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THE UNIVERSITY OE CHICAGO

PHOTOGRAPHIC FICTIONS: PHOTOGRAPHY IN ITALIAN LITERATURE 1945-2000 VOLUM E ONE

A DISSERTATION SUBM ITTED TO THE FACULTY OF THE DIVISION OF THE HUM ANITIES IN CANDIDACY FOR THE DEGREE OE DOCTOR OE PHILOSOPHY

DEPARTM ENT OF ROMANCE LANGUAGES AND LITERATURES

BY SARAH PATRICIA HILL

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS JUNE 2004

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UMI Number: 3125613

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Copyright 2004 Sarah Patricia Hill All Rights Reserved

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TA BLE OF CONTENTS

Volume One Table of Contents.................................................................................................... ill List of figures.......................................................................................................... iv Note on Translations............................................................................................... vi A bstract...................................................................................................................vii Acknowledgments.................................................................................................viii Introduction Mysterious Objects; Readings of Photography.............................................. 1 Chapter One Precedents and Precursors.............................................................................. 25 Chapter Two Lalla Romano: Narrative, Memory, and Photography................................ 71 Chapter Three The Photographer Protagonist in Niccolai and De Carlo.......................... 149

Volume Two Chapter Four Livable Fictions: The Landscape Works of Gianni Celati and Luigi G hirri...............................................................................................................215 Chapter Five Identifying the Body: Photography and Death in Some Late Twentieth-Century Italian Fictions..............................................................301 Conclusion A Partial Picture.............................................................................................387 Bibliography..........................................................................................................398

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LIST OF FIGU RES

Volume One Figure I : I caduti per la liberta . . II Politecnico I, 29settembre 1945..............................40 Figure 2: Paul Strand, The Family, Luzzara, Italy,1953 1955 Aperture Foundation Inc., Paul Strand Archive................................................................................................52 Figure 3: Paul Strand, Bridge Over the Po, Luzzara, Italy, 1953 1955 Aperture Foundation Inc., Paul Strand Archive...........................................................................56 Figure 4: Paul Strand, The River Po, Luzzara, Italy, 1953 1955 Aperture Foundation Inc., Paul Strand Archive............................................................................................... 57 Figure 5: Roberto Romano, from Nuovo romanzo, 4 8 ......................................................... 117 Figure 6: Roberto Romano, from Nuovo romanzo, xiv........................................................ 121 Figure 7: Roberto Romano, from Nuovo romanzo, 150....................................................... 123 Figure 8 and Figure 9: Roberto Romano, in Nuovo romanzo, 6 and 9 6 .............................. 124 Figure 10: Roberto Romano, in Nuovo romanzo, 22............................................................ 124 Figure 11: Roberto Romano, from Nuovo romanzo, 112.....................................................127 Figure 12: Roberto Romano, from Nuovo romanzo, 174.....................................................128 Figure 13: Roberto Romano, from Nuovo romanzo, 126.....................................................130 Figure 14 and Figure 15: R. Romano, from Nuovo romanzo, 282, 2 8 5.............................131 Figure 16: R. Romano, from Nuovo romanzo, 156................................................................134 Figure 17 and Figure 18: R. Romano, from Nuovo romanzo, 136, 158.............................137 Figure 19: R. Romano, from Nuovo romanzo, 138................................................................138 Figure 20: R. Romano, from Nuovo romanzo, 160................................................................139 Figure 21: R. Romano, from Vmovo romanzo, 166................................................................141 Figure 22: Romanzo di figure, 88-89.......................................................................................143 Figure 23: Nuovo romanzo, 94-95............................................................................................ 143 Figure 24: R. Romano, from Lettura di u n immagine, 125.................................................. 146 Figure 25: Cover, Nuovo romanzo di fig u re ........................................................................... 147 Figure 26 and Figure 27: Giulia Niccolai, Street scenes, Harlem, New York, 1960s ........ 155 Volume Two Figure 28: Figure 29: Figure 30: Figure 31: Figure 32: Figure 33: Figure 34: Figure 35: Figure 36: Figure 37: Figure 38: Figure 39: Figure 40: Figure 41: Figure 42: Figure 43: Luigi Ghirri, Rotterdam, 1973............................................................................... 221 Luigi Ghirri, Sassuolo (Mo), 1984 ........................................................................231 Luigi Ghirri, From Atlante, Modena, 1973 .......................................................... 232 Luigi Ghirri, Cadecoppi (Mo), 1986 .....................................................................233 Luigi Ghirri, Comacchio: Argine Agosta ............................................................. 233 Luigi Ghirri, Pomponesco (Mn), 1985 ................................................................. 239 Luigi Ghirri, Verso Migliarino (Fe), 1 9 8 8 .......................................................... 242 Luigi Ghirri, Verso Lagosanto (Fe), 1988 ........................................................... 242 Luigi Ghirri, Roncocesi (RE), gennaio 1992 ....................................................... 255 Luigi Ghirri, Gianni Celati .................................................................................... 258 Map, Gianni Celati, Narratori delle pianure ....................................................... 258 Luigi Ghirri, Reggio E m ilia .................................................................................. 261 Luigi Ghirri, Quattro novelle ................................................................................ 272 Luigi Ghirri, Cervia (Eo), 1989 ............................................................................ 295 Luigi Ghirri, Cervia (Eo), 1989 ............................................................................295 Luigi Ghirri, Campagna modenese, 1985 ............................................................ 297 iv

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Figure Figure Figure Figure Figure

44: 45: 46: 47: 48:

Luigi Ghirri, Mare adriatico, 1989 .......................................................................298 Grimau and Lambrakis ...........................................................................................325 Reggio Emilia 1960 ................................................................................................327 La piazza della Chiesa a Casarsa and Paesaggio africano ............................... 328 La tomba di Gramsci a Testaccio .......................................................................... 329

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NOTE ON TRANSLATIONS

To facilitate the reading of this dissertation, I have cited Italian sources in English within the body of the work, providing the original Italian in the footnotes.

Where possible, I have tried to use previously published English translations of the novels I cite. Unless otherwise noted, all translations are mine.

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ABSTRA CT

Photography has had significant influences on twentieth-century Italian literature since the end of World War II, yet academic boundaries have kept photography and literature largely separate. This separation is largely due to photographys ubiquity and its ambiguous status as a cultural form, which have biased critics against it. But many writers over the past half-century have seen no such barrier, finding in photography a source of inspiration and ideas about issues of central importance to literature. This dissertation seeks to explore the important ways in which Italian writers in the period 1945-2000 have made use of photography. These include collaborative projects with photographers; photo-texts; written representations of photographic ways of seeing; and the use of photographs and photographic techniques as themes, metaphors, or motifs in literary works. Using literary, photographic, visual, and cultural theory, the dissertation looks at photography as a cultural phenomenon, relating its multiple roles in Italian society to the ways in which Elio Vittorini, Cesare Zavattini, Italo Calvino, Lalla Romano, Giulia Niccolai, Andrea De Carlo, Gianni Celati, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Daniele Del Giudice, and Antonio Tabucchi have responded to and used photography in their works. Concentrating on prose fiction, it argues that these writers use photography to tackle key questions that also regard writing: the boundaries between truth and fiction, the question of identity, our relation to memory and to death, the impossibility or otherwise of narration, and the role of the author. It shows that many of Italys most interesting and original writers of the second half of the last century were both intensely interested in and strongly influenced by photography. In analyzing this relation, the dissertation addresses fundamental questions about visual and verbal representations, their function and effect, ethics and aesthetics.

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A C KN O W LED GM EN TS

This dissertation could not have been written without the help of many people. My heartfelt thanks go to my advisor, Rebecca West, whose work inspired me to come to the University of Chicago, and whose intellect, encouragement, and joie de vivre have made my time here enormously rewarding. Rebecca has nurtured my interest in contemporary literature and visual media since before we even met and has sustained my work and me in countless ways. Elissa Weaver provided me with important scholarly mentorship, and much practical assistance. Her intellectual generosity and enthusiasm for literature and life continue to inspire me. Armando M aggis insightful criticism and valuable suggestions influenced my work in important ways, and I am most grateful for his help and support. I would also like to acknowledge my great debt to Michael Hanne, who first encouraged me to consider graduate studies in Italian and suggested I look into the relations between literature and photography, and to Paolo Cherchi, whose scholarship and humor enlivened my early years in graduate school and opened doors to new intellectual experiences. One of the joys of this project has been the opportunity it afforded me to meet and talk with a number of exceptional writers and photographers, as well as those who work with them and on their work. I owe a great debt of gratitude to Gianni Celati, Giulia Niccolai, and Paola Borgonzoni Ghirri for their thoughtful responses to my countless questions and for their many kindnesses to me. My warm thanks go also to Antonio Ria for providing access to Lalla Romanos archives and for his insights into her life and work. Diego Mormorio generously shared his extensive knowledge of Italian photography and gave me free reign in his excellent library. Amedeo Quondam at the University of Rome, La Sapienza, Eederica Capoferri, Benedetta Cestelli Guidi, Marina Miraglia, Andrea Cortelessa, Emanuele Trevi, Paolo Barbaro of the Centro viii

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Studi e Archivio della Comunicazione in Parma, Vittorio Savi, and Angela Tromellini and Giuseppina Zannini of the Fototeca section of the Cineteca Comunale di Bologna all provided me with valuable contacts, suggestions, and information, for which I am extremely grateful. Graziella Parati of Dartmouth College made some very useful suggestions during the early stages of this project, as did W.J.T. Mitchell and Joel Snyder of the University of Chicago. Remo Ceserani, Arturo Carlo Quintavalle, and Massimo Mussini of the Universita di Parma also kindly agreed to speak with me about it. My thanks go also to Portia Prebys and Giuseppe Molinari and his family for their invaluable practieal assistance in Rome. I would like to thank the University of Chicago and the Universita di Roma La Sapienza for the Cynthia Scholarship that allowed me to carry out the research for this dissertation, and the Mrs Giles Whiting Foundation for the Whiting dissertation fellowship that provided me with the uninterrupted opportunity to write it. I very much appreciate the kindness of Sima Godfrey of the Institute for European Studies at the University of British Columbia and her assistant Rob Stoddard in making me welcome as a visiting doctoral fellow in 2002-2004. Many thanks also to the Franke Institute Affiliated Fellows group, which read and commented on an early draft of one of my chapters, and to Margot Browning of the Franke Institute for her many efforts on behalf of the Fellows. Other members of the University eommunity and beyond have helped me in numerous ways. I would like to thank Dan Russek for the many stimulating discussions we had about our mutual interest in the conneetions between literature and photography, Joshua Urquart for generously giving up his time to help edit an early chapter, and Rachel Walsh Urquhart, who provided me with much-appreciated editorial, logistical, and moral support. Warm thanks to Colleen Mullarkey of the University of Chicago Dissertations Office for her patient assistance in preparing the dissertation for submission. I would also like to thank the University of Chicago ix

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Humanities Computing center and Digital Media Lab for their assistance with technical matters, and the current and former administrative staff of the department of Romance Languages and Literatures, particularly Barbara Britten, Juanita Denson, and Paula Manzuk, for all that they have done and continue to do for graduate students. Many friends helped make the process of writing this dissertation much more pleasurable than it would otherwise have been. I am especially indebted to Erin Baines, Mikis Manolis, Jay Brodsky, and Sofia Westwater Brodsky for lightening the load at crucial moments. I also gratefully acknowledge the encouragement and support of my friends Alfred Klinger and the late Kit Klinger, who welcomed me into their family when I was far from my own. The close friendship of many fellow graduate students at the University of Chicago has enriched my doctoral experience immensely, and I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with such a congenial and collegial group of people. Lynn Westwater provided invaluable moral, intellectual, and logistical support for which I am deeply grateful and without which this dissertation would be much the poorer. I thank her for her thoughtful readings of my chapters, her interest in my work, and her generous and unfailing friendship. I am very grateful, too, to Davide Papotti, my academic sibling, for the intellectual rigor and sense of fun he brought to our shared graduate school existence, and for the multitude of favorini he has uncomplainingly done me. My familys unconditional love and faith in my abilities made this project possible and meaningful, and provides the grounding for all my endeavors. I am grateful for the encouragement of my parents-in-law, Ann and Angus Capie, whose support and love mean a great deal to me. My father, Paul, has sustained my academic pursuits and my personal progress with his vast intellectual curiosity, his insights into the academic world, and his ability to maintain his sense of humor about it. My mother, Lesley, who first inspired my love of things Italian, has taught me to believe in the worlds many possibilities and given me a model for facing them with grace and

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courage. My sister Jennifers great good sense, quick wit, and commitment to serving others have strengthened me and helped me to maintain perspective on my work. My husband, David Capie, has listened to me, talked to me, backed me up, kept me sane, made me laugh, and most of all made me believe in myself over the long process of writing this dissertation and in all our life together. Without his passionate and adventurous companionship, my delight in life and work would be immeasurably diminished. To him, and to my parents, I lovingly dedicate this study.

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n t r o d u c t i o n

MYSTERIOUS OBJECTS: READINGS OF PHOTOGRAPHY

Photographs are perhaps the most mysterious of all the objects that make up, and thicken, the environment we recognize as modem. Susan Sontag, On Photography

Despite its all-pervasiveness as a medium in the twentieth century, scholars of Italian literature have largely neglected photography. Although it has fascinated many key Italian literary figures from the time of its inception on, few critics have attempted to link the ever-increasing importance of photography in the twentieth century to Italian literary movements and figures of the period. This omission is especially evident in the crucial years from the time of the post-war boom in Italy and the explosion of photographic imagery in Italian society up until the 1990s and the advent of widely available digital technologies with the potential to dramatically change ideas about the nature of photography. Taking as its starting point the pivotal period after the end of World War 11 and into the early 1950s, this dissertation argues that the many interactions between Italian literature and photography since then have been underestimated and undervalued, and that a reappraisal of their importance can provide new insights into the work of some of the most interesting Italian authors of the second half of the twentieth century. It looks at the role of photography in Italian literature of the period in four main ways: in terms of collaborations between writers and photographers, writers construction of photo-texts, the attempt to reproduce in writing photographic ways of seeing, and literary uses of photography as a theme, motif, or starting point for meditations on processes of representation and the boundaries between fact and fiction. 1

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A study of this nature cannot hope to offer comprehensive coverage of all of the many interactions between writing and photography in Italy in the period discussed. Inevitably, some significant works and types of interaction have had to be left out. However, my primary aim is to suggest the rich range of possibilities that exists for critically linking photography and Italian literature in the period since the end of the Second World War. I therefore analyze the works of a number of prominent and/or provocative Italian authors who engage with photography in particularly interesting, original, or influential ways, relating their uses of photography to both literary and photographic criticism and theory. These authors include some of mid-twentieth-century Italys best-known cultural figures: Italo Calvino, Elio Vittorini, and Cesare Zavattini, as well as very different writers from the next generations: Pier Paolo Pasolini, Gianni Celati, Antonio Tabucchi, Daniele Del Giudice and Andrea De Carlo. Women writers whose works have often tended to be neglected or simply unknown outside Italy are also an important component in this study, as my chapters on Lalla Romano and Giulia Niccolai demonstrate. While the relationship of cinema to twentieth-century literature has been widely explored, ^ and there have been studies of links between literary works and other arts such as music or painting, the popular, commercial and amateur aspects of photography seem to have militated against its inclusion among the elements that have had an influence on the Italian literature of the last century. An ironic result of photographys omnipresence in

See, for example, Massimo D Avack, Cinema e letteratura (Roma: Canesi, 1964).; Pio Baldelli, Film e opera letteraria (Padova,; Marsilio, 1964); Ernesto Guidorizzi, La narrative italiana e il cinema (Florence: Sansoni, 1973); Gian Piero Brunetta, ed., Letteratura e cinema (Bologna: Zanichelli, 1976); Angelo Moscariello, Cinema d o letteratura (Bologna: Pitagora, 1981); Roberto Campari, II racconto nel film (RomeBari: Laterza, 1983); Cristina Bragaglia, IIpiacere del racconto. Narrativa italiana e cinema (1895-1990) (Florence: La Nuova Italia, 1993); Lucilla Albano, ed., II racconto tra cinema e letteratura (Rome: Bulzoni, 1997); and Millicent Joy Marcus, Filmmaking by the Book: Italian Cinema and Literary Adaptation (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993). See, for example, Gian-Paolo Biasin, II vento di Debussy: la poesia di Montale nella cultura del Novecento (Bologna: 11 Mulino, 1985).
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twentieth-century Italian life is thus its invisibility in Italian literary studies. With the growth of cultural studies, more attention has been paid to elements of Italian popular culture and their interrelations with literary culture. Yet here again, photography has been relatively neglected. The ways in which writers understand and respond to the influence of television, music and other popular forms have begun to be investigated, but the relation of writing to photography is still largely ignored in Italy. Why, then, would writers willingly engage with a practice that is often critically undervalued or misunderstood?"^ One reason is that there are many ways in which issues raised by photography mesh with key issues in literature in the late twentieth-century. These make it a stimulating and provocative subject of literary investigation, despite the fact that academic boundaries have created a critical blind spot that seems to have prevented many scholars from recognizing the points of contacts between the two media. At the same time, it is also noteworthy that the many writers who make use of photography in their works tend to do so either once they have become established, or because they are in some sense struggling against the institution of Literature and are looking for alternative models. This institution has tended to ignore photography and its influence on Italian writers partly as a result of the history of photography and its study in Italy. As the art historian and scholar of photography Arturo Carlo Quintavalle points out, Italian photography has tended to be studied in terms of traditional art historical discussions of great masters, with little attention paid to photography as a shared socio-cultural phenomenon.^ The problem is

And not just in literary studies. For example, the volume on La cultura italiana del Novecento, edited by Corrado Stajano (Roma-Bari; Laterza, 1996) contains detailed entries that range from Anthropolgy to Theology and include entries on Literature, Figurative Arts, Cinema and Television, but no mention is made o f photography.

I am grateful to Joel Snyder for prompting me to consider this question.

^ Arturo Carlo Quintavalle, Messa a ju oco: Studi sullafotografia (Milan: Feltrinelli, 1983), xxvii.

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compounded by the fact that, in Diego Mormorios words, in Italy in particular, the literary know little about photography, and historians of photography almost nothing about literature.^ The question of how Italian authors who write about photography and photographs or use them in their works see and use photography and its roles has therefore not yet been adequately addressed. Examining the influence of photography on literature is not simply a question of stating that since photography has changed the ways in which people see and understand the world, it has changed the way writers do so. Instead, this study examines specific examples of literary works that show a direct interest in or connection with photography to address the issues of how writers look at photography and the range of reactions it creates in them, from suspicion and revulsion to puzzlement and fascination. Classic essays on photography, such as those by Walter Benjamin, Roland Barthes, Susan Sontag, and Andre Bazin, and the debates they have provoked, are an important background to this project. So, too, are studies of Italian literature and culture of the last half-century, in part precisely because of their omission of any mention of photography. Using the tools of traditional textual and iconographic analysis, but also drawing on a wide range of critical approaches, from cultural studies to aesthetic theory, I examine some of the ways in which photography and photographers have interacted with and influenced a number of important Italian writers of the second half of the twentieth century, from Italo Calvino to Gianni Celati. In this introduction, I begin by looking at some of the questions raised by theorists of text-image interactions, examining them in the light of the few critical works on literature and photography in the Italian context. I explore writers understandings of what photography is and does and what these reveal in order to investigate what and why photography has to do with literature. I further address some central literary themes that

^ In Italia particolarmente, i letterati sanno poco di fotografia e gli storici della fotografia quasi niente di letteratura (Diego Mormorio, Vittorini e le citta del mondo, Kalos 5, no. 6 (1993): 27.

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photography helps to illuminate: place, identity, the body, death, memory, history, evidence, and invention. The dissertation looks at the ways in which photography relates to and influences narrative, and how photographic visions of the world influence ways of seeing and of representing in literature. I argue that it is important to recognize the ways in which photographs resist verbal interpretation. Nevertheless, in the context of this study, I am primarily interested in how writers approach the subject, and thus in the ways in which they make use of photographs, either directly, by creating photo-texts, or indirectly, through ekphrastic descriptions or metaphorical or thematic uses of photography. I examine what writers uses of photographic images, effects or themes in literary texts tell us about attitudes to photography, and discuss what, in turn, these reveal about ideas regarding representation and narration, fact and fiction in the latter half of the twentieth century. The answers to these questions are as varied as the texts and images I discuss, and demonstrate the continuing need to study the important and largely uninvestigated transactions
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between photography and formal literature.

In both Europe and North America, much has been written on the similarities and distinctions between photography and painting, and there has also been a tradition of comparing painting and writing. However, particularly in Italy, the leap to addressing writing and photography together has seldom been made. The comparison between painting and photography has tended to lead into the blind alley of the lengthy debate over whether or not photography can be an art. Writing and photography, when they are addressed together at all, tend to be examined in relation to the traditional binary
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g
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Allan Trachtenberg, ed., Classic Essays on Photography (New Haven: Leetes Island Books, 1980), xiii.

See for example Rudolph Arnheim, On the Nature of Photography, Critical Inquiry 1, no. 1 (1974); Victor Burgin, Thinking Photography (London: Macmillan, 1982); Nelson Goodman, Languages o f Art: An Approach to a Theory o f Symbols (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1976), Claudio Marra, Pensare la fotografia: teorie dominanti dagli anni sessanta a d oggi (Bologna: Zanichelli, 1992); and Quintavalle, Fuoco.

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oppositions that divided the terms of the ancient debate over the merits of painting versus poetry. This is because although photography has often been distinguished from painting because of its mechanical nature (either as an improvement upon painting, or as inferior to it), its history and iconography have always been elosely linked to the history of painting. Painting itself was a camera art long before the invention of photographic printing techniques.^ The history of perspective itself is closely bound up with the development of photography, with consecutive developments in perspective theory and practice in painting reflecting changing conceptions of the world and paving the way for the invention of photography. By the time Joseph-Nicephore Niepce, Louis Daguerre, and William Fox Talbot began trying to fix the camera image, artists had used such images for over three hundred years. Previous pictorial practice largely established the format they were to take, so that the naturally round, fuzzy-edged image produced by a round lens was cropped to replicate the square or rectangular frames of traditional Western painting. Even today, most photographic print sizes commercially available are based on the classical Greek golden section whose harmonious proportions were believed to possess aesthetic virtue in and of themselves. It is evident that photography as we know it emerged from the culture of nineteenth-century Academic painting with all its Classical and Renaissance traditions. The intricate links between photography and writing thus have a surprisingly long history and many of our assumptions about how photographers and writers set about the business of showing and telling and what they do or do not have in common are based on definitions of the visual and verbal arts that have existed for centuries.

Giovanni Battista della Porta first described the use o f cameras with lenses for making pictures in the 1589 edition of his M agica Naturalis. Painters such as Antonio Canaletto, Luca Carlevaris and Jan Vermeer used devices such as the camera obscura, the camera chiara and the Claude-glass (a small portable mirror held up to the scenery to help the artist or tourist determine whether the scene was sufficiently picturesque to warrant representation or appreciation) as aids in rendering perspective and detail.

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The tradition of what Renaissance theorists called the paragone divides painting and writing by setting up oppositions between the two on the grounds of the territories they are particularly suited to address. Words and images are established as not merely different but antithetical. As such: They attract to their contest all the dualisms and binary oppositions that riddle the discourse of criticism, the very discourse that takes as one of its projects a unified theory of the arts, an aesthetics which aspires to a synoptic view of artistic signs, a semiotics which hopes to comprehend all signs whatsoever.'^ According to this unified theory of the arts, the visual world is established as the domain of painting, while poetry (and, to a lesser extent, prose fiction) is classified as the art of the invisible world of emotions and abstract knowledge. Paintings signs are seen as natural, while those of poetry are conventional and arbitrary. As Mitchell describes it, according to this convention, poetry is an art of time, motion and actions; painting an art of space, stasis and arrested action." Since photography emerged from the culture and traditions of painting, these have greatly influenced ideas about photography and writing and the differences between them. Photography is usually seen as an art of surface and space, writing one of depth and time. Yet this traditional division fails to account for the fact that writing and photography are not sister arts, to use Mitchells term for painting and poetry. In fact, as Susan Sontag points out, .. .photography is not, to begin with, an art form at all. Like language [and like writing], it is a medium in which works of art (among other things) are made.
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As such, it neither fits the binary opposition between poetry and

painting, nor aids an attempt to create a unified theory of the arts. On the contrary.

W.J.T. Mitchell, Going Too Far with the Sister Arts, in Space, Time, Image, Sign: Essays on Literature and the Visual Arts, ed. James A.W. Heffeman (New York: Peter Lang, 1987), 1. '' Ibid.
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Susan Sontag, On Photography (London and New York: Penguin Books, 1979), 148.

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photographys role in the history of art has been to further eomplicate and expand the definitions of art. Critics and art historians have traditionally characterized photographys apparent realization of the goal of naturalistic and objective representation as primarily significant for having allowed painting to escape the confines of naturalism and thus ushered in the development of abstract art. This achievement has been described by Stanley Cavell in terms of a triumph of mechanical reproduction over subjectivity, a triumph undreamed of by painting and one which does not so much defeat the act of painting as escape it altogether: by automatism, by removing the human agent from the act of reproduction.
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Cavell differentiates between painted representations and what he calls

photographic transcription by arguing that a representation emphasizes the identity of its subject, hence it may be called a likeness, while a photograph emphasizes the existence of its subject, recording it, and hence it is that it may be called a transcription. ^'^ Walter Benjamins seminal essay The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction defines photography as the first truly revolutionary form of reproduction precisely because it mechanizes the act of picture making, hence making that act and its results available to the masses rather than just to a privileged elite, and making unconscious optics available to us in the way that psychoanalysis did for unconscious impulses. For Benjamin, the earlier debate over photographys status as an art was futile, since the

Stanley Cavell, The World Viewed: Reflections on the Ontology o f Film, Enl. ed. (Cambridge; Harvard University Press, 1979), 21, 23. Stanley Cavell, What Photography Calls Thinking, Ravitan 4 (1985): 3-4. Nelson Goodmans distinction between resemblance and representation is also important here. He argues that things can resemble one another without one o f them representing the other and vice versa: no degree o f resemblance is sufficient to establish [...] reference by itself, and neither is resemblance necessary for reference. See Goodman, iMUguages o f Art, 5. Walter Benjamin, The Work of Art in the A ge o f Mechanical Reproduction, in Illuminations (New York: Schocken, 1985), 237.

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primary question ought to have been whether the very invention of photography had not transformed the entire nature of art.^^ Situated among the shifting boundaries between the real and the unreal, between art and non-art, photography has always held a somewhat dubious status as an art form. Furthermore, just as writing has become a ubiquitous presence in most societies today, so that it is virtually impossible to avoid the constant bombardments of the written word, the same is true of photography. Both writing and photography have become an intrinsic part of the fabric of urban life. As Linda Hutcheon argues, one of the reasons for critically linking photography and fiction is that both are unavoidably connected to mass-media representations today and, even in their high-art manifestations, they tend to acknowledge this inevitable (if compromising) implication.^^ Like writing, photographys multiple functions range from the artistic to the scientific and through all the permutations of journalism, advertising, tourism, and nostalgia. It also has different meanings for different social groups. 18 For many people it is primarily a means of preserving the present for the

future. That this is one of the major expectations we have of photography has long been picked up on by producers of photographic equipment and reflected in their advertising. How much are your moments worth? asks one recent advertisement, exhorting viewers to preserve them with the right brand of film. In other cases, photographs are the objects of aesthetic judgments and endowed with the status of artworks. In yet other circumstances, for example in court or in our daily newspapers, photographs are granted the status of documentary evidence. These socially differentiated forms of photographic practice complicate the question of how photographs are interpreted and used and how this does or

Ibid., 227.
17

Linda Hutcheon, The Politics o f Postmodernism (London and N ew York: Routledge, 1989), 42.

18 For a very useful summary of some o f these meanings, see Pierre Bourdieu, Photography: A MiddleBrow Art, trans. Shaun Whiteside (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1990). See also Giselle Freund, Photography and Society (Boston: David R. Godine, 1980).

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does not differ from or influence paintings or written texts. Despite the obvious differences that exist between a visual and a verbal medium, the multiple uses of writing and photography and their shared connection to broader issues concerning representation suggest some of the ways in which they are not as definitively distinct and opposed as the traditional debate between the verbal and visual arts would suggest. The kind of critical linking of photography and writing that Linda Hutcheon discusses first took place in the context of semiotic theory. Victor Burgin argues that semiotics: Irrevocably undermined the foundations of the distinction between visual and non-visual communication. Simply because a message is, in substance, visual, it does not follow that all of its codes are visual. Visual and non-visual codes interpenetrate each other in very extensive and complex ways.^ The interpenetration Burgin discusses goes beyond the sort of reliance on written headings or commentaries that some commentators have seen as a feature of photography. 20 Instead, this approach grants photography certain linguistic characteristics and possibilities through the ways in which the determining conditions for the construction, transmission, perception and interpretation of the image are manipulated.^' This view of photography as a kind of language, or at least as having certain linguistic qualities analogous to those of writing, is implicit in its very name, which, as has often been noted, means literally, writing with light. Umberto Eco has argued that we can see photography as a language at least to the extent that it is not simply an analogue of reality, but rather an iconic code that we need to be trained to recognize and read. Nevertheless, it is important to recognize that

photographs have a particularly complex status as signs. Saussure classified linguistic signs
19 20
21

Burgin, Thinking Photography, 83. See for example Sontags arguments in On Photography.

Umberto Eco identifies ten codes which operate in photographic messages. See Umberto Eco, Critique o f the Image, in Thinking Photography, ed. Victor Burgin (London: Macmillan Education, 1988), 35.

77

Ibid., 33. Umberto Eco, Critique o f the Image, 33.

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as related to their referents through an arbitrary convention. This is evidently not the case for photographs, but neither are they truly iconic signs. It has often been argued that in photography there must inevitably remain a direct causal linkan indexical linkbetween the sign and its referent. As in literary studies, however, post-structuralist approaches to photography have challenged the notion that the analysis of the processes by which such complex sign systems produce meaning can achieve a definitive result. Nevertheless, since its emergence in the early nineteenth century, photography has been both lauded and reviled for what is perceived as its privileged connection to reality and to time past. Oliver Wendell Holmes eulogizing and Charles Baudelaires vituperative attacks on photography represent the extremes of the argument, but both agreed on the truth and transparency of photography, at least in some respects. Twentieth-century thinkers like Siegfried Kracauer and Andre Bazin emphasize photographys ontological relation to re a lity ,w h ile Rudolph Arnheim defines what he calls the fundamental peculiarity of the photographic medium as being that the physical objects themselves print their image by means of the optical and chemical action of light.
94.

For Arnheim, this

procedure means that photographs have an authenticity from which painting is barred by b i r t h . A l t h o u g h Arnheim refuses the notion of photography as the faithful reproduction of the world, insisting that the photographic process alters the image of the world produced, he takes the most common twentieth-century theoretical position that in photography there are certain necessary connections between a photograph and its real life original which

See Andre Bazin, The Ontology of the Photographic Image, in Classic Essays on Photography, ed. Alan Trachtenberg (New Haven, Conn.: Leetes Island Books, 1980) and Siegfried Kracauer, Photography, in Classic Essays on Photography, ed. Alan Trachtenberg (New Haven, Conn.: Leetes Island Books, 1980).
24

23

Arnheim, Nature, 155. Ibid.: 154.

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simply do not and cannot exist in the traditional arts.
'Jft

The idea that photography is

essentially objective is reflected in French and Italian photographic terminology, in which the words for lens are objectif and obiettivo respectively. Many other theorists and critics of photography have argued that photographs have a causal connection with the world of objects that fundamentally differentiates them from representational forms. However, even when critics agree on this connection, the question of what it signifies on an epistemological level has been hotly debated.
27

The claim for

photographys connection to reality is based on the notion that every photograph holds in fixed form the piece of the world a photographer chooses and also restricts him to such a piece of the w o r l d . I n her study of the nature of the photograph, Rosalind Krauss takes up C.S. Peirces division of types of signs as iconic, indexical or symbolic in order to define the relation between light and photosensitive material in photography as indexical.
9Q

Peirce identified three main kinds of signs: the indexical (based in cause and

effect, like the footprint on the sand that provides evidence of a recent presence), the iconic (based on resemblance) and the symbolic (based entirely on convention). In these terms, then, the photograph constitutes a literal trace of whatever was brought before the camera. Marxist critic John Tagg agrees that the relation between photographic subject and
26

Joel Snyder and N eil Walsh Allen, Photography, Vision and Representation, in The Philosophy o f the Visual Arts, ed. Philip Alperson (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), 290. Fuel has been added to the fire with the advent o f digital photography. Some have argued that while it is possible to define the chemical process o f photography as indexical, this is much less arguable for digital photography. But as Claudio Marra points out, it is possible to argue that the ways in which photography is used have not yet been radically altered by the advent o f digital photography (see Claudio Marra, Le idee della fotografia. La riflessione teorica dagli anni sessanta a oggi (Milan: Mondadori, 2001). W e still accord the photographic image a degree o f authenticity that is denied other kinds o f images, although it is still too soon to say whether ready access to technologies that can very simply change the appearance and content o f photographs are changing this attitude at the level o f popular culture. This study therefore addresses analog photography and the ways in which the perception of its authenticity has a bearing on literary representation. Mary Price, The Photograph. A Strange, Confined Space (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1994), 6. Notes on the Index: Part II, in Rosalind Krauss, The Originality o f the Avant-Garde and Other Modernist Myths (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1985), 211.
29 28 27

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photograph is indexical, but says that because this process is irreversible and extremely complex, the indexical status of the photograph guarantees nothing at the level of meaning.^^ For Tagg, the problem is historical, not existential, that is, a question of belief in evidence and of institutional and other uses and interests.^ He points out that the notion of photographic evidence is an institutional concept informed by law enforcement, law, and other social structures, and that these shape the interpretations that enable the many and varied uses to whieh photographs are put. Vietor Burgin also challenges the notion of photographic truth by pointing to the multiple possible interpretations of an image, which are in turn related to set interpretative codes, using psychoanalysis, Marxism, and semiotics to back up his arguments. For Tagg and Burgin, there can be no inherent fixed meaning for a photograph. Other eritics have argued that there ean also not be any wholly arbitrary meaning, sinee what is to be seen in the photograph establishes the limits of interpretation.
32

Umberto Eeo agrees with Barthess view in The Photographie Message (published initially in 1961) where he argued that the photograph is a message without a code.^^ Eco goes on to argue that photographs should nonetheless be understood in terms of codes, such as those of taste, rhetoric, and style, etc.^"^ Yet Barthes himself moved away from his analysis of the photograph in terms of the contrast between connotation and denotation towards a phenomenological approach to the ways in which we use and understand photographs:

30

John Tagg, The Burden o f Representation (Amherst; University of Massachusetts Press, 1988), 3. Ibid., 4-5.

32 33

See Price, The Photograph, 11.

See Roland Barthes, Image Music Text, trans. Stephen Heath (New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 1977).
34

Eco, Critique o f the Image, 32-33.

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The realists, of whom I am one and of whom I was already one when I asserted that the Photograph was an image without a codeeven if, obviously, certain codes do inflect our reading of itthe realists do not take the photograph for a copy of reality, but for an emanation of past reality: a magic, not an art. To ask whether a photograph is analogical or coded is not a good means of analysis. The important thing is that the photograph possesses an evidential force, and that its testimony bears not on the object but on time. From the phenomenological viewpoint, the power of authentication exceeds the power of representation.^^ Barthes deftly whisks photography out of the grasp of codification (which takes place in the context of what he calls studium, the shared eultural taste for and participation in something) in order to make room for the concept of the punctum, the unexpected nonlinguistic encounter with an aspect of the photograph, the accident which pricks me (but also bruises me, is poignant to me).^^ Clive Scott notes that Barthes the semiologist is tirelessly at work to preserve something which escapes signification, which resists assimilation by language, and which cannot be said to have an objective existence, even though the spectator experiences it as a penetrating trait.^^ Throughout the second half of the twentieth-century the confidence in foundational narratives underpinning cultural forms and structures eroded drastically, similarly eroding confidence in explanatory narratives in both writing and photography as well. The 1960s and 70s in particular saw the rise of postmodern critical approaches that challenged foundational principles in all aspects of society and culture. As Jane M. Rabb writes, these approaches instead favored the fragmentary, inconclusive, and digressive rather than the coherent; an understanding of a work as shaped by past and present social and political influences rather than as the original inspiration of an individual; an active reader/viewer instead of an omniscient creator; and myriad open-ended interpretations rather than any definite one. Issues of class, genre, race, and sexual orientation became part of discourse in all the visual arts, especially photography, as they had always been of literary ones. Indeed photography
Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida (New York: Hill and Wang, 1981), 88-89. Ibid., 26-27. 37 Clive Scott, The Spoken Image: Photography and Language (London: Reaktion Books, 1999), 25.

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appeared to be the art form that best reflected postmodernist concerns. Accordingly, photographs, like other revealing cultural artifacts, became texts, which could and should he read on many levels.. Somewhat ironically, writers played a very significant role in this reinterpretation and revaluation of photography and its inscription into the category of text to he read rather than evidence to he viewed. However, this categorizing has also been challenged, with writers like Mitchell warning that it is important not to lose sight of the specificity of the photographic medium."^*^ Italo Calvino also emphasized the fundamentally different ontological status of photography and writing. In an article published in honor of his friend Barthes after the French theorists death, Calvino wrote that a photograph is a trace of light rays that emanate from something that is there. (And this is the fundamental difference between photography and language, which can talk about what is not there). Something, in the photograph at which we are looking, was there, and is not there any more. This is what Barthes calls the photographs ecrase [collapsed] tense.'^^ As W.J.T. Mitchell emphasizes, it is important to hear in mind what Roland Barthes called the resistance between photography and writing, but it is also both possible and revealing to look for the points of contact and divergence of the two messages. According to Joel Snyder, the way in which we insist on seeing in photography a privileged link with the external world represents not only a mental habit but also almost a kind of addiction, which

Jane M Rabb, ed.. Literature and Photography: Interactions 1840-1990. A Critical Anthology (Albuquerque; University of New Mexico Press, 1995), xlviii. Trachtenberg notes somewhat ruefully that writers interested in photography have always tended to write about it better than practioners. Trachtenberg, ed.. Classic Essays, xii-xiii. See W.J.T. Mitchell, The Photographic Essay: Four Case Studies, in Picture Theory (Chicago and London: University o f Chicago Press, 1994). traccia di raggi luminosi emanati da qualcosa che c e, che e If. (E questa e la fondamentale differenza tra la fotografia e il linguaggio, il quale pud parlare di cio che non c e). Qualcosa, nella foto che noi stiamo guardando, c e stato e non ce piu, e questo che Barthes chiama il tempo ecrase della fotografia (Italo Calvino, In memoria di Roland Barthes, in Collezione di sabbia (Milan: Mondadori, 1994).
39

38

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ought to be investigated.'^^ As we have seen, Barthes argues that while he understands perfectly the argument that photography is conventional and based upon artistic practices that go back to Albertian perspective, this does not explain what he calls its magic. In his view, those who resist the idea of photography as completely conventional do not do so to maintain a conception of it as a realist art, but to explain their intuition that photography is a magic art. ^^ The complexity of the relation between photographer, camera, subject, and photograph has led many writers on the subject to wonder whether the photographic process itself really guarantees much of anything about the relation between image and i m a g e d . S u s a n Sontag approaches the question from the perspective of her interest in the relations between ethics and aesthetics. As she comments: While a painting or a prose description can never be other than a narrowly selective interpretation, a photograph can be treated as a narrowly selective transparency. But despite the presumption of veracity that gives all photographs authority, interest, seductiveness, the work that photographers do is no generic exception to the usually shady commerce between art and truth. ^ Benjamin, too, had expressed doubts about photographys relation to reality as early as 1931, challenging the idea that the superficial appearances of people and places could provide meaningful information about the socio-political forces that shape them.'^^ By now it has become a critical commonplace to note the innumerable ways in which photographs are constructed and manipulated. The context of publication, the biases of the photographer, and the preconceptions of the viewer are just some of the ways in which
42

See Snyder and Walsh Allen, Photography, Vision and Representation

This intuition recalls photographys earliest appearance in the United States, where newspapers christened the camera the witch machine.
44 45

Snyder and Walsh Allen, Photography, Vision and Representation, 290. Sontag, On Photography, 6

Short History o f Photography, in Classic Essays on Photography, ed. Alan ' See Walter Benjamin, A SI Trachtenberg (New Haven, Conn.: Leetes Island Books, 1980)

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even photographs that make direct claims to documentary truth are constructed. One of the most famous examples of this is Joe Rosenthals photograph Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima, February 23, 1945, which shows a group of soldiers raising a large American flag on top of Suribachi Yama following the bloody battle for Iwo Jima. This photograph was widely used in American patriotic propaganda as a truthful representation of an historic moment. In fact, Rosenthals photograph was a rhetorical reconstruction of the actual event using a much larger flag than was originally used and posing the soldiers according to many of the dictates of the Romantic tradition in painting. Even when no such reconstruction is used and without the aid of any sort of photographic trickery or retouching, any photographer, from the rankest amateur to the most polished professional, makes a number of characterizations, whether intentionally or not, through the choice of equipment and its use."^^ As John Berger puts it. Every image embodies a way of seeing. Even a photograph. For photographs are not, as is often assumed, a mechanical record. Every time we look at a photograph, we are aware, however slightly, of the photographer selecting that sight from the infinity of other possible sights.'^ The camera position, choice of lens, filter and a host of other technical choices, not to mention the subsequent choices and alterations possible during developing and printing, will determine the way in which the image is characterized, for instance, whether the subject of the photograph will seem to dominate its environment or vice-versa. Given these possibilities, Arnheims conception of the fundamental peculiarity of photography being the way in which the physical objects themselves print their image seems much less plausible. As Joel Snyder and Neil Walsh Allen comment, it is the light reflected by the

W.J.T. Mitchell, The Reconfigured Eye: Visual Truth in the Post-Photographic Era (Cambridge, MA and London: MIT Press, 1992), 46.
48 49

47

Snyder and Walsh Allen, Photography, Vision and Representation, 292.

John Berger, Ways o f Seeing (London and Harmondsworth,: British Broadcasting Corporation; Penguin, 1972), 10.

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objects and refracted by the lens which is the agent in the process.... An image is simply not a property which things naturally possess in addition to possessing size and weight. The image is a crafted, not a natural, thing.^'^ In this respect at least, photographie images resemble written texts. Furthermore, the photograph is always contextualized by written or verbal language. This insertion into a context of conventional codes, and the crafted nature of the photographic image allow it to be interpreted with some of the tools of textual criticism. Nevertheless, there is a notable critical tendency to argue that photographys nature lies in its ability to produce images instantaneously. According to this approach, photography (unlike cinema or literature) cannot narrate, as Sontag has famously affirmed.^' This supposed inability is one of the reasons why it seems difficult to speak of literature and photography together. The difficulty itself, however, is the result of a particular and limiting conception of a comparison of two expressive means on the basis of their narrative capacity. Instead, it should be possible to examine themes, visions, and approaches to representation that reflect the influence of photography, not only as an art, but also as a social and cultural phenomenon. While in discussions on the links between cinema and literature there is a strong tendency to compare a given writer with a given director, or to see how literary works are adapted in their cinematographic versions, the importance of photography for a literary work does not necessarily lie only in the relation between an author and a photographer or the juxtapositioning of text and photograph (although these may be important), but also in the role of the theme of photography itself, or the attempt to recreate photographic effects in the literary text, for example through challenges to traditional narrative in favor of other approaches, such as fragmentation and discontinuity. The authors to be discussed in this study consider photography in many and
Snyder and Walsh Allen, Photography, Vision and Representation, 293. Sontag, On Photography, 23.

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varied ways, echoing its multiple uses as, for example, family memento, historical and/or geographical document, commercial product, personal or artistic expression, journalism, souvenir, or propaganda. In so doing, they draw attention to key questions about how we see and represent the world, and the permeable boundaries between fact and fiction. Since Baudelaire, photographs have often been described as resistant to or foreclosing narrative, but they are also almost always understood in the context of words, and often prove to be a powerful stimulus for narrative: Photography resists being confined by a defining critical language, yet it has long been characterized by its ability to spawn myriad oral and written narratives. A paradoxical and almost compulsive desire to narrate the single meaning behind the photograph defines our modem negotiation of the relationship between word and image. Numerous modern works testify to the human desire to discern and tell the story behind the photograph. Even when we look at photographs without captions, we create meaning for them through the narratives we formulate in order to understand them and to limit their otherwise vast number of possible meanings. Looking at how writers engage with photographs, photography, and photographers situates their works in a continuum of visual and verbal texts and provides insights into the important ways in which photography has stimulated narratives of many different kinds. The problematic status of photography as a medium and the difficulty in defining it in theoretical terms is also reflected in the significant difference in critical vocabulary between photographic and literary theory. Literary theory is a well-established practice with a long history and a complex range of approaches and adherents. It has constituted something of a boom industry in the twentieth century. Photographic theory, on the other hand, particularly in the Italian context, is far more piecemeal. As Quintavalle remarks, photography there has tended to be addressed by critics rather than theorists, an important

Megan Rowley Williams, Through the Negative: The Photographic Image and the Written Word in Nineteenth-Century American Literature, Literary criticism and cultural theory (New York: Routledge, 2003), 5.

52

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distinction that has shaped the ways in which Italian photography is understood, since it reinforces the understanding of the history of photography as an account of the works of great masters and detracts attention from the ways in which photography is used and interpreted in the broader culture. To be sure, even in other parts of the world where photography has received more theoretical attention, there is little consensus about its nature. However, this has meant that thinkers whose background is not in photography have approached it from the perspective of other disciplines. While there are risks to this, it also offers the possibility for an enriching interdisciplinary exchange. While photography is by now an accepted academic subject, with photography studies offered in various forms at many universities and texts offering students a clear summary of the central issues,
CO

Alex Hughes and Andrea Noble note that no one

discipline has laid claim to photography. Instead, in keeping with the ubiquity of the photographic object, photography studies cuts across a multitude of disciplinary boundaries, from art history to media and visual studies to film and national studies, to give just a few exam ples.Photography has also become an important and controversial object of study for historians, as numerous recent studies show.^^ In North America over the last decade, a large number of edited volumes have addressed the question of the ways in which all sorts of written narratives address and utilize photography, investigating narrative practices that are seduced or invaded by, or rely on, photo-images from a multi disciplinary perspective.^^

See Liz Wells, Photography: A Critical Introduction, 2nd ed. (London and N ew York: Routledge, 2000). and Liz Wells, ed.. The Photography Reader (London and New York: Routledge, 2003). Alex Hughes and Andrea Noble, eds., Photo-textualities: Intersections o f Photography and Narrative, 1st ed. (Albuquerque: University o f New Mexico Press, 2003), 2. See for example Gabriele D Autilia, L indizio e la prova: La storia nella fotografia, ed. Giovanni De Luna, Nuovi orchi (Milan: La Nuova Italia, 2001) and Adolfo Mignemi, Lo sguardo e Timmagine: La fotografia come documento storico (Turin: Bollati Boringhieri, 2003). Hughes and Noble, eds., Photo-textualities, 4.

53

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Furthermore, the vexed questions of photographys relation to reality and truth have sparked a debate that has interesting points of contact with some central late twentieth-eentury literary theoretical issues, in particular those regarding the impossibility of representation, the fear of the image, and the questioning of the Word in postmodern culture. Nancy M. Shawcross notes that the hard-won legitimacy of photography that began to have an impact on museum practice and the status of photographers as creative artists in the 1960s was achieved precisely at a time when critical theory in the field of literature was questioning the notion of author, with Foucault asserting that the author represents the ideological figure by which one marks the manner in which we fear the proliferation of meaning and Barthes arguing for the death of the author.
S7

Nevertheless, despite innumerable arguments against the notion of photographic realism, the conception of photography as factual rather than as at least partially fictional and therefore of its incommensurability with language remains common: the photo ratifies what was there, what it represents, and does so in a way that language can never do.
58

This is one of the reasons why correlations between literary and photographic works are often not noted and writers interest in and use of photography ignored. Yet in a period in which much literature has occupied itself with challenging the boundaries of fact and fiction, of documentary and narration, photography seems to be both productive and emblematic of ways of looking at the world that are echoed in many literary works. This is because like writing, photography is as much transformation as recording; representation

Nancy M. Shawcross, Image-Memory-Text, in Photo-textualities, ed. A lex Hughes and Andrea Noble (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2003), 91; Michel Foucault, What Is an Author? in The Critical Tradition: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends, ed. David H. Richter (New York: St. Martins Press, 1989), 981; and Roland Barthes, The Death o f the Author, in Im ageM usicText, trans. Richard Howard (New York: Hill and Wang, 1977), 143. Hutcheon, The Politics o f Postmodernism, 91. On the persistence o f the notion o f photographic realism, see Joel Snyder, Picturing Vision, in The Language o f Images, ed. W.J.T. Mitchell (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980).
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is always alteration, be it in language or in images, and it always has its p o l i t i c s . I n the decades since the end of World War II, the lines between fact, opinion, and imagination in literature as well as photography [have] continued to blur.^ Examining the ways the writers use, define and relate to photography is one way to trace those blurry lines.

These opening remarks are intended to suggest that the omission of photography from most studies of Italian literature is above all a result of its complex and provocative status as both art and non-art, factual and fictional. Many of the writers most strongly linked to meditations on the significance of photographys effects at both the level of the personal and the politico-social, such as Walter Benjamin, Roland Barthes, and Susan Sontag, all revised their initial thoughts on photography, changing their minds about aspects of its nature and effects. My discussion of the multiple ways in which photography has influenced Italian writers over the past sixty years is informed by the work of these three key figures whose meditative and speculative writings on photography have shaped much of the debate on the medium both inside and outside of strictly specialized circles and in both Europe and North America.^' Their writings on photography perhaps come closest to representing the canonical foundations of the ill-disciplined discipline of photography studies. It is therefore interesting to note that they all come to photography from a non specialist background. Theirs is the fascination of the amateur, and their tools are primarily those of literary criticismtheir great strength and weakness. Benjamin approaches photography primarily in terms of the politics of vision, while Barthes, as we have seen, takes a semiological and then a phenomenological approach, looking at photography in terms of history and the body, the structural and the personal, not as a question (a theme)
59

Hutcheon, The Politics o f Postmodernism, 92. Rabb, ed.. Literature and Photography, xlviii. Constance Pierce, Calvino on Photography, The Review o f Contemporary Fiction 6, no. 2 (1986): 130.

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but as a w o u n d . S u s a n Sontag in turn examines it primarily from the perspective of the interrelation of ethical and aesthetic concerns. These thinkers literary meditations on photography have had a profound influence on writing about photography. Their shifting theoretical positions illustrate something of what Mieke Bal has called the slipperiness of photography as an object of study, and also provide examples of the ways in which a background informed by literary eritieism can provide insights into photographys multiple roles and hence into its influence on and relation to literary works. While their discussions of photography reflect their and our collective fascination with photographs, they also coalesce in a fairly cohesive anxiety. The writers discussed in this dissertation also alternate between these poles of fascination and anxiety. Barthes defined the problem of writing about photography as one of changing codes, and emphasized the ways in which the written word unavoidably both over- and under-determines the photographic image. My work is also inevitably weighted towards the written word, in part because it argues that photographs are inevitably inserted into verbal narratives of one kind or another and that it is important to analyze the ways in which this insertion takes place and its meanings, and in particular because I am looking at these issues specifically from the perspective of writers who have engaged with photography in a variety of different ways. My study therefore begins with a brief discussion of the history of interactions between literature and photography since the latters inception, looking in particular at the Italian context. I establish the significance of the period under discussion, that is, from midcentury to the end of the millennium, and set the scene for the interactions between photography and literature I discuss by looking at the uses of photography by three
62 63 Barthes, Camera Lucida, 21. Pierce, Calvino on Photography, 132. 63

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extraordinarily influential figures in Italian culture and letters: Elio Vittorini, Cesare Zavattini, and Italo Calvino. Chapter Two then takes up some of the issues raised in my discussion of Vittorinis use of photography to look at the photographie novels and photo-texts of Lalla Romano, examining her use of her fathers photographs in the light of theories about family photography and photographys relation to memory. Chapter Three examines the figure of the photographer protagonist, relating novels by Giulia Nieeolai and Andrea De Carlo to Calvinos epistemological approach to photography. Chapter Four addresses the collaborative works of Gianni Celati and photographer Luigi Ghirri, which both echo and differ from that of Zavattini with the photographer Paul Strand. It goes on to consider the ways in which Celatis experiences with Ghirri and other photographers had a profound impact on his writing and his approach to fiction. The final chapter takes up the much-discussed issue of photographys connection to death, examining works by Pier Paolo Pasolini, Italo Calvino, Daniele Del Giudice and Antonio Tabucchi. My concluding remarks suggest some ways in which Italian literary and cultural studies could benefit from further investigation of the workings of those mysterious objects we know as photographs.

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h a p t e r

n e

PRECEDENTS AND PRECURSORS

W hen photography was invented, it seemed as though the world arose from a deep sleep. The invention of photography marks a moment of transformation in the history o f hum anity. In som e w ays, it surpasses the conquest of Constantinople and the discovery of America. Alberto Savinio^

Although Alberto Savinio, writing in the 1930s, perhaps comes close, it is hard to overestimate the importance of the ways in which the discovery of photography provided access to entirely new ways of seeing the world to an unprecedented number of people. As Williams puts it, the cultural impact of photography in the nineteenth century compares in importance to the changes that accompanied the invention of single point perspective in Italian Renaissance painting.^ This profound shift was felt intensely in nineteenth-century literature, providing new metaphorical and linguistic possibilities and influencing how the subject relates to reality, perceivability and subjective perception, and the ways of reproducing reality figuratively and in words. Although its ongoing influence has often not been recognized, photography continued to have a significant influence on writing in Italy into the twentieth century and up to the current day.
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' Quando la fotografia fu inventata, sembro che il mondo da un alto sonno si levasse. L invenzione della fotografia segna un punto di trasformazione nella storia dellumanita, supera per certi riguardi la conquista di Costantinopoli, la scoperta delT America (In an article published in La Stampa in Turin in the 1930s. Quoted in D iego Mormorio, Una invenzione fata le (Palermo; Sellerio, 1985), 13. Williams, Through the Negative: The Photographic Image an d the Written Word in Nineteenth-Century American Literature, 2. i modi stessi del rapporto del soggetto con la realta, della percepibilita e percezione soggettiva, della riproducibilita della realta in figure e parole (Remo Ceserani, L impatto della tecnica fotografica su alcuni procedimenti dellimmaginario letterario contemporaneo, L asino d oro, no. 9 (1994): 53.

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This chapter builds on my introduction to the debate on photographic representation and its status as factual or fictional, as well as its relation to issues concerning the boundaries of fact and fiction in literature. It provides a contextual framework for the authors I intend to examine, and establishes the importanee of the time frame under consideration. It looks at how certain central themes in Italian literature of the last half of the last century relate to or diverge from the multiple uses and trends of photography in Italian visual culture, and traces a brief history of precedents of literary and photographic interactions in Italy. It then diseusses the important precedents for literary responses to and uses of photography established by Elio Vittorini, Cesare Zavattini, and Italo Calvino. These three figures anehor my subsequent diseussion of Italian photographers uses of photography by providing precedents for the most significant ones: the photo-text in the case of Vittorini; the collaboration between writer and photographer in that of Zavattini (with Paul Strand); and the thematic, symbolic or metaphorical use of photography in literature that Calvinos essay and short story epitomize.

The aftershocks of photographys cultural impact continue to reverberate in the writings of twentieth-century authors. This despite the fact that the subsequent invention and undoubted influence of cinema have to a large extent diverted the attention of literary critics and scholars, as I suggested in the introduction. Liz Wells argues that photography was a major carrier and shaper of modernism. Not only did it dislocate time and space, but it also undermined the linear structure of conventional narrative." ^Furthermore, as Remo Ceserani points out, photography has profoundly interested many modem writers, to the point of allowing it to invade their immaginations, influence their ways of perceiving memory and internal and external reality, practices of capturing and exorcising parts and

Wells, Photography: A Critical Introduction, 19.

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details of the world, their very techniques of literary description and recreation.^ For postmodern writers, photography is an intrusive and almost obsessive presence, and its technical procedures have often been thematized.^ Ceserani is one of the very few Italian scholars to have turned his attention to relations between writing and photography. He notes that writers often not only show a biographical interest in photography, but above all draw inspiration from its techniques and procedures in order to create new models of representation of reality, new conceptions of memory, individual subjectivity, and the perception of time, space, and d e a t h . Ho we v e r , as a comparatist, he has tended to focus on European and American writers rather than the many Italians who share a similar
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fascination with photography and have used it in similar ways. The history of photographys reception and use in Italy shows numerous points of contact between photography and important literary figures. As was the case in the rest of Europe, Italy heralded Louis-Jacques-Mande Daguerres announcement of the daguerreotype process in January 1839 as the invention of the century.^ As photography

fino a lasciarsene invadere rimmaginazione, influenzare i modi di percezione della memoria e della realta interiore ed esteriore, le pratiche di cattura ed esorcizzazione di parti e dettagli del mondo, le techniche stese della descrizione e ricreazione letteraria (Ceserani, Impatto, 54.). ^ quella della fotografia e una presenza invadente e quasi ossessiva e i procedimenti della tecnica fotografica sono stati molto frequentemente tematizzati (Ibid.) nuovi modelli di rappresentazione della realta, e concezioni della memoria, della soggettivita individuale, della percezione del tempo e dello spazio, della morte (Ibid.).
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In the article mentioned above, for example, he discusses the English writer Angela Carters The M agic Toyshop (1967), the Canadian Michael Ondaatjes In the Skin o f a Lion (1987), and several works by the French writer Michel Tournier: Les Suaires de Veronique in Le Coq de bruyere (1978), Le Roi des Aulnes (1970), and La Goutte d Or (1985). The exception to Ceseranis exclusion o f Italians is his excellent, if brief, analysis o f Tabucchis use o f photography in the Pisan writers IIfih delTorizzonte. See Remo Ceserani, The Art o f Fixing Shadows and Writing with Light: Tabucchi and Photography, Spunti e Ricerche 12 (1996/97). See also my discussion o f his work in Chapter Five. There has always been some debate over who first suceeded in fixing the photographic image. William Henry Fox Talbot invented the negative/positive calotype process in Britain in 1839, the same year that Daguerre anounced the invention of the daguerrotype, which was based on the experiments o f JosephNicephore Niepce in the 1820s. While the daguerrotype produced an extremely detailed positive image on a silvered metal plate, it was a unique and fragile object. Fox Talbots invention was far less detailed, but his creation o f a negative/positive process was to be the basis o f photographic technologies up until the invention o f digital photography. For accounts of the development of these processes and their relation to much earlier

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continued to evolve over the next decades, emerging as the industrial ages most widely used means of communication (whether you liked it, like Zola, or not, like Baudelaire), there was a fundamental change in the way that the representation of reality was understood across a whole range of practices, including literature. In 1852 the director of

the Venetian Accademia delle Belle Arti, Pietro Selvatico Estense, made the grand claim that with the help of photography, all the arts will better come together to solve the great enigma of truth. '^ Much cultural debate in Italy and across Europe in the second half of the century centered on the question of the real and the ways in which it could be represented. Many have argued that the invention of photography, with its apparently faithful documentation and reproduction of reality in all its smallest details legitimized and contributed to the creation of a taste for reality, and favored the flourishing of literary realism in Europe.'^ In France, novelists like Champfleury and Zola tried to emulate the effect of an impersonal mirroring of the world provided by the camera, which had created a new model for seeing and representing surface reality and suggested new subjects that had previously not been considered fit for serious literature, such as urban and sexual themes. Throughout Europe and the US, many late nineteenth-century authors saw verisimilitude as fundamental to their work, and the debate over what was true and what was simply accurate became heated. Many of these authors took up photography as a hobby and/or incorporated it as a theme in their works. Lewis Carroll, Samuel Butler, George Bernard Shaw, Emile Zola, Leonid Andreyev, Charles Dickens, Walt Whitman, and Nathaniel

technologies of vision, see for example Michel Frizot, ed., A New History o f Photography (Cologne: Konemann, 1998), 15-101. Writers engaged with photography in numerous ways, from rank enmity in the case o f Baudelaire, to ambiguity and fascination in the case o f Proust, to an amateurs enthusiasm with the implication o f something o f a writers disdain in the case of writers like Zola and Verga. ' ' tutte le arti meglio saccosteranno a sciogliere il grande enigma del vero (cited in Italo Zannier, La fotografia italiana: Critica e storia (Milan; JacaBook, 1994), 21.
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See Rabb, ed.. Literature and Photography.

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Hawthorne are just a few of the authors who were fascinated by, wrote about, and/or experimented with photography.'^ In the Italian context, the few studies of photographys influence on literature that exist have tended to focus on verismo, in particular in relation to the photographic work carried out by Giovanni Verga, Luigi Capuana, and Federico De Roberto.''^ Critical debate over the role of photography in the development of verismo has centered on the extent to which the three authors related photographic realismwhich is most often taken as a givento the specific variety of literary realism they were attempting to produce. One problem with this approach has been the too-easy equation of literary texts and photographic images. In response to this, some critics have argued that the value of photography to the veristi was purely instrumental and lay simply in its accuracy as a tool, pointing for example to Vergas request to Capuana to provide him with photographs of Sicilian peasants in traditional costumes, as well as local landscapes, to use in the 1884 Turin production of Cavalleria rusticana. Others have argued instead that photography was merely a hobby, and that none of these writers considered photography as an arte verista or even as an aid to literary verismo because of the artificiality caused by the need to pose subjects, the lack of color, and the mechanical nature of the process (as though

Zola famously stated in 1901 that he believed you could not say you had truly seen something until you had photographed it. Capuana was so enthusiastic about photography that Verga warned him about wasting un prezioso capitale di tempo e dingegno on a mere distraction from his literary work (quoted in Vittorio Spinazzola, introduction to the catalogue o f the exhibition Giovanni Verga fotografo, edited by G. Garra Agosta and W. Settimelli [Milan; Centro Informazioni 3M, 1970]). Capuana seems to have been conscious of this risk himself, wondering what his own literary production might be like se io fossi romanziere come sono fotografo (quoted in R. Minore, introduction to II libra e u n estensione d ellocchio, an exhibition project by F. C. Crispolti [Roma: Istituto Scienze Spettacolo, Musica e Comunicazione Universita di Roma - RAI Ricerca e Sperimentazione Programmi, 1980]). Although much less interested in the technical details of photography than De Roberto and Capuana, and despite his dire warnings to Capuana, Verga was also to become a very keen amateur photographer in the last two decades o f the nineteenth century and into the new century.
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artificiality were the antithesis of verismo)}^ These approaches tend to focus on either the technical constraints or the merely corroboratory accuracy of the camera, to some extent echoing the influential nineteenth-century view that granted agency to the camera and saw the photograph as removing all trace of the artists hand. In reducing photography to either a tool or a hobby, they also tend to subsume the differences in the three m ens photographic production, taking for granted a similar relation to the representation of reality and underestimating the ways in which it can provide important insights into their contrasting and evolving understandings of realism.'^ It is therefore important to stress that rather than dissolving the enigma of truth, photography becomes one of the means through which its multiplicity becomes ever more evident: not a simple lens but one of the prisms through which the twentieth-century will be refracted. The changing culture was reflected in both literature and photography, and the encounters between writers and photography by no means came to an end with the passing of verismo (nor were they limited to veristi even during the late nineteenth century). The pictorialist photography of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century progressed parallel to literary movements like those of scapigliatura, decadentismo, and crepuscolarismo}^ D Annunzio was fascinated by photography, and the photographs he and Eleonora Duse took of one another in the gardens of the Capponcina, the Tuscan villa where he lived from 1898 to 1910, show that both were very competent
See Leonardo Sciascia, Prefazione, in Andrea Nemiz et al., Capuana, Verga, D e Roberto: fotografi (Palermo: Edikronos, 1982), 8. Italo Zannier points out that the technical difficulties still inherent to photography in the latter part o f the nineteenth century meant that a clear large format image, which needed a long exposure time and a fixed camera, also required unattenzione operativa, che spesso consistee coerentemente riflette, anche nel suo ritualein una meditazione sulla realta, che rivela dellautore, com e in un test proiettivo, curiosita e punti di vista (Zannier, La fotografia italiana: Critica e storia, 38). Quintavalle notes that the turn o f the century and the development of the avant gardes saw the undermining, at least in artistic circles, o f the mitologia ottocentesca del realismo that established the photograph as riproduzione veritiera, even as it persisted in terms o f the uses to which photography was put on a day-to-day basis. Arturo Carlo Quintavalle, I generi, la pittura, la fotografia, la tradizione letteraria, Arte documento, no. 7 (1993): 437.
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photographers/ D Annunzio was also closely associated with the painter and photographer Francesco Paolo Michetti, whose painting of Lafiglia di lorio (lorios Daughter) inspired D Annunzios play of the same name. Other references to photography in early twentieth-century Italian literature include Guido Gozzanos famous poem L arnica di nonna Speranza (Grandmother Speranzas Friend), published in 1907, a photographic poem ostensibly based on the dedication of a photograph: June 28, 1850 from Carlotta, to her Speranza. T h e poem itself is made up of several different snapshots in which Gozzano reconstructs the atmosphere in which his grandmother lived as a young woman, and it makes use of photography as a highly effective motif within his crepuscular poetry of absence. Pirandellos work is full of references to photography, particularly in his short stories. While the novel Quaderni di Serafino Gubbio operatore is based on Pirandellos experience of the world of cinema, it addresses cinema specifically as a photographic form, and its assessment of the sometimes frightening power of revolutionary technological innovations connects it closely to the analyses of photography that would be later be carried out by writers like Benjamin.
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Futurism saw photography achieving a new importance, both in terms of its influence on Futurist painting and of the use of collage constructions combining word and

18 Zannier calls them an example o f a virtuoso use of the snapshot of the time. See the catalog to the
exhibition Divina Eleonora: Eleonora Duse nella vita e nellarte (1858-1924) Isola di San Giorgio Maggiore, Venezia 30 settembre 2001 - 6 gennaio 2002. Marsilio Editori, 2001. 19
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28 giugno 1850 alia sua Speranza la sua Carlotta.

The novel was particularly polemical given the D Annunzian and Futurist climate o f technophilia in which it was published, first in 1915 as Si gira and then in a revised form as Quaderni d i Serafino Gubbio operatore. In one section, for example, he describes how the camera eats up life con la voracita delle bestie afflitte da un verme solitario... La vita ingojata dalle macchine e li, in quei vermi solitarii, dico nelle pellicole gia avvolte nei telaj. He goes on to make the direct connection with photography: Bisogna fissare questa vita, ehe non e piu vita, perche unaltra macchina possa ridarle il movimento qui in tanti attimi sospeso. Luigi Pirandello, Quaderni di Serafino Gubbio operatore (Milan: Mondadori, 1992), 55. The short stories that make use o f photography as a motif are to be found in Novelle p er un anno (Milan: Mondadori, 1985) and include L abuonanima (1,381), Volare (1,753), Con altri occhi (1,983), L altro figlio (II, 31), Pena di vivere cosi (II, 205), Tutte tre (II, 269), La maestrina Boccarme(II, 331), Superior stabat lupus (II, 513), Musica vecchia (II, 579), and U nagiom ata (III, 782).

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image, a technique that was also central to Cubism. According to Quintavalle, for the Futurists, photography was a decisive technical invention, which, among other things, allowed for the complete destruction of the old genres. 91 Futurisms celebration of

technological advancementone of the ways in which it reflected aspects of Fascist ideologysaw photography playing an important role, particularly with the work of photographers like the Bragaglia brothers. 22 During the Fascist period photography was also co-opted into the direct service of the regime, with hundreds of thousands of propaganda images accompanied by laudatory texts being produced and disseminated throughout Italy. The use of photographs as a means of identification and control that had begun in the mid-nineteenth century dramatically increased during this period. Yet there were also other developments in photographymost importantly those related to the birth of Neorealismthat that attempted to resist these repressive uses and present alternatives to the photographic iconography of Fascism.
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With the fall of the regime and the end of World War II, there was a burgeoning of new photographic opportunities in Italy. A determination to represent realities that had hitherto been ignored or repressed was a key element of post-war Neorealism in both cinema and film. 94 The major directors associated with Neorealism, from Rossellini to

21 una invenzione tecnica determinante, che permetteva fra Ialtro di distruggere per sempre gli antichi
generi (Quintavalle, I generi, la pittura, la fotografia, la tradizione letteraria, 435. Anton Giulio Bragaglias piece Fotodinamismofuturista, published in Rome in 1912, was the first significant essay on photographic aesthetics associated with the avant gardes in Italy. See Italo Zannier, Storia della fotografia italiana (Rome and Bari: Laterza, 1986), 41. On the development o f photographic Neorealism and its rapport with literature and cinema, see Ennery Taramelli, Viaggio nelV Italia del Neorealismo: La fotografia tra letteratura e cinema (Turin: Societa Editrice Internazionale, 1995). The relations between literary, cinematic, and photographic Neorealisms and their historical roots are too complex to be explored in detail here, but it is important to note that these movements did not spring forth full-armed in postwar Italian culture. Rather, they relate to experiments that took place ain the early years o f the century. See for example Lino M icciches seminal study o f cinematic Neorealism, Per una verifica del neorealismo in Lino Micciche, ed., II neorealismo cinematografico italiano (Venice: Marsilio, 1975). See also note 23 above.
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Antonioni, were all attracted to photography and its possibilities, and this fed into an interest in the medium that had already been developing in the last years of the Fascist period, offering alternatives to the photographic rhetoric of the regime. The end of the war also saw multiple new artistic and commercial opportunities for photographers, particularly as the 1950s saw the economic boom take hold.
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By the early 1950s, then, photography had come to play a role of unprecedented importance in Italian life. Photographic images had an ever-increasing presence, particularly in the urban environment, and more people than ever before had cameras of their own. Things were also changing rapidly for professional and art photographers: the photographic rhetoric of fascism had disintegrated and the new vocabulary of Neorealism found itself competing with the shouts of advertisers waking up to the economic miracle. It would also not be long before Fellini and Flaiano would christen a new brand of
Even before the end o f the war, in 1943, Domus Publishing had come out with Fotografia, the first annual dedicated to Italian photography, edited by E. F. Scopinich, Alfredo Omano, and the graphic artist Albe Steiner. Two years later, in 1945, Roberto Rossellinis manifesto o f cinematic Neorealism, Roma, citta aperta, came out just a few months after Liberation. Its claim to document social realities as a means of analyzing the human condition was enormously influential on photographers, as well as filmmakers. In the same year, Vittorini founded II Politecnico, which became an important forum for photo-textual interactions, as I shall discuss. Photographys new relationship to society and to means of information meant that it began to be seen less as a simple illustration and increasingly as an autonomous language capable o f producing narratives o f its own, for example in the layouts for reproductions of photo stories by photographers such as W eegee and Werner Bischof that Albe Steiner worked out for II Politecnico. In 1946 Luigi Crocenzi began working on a project for the May 1 edition, the photo-story Occhio su Milan, a sequence o f images without captions; close-ups, long shots, and details. 1947 saw the founding of Ferrania, a magazine on photography, cinema, and the visual arts. The May edition contained a manifesto o f the La bussola photographic society, which was against the principles o f Neorealism and in favor o f a new approach to photography as art. In the same year the photographic circle La Gondola was founded in Venice, a group that tried to reconcile subjectivity and social issues, the documentation o f reality and the need for an individual interpretation. (On the importance o f photographic societies and journals in Italy, see for example Italo Zannier, 70 anni di fotografia in Italia [Modena: Punto e Virgola, 1978], Zannier, Storia della fotografia italiana, and Italo Zannier and Maria Beltramini, Leggere la fotografia: le riviste specializzate in Italia (1863-1990), 1. ed. [Roma: Nuova Italia scientifica, 1993]. On the post-war period in particular, see Italo Zannier, Susanna Weber, and Daniela Cammilli, eds.. Forme di luce: il Gruppo la Bussola e aspetti della fotografia italiana del dopoguerra [Firenze: Alinari, 1997]). In 1949 the Convegno Internazionale di Fotografia took place in Rome. The same year Zavattini and Strand met and decided to work together on a project that was to bring together Italian Neorealism with the American documentary tradition o f the social photography o f the New Deal period. In 1950 the Unione Fotografica was formed with the aim of promoting Italian photography and exposing Italians to photography from abroad. The following year it promoted the European Photography exhibition at the Brera in Milan, generally considered to be the first time photography was exhibited in an art museum in Italy, and in 1953 it organized the first anthological show of new Italian photography. These developments form an important part o f the background to Calvinos article La follia del mirino.
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photographer paparazzo and they would begin to both document and provoke some of the excesses and dramas of the society of la dolce vita}^ The boundaries of what could be and was shown were vastly expanded, as were the ways in which photography could be used, creating a range of interpretive problems as well as opportunities. The expansion of these boundaries had a profound impact on a number of important Italian writers of the period, and in particular on the three key literary figures of the day to which I now turn. Elio Vittorini, Italo Calvino, and Cesare Zavattini, carried out photographic works that were to provide precedents of fundamental importance for other interactions between Italian literature and photography over the second half of the twentieth century. Both Vittorini and Zavattini worked with specific photographersLuigi Crocenzi and Paul Strand respectivelyon photo-text projects, although with very different aims and results. Vittorini tended to see the photographer primarily as a technician, and made symbolic use of photographs as found objects. He created collages of text and image of which he was assuredly the author: a Modernist approach that enabled him to use these photo-texts as manifestos. His was primarily an allegorical representation of reality, rather than a naturalistic one, which reflected the dualism between myth and history at the heart of his work. His allusive, symbolic use of photography reflects his politics and aesthetics. In contrast, Zavattini and Strands collaboration followed many of the tenets of cinematic Neorealism and reflects the kind of humanism that lay behind other international projects of the 1950s, such as Edward Steichens The Family o f Man (1955).
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Calvinos approach

26 On the birth o f the paparazzo, see for example Karen Pinkus, The Montesi Scandal: The Death o f Wilma
Montesi and the Birth o f the Paparazzi in Fellinis Rome (Chicago: University o f Chicago Press, 2003). and Wladimiro Settimelli and Benedetta Toso, eds., Senza riverenze: Fotogiornalismo a Roma dal dopoguerra agli anni ottanta (Rome: F&M Fotoarchivi & Multimedia, 2001). Edward Steichens extraordinarly ambitious and successful exhibition opened at The Museum o f Modern Art, New York in January o f 1955. It consisted o f photographic portraits that Steichen collected from photographers all over the world, covering the full gamut o f human ages from birth to death. Acclaimed as the most successful photography exhibition ever mounted, and enormously popular, it was also attacked as sentimental and naive, and has been the subject o f multiple re-readings and critiques, particularly with regard to its subsuming of class and race differences in the notion of the human family. The book remains
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to photography can perhaps best be characterized as proto-postmodernist. He did not use photographs in his writings, but was fascinated by photography and wrote about it repeatedly throughout his career. His early work reflects a conception of the potential to use photography to reflect on fundamental questions about being and representation: in this view, the photographer is both philosopher and philologist. The trios interests in photography converge in the early-to-mid 1950s, with Vittorinis extending baekwards to the mid-1930s, Zavattinis back to the 1940s and forward to the 1970s, and Calvinos as far forward as the early 1980s.
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Despite this

convergence, and their many personal and professional points of eontact, the three men approach the problem of photography in very different but equally significant ways. To illustrate their respective approaches, I turn now to a discussion of Vittorinis use of photography in Americana and II Politecnico and in the photographically illustrated edition of his novel Conversazione in Sicilia {Conversations in Sicily), published in 1953.
. . . .

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I will

then address Zavattini and Strands Unpaese (A Village), originally published in 1955 and two pieces by Calvino: the 1955 article La follia del mirino (Viewfinder Madness),
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and

a short story closely conneeted to it, L avventura di un fotografo (The Adventure of a

remarkably popular and has been in print continuously since 1955. On the exhibitions history and reception, see for example Bill Jay, The Family of Man: A Reappraisal o f the Greatest Exhibition o f All Time, Insight 1 (1989). Zavattini also worked with the well-known Italian photographer Gianni Berengo Gardin on a follow-up project to the work he had carried out with Strand. See Cesare Zavattini and Gianni Berengo-Gardin, Un paese ventanni dopo (Turin: G. Einaudi, 1976). Vittorini began writing Conversazione in 1937; it was first published in installments in the joumal Letteratura between 1938 and 1939. In 1941 it was published by Parenti as Nome e lagrime, and then alone as Conversazione in Sicilia by Bompiani later the same year. I have consulted both Elio Vittorini, Conversazione in Sicilia, 7th ed. o f text; with 188 photographs by Luigi Crocenzi, 1st ed. (Milan: Bompiani, 1953). and Elio Vittorini, Conversazione in Sicilia, 18th ed., Biblioteca Universale (Milan: Rizzoli, 1997; reprint, 1986). First published in the journal II contemporaneo II (30 April, 1955), n. 18, now reprinted in Italo Calvino, Saggi, 2 vo\s., I M eridiani (Milan: Mondadori, 1995), 2217-20.
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Photographer), published in 1970 but written and rewritten over a long period of time and closely based on the earlier article, as well as their influence on other of his writings.
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Vittorini Before discussing the 53 edition of Conversazione, it is important to note that Vittorinis interest in photography was by then of long standing. He had used photographs in a variety of contexts since the early 1940s, particularly in his anthology of American writing, Americana, and in his editing of II Politecnico.
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Americana was illustrated with

48 photographs, selected by Vittorini in 1941. The anthology was supposed to come out the same year with Bompiani, but ran into trouble with the fascist censors, eventually coming out, minus Vittorinis introduction and critical notes, in 1942. In these, Vittorini interprets the authors he discusses in relation to his own ideological and literary project: one intimately related to what Calvino later described as the older writers belief in a literature of everyone that could act in the lives of everyone, and the radical requirement of a future
-JO

of liberation.

This makes Vittorini the anthologist a forceful intermediary presence

between the reader and the texts discussed. He employs the photographs as part of this intervention, essentially appropriating them for his own ends and subordinating individual photographs to the collective montage. Although some of them are by well-known photographers, they are reproduced without photographic credits, with no indication of their original context, and accompanied by Vittorinis captions. He wanted to arrange the
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For details of the publishing history of the story, see Marco Papa, La realta, la fotografia, la scrittura. Postille in margine a L avventura di un fotografo di Italo Calvino, Rassegna della letteratura italiana 84, no. 1-2(1980). II Politecnico, which Vittorini founded and edited, was a weekly from September 2 9 ,1 9 4 5 until April 6, 1946, then a monthly from May 1,1 9 4 6 until December of 1947. A complete facsimile o f all the issues was published by Einaudi in 1989. una letteratura di tutti che agisca nella vita di tutti, e la radicale esigenza d un futuro di liberazione (Italo Calvino, Vittorini. Frogettazione e letteratura (Milan,; A llinsegna del pesce doro, 1968), 39.
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photographs to produce what he ealled an immobile film of which, it is important to add, he was the director.^'^ The idea was that this film would funetion aeeording to a language of its ownbut a language spoken by Vittorini through his editorial ehoices.^ ^ Giovanni Falaschi suggests that Vittorini wanted the photographs to function not as a documentary repetition of the texts, nor as an illustration of them, but rather as a kind of reading of them, and, like them, allusive, allegorical, and loaded with symbolism.^^ If this is the case, and given that Vittorinis words were exeised from the first edition of the anthology, his photographic montage in the 1942 edition thus becomes the only reading to avoid censorshipa use of photography that was to be important for the evolution of the photographic edition of Conversazione. It was perhaps to emphasize the autonomy of Vittorinis selection of photographs and captions from the translated texts that he chose to group them together, rather than scattering them throughout the volume illustratively. 37 Nevertheless, there is a eomplex game of text and image interaetions that takes plaee both within the photographs (some of which contain text in the form of placards or
Falaschi argues that since Vittorini riteneva che la realta fosse movimento e che essa non andasse descritta, ma raccontata (34), it would seem that he considered il singolo fotogramma come necessariamente non artistico, although he never states this explicitly. He goes on to say that i rapporti astratti tra foto e successione di foto (o film immobile, o accostamento di foto per dirla con Vittorini) e tra racconto fotografico e testo letterario egli li ha chiariti concretamente volta per volta, mentre una qualche contradizione la manifesta quando parla astrattamente del rapporto fra i due testi. This happens, Falaschi says, since from 1941 Vittorini deliberately and increasingly chooses to use photo-stories, often with highly original results (36). See my discussion o f the ways in which the notion of photography as a language endures, up to and including semioticians like Umberto Eco. This notion has been vigorously contested by Claudio Marra. See Marra, Pensare la fotografia: teorie dominanti dagli anni sessanta a d oggi. and Claudio Marra, Le idee della fotografia. La riflessione teorica dagli anni sessanta a oggi (Milan: Mondadori, 2001). Giovanni Falaschi, Vittorini e la fotografia, AFT Semestrale delVarchivio fotografico toscano III, no. 5 (1987): 37. We might compare this to Walker Evans and James A gees Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (1941), where the photographs and text were completely separate, without any explanatory captions for the photographs. The other crucial difference is that the book is set up to show Evans as the author of the photographs and o f the narrative they produce, independent o f A gees text. In Vittorinis case, he becomes the author o f the photo-text inserted into the narratives o f the American authors, telling his own very specific story about America.
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advertisements, or are themselves photo-montages that incorporate English text), between the photographs and their captions in Italian, and between the series of captioned and uncaptioned photographs and the translated texts of the book as a whole. In Politecnico, the use of photographs was somewhat different, with text and image constantly juxtaposed. However, in both Americana and Politecnico, we see what Falaschi calls the absolute subordination of the original image to [Vittorinis] pedagogical-political intentions. Photographs were used extensively from the very first edition of the journal

on, and Vittorini would later claim that it was in the pages of Politecnico that Luigi Crocenzi (who was to take the photographs for Conversazione) published the first Italian foto-racconti (photo-stories). In all but one of the issues photographs appeared right

under the masthead, and often served a primarily symbolic function. In the first two issues of II Politecnico there are few photographs, and they seem to function predominantly as image-symbols. With the third issue, the columns of photographs that become typical of the joumal and that come to constitute foto-racconti appear. The documentary claims of photography to represent a specific moment or reality seem always to have been secondary for Vittorini. He chose photographs above all for their narrative and symbolic value, and not for their presumed joumalistic truth or naturalism. According to Falaschi, Vittorini was an extraordinarily involved and therefore also transgressive reader of texts, of whatever kind they may have been. ^ * ^ There are a number of interesting examples of Vittorinis use of photographs out of their original context and/or with captions that work to shape the viewers understanding of the images and give them a
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Tassoluta subordinazione dellimmagine originaria allintenzione pedogogico-politica (Falaschi, Vittorini, 39. In fact, this ignored the important earlier combinations o f photographs and texts by Futurist photographers and others associated with the avant gardes, as well as Leo Longanesis extensive use o f photography in the magazine L ltaliano. See Mormorio, Citta, 27. Vittorini era un lettore straordinariamente partecipe, e quindi anche prevaricatore dei testi, di qualunque natura essi fossero (Falaschi, Vittorini, 38).
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new significance in order to have them convey a particular impression or function as symbols.'*' For example, on the front page of the first issue, a photograph shows a reporter crouching next to a wounded man, writing down what he says (see Figure 1). The caption translates as Those who fell for the liberty of the whole world have told us what to write. The photograph is immediately established not simply as a journalistic object (although it is that too), but most importantly as a symbol of the whole raison d etre of Politecnico. Vittorini was later to say that for him the man in the photograph represented fallen comrades like Giaime Pintor, Giorio Labo and Eugenio Curiel, and that this figure likewise had a real name for anyone who had a comrade die in the struggle.
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Yet as Falaschi

points out, in loading the photograph with such a heavy burden of meaning, Vittorini goes well beyond what the photograph actually shows. *^Unlike Vittorinis fallen comrades, the man shown is clearly not dead, as the reporter next to him is recording his words. There is also no way of knowing whether he is dying, whose side he was on, or even how he was injured. Just as Vittorini tended to read more into texts than was necessarily there, so the readings of the photograph implied by its caption exceed the significative capacity of the image itself.

In considering these manipulations it is essential to bear in mind the post-fascist context in which these photographic images and captions were publihsed. They were specifically intended to be part of a political project and to work to help counter more than two decades of intense visual and verbal fascist propaganda. Hundreds o f thousands of photographs had been chumed out by photographers and agencies like Vincenzo Carreses Publifoto (founded in 1929 as the first photographic agency in Italyjto illustrate the myths o f Empire and the triumphs o f II Duce. The influence o f such political propagandist uses o f photography on Vittorini is apparent, even as he made a fundamental contribution to attempts to supply an altemative to the photographic iconography o f fascism. Similar attempts appeared even before the fall o f fascism in magazines like Domus and Casabella, in the covers carried out by Campo Grafico, and in experiments such as Albe Steiners graphic designs that employed photographs and texts in innovative ways that avoided the rhetoric o f the regime, and that were to have an important influence on the look o f II Politecnico. un nome vero per chiunque abbia avuto un compagno morto nella lotta (Vittorini, in II Politecnico, n. 7, Nov. 1945). 43 Falaschi, Vittorini e la fotografia.
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I caduti per la Uberta di 'tullo il mondo ci hanno dettalo quello che scriviamo Figure 1: I caduti per la liberta . .. 11 Politecnico 1, 29 settembre 1945

II Politecnico would also arrange photographs out of chronological order in order to create a particular allegory or story, lending a kind of progression to fixed images. For example, a series of five snapshots accompanies the story about Japan in that issue, the first four of which are about poor peasant farmers. Falaschi notes that that this arrangement of photographs does not function as a photo-story, since they essentially show the same subjectpovertyin four different ways. There is also some doubt as to its documentary truth in terms of chronology, since, as Falaschi goes on to say, this issue came out in October 1945, only two months after Japans surrender. This makes improbable, if not impossible, the claim in the first photographs caption that it was taken just after the war. Chronology is disturbed even more dramatically (if more transparently) by the inclusion of the fifth photograph, which shows a meeting of the peasant workers party founded in 1924 and repressed by the Fascists. Chronologically, it precedes the other photographs, but its

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inclusion at the end provides a political meaning that would otherwise be missing from the sequence, that is, that political organization is the means by which the poor can expect to improve their lot. The photographs are deliberately arranged out of chronological order so as to create, for the first time in the weeklys history, a sequence of images that might function as a story that was almost self-sufficient, especially given the relative brevity of their subtitles.V itto rin i exploits photographys illusion of reality not in aid of naturalist or documentary representation, but rather in the interests of a broader project in which a given reality is employed in the service of a symbolic or allusive value. This, then, was the background to Vittorinis decision to work with Crocenzi to illustrate Conversazione, and it explains a great deal about the working relationship between the two men. Vittorinis correspondence and published articles about the project also provide interesting insights into his conception of it and his view of the photographers role. In a 1954 article, the writer would claim that he had wanted to publish an illustrated edition of Conversazione ever since he had worked on the photographic montage for Americana in 1941, that is, the same year the novel came out, and possibly before he even knew Crocenzi."^^ Given the experience of Americana and the increasing hostility he faced from the regime, Vittorini had censored himself pre-emptively in writing Conversazione, particularly in the last two parts of the book. In the 1954 article, he says that in 1941 he had thought of getting his own back on the censors by illustrating the novel photographically in order to reincorporate the... obscurities of the last two parts... and suggest a more attentive and ultimately freer reading. " * According to this account, what was implicit in Americana is clarified in Conversazione: the photographs are a means of completing the
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come racconto quasi autosufficiente (Falaschi, Vittorini, 38).

See Elio Vittorini, La foto strizza Iocchio alia pagina, Cinema nuova n. 33, 15 April, 1954, quoted in Sergio Pautasso, Nota, in Conversazione in Sicilia, ed. Elio Vittorini (Milan; Rizzoli, 1997). " * in modo da riassorbire riassoi le ... oscurita delle ultime due parti... e suggerirne una piu attenta e, in fondo. piu libera lettura (Ibid.)
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text; filling in the gaps the fear of censorship had created. However, given Vittorinis propensity to create an ideal autobiography, shifting dates and emphases around, this is not necessarily quite how it went. In fact, in a letter to Giovanni Pirelli dated April 1, 1950, he says that it was Luigi Crocenzi who wanted to combine text and photographs.'^^ But in any case, it seems probable that, as Falaschi writes, he first thought of using photographs to express what he had had to leave out, then began to think of using photographs as a reading of the whole text, as a cognitive technique that could give the reader useful information about it, and not just the parts that had been deliberately unexpressed.
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Whatever the case, on February 3, 1950, Vittorini wrote to Valentino Bompiani to ask if the publisher would be interested in a photographically illustrated edition of Conversazione in Sicilia.'^'^ He described how the photographs would be based on the places, themes and characters of the novel, but said that the photographic montage would be carried out in such a way that the novel would function as a commentary on the photographs. Seeking to assure Bompiani of the seriousness of the project, Vittorini wrote to him: 1 am going to Sicily myself with the photographer, whom 1 trust and who is also a cameraman. My role is to point out places and subjects to him, give him an outline of the plane, and take care of the montage of the photographic narration. The letter shows that

Vittorini envisaged the relationship between himself and Crocenzi as similar to that of director and cameraman, as his reference to Crocenzis cinematographic experience makes
Elio Vittorini and Carlo Minoia (ed.), Gli anni del Politecnico: lettere, 1945-1951 (Turin: Binaudi, 1977). lettura di tutto il testo, come tecnica conoscitiva che poteva dare al lettore informazioni utili di esso, e non solo quelle intenzionalmente inespresse (Falaschi, Vittorini, 37. On February 9 of the same year, he also wrote to James Laughlin to inquire about publishing a photographically illustrated version of Conversazione in English, and about the possibility of publishing a photographically illustrated English translation o f his Viaggio in Sardegna, which he had published in 1934. See Elio Vittorini, in Gli anni del Politecnico. Lettere 1945-1951, ed. Carlo Minoia (Turin: Einaudi, 1977). Vado io stesso in Sicilia col fotografo che e di mia fiducia e inoltre operatore cinematografico. E mia funzione indicargli luoghi e soggetti, dargli una traccia di suite, e provvedere al montaggio della narrazione fotografica (Ibid.)
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clear.^* Despite his respect for Crocenzis work for II Politecnico, he seems to have considered Crocenzi not as an autonomous creative figure but above all as a kind of technician who would help him to realize the images he wanted, and that he already had in his minds eye. In February 1950 he left for Sicily with Crocenzi and a group of other friends, including Pirelli, traveling in winter so that the photographs would correspond to the wintry setting of the text. Vittorinis article for Cinema nuovo recounts how he chose the places he had in mind, selected human types, landscapes, objects, and even organized certain scenes: a nocturnal cavalcade, a peasants meeting in a tavem, family scenes in rocky dwellings, making sure that appropriate photographs were taken to illustrate particular images from the text.^^ To give just a few examples, there are numerous figures who represent versions of the Gran Lombardo (Great Lombard) (both the man encountered on the narrators train journey back to Sicily, and his grandfather as recalled by his mother), and very many versions of the narrators mother.^^ When Vittorini first saw the photographs, however, he was terribly disappointed, complaining in a letter to Pirelli of March 26, 1950 that they were almost all out of focus.
It also suggests something o f the extent to which by this time cinema was already taken much more seriously than photography, since Vittorini seems to use Crocenzis work as a film cameraman as a means of establishing his professionalism and competence, as opposed to the photographer who could be viewed as either a snap-shot amateur or a potentially unsavory character. See my discussion o f negative portrayals o f photographers in Chapter Three. una cavalcata notturna, una riunione di contadini in una bettola, scene familiari in abitazioni rupestn. Alongside the description o f the scene on the train there is a photograph o f a proud, sad looking peasant farmer, while for the Gran Lx)mbardo-grandfather, there are three photographs taken from different places of the momunet to Napoleone Colajanni at Enna, which Sciascia saw as emblematic of the Vittorinian archetype and as providing a glimpse o f his ideology. See Leonardo Sciascia, La corda p a zza (Turin: Einaudi, 1970), 167-71. According to Falaschi it also offers a glimpse into Vittorinis psyche: la grande figura del personaggio repubblicano, qui introdotta dove si parla del nonno, puo esprimere Ianagrafe ideale di Vittorini. Falaschi, Vittorini, 37. Cf. Barthess reproduction o f images o f other peoples mothers but not his own in Camera Lucida. Here it is the opposite, because the narrators mother does represent The Mother -a generalization that Barthes rejects for his mother, insisting on her specificity and the specificity o f the bond between them. See Barthes, Camera Lucida, 74. It is also interesting that it is a photograph written into the novel that enables the narrator to find his motherthe postcard with her address that he uses to find her house.
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that the ones in focus were nothing special, and that even the few really good ones had nothing particularly Sicilian about them.^^ Two days later, however, he wrote that perhaps he had been too hasty, and that he thought there were about 200 good photographs; the bad ones he would reproduce in a small format.^^ The fact that he used these out-offocus photographs shows once again how it was the immobile film that constituted it that really mattered to Vittorini, far above and beyond the aesthetic or documentary value of any individual photograph. As he wrote in the article for Cinema Nuovo, The aesthetic or illustrative value that each photograph might have was not at all important to me. I was only interested in the material content of each photograph (that is, that is reproduced a certain object), and I proceeded to the choice of the photographs just as I could have chosen the objects to furnish a room from a junk dealer, without paying the least attention to where they were from, technical qualities and pretensions to style. Unlike Americana, Conversazione has its text and images are interspersed all the way through the volume, creating what can be read as a whole new work.
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Vittorini himself

emphasized this by using brief quotations from the text in a bold typeface, creating a closer graphic link between image and text, and going beyond the simple, descriptive captions applied to some (though by no means all) of the photographs. Reading these captions and titles in bold type alongside the images presents allows for a new approach to the novel. Together, they represent an allusive, lyrical summary of some of its key themes. For

This stress on the importance o f the particular rather than the generic adds to the doubts about Vittorinis profession at the end of the novel that Conversazione takes place in Sicily only because 1 1 nome Sicilia mi suona meglio del nome Persia o Venezuela. Of the 188 photographs, 169 are by Crocenzi, 12 are postcards and 7 are photographs from G. Pozzi Bellinis archive, taken in 1938, when part o f Conversazione was written. A me non importava nulla del valore estetico o illustrativo che la fotografia poteva avere singolarmente, ciascuno di per se. M interessava solo che ogni fotografia avesse un suo contenuto materiale (che cioe riproducesse un certo oggetto), e procedevo alia scelta delle fotografie proprio com e avrei potuto scegliere, presso rigattieri, gli oggetti di cui ammobiliare una stanza, senza minimamente badare a provenienze, qualita techniche e pretese di stile (Elio Vittorini, Sulle fotografie di Conversazione in Sicilia,' in Cinema Nuovo, April 15, 1954. Cited in Mormorio, Citta, 26. It is worth noting that descriptions o f photographs did already exist in Vittorinis text, for example, in the form of the postcards the narrator sends to his mother, and the one that enables him to find her.
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example, on page 32, a half-page head-and-shoulders photograph of a man in a peaked cap shot slightly from below, whose caption Dalle Madonie (Versante ennese) describes where it was taken and accompanies the text that relates the narrators encounter with il Gran Lombardo. On the page opposite the photograph a bold title reads Nuovi doveri (New Duties), drawing a connection between the m ans look of solid determination and the texts message of suppressed resistance. More direct ideological statements are made in other image-text juxtapositionings, such as that on pages 160-61. The text narrates the encounter with the knife grinder, whose comments are a veiled call to arms, and is accompanied by a photograph that shows a shadow of an arm holding a hammer outlined against the wall and doorway of a house, opposite an indefinable sickle-shaped dark shadow to the right of the image. The selection of a photograph that contains such a direct iconographical link to the symbols of Communism is emblematic of Vittorinis use of photography, and reflects the possibility of using its indexical signs in iconic and conventional ways.^^ This new Conversazione received a mixed critical response, with one critic complaining that: the poets words must be self-sufficient. Even for the blindest of readers, and claiming that the text was fragmented rather than complemented by the photographs. Others liked the work, but saw the photographs, even those not perfectly in focus, as an explanatory commentary on the textin other words, the precise opposite of what Vittorini intended. The latter response points to a problem with photography that

has been very important for numerous writers on photography, including Gal vino: its often-

See my discussion in the introduction of the various ways in which photographs have been defined as signs. La parola del poeta deve bastare a se stessa. Anche per il piu cieco dei lettori, (Falqui, republished in Novecento letterario, series VI, [Florence: Falecchi, 1961], 160-75, quoted in Falaschi, Vittorini.). See Antoniellis review in Belfagor, 31 gennaio, 1955, quoted in Ibid.

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recalcitrant resistance to interpretation. At the same time, Vittorinis use of photographs

in the 1953 edition of Conversazione also serves to open the work up to new interpretations, even as it established his determination to tie the novel to a very specific historical and geographical reality. Mormorio says that with his use of the photographs, Vittorini gives a realistic consistency to the metaphorical and mythological lyricism of the story. He places the book beyond any misunderstanding and connects it inexorably to historical memory, so that it becomes both history and mythology.
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It is interesting to

note that, as in Americana and II Politecnico, this use of photography to show historical reality in fact depends on a chronological trick. Conversazione is set in the 1930s, during the height of Fascism, while the photographs were taken in 1950. Vittorini noted, however, that an ironic result of Sicilys underdevelopment was that very little had changed, and he was able to find scenes that echoed closely those he had envisaged while writing the novel.^'* Nevertheless, Mormorios assertion that the inclusion of photographs was able to place the book out of reach of any possibility of misunderstanding both overestimates the capacity of the images to establish or confirm a definitive meaning for the text and underestimates their ability to open it up to multiple new interpretations. In a piece published in i967, Calvino wrote that all Vittorinis workcreative, critical, and editorial has the intention and function of a program, a manifesto. However, on the next page he adds: if Conversazione was truly a manifesto-work like none other, Vittorini has subsequently worked to correct its establishment as a manifesto, to take it back to being a concluded work, on the one hand, and, on the other, the
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See Barthes, Camera Lucida.

da al lirismo metaforico e mitologico del racconto una consistenza realistica. Pone il libro al riparo da ogni equivoco e lo aggancia inesorabilmente alia memoria storica. Sicche esso si fa al tempo stesso storico e mitologico (Mormorio, Citta, 26. ^ See Vittorini and Minoia (ed.), Gli anni del Politecnico: lettere, 1945-1951. ha intenzione e funzione di programma, di manifesto (Calvino, Vittorini. Progettazione e letteratura,

9).

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opening up of an epoch that is still open, a promise that continues to promise, a prophesy that continues to speak to us as a prophecy. It is in these terms that I believe it makes most sense to consider Vittorinis inclusion of photographs in his novel, and the new photo-text that results. Calvino also talks about Vittorinis optimism about technological progress, and his belief that the meaning of workers freedom was that of the impetus toward achieving a world of machines that serve men (all men) and do not make them servants.
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Vittorinis use of photography

therefore relates it to Benjamins conception of it as potentially an art of the masses, and fits into the broader context of his political beliefs. This is particularly clear given the context of Fascism in which Americana, Politecnico, and the idea for the photographically illustrated version of Coversazione were conceived. Calvino, on the other hand, sees the relationship between humans and machinesand by extension between humans and the macchina fotografica (camera)as more complicated and more dangerous.

Zavattini and Strand Before I discuss Calvinos use of photography, however, I would like to examine briefly the photo-textual collaboration between the journalist, writer, screenwriter, poet, and painter, Cesare Zavattini and one of the great twentieth-century American photographers, Paul Strand. The two men worked together to produce the volume Un paese, on the people and places of Zavattinis native Luzzara, a small village near the river Po in northern Italy. Theirs was an encounter very different from that between Vittorini and Crocenzi. For one thing, Paul Strand was already a photographer who had achieved a notable success in his field, and there was a level of excitement about his involvement in

se Conversazione e stata davvero unopera-manifesto come nessunaltra, il lavoro successive di Vittorini e state quello di correggere la sua stabilizzazione in manifesto, cosi da farla ritomareda una parteopera conclusa.. .e dallaltraapertura d unepoca ancora aperta, promessa che continua a promettere, profezia che continua a parlarci come profezia (Ibid., 10). 67 a un mondo di macchine che servano gli uomini (tutti gli uomini) e non li facciano servi (Ibid., 33).

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the project that was missing from the Vittorini-Crocenzi project. By the time Strand came to work with Zavattini, he had absorbed the lessons of many of the most important photographic movements of the early part of the century. Having studied with Lewis Hine at the Ethical Culture School, he went on to work in the idiom of the Photo-Secession and Cubist movements before carrying out experimental works of his own that resulted in remarkable works such as his astonishing Blind Woman of 1916. Between 1931 and 1944 he devoted himself almost exclusively to filmmaking, but then returned to photographing in numerous countries around the world. He was acclaimed as a photographer for the way in which the iconoclastic vigor of [his] imagery is matched and balanced by his care for what is fragile. His extraordinary technical proficiency and perfectionism, as well as his

famous dedication to precision meant that there was never any possibility that his photographs might disappoint Zavattini in the way Crocenzis initially had Vittorini. Where Crocenzis photographs were always intended to be subordinated to and subsumed within Vittorinis text (whatever their ultimate effect), this was certainly not the case for Zavattini and Strands work, which was, at least in its intentions, a project of equals, like that of Walker Evans and James Agee for Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. While Zavattini and Strands book interspersed photographs with texts that are apparently the words of Zavattinis fellow-villagers (although edited by Zavattini), unlike Evans and Agees rigorous separation of texts and photographs, it did share with their project an awareness of aspects of the Farm Service Administration experience, particularly in terms of R.E. Strykers definition of the task of the ESA photographers: News photos treat events as a single entity; ours are episodic. The news photo is dramatic; in every subject is action whereas our photograph shows what lies outside the action. It covers things more

Mark Haworth-Booth, introduction to Paul Strand, Paul Strand, Aperture M asters o f Photography (New York: Aperture, 1987), 7.

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b r o a d l y . T h i s broad coverage and narrative contextualization represents a key element of Un paese. Zavattini and Strand met at a meeting of filmmakers in Perugia in 1949, just as the humanist movement in photography (to which their project would make an important contribution) was moving towards its peak.
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In the Italian context, this was a key moment

for post-war cinematic Neorealism, as we have seen, but Zavattinis influence on and commitment to literary Neorealism it stretched back to 1931. In 1943 he began his association with Vittorio De Sica, which produced such classics of Neorealist filmmaking as Ladri di biciclette (1948) and Umberto D (1952). In the introduction to Un paese, Zavattini describes how when he met Strand the photographer had been in negotiations with Einaudi over developing a Neorealist photo-textual project. This was to have been a series called Italia mia, combining photographs with captions giving information about things such as how much money was in the pocket of this man who was walking through the piazza, where he was going, what he wanted, what he ate... (7).^^ The series was designed to be popular in both subject matter and audience appeal, and aimed to cover themes The themes ranged from domestic help in our three major cities, Milan, Rome, and Naples... to office workers, to farmers, from wetnurses to railway workers, to bicycles, Saturdays, Sundays, the day of an unemployed person, a strike at Sesto San Giovanni, followed from morning to evening, shadowing the family of a worker, country priests, soldiers, and so on. (7) 6 Q
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R.E. Styker, The F.S.A. Collection of Photographs, in R.E. Stryker and N. W ood, In This Proud Land (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1973). See Jean-Claude Gautrand, Looking at Others: Humanism and Neorealism, in The New History o f Photography, ed. Michel Frizot (Cologne: Konemann, 1998), 613. quanti soldi ha in tasca questuomo che passa per la piazza, dove sta andando, cosa vuole, cosa mangia.. . (9). Page references for Italian text refer to Cesare Zavattini, Un paese (Milan: A llinsegna del pesce doro, 1974). dalle domestiche delle nostre tre maggiori citta, Milan Roma Napoli [...] agli impiegati ai contadini, dalle balie i ferrovieii, le biciclette, il Sabato, la Domenica, la giornata di un disoccupato, uno sciopero a Sesto San Giovanni seguito dalla mattina alia sera pedinando la famiglia di un operaio, i preti di campagna, i soldati e via di seguito (9).
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As this list illustrates, the only groups to be left out would be the privileged classes, reflecting the Neorealist urge to represent the realities of groups that had traditionally been marginalized in Italian society. The photographers were to have been mostly filmmakers whose work reflected the Neorealist spirit. For Zavattini, this meant having true compassion for the tempo of the eyes and the ears, being devoted to facts, to the people of
'in

the region itself (7).

He had hoped to send out numerous young people across the

country to carry out this project, with the idea that they would simply set out to talk to and photograph whomever they came across in their travels. This kind of unplanned selection is precisely what Zavattini says he and Strand did in preparing Un paese. In his introduction, he invites the reader to look at Strands photographs with him and read the secret thoughts of my fellow-townsmen,^ "^ presented almost as though they were about to appear like players on a stage, or actors in a film; Those who speak werent chosen by us specifically because they had something to say. We know that everyone has something to say, and this makes me wish I could question at least a thousand of them it would be a great book, giving a page to each citizen of Luzzara. Some day I should do that sort of projecti f s only a question of desire. If I dont think about it, someone else will, and I hope they do it in a more profound and complete way, about any one of the inhabited places in Italy. (15)^^ Zavattini ultimately did return to Luzzara to work on the volume Un paese ventanni dopo with the Italian photographer Gianni Berengo-Gardin, but his project to involve numerous young people in a nation-wide project never came to fruition.
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una vera carita di tempo di occhi di orecchi data ai fatti, alia gente del proprio paese (9-10). le confidenze dei miei compaesani.

questi che vedrete, che parlano, non li abbiamo scelti perche proprio loro avevano qualche cosa da dire, ormai si sa che tutti hanno qualcosa da dire, percio mi sarebbe piaciuto interrogarne almeno un migliaio, fare un bel librone dando una pagina a ciascun luzzarese. U nopera cosi la dovrei fare un giorno, e solo questione di buona volonta, o se non ci pensero ci pensera qualche altro, e in un modo che mi auguro piu profondo e completo, su uno qualsiasi dei luoghi abitati in Italia (35). Zavattini and Berengo-Gardin, Un paese ventanni dopo.

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Nevertheless, his book with Strand represents what Italo Zannier ealls one of the most significant and decidedly magisterial works of our history of photography, which took off with such enthusiasm after the war.
V7

The choice of a place like Luzzara, which

lacked the picturesque elements of most photographic representations of Italy familiar to viewers of the period, the intuition of the close rapport between humans and nature, and the importance of work are central themes of Un paese to which numerous Italian photographers would later return to over the course of the second half of the twentieth century. Through Zavattini and Strands collaboration Luzzara became the Italian paese par excellence, and what is perhaps its most famous image came to represent the Italian family par excellence (see Figure 2). Despite their best Neorealist intentions, Zavattini and Strands highly influential collaboration has ultimately contributed to myth-making about Italy and Italians, but it is important to recognize how unusual and iconoclastic it was at the time of its publication, when the notion of creating a book of pictures and words of ordinary people and the places they inhabit was unprecedented in Italy. Zavattini describes how Strand worked in terms of a deeply-felt solidarity with humans and their environment: always finding the moment of light and alignment when things have absorbed our presence and our labors. For Strand, even a tree is never solitary; he is the other tree (7).^^

opera tra le piu significative e decisamente magistrate per la nostra storia della fotografia, avviatosi con tanto entusiasmo nel dopoguerra (Italo Zannier, II Po in fotografia, in II Po d el 900: arte, cinema, letteratura, ed. Antonella Campagna (Bologna; Grafis, 1995), 23. dappertutto trovando il punto di luce e di linea di quando le cose hanno assorbito la nostra presenza e la nostra fatica, anche un albero non e mai solitario per Strand, lui e Ialtro albero (11).
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Figure 2; Paul Strand, The Family, Luzzara, Italy, 1953 1955 Aperture Foundation Inc., Paul Strand Archive.

In his introduction, Zavattini describes with self-deprecating humor his school-boy rage at hearing his teacher read out Petrarchs description of Luzzara as a swampy region of frogs and mosquitoes, which led him to leap to his feet and shout out: I am from Luzzara! (7).
7Q

Yet despite this partisanship, when Strand suggested that they work

together he did not initially think of Luzzara, since he believed he already knew everything about it. He deseribes his gratitude to Strand for having obliged him, to coexist somewhat seriously, for the first time, with my fellow-countrymen (7), and the way in which he retraced Strands footsteps after he had taken his photographs, accompanied by a local friend, talking to the people who were his subjects and recording their words for the

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un paludoso paese di rane e di zanzare, io sono di Luzzara (11).

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book. 80 Zavattinis description of the process by which he came both to work with Strand and to appreciate his native village in a new way then merges into a narrative about the village, its history, and its residents and their way of life that demonstrates his deep affection for and his careful attention to the place and the people who live there. He describes the changing seasons and their influence on human activity, and the rhetorical talents of the villagers, transcribing a description of the best time of day in Luzzara in dialect. He inserts all this into the context of the pre-Strand memories of his childhood rambles through the surrounding countryside, his memories of exploring along the river Po, the little train that went by, and all the innumerable wonders of childhood. These memories come back to him as though through the filter of Strands photographs, which give him access to this glorious childhood world. In contrast to Barthes notion of photography as something which blocks memory, Zavattini seems to suggest that even photographs that do not represent ones own past can trigger memories and emotions. Seeming to tear himself away from these memoriesas though from Barthes punctumhe turns to the cold hard evidence of statistics to underline the harsher realities of life in Luzzara; poverty, underemployment, illiteracy, and ill-health, citing local government figures. Yet these figures, too, twist back towards memory and storytelling, as well as towards photography, and its final certainties: In 1952 there were 205 emigrants and 209 immigrants; they go willingly to Milan because it is only three hours away by train and they can return for the occasional Sunday. They come back and immediately visit the cemetery, because the cult of the dead is powerful. After five years absence, one who had left Luzzara might retum with a car, to show it off to someone he hated, but that person might have died some time before, so all along he had been hating someone who was no longer alive. We have a fine cemetery with porcelain photographs of nearly all the dead, so that looking at those faces, one next to the other, they seem like one family. (10)^^
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a convivere per la prima volta un po sul serio coi miei compaesani (11).

Emigrati nel 52 ce ne sono stati 205 e immigrati 209; vanno volentieri a Milan perche dista solo tre ore di treno e qualche domenica si puo tomare. Tomano e fanno subito una visita al cimitero, perche il culto dei morti e forte. E a Luzzara che un luzzarese tomo dopo cinque anni con Iautomobile per farla vedere a un tale

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In what Zavattini describes as the pre-Strand world of Luzzara, these gravestone images represent a collective family album, something that is emphasized by the way the faces assembled there resemble one another. It is also an album that is literally embedded in the ground where its subjects lived and died, unlike Strand and Zavattinis new album, which moves out of the circumseribed world of the village in order to eirculate in the wider world of images and texts. The eonnection between location and identity that is literalized in the cemetery photographs, and the simultaneously personal and societal approaeh to their subjects is also emphasized in the two photographs of the river Po with which Zavattini frames his introductory comments (see Figure 3 and Figure 4). In the lengthy caption for the first, he explains that it shows the Po and describes where Luzzara is in relation to it. There follows a description of nearby towns, and preeise indications as to distances and scales. But by the end of the paragraph, Zavattini has shifted from the impersonal description of location to a highly personal response to it: When I return home, as soon as I touch foot on my native soil, I begin to speak dialect without realizing it. No one will believe that I onee had a sudden urge to eat some bread from my town and so I left Milan on foot, and I fell asleep that night with my bed full of erumbs. (6)*^ From this association of his mother-tongue and the bread of home, Zavattini shifts in the caption for the seeond photograph of the river to a description that seeks to immerse the viewer in the feeling of that particular location: The most beautiful sunsets can be seen from this point; first the sun is in the center of the sky, like a tapered receptacle; then it descends, turning more and more red. The roosters combs seem to eatch fire and the guinea hens begin to ery out. People driving over the bridge in cars lurching on shaky axles are aeeompanied by the sun as far as the end of the bridge, where the sun
che odiava, ma quello era morto da tempo per cui aveva odiato chi non c era piu. Abbiamo un bel cimitero con le fotografie in porcellana di quasi tutti, a rivedere quelle fisionomie, Iuna vicina allaltra, sembrano di una stessa fam iglia.. . (21). Quando arrivo da fuori, appena tocco questa mia zona natale, comincio senza accorgermene a parlare in dialetto. Nessuno credera che una volta ebbi la voglia repentina di mangiare del pane del mio paese, cosi partii sui due piedi da Milan, e quella notte mi addormentai col letto pieno di briciole (6).
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suddenly stops, while we climb up to the road. Branches of poplars and willows begin to hide it, and we run harder to reach a treeless clearing that lets us see it again in its entirety, but all too soon it settles, like a parachute, onto the plain. (14)^^ Zavattinis description lends movement and color to the perfect black and white stillness of Strands photograph, just as the subsequent texts, whose words are, he claims, substantially [those of my fellow-townspeople], and I think I rarely betray their spirit (15), lend the photographs a voice.^'* Yet despite Zavattinis commitment to being true to the spirit of these voices, his role in selecting and editing them links him to what has been
oc

called the central act of photography, the act of choosing and eliminating.

Zavattini and

Strands collaboration is an important precedent for collaborations between writers and photographers in Italy, as we shall see in Chapter Four.

I piu bei tramonti si vedono da questo punto, prima il sole sta nel centro del cielo come un ostensorio poi scende diventando sempre piii rosso, le creste dei galli sembrano di fuoco e le faraone si mettono a gridare. Chi passa in macchina sul ponte traballando per le assi piuttosto sconnesse e accompagnato dal sole fino alia testa del ponte dove si arresta di colpo metnre noi saliamo sulla strada. La ramaglia dei pioppi e dei salici comincia a nascondercelo e noi corriamo piii forte per raggiungere presto uno spiazzo senza alberi che ce lo faccia rivedere tutto intero ma troppo presto si posa come un paracadutista sulla pianura (33).
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in sostanza dei miei compaesani, mi pare di non aveme quasi mai tradito lo spirito (33). John Szarkowski, The Photographers Eye (New York; MOMA, 1966), 7.

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Figure 3: Paul Strand, B ridge O ver the Po, Luzzara, Italy, 1953 1955 Aperture Foundation Inc., Paul Strand Archive.

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P B :
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Figure 4: Paul Strand, The River Po, Luzzara, Italy, 1953 1955 Aperture Foundation Inc., Paul Strand Archive.

Calvino One of the few Italian writers whose interest in photography has been examined by
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literary critics is Italo Calvino.

This attention might seem surprising, given the dearth of

investigations of the influence of photography in Italian literary studies generally, and must be attributed at least in part to Calvinos extraordinary prominence in twentieth-century Italian culture. However, given the authors profound and genuine fascination with the medium, it is perhaps more surprising that the number of critics who have addressed this aspect of his work is not greater. Marco Belpoliti argues that: There is a clear privileging

See Marco Belpoliti, L occhio di Calvino, Saggi (Turin: Einaudi, 1996), Pierce, Calvino on Photography., Papa, La realta, la fotografia, la scrittura. Postille in margine a Lavventura di un fotografo di Italo Calvino, and Domenico Scarpa, II fotografo, il cavaliere e il disegnatore. Italo Calvino nel 1964, Belfagor 48, no. 5 (1993).

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of photography with respect to cinema in Calvinos work and thought, despite his numerous early articles and his Autobiografia di uno spettatore [Autobiography of a Spectator]. R 7 This privileging of photography is the result of its singularity and the

opportunities that it offers for contemplation and reflection. Calvino demonstrates both a great interest in and a deep skepticism about the practiee of photography in his 1955 article, La follia del mirino, where he emphatically defines himself as a non-photographer. Where Vittorini looked upon the photographer he worked with as a trusted professional, a literal camera-man whom he eould point at the subjects he wanted to capture, and Zavattini saw Strand as an artist whose photographic vision enabled him to see his childhood home with fresh eyes, Calvino instead turns his attention to amateur photographers: the hundreds of thousands of Italians who by the mid1950s were spending their Sunday mornings hunting down photographic opportunities, returning all happy like hunters with full gamebags to anxiously await the photographic prints that would finally allow them to take tangible possession of the day they have
oo

spent.

Calvino also specifically addresses the question of photographys difference from

or similarity to writing. As such, his article takes its place in a continuum of troubled literary meditations on the medium and its history that ineludes those of Walter Benjamin before him, and those of Roland Barthes and Susan Sontag after him. It also provides the point of departure for his short story, L avventura di un fotografo, and resonates with other of his writings that deal with issues raised by photography, such as La giornata di uno scrutatore (1963) {The Watcher) and Palomar (1983) {Mr. Palomar). There is a distinct family resemblance between Calvinos photograph-obsessed amateurs and the petulant photographers that just a few years later Ennio Flaiano would
II privilegio della fotografia rispetto al cinema nellopera e nella riflessione di Calvino e netto, nonstante i numerosi articoli giovanili e VAutobiografia di uno spettatore (Belpoliti, Occhio, 128). tutti contenti come cacciatori dal camiere ricolmo, prendere tangibilmente possesso della giornata trascorsa (Italo Calvino, La follia del mirino, in Saggi (Milan: Mondadori, 1995 [1955]).
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describe as the just deserts of a society as troubled as ours, whieh expresses its frigid will to live more by exhibiting itself than by truly enjoying life.^^ Antieipating these remarks, Calvino notes that the boundary between the reality of the world and the version of reality that photography produees are at stake: the step between the reality that we photograph beeause it seems beautiful and the reality that seems beautiful beeause we photograph it is very s m a l l . I t is also a question of possession, sinee from the perspeetive of Calvinos amateur photographer, what hasnt been photographed seems lost forever. As a result, to truly live one must photograph as much as possible, one must live in the most photographable way possible.^^ Calvinos article here prefigures Barthes remark that a eulture dominated by the visual starts by taking photographs of the notable; but soon, by a familiar reversal, it deerees notable whatever it photographs.^^ Calvinos observations are based on the Benjaminian questions of whether something called reality can be recorded photographically and how what is photographed relates to reality. Arnheim would define the snapshot as the definitive form of photograph because of its supposedly unfakable eonnection to reality.^^ Calvino, however, undermines the notion that the snapshot is somehow more real than the posed photograph, arguing that the posed photographs of the past, with their load of social, anthropological, and aesthetic meanings, as well as all the fake, forced, hypocritical aspects of a family grouping

Ennio Flaiano, The Via Veneto Papers, trans. John Satriano, 1st English language ed. (Marlboro, Vt.: Marlboro Press, 1992), June 1958. il passo tra la realta che viene fotografata in quanto ci appare bella e la realta che ci appare bella in quanto e stata fotografata, e brevissimo. per vivere veramente bisogna fotografare quanto piii si puo bisogna vivere in modo quanto piu fotografabile possibile (Calvino, Saggi, 2218.
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Barthes, Camera Lucida, 34.

See Amheim, Nature. Once we have understood the snapshot, he claims, w e have understood the fundamental character traits o f the medium o f photography (149). For him, the essential feature o f the snapshot is that it is a fragment, a sample extirpated from an action whose integrity resides beyond the realm o f the picture (151).

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are perfectly analogous to the contemporary family snapshot, which, he argues, in nine out of ten cases gives a false image of the family."^ As Marco Belpoliti notes, Calvino sets up a polemical parallel between literature and photography, comparing the charm of old, posed photographs to the texts of the past that stylistic criticism transforms into invaluable monuments of language and taste. Calvino goes on to imagine a photographer who wants to preserve all the reality his eyes behold.^^ To be consistent, he has to go all the way: from when he opens his eyes in the morning until he goes to sleep, let him take a photograph a minute, photograph everything, give us an absolutely faithful journal of his days. Until the moment when he goes mad.
07

The dream of a total picture of reality leads to madness, but Calvino argues

that this is precisely the secret dream of photography, with its pretense of bringing back a deferred reality. Calvino compares the obsessive photographing of his invented photographer with the diary and autobiographical literature, making the claim that in these things that seem like the pinnacle of the reflection of reality, of sincerity, and of clarifying
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rationality, a tentacle of madness is always lying in wait. reason is choice, organization, invention. ^

Instead, he argues, true human

Here he seems almost to agree with Vittorinis criteria for utilizing photographs, and in fact in the last paragraph he argues for the different status of the professional photographer, who documents the extremes of life... who knows that historical reality is to

94 95 96 97

See Ibid. See also my discussion o f family photography in Chapter Two. preziosi monumenti di linguaggio e di gusto (Belpoliti, Occhio, 118. tutta la realta che gli passa sotto gli occhi.

da quando apre gli occhi al mattino a quando va a dormire, scatti almeno una foto al minuto, fotografi tutto, ci dia un fedele assoluto journal delle sue giornate. Fino al momento in cui diventera pazzo. in queste cose che sembrano il colmo del rispecchiamento della realta, della smcerita, della razionalita chiarificatrice, - c e sempre in agguato un tentacolo di pazzia.
99 98

la vera ragione umana e scelta, organizzazione, invenzione (Calvino, Saggi, 2218.

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be read in its continuous exceptional moments, not in its (apparent) day-to-day m e d i o c r i t y . Y e t as time went by, Calvino became less convinced of this aspect of his own argument. This becomes clear in reading his L avventura di un fotografo, a fictionalized re-writing of the 1955 article, published in 1970 in the collection A m ori dijficili {Dijficult L o v e s ) Calvinos light touch and whimsical humor belie the profound issues of vision, experience, and representation the story interrogates. It reflects the results of Calvinos on-going meditations on photography and on Iuomo fotografico which are also hinted at in works like his La giornata di uno scrutatore and Palomar. Although L avventura di un fotografo is very closely linked to the earlier piece, and several times quotes verbatim whole sections of the article, Calvinos principle arguments are now put into the mouth of a character who assumes Calvinos role of non-photographer, Antonino Paraggi, and the narrative itself expresses a great deal less certainty about issues like the distinction between amateur and professional photographers. Constance Pierce rightly identifies Calvinos story as deeply connected to an establishment of literary discourse on photography, the Benjamin/Barthes/Sontag complex of meditative and speculative writing on the medium. 109 This approach is evident in

Calvinos definition of his protagonist as a philosopher. Looking at photography from this perspective, Antonino tries to understand his friends obsession with photography. This often seems to develop, Calvino writes, in a natural, virtually physiological way as a secondary effect of fatherhood (223) (almost the exact words he uses in the article), with

che documenta sugli estremi della vita... che sa che la realta della storia si legge nei suoi continui momenti eccezionali, non nella sua (apparente) mediocrita quotidiana (Ibid., 2220). Page references are to Italo Calvino, L avventura di un fotografo, in Romanzi e racconti (Milan: Mondadori, 1992).
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Pierce, Calvino on Photography, 130.

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new parents determined to capture the fleeting perfections of their child at every age. Antonino does not become a parent, but he does end up a victim of a similar desire to fix the unfixable in an attempt to possess it. Seduced into trying photography by the charms and flattery of two young women, he eventually finds himself in the throes of an obsession with capturing the image of one of them. Bice. This obsession leads him into a joumey through the history of photography and its conventions in an attempt to discover its secret, which tums out to be that of the desire for possessiona desire that photography seems to fulfill, but ultimately only frustrates. Antoninos exploration of these issues thus makes him a third figure beyond those of the amateur and professional photographers that Calvino discusses in the 55 article, one who might be characterized as an intellectual photographer: the photographer as conceptual artist or philosopher. Antonino carries out a series of experiments that follow the history and conventions of photography and their development. After the initial photographs of Bice and her friend at the seaside, he rebels against the snapshots taken by his friends by deciding to take only carefully posed portraits that show his subjects in attitudes denoting their social position and their character, as in the nineteenth century. His antiphotographic polemic could be fought only from within the black box, setting one kind of photography against another (226).^ It is not long before he abandons other subjects to concentrate on Bice alone: There were many possibile photographs of Bice and many Bices impossible to
in modo naturale e quasi fisiologico come effetto secondario della patemita (1095). English translations o f L avventura di un fotografo are taken from The Adventure o f a Photograppher, in Italo Calvino, Dijficult Loves, trans. William Weaver, Archibald Colquhoun, and Peggy Wright (New York and London; Harcourt Brace, 1984), 220-235. This is in part a reflection o f the changed situation in Italy by the 1970s and new attitudes to photography, photographers, and their potential roles. By the early 70s the world art market reflected a much more solid belief in the artistic potential o f photography, and attitudes had changed in Italy, particularly in relation to the work o f conceptual and other photographic artists,and to the glamor o f fashion photography, as expressed in films like Antonionis Blow-Up. On the latter, see the Conclusion to this study. in atteggiamenti rappresentativi della loro situazione sociale e del loro carattere, come nelTOttocento. La .sua polemica antifotografica poteva essere condotta solo dallinterno della scatola nera, contrapponendo fotografia a fotografia (1101).
104 103

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photograph, but what he was seeking was the unique photograph that would contain both the former and the latter (228).^^ His attempt to capture her meets only with failure, however, since that secret he seemed on the very point of capturing in her face, was something that drew him into the quicksands of moods, humors, psychology.
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Like

Calvino in almost of all his narratives, Antonino pulls back from those perilous regions. Rather than seeking to show the inner Bice and becoming a hunter of the
1n o

unattainable

like his friends, he decides to try to capture the outer layer, the mask that

she, like everyone, wears: The mask, being first of all a social, historical product, contains more truth than any image claiming to be true; it bears a quantity of meanings that will gradually be revealed (228-29).'^ He photographs her in a twenties-style tennis dress pretending to play tennis, trying to recreate the cartolina ideale of her that he has in mind and reflecting an awareness of photographys connection to death shared by numerous writers on photography: only by feigning a movement arrested halfway could he give the impression of the unmoving, the nonliving (230).*^^ Antonino begins to worry that his refusal to succumb to the constant photography of the present that irritates him in his friends is leading him instead to attempt an equally unreal operation, namely to give a body to recollection, to substitute it for the present before his very eyes (229).**^ He experiments with photographing Bice nude, sleeping.

106 molte fotografie di Bice possibili e molte Bice impossibili a fotografare, ma quello che lui cercava era la fotografia unica che contenesse le une e le altre (1103). quel segreto che gli sembra d esser 1111 per cogliere sul viso di lei era qualcosa che lo trascinava nelle sabbie mobili degli stati d animo, degli umori, della psicologia (1103). un cacciatore dellinafferabile. La maschera, essendo innanzi tutto un prodotto sociale, storico, contiene piu verita di ogni imagine che si pretenda vera; porta con se una quantita di significati che si riveleranno poco a poco (1103). ' solo fingendo un movimento arrestato a meta si poteva dare Iimpressione del fermo, del non vivente (1104). See my discussion o f this connection in Chapter Five. ^^* tentare unoperazione altrettanto irreale, cioe a dare un corpo al ricordo per sotituirlo al presente davanti ai suoi occhi (1104). 109 107

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and in innumerable poses and attitudes. The act of photography becomes part of the process of seduction, yet Antoninos eventual physical possession of Bice is less important to him than his attempt to possess her photographically, although at first they seem to be connected. Early on in the process he laments I cant get you anymore, I cant manage to get you (228), while when she undresses for him he tells her Im getting you fine now.^'^ After using up dozens of photographic plates, he tells her to get dressed, since Ive got you now and is stunned when she bursts into tears (232).
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It is only then that he

discovers that he is in love with her, and from then on his passion for Bice is inextricably bound up with his obsession with photographing her. They move in together, and he buys ever more complicated and state of the art photographic equipment, setting up a dark room and using special slides to photograph her while she sleeps. When his friends question him about his concentration on only one photographic subject he replies: Its a question of method. Whatever person you decide to photograph, or whatever thing, you must go on photographing it always, exclusively, at every hour of the day and night. Photography has a meaning only if it exhausts all possible images (233).**'^ He does not admit to them, however, that what he really longs for is to catch her unawares, unposed, to catch Bice in the street when she didnt know he was watching her, to keep her in the range of hidden lenses, to photograph her not only without letting himself be seen but without seeing her, to surprise her as she was in the absence of his gaze, of any gaze. Not that he wanted to discover any particular thing; he wasnt a jealous man in the usual sense of the word. It was an

] 12

non ti prendo pin, non riesco a prenderti (1103), cosi ti prendo bene (1106). ormai ti ho presa (1106).

113

* E una questione di metodo. Qualsiasi persona tu decidi di fotografare, o qualsiasi cosa, devi continuare a fotografarla sempre, solo quella, a tutte le ore del giom o e della notte. La fotografia ha un senso solo se esaurisce tutte le immagini possibili (1107).

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invisible Bice that he wanted to possess, a Bice absolutely alone, a Bice whose presence presupposed the absence of him and everyone else. (233)'^^ The impossibility of achieving this kind of photography connects photography to the kinds of impossibility of writing that are at the heart of Calvinos self-reflexive later writings. It also both reflects and opposes the notion of photographys status as a token of both presence and absence, since the absence invoked here is not that of the photographic subject, but rather the impossible absence of the viewer. Bice eventually becomes frustrated with Antoninos obsession, and leaves him. The bitter trick of the illusion of possession that photography grants the photographer now becomes painfully evident and it is borne home to Antonino that a photograph always depicts both a presence and an absence: the presence of the image of the photographic subject at a given moment, and the literal absence of that subject, which is gone forever. Antonino now photographs the objects that surrounded Bice in his photographs: He was photographing the absence of Bice (233).^^^ He then decides to create a catalog of everything that resists photography and of everything that is systematically omitted from the visual field not only by cameras but also by human beings (234).
117

He begins

photographing the photographs in the newspapers piled up in the apartment, establishing a connection between his lens and that of distant news photographers (234).
118

This

connection foregrounds photographys mysterious and simultaneous bridging and establishing of distance, and its strange, papery status as an object. Unable to reconcile the question of the relation of the different forms and modes of photography, he rips up all his
cogliere Bice per la strada quando non sapeva d essere vista da lui, tenerla sotto il tiro d obiettivi nascosti, fotografarla non solo senza farsi vedere ma senza vederla, sorprendcrla com era in assenza del suo sguardo, di qualsiasi sguardo. Era una Bice invisibile che voleva possedere, una Bico assoluamente sola, una Bice la cui presenza presupponesse Iasscnza di lui e di tutti gli altri (1107), FotografavaFassenza di Bice (1108).
117 118

lasciato fuori sistcmaticamenle dal campo visivo non solo dalle macchine ma degli uomini (1108).

il suo obiettivo e quello di lontai fotoreportcr. Per produrre quelle macchie nere la lente daltri obiettivi s era puntata su cariche della polizia, auto carbonizzate, atleti in corsa, ministi, imputati (1108).

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photographs of emptiness and his photographs of photographs. He is about to throw away these scraps wrapped up in newspaper when he is struck by the thought that Perhaps true, total photography.. .is a pile of fragments of private images, against the creased background of massacres and coronations (235).* This conception of the relation of public and

private images once again illustrates the close connection between Calvinos mediations on photography and those of Roland Barthes in Camera Lucida, where he looks at the photograph as the point of intersection between history and the body and between the public and the private. 190 Antonino is inspired to take one last photograph of a sort of

collage of photographs and objects, his private images against a background of public ones taken from the newspaper. Finally, having exhausted every possibility, at the moment when he was coming full circle, Antonino realized that photographing photographs was the only course that he had leftor rather, the true course that he had obscurely been seeking all this time (235).*^* Pierce sees the ending of the story as suggesting a potentially hopeful possibility: Antonios first photograph of photographs presents an image of consciousness in which the static emphases of the history our photo-journalists prefer (massacres and coronations) tether the pile of fragments of the personal imaginative and imagining life, in dialectic, at least, with the artifacts that, disingenuously or unreflectively, posit themselves as the true.*^^ In contrast, Belpoliti reads it as illustrating the idea that the true path of the writingphotography of the world is the writing-photography of writing-photography itself, a

Forse la fotografia totale ... e un mucchio di frammenti d immagini private, sullo sfondo sgualcito delle stragi e delle incoronazioni (1109).

119

120
121

Barthes, Camera Lucida, 64-65, 97-99.

Esaurite tutte le possibilita, nel momento in cui il cerchio si chiudeva su se stesso Antonino cap! che fotografare fotografie era la sola via che gli restava, anzi la vera via che lui aveva oscuramente cercato fino allora (1109).

122

Pierce, Calvino on Photography, 136.

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circular process of self-reflexivity from which there is no escape.
17"^

In these terms,

Calvinos choice of the Dantean name Bice, a reminder of the quintessential ungraspablewoman of Italian literature, for Antoninos muse suggests that rather than guiding her devotee to Paradise, this Beatrice has abandoned him in a postmodern infemo of photographic simulacra. Antoninos attempt to identify the essence of Bice, her true mask, also connects him to the protagonist of La giornata di uno scrutatore, the short novel published by Calvino in 1963, which recounts a particular day in the life of a man named Amerigo Ormea.'^^ It is Election Day, and he has volunteered to scrutinize the voting process at a conventone of the places that were infamous for corrupt voting practices under the Christian Democrats in the 1950s and 60s. While photography is not central to the novel in the way that it is in L avventura d un fotografo, it is the principal theme of the seventh chapter of the book. In this chapter, Amerigo has to check the identity cards of the many nuns who present themselves to vote, and this prompts a consideration of the ways in which photography captures or refuses identity. He finds that many of the photographs of the nuns are wonderful, much better than the usual unattractive identity photographs with which most people are stuck: in identity card photographs, ninety times out of a hundred, you come out with eyes wide open, swollen facial features, a disconnected smile, while the faces of the nuns come out natural, with a good likeness, serene (33).
125

He is struck

by the idea that perhaps the photographic images represent the inner states of the nuns.

la vera via della fotografia-scrittura del mondo e la fotografia-scrittura della fotografia-scrittura medesima, (Belpoliti, Occhio, 124. Page references are to Italo Calvino, La giornata di uno scrutatore, in Romanzi e racconti (Milan: Mondadori, 1992). nelle fotografie formato tessera, novanta casi su cento, uno viene con gli occhi sbarrati, i lineamenti gonfi, un sorriso che non lega, naturali, somiglianti, sereni. Page references are to Italo Calvino, La giornata di uno scrutatore, in Romanzi e racconti (Milan: Mondadori, 1992), 3-78.
125 . . . . . 124

123

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It seems to Amerigo that those who manage to forget themselves appear beatific, while in those who do not he recognizes his own lack of freedom in front of the glass eye that turns you into an object, his undetached relation to himself, the neurosis, the impatience that prefigures death in the photographs of the living (33-34). 19 A . Thinking

about the death that photography seems to anticipate, Amerigo has the impression that the nuns posed in front of the lens as if their faces didnt belong to them anymore: that way they came out perfectly (34).^^^ Amerigo recognizes a similar state of beatitude in the photographs of the mentally disabled who are also brought out to vote as they have been carefully coached to do, and who look happy and photogenic in their freshly printed identity cards. 198 He wonders whether this means that they reach by natural destiny the
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point to which the difficult path of monastic life leads? (34).

In both cases, the

perfection of the photographs represents its perfect capturing of an absence or a lack; the nuns deliberate withdrawal from the world and the mentally disabled persons unwitting lack of full engagement with the world. The implication is that this separation is analogous to that which takes place in photography: a separation from the world that is also analogous to death. Amerigo then sees a sick nun on a stretcher who in the flesh looks perfectly composed, like a painting. Looking at her photograph, however, he understands that all of her was refusal and struggle: even lying there still and sick (35).
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He asks himself:

Is it good to achieve beatitude? Or is this anxiety that stiffens our faces in the light of the photographers flash and makes us unhappy about how we look
la sua stessa mancanza di liberta di fronte allocchio di vetro che ti trasforma in oggetto, il suo rapporto privo di distacco verso se stesso, la nevrosi, Iimpazienza che prefigura la morte nelle fotografie dei vivi. posavano di fronte allobiettivo come se il volto non appartenesse piii a loro: a quel modo riuscivano perfette.
128 129 130 127 126

nelle loro carte d identlta fresche di stampa, si mostravano felici e fotogenici. il punto cui la vita monacale porta attraverso una via faticosa, loro Ihanno per sorte dalla natura? che tutto in lei era rifiuto e divincolamento; anche il giacere immobile e malata.

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better? Always ready to bring together extremes, Amerigo would like to continue to grapple with things, to struggle, and yet at the same time to achieve within himself a calm untouched by anything. (35)'^^ The impossibility of reconciling vacant beatitude with the anxiety produced by the direct encounter with the world recalls Antoninos attempt to reconcile all the possible photographs of the absent presence of the photographic subject with all the impossible photographs of her absence and the absence of the viewer. Both mens confrontation with these limits reflects Calvinos fascination with the limits of writing and of all representation. Antonino, and to a lesser extent Amerigo, are also relatives of Palomar, the hero of the eponymous novel published in 1983. Antoninos attempt at total photography is echoed by Palomars decision to attempt a total description in the final, wonderfully titled chapter of the novel, Learning to be dead. 1^2 Both men try to combat time and stave off its

effectsthe most brutal of which is death, as Amerigo recognizesand both are doomed to failure. Palomar concludes that: If time has to end, it can be described, instant by instant, Mr. Palomar thinks, and each instant, when described, expands so that its end can no longer be seen. He decides that he will set himself to describing every instant of his life, and until he has described them all he will no longer think of being dead. At that moment he dies. (126)^^^ Palomars solution to the problem of time and hence to the problem of death occurs to him just in time for death to outsmart him, leaving him among the dead who do not have to worry about anything, because it is not up to them to think about it any more; and even if

E bene avere la beatitudine? O e migliore questansia che irrigidisce i volti al lampo del fotografo e non ci fa content! di come siamo? Pronto sempre a comporre gli estremi, Amerigo avrebbe voluto continuare a scontrarsi con le cose, a battersi, eppure intanto raggiungere dentro di se la calma al di la di tutto.
132 133

131

'

Come imparare a essere morto.

Se il tempo deve finire, lo si puo descrivere istante per istante,pensa Palomare ogni istante, a descriverlo, si dilata tanto che non se ne vede piu la fine. Decide che si mettera a descrivere ogni istante della sua vita, e finche non li avra descritti tutti non pensera piu di essere morto. In quel momento muore (975). Page references for Italian text are to Italo Calvino, Palomar, in Romanzi e racconti (Milan: Mondadori, 1992).

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that may seem immoral, it is in this irresponsibility that the dead find their gaiety (123)/^'^ For Palomar, being dead means resigning himself to remaining the same in a definitive state, which he can no longer hope to change (124). 135 Like photograph that fixes and stills its subjects, death fixes the dead in a definitive stasis that defines their identity, ultimately, in their separation from the world.

As we shall see in subsequent chapters, the ways in which Vittorini, Zavattini, and Calvino make use of photography resonate lastingly in the works of the other writers I address. While Vittorini attempted to use photography with his writing to create photo-texts that might say things that his written texts alone either did not say or were prevented from saying, and Zavattini used it as a means of presenting a new view of a marginalized subject, as well as a way to activate memory and to reflect on and reflect the nexus of place, space, and identity, Calvino ends by writing about photography both as an ultimately vain attempt to know something about the world and as a metaphor for writing, drawing a parallel between the not-photographed and the not-written. In his vision of a total photography lies the shared secret of writing and photography: the longing for what is not captured and not possessed, what escapes both the written page and the photographic frame, hovering on the margins of the imagination. This longing for the unattainable plays a key role in the relation of many writers to photography, as we shall see in the case of Lalla Romano in the following chapter.

perche non tocca pin a loro pensarci; e anche se cio puo sembrare immorale, e in questa irresponsabilita che i morti trovano la loro allegria (977). significa abituarsi alia delusione di ritrovarsi uguale a se stesso in uno stato definitivo che non puo piu 135*s is n ific a a b itu a rs ra sperare di cambiare (977)
135

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h a p t e r

w o

LALLA ROMANO: NARRATIVE, MEMORY, AND PHOTOGRAPHY

A photograph acquires something of the dignity which it ordinarily lacks when it ceases to be a reproduction of reality and shows us things that no longer exist. Marcel Proust'

In a highly successful literary career that spanned much of last century, the Piedmontese writer Lalla Romano published nineteen novels and collections of short stories, three books of poetry, and numerous prose works and translations. Her work was admired by many of the most important and influential Italian writers of the twentieth century, such as Eugenio Montale, Elio Vittorini, and Italo Calvino, and it played an important role in the greater recognition of a tradition of womens writing that slowly developed in Italy in the latter part o f the century. She was indeed one of few twentiethcentury Italian women writers to win both critical and popular acclaim in Italy. Romano received a number of prestigious literary prizes, including the Premia Strega in 1969, and she was awarded Italys highest literary honor, the Penna d Oro by the Italian president in 1979. Yet her work has not received the attention it deserves from scholars abroad. Even within the Italian context, critical attention has been insufficient, since most critics have tended to focus on the linguistic elements of her prose works, neglecting her fascination with and constant use of visual imagery, which was fundamental to her artistic project and to her success. A writer of prose fiction and non-fiction, Romano was also a poet, a translator, a painter, and the author of three curious photo texts: Lettura di un immagine

' Marcel Proust, Remembrance o f Things Past, translated by C.K. Scott M oncrieff and Terrence Kilmartin (New York: Vintage Books, Random House, 1982), I, 820.

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(Reading of an Image) (1975) (republished in 1986 as Romanzo di figure [A Novel of Figures] and again in 1997 as Nuovo romanzo di figure [New Novel of Figures]); La treccia di Tatiana (Tatianas Braid) (1986); and Ritorno a Ponte Stura (Return to Ponte Stura) (2000)? These hybrid works most thoroughly manifest the interest in the figurative that charaeterizes all her produetion, and represent her most original contribution to Italian literature. Photography, in its intimate, familial uses, is also an important motif in much of her more conventionally literary produetion, where it interacts with the central theme of memory. Her novel La penombra che abbiamo attraversato (1964, published in English as The Penumbra in 1999) is the most striking example of this tendency.
a

A few critics, most notably the renowned Italianist, Cesare Segre, have addressed the question of Romanos use of ekphrastie descriptions of photographs in Penombra and her use of actual photographic images in her photo-texts. However, they tend simply to compare the descriptive texts to those that accompany the actual photographs, largely ignoring the photographs themselves, or to contrast narrative descriptions and photographs, as though the photo text Nuovo romanzo, which traverses familial terrain similar to that narrated in Penombra, were merely a belated illustration of the novel. They also tend to take Romanos word about the photographs at face value, seldom pausing to examine the complex role the descriptions of photographs and photographs themselves play in Romanos construction of narratives of memory. This chapter focuses on this most interesting and original aspect of Romanos work. Interweaving photographic and literary analysis, and grounding my study with theory on exchanges between photography and

In discussing the three editions that culminated in Nuovo romanzo di figure, I shall refer to Nuovo romanzo unless otherwise indicated, as this was the edition that Romano considered definitive. All page number references to Penombra here are to the edition in Lalla Romano and Cesare Segre, Opere, la e d .,2 vols. (Milan; Mondadori, 1991), vol. 1.
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language that takes note of the resistance such exchanges overcome, ^ I consider in particular how Penombra makes use of photography and how it relates to and differs from the ways in which Romano brings together photographs and texts in the three versions of Lettura di u n immagine. I intend to demonstrate how in each of these works Romano makes a different and highly original contribution to the history of interactions between literature and the visual image, raising questions about representation and self representation and the relationship of literary subject to photographic object. The chapter analyzes the relations among photography, writing, and memory that Romanos works articulate, and which most critics have failed to address. It begins by outlining the important plaee photography and photographs held in Romanos life and work generally, before going on to discuss in detail the two works in which photography plays the most profound role: La penombra che abbiamo attraversato, and the three editions that culminated in Nuovo romanzo di figure. Using a theoretical approach that focuses on identity eonstruetion rather than the question of truth in representation, the ehapter goes on to address the ways in which the debate over the fictive or factual status of both photography and autobiography sheds light on Romanos narratives of experience. I then discuss Romanos focus on domestic situations and personal experiences, and their impact on the formation of identity, in the light of meditations on photography by writers like Walter Benjamin and Roland Barthes. I show how early erities of her work who eondemned sueh subjeet matter as trivial missed the central questionsabout fundamental human relationships, identity formation, and the relation of memory and experieneethat her genre-challenging works raise. The chapter then moves on to eonsider Romanos use of her fathers images in the eontext of the reassessment of the ideological and psychological significance of domestic photography carried out by scholars such as Marianne Hirsch. It

^ I refer in particular to the works o f scholar o f literature and art history, W.J.T. Mitchell, and theorists of photography, such as Joel Snyder.

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also briefly compares her works to a recent photo-text by Dacia Maraini and to those of the German writer W.G. Sebald, and addresses the revealing evolution of Romanos use of photographs in relation to text in the three editions of Lettura, something that has not previously been examined. Finally, it asks why, in a century of brutal images of violence, displacement, and death, of glossy consumer advertising, and sensational celebrity images, an author might feel compelled to build narratives from photographs of family gatherings and quiet local scenery. I argue that the undoubted interest and meaning of these seemingly uneventful photographic moments lie in the way Romano reads them creatively, rewriting them into a narrative that asserts the value of subjective experience even as it touches with great delicacy on universal themes of family and societal relationships, loss and absence, the struggle to form an independent identity, and the pleasures and pains of memory.

Born in the small village of Demonte in the province of Cuneo in 1906, Lalla Romano showed from a young age a fascination with the visual arts that was to continue throughout her long life.^ In this she was influenced first and foremost by her father Roberto, a keen amateur painter and, above all, photographer. This latter pursuit was very

^ Romano died in Milan in June 2001 at the age of 95. While completing her degree in Humanities at the University of Turin, she took classes with the painter Giovanni Guarlotti. She also spent time in Paris, where she spent many hours at the Louvre and became familiar with key figures in contemporary European art. After university, at the suggestion of the art historian and critic Lionello Venturi, she enrolled in Felice Casoratis paintmg school. She also began teaching Italian and History, and then high school Art History in Cuneo. Married in 1932 to Innocenzo Monti, Romano followed him to Turin in 1935, where she taught humanities and continued to paint and exhibit. From 19381940, at Ardengo Sofficis invitation, she wrote three stories about the world o f the arts in Turin in those years, while continuing to exhibit her own works. In 1941 she published Fiore, a collection o f her poetry, and, after the m id-1940s, her literary interests dominated her painting. She would eventually abandon the practice o f painting altogether, although her interest in the visual arts continued throughout her life. For example, she edited and translated the 1945 Italian edition o f Eugene Delacroixs D iary published in Turin by Chiantore and republished by Einaudi in 1994. Romano always emphatically denied any essential link between her painting and writing, and was reluctant to admit of any contamination between the two arts in her work, admonishing critics to not andare oltre nelle equiparazioni when discussing the relation o f her painting to her writing (in Antonio Ria, ed., Lalla Romano. Disegni (Turin; Einaudi, 1994), 92). Nevertheless, a number o f critics have noted the plastic aspects of her writing style. According to Roberto Sanesi, nella narrazione

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important to Romano. She describes it as one of the marvels of my childhood {Lettura, v), and tells of how her father would let her watch the magical developing process in the darkroom.^ Her fathers photography plays a highly significant role in her writings about her youth, especially in La penombra che abbiamo attraversato, and continued to exercise considerable influence on her. Introducing a book of photographs by Robert Doisneau, she wrote: I have never taken a photo, but this art has counted in my work. It enchanted my childhood when my father allowed me to help with developing and printing in the red light of the dark room; in my youthful presumption I looked down on it out of prejudice against the means; later I loved it so much that I invented books in which text and image are united. Her companion throughout the last years of her life was the photographer Antonio Ria, who played an important role in the republication of Lettura di un immagine and took the photographs for La treccia di Tatiana. Her study in her home in Milan is still papered with the many photographic and other images she collected, and which formed the literal and figurative backdrop of her writing. Photography, then, held a privileged place in Romanos life, and it played an important role in the ways in which she used her own experiences in her writing. Ria notes that telling stories through images or starting from images is characteristic of all Romanos books, which in his view may be read:
di Lalla Romano uno dei caratteri non marginali e Ievidenza plastica delle immagini suscitate, la vivezza fisica, corporea, delle figure (an important characteristic o f Lalla Romanos narration is the plasticity o f the images evoked, the physical, corporeal liveliness o f the figures) Roberto Sanesi, Gli occhi della scrittura, in Intorno a Lalla Romano, ed. Antonio Ria (Milan: Mondadori, 1996), 325.. Her experience o f painting was also to have an important impact on her understanding o f photography.
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una delle meraviglie della mia infanzia.


g

to non ho mai scattato una foto, ma questarte ha contato nel mio lavoro. Ha incantato la mia infanzia quando mio padre mi permetteva di assistere alloperazione di sviluppo e stampa alia luce rossa della camera oscura; nella presunzione della giovinezza Iho disprezzata per un pregiudizio contro il m ezzo; poi Iho amata tanto che ho inventato libri in cui testo e foto fanno tuttuno (Lalla Romano, II fotografo poeta, in Robert Doisneau [Milan: Motta, 1996]). Romano also wrote comments for a number o f other photographic books, including Max N obiles Terre di Lucchesia, (Lucca: Pacini-Fazi, 1991), Vincenzo Cottinellis Sguardi (Brescia: La Quadra, 1994), and her largely unpublished comments for the photographs of twentieth-century writers in S crittoriper un secolo, edited by Goffredo Fofi and Giovanni Giovannetti (Milan: Linea dOmbra, 1993). 1 am grateful to Antonio Ria for having permitted me to see the latter.

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Walking along the boundary of photography, almost as though it were a parallel path, enigmatically allied to words. A presence thataside from the explicit, frequent references to photosis translated into a visual sensitivity, as a significant component of the writers style.^ The importance that photographs have for Romano is connected to what Giulio Ferroni calls her investigative approach to writing, and her incorporation of what she refers to as documents into her work.' In an interview for Swiss Italian television, she described how when writing Le parole tra noi leggere (Light Words Between Us) (1969) she started with objects and papers from her sons childhood and adolescence: I really gathered together the documents. I care a lot about keepsakes, objects, letters: naturally I m very messy, I throw them all into a big drawer." Romanos concern with the messy materiality of existence is evident throughout her production. 12 In his introduction to the edition of Romanos collected works published in Mondadoris Meridiani series, Cesare Segre writes that the authors battle with objects, which are hard to translate into words, and even more reluctant to assume a meaning is fundamental to her work: Seized by reality.

Camminando sul bordo della fotografia, quasi si tratasse di un sentiero parallelo, enigmaticamente alleato alia parola. Una presenza ch eal di la dellesplicito, frequente riferimento alle fotosi traduce in una sensibilita visiva, come componente non secondaria nello stile della scrittrice (Antonio Ria, Scrittura e fotografia, in Lalla Romano, Nuovo romanzo d i figure [Turin: Einaudi, 1997], 371). Giulio Ferroni, Postfazione, in Lalla Romano, La penom bra che abbiam o attraversato (Turin; Einaudi, 1994), 209. ' * Ho realmente raccolto i documenti. lo tengo molto ai ricordi, agli oggetti, alle lettere: naturalmente sono disordinatissima, li caccio tutti dentro uno scatolone (Vittorio Sereni, Colloquio con Lalla Romano, in Intorno a Lalla Romano, ed. Antonio Ria [Milan: Mondadori, 1996], 432).

12 This

is typified by a passage from the short story Pomeriggio sul flume written in 1945 and published

much later in the 1975 collection La villeggiante. In it, she writes of a dream in which she had to read a page upon which, after a few lines, the words disappeared and were replaced by objects: Faccio un tremendo sforzo per tradurre in parole le cose, ma mancando i nessi non riesco a combinare un discorso. Cerco di inventare, ma sento sempre piu che il senso mi sfugge, mentre tanto piu pesano con la loro massiccia evidenza, le cose. E una sensazione al tempo stesso di oscurita e di impotenza. (Romano and Segre, Opere, vol. II, 493.) When she awakens, she is left with exactly the same feeling, because now what she has to translate into words is the world, in all its solidity and obscurity.

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the writer must, suffering, transform it into discourse.^^ Photographs, which are both physical objects and, apparently, fragments of past reality, have a special role to play in this process, and they hold a privileged position among the objects and keepsakes that Romano used to help piece together her narratives of memory. In many of Romanos works she assigns an essential narrative function to photographic images, which are often central to the invention of the events she r e c o u n t s . F o r example, in Maria (1953) photographs of distant and dead family members play a structuring role, while in Le parole tra noi leggere the photographs made and kept by the narrators son function as keys that unlock aspects of the characters and their complex interactions. The influence of photography is evident to some degree in all Romanos other works, from Nei mari estremi (The Deepest Seas) (1987), about her relationship with her husband and his death, to the prose collection, Un sogno del nord (A Dream of the North) (1989), to her writings about her adolescence in D allombra (Out of the Shadow) (1999). However, it is above all in Penombra and Nuovo romanzo that the intricate interrelation of memory, writing and photography finds its fullest expression.

La penombra che abbiamo attraversato In La penombra che abbiamo attraversato, the personal, familial uses of photography have a profound impact on the relationship of the narrator to her past and her place of origin. The book begins with her return, after her mothers death, to the small mountain village where she was born and grew up, Ponte Stura (Romanos fictional name for her native Demonte), and where she comes to a new understanding of her parents relationship and her own childhood. She reads and interprets the present village through the

lotta con gli oggetti, difficili da tradurre in parole, ancor piu renitenti ad assumere un senso, Afferrata dalla realta, la scrittrice deve, soffrendo, trasformarla in discorso (Cesare Segre, Introduzione, in Lalla Romano. Opere., ed. Cesare Segre [Milan: Mondadori, 1991-2], xxi). spesso al centro delFinvenzione dei fatti che racconta (Ria, Scrittura e fotografia, 368).

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screen of her memories of how it used to be, and in particular through the memories that are both sparked by and reverberate within photographs taken by her father. Romanos conception and use of photography cannot be understood without a keen awareness of the absolutely central importance of memory in her work, and her consequent focus on her own experience, in particular her personal relationships and family. Memory is the thread that connects all Romanos works, from her paintings to her poetry, novels, and photo texts. Carla Mazzarello goes so far as to describe it as the true protagonist of her work.'^ For Romano, memory represents the main measure of every narrative, as of every life,^^ a revelatory faculty that is, for the writer, already creative because of the choices it makes. Working by way of memory, she isolates moments in time outside time, capturing
18

them in a language remarkable for its sparse classicism.

She does not use memory, however, as a means of explaining the past tidily through an all-encompassing narrative, nor as an expression of nostalgia, nor as a means of seeking refuge from the present in a perfectly preserved past. In the introduction to Penombra she writes: It is not a journey through time to rediscover the past: it is a brief journey through space to my native village. There the past is eternally present (v).' As Romano stated in an interview: the aim of my books lies in the search for truth, they arent nostalgic truth Romano seeks is not an objective, conceptual one, but rather:
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The

Carla Mazzarello, Pittura e scrittura: tangenze e divergenze nelFiter di Lalla Romano, in Intorno a Lalla Romano, ed. Antonio Ria (Milan: Mondadori, 1996), 345. la misura principe di ogni narrazione, come di ogni vita (Un sogno del nord, in Romano, Opere, 1566).
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facolta rivelatrice (Lalla Romano and Antonio Ria, L eternopresente [Turin: Einaudi, 1998], 67).

Geno Pamploni, La prosa di Lalla Romano, 64-68; Gillo Dorfles, II coraggio della concisione, 117-120; Marco Vallora Lalla Romano o Parte dellinterpunzione, 121-185. See also Segre, Introduzione. Non e un viaggio nel tempo per ritrovare il passato: e un breve viaggio nello spazio al paese nativo. In quel luogo il passato e etemamente presente. lo scopo dei miei libri e nella ricerca di verita, non c e nostalgia (Sereni, Colloquio con Lalla Romano, 431).
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1 8 See the following essays in Ria (ed.), Intorno a Lalla Romano:

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an internal truth: the maximum of sincerity with oneself, an experience carried out at the extreme of sincerity. In a sense like a confession, but done without any other aim than truth itself, what one feels as truth: a kind of response to an internal necessity.^' This search for truth is a constant struggle, since memory can be cruel, selective, and intensely problematic. Turning her memories into writing is thus a hermeneutic process that involves pain as well as joy. The memories Romano records are fragmentary, and her narratives do not seek to paper over the discontinuities of experience. At the same time, she seeks to express not the vagueness of memory, but its concreteness, and it is here that the interaction of memory and photography becomes most important. In a 1987 interview, Romano discussed how she used the family photograph album her mother had given her as a wedding present in writing Penombra: When I wrote it I had the family album with m e... In other words, there was a sort of real checking of what persisted, which however would be enough even if it were just in my memory.
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In

Penombra, the workings of memory are set in motion by Romanos contemplation of her fathers photographs, both remembered and real. The novel contains descriptions of a large number of them, and makes numerous references to photography and the role it played in Romanos family. In this way, her memories of her fathers photographic activity and of the photographs themselves work together to shape much of the narrative. Photography was one of the inventions so dear to Papa {Penombra, 967), like the phonograph, and his love of it was a crucial aspect of his personality; in her eyes, it was part of what made him a modem man. At the same time, she describes how:

la verita interiore: il massimo di sincerita con se stessi, unesperienza condotta allestremo della sincerita. In un certo senso come una confessione, fatta pero senza nessun altro scopo che la verita stessa, quella che si sente come verita: una specie di adeguatezza a una necessita interiore (Romano and Ria, L eterno presente, 69). Quando Iho scritto avevo con me Ialbum di famiglia.. ..Cera stato insomma una specie di controllo reale di questa persistenza, che pero basterebbe che fosse anche solo nella memoria (Lia Cavalleri D e Pra, A colloquio con Lalla Romano, Noi Donne 1987).
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le invenzioni cosi care a papa.

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Photography, which only Papa practiced in Ponte Stura, was something complicated, with magical aspects. It included secret operations carried out under the red light. I was allowed to help {Penombra, 1021).^'^ Being allowed to help was clearly a privilege, and the narrator describes in some detail how she and her father would work on the photographic plates, while her mother waited outside to see the photographs. Although he considered it an easier art than painting or music, Romanos father took photography very seriously, and even had the family photograph album embossed with his name in gold, and the words Dilettante Photographer, which her mother found absurd and hilarious (1022). While her mother was interested in the photographs, she was bored by the developing process, and often fell asleep waiting. The young Lalla, however, had the opposite reaction: The plates were wrapped up in red paper. There were wooden frames with steel catches, into which the plates fitted, white enameled basins with blue edges, in which the liquid was gently moved, until the image emerged. I dont think I paid attention to the images then, with them the exciting part was over. ( 1021) * For the child, the exciting part was being allowed to watch the magical developing process taking place before her eyes. As an adult, however, photographys magic lies in the way it, like the village of Ponte Stura, makes the past eternally present. For Romano, the evidence photographs provide is not p ro o f of any definitive historical truth, but rather, it is another form of raw material for the combined workings of imagination and memory. The photographs document intimate familial situations, but, more significantly, they are also the residues of ritual commemorative moments that punctuate the flow of experience and are rendered important in part simply by being
La fotografia, che solo papa esercitava a Ponte Stura, era qualcosa di complesso che aveva aspetti magici. Comprendeva operazioni segrete che si facevano alia luce rossa. Mi erapermesso di assistere. Le lastre erano avvolte in una carta rossa. Cerano com ici di legno con molle d acciaio, nelle quali si incastravano le lastre, bacinelle smaltate di bianco con gli orli blu, nelle quali si scuoteva leggermente il liquido, fin che affiorava 1immagine. Le immagini credo che allora le trascurassi, con e.sse finiva la parte enaozionante.
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photographed. One of the funetions of photographs is as a spur to memory and an index of importance, since what ought to be remembered is photographed, and what is photographed is remembered. As John Berger puts it, a photograph is already a message about the event it records, [which] at its simplest, decoded, means: / have decided that seeing this is worth recording . F o r example, when the narrator describes the significance of the nearby Castle for her family, the ultimate proof of their affection for it is that it was Papas favorite background for photographs (1019).^^ The descriptions of photographs in Penombra are also descriptions of the moments in which the photographs were taken, and therefore provide the information about why they were considered worth recording that the absent photographs might themselves have given. These valued moments provide a framework for the workings of memory and narrative. They also reflect the familiar and familial use of photographs as a means of recording the past for the future that has, as Michel Frizot puts it, marked the rhythm of individual human lives and regulated their relationships with one another for well over a century. In Penombra, almost all the

important aspects of the narrators life at Ponte Stura ultimately find a photographic reference point. For example, the familys house is described in part by its prominence in postcards of the town: In all the panoramic postcards of Ponte Stura it is the most visible [house]: long and white, with its long row of windows(883).
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Moving from the publicly

available image of the postcard to the pictures of the private album, she shows us many of the cast of characters that filled her childhood world in the moments in which her father

John Berger, Understanding Photography, in Classic Essays on Photography, ed. Alan Trachtenberg (New Haven, Conn.: Leetes Island Books, 1980), 292, original emphasis.

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per papa era lo sfondo favorito delle fotografie.

Michel Frizot, Rituals and Customs. Photographs as Memories., in The New History o f Photography, ed. Michel Frizot (Koln: Konemann, 1998), 748. In tutte le cartoline panoramiche di Ponte Stura e la piii visibile: lunga e bianca, con la lunga fila delle finestre.
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photographed them, during family gatherings, social occasions, hunting expeditions, or in their homes or workplaces.^** In many cases, the narrator maps these remembered photographic images onto the places in the village where they were taken, using them to traee a route baek to the village of her childhood and the places that were, as she puts it, witnesses and almost participants in our life (1019).
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In this way, she carries out a double reading of the space and the

people who inhabited it, showing her readers a ghost village of the past which is nevertheless just as real and present within the text as the modem village to which she returns. For example, photographic memento and childhood memory intersect when the narrator notes that the road outside the family house was once covered simply with bits of rock and mud and now is paved with cement, and recalls how she used to walk its treacherous surface first with her father, then alone. Instead of directly describing her emotional response to this space, she conjures up her very first steps across the space through the photograph that recorded them. She describes it as follows: The little girl alone on the wet road looks at the ground, perplexed. On her foreheadbut is it possible?she has what the Doctor used to call her thought wrinkle. That little girl survives in Papas photograph (or if not, where?) (920). Here, the camera recorded a

specific moment that she herself could probably not have rememberedan emblematic image that melds with her memories of all the other times she walked that same road, and becomes part of the landscape, embedded under the smooth surfaee of the present like the sharp stones beneath the cement. The photographs, and her memory of them, provide some

Some important examples include a christening (994-995), a group picnic up at the castle (10-11), and a portrait o f Roberto Romanos old nurse at her home (865).
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testimoni e quasi partecipi della nostra vita.

La bambina sola sulla strada bagnata guarda in terra perplessa ed ha sulla frontema e possibile?quella che il Dottore chiamava i a ruga del pensiero. Quella bambina sopravvive nella fotografia di papa (o se no, dove?). The photograph itself appears on p. 138 o f Nuovo romanzo (fig. 14).

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of the literal and metaphorical coordinates of Romanos childhood world, and help her to orient herself in a place that is both familiar and strange. The landscape has changed, and the people who lived there have mostly vanished, but by interweaving her descriptions of those changes with descriptions of remembered and photographed moments, the narrator creates a kind of mental map of the landscape of her childhood. This enables her to locate traces of its former inhabitants, including her younger selfpresences that have passed through her life and vanished, and which she patiently reconstructs using objects and documents that help her to evoke moments of time past, as if in a series of flashes. She does not employ these documents out of a concern for realism or historical truth, but rather as a means of revealing her own relation to the past. Neither photographs nor memories represent any objective truth about past reality, but both can function as evidence of experience, and thus grist to the mill of a narrative process whose creative authenticity is her ultimate goal. Photography is integrally linked to the Leopardian theme of happiness past in Penombra. For Romano, happiness is only ever appreciated after the fact, since, as she wrote in Un sogno del nord, happiness was (79). Ferroni describes how: In the world of Ponte Stura-Demonte, the past is configured as a reign of happiness inasmuch as it was, inasmuch as it is recognized afterwards, as past. Memorys action shows precisely that all happiness consists not in its presence, but in its projection back into the past.^ When the family left the village, the narrator writes, the scandalous thing was that Ponte Stura continued to e x i s t . O n c e in the city, she would look up at the mountains thinking there it is but meaning there it was.^^ When the family left during the autumn of
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nel mondo di Ponte Stura-Demonte il passato si configura come un regno di felicita che e tale solo in quanto era, in quanto e riconosciuto da dopo, come passato. L azione della memoria mostra appunto che ogni felicita consiste non nel suo darsi presente, ma nel suo proiettarsi nel passato (Ferroni, Postfazione, 217). lo scandalo e stato che Ponte Stura abbia continuato ad esistere. la c e; la c era.

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Caporetto, amidst a general air of defeat, her mother gave away all sorts of objects and mementoes that had been a part of the narrators childhood (861), as though signaling the end of an era and the intrusion of the outside world of history in all its brutality. But for the narrator, history, what happened later, doesnt exist for me at Ponte. For me Ponte is immobile (872).^^ On her deathbed, after years of refusing to talk about their time in the village, the narrators mother recalled those days, exclaiming, how happy we used to be! (861).^^ Romano describes the sensation of past happiness as follows: when I was a child I noticed the old happiness, which had seemed to Mamma intrinsic to Ponte, only in flashes, in sudden illuminations. I believe it was a deep current that fed my roots, but in the meanwhile I was buffeted by conflicts, uncertainties, and fears. (861)^* She describes how she was aware of two pasts, one encompassing her early childhood and her parents life of which she was aware, and beyond that the more indistinct period of their childhood and youth. Family stories from when her parents were first married and she was not yet bom were part of a vague time in which she was absent and to which she could never belong: The dominant feeling was of having arrived late: when the most important things had already happened. The marvelous time was the time before (862).
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These

remarks recall Barthes discussion of photographs of his mother as a young woman. He writes, with regard to many of these photographs, it was History which separated me from them. Is History not simply that time when we were not born?"^ By the same token.

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la storia, quello che e avvenuto dope, per me non esiste a Ponte. Ponte per me e immobile. come eravamo felici!

Iantica felicita, che alia mamma era parsa tuttouno con Ponte, quando ero bambina Iavevo avvertita soltanto per lampi, per accensioni improvvise. Era, credo, una corrente profonda che alimentava le mie radici; ma intanto io ero sbattuta da conflitti, mcertezze, paure. II sentimento dominante era quello di essere arrivata tardi: quando il piu importante era avvenuto. II tempo meraviglioso era quello di prima.
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Barthes, Camera Lucida, 96-97.

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Romano says that almost all the places of Ponte Stura had the charm of the time before (863), like the mountains where her father had hunted before her birth, or the paths where her parents used to walk."^^ These places are evoked in descriptions of them not only as they appeared in the photographs shown to the child Lalla, and as they appear in the photographs she cherishes as an adult, but also as they appeared to her eyes as a child, and as they appear to the adult narrator during her sojourn in the mountains. Annette Kuhn discusses the way in which events from the past that precedes ones own lifetime can feel like memories, accompanied by a sense of recognition that connects with the activity of remembering at both a personal and a collective level.
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These post

memories, as Marianne Hirsch calls them, are often related to visual images, such as photographs or films, and this certainly is the case for Romanos conception of the mythical time b e f o r e . F o r example, her mothers stories about the trips she and her father made into the mountains become one with the photographs they look at together: In the legendary time of before, Mamma had gone to explore the mountain. In certain photographs she was hoisted onto a mule, dressed in white, with her little lace umbrella and her flowered cap circled by a veil that fell down onto her shoulders. Later she appeared armed instead with an alpenstock and binoculars around her neck. (1025)'^'^ Romano uses descriptions of the photographs and the physical change they illustrate to imply a psychological shift (her mothers adaptation to her new and rustic home), and her own understanding of it without having to put these concepts into words. The remembered story behind the photographs is not told explicitly, but the description of the photographs provides the clues that allow the reader to reconstruct it.
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quasi tutti i luoghi di Ponte Stura avevano il fascino del tempo di prima. Annette Kuhn, Family Secrets: Acts o f Memory and Imagination (London: Verso, 1995), 107.

See Marianne Hirsch, Family Frames: Photography, Narrative and Postmemory (Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press, 1997). Nel leggendario tempo di prima la mamma era andata alia scoperta della montagna. In certe fotografie lei era issato su un mulo, vestita di bianco, con Iombrellino di pizzo e il cappello fiorito cinto da un velo che le ricadeva sulle spalle. Piii avanti appariva invece armata di alpenstock e col binoccolo a tracolla.

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Romanos approach to photographs reveals her understanding of them as a method of accessing the simultaneously concrete and ephemeral, the present and the absent. Despite the debate over the status of photographic images as indexical or otherwise,'*^ images like those Romano describes are still commonly believed in and accepted as traces of whatever was brought before the eamera lens, which bring back that object in the form of a ghostly revenant, emphasizing, at the same time, its immutable and irreversible pastness and irretrievability. As such, the encounter with the photograph is the encounter between two presents, one of which, already past, can be reanimated in the act of l o o k i n g . There is an eternal present in which we rediscover our past, our passions, past sufferings that we have overcome. Since all this is re-lived, it becomes present ^^ The encounter between past and present is complicated by the multiple tenses of memory, and it is mediated by both photography and writing. Nevertheless, it takes plaee on the same ground as any photographic encounterbetween absence and presence, loss and return. For Romano, photographs are a medium in both senses of the word. The photographic images she used in writing Penombra are mysterious images of a world that is both alive and fixed, of a physical reality that exists, survives and is exhausted in its material support, only inasmuch as it was. They are a means of connection with the past, but also recognition of its inevitable mysteriousness and distanee. They are meaningful for the information they eontain (i.e., what they show), for the information they
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^ See the Introduction to this study, and also Krauss, The Originality o f the Avant-Garde and Other M odernist Myths., Tagg, Burden., Stanley Cavell, The World Viewed: Reflections on the Ontology o f Film (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1979), and Eco, Critique of the Image. Marianne Hirsch, Surviving Images; Holocaust Photographs and the Work o f Postmemory, The Yale Journal o f Criticism 14, no. I (2001): 21. As w e have seen, this sense of the presence o f the past is fundamental to Romanos writing: c e un eterno presente nel quale noi ritroviamo il nostro passato, le nostre passioni, le sofferenze passate, superate. Poiche questo viene rivissuto, diventa presente (Romano and Ria, L eterno presente, 69). immagini misteriose di un mondo insieme vivo e bloccato, di una realta fisica che esiste, sopravvive e si consume nel suo supporto materiale, solo in quanto era (Ferroni, Postfazione, 219).
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leave out (i.e., what they dont show), and as objects that have been used over time and in different places (i.e., how what they show and dont show is seen). As such, photographs differ greatly from other mementos. While an object might conjure up powerfully vivid memories of a certain time, place or person for a specific individual (as with Prousts madeleine), a photograph provides any observer with at least the illusion of a glimpse into the pasta feeling for the moment in which the photograph was taken, as well as an understanding of the image as a snippet of time removed from the flow of experience. At the same time, the photographs that Romano carefully describes have a past of their own, a history of being looked at and narrativized in family stories that connects Romano the writer with Romano the child, and to which anyone who has looked through his or her own family photograph album is likely to respond. Yet since Romano describes rather than shows the photographs, their presence in the text in fact marks a double absence: the absence of the people and places depicted, and that of the images themselves. This doubled photographic absence is mirrored by a ghostly and purely textual double presence: Those in the photograph are present for the reader only through the presence of the narrator, for whom they are present as figures in the photographs and in her memory. Layers of time and memory pile up one upon the other. The narrator, experienced as both present and absent in the text, looks back at her childhood and the photographs of her childhood from the perspective of her more recent pasther journey to Ponte Sturawhich is, presumably, in turn described from a point in the even more recent past, after her return. The complexity of Romanos conception of memory, and her belief in an eternal present, mean that she does not represent time in linear terms. She rarely narrates events in strict chronological order in any of her books, instead skipping backwards and forwards through memories and associations that are often connected to photographs. These play a crucial part in her conception of time in part because of photographys strange, elegiac

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tense, whieh recalls the strange sensation of temporal shifts and exchanges that she intuited as a young girl when she watched a classmate in her elementary school play who was dressed as an old lady in a crinoline: The little girl was what she would in time become, an old woman; but also one who had lived a long time ago. That exchange of times that I sensed vaguely made me uncornfortable, it gave me the sense of an ungraspable reality, or perhaps of a hidden, obscure truth. (964)'*^ This exchange of times recalls Roland Barthess discussion of the strange tense of the photograph and the vertigo of time defeated in old photographs. He describes one image of two little girls looking at an airplane over their village: They have their whole lives before them; but also they are dead (today), they are then already dead (yesterday). Countless theorists of photography have pointed to the presence of both life and death in photographs.^^ In Barthess despairing view, photography corresponds to a kind of abrupt dive into literal death, so that the paradigm Life/Death is reduced to a single click, the one separating the initial pose from the final print. And not only is every photograph a kind of death, but it is itself mortal, since it yellows, fades, and will someday be thrown out.'^ For Romano, however, photographs are a more enduring monument than Barthes assumes, and narratives of memory provide a way to rescue the images from anonymity and neglect, allowing new stories to be told about them. At the end of her last photo-text.

La bambina era quella che sarebbe con gli anni diventata, una vecchia; ma anche una vissuta tanto tempo prima. Quello scambio di tempi che vagamente intuivo mi imbarazzava, mi dava il senso di una realta inafferabile, o forse di una verita nascosta, oscura. Barthes, Camera Lucida, 92, 94. See for example Bazin, Ontology, Barthes, Camera Lucida, John Berger, The Sense o f Sight (New York; Pantheon, 1985), Siegfried Kracauer, Photography, in The M ass Ornament. Weimar Essays, ed. Thomas Y. Levin (Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press, 1995), Sontag, On Photography, Susan Sontag, Looking at War: Photographys View of Devastation and Death, The New Yorker, December 9 2002, Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain o f Others (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2003). Chapter Five o f this dissertation discusses the link between photography and death in detail.
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Barthes, Camera Lucida, 92, 94.

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Ritorno a Ponte Stura, Romano argues that the essential aspect of such memories and re evocations is what will be understood, re-lived by those who werent there, and that ultimately this is the only immortality we can expect. The stories and the names may be made up anew each time, but they will be true stories ... in that they are loved {Ritorno, 97).
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This unconventional understanding of how the past endures is made literal in

Penombra in the scene in which Romanos narrator visits the village cemetery. Despite her fear that she would not be able to work the key, it turned smoothly in the lock, like the key to home and she begins searching for the images of people she used to know: Perhaps none of the names would be unknown to me, at least to hear them; but the photographs on enamel in their oval frames contained the faces: I was sure of recognizing all of them.^ "^ She first recognizes her teacher. Miss Paolotti, with her curls about her little round face. I noticed her thick lips. I had forgotten her; but those lips were what I was afraid o f (1009).^^ Another person she had forgotten was the mother of her friend Felicino, who had the same teasing eyes she now sees again in his mothers photograph. The narrator remembers the snacks she used to prepare for the children, bread with a sweet, dark jam, and her mothers description of her as the nicest woman in the village. Even the absence of photographs provokes memories: she regrets that there is no picture of Felicinos father. Celeste, and instead sketches a brief verbal portrait of him: an attractive, sweet-natured man who looked like Chekhov, and who would listen to records with her father in the evenings, his pince-nez falling down his nose when he laughed, with what her mother called an old-fashioned air about him.
cio che sara colto, rivissuto da chi non c era; la sola immortalita che ci compete; saranno storie vere, comunque ... in quanto amate esso giro liscia nella serratura, come la chiave di casa, Forse nessun nome mi sarebbe riuscito ignoto, almeno al suono; ma le fotografie sullo smalto, nella loro com ice ovale contenevano i volti: quelli ere sicura di riconoscerli tutti. This scene recalls Zavattinis description o f the village cemetery in Luzzara. See Chapter One, p. 53. col .suoi riccioli intorno alia piccola faccia rotonda. Ho notato le sue labbra grosse. L avevo dimenticato; ma era di quelle, che io avevo paura.
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The Borgo family tomb is the most elegant, but also the least cared-for. It is also without photographs, but Romano recalls seeing her childhood friend Beilina when she was dying of cancer at the age of twenty-six; I had seen her again when she was dying; she was yellow and closed up in herself, almost curled up like a le a f (1011).^ This papery description of the dying young woman makes her sound like Barthess neglected photograph, yellowed and curled with age. Romano later hears that Beilinas mother is still alive, somewhere far away, but paralyzed, and she finds it impossible to believe the news. It is as though for her these people cannot be stilled by death or illness in the way that they were fixed by photographs, since the photographs in some way return them to her, remembered or forgotten, and memory lends them life. Similarly, she sees the magic of

the still photograph, in which, in Walter Benjamins words, the spark of accident... has, as it were, burned through the person in the image with reality, finding the indiscernible place in the condition of that long past minute where the future is nesting, even today, so
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eloquently that we looking back can discover it at work in another medallion,

where she

recognizes a kindergarten companion of her sisters, Celina, and her slightly strict, majestic air.^^ In the photograph on her tombstone, which states that she too was stolen away very young by a merciless illness, her eyes, which I knew to be blue, looked knowingly into the distance, with an innocent seriousness (1011).^^ The remembered blue

Tavevo riveduta morente; era gialla e chiusa in se, quasi accartocciata come una foglia. In Nuovo romanzo, she shows a photograph of signora Proto, stating that she was the signora Borgo of Penombra. Holding her child like una dea madre, she is preserved in all her classical monumentality, the baby girl in all her lively awareness. Yet the text emphasizes the contrast between this image and their eventual destinies: an early death for the baby, a long life of paralysisa literal stilling for the mother (313).
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Benjamin, A Short History of Photography, 202.


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ana un po severa e maestosa.

rapita giovanissima da un morbo che non perdona, i suoi occhi, che io sapevo azzurri, guardavano consapevolmente lontano, con una gravita innocente.

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of her eyes looking into a now past future animates the description of the tombstone photograph, merging memory and photograph and coloring its black-and-white pastness. In an article on photographys relation to mourning in fiction, Corey Creekmur discusses Freuds Mourning and Melancholia, written in 1915 and published in 1917,' in which Freud defines mourning as a struggle between reality, which tells us the loved object no longer exists and desire, which refuses this painful recognition so that until respect for reality gains the day... the existence of the lost object is psychically prolonged. Creekmur asks what happens if the lost object is prolonged not psychically,

but in a photograph, which both insists on the absence of the object and preserves an element of its presence. Jefferson Hunter writes that a photograph can provide a shadow, so making loss tolerable, but only in a way that finally makes the loss painfully apparent. Nevertheless, Creekmur and Hunter seem to suggest that this shadow can

enable a writer to invoke the play of [the] two temporalities of the photograph, its past life and its present death. Just such an invocation is apparent in the narrators response to the traumatic event of her mothers recent death, a response that is intensely bound up with her fathers photographs of her mother. The narrators journey back to the village represents an attempt to evoke her mothers presence in an eternal present, and thus mute the pain of her absence: But at Ponte Stura I just wanted to find the Mamma of that time again, to forget her end. I avoided saying that Mamma was dead, if I could.... It was also true, however, that at the end she once again became so similar to what

Sigmund Freud, The Standard Edition o f the Complete Psychological Works o f Sigmund Freud, vol. 14 (New York: Norton, 1953-1974), 239-58. Quoted in Corey K. Creekmur, Lost Objects: Photography, Fiction, and Mourning, in Phototextualities, ed. Marsha Bryant (Newark and London: University of Delaware Press; Associated University Presses, 1996), 74. Jefferson Hunter, Image and Word: The Interaction o f Twentieth-Century Photographs and Texts (Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press, 1987), 10.
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she had been at Ponte: white and thin, with her somewhat proud smile, reserved (to others), tender and ironie to us. (864)^'* The adjectives she uses to describe her mother (white and thin) recall the effects of black and white photography, and her desire to find the Mamma of that time again is realized both in the descriptions of photographs of her, and in descriptions which focus on the particulars of her physical appearance, her appearance as an image, like an apparition.^ This is clearest in her description of one particular photograph: But the image I was looking for now was of Mamma by herself. Mamma dressed in white, with the background of the pines behind her, barely leaning on her parasol with one hand. A wide belt with a silver buckle encircled her slim waist. If I did not have the photograph, I would remember only that belt. It was a ribbon of gros with pale yellow and pink stripes, with a very tall buckle. Mamma later gave it to us to play with. Her blouse was lace, her skirt straight, flaring at the bottom. A little above her wrist the curling lace hung down full and soft. Her wrist was slender, her hand thin and seemingly tired. I held that hand, which had gone back to being just like the one in the photograph, between my own: I caught it up as it lay on the bedcover. That small hand with the little finger slightly arched had a shy and almost secret grace. It was limp, but still squeezed a little, and the subtle heat emanating from it was a last, silent act of devotion (1023-24) Once again, Romano creates a confluence of different times. The time she calls now is unknown to the reader, but we infer a time in which she is searching through the album for
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Ma a Ponte Stura ho voluto ritrovare soltanto la mamma di allora, dimenticare la fine. Ho evitato, se potevo, di dire che la mamma era m orta.... Era anche vero pero che lei alia fine era ritornata tanto simile a quella di Ponte: bianca e sottile, il sorriso un po altero, schivo (per gli altri), tenero e ironico per noi. She explicitly compares a person to a photograph later in the book where she describes a visit she made with her father to Mr De V itos garden: N ellorto fiammeggiante di fiori il signor D e Vito col panama in testa era pallido, anzi grigio: sembrava una fotografia invece di una persona viva. Salutava papa senza sorridere e diceva(com e Re Lear):Anche lei ha delle figlie? (137). Her mother is also described through the child Lallas eyes as an apparition in her mirror and we read how, when dying, she wanted to see herself in the same mirror (41). Ma Fimmagine che ora cercavo era della mamma sola. La mamma vestita di bianco, sullo sfondo del pini, si appoggiava appena, con una mano, allombrellino. La vita sottile era chiusa da unalta cintura con la fibbia d argento. Se non possedessi la fotografia, avrei ricordato soltanto quella cintura. Era un nastro di gros a strisce pallide gialle e rosa, con la fibbia molto alta. La mamma ce la regalo poi per giocare. La camicetta era di pizzo, la gonna liscia, scampanata in fondo. Un poco sopra il polso ricadeva ampio e m olle il pizzo arricciato. II polso era esile, la mano magra e come stanca. / Ho tenuto fra le mie la sua mano tornata uguale a quella della fotografia: la coglievo, posata sulla coperta. La mano piccola dal mignolo leggermente arcuato, aveva una grazia ritrosa e come segreta. Era abbandonata ma stringeva anche un poco, e il sottile calore che emaneva da essa era unultima dedizione silenziosa.

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the photograph she wants. The description of the photograph, and the details of her mothers appearance take the reader back to the narrators childhood, and evoke an afterwards in which she and her sister would play with the belt her mother wears in the photograph. Finally, the detail of her mothers hand seems to reach across the years, drawing the narrator back from the time of the photograph, before she was born, to the period just before her mothers death, when she held the physical hand between her own. Without the photograph, she would have remembered only the belt. That object would itself have evoked memories (i.e., playing with it with her sister), but this passage illustrates the point made earlier that Romano sees photographs as a different order of object; one which has the power to evoke a more complex web of memories and associations, which lend substance to the shadow of the loved and lost object. In Penombra, the narrators mother is not the only lost object, however. Romano described the book as a voyage of discovery of myself, writing that: The woman who returns to her native village rediscovers the child she was and also recognizes herself as an adult in that child. Her perplexity, her fears, her secret thoughts; and ultimately the odd moment of mysterious happiness. Vaguely, she has the consoling impression that she is, after all, still in time
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Near the end of the novel, Romano writes: There is neither regret nor nostalgia ... because that world is not lost. It is true that it is past, irrevocably, but I feel its worth now, that is to say I understand it, I love it, ultimately I possess it (1078). By the end of the novel, the

narrator recognizes that: the valley, like the house, is inhabited forever by them [her

un viaggio alia scoperta di me stessa, La donna ch e... ritoma al paese natale, riscopre la bambina che e stata, e insieme riconosce se stessa adulta, in quella bambina. La perplessita, le paure, i pensieri segreti; e infine qualche istante di misteriosa felicita. Vagamente, ha la consolante impressione di essere arrivata, dope tutto, ancora in tempo (Lalla Romano, La penom bra che abbiam o attraversato [Turin; Einaudi, 1994], v). Non c e rimpianto ne nostalgia ... perche quel mondo non eperduto. E vero che e passato, irrevocabilmente, ma il suo pregio io lo sento ora, vale a dire lo comprendo, lo amo, infine lo posseggo.

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parents] and by my childhood self (1039).^^ In melding memory, photography, and narrative, Romano makes this true both for herself and for her readers.

Lettura di unimmagine, Romanzo di figure, Nuovo romanzo di figure The photographs on which Romano relied in writing Penombra were taken by her father Roberto during what was for both her parents and for the wider society an age of innocence, as she puts it: the time between the year of her parents marriage, 1904, and the start of the First World War in 1914.^ These images themselves form the basis of Lettura di unimmagine, which Romano published in 1975 as a new kind of novel. Opposite reproductions of the photographs, she wrote brief commentaries, seeking to create a novel written by the photographs themselves. She claimed that the photographs are the text and the writing an illustration {Lettura, ix).
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But the original prints were very small, and

the relatively poor reproduction possible from the prints made reading them difficult. After the discovery of the original glass plates in the fall of 1985, Romano republished the book as Romanzo di figure in 1986 with better quality reproductions made largely from the plates. It was, in turn, republished as Nuovo romanzo di figure in 1997, with a new section, Nuove figure, with fifty new images taken from other rediscovered plates. The book, in its various versions, represents a dialogue between photograph and text, between the fathers interpretation of that world and the writers reading of that same world through brief comments, almost notes, which are ordered without any syntactical arrangement.^^ The brief phrases accompanying each image are separated by dashes, like

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La valle, com e la casa, e abitata per sempre da io r o [her parents] e da me bambina Lalla Romano, Nuovo romanzo di figure (Turin: Einaudi, 1997), 7. le immagini sono 1 1 testo, e lo scritto unillustrazione.

un dialogo tra foto e testo, fra Iinterpretazione di quel mondo da parte del padre e la lettura di quello stesