXXII), passando dall’aulico, all’iper-letterario al registro più basso e familiare («il bambino con la testa a vaporino grufolava per terra, agitava le mani e tirava sgrigne soffocate», FA: 51; «sulle ginocchia e sul didietro», FA: 13; «ci dissero cacati e, per l’invidia, ci presero a sfottò», FA: 15; «o stronzo, o merda!…e calci e cinque franchi», FA: 15; «Si vede nu cazzu!», S: 152), e anche se con il tempo il suo sperimentalismo vira verso il tragico, il registro comico, ironico, rimane comunque sempre presente come sottobosco; quell’ironia che fa capolino sin dal primo libro, La ferita dell’aprile: «Puressa, puressa, primavera di bellessa» (FA: 13); «zanglé…sta piova, lesanglé, non inglesi, ma normanni», (FA: 24). E il carattere predominante nei saggi critici e nella poesia di Zanzotto, come per esempio ne La Beltà, raccolta uscita nel 1968 in pieno boom economico, è proprio l’ironia, che si trasforma in aperta comicità o in sarcasmo (come nel componimento Sì ancora la neve: “per voi bimbi con diritto / e programma di pappa, per tutti / ferocemente tutti, voi (sniff sniff / gnam gnam yum yum slurp slurp: / perché sempre si continui l’«umbra fuimus fumo e fumetto»); «colorini più o meno truffaldini») (Zanzotto 2001: 240).

11Il plurilinguismo di Zanzotto, inteso come la messa in opera di elementi appartenenti a diverse lingue e di una pluralità di voci, dialoganti o meno, può esser considerato, secondo Jean Nimis, «una delle caratteristiche ‘fondanti’ della poetica dell’autore» (Nimis 2018: 23). Si tratta di un fenomeno ancora in nuce fino a Vocativo (’57), che diventa esplicito a partire dalla raccolta IX Ecloghe (’62), per poi prendere tutta la sua forza ne La Beltà (’68), ne Gli sguardi i fatti e i Senhal (’69) e in Pasque (’73), in cui la commistione di lingue, linguaggi e voci genera una musicalità molto particolare, ovvero «quel grain de la voix di cui parlava Roland Barthes» – suggerisce Nimis (2018: 23) – e che contraddistingue la poetica zanzottiana. A questa raccolta si deve aggiungere anche il Filò (del ’76), in un dialetto intessuto della koiné veneta. La poesia di Zanzotto è stata una vera e propria «esperienza di linguaggio» – secondo una formula di Stefano Agosti – e dunque un’esperienza sul e nel linguaggio e possiamo attribuire la stessa formula al lavoro letterario di Consolo, che ha realizzato un’escursione a largo raggio verso le origini del linguaggio.

12Anche il plurilinguismo di Zanzotto, come quello di Consolo, riguarda l’uso di varie lingue: l’italiano; il latino, che secondo Dal Bianco, dalla raccolta Vocativo (1957) in poi rappresenta la lingua della Storia, con tutta la sua portata di terrore, soprattutto quando è accompagnata dal lessico scientifico (Dal Bianco 2018: 41); il dialetto, che è la lingua dell’inconscio, la lingua materna e della madre (l’uso del dialetto in Zanzotto esplode dopo il ’73, ovvero dopo la morte della madre), ma che ad un certo punto, in Idioma (1986), diventa la lingua dei morti; il greco, in particolare quello dei Vangeli e di San Paolo, utilizzato quindi come lingua dell’alterità massima, della Natura; il francese, che in genere compare in citazioni letterarie; il tedesco, che è la lingua dell’abbrutimento nazista e al tempo stesso il sublime di Hölderlin – uno dei modelli più alti in poesia –, quindi lingua «dell’antiumano e della somma umanità» (Dal Bianco 2018: 41-43); l’ungherese, che entra nell’ultima raccolta, Conglomerati (2009), in particolare nel componimento Silvia, Silvia, là sul confine… (Zanzotto 2011: 1041-1042), dedicata alla figlia del poeta Cecchinel, morta in giovane età, che studiava lingua e letteratura ungherese all’università di Venezia («Jó estét, kisasszoni!», che significa «Buonasera Signorina!»).

  • 12 Breda 2012: 3.

13Dal Bianco osserva che, a partire dalla trilogia di Zanzotto ch’egli ha definito «dell’Oltremondo» (Dal Bianco 2018: 43), ovvero Meteo (1996), Sovrimpressioni (2001) e Conglomerati (2009), gli inserti delle varie lingue a cui ricorre Zanzotto giocano in un certo senso al ribasso, ovvero ad un «abbassamento di registro». Alle lingue già citate si aggiunge l’inglese, la lingua disprezzata (perché in Italia è quella della pubblicità, della mercificazione) ma che negli anni Ottanta, dopo un lungo periodo di depressione e di afasia, sorge dal profondo per la composizione di pseudo-haiku: Zanzotto dirà che fiorivano spontaneamente, come degli zampilli improvvisi provenienti da qualche luogo recondito della psiche, da un fondo oscuro e fangoso, quasi delle bolle, a testimonianza del fatto che nonostante il deserto doloroso della malattia, un’oasi salvatrice, una fonte di creazione esisteva ancora. Nel saggio Europa, melograno di lingue, il poeta definisce l’inglese «una lingua vulcanica, […] che non può non stimolare alle grandi arrampicate» (Zanzotto 2011: 45), e il suo è un inglese petèl, come lui stesso l’ha definito, ovvero quello dei bambini piccoli che iniziano a parlare: ricorrendo ad elementi minimi della fonologia inglese, Zanzotto spiega «che gli pseudo-haiku gli si congegnavano un po’ alla volta, si coagulavano quasi da sé, grazie alla spinta allitterativa così caratteristica di questa lingua» (Zanzotto 2011: 45). Egli aveva provato a tradurre quei frammenti in italiano, ma restavano in qualche modo sminuiti; e si era anche industriato a tradurli in francese, ma senza grandi risultati e quindi vi aveva rinunciato. Gli riuscivano bene in inglese e non sapeva nemmeno lui bene il perché: partiva forse da una citazione molto conosciuta e da lì nasceva un vero haiku. Solo in un secondo momento li tradurrà in italiano e verranno pubblicati postumi in edizione bilingue negli Stati Uniti: Haiku for a season / Haiku per una stagione (Zanzotto 2012)12.

14La lingua poetica di Zanzotto ricorre inoltre, come la prosa consoliana, a vari lessici specifici appartenenti a numerosissime e svariate discipline, come la medicina, la psicanalisi, la botanica, l’astrofisica, la matematica, l’astronomia, la geologia, l’ottica, oltre ad elementi espressivi connessi all’uso dei linguaggi, come il balbettio rappresentato, gli ideogrammi, i disegni e gli scarabocchi (qualificabili tutti come «iconografie»), i disegni e i collages che accompagnano i testi (cfr. Dal Bianco 2011). E molto importante è anche la dimensione sonora, ove i segni sulla pagina bianca sono da considerarsi come delle ‘scansioni’, dei ‘segnali metronomici’, delle ‘pause’: indicazioni ritmiche per un’interpretazione musicale. Il suo procedere mette in atto un dispositivo sonoro molto denso, costituito da onomatopee, spezzoni di enunciati in diverse lingue, serie di versi dal tessuto ‘acustico’: ora rumoroso, ora sussurrante, ora quasi bisbigliato. Lo stesso Montale aveva definito il poeta di Pieve di Soligo «un poeta percussivo» (Montale 1968: 338). Anche in Consolo, seppur con procedimenti diversi, vi è una «tensione verso la pronuncia fisica [delle parole] e dunque [un’]evocazione permanente dell’oralità» (Turchetta 2015: XXXV), anche perché legata ad una lingua che ha in sé una forte teatralità, quindi che ben si presta alla recitazione. E ricordiamo anche la pratica di riportare melodie e canti popolari in Consolo, così come filastrocche, proverbi e modi di dire in dialetto in Zanzotto.

15Entrambi gli autori, inoltre, scrivono quella che è stata definita una trilogia o, nel caso di Zanzotto, una «pseudo trilogia», secondo le parole dello stesso poeta: un connubio di lingua e storia, le due componenti fondamentali nell’opera dei Nostri.

16La trilogia di Consolo comprende il Sorriso dell’ignoto marinaio (’76) ambientato nel periodo del Risorgimento, un momento di grandi speranze e di grandi delusioni; Nottetempo, casa per casa (’92), che mette a confronto l’avvento del fascismo, segnato da un’estrema violenza tra Cefalù e Palermo attraverso le vicende della famiglia Marano e, allo stesso tempo, con l’Italia degli anni Novanta, dell’avvento della destra; e Lo Spasimo di Palermo (’98) che mette in luce le collusioni tra il potere politico e la mafia con le stragi degli anni Novanta.

17Anche la trilogia di Zanzotto è legata alla Storia, ma comprende un arco temporale che parte dalla grande tragedia popolare della Prima Guerra Mondiale con la prima ‘anta’, Il Galateo in Bosco (’78), nella prospettiva di rivitalizzarne la memoria nel presente. Il Bosco è quello del Montello, a sud di Pieve di Soligo, visto dal poeta come un’enorme pattumiera che r-accoglie i sedimenti organici e inorganici del processo naturale, i resti dei picnic dei villeggianti assieme alle ossa dei soldati della Grande Guerra, il cumulo delle tracce lasciate dall’uomo nei secoli. Questo Bosco rimasto quasi intatto, seppur sfruttato, nei secoli venne distrutto dopo l’Unificazione, nelle varie battaglie che portarono, nel ’18, alla vittoria italiana contro l’Austria-Ungheria. Le tracce di questa tragedia sono rimaste nella terra, tanto che la topografia della zona segna la linea degli Ossari nel Montello (Tessari 2009). Parecchi titoli dei componimenti – come indica Zanzotto in una Nota – sono tratti da parole o frasi del Bollettino della Vittoria e questo è un procedere anche di Consolo, che si spinge forse ancora più in là riportando in alcuni casi, nei suoi romanzi, stralci di documenti inediti consultati in archivio, con quella sua preoccupazione di verità e soprattutto di dar voce a chi non ne ha avutaGalateo è un codice di comportamento, espressione delle regole che presiedono al vivere civile, ma che storicamente si sono incarnate nella retorica del potere e nella volontà di dominio sull’uomo e sulla natura; è il Galateo overo de’ costumi che Giovanni della Casa scrisse probabilmente negli anni in cui si ritirò nell’abbazia di Sant’Eustachio, presso Nervesa, nel trevigiano, tra il 1551 e il 1555 (e pubblicato postumo nel 1558). Ambiguo e lacerato è lo statuto della poesia: da una parte si rivolge al bosco come unica fonte di sostentamento e speranza di vita autentica, dall’altra si riconosce nelle istanze razionalizzanti del Galateo, poiché memoria stratificata nel codice letterario. Al centro della raccolta vi è l’Ipersonetto (16 sonetti), che sta ad indicare l’elezione di un codice altamente letterario, ma ‘stravolto’, poiché vi è la tendenza del poeta ad incorporare grafismiideogrammisimboli matematicidisegni naïf, a volte con valore di notazioni musicali, influendo quindi sull’intonazione degli enunciati; a volte con funzione di semplice “commento” al testo; a volte con funzione di “disturbo” o monito, poiché manifestazioni del “rumore” della storia e del mondo contemporaneo.

18In Fosfeni (dell’83), il paesaggio è quello a nord di Pieve di Soligo e il carico di responsabilità sulla lingua poetica aumenta progressivamente, mentre in Idioma (dell’86) – la terza ‘anta’ della Trilogia – il centro geografico è la Pieve del poeta, un paese che è come un giardino devastato qua e là, una mappa, un palinsesto. La necessità di una presa di coscienza della distanza presente da ciò che ci costituisce in quanto passato è certamente uno dei principi guida della trilogia. Idioma contiene i Mestieròi, una sorta di ‘museo d’ombre’ in dialetto solighese, e una vecchia canzoncina satirica locale, I putèi del Mulineto, e vi è l’espressione queimada brasilèira, con cui Zanzotto denuncia il fatto di bruciare le foreste per coltivare il terreno (ciò’ è legato all’emigrazione veneta in Brasile alla fine del XIX secolo). Ma anche la foresta del Montello era stata abbattuta nell’82 per poter coltivare il terreno. In questo processo di nominazione (da Idioma, appunto) entra sempre la Storia e un esempio ne è la poesia intitolata Il nome di Maria Fresu, dedicata a una ragazza letteralmente polverizzata dalla bomba della stazione di Bologna del 2 agosto 1980, tanto che si dubitò a lungo se fosse realmente tra le vittime: ridotta unicamente al suo nome:

E il nome di Maria Fresu
continua a scoppiare
all’ora dei pranzi
in ogni casseruola
in ogni pentola
in ogni boccone
in ogni
rutto – scoppiato e disseminato –
in milioni di
dimenticanze, di comi, bburp. (Zanzotto 2011: 700)

La necessità di registrare gli accadimenti passati e più recenti ritorna costantemente nell’opera di Zanzotto e Consolo, ma nell’ultima ‘anta’ della trilogia dello scrittore siciliano è presente il rischio dell’afasia, rappresentata dal protagonista Gioacchino Martinez, dietro cui si cela lo stesso Consolo, uno scrittore che non scrive e non vuole più scrivere, nemmeno le dediche sui propri libri. Questo silenzio è causato dall’esigenza di dire una verità e dalla constatazione dell’impossibilità di farlo. L’afasia qui  si accentua, testimone anche della coerenza e del coraggio del percorso letterario di Consolo: Decise di scuotersi, di fare, dar mano al proposito, da tempo accantonato, d’indagare sulla prigionia in Algeri di Cervantes e a quella, insieme, d’un poeta di qua dialettale, Antonio Veneziano. Sarebbe riuscito forse a scriverne, scrivere d’una realtà storica, della pena vera di due poeti, fuori da ogni invenzione, finzione letteraria. 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. Invidiava i poeti, maggiormente il veneto rinchiuso nella solitudine d’una pieve saccheggiata – tutt’ossa del Montello questo mondo – «Le tue ecloghe, amico, il tuo paesaggio avvelenato, il metallo del cielo che vi grava, la puella pallidula vagante, la tua lingua prima balbettante e la seconda ancor più ardua, scoscesa…’ questo cominciava a dirgli, pensandolo da quella sua sponda d’un antico Mediterraneo devastato13. (Consolo 2015: 953-954)

Il «veneto» è chiaramente Zanzotto che, «rinchiuso nella sua solitudine», registra i mutamenti di Pieve di Soligo e la dissacrazione del paesaggio che lo circonda dovuta alla cementificazione e al disboscamento; «le tue ecloghe» fa riferimento alla raccolta del ’62, IX Ecloghe, e la «puella pallidula vagante» è citazione appunto da IX Ecloghe, in particolare dal componimento:

13 settembre 1959 (Variante)
Luna puella pallidula,
Luna flora eremitica,
Luna unica selenita,
distonia vita traviata,
atonia vita evitata,
mataia, matta morula,
vampirisma, paralisi,
[…] (Zanzotto 2011: 171)

19Ritorna il tema della luna – che ha tanto affascinato Consolo tanto da comporre Lunaria (1985) – legato ad una serie di nominazioni provenienti da diversi campi linguistici: selenita, che in astronomia è tutto ciò che è in rapporto con la luna; distonia, che è l’alterazione del tono muscolare; l’atonia, che in linguistica è la mancanza di accento e in medicina la perdita del tono muscolare; la mataia, che deriva dal greco e significa folle, stolta; morula, che in biologia è la fase con cui ha inizio il processo di sviluppo di un embrione e infine vampirisma, che deriva da vampiro, spettro che esce dalle tombe la notte. «La tua lingua prima balbettante» è invece il dialetto di Zanzotto, mentre «la seconda ancor più ardua, scoscesa» è l’italiano. In questo passaggio, che possiamo considerare un omaggio di Consolo al poeta di Pieve di Soligo, l’io narrante aborre il romanzo e lamenta di non avere il dono della poesia, che per lo scrittore siciliano rappresenta

un’esigenza primaria dell’uomo. Se non ci fosse la poesia, se si estinguesse il canto, l’umanità rischierebbe parecchio, perché la poesia ha la capacità di risorgere, rifiorire inaspettata, riapparire anche nei luoghi più imprevedibili. In Italia rimane certamente la forma letteraria più irriducibile (perché meno mercificabile), continua a possedere un genuino nucleo di forza espressiva e verità. (Calcaterra 2016: 66)

Da questa concezione alta della poesia, deriva anche la prosa ritmica di Consolo e l’omaggio esplicito a Zanzotto va de soi, forse perché, come suggerisce Massimo Onofri, egli è:

abituato a lavorare sull’ideologia per alchimia sintattica, fermento lessicale, combustioni prosodiche […] dentro una «metrica della memoria» proprio come Consolo, senza compromessi. Entrambi hanno fatto della forma una questione di sostanza (Onofri 2004: 193-199).

  • 14 Cfr. ds in AC, Faldone Collaborazioni giornalistiche varie. Il documentario viene trasmesso da RA (…)

20Ricordiamo inoltre che nella seconda metà degli anni Settanta, Consolo realizzerà per la RAI il documentario dal titolo Una giornata di Iseo Tesser. Dentro e fuori una mostra sulla cultura contadina veneta, nato dall’esposizione Settecento anni di costume nel Veneto per la regia di Raoul Bozzi. La sceneggiatura è di Consolo, mentre l’intervistatore è Andrea Zanzotto, che parla con Iseo Tesser, un mezzadro sulle terre dei principi di Collalto (il ramo italiano degli Hohenzollern), ultimo di una famiglia che esercita quel mestiere da secoli14. Questo lavoro è testimonianza dell’attenzione dei due scrittori per i mestieri legati alla terra e la storia, nei secoli, di determinati territori, in particolare quelli delle loro regioni, che rappresentano sempre il punto di partenza.

21E veniamo ora alla recensione di Zanzotto alle Pietre di Pantalica, (Zanzotto 2001: 308-310):

Questo libro è costituito come da un terriccio fresco di apporti estremamente variati […]. L’autore sta chino, tra schifo ed entusiasmo, tra gioie segrete o paralizzanti perplessità, a scrivere un suo brogliaccio del tutto particolare [ed] è sempre un rivolgersi ai molti […] è quasi una preghiera […]. Il libro risulta quasi riportato al suo carattere di strato vegetale, […]. […] all’orizzonte, [vi sono] quelle entità che sono i toponimi, liberi suoni che finiscono per dire di più proprio a chi non può riconoscervi i luoghi. […] trasudano succhi e sapori le parole che denotano piante, strumenti, oggetti, scorrenti tra dialetto, italiano e manuale scientifico, spesso e in diversi modi obsolete, e con un tale aroma-afrore (odore penetrante e acre) di memoria, o perfino di necessario vuoto-di-presenza, da non far muovere la mano di chi legge verso vocabolari e simili.

Ma il momento più alto del libro è […][il] fascinoso imperio linguistico di Amalia: che trascina (l’amico) […] iniziandolo alla vita vera e forse anche alla vita vera della scrittura che egli svilupperà da adulto. (Zanzotto 2001: 308-310)15

Zanzotto, così attento alla lingua, alle parole, in particolare a tutti i nomi di piante, di fiori, di alberi, al paesaggio in generale e a quello del bosco in particolare, e così ‘funambolo’ nell’invenzione linguistica (pensiamo alla fantasia linguistica de Il Galateo in bosco del ’78), non poteva non apprezzare, sopra tutti, il magnifico racconto consoliano Il linguaggio del bosco, tanto che alla fine della sua recensione scriverà:

Consolo chiude improvvisamente, o meglio lascia il discorso su una storia marinaresca (vera) se mai ancora più cupa, […], [m]a non può disperare l’autore di quest’opera tanto amara quanto abbarbicata a quella minima letizia che viene dal sentire in cuore il pullulare di una lingua che fa di per sé sopravvivere. (Zanzotto 2001: 308-310)16

Ci sembra importante sottolineare che per la scrittura di Consolo si è parlato di “palinsesto” (‘O Connell 2010: 42-66), un termine che si riferisce al codice di pergamena su cui, raschiata la prima scrittura, si può scrivere un nuovo testo e dove l’originale rimane in trasparenza: così l’ipertesto si innesta nell’ipotesto. Zanzotto, nel 2001, pubblica la raccolta Sovrimpressioni e il primo significato del titolo è il riemergere di parole, di storie e di figure antiche di un tempo ormai lontano, ma confuso-fuso con quello reale. Il titolo deve quindi essere letto in relazione al ritorno di ricordi e di “tracce scritturali”: il poeta registra il degrado del paesaggio della sua amata terra, esprime la propria amarezza e lo fa rivivere, in dialetto, attraverso il ricordo di figure ‘mitiche’ del suo passato, già incontrate nella sua opera (come la Maestra Morchet o l’agricoltore Nino). Il modo di procedere è personalissimo, ma delle convergenze sono riscontrabili nell’idea di traccia, di recupero di modelli letterari, fatti storici, immagini di persone che hanno segnato in qualche modo il loro percorso.

22Questo studio si propone quindi come un primo contributo all’analisi comparativa di due autori che sono accomunati da un forte interesse per la sperimentazione linguistica e da una poetica comune, pur nell’estrema diversità dei risultati e dei generi praticati. Lo sforzo di recuperare dall’oblio pezzi di Storia, Consolo e Zanzotto l’hanno investito tutto nella lingua, e anche nei momenti più terribili, più tragici, quando la tentazione di abbandonare l’impresa era forte, da un degré zéro della pagina bianca hanno sempre continuato, nonostante tutto, l’entreprise, forti di un valore prima di tutto etico, che estetico, della letteratura e della lingua.Haut de page

Bibliographie

Des DOI sont automatiquement ajoutés aux références par Bilbo, l’outil d’annotation bibliographique d’OpenEdition.
Les utilisateurs des institutions qui sont abonnées à un des programmes freemium d’OpenEdition peuvent télécharger les références bibliographiques pour lequelles Bilbo a trouvé un DOI.

AA.VV., 2010, Scrittura e memoria in Vincenzo ConsoloMicroprovincia, 48, gennaio-dicembre.

Adamo G. (a cura di), 2006, Nuovi saggi sulla narrativa di Vincenzo Consolo, prefazione di Giulio Ferroni, Lecce, Manni.

Alvino G., 2012, Lo scrittore verticale. Pizzuto, Consolo, Bufalino, prefazione di Pietro Trifone, Casoria (NA), Loffredo Editore University Press, coll. Studi di Italianistica, n. 6.

Bassi S., Un «giardiniere e botanico delle lingue»: Andrea Zanzotto traduttore e autotraduttore, tesi di dottorato, Università Ca’ Foscari di venezia, XXIII ciclo (a.a. 2009/2010), http://dspace.unive.it/bitstream/handle/10579/1068/Tesi%20Dottorato%20Bassi.pdf?sequence=1.

Benjamin W., 2011 [19361], Il narratore. Considerazioni sull’opera di Nicola Leskov, note e commento di Alessandro Baricco, trad. it. di Renato Solmi, Torino, Einaudi, coll. Super ET.
Bongiorno G., Toppan L. (a cura di), 2018, Nel «melograno di lingue». Plurilinguismo e traduzione, Firenze, FUP, coll. Moderna e Comparata.
Breda M., 2012, «Haiku, la cura di Zanzotto», Corriere della Sera/La lettura, 30  settembre, p. 3.
Consolo V., 1993, Fuga dall’Etna. La Sicilia e Milano, la memoria e la storia, Roma, Donzelli.
Consolo V., 2014, La mia isola è Las Vegas, a cura di Nicolò Messina, Milano, Mondadori.
Consolo V., 2015, L’opera completa, a cura e con un saggio introduttivo di Gianni Turchetta e uno scritto di Cesare Segre, Milano, Mondadori, «I Meridiani». Consolo V., 2017, Cosa loro. Mafie tra cronaca e riflessione (1997-2010), a cura di Nicolò Messina, Milano, Bompiani.
Dal Bianco S., 2018, Le lingue e l’inglese degli haiku, in: Bongiorno G., Toppan L. (a cura di), 2018, Nel «melograno di lingue». Plurilinguismo e traduzione, Firenze, FUP, coll. Moderna e Comparata, p. 41-47.
Dal Bianco S., 2011, «Il percorso della poesia di Andrea Zanzotto», in: Zanzotto A., 2011, Tutte le poesie, Milano, Mondadori, coll. Oscar, p. VII-XCII.
Galvagno R. (a cura di), 2015, «Diverso è lo scrivere». Scrittura poetica dell’impegno in Vincenzo Consolo, introduzione di Antonio Di Grado, Avellino, Edizioni Sinestesie.
Minarda M., 2014, La lente bifocale. Itinerari stilistici e conoscitivi nell’opera di Vincenzo Consolo, Messina, Pungitopo. Montale E., 1968, «La poesia di Zanzotto», Il Corriere della Sera, 1/06/1968; poi in: Id., Sulla poesia, a cura di Giorgio Zampa, Milano, Mondadori. Nimis J., 2018, Glossalalie, xenoglossie nella «pseudo-trilogia», in Bongiorno G., Toppan L. 2018, p. 23-39. O’Connell D., 2010, «Il palinsesto della memoria», in: AA.VV., Scrittura e memoria in Vincenzo ConsoloMicroprovincia, 48, gennaio-dicembre, p. 42-66. Onofri M., 2004, «Nel magma Italia. Considerazioni su Consolo scrittore politico e sperimentale», in: Id., Il sospetto della realtà. Saggi e paesaggi novecenteschi, Avagliano, Cava de’ Tirreni, p. 193-99. Pasolini P. P., 1964, «Nuove questioni linguistiche», Rinascita, 16 dicembre. Pasolini P. P., 2000 [1972], Empirismo eretico, Milano, Garzanti, p. 5-24. Segre C., 2015, «Un profilo di Vincenzo Consolo», in: Consolo V., L’opera completa, a cura e con un saggio introduttivo di Gianni Turchetta e uno scritto di Cesare Segre, Milano, Mondadori, «I Meridiani», p. IX-XXII. Tessari R., 2009, Ritorno sul Montello con Andrea Zanzotto, in: Il Montello della Grande Guerra, vol. 3, Udine, Gaspari Editore.
Turchetta G., 2015, «Da un luogo bellissimo e tremendo», in: Consolo V., L’opera completa, a cura e con un saggio introduttivo di Gianni Turchetta e uno scritto di Cesare Segre, Milano, Mondadori, «I Meridiani», p. XXIII‑LXXIV.
Turchetta G., 2015, «Cronologia», in: Consolo V., L’opera completa, a cura e con un saggio introduttivo di Gianni Turchetta e uno scritto di Cesare Segre, Milano, Mondadori, «I Meridiani», p. LXXV-CLIII. Zanzotto A., 2013, Luoghi e paesaggi, a cura di Matteo Giancotti, Milano, Bompiani.
Zanzotto A., 2012, Haiku for a season / Haiku per una stagione, edited by Anna Secco e Patrick Barron, Chicago, University of Chicago.
DOI : 10.7208/chicago/9780226922225.001.0001 Zanzotto A., 2011, Tutte le poesie, Milano, Mondadori, coll. Oscar.
Zanzotto A., 2009, In questo progresso scorsoio. Conversazioni con Marzio Breda, Milano, Garzanti.
Zanzotto A., 2001, Scritti sulla letteratura, a cura di Gianmario Villalta, Milano, Mondadori, coll. Oscar saggi, vol. 2.
Zanzotto A., 1999, Le poesie e le prose scelte, a cura di Stefano Dal Bianco e Gianmario Villalta, con due saggi di Stefano Agosti e Fernando Bandini, Milano, Mondadori, «I Meridiani».
Zanzotto A., 1990, Dai monti fatati al sangue di Palermo, Consolo sospeso tra due Sicilie, in: Zappulla Muscarà S., Narratori siciliani del secondo dopoguerra, Catania, Maimone, p. 179-181.
Zappulla Muscarà S., Narratori siciliani del secondo dopoguerra, Catania, Maimone.Haut de page

Note

2 Cfr. Zanzotto 1999: 1104: «Certo anche un fenomeno come quello da loro rappresentato ha pienezza di diritti, ma non meno tra parentesi che gli altri fenomeni. […] si rende impossibile salvare, attraverso tanto legittimo disamore, qualche cosa che alluda, almeno, all’amore, ne isoli l’immagine per assurdo».
3 Si veda Consolo 2015: XCIX: «C’era il cognatino di un mio fratello, che era qui [a Milano], all’Università. Intervenne mio fratello: ‘Lo mandiamo a Milano all’Università Cattolica’. Io felice. Vincenzo si iscrive quindi a Giurisprudenza alla Cattolica di Milano: Vi sono approdato non per convinzioni religiose ma casualmente, perché avevo il desiderio di lasciare l’isola e conoscere il famoso continente. Il continente per noi siciliani era una sorta di mito».
4 Intervista a Vincenzo Consolo: R.A.I., serie Scrittori per un anno, http://www.letteratura.rai.it/articoli-programma/la-formazione-di-vincenzo-consolo/914/default.aspx.
5 Interessanti sono gli scritti di Consolo sulla mafia, che vanno dai primi anni Settanta sino al 2010, ovvero poco prima di morire. Ora riuniti in Consolo 2017.
6 Cfr. lo scritto Memorie, in Consolo 2014. I corsivi sono nostri.

7 Zanzotto 1999: CXIII-CXIV: «[…] terminato l’anno scolastico [il poeta] ’45-’46 decide di emigrare. Da amici trevigiani apprende che in Svizzera si può trovare un impiego: gli segnalano in particolare un posto di insegnante presso il collegio della cittadina turistica di Villars sur Ollon, nel Vaud, sulle montagne sopra Losanna, dove prende servizio nel mese di settembre. L’ambiente si dimostra alquanto opprimente, sia per una singolare figura di direttrice-padrona […] sia perché viene impiegato per supplenze e lezioni innumerevoli in tutte le materie, compresa la matematica. Rimane in Svizzera quasi un intero anno scolastico, poi è costretto a rientrare per essere operato di appendicite e per il successivo mese di convalescenza. Al ritorno in Svizzera decide di abbandonare il collegio tra i monti e si stabilisce a Losanna, dove l’atmosfera è ben più vivace. […] è disposto a fare il barista e il cameriere […] viene in contatto con i seguaci di Swedenborg. Rientrerà in Italia alla fine del’47 all’aprirsi di nuove prospettive per l’insegnamento». Di questo periodo svizzero inizierà a scrivere, in francese, nel Cahier Vaudois, rimasto però incompiuto e a tutt’oggi inedito. 9 Intervista a Vincenzo Consolo: R.A.I., serie Scrittori per un anno, http://www.letteratura.rai.it/articoli-programma/la-formazione-di-vincenzo-consolo/914/default.aspx.
10 Il sabir era chiamata anche petit mauresqueferenghi‘ajnabi o aljamia. Il nome sabir è forse una storpiatura del catalano saber; lingua franca, invece, deriva dall’arabo lisān-al-faranğī. Il secondo termine è in seguito passato ad indicare qualsiasi idioma che metta in contatto parlanti di estrazione diversa. Questa lingua ausiliaria serviva a mettere in contatto i commercianti europei con gli arabi e i turchi, ed era parlata anche dagli schiavi di Malta, dai corsari del Maghreb e dai fuggitivi europei che trovavano riparo ad Algeri. La morfologia era molto semplice e l’ordine delle parole molto libero. Per supplire alla mancanza di alcune classi di parole, vi era un largo uso di preposizioni e di aggettivi possessivi e aveva un numero limitato di tempi verbali (il futuro, per esempio, si creava usando il modale bisognio, il passato con il participio passato). Il primo documento in lingua franca risale al 1296 (Compasso da Navegare). Nel 1830 viene pubblicato a Marsiglia il Dictionnaire de la langue franque ou petit mauresque, suivi de quelques dialogues familiers et d’un vocabulaire de mots arabes le plus usuels; à l’usage des Français en Afrique, manuale scritto in lingua francese in occasione della spedizione francese in Algeria per la conquista di Algeri (è l’inizio della colonizzazione francese che si sarebbe protratta fino al 1962). Veniva così alla luce un idioma alquanto misterioso, usato dai secoli medievali nel Mediterraneo come mezzo di comunicazione tra cristiani di lingua romanza da un lato, arabi e poi turchi dall’altro. Doveva servire ai soldati francesi per imparare e conoscere la lingua sabir. Nell’Impresario delle Smirne, Goldoni inserisce un personaggio che si esprimeva in lingua franca. Cfr. Francesco Bruni, https://web.archive.org/web/20090328135757/http://www.italica.rai.it/principali/lingua/bruni/lezioni/f_lll5.htm.

11 Per le citazioni dalle opere di Consolo (dal «Meridiano»), ricorriamo alle seguenti abbreviazioni, seguite dal numero di pagina: Ferita dell’aprile (FA), Il sorriso dell’ignoto marinaio (S), Retablo (R), Le pietre di Pantalica (PP).
12 Breda 2012: 3. 13 I corsivi sono nostri. 14 Cfr. ds in AC, Faldone Collaborazioni giornalistiche varie. Il documentario viene trasmesso da RAI 1 la sera del 10 luglio 1977.

Référence papier

Laura Toppan, « Vincenzo Consolo e Andrea Zanzotto: un «archeologo della lingua» e un «botanico di grammatiche» », reCHERches, 21 | 2018, 183-198.

Référence électronique

Laura Toppan, « Vincenzo Consolo e Andrea Zanzotto: un «archeologo della lingua» e un «botanico di grammatiche» », reCHERches [En ligne], 21 | 2018, mis en ligne le 07 octobre 2021, consulté le 20 septembre 2022. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/cher/1269 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/cher.1269

Vincenzo Consolo con Luigi Meneghello “Laurea honoris causa” Palermo 20 giugno 2007

Vincenzo Consolo e l’arte di dover scrivere di un’isola felice e maledetta

Vincenzo Consolo e l’arte di dover scrivere di un’isola felice e maledetta

Vincenzo Consolo e l’arte di dover scrivere di un’isola felice e maledetta

Viaggio in Sicilia, a Sant’Agata di Militello, paese natio del grande narratore italiano Vincenzo Consolo

Una Prof. in AmericaFilomena Fuduli Sorrentino 

Ogni volta che vado in Italia, una mia aspirazione è visitare la Sicilia. Attraversare lo stretto sul traghetto e arrivare sull’isola è un’esperienza bellissima, ancora più bella se si viaggia in auto e si visitano diverse città siciliane. Quest’anno in Sicilia ci sono stata due volte, la prima per passare una giornata a Taormina in compagnia di mio fratello e dei miei nipoti; la seconda invece per un obbiettivo culturale più specifico, arrivare a Sant’Agata di Militello, il paese natio di Vincenzo Consolo, considerato uno tra i maggiori narratori italiani contemporanei, e visitare la Casa Letteraria, inaugurata di recente. Volevo vedere di persona la collezione che include le opere dello scrittore, i suoi quadri, i premi ricevuti, e le sue cose personali.

Vincenzo Consolo oltre a scrittore e saggista, aveva lavorato come giornalista, insegnante, e consulente per la Einaudi. Il libro “La mia isola non è Las Vegas” contiene cinquantadue racconti, racconti di viaggio, d’infanzia, incontri con personaggi, e ricordi professionali pubblicati nell’arco di 50 anni su diversi giornali e periodici italiani come: L’Ora di Palermo, l’Unità, Il manifesto, Il Messaggero, La Stampa, Il Corriere della Sera, Giornale di Sicilia, La Sicilia; alcuni di questi quotidiani non esistono più. Leggendo i suoi saggi, i suoi romanzi, e ascoltando le sue video interviste, Consolo descrive “la sua isola” nei minimi dettagli, raccontandone le bellezze e i problemi. A me la Sicilia affascina moltissimo, la trovo veramente bellissima; una terra ricca di civiltà mediterranee, di storia, di cultura, di arte, con un mare da sogno, sole africano, e cibi gustosissimi. Non si finirebbe mai di girarla e di apprezzarne le sue bellezze, la sua storia, e il suo cibo, proprio come scrive Consolo in uno dei racconti di Le pietre di Pantalicain cui il protagonista si chiede: “Io non so che voglia sia questa, ogni volta che torno in Sicilia, di volerla girare e girare, di percorrere 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 di addio, un volerla vedere e toccare prima che uno dei due sparisca”.

Ero in compagnia di mio marito, e quando siamo arrivati al Castello Dei Principi Gallego, nel centro storico della città, tra piazza Francesco Crispi e la storica piazza Vittorio Emanuele ribattezzata Piazza Vincenzo Consolo il 18 febbraio 2017, ci aspettava Claudio Masetta Milone, uno dei fondatori dell’Associazione “amici di Vincenzo Consolo”. Claudio, cortesemente ci ha fatto da guida del castello incominciando da “La casa letteraria di Vincenzo Consolo” dove sono custodite, a disposizione della cittadinanza, le opere dello scrittore e la sua biblioteca personale con oggetti preziosi e premi ricevuti nel corso della sua lunga carriera letteraria. La donazione voluta dalla signora Consolo, include ricordi e ricchezze culturali che Consolo collezionava durante i suoi viaggi, e tra questi ho notato modelli di piccolissimi libretti di ceramica o di ottone, e lumache di ceramica o di ottone (chiocciole, simbolo del castello Gallego e del romanzo Il sorriso dell’ignoto marinaio). Ci sono pezzi antichi che ricordano il lavoro fatto a mano della cultura contadina siciliana, come un telaio per tessere, dei birilli di legno, i suoi libri, i suoi quadri, le onorificenze ricevute da diversi Paesi esteri come la Francia, l’onorificenza del Presidente italiano, la macchina da scrivere che usava per il suo lavoro, e tante altre cose; troppe per essere elencate in questo pezzo, e tutto a disposizione degli studiosi e del pubblico. Ero contentissima di trovarmi li ed emozionata allo steso tempo guardando e toccando le cose personali di Vincenzo Consolo sullo scaffale; tra le sue cose c’era anche L’opera completa di Vincenzo Consolo, opera pubblicata nei Meridiani Mondadori grazie alla cura di Gianni Turchetta.

Nello studio c’erano anche molte foto, ma una foto datata 1968 aveva attratto la mia attenzione, erano fotografati: Consolo insieme allo scrittore Leonardo Sciascia e al poeta Lucio Piccolo nel giardino della villa Piccolo a Capo di Orlando. Mente guardavo la foto ho chiesto al signor Masetta Milone, amico intimo di Consolo e della signora Consolo, quanta importanza dava lo scrittore all’amicizia, Claudio mi rispose con una citazione dal libro La ferita dell’aprile di Vincenzo Consolo“…E questa amicizia, che quando uno è solo contro tutti, l’altro gli dice ecco qua, siamo in due”. Lucio Piccolo era un poeta e viveva nella villa “Piccolo” a Capo d’Orlando, ma passava molto tempo anche a Palermo. Piccolo era conosciuto come il barone, ed era cugino di Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, autore di un unico ma famosissimo romanzo, Il Gattopardo. Lucio Piccolo era un  uomo molto solitario e chiuso in se stesso, amava la solitudine. Consolo da giovane lo andava a trovare spesso alla sua villa a Capo d’Orlando e ci restava per ore a parlare di poesie e di lingua. Per Consolo visitare Piccolo era come andare a lezione, lo stimava molto e lo riteneva un suo maestro.

La laurea “honoris causa” in Filologia Moderna, conferita dall’Università degli Studi di Palermo

Con Leonardo Sciascia Consolo aveva un rapporto diverso da quello con il poeta Lucio Piccolo. Consolo per Sciascia custodiva un’amicizia storica e un gran rispetto, e come Sciacca, egli era motivato a sconfiggere l’ignoranza che alimenta la cultura mafiosa in Sicilia. Leonardo Sciascia viveva a Recalmuto e Consolo doveva prendere il treno da Sant’Agata di Militello per andare a visitarlo, ma di solito lo faceva una volta la settimana. Prima di Sciascia, nessun scrittore aveva scritto di Mafia, egli fu il primo a scriverne nel suo grande successo Il giorno della civetta, terminato nel 1960 e pubblicato nel 1961. Al romanzo si ispirò il film, dello stesso nome, del regista Damiano Damiani uscito nel 1968. Con i suoi romanzi Sciascia dimostrò che l’esistenza pericolosa della Mafia si deve combattere con ogni mezzo disponibile, specialmente scrivendone e diffondendo la cultura e la legalità. Dopo Sciascia Consolo continuò la battaglia contro la Mafia e la criminalità organizzata usando anche lui come arnese la stressa arma, la letteratura. Il signor Masetta Milone, che ha sempre vissuto in Sicilia, dice che la letteratura insieme alla cultura e alla bellezza sono l’arma più potente da usare contro la criminalità organizzata e la Mafia.

Vincenzo Consolo è conosciuto come l’autore della pluralità di lingue e di toni, una caratteristica che afferma la sua identità di scrittore. Lo stile linguistico di Consolo non è dialetto ma nemmeno lingua nazionale. Egli usa vocaboli che esprimono emozioni ma non sono parole dialettali. Il suo stile si allontana dall’italiano comune che egli riteneva troppo tecnico. La pluralità di toni e di lingue comporta anche una pluralità di prospettive, Consolo nei suoi romanzi sceglie di raccontare secondo la prospettiva soggettiva e particolare dei personaggi. Riconoscibile in ogni sua frase è l’utilizzazione di lessici incrociati tra l’italiano antico (la lingua volgare o lingua del popolo) e il siciliano, quindi, la sua è una scrittura che narra una continua ricerca di originalità. Nei suoi romanzi racconta secondo la prospettiva soggettiva di chi è dentro la storia giocando con le parole, come possiamo notare in “Retablo”, nella ode a Rosalia: “Rosalia. Rosa e lia. Rosa che ha inebriato, rosa che ha confuso, rosa che ha sventato, rosa che ha róso, il mio cervello s’è mangiato. Rosa che non è rosa, rosa che è datura, gelsomino, bàlico e viola; rosa che è pomelia, magnolia, zàgara e cardenia. […] Rosa che punto m’ha, ahi!, con la sua spina velenosa in su nel cuore”. In un’intervista curata da Marino Sinibaldi, giornalista, critico letterario, e conduttore radiofonico, Consolo aveva dichiarato: “Fin dal mio primo libro ho cominciato a non scrivere in italiano. Ho voluto creare una lingua che esprimesse una ribellione totale alla storia e ai suoi esiti. Ma non è dialetto. È l’immissione nel codice linguistico nazionale di un materiale che non era registrato, è l’innesto di vocaboli che sono stati espulsi e dimenticati. Io cerco di salvare le parole per salvare i sentimenti che le parole esprimono, per salvare una certa storia”.

Consolo amava la Sicilia, la lingua siciliana, la cultura dell’isola e la lingua italiana, ma era convinto che i giovani a scuola debbano studiare l’italiano e non il dialetto. Nel 2011 egli fu il più critico scrittore contro l’insegnamento del dialetto nelle scuole. Console vedeva la legge che regolava lezioni di dialetto in ogni istituto di ordine e grado come un’iniziativa leghista: “Ormai siamo alla stupidità”, aveva affermato Consolo. “Una bella regressione sulla scia dei ‘lumbard’. Che senso hanno i regionalismi e i localismi in un quadro politico e sociale già abbastanza sfilacciato? Abbiamo una grande lingua, l’italiano, che tra l’altro è nata in Sicilia: perché avvizzirci sui dialetti? Io sono per la lingua italiana, quella che ci hanno insegnato i nostri grandi scrittori, e tutto ciò che tende a sminuirla mi preoccupa”. Consolo usa anche l’arma dell’ironia, ma da quasi tutti i suoi scritti trapela una Sicilia amara per quanto sempre molto amata.




























Tornando alla mia visita al Castello dei Principi Gallego, dopo aver ammirato “La casa letteraria di Vincenzo Consolo”, visito il resto del castello con il signor Masetta Milone, un tempo dimora dei Principi Gallego. Risalendo una scala a chiocciola – simbolo del castello e del nome Gallego – si raggiunge il piano superiore dove si trovava la residenza di Principi Gallego: i saloni di ricevimento, i soggiorni, le stanze da letto, il giardino, le cucine e le stanze più riservate del castello. Come ogni residenza nobile, il castello ha pure una cappella, anche questa con dei segreti: i Principi Gallego potevano assistere alle funzioni religiose senza essere visti, affacciandosi da una finestrella comunicante con alcune stanze dell’abitazione. Aprendo la finestrella Claudio dice: “Da questa finestra i principi guardavano se c’erano belle ragazze in chiesa senza che gli altri se ne accorgessero”. L’ingresso della chiesa si trova sulla piazza, e all’interno della cappella si possono ammirare tele, dipinti e statue di legno dei secoli XVIII e XIX. Visibile da lontano, il campanile della chiesa con il grande orologio.

Continuando il giro del castello arrivo sulle terrazze del palazzo: alcuni sono balconi che si affacciano sulle terrazze settentrionali, un tempo armati d’artiglierie per fermare gli attacchi dei pirati che arrivavano via mare. Da ognuna delle terrazze si poteva ammirare un panorama bellissimo e suggestivo del porto di Sant’Agata Di Militello, dove erano ancorate barche a vela e motoscafi. Si avvistava la curva della costa di Cefalù, e la punta di Capo d’ Orlando, e guardando in rettifilo si poteva riconoscere il bellissimo arcipelago delle isole Eolie. “Il castello domina le isole Eolie, dunque da qui il Mandralisca doveva passare navigando per recarsi a Cefalù – ci spiega Claudio Masetta Milone. E nelle prigioni del castello sono stati imprigionati molti rivoluzionari di Alcara Li Fusi. Consolo parla delle prigioni del castello con molta tristezza; attraverso la figura di Mandralisca, nel romanzo Il sorriso dell’ignoto marinaio, Consolo si fa portavoce del malessere delle genti siciliane tradite dalle strutture politiche.

Panorama marittimo da uno dei terrazzi del Castello (Foto VNY, F.S)

I Principi Gallego ottennero la signoria della città nel 1573, Vincenzo Gallego e suo figlio Luigi costruirono il castello nel 1663. Il castello fu venduto nel 1820, insieme alle terre, dall’ultimo erede dei Gallego al Principe di Trabia. Nello stesso secolo i privilegi feudali declinarono. Il libro di Vincenzo Consolo Il sorriso dell’ignoto marinaio finisce con una descrizione precisa del castello-carcere di Sant’Agata di Militello, che per la sua forma a chiocciola divenne un simbolo architettonico per anime malvagie: “E siam persuasi che quell’insolito e capriccioso nome chiuso tra le parentesi che vien dopo Girolamo del principe marchese, Còcalo, sicuramente d’accademico versato in cose d’arte o di scienza, sennò sarìa stato eretico per paganità, abbia ispirato l’architetto. Essendo Còcalo il re di Sicilia che accolse Dedalo, il costruttore del Labirinto, dopo la fuga per il cielo da Creta e da Minosse, ed avendo il nome Còcalo dentro la radice l’idea della chiocciola, kokalìas nella lingua greca, còchlea nella latina, enigma soluto, falso labirinto, con inizio e fine, chiara la bocca e scuro il fondo chiuso, la grande entrata da cui si può uscire seguendo la curva sinuosa ma logica, come nella lumaca di Pascal, della sua spirale, l’architetto fece il castello sopra questo nome: approdo dopo il volo fortunoso dal grande labirinto senza scampo della Spagna, segreto sogno di divenire un giorno viceré di Sicilia, sforzo creativo in sfida alla Natura come l’ali di cera dell’inventore greco o solo capricciosa fantasia?” Vincenzo Consolo, Il sorriso dell’ignoto marinaio.

Come la vita di ogni scrittore, anche quella di Vincenzo Consolo non fu facile. Terminate le scuole superiori si iscrisse alla facoltà di Giurisprudenza, dell’Università Cattolica di Milano. Consolo decise di fare l’università a Milano perché c’erano Vittorini, Quasimodo, e c’era stato Verga. Però, per far contenti i suoi genitori egli si iscrisse alla facoltà di giurisprudenza e non a quella di lettere; la sua famiglia considerava l’insegnamento un lavoro da donne e non da uomini. Durante il tempo in cui si trovava a Milano fu costretto ad interrompere gli studi per far fronte alla leva obbligatoria, e in seguito si laureò in Giurisprudenza con una tesi in filosofia del diritto dall’Università di Messina, e ritornò a vivere in Sicilia dove si dedicò all’insegnamento nelle scuole agrarie. Nel 1963 debuttò con il suo primo romanzo, La ferita dell’aprile, una narrazione della vita di un paese siciliano straziato dalle lotte politiche del dopoguerra. Nel 1968, dopo aver vinto un concorso alla Rai, si trasferisce a Milano, dove vivrà e lavorerà fino alla sua morte svolgendo un’intensa attività giornalistica ed editoriale, e alternando alla vita milanese con lunghi soggiorni nel paese d’origine. Nel 2007 ricevette la laurea “honoris causa” in Filologia moderna dall’Università di Palermo.

Tra le opere di Vincenzo Consolo riordiamo: La ferita dell’aprile (1963), Il sorriso dell’ignoto marinaio (1976, la sua opera più celebre), Retablo (1987, premio Grinzane), Le pietre di Pantalica (1988), Nottetempo, casa per casa (1992, premio Strega), L’olivo e l’olivastro (1994), Lo spasimo di Palermo (1998). Lunaria (1985, dialogo fiabesco di sapore leopardiano). Consolo ha scritto anche per il teatro (Catarsi, 1989) ed è stato autore di saggi dedicati alla sua terra, la Sicilia: La pesca del tonno in Sicilia (1986), Il Barocco in Sicilia (1991), Vedute dallo stretto di Messina (1993).

Concludo con una citazione di Vincenzo Consolo,  tratta da una video intervista: “Perché molti siciliani scriviamo? Noi scrittori siciliani non è che non sapevamo che fare, ma abbiamo sentito il bisogno di spiegarci, di capire le ragioni di tanto malessere di quest’isola. Da sempre un’isola che potrebbe essere veramente un isola felice, l’Isola dei Feaci, perché abbiamo tutto; abbiamo la terra, le antichità. Eppure, per i mal Governi che si sono succeduti da sempre quest’isola e diventata un’isola maledetta, un’isola infelice”.

Filomena Fuduli Sorrentino

Filomena Fuduli Sorrentino

Una Prof. in America

Calabrese e appassionata per l’insegnamento delle lingue, dal 1983 vivo nel Long Island, NY. Laureata alla SUNY con un AAS e in lingue alla NYU

Un’immagine ipnotizzante a forma di chiocciola



 La polivalenza della forma, del genere e del linguaggio testimoniano la volontà di resistere, tra l’altro, contro reificazioni di senso. La forma elicoidale delle lumache illustra in modo convincente il carattere indefinito delle potenzialità allegoriche nascoste nei testi consoliani. Nel romanzo Sorriso dell’ignoto marinaio questo segno è stato posto ad emblema della bellezza della natura, dell’enigma della storia e dell’oscurità umana60. Le contaminazioni “storiche” di Consolo sono stratificate a più livelli. Esattamente come il simbolo della chiocciola (o spirale degli eventi) che è il culmine del libro Il sorriso dell’ignoto marinaio61. La figura della chiocciola costituisce, come anche quella dell’“ignoto marinaio”, una specie di Leitmotiv; è la metafora dell’ingiustizia sociale dovuta alla distanza fra i privilegiati della classe colta (ai quali appartiene anche il barone Mandralisca che nelle sue ricerche scientifiche si occupa proprio di chiocciole)
 59 R. Andò: Vincenzo Consolo…, p. 10. 60 Cfr. F. Di Legami: L’intellettuale al caffé. Incontri con testimoni e interpreti del nostro tempo. Interviste a Leonardo Sciascia, Vincenzo Consolo, Gesualdo Bufalino, Ignazio Buttita, dal programma radiofonico di Loredana Cacicia e Sergio Palumbo, prodotto e trasmesso da Rai Sicilia nel 1991. Palermo, Officine Grafiche Riunite, 2013, p. 53. 61 Cfr. A. Giuliani: Edonismo…
e la gente senza cultura e senza voce, e alla distanza fra la classe dei possidenti e quelli che, come i contadini d’Alcàra, si sono mossi “per una causa vera, concreta, corporale: la terra” (SIM, 93). Alla fine del testo Mandralisca s’immagina una nuova scrittura storiografica, una riscrittura che procede dal fondo della chiocciola: “conoscere com’è la storia che vorticando dal profondo viene” (SIM, 112). Sotto il segno della chiocciola si condensano più livelli: a chiocciola è l’architettura del carcere in cui si conclude il racconto, architettura che riproduce “il vorticare” della storia; a chiocciola ossia a spirale è la lettura delle scritte che ne tempestano le pareti. Ma il termine “chiocciola”, in cui si condensa tutta la passione di ricercatore del barone Mandralisca, la sua scienza, viene finalmente degradato a esprimere l’astrazione degli “ideali” di fronte alla spinta concreta della rivolta popolana: “una lumaca!”. Alla chiusa del romanzo la figura fisica, il simbolo, la struttura linguistica e narrativa, coincidono con un effetto intenso e felice; quanto basta per sigillare l’intelligenza e la validità di un libro 62. Anche i pensieri nel Sorriso dell’ignoto marinaio sono raffigurati in una inarrestabile scesa spiraliforme dal palazzo del barone Mandralisca e dalla buona società in cui si congiura contro i Borboni (primo e secondo capitolo) all’eremo di Santo Nicolò, fino ai villici e ai braccianti di Alcara Li Fusi (terzo e quinto capitolo); le volute diventano gironi infernali con la strage dei borghesi perpetrata ad Alcàra (settimo capitolo). Questa discesa è anche linguistica: al sommo c’è il linguaggio vivido e barocco dei primi capitoli; negli inferi (nono e ultimo capitolo) le scritte compendiarie dei prigionieri, emerse dall’odio, dal rimorso, dalla nostalgia di libertà. Ulla Musarra-Schrøder scopre anche che il dialetto siciliano è sommariamente italianizzato; e quello gallo-romanzo di San Fratello, nella scritta XII, prende già movenze di canto. Ma questi due estremi linguistici e le realizzazioni intermedie non si sovrappongono a strati, bensì si alternano o si mescolano, sempre secondo uno schema elicoidale63. 62
Cfr. G. Gramigna: Un barocco… 63 Cfr. U. Musarra-Schrøder: I procedimenti di riscrittura nel romanzo contemporaneo italiano…, pp. 560—563. 112 Capitolo III:
L’idea della struttura per frammenti Secondo Sebastiano Addamo il simbolo della lumaca64 va analizzato nel modo in cui risulta più utile ai fini dell’interpretazione. Soggettivamente, cioè rispetto al personaggio maggiore del romanzo, il barone Enrico Pirajno de Mandralisca, la lumaca può rappresentare la classica attività dell’intellettuale tradizionale. Ma oggettivamente è ben altro, dato che il medesimo barone Pirajno paragona le lumache da un lato al carcere, che è un simbolo del potere, e, dall’altro, alla proprietà, che è il potere medesimo, e sotto tale aspetto la proprietà viene infatti definita come “la più grossa, mostruosa, divoratrice lumaca che sempre s’è aggirata strisciando per il mondo”65. Il sesto capitolo del romanzo è tutto attraversato dalla metafora della chiocciola, metafora plurima che designa successivamente i privilegi della cultura, l’ingiustizia del potere, e la proprietà come usurpazione 66. La metafora realizza una sorta di autocritica, dato che di chiocciole si occupa principalmente Mandralisca nelle sue ricerche scientifiche; diventa poi schema descrittivo, nel capitolo ottavo, quando si parla del carcere di Sant’Agata di Militello, in cui sono rinchiusi i colpevoli dell’eccidio di Alcàra. E proprio alla fine del capitolo, che è anche l’ultimo da attribuire ufficialmente al narratore (dato che il nono raccoglie senza commenti le scritte dei prigionieri) troviamo una sezione dei sotterranei a chiocciola nel castello, con un’ulteriore metafora: 64 Consolo ha attribuito il ruolo plurisignificante alla chiocciola nelle sue narrazioni, servendosi anche dei motivi della spirale o del labirinto. Senz’altro si può interpretare la presenza della chiocciola secondo la chiave proposta da Mircea Eliade sempre dove Consolo parla della fine, della morte, della devastazione o della metamorfosi: le civiltà antiche riconoscevano nelle lumache il simbolo del concepimento, della gravidanza e del parto. Similmente, i cinesi, associano i molluschi con la morte, e con i rituali funebri che dovrebbero garantire la forza e la resistenza dell’uomo nella sua futura vita cosmica.
Cfr. M. Eliade: Obrazy i symbole. Warszawa, Wydawnictwo KR, 1998, pp. 156—159. 65 S. Addamo: Linguaggio e barocco in Vincenzo Consolo. In: Idem: Oltre le figure. Palermo, Sellerio, 1989, pp. 121—125. 66
Il concetto di “fortezza — labirinto” prende avvio dalle teorie sviluppate sia da Kerényi che da Eliade e riguardanti il fenomeno della costruzione a chiocciola come archetipo biologico di origine e di percezione. Un’immagine ipnotizzante a forma di chiocciola  Ma ora noi leggiamo questa chiocciola per doveroso compito, con amarezza e insieme con speranza, nel senso d’interpretare questi segni loquenti sopra il muro d’antica pena e quindi di riurto: conoscere com’è la storia che vorticando dal profondo viene; immaginare anche quella che si farà nell’avvenire. SIM, 139 Lo schema elicoidale della chiocciola può servire bene per analizzare il romanzo, come ci autorizza a fare Consolo, citando all’inizio di questo capitolo ottavo una frase di Filippo Buonanni, da Ricreatione dell’Occhio e della Mente nell’Osseruation’ delle Chiocciole (Roma, 1681)67: […] sempre più vi accorgerete, che Iddio, compreso sotto il vocabolo di Natura, in ogni suo lavoro Geometrizza, come dicean gli Antichi, onde possano con ugual fatica, e diletto nella semplice voluta d’una Chiocciola raffigurarsi i Pensieri. Alla metafora quindi dell’ironico sorriso, effigiato nel quadro di Antonello da Messina, si associa, opposta e complementare l’immagine della lumaca, emblema di un percorso oscuro in cui si trovano sofferenze e dolori non testimoniati. “V’è una inarrestabile discesa spiraliforme — ha scritto Segre — dal palazzo del barone Mandralisca e dalla buona società in cui i congiura contro i Borboni all’eremo di Santo Nicolò, alla combriccola di Santa Marecùma, sino ai villici e braccianti di Alcara Li Fusi; le volute diventano gironi infernali con la strage di borghesi perpetrata ad Alcara, e bolgia ancora più fonda quando nelle carceri sotterranee di Sant’Agata vengono racchiusi i colpevoli”68. Anche se presentato in modo molto dettagliato, questo luogo di isolamento rappresenta uno di tanti luoghi opachi, utopici e incantati. 67
Cfr. C. Segre: Intrecci di voci…, p. 81. 68 F. Di Legami: Vincenzo Consolo…, p. 26.

L’allontanamento Il viaggio o la fuga?

Il tema del viaggio è un contenuto della realtà extratestuale e dell’immaginario (tanto dell’autore quanto del lettore) che ritorna in opere diverse: si ripete dunque in forme riconoscibili pur articolandosi ogni volta in modi irripetibili all’interno di costruzioni dotate ognuna di una propria individualità. Questo contenuto può riguardare personaggi, passioni, ambienti, eventi, immagini1 . Il viaggio è un evento. In genere si tratta di un accadimento che coinvolge due o più persone: dopo un percorso (di una di esse o di tutte, non importa), esse entrano in contatto fra loro in modo volontario o involontario, programmato in partenza o del tutto casuale2 . Nel 1993 Consolo ammette: I poli poi, per ragioni di vita e per scelta ideologica, si sono allontanati, sono diventati Palermo e Milano. E questi due poli mi hanno fatto essere, oltre che laconico, scrittore scisso, dalla doppia anima, dal doppio accento. Ma forse no, forse allo storicismo del vecchio mondo palermitano ho sostituito lo storicismo dell’attuale mondo milanese3 . I lettori entrano nel mondo della narrazione consoliana attratti non da questa frase tradizionale “C’era una volta” ma tramite un procedimento ben diverso e cioè l’uso della congiunzione che apre la storia. E la chiarìa scialba all’oriente, di là di Sant’Oliva e della Ferla, dall’imo sconfinato della terra sorgeva nel vasto cielo, si spandeva — ogni astro, ogni tempo rinasce alle scadenze, agli effimeri, ai perenti si negano i ritorni, siamo figli del Crudele, pazienza. N, 5 E poi il tempo apre immensi spazi, indifferenti, accresce le distanze, separa, costringe ai commiati — le braccia lungo i fianchi, l’ombra prolissa, procede nel silenzio, crede che un altro gli cammini accanto. SP, 11 Quando la voce del narratore inizia in questo modo, non è difficile, come sostiene Remo Ceserani, “sospendere la sua vita normale, abbandonare il mondo in cui scorre la sua vita e trasferirsi, se si sente attirato dalla voce del narratore e dall’interesse delle vicende narrate […]”4 . Il lettore subito sin dall’inizio ha impressione di affrontare la continuazione della storia già raccontata. Consolo riesce a trasformare il passato, anche quello lontano, in una realtà somigliante agli eventi presenti. Il ciclo della narrativa consoliana ammette la rappresentazione della Sicilia in varie fasi della sua storia. L’azione del romanzo Nottetempo3, casa per casa si svolge a Cefalù, negli anni del sorgere del fascismo. Non è racconto di viaggio, o guida, tuttavia con un viaggio si onclude. Qui Petro vive una sua educazione sentimentale, politica, letteraria, scontando sulla propria pelle lo sforzo del rapporto con una realtà che sfugge ad ogni razionalità, che si lascia dominare da quella “bestia trionfante” che stravolge quel mondo, che sembra fargli perdere antichi equilibri e antichi profumi, e trova nel fascismo la sua più compiuta incarnazione5 . C’è il risentimento verso una patria perduta e le persone che non si accorgono della perdita. E qui non si parla solo di un confine siciliano, ma di un oggi che comprende anche altri luoghi. Certo, il discorso della lingua è chiaro. Consolo ha sempre cercato di scrivere in un’altra lingua ed è quello che ha sempre irritato i critici, il fatto di “uscire dai codici, di disobbedire ai codici”6 .
Il viaggio di Nottetempo, casa per casa, è la fuga di Petro da un mondo nel quale egli vede la civiltà in via di travolgimento e per il quale avverte ormai odio, al punto da fargli maturare una condizione che egli non sa se, ed eventualmente quando, vorrà modificare, e quando eventualmente (“Non so adesso” dice, quasi come Fabrizio Clerici diceva dell’itinerario che avrebbe potuto prendere l’ulteriore sua peregrinazione) perché le ragioni dell’odio sono per lui diverse da quelle che muovono l’anarchico Schicchi, non politiche in senso stretto, non di fazione: e tali ha scelto di mantenerle “in attesa che passi la bufera”, senza fraintendimenti e perciò nello stesso esilio vivendo scostato da Schicchi, nella cui prassi riconosce la stessa matrice che ha causato la sua partenza, “la bestia dentro l’uomo che si scatena ed insorge, trascina nel marasma, la bestia trionfante di quel tremendo tempo, della storia, che partorisce orrori, sofferenze” (N, 170)7 . La partenza di Petro assume un valore emblematico, e in realtà, diventa aterritoriale. 5  Il romanzo Nottetempo, casa per casa contiene il numero maggiore di elementi raffiguranti la nozione di allontanamento: l’allusione all’inespresso, alla ritrazione, al rischio dell’afasia, del silenzio. Pervenuto in prossimità di Tunisi, rimasto solo sul ponte del piroscafo, Petro lascia cadere in mare un libro che l’anarchico gli aveva posto in mano per alimento politico, e pensa ad un suo quaderno, sentendo che, “ritrovata calma, trovate le parole, il tono, la cadenza, avrebbe raccontato, sciolto il grumo dentro, avrebbe dato ragione, nome a tutto quel dolore” (N, 171): un quaderno perciò egli porta con sé quale viatico dell’esilio, dove potrà da lontano nominare il dolore, e perciò — comprendendolo — risolverlo, e questo è tutto il corredo che la sua scelta presuppone8 . Il protagonista di Nottetempo, casa per casa è un esiliato che rompe a un tratto la condizione di esilio attraverso la scrittura, diversamente dagli altri, dal padre, ad esempio, che non può farlo. Il libro si apre con una scena notturna in cui si disegna la figura oggi rara della malinconia, desueta almeno, in cui la depressione si svela nel rapporto con la luna piena: quella del licantropo. La cultura popolare ci ha tramandato vari frammenti intessuti su questa figura, dominata da un dolore insopportabile che equivale ad un esilio. Come dice l’epigrafe della Kristeva posta all’inizio del libro, quel dolore equivale a vivere sotto un sole nero, che può anche stare per l’immagine della luna. È un tentativo di liberazione dell’angoscia attraverso l’animalità, la fuga, la corsa9 . La coscienza del dolore proprio e altrui indica una prospettiva che rende possibile la riflessione su un altra persona. La sofferenza non è qualcosa di peggiore che richiede il rimandere nascosti. Al contrario, è necessario prenderla in considerazione quando si vogliono determinare i limiti del potere umano. Consolo, indicando la sofferenza come l’esperienza fondamentale dell’esistenza, non si discosta dal discorso sempre più urgente sulla condizione degli emarginati nel mondo postmoderno. Così Petro fugge, come Consolo, e “spariva la sua terra mentre egli se ne andava (N, 168). Petro è spinto da una parte dalla forza irrazionale di un fascismo che prometteva giustizia e riscossa, specchietti delle allodole delle dittature incipienti, dall’altra è attratto da quel socialismo-anarchico la cui contestazione, però, gli appare violenta e drasticamente tragica. Decide per una ”fuga”, che non è disimpegno, ma scelta chiara, il che illustra la scena finale: “si ritrovò il libro dell’anarchico, aprì le mani e lo lasciò cadere in mare” (N, 171). La marginalità del gesto, tuttavia, non gli scongiura la necessità della fuga da Cefalù, dalla città che aveva amato nelle cose e nelle persone, e che ora gli era caduta dal cuore “per quello ch’era avvenuto, il sopravvenuto, il dominio che aveva presa la peggiore gente, la più infame, l’ignoranza, la violenza, la caduta d’ogni usanza, rispetto, pietà…” (N, 166); e perciò egli si spinge all’esilio in Tunisia, dove si reca partendo nottetempo da Palermo, su di un vapore che pure nasconde il capo anarchico Paolo Schicchi (altro personaggio reale)10. Anche Consolo, quando si è trasferito a Milano aveva intenzione di raccontare quella Milano dei contadini siciliani che diventano operai. Ben presto capì che per farlo aveva bisogno della distanza della metafora storica. È quello che Cesare Segre acutamente ha sottolineato come peculiarità del suo modo di scrivere: “è il distanziamento, il bisogno di distanziarsi, anche geograficamente”11. Il motivo del viaggio, nel primo lavoro: La ferita dell’aprile, si svolge sul doppio versante del riportarsi all’indietro dell’io narrante al tempo della propria adolescenza, e di un attraversamento di diversi piani linguistici alla ricerca di uno stile che si conquista una propria misura espressiva12. E per restituire alla storia il misterioso e l’ignorato che è nell’uomo e nella collettività, Consolo sceglie fin da questo primo romanzo la dimensione della memoria e l’idea del viaggio13. Il labirinto evidenzia cioè nella sua stessa forma figurale, in quanto metafora assoluta che si sostanzia di un retroterra religioso e mitologico, la struttura del congetturare dialettico, di quel mirare alla fine 10 del processo ermeneutico come al proprio fine, implicito nel viaggioverso-il-centro e nel viaggio-di-ritorno di Teseo come in tutte le successive varianti del mitologema14. In appendice ai capitoli di più acuminato spessore del suo romanzo, Il sorriso dell’ignoto marinaio, Consolo ha inserito, infatti, un ventaglio di documenti storici che fanno corpo organico con la narrazione, esplicitando ciò che essa lascia nel margine dell’intuitivo. Aldo M. Morace sostiene che così viene spezzata l’unità tipica del racconto storico, ma anche la finzione narrativa stessa, in modo da chiamare in causa il lettore, secondo l’esigenza brechtiana dello straniamento e secondo la suggestione adorniana circa la necessità, per l’opera d’arte, di portare impresse nelle proprie strutture formali le stigmate della negatività rinunciando alla forma compatta ed armoniosa che attesterebbe la conciliazione con la società esistente15. Se il romanzo, e in particolare il romanzo storico si esprime attraverso le tensioni formali, come sostiene Flora Di Legami16, la prosa di Consolo corrisponde pienamente a questa immagine. L’autore introduce, trasformato, il topos ottocentesco del manoscritto: esso non è più l’espediente narrativo su cui costruire la trama del romanzo, ma un documento immaginario capace di suffragare, con la sua verosimiglianza linguistica, l’effettualità degli avvenimenti narrati. E così il Mandralisca, mosso dall’ansia di verificare le affermazioni dell’Interdonato, compie un viaggio in alcuni paesi del messinese, che gli farà conoscere le condizioni di miseria e sfruttamento in cui versano i contadini, ma soprattutto lo porterà ad essere testimone diretto dell’insurrezione di Alcara contro i Borboni nel maggio 1860. Quello del Mandralisca risulta un viaggio di tipo vittoriniano, di progressiva maturazione e di crescita etico-politica, ma anche di discesa del nostro tempo. Interviste a Leonardo Sciascia, Vincenzo Consolo, Gesualdo Bufalino, Ignazio Buttita, dal programma radiofonico di Loredana Cacicia e Sergio Palumbo, prodotto e trasmesso da Rai Sicilia nel 1991. Palermo, Officine Grafiche Riunite, 2013, p. 52. L’intellettuale al caffé. Incontri con testimoni e interpreti all’interno delle contraddizioni della storia e della ragione, di cui sperimenta l’impotenza operativa17. Nel contesto della dominazione anche fisica delle nuove forze — come prova di contrapposizione ad esse — appare anche il problema delle riflessioni morali che espongono solo la dimensione degli abusi. Consolo la rievoca tramite l’introduzione della situazione di caos: accanto alle forze naziste spuntano le proteste degli operai, crescono l’incitazione intorno alla Targa Florio e infine la sconfitta degli anarchisti. Questo caos viene preceduto nella narrazione dal segnale riferito alla follia della famiglia Marano, il che suggerisce la conseguente spirale della perdita di senno. Solo la ragione si oppone al regime, al male atavico dell’uomo, alla distruzione della memoria e dei valori della terra e della società18: Ora sembrava che un terremoto grande avesse creato una frattura, aperto un vallo fra gli uomini e il tempo, la realtà, che una smania, un assillo generale, spingesse ognuno nella sfasatura, nella confusione, nell’insania. E corrompeva il linguaggio, stracangiava le parole, il senso loro, il pane si faceva pena, la pasta peste, la pace pece, il senno sonno. N, 140 Il linguaggio, trasgressivo e straniato, arcaicizzante e artificioso, nasce da una spinta molto forte, così da richiedere una strategia di difesa e di allontanamento, e una immersione nella vita “nel suo infinito variare”. È un linguaggio che diviene canto, sonante e alto, fatto di cadenze e ritmi poetici (per esempio, di ben individuabili, ossessivamente presenti, endecasillabi: “E la chia-rì-a scial-ba all’- or-ien-te / di là di Sant’-O-li-ve-del-la Fer-la”)19. Consolo ha spesso affermato di sentirsi parte di una linea della letteratura italiana che proviene dalla Sicilia e che comprende Verga, Pirandello, Vittorini, Brancati, Tomasi di Lampedusa, Sciascia, ma nello stesso tempo ribadisce17 la provenienza da una zona periferica d’Italia. La sua narrazione diventa la testimonianza della credenza nella possibilità dei contributi innovativi alla cultura da quella isolana20. L’abbandono della predominanza del senso della vista a favore dell’abilità del parlare implica la riduzione della distanza rispetto all’oggetto dell’analisi. La facoltà di parlare richiede la mancanza di dominazione e indica invece l’impegno dei processi cognitivi nelle differenti prospettive degli interlocutori. La Sicilia attraversata da Clerici è quella storica del primo Settecento, afflitta da povertà, ignoranza e violenza; e tuttavia i vari paesi diventano contrade dell’anima dove pensieri ed emozioni balzano in primo piano, e i personaggi incontrati hanno sempre consistenza reale e favolosa, come i ladri delle terme segestane. Sono luoghi in cui il narratore sospende il tempo della narrazione per abbandonarsi all’incanto del mondo favoloso e lontano. Lo spazio sociale con i suoi conflitti non è, in questo romanzo, il centro palpitante; lo percorre invece una vibrata inquietudine ed un febbrile desiderio di lontananza21. Nel romanzo Lo spasimo di Palermo l’autore legge una vicenda personale e collettiva, partendo da un tempo che apre immensi spazi. In principio è la lontananza, la terra straniera e il distacco che “costringe ai commiati”22. Nel caso del protagonista del romanzo menzionato, lo scrittore Gioacchino Martinez, cupo e angosciato eroe che vuole rappresentare la realtà senza incanto, che era quello di un sogno infantile, e smuovere altri ricordi. Sono proprio i ricordi che lo devastano e nello stesso tempo lo mantengono in vita: il protagonista torna in Sicilia, da dove se ne era fuggito, per l’impossibilità di opporsi alla violenza, all’ingiustizia. È un affondo nel rammarico, nei dolori della memoria: l’adolescenza nel dopoguerra siciliano, l’amato zio studioso di botanica, l’adorata Lucia che poi sposerà e perderà con strazio, il rifugio in una Milano ritenuta proba, antitesi al ma

rasma 20, gli anni del terrorismo e la pena per il figlio compromesso. Piero Gelli parla direttamente del risveglio di un’illusione: la città civile di Porta, Verri e Beccaria, di Gadda e Montale non esiste più, sommersa dalle acque infette dell’intolleranza e dalla melma della corruzione23. Se si prende per esempio la descrizione dell’albergo che sebbene non sia un luogo sotterraneo, rivela tutta la sua angustia: “La dixième muse era il nome dell’albergo. L’angusto ingresso, il buio corridoio…” (SP, 11). Spostandosi all’indietro nei ricordi assomigliava ai rifugi antiaerei o alle cantine. Dopo il bombardamento all’oratorio Chino ”tornò affannato nell’androne, attraversò il cavedio, discese nel catoio” (SP, 16). È significativo anche che cupi, nascosti ed in profondità siano i luoghi in cui si consuma la relazione fra il padre di Gioacchino e la siracusana. Quindi colpa e menzogna da cui Chino fugge sempre, in modo antonimico, seguendo il percorso contrario, verso la luce e la superficie. È la fuga da una realtà che non vuole conoscere. Una tana sarà anche il luogo prediletto dal ragazzo per i suoi giochi e le sue fughe: “Corse al marabutto, al rifugio incognito e sepolto dal terriccio” (SP, 19). A un certo momento del libro il protagonista parla così: “Non so adesso… Adesso odio il paese, l’isola, odio questa nazione disonorata, il governo criminale, la gentaglia che lo vuole… odio finanche la lingua che si parla”. Mai come adesso la scrittura si ritaglia come il luogo di una distanza difficilmente colmabile in cui non ci sono luoghi cui dedicare una presunta fedeltà: “Dietro queste parole scopertamente riferite all’oggi c’è il risentimento personale di chi scrive verso un luogo che ha dovuto lasciare”24. Una soluzione più simile al concetto di viaggio si può da ricavare nel romanzo Retablo. La seconda sezione del libro, quella centrale o la più distesa, è il diario di viaggio che Clerici scrive per Teresa Blasco, la donna amata, da cui cerca di allontanarsi compiendo la sua “peregrinazione” attraverso la Sicilia. È solo attraverso il “collaudato23 contravveleno della distanza”, infatti, che Clerici riesce a ritrovare quell’“aura irreale o trasognata” che gli consente di dedicarsi alla scrittura e alla pittura (R, 87). E per ottenere il necessario  estraniamento, analogo a quello operato dallo scrittore di Sant’Agata di Militello con il trasferimento a Milano, fungono spesso da testimoni o il cavaliere e l’artista lombardo Clerici, o il mistificatore inglese: Crowley. Lo stile barocco, fitto di sicilianismi, fornisce il coinvolgente e inconfondibile colore locale25.

Title: Rompere il silenzio : i romanzi di Vincenzo Consolo Author: Aneta Chmiel Citation style: Chmiel Aneta. (2015). Rompere il silenzio : i romanzi di Vincenzo Consolo. Katowice : Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Śląskiego.

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1  F. Orlando: Costanti tematiche, varianti estetiche e precedenti storici. In: M. Praz: La carne, la morte e il diavolo nella letteratura romantica. Firenze, Sansoni, 2003 [1996], p. VII. 2  R. Luperini: L’incontro e il caso. Narrazioni moderne e destino dell’uomo occidentale. Roma—Bari, Editori Laterza, 2007, pp. 4—8. 168 Capitolo V: L’allontanamento V. Consolo: La poesia e la storia. In: Gli spazi della diversita. Atti del Convegno Internazionale. Rinnovamento del codice narrativo in Italia dal 1945 al 1992. Leuven —Louvain-la Neuve—Namur—Bruxelles, 3—8 maggio 1993. Vol. 2. A cura di S. Vanvolsem, F. Musarra, B. Van den Bossche. Roma, Bulzoni, 1995, pp. 583— 586.4  A. Bernardelli, R. Ceserani: Il testo narrativo. Istruzioni per la lettura e l’interpretazione. Bologna, Il Mulino, 2013, p. 135. Il viaggio o la fuga? 169 G. Ferroni: La sconfitta della notte. “L’Unità” 1992, il 27 aprile. 6  R. Andò: Vincenzo Consolo: La follia, l’indignazione, la scrittura. “Nuove Effemeridi” 1995, n. 29, p. 11. 7  S. Mazzarella: Dell’olivo e dell’olivastro, ossia d’un viaggiatore. “Nuove Effemeridi” 1995, n. 29, p. 63. 170 Capitolo V: ” (N, 168). Petro è spinto da una parte dalla for8  Ibidem, pp. 63—64. 9  R. Andò: Vincenzo Consolo…, pp. 8—9. S. Mazzarella: Dell’olivo e dell’olivastro…, pp. 62—63. 11 V. Consolo: Fuga dall’Etna. La Sicilia e Milano, la memoria e la storia. Roma, Donzelli editore, pp. 9—10. 12 F. Di Legami: Vincenzo Consolo. La figura e l’opera. Marina di Patti, Pungitopo, 1990, p. 12. 13 Ibidem, pp. 7—9. 172 Capitolo V: , 14 Cfr. K. Kerényi: Nel labirinto. Torino, Bollati Boringhieri, 1983, p. 9. 15 Cfr. A.M. Morace: Orbite novecentesche. Napoli, Edizioni Scolastiche Italiane, 2001, pp. 212—213. 16 Cfr. F. Di Legami: Cfr. F. Di Legami: Vincenzo Consolo…, pp. 24—25. 18 Cfr. C. Ternullo: Vincenzo Consolo: dalla Ferita allo Spasimo. Catania, Prova d’Autore, 1998, p. 58. 19 R. Ceserani: Vincenzo Consolo. “Retablo”. “Belfagor” 1988, anno XLIII, Leo S. Olschki, Firenze, pp. 233 — 234. 174 Capitolo V: L’allontanamento cfr. A. Bartalucci: L’orrore e l’attesa. Intervista a Vincenzo Consolo. “Allegoria. Rivista quadrimestrale” 2000, anno XII, nn. 34—35, gennaio—agosto, 21 Cfr. F. Di Legami: Vincenzo Consolo…, p. 40. 22 G. Amoroso: Il notaio della Via Lattea. Narrativa italiana 1996—1998. Caltanisetta—Roma, Salvatore Sciascia Editore, 2000, p. 464. Cfr. P. Gelli: Epitaffio per un Inferno. La rabbia e la speranza di Consolo. “L’Unità” 1998, il 12 ottobre, p. 3. 24 R. Andò: Vincenzo Consolo…, p. 11.

Vincenzo Consolo. Modernismo e meridionalismo

da Mario De Laurentiis 

Le strategie linguistiche e strutturali mediante le quali Consolo costruisce la densità della propria parola letteraria, torcendola e caricandola nella sfida impossibile alla consistenza della realtà, e la stessa idea consoliana della parola, mettono capo a tensioni e aspirazioni solitamente rubricate sotto il segno della «poesia», nella costellazione, per intenderci, che si muove tra simbolismo e modernismo. La stessa ricorrente tentazione dell’afasia come esito della volontà di troppo dire è del resto segnale non dubbio di queste ascendenze. Non a caso già dal romanzo d’esordio, e fino alle ultime prove, T.S. Eliot è uno dei numi tutelari di Consolo. Allo stesso modo, per tutta la vita Consolo non ha smesso di sottolineare il proprio rifiuto radicale di appartenere alla tradizione propriamente romanzesca, sospetta perché troppo incline a cedere alle lusinghe di una facile leggibilità, ad usum commercii. Prove narrative le sue, quindi, ma protese verso la poesia. D’altro canto, non ci sono dubbi sulla necessità di accostare il suo progetto, letterario ma anche politico-culturale, alla tradizione meridionalistica, nel cui solco si forma, e che non ha mai smesso di operare, anche quando Consolo è andato prendendo strade assai diverse: come già negli anni Ottanta, con libri decisamente atipici come Lunaria e lo stesso Retablo, e sempre più negli anni Novanta. Stiamo così toccando l’altra questione di fondo: quella dell’ossessione della Sicilia. «Scrivo sempre di Sicilia perché non ci si può allontanare dagli anni della propria memoria» ha dichiarato lo scrittore: il che vuol dire, ed è un altro punto decisivo, che l’invenzione letteraria deve nascere dall’esperienza, con la quale entrerà in tensione, sforzandosi di esorcizzare i propri fatali limiti con l’accumulo e la pluralizzazione della forma.

Certo, Consolo parla di tutto sub specie Siciliae, tenendo insieme, in modo decisamente peculiare, la proiezione verso una dimensione di esemplarità e la messa a fuoco dettagliata di tratti storicamente identificati, ricostruiti con precisione maniacale. La sua sicilianità concede in questo senso abbastanza poco alla fuga per la tangente di una a-storica condizione universale, così caratteristica invece di altri autori siciliani, da Pirandello a Vittorini. In innumerevoli occasioni Consolo ha ricordato la sua ferma volontà di approdare alla metafora per via di storia, secondo il sempre attuale, magistrale modello manzoniano: «La lezione del Manzoni è proprio la metafora. Ci siamo sempre chiesti perché abbia ambientato il suo romanzo nel Seicento e non nell’Ottocento. Oltre che per il rovello per la giustizia, proprio per dare distanza alla sua inarrestabile metafora. L’Italia del Manzoni sembra davvero eterna, inestinguibile». L’esemplarità della Sicilia fa tutt’uno in Consolo con la sua peculiarità: che ci fa capire com’è l’Italia proprio perché è un caso estremo. Si potrebbe persino ipotizzare che, mutatis mutandis, a quello che egli scrive della Sicilia possa accadere in futuro qualcosa di simile a quanto già accaduto con la Lucania di Carlo Levi: ridiventata fruibile e attuale perché ricontestualizzata in «un quadro afroasiatico e latinoamericano». La Sicilia di Consolo vale come un’Italia estrema, e però anche come campione fin troppo vero di innumerevoli Sud del mondo. Per altri versi, la Sicilia di Consolo esibisce un cortocircuito di opposti, oscillando fra il vagheggiamento memoriale di un luogo che avrebbe potuto conciliare bellezza storica e naturale, vitalità e cultura, desiderio e conoscenza, e la constatazione, sempre più addolorata e indignata, dell’orrore reale, dell’ingiustizia perpetuata, della collusione eterna fra violenza criminale e violenza istituzionale. La Sicilia è un inferno, insomma, tanto quanto avrebbe potuto essere un paradiso. E la Sicilia è sempre solo la Sicilia: anzi no, è dappertutto.

Il progetto, ma forse dovremmo parlare piuttosto di dovere e di esigenza insopprimibile, di scrivere sempre di Sicilia coincide con la ferma convinzione che l’impresa della scrittura letteraria debba farsi portatrice di uno sguardo critico nei confronti della realtà, e implichi una dimensione etica, implicitamente o esplicitamente politica. Consolo ha infatti svolto per quasi cinquant’anni anche un’intensa attività giornalistica, della quale una larga percentuale è espressione di una diretta militanza civile. Restando però nell’ambito della scrittura letteraria, egli ha delineato, con un’originalità e un rigore teorico che hanno pochi termini di paragone in Italia, una possibile coincidenza fra espressività ed eticità, dove il permanente impegno civile deve identificarsi con la specificità della scrittura, cioè con l’impegno formale. Chiusa la stagione dell’engagement, per Consolo lo scrittore deve fare il proprio mestiere, fino in fondo, senza compromessi: solo così la scrittura può guadagnare lo spessore etico adeguato alle proprie aspirazioni, conoscitive non meno che estetiche. D’altro canto, chi scrive scrive, e dunque non può ignorare che scrivendo rinuncia al diretto impegno politico. Di conseguenza, i paradossi della parola letteraria, della sua pochezza e della sua titanica presunzione si rifrangono e ripetono nella compresenza costante di aperta politicità e senso di colpa dell’intellettuale, sempre abitato dalla sofferta consapevolezza della propria distanza dall’azione reale. Da questo punto di vista, Consolo ha molte cose in comune con Vittorio Sereni, e con lo stesso Franco Fortini, che del resto frequentava.
L’orgoglioso dovere della scrittura comporta così un permanente rimorso, che confina col senso d’inferiorità. Persino la dimensione utopica, pure evocata con tanta forza da Il sorriso dell’ignoto marinaio, non smette in realtà di mescolarsi con la cattiva coscienza, con un irriducibile senso di colpa. Ecco l’utopia del barone Mandralisca:

E gli altri, che mai hanno raggiunto i dritti più sacri e elementari, la terra e il pane, la salute e l’amore, la pace, la gioja e l’istruzione, questi dico, e sono la più parte, perché devono intender quelle parole a modo nostro? Ah, tempo verrà in cui da soli conquisteranno que’ valori, ed essi allora li chiameranno con parole nuove, vere per loro, e giocoforza anche per noi, vere perché i nomi saranno intieramente riempiti dalle cose. (SIM, qui alle pp. 216-7)

Questo sogno di un linguaggio che abolisca il divario fra le parole e le cose assomiglia molto alla permanente tensione di Consolo verso una parola portatrice di una densità tanto speciale da farla assomigliare a una cosa vera. Ma persino qui, dove tanto più la voce del personaggio pare confondersi con quella dell’autore, siamo obbligati a diffidare, e a prendere atto della permanente polifonia della scrittura consoliana; quel sogno infatti deve essere percepito come nobile, sì, ma impossibile, e persino mistificatore: «Quello non è il pensiero dell’autore, ma del Mandralisca, dell’intellettuale che cerca di scaricarsi la coscienza, di alleviare i sensi di colpa donando il suo patrimonio al popolo di Cefalù, nella speranza che le nuove generazioni “possano scrivere da sé la storia”. Certo, questa soluzione è ingenua, se non demagogica».

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.
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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
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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
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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
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97 

Il sorriso dell’ignoto marinaio e L’ipotesto di libertà.

GUIDO BALDI

Università di Torino

II saggio si propone di esaminare i punti di contatto tra Il sorriso dell’ignoto marinaio e la novella Libertà (evidentemente presa da Consolo come punto di riferimento), e al tempo stesso le divergenze nell’impostazione del racconto, che risalgono ai diversi orientamenti ideologici dei due scrittori nei confronti della materia, una rivolta contadina. Se in Verga si registra un atteggiamento fermamente negativo verso la sommossa e le sue atrocità, temperato solo dalla pietà per i contadini diseredati, in Consolo invece si nota la volontà di comprenderne le ragioni. Non solo, se in Libertà la rappresentazione appare scarsamente problematica, a causa dell’atteggiamento dell’Autore che predetermina rigidamente le reazioni del lettore in un unica direzione, Consolo conferisce problematicità al racconto grazie all’uso dei punti di vista e delle voci, giocati abilmente a contrasto.

  1. GLI ANTECEDENTI DELLA SOMMOSSA

Alla base del romanzo di Vincenzo Consolo, Il sorriso dell’ignoto marinaio (1976), si colloca una rivolta contadina, quella scoppiata il 17 maggio 1860 in un piccolo paese sui monti Nebrodi, Alcara Li Fusi, provocata come in Libertà,(1) dalle speranze e dalle illusioni nate all’arrivo dei garibaldini in Sicilia. Ma rispetto a Libertà si registra una differenza sorprendente: la sommossa non viene rappresentata. Il romanzo ruota intorno a un vuoto, a una clamorosa ellissi narrativa, che non può non sconcertare il lettore, deludendo le sue attese, specie se si accosta al testo avendo nella memoria quello famoso di Verga. Eppure tutto il congegno narrativo del romanzo, nella sua prima parte, prima di arrivare al momento decisivo, fa supporre che la rappresentazione della rivolta debba essere il culmine del racconto, il suo punto di convergenza centrale, la sua Spannung. Al capitolo terzo, il folle eremita che vive in una grotta sulla montagna incontra nello spiazzo della forgia a Santa Marecùma un gruppo di fabbri e pastori, “omazzi rinomati per potenza di polso e selvaggiume», (2)dai nomi “grottescamente eloquenti di briganti più che di uomini, simili agli antichi epiteti che si davano ai diavoli”

(1) I rimandi alla novella verghiana nel romanzo sono numerosi, pertanto essa, per usare la terminologia genettiana, ne viene a costituire l’ipotesto (GERARD GENETTA. Palinsesti La Letteratura al secondo grado, trad. it.Torino, Einaudi, 1997).

(2) Tutte le citazioni sono tratte dalla seconda edizione del romanzo, Milano, Mondadori, 1997, che reca un’importante Nota dell’autore, vent’anni dopo.

(come nota finemente Giovanni Tesio nel suo commento), (1) «Caco Scippateste Car-cagnintra Casta Mita Inferno Mistêrio e Milinciana», intenti a oliare fucili arrugginiti, a fondere piombo, a riempir cartucce, a ritagliare proiettili, a molare falci, accette, forconi, zappe, coltelli, forbicioni. La scena è interamente colta attraverso il punto di vista dell’eremita, che, se a tutta prima crede di essere capitato all’inferno, pur nella sua esaltazione ha l’intuito pronto e capisce che vi è qualcosa di strano e sospetto in quell’armeggiare. Le stesse risposte dei presenti all’ eremita sono ammiccanti e allusive: alla sua domanda se intendono scannare maiali, rispondono: «- Porci di tutti i tempi, frate Nunzio – Ce n’è tanti – Tanti – Stigliole salsicce soppressata coste gelatina lardo, ah, l’abbondanza di quest’anno”; poi all’altra domanda se l’indomani pensano di fare festa a San Nicola, affermano: «Saltiamo questa volta, frate Nunzio. Non vedete quanto travaglio? […) Faremo festa per il giovedì che viene – Festa – Festazza […J – Scendete dall’eremo, frate Nunzio, e vedrete -». Il clima infernale che avvolge la scena potrebbe far supporre, nell’Autore, l’intento di usare immagini fortemente connotate e subliminalmente suggestive per mettere in risalto il carattere demoniaco della rivolta e così condizionare la reazione emotiva e il giudizio del lettore in una precisa direzione (come avviene in Libertà con la «strega, coi vecchi capelli irti sul capo, armata soltanto delle unghie», che sta innanzi ai rivoltosi ubriachi di sangue); in realtà non si ha nulla del genere: al contrario, usare il punto di vista di un folle delirante, al quale va tutta la responsabilità dell’immagine, ottiene un effetto straniante, per cui l’adunanza dei futuri rivoltosi che preparano le loro armi assume un carattere di fervore gioioso, e la deformazione espressionistica della rappresentazione fa sentire la forza latente e la rabbia repressa che cova in quei diseredati in vista della prossima rivolta. Cosi le immagini gastronomiche da loro usate non hanno il valore delle allusioni verghiane alla ferocia cannibalica della folla affamata, anch’esse cariche di un pesante giudizio sull’ atrocità delle stragi dissimulato nella trama segreta del racconto, ma possiedono qualcosa di pantagruelicamente allegro. Infine le allusioni alla rivolta come festa non hanno nulla a che vedere con il «carnevale furibondo di luglio» di Libertà, ma fanno pensare a uno scatenamento liberatorio di quella forza e di quella rabbia.

Arrivato sulla piazza del paese, l’eremita vede che la caverna piena di gente rovescia per la porta aperta uno sfavillio di luce, «come antro di fornace» (un rimando interno alla forgia di prima), insieme a voci e urla. Da un gruppo che siede sul sedile di pietra, composto dal lampionaio, dall’usciere comunale, dall’inserviente del Casino dei galantuomini e dal sagrestano, il frate apprende il motivo di quella baldoria:

– Un tizio chiamato Garibardo

– Chi e ‘sto cristiano?

– Scanna monache e brucia conventi, rapina chiese, preda i galantuomini e protegge       avanzi di galera

– Questi vanno dicendo che gli da giustizia e terre…

Segno rapido di croce, mani giunte, capo chino e masticare un sordo paternostro

A differenza di Verga, che avvia la narrazione della sommossa in medias res, saltando tutti gli antefatti e partendo con il racconto dei primi atti compiuti dai rivoltosi, il romanzo di Consolo indugia sugli antefatti, sul come il diffondersi delle notizie sullo sbarco

di Garibaldi ecciti gli animi dei diseredati e persino, come si è visto, sulla preparazione delle armi per i futuri eccidi. L’impostazione sembra voler insinuare nel lettore l’attesa di ciò che dovrà accadere, la convinzione che la rivolta sarà allo stesso modo diffusamente rappresentata, quasi a rendere poi più sconcertante la delusione delle aspettative. Nel passo citato le notizie dell’arrivo dei garibaldini e delle reazioni da essi provocate sono date attraverso il punto di vista degli uomini d’ordine, che stanno dalla parte dei signori e guardano con esecrazione e paura gli avvenimenti. In Libertà il punto di vista conservatore sul processo risorgimentale è riportato solo mediante un rapido accenno, l’uso spregiativo del verbo «sciorinarono» riferito al tricolore, qui invece quel modo malevolo di interpretare l’impresa dei Mille è proposto con ampiezza, evidentemente per mettere in piena luce una gretta chiusura dinanzi a ogni avvisaglia di cambiamento sociale che dall’alto si irradia verso il basso, contagiando anche i satelliti della classe padronale, come questi modesti paesani che stanno a chiacchierare in piazza.

Quello che nella novella verghiana era un rapido moto di disappunto dell’Autore dinanzi alla sordità dei «galantuomini» ai valori patriottici, qui si fa aperta polemica, ma più contro la chiusura sociale dei conservatori che quella politica. È chiaro da che parte sta lo scrittore.

Ancora al capitolo quinto si ha un’ampia narrazione di un momento preparatorio della sommossa, il raduno dei rivoltosi sempre nella conca di Santa Marecúma, la sera precedente il giorno fissato. Giungono tre uomini a cavallo, due «civili» e un capo dei braccianti, che sono i capi della rivolta e tengono i loro discorsi alla folla. Grazie ad essi si delineano non solo le motivazioni dell’insurrezione, ma anche le correnti per cosi dire ‘ideologiche’ che l’attraversano. Mentre in Libertà non emergono figure di capi e i contadini sono presentati come una massa spinta da impulsi ciechi e del tutto spontanei, una collettività indifferenziata in cui vi è una perfetta unità di intenti nella pura esplosione di rabbia selvaggia e di irrazionale furia distruttiva (tanto che viene escluso dal racconto il dato storico dell’avvocato Lombardo, l’ideologo e l’organizzatore del moto), qui Consolo ha cura di presentare le varie tendenze che, almeno nei capi, si profilano tra la collettività rurale. Don Ignazio Cozzo, borghese e sommariamente “alletterato”, cioè almeno capace di leggere e scrivere, rappresenta la tendenza a conciliare le spinte più radicali e le posizioni più moderate: il fine ultimo è una conciliazione delle istanze di giustizia sociale, rivolte contro l’oppressione della classe dei proprietari, con il riconoscimento delle autorità istituzionali, monarchia e Chiesa. Con tutto questo, l’oratore sa toccare le corde più sensibili dell’uditorio, facendo leva sui suoi impulsi più violenti, e invita a non farsi fermare da «pietà o codardia», perché grande è la «rabbia«, dopo anni di «sopportazione”, ordinando a ciascuno, al segnale stabilito, «Viva l’Italia!«, di scagliarsi «sopra il civile che si troverà davanti«. Poi, sempre come spia del relativo moderatismo di questa tendenza, l’oratore da appuntamento a tutti, a mezzanotte, per un solenne giuramento sopra il Vangelo, davanti a un ministro di Dio, il parroco del Rosario.

A contrastare questa linea insorge l’altro oratore, non un borghese ma il capo dei braccianti, Turi Malandro, che rappresenta le tendenze più estremistiche del movimento. Innanzitutto rifiuta il grido di «Viva l’Italia!« come segnale della sommossa, proponendo invece «Giustizial»: all’impostazione istituzionale, patriottica, contrappone quella sociale, eversiva dei rapporti di proprietà, perché giustizia in quel contesto significa sostanzialmente redistribuzione della terra. Una linea dura e spietata prospetta anche per l’azione: avverte che sarà facile lo «scanna scanna pressati dalla rabbia», il difficile verrà dopo, quando «il sangue, le grida, le lacrime, misericordia, promesse e implorazioni potranno invigliacchire i fegati più grossi. Non bisogna dunque cedere alla pietà: «Se uno, uno solo si lascia brancare da pena o da paura, tutta la rivoluzione la manda a farsi fottere». Se in Libertà la ferocia senza pietà dei rivoltosi era solo effetto di rabbia spontanea e di odio accumulato contro gli oppressori, qui la violenza non appare cieca, ma preordinata, teorizzata, ideologizzata, Non si ha una massa irrazionale, ma una forza organizzata, indirizzata verso obiettivi precisi, consapevole dei propri strumenti di lotta. In entrambi i casi gli atteggiamenti ideologici degli Autori verso la massa popolare, le posizioni conservatrici di Verga e quelle di sinistra di Consolo, non condizionano solo le tecniche narrative della sua rappresentazione, ma determinano la fisionomia stessa dell’oggetto rappresentato.

Il borghese don Ignazio sa muoversi con destrezza in questo dibattito con il suo contraddittore più estremista: accetta la parola d’ordine «Giustizia!», declassandola però a puro segnale convenzionale, al pari dell’altra, «Viva l’Italia!», Si allinea sulle posizioni anticlericali del capo bracciante, proclamando: «Siamo contro il Borbone e i servi suoi, ma anche contro la chiesa che protegge le angherie e i tiranni», ma distingue tra i preti «amici e soci degli usurpatorio e preti liberali come il parroco del Rosario. Insinua poi ragioni di opportunità, in quanto il prete è parente di un capitano che segue Garibaldi, e i rivoltosi non possono fare a meno della protezione dei garibaldini, che sono in grado di legittimare il loro operato agli occhi del mondo.

Ultimo preannuncio della sommossa è alla fine del capitolo l’incontro del gruppo di braccianti e pastori nel paese con un «civile», il professor Ignazio, figlio del notaio don Bartolo, il più odiato dei notabili, che alloro passaggio getta loro provocatoriamente in

Faccia i suoi scherni («Ah, che puzzo di merda si sente questa sera.»), ai quali fa eco, ripetendo le stesse parole, il figlio quindicenne. Tutti impugnano i falcetti, le zappe e le cesoie, pronti alla reazione violenta, ma uno di essi, più padrone di sé, riesce a conte nerne l’impeto, invitandoli a portare pazienza sino all’indomani. E il gruppo prosegue con i denti serrati, soffiando forte dal naso «per furia compressa e bile che riversa», È l’ultima immagine della rabbia che sta per esplodere.

2. L’ELLISSI NARRATIVA

A questo punto, dopo così ampi indugi preparatori, il lettore si sente legittimato ad aspettarsi subito dopo il racconto dettagliato della sommossa, Invece non trova nulla del genere: il capitolo successivo è costituito da una lunga lettera del barone di Mandralisca, già protagonista del primo, secondo e quarto capitolo, che per le sue ricerche di naturalista si è trovato sul luogo degli eventi e mesi dopo, a ottobre, scrive all’amico Giovanni Interdonato, procuratore dell’Alta Corte di Messina che dovrà giudicare gli insorti scampati alla fucilazione sommaria, come preambolo a una memoria che intende compilare sui fatti di Alcara. E evidente allora che il principale problema interpretativo proposto dal Sorriso dell’ignoto marinaio è capire le ragioni di questa clamoroSa ellissi narrativa e la sua funzione strutturale nell’economia dell’opera.

La lettera del barone è il centro ideale del romanzo, e in essa si possono rinvenire le ragioni dell’ellissi, del fatto che lo scrittore rinunci sorprendentemente alla rappresentazione della rivolta popolare, II Mandralisca vorrebbe narrare i fatti come li avrebbe narrati uno di quei rivoltosi, e non uno come don Ignazio Cozzo, «che già apparteneva alla classe de’ civili», ma uno «zappatore analfabeta». In questo proposito dell’aristocratico intellettuale si può intravedere un’allusione alla tecnica abituale delle narrazioni verghiane  incentrate sulle «basse sfere», che consiste proprio nell’adottare una voce narrante al livello stesso del personaggi popolari (tecnica peraltro solo parzialmente applicata in un testo come Libertà, par dedicato a una sommossa contadina, poiché per buona parte il narratone terno al piano del narrato è portavoce dei «galantuomini»).

Ma il barone, che qui diviene il narratore in prima persona (con un passaggio al racconto omodiegetico, mentre i capitoli precedenti erano affidati a un narratore eterodiegetico), scarta decisamente questa possibilità: «Per quanto l’intenzione e il cuore siano disposti, troppi vizi ci nutriamo dentro, storture, magagne, per nascita, cultura e per il censo, Ed è impostura mai sempre la scrittura di noi cosiddetti illuminati, maggiore forse di quella degli ottusi e oscurati da’ privilegi loro e passion di casta». Qui chiaramente il barone è alter ego e portavoce dell’Autore stesso: se ne può dedurre facilmente che Consolo rinuncia a narrare la sommossa perché è convinto che una simile operazione, condotta da lui, intellettuale borghese, viziato nella sua visione dalla sua posizione di classe, dalle «storture» che le sono connaturate, sarebbe un «impostura», non sarebbe in grado di riprodurre le ragioni che hanno determinato l’evento, anzi ne tradirebbe inevitabilmente il senso, risolvendosi in una mistificazione. Il barone rintuzza poi l’obiezione che ci sono le istruttorie, le dichiarazioni agli atti, le testimonianze: «Chi verga quelle scritte, chi piega quelle voci e le raggela dentro i codici, le leggi della lingua? Uno scriba, un trascrittore, un cancelliere»; e anche se esistesse uno strumento meccanico capace di registrare quelle voci, come il dagherrotipo fissa le immagini, «siffatta operazione sarebbe ancora ingiusta: poi che noi non possediamo la chiave, il cifrario atto a interpretare que’ discorsi», e non solo sul piano linguistico: «Oltre la lingua, teniamo noi la chiave, il cifrario dell’essere e del sentire e risentire di tutta questa gente?»

Il discorso del barone passa poi a toccare un altro punto di centrale rilevanza, strettamente legato al precedente: l’impossibilità per i privilegiati, anche per quelli «illuminati», di condividere i valori fondamentali, soprattutto quelli politici e culturali, con le classi subalterne. Essi ritengono come unico possibile il loro codice, il loro modo di essere e di parlare che hanno «eletto a imperio a tutti quanti «Il codice del dritto di proprietà e di possesso, il codice politico dell’acclamata libertà e unità d’Italia, il codice dell’eroismo come quello del condottiero Garibaldi e di tutti i suoi seguaci, il codice della poesia e della scienza, il codice della giustizia e quello d’un’utopia sublime e lontanissima…». Per questo la classe dominante parla di rivoluzione, libertà, eguaglianza, democrazia, e riempie di quelle parole libri, giornali, costituzioni, leggi, perché quei valori li ha già conquistati, li possiede. Ma le classi subalterne sono estranee a quei valori, non possono parteciparli: «E gli altri, che mai hanno raggiunto i dritti più sacri e elementari, la terra e il pane, la salute e l’amore, la pace, la gioia e l’istruzione, questi dico, e sono la più parte, perché devono intender quelle parole a modo nostro?». Quei valori non possono essere semplicemente calati dall’alto: le classi subalterne devono da sole conquistarseli, e allora «li chiameranno con parole nuove, vere per loro, e giocotorza anche per noi, vere perché i nomi saranno intieramente riempiti dalle cose»; e allora «la storia loro, la storia, la scriveran da sé, non io, non voi, Interdonato, o uno scriba assoldato. tutti per forza di nascita, per rango o disposizione pronti a vergar su le carte fregi. svolazzi, aeree spirali, labirinti…* Quindi, per il barone, il riscatto dei subalterni varrà a riscattare gli stessi privilegiati, ridando verginità e sostanza autentica a valori che rischiano di ridursi, nelle loro mani, a meri flatus  vocis inconsistenti o a vacue ornamentazioni retoriche. Se gli intellettuali non possono non mistificare la storia degli oppressi con la loro scrittura, la scrittura autentica di tale storia non potrà essere che degli oppressi stessi, quando avranno conquistato gli strumenti concettuali attraverso l’istruzione e l’emancipazione dalla loro subalternità.

Risulta evidente, da tutte queste riflessioni del barone di Mandralisca, e dietro di lui dello scrittore, la distanza ideologica che, sul tema comune della rappresentazione di una rivolta contadina, separa il romanzo di Consolo da Libertà. Verga, dal suo punto di vista di conservatore deluso e pessimista, registra con la sua gelida oggettività, che tradisce una desolata amarezza, l’estraneità dei contadini ai valori risorgimentali, il loro ridurre l’ideale di libertà alla semplice redistribuzione della proprietà della terra. Consolo invece, da una prospettiva storica che, grazie alla conoscenza dell’ampio dibattito intervenuto nel frattempo, ha ben chiari i limiti del Risorgimento, specie nei suoi riflessi sul Mezzogiorno, e soprattutto considerando la rivolta contadina da tutt’altra angolatura, quella dell’intellettuale di sinistra, arriva a comprendere le motivazioni profonde di quella estraneità e a giustificarla storicamente e socialmente. Non solo, ma in chiave di materialismo storico attribuisce agli aspetti materiali, cioè proprio alla terra, un peso determinante rispetto agli ideali astratti. Il barone nel 1856 aveva partecipato ai moti patriottici di Cefalù, ed ora rievoca le figure degli eroi e dei martiri che allora avevano dato la vita per la causa: «Io mi dicea allora, prima de’ fatti orrendi e sanguinosi ch’appena sotto comincerò a narrare, quei d’Alcara intendo, finito che ho avuto questo preambolo, io mi dicea: è tutto giusto, è santo. Giusta la morte di Spinuzza, Bentivegna, Pisacane… Eroi, martiri d’un ideale, d’una fede nobile e ardente». Però ora, sotto l’impressione sconvolgente della sommossa di Alcara, è assalito da dubbi: «Oggi mi dico: cos’è questa fede, quest’ideale? Un’astrattezza, una distrazione, una vaghezza, un fiore incorporale, un ornamento, un ricciolo di vento.. Una lumaca.” La lumaca, l’oggetto dei suoi studi eruditi e futili, è assunta dal barone come immagine del vuoto sterile di una cultura di classe c, nella sua forma a spirale(1) che si chiude su se stessa, «di tutti i punti morti, i vizi, l’ossessioni, le manie, le coartazioni, i destini, le putrefazioni, le tombe, le prigioni… Delle negazioni insomma d’ogni vita, fuga, libertà e fantasia, d’ogni creazion perenne, senza fine». Per cui alla lumaca contrappone ciò che è solido e concreto, la terra: «Perché, a guardar sotto, sotto la lumaca intendo, c’è la terra, vera, materiale, eterna: e questo riporta il suo pensiero alla rivolta dei contadini: «Ah la terra! È ben per essa che insorsero quei d’Alcàra, come pure d’altri paesi, Biancavilla, Bronte, giammai per lumache», cioè per ideali astratti e retorici.

Inoltre, mentre il pessimismo induce Verga a essere profondamente scettico su una diversa organizzazione della società, e quindi a convincersi che un’eventuale redistribuzione della terra porterà comunque allo scatenarsi della lotta per la vita e a nuovi sopraffattori, scaturiti dalla massa popolare stessa, che si sostituiranno agli antichi, Consolo per bocca del suo aristocratico illuminato prospetta come una conquista determinante l’accesso dei contadini alla terra, nella prospettiva di una distruzione della proprietà privata, «la più grossa, mostruosa, divoratrice lumaca che sempre s’è aggirata strisciando per il mondo», distruzione che il barone vagheggia rifacendosi alle idee di Mario Pagano e di Pisacane, citato testualmente: «Il frutto del proprio lavoro garantito; tutt’altra proprietà non solo abolita, ma dalle leggi fulminata come il furto, dovrà essere la chiave del nuovo edifizio sociale. È ormai tempo di porre ad esecuzione la solenne sentenza che la Natura ha pronunciato per bocca di Mario Pagano: la distruzione di chi usurpa». Se Libertà ha alla base la negazione di ogni possibilità di progresso, dalle

parole del barone risalta una ferma fiducia nel progresso, in senso sociale, come riscatto delle masse oppresse ad opera delle masse stesse, capaci di distruggere il sistema iniquo della proprietà privata avviando a una totale rigenerazione del mondo: «Per distruggere questa i contadini d’Alcàra si son mossi, e per una causa vera, concreta, corporale: la terra: punto profondo, onfalo, tomba e rigenerazione, morte e vita, inverno e primavera, Ade e Demetra e Kore, che vien portando i doni in braccio, le spighe in fascio, il dolce melograno…. E, in questo proiettarsi in un futuro ritenuto possibile, la cui immagine lo esalta, la sua prosa diviene lirica, enfatica, infarcita di rimandi classici e mitologici, tradendo la sua natura di letterato: la scelta stilistica dello scrittore, che mima lo stile del personaggio stesso, vale a denunciare, mediante un processo di distanziamento e di straniamento, quanto di cultura aristocratica ed elitaria permanga nel nobile, nonostante la sua apertura ideologica, quindi a sottrarlo a ogni rigidezza esemplare e apologetica, a presentarlo in una luce critica (ma su questo dovremo ritornare).

Per la presa di coscienza dell’impossibilità di narrare i fatti di Alcara, «se non si vuol tradire, creare l’impostura», al barone «è caduta la penna dalla mano»: rinuncia pertanto all’idea di stendere quella memoria sullo svolgimento della sommossa che intendeva sottoporre all’amico Interdonato, procuratore dell’Alta Corte. Si limita a invitarlo ad agire «non più per l’Ideale, si bene per una causa vera, concreta», «decidere della vita di uomini ch’ agiron si con violenza, chi può negarlo?, ma spinti da più gravi violenze daltri, secolari, martiri soprusi angherie inganni. ». Ed in effetti il procuratore, rispondendo alla sollecitazione dell’amico, manda liberi i rivoltosi per amnistia, con un’ardita interpretazione di una legge del governo dittatoriale che assolveva da delitti commessi contro il regno borbonico. Evidentemente è significativa questa soluzione adottata da Consolo, se paragonata a quella di Libertà: Verga insiste sul processo in cui i rivoltosi, giudicati da giudici ostili per pregiudizio di classe, subiscono pesanti condanne, nel romanzo di Consolo invece essi (a parte quelli fucilati subito da una commissione speciale, come quelli fatti giustiziare da Bixio nella novella) non subiscono pene. In entrambi i casi viene rispettata la realtà storica: ma è importante che Consolo abbia scelto un fatto conclusosi con una soluzione positiva, grazie all’apertura illuminata di chi rappresenta la giustizia, mentre Verga abbia optato per un fatto risoltosi negativamente. Lo scrittore di sinistra punta cioè su un episodio che consente un’apertura verso il futuro la speranza in un ordine diverso in cui la giustizia non sia solo vendetta di classe, mentre Verga sceglie un episodio storico che conferma il suo pessimismo negatore di ogni prospettiva verso il futuro (e che lascia solo un margine alla pietà per le vittime di una giustizia ingiusta).

Se rinuncia a narrare l’evento in sé, il Mandralisca ritiene agevole e lecito parlare solo «de’ fatti seguiti alla rivolta», «in cui i protagonisti, già liberi di fare e di disfare per più di trenta giorni, eseguir gli espropri e i giustiziamenti che hanno fatto gridar di raccapriccio, ritornano a subire l’infamia nostra, di cose e di parole», cioè le fucilazioni sommarie e poi il processo a Messina. Per cui, come il romanzo rappresenta la preparazione della sommossa, così si sofferma sul quadro spaventoso del paese devastato da essa: le tombe del convento dei cappuccini scoperchiate, con i cadaveri sparsi all’aria aperta. la fontana con le carogne a galla nella vasca, «macelleria di quarti, ventri, polmoni e di corami sparsi sui pantani e rigagnoli dintorno, non sai di vaccina, becchi, porci, cani o cristiani», poi nella piazza del paese «orridi morti addimorati» che «rovesciansi dall’uscio del Casino e vi s’ammucchiano davanti, sulle lastre, uomini fanciulli e anziani. Pesti, dilacerati, nello sporco di licori secchi, fezze, sughi, chiazze, brandelli, e nel lezzo di fermenti grassi, d’acidumi, lieviti guasti, ova corrotte e pecorini sfatti. Sciami e ronzi di mosche, stercorarie e tafani.. Su questo turpe ammasso si avventano cornacchie, corvi, cani sciolti, maiali a branchi, «briachi di lordura», un «vulturume» «piomba a perpendicolo dall’alto come calasse dritto dall’empireo», «si posa sopra i morti putrefatti» affondando il rostro e strappando «da ventre o torace, un tocco», poi «s’ erge, e vola via con frullio selvaggio», mentre passa una carretta guidata da garibaldini, che costringono gli astanti i caricarvi i morti per portarli al cimitero. Consolo insiste su particolari orrorosi e ripugnanti ben più di quanto non faccia Verga, ma mentre in Libertà lo scrittore soffermandosi sulle atrocità punta a suscitare nel lettore reazioni emotive di sdegno e raccapriccio con tecniche di suggestione sotterranea, qui più che l’orrore in sé è in primo piano chi lo osserva, cioè il barone, con il suo atteggiamento dinanzi allo spettacolo: vale a dire che i brani descrittivi, come crediamo risulti chiaramente dalle citazioni, sono in primo luogo esercizi di bravura stilistica intesi a mimare il particolare idioletto dell’aristocratico intellettuale. L’orrore insomma è allontanato di un grado, sempre per presentare il personaggio filtro del racconto in una prospettiva critica, per equilibrarne l’eccessiva positività ed evitarne un ritratto apologetico, mostrando attraverso il linguaggio i limiti storici della sua cultura.

Alla prospettiva del barone, aperta a comprendere con acuta intelligenza politica e sociale le ragioni della rivolta, è contrapposta subito dopo la prospettiva contraria di chi conduce la repressione. Viene cioè riportato il discorso che il colonnello garibaldino, che già con l’inganno aveva indotto i rivoltosi a deporre le armi per arrestarli, rivolge alla popolazione del paese raccolta in chiesa, dopo il Te Deum di ringraziamento per la fine dei disordini. Nelle sue parole i prigionieri incatenati «non sono omini ma furie bestiali, iene ch’approfittaron del nome sacro del nostro condottiero Garibaldi, del Re Vittorio e dell’Italia per compiere stragi, saccheggi e ruberie. lo dichiaro qui, d’avanti a Dio, que’ ribaldi rei di lesa umanità. E vi do la mia parola di colonnello che pagheranno le lor tremende colpe que’ scelerati borboniani che lordaron di sangue il nostro Tricolore. […] L’Italia Una e Libera non tollera nel suo seno il ribaldume». La registrazione di queste parole, con tutto il loro livore forcaiolo, che arriva alla mistificazione di bollare come «borboniani» i rivoltosi, ha il compito di denunciare come i garibaldini non fossero solo i paladini dell’ideale, e tanto meno i portatori di una palingenesi sociale, come si erano illusi i contadini, ma semplicemente venissero a imporre un ordine solo esteriormente nuovo, che in realtà riproduceva in forme diverse l’oppressione di classe precedente. Un’opposizione così forte tra la prospettiva illuminata dell’intellettuale e quella reazionaria del militare portavoce degli interessi del nuovo ordine non può essere priva di significato: occorrerà quindi riflettere sul gioco di punti di vista congegnato dallo scrittore e cercar di capire la sua funzione nella struttura del testo. Però prima è necessario mettere in luce una più ampia opposizione che l’Autore costruisce per chiudere il romanzo, e che presenta caratteristiche analoghe, suscitando gli stessi problemi interpretativi.

3. LA SOMMOSSA ATTRAVERSO LE VOCI DEI PROTAGONISTI

Se il barone rinuncia a descrivere la rivolta per l’impossibilità di narrare come narrerebbero i contadini senza determinare un tradimento mistificatorio, alle voci dei rivoltosi viene egualmente dato spazio nel romanzo. Il Mandralisca infatti, recatosi nel castello dove erano stati rinchiusi i prigionieri, trascrive le scritte da essi tracciate col carbone sui muri del sotterraneo. È come il primo passo verso la realizzazione dell’auspicio formulato dal barone, che i subalterni dovranno scrivere da sé la propria storia.

In tal modo, attraverso le voci dirette dei protagonisti, emergono momenti fondamentali della sommossa e viene in qualche modo colmato il vuoto dell’ellissi che ne aveva cancellato la narrazione

Dalle scritte affiorano, in forme elementari e sintetiche ma cariche di una forma dirompente, le ragioni della rivolta, l’odio per i possidenti, la rabbia per i soprusi e le ruberie ai danni dei diseredati, al tempo stesso, per rapidi ed essenziali scorci, si profilano gli episodi più atroci, che sono affini a quelli descritti da Verga, ma invece di essere affidati a un narratore non neutrale, che indulge su determinati particolari per condizionare sottilmente il giudizio del lettore, sono lasciati, senza filtri, alle parole secche degli autori stessi delle efferatezze, al momento di scrivere ancora pienamente sotto l’impulso dell’odio che allora li aveva mossi. Unica eccezione è la seconda scritta, che solo all’inizio inveisce contro proprietari, pezzi grossi del consiglio comunale, parroci e «civili» che si sono appropriati delle terre del Comune escludendo chi ne aveva diritto, sia «galantuomini» sia «poveri villani»: chi scrive è un «galantuomo» egli stesso che, pieno di rabbia per essere stato estromesso dalla spartizione, ha capeggiato la rivolta, ma ora confessa di essersi pentito del processo devastante a cui aveva dato origine («Aizzai gli alcaresi a ribellarsi / ah male per noi / nessuno fu più buono / di fermare la furia / dei lupi scatenati), per cui chiede perdono a tutti. L’immagine dei «lupi» scatenati sembra proprio un intenzionale rimando, da parte dello scrittore, al lupo «che capita affamato nella mandra» di Libertà: ma certamente un suono diverso ha la stessa immagine usata da un narratore portavoce delle classi alte vittime della rivolta, delegato a esprimere l’esecrazione, il disprezzo e la paura che esse nutrono per la furia popolare, oppure impiegata da chi è stato dentro la sommossa e ora prende coscienza delle atrocità commesse, provandone orrore.

La scritta successiva evoca l’uccisione del nipote del notaio, al presente, come se chi scrive rivivesse in quel momento l’atto compiuto e ancora ne godesse: «Puzza di merda a noi / la sera di scesa nel paese / stano turuzzo / nipote del notaro / strascino fora / serro colle cosce / sforbicio il gargarozzo / notaro saria stato pure lui». Anche qui si inserisce un’evidente allusione a Libertà: la conclusione della scritta ripete quasi testualmente l’affermazione nella novella verghiana proferita da uno della folla dinanzi al figlio del notaio abbattuto con un colpo di scure dal taglialegna: «Bah! egli sarebbe stato notaio, anche lui!». Ma proprio il collegamento esplicito fa risaltare la distanza fra le due impostazioni del racconto. In Verga la registrazione della frase vale a gettare una luce sinistra sul cinismo disumano dei rivoltosi, qui invece la stessa frase riflette solo la comprensibile indignazione dell’oppresso contro gli oppressori e il suo bisogno di giustizia.

Inoltre in Libertà il ragazzo trucidato è biondo come l’oro, notazione che mira a conferire alla vittima qualcosa di puro e angelico, e quindi a potenziare il patetismo del racconto e a suscitare raccapriccio per la barbara uccisione dell’innocente; nel romanzo di Consolo invece questo ragazzo, nell’episodio a cui la scritta fa inizialmente riferimento, appare come una figura laida, ripugnante sia moralmente sia fisicamente: la sera prima della rivolta aveva schernito provocatoriamente, a imitazione del padre, pastori e fabbri al loro passaggio in piazza, sostenendo di sentire puzzo di merda, rivelando cosi l’odioso disprezzo della sua classe di privilegiati per i poveracci, per di più era descritto «grasso come ‘na femmina, babbaleo, mammolino, ancora a quindici anni sempre col dito in bocca, la bava e il moccio», ed era definito spregiativamente «garrusello», cioè effeminato. È evidente la volontà di rovesciare l’impostazione verghiana. Già nell’episodio della vigilia la figura appariva ignobile perché presentata attraverso la prospettiva dei villani insultati e la loro reazione furibonda, come rivelava il linguaggio adottato, che mimava quello dei villani stessi; poi nella scritta la descrizione dello sgozzamento viene subito dopo la rievocazione degli insulti, a far sentire come l’atto atroce sia scaturito dalla rabbia ancora viva e cocente per l’affronto subito da parte del rappresentante degli oppressori: per cui nella rievocazione dell’eccidio non si innesca alcuna reazione emotiva di commozione e sdegno per l’innocente trucidato, in quanto la vittima non è innocente per nulla, anzi, si ricava l’impressione che la feroce vendetta sia in qualche modo giusta.

Le altre scritte ricalcano sostanzialmente lo stesso schema, evocazione delle angherie ed efferata punizione. Un’ulteriore eco di Libertà è il giovane Lanza che cade senza un lamento, con gli occhi sbarrati «che dicono perché», e rimanda al don Antonio di Verga che cade con la faccia insanguinata chiedendo «Perché Perché mi ammazzate?.

L’ultima scritta, riportata inizialmente nel dialetto alcarese, afferma che «u populu

“ncazzatu ri Laccara» e degli altri paesi siciliani ribellatisi «nun lassa supra a facci ri ‘sta terra/manc’ ‘a simenza ri/ surci e cappedda», e termina nell’antico dialetto di Sanfratello, di origine lombarda: «mart a tucc i ricch / u pauvr sclama / au faun di tant abiss / terra pan / l’originau è daa / la fam sanza fin / di / libirtâá». La parola conclusiva, «libirtãà, sembra ancora un rimando al testo verghiano, ma se là risultava usurpata dai contadini che la intendevano solo come appropriazione delle terre, qui la libertà è decisamente identificata con la terra che dà pane, in coerenza con il discorso fatto in precedenza dal barone, inteso a rivendicare la base materiale che assicura contenuto reale a autentico ai valori ideali.

Il romanzo però non termina qui: dopo la riproduzione delle scritte, vi sono ancora tre appendici di documenti, di cui uno assume un’importante funzione strutturale. si tratta di un libello, a firma di tal Luigi Scandurra, pubblicato a Palermo nel 1860, che contiene una violenta requisitoria contro la decisione del procuratore di mettere in libertà gli accusati. Qui i fatti di Alcara sono presentati in una ben diversa luce rispetto alle parole del barone di Mandralisca e alle scritte sui muri del carcere: i rivoltosi sono definiti «una mano di ribaldi», «un orda di malvaggi [sic], spinti dal veleno di private inimicizie, e dal desio di rapina» che «assassinò quanti notabili capitò [sic] nelle sue mani. saccheggiando e rubando le loro sostanze e le pubbliche casse,

Come si vede la sommossa, dopo essere stata rievocata dall’interno, con le parole dei protagonisti stessi, viene presentata da un punto di vista opposto, quello degli uomini d’ordine, ferocemente ostili al moto popolare, di cui forniscono un quadro deformante, riducendone le cause a motivazioni ignobili di interessi personali e descrivendo gli oppressori come persone di specchiata virtù e come innocenti agnelli sacrificali. Però non si direbbe che la registrazione dei due opposti punti di vista, come già al capitolo settimo la contrapposizione tra la prospettiva del barone e quella del colonnello garibaldino, risponda a intenti di equidistanza e neutralità, come avviene in Libertà, dove a tal fine si alternano il punto di vista dei «galantuomini» e quello dei rivoltosi. La posizione dello scrittore si offre molto netta. Non vi è dubbio, come testimonia tutta l’impostazione del romanzo, che egli voglia presentare in una luce positiva il barone e abbia un atteggiamento estremamente aperto e disponibile verso la rivolta e le sue ragioni, nonostante ne sottolinei chiaramente i limiti politici e le atrocità, e che per converso la riproduzione del libello e dei discorsi dell’ufficiale assuma una forte valenza critica: i conservatori, attraverso la pura registrazione delle loro parole, della loro bolsa retorica, del loro lessico pomposo e approssimativo, delle loro sgrammaticature, denunciano tutto il loro livore forcaiolo e il loro squallore intellettuale e morale. Ma mentre Verga a dispetto dei propositi di obiettività punta su immagini e particolari di forte valore connotativo ed emotivo, che,

suggestionino nel profondo il lettore condizionandone il giudizio, Consolo al contrario, proprio con il gioco dei punti di vista, mira a suscitarne non l’emotività ma la riflessione razionale e la valutazione critica, quindi riesce a preservare la problematicità della rappresentazione.

L’analisi e del romanzo di Consolo a confronto della novella di Verga conferma quanto era facile aspettarsi, conoscendo le rispettive posizioni ideologiche dei due scrittori: cioè che la trattazione della sommossa contadina è condotta con tecniche di rappresentazione e assume una peculiare coloritura in rispondenza a tali posizioni. I rischi insiti nel pessimismo fatalistico di Verga, di ascendenza conservatrice, non sono stati interamente evitati in Libertà, come prova la scarsa problematicità della rappresentazione, dovuta all’atteggiamento autoritario del narratore, che predetermina rigidamente le reazioni del lettore in un’unica direzione (prima esecrazione per sommossa e poi pietà per gli autori delle efferatezze divenuti vittime). Ma rischi simmetrici ed equivalenti erano impliciti nell’ideologia di Consolo: l’impostazione “da sinistra’ poteva dare adito egualmente a rappresentazioni rigidamente univoche e a procedimenti manipolatori, oppure a soluzioni predicatorie, parenetiche, pedagogiche, propagandistiche, come testimonia certa narrativa sociale dell’Ottocento oppure del neorealismo novecentesco.

Ci sembra di poter concludere che tali rischi sono stati da Consolo evitati:(1) a ciò ha contribuito proprio la scelta dell’ellissi narrativa, la rinuncia a una descrizione diretta della sommossa, che sarebbe stata piena di insidie difficili da evitare; vi ha inoltre cooperato il gioco dei punti di vista, tra la prospettiva alta dell’aristocratico, aperto alle istanze popolari però ben consapevole dei rischi di una scrittura che scaturisse dalla cultura dei privilegiati, la voce diretta dei subalterni affidata alla riproduzione testuale delle scritte sui muri del carcere, ed ancora la voce dei conservatori rappresentata dalle tirate reazionarie del principe Maniforti contro la disonestà e le ruberie dei villani, dal discorso del colonnello garibaldino e dal libello contro la scarcerazione degli imputati.

(1) Su questo la critica é in genere concorde. Per Romano Luperini «attraverso il linguaggio, Consolo riesce a scrivere un romanzo politico senza invadenza alcuna di ideologia» (Romano Luperini, Il Novecento, Torino, Loescher, 1981, pag.868), tesi ripresa dal critico più di recente: «Lo sforzo polifonico di Consolo […] nasceva da un intento realistico di conoscenza e di giudizio (Toma, Rinnovamento e restaurazione del codice narrativo nell’ultimo trentennio: prelievi testuali da Malerba, Consolo, Volponi, in I tempi del rinnovamento, Atti del Convegno Internazionale Rinnovamento del codice narrativo in Italia dal 1945 al 1992, ( a cura di Serge Vanvolsem. Franco Musarra, Bart Van den Bossche, Roma, Bulzoni, 1995, p. 544), Per Massimo Onofri, in Consolo cultura e politica, letteratura e ideologia possono intersecarsi, senza che per questo la dimensione estetica si neghi a se stessa, risolvendosi in pedagogia sociale ed oratoria. Il critico richiama poi il rifiuto, da parte del protagonista di Nottetempo, casa per casa, Pietro Marano, dei versi di Rapisardi, il quale ricapitola in sé ‘tutti i tratti di una poesia civile e politica per cosi dire ingaggiata, sempre sul punto di travalicare nell’orazione»: Consolo invece è e resta scrittore politico proprio in quanto, nel contempo, elabora una sua implacabile condanna della retorica dell’impegno. […] Ciò significa che la disposizione politica della scrittura di Consolo si gioca prima di tutto sul piano della forma che su quello dei contenuti, «attraverso un’oltranza di stile»; la sua «è una letteratura che, in un’accezione tutt’altro che formalistica, ha fatto della forma una questione di sostanza» (Massimo Onofri, Nel magma Italia: considerazioni su Consolo scrittore politico e sperimentale, in ldem. Il sospetto della realtà, Saggi e paesaggi italiani novecenteschi,
Cava de’ Tirreni, Avagliano, 2004, pp. 195-197)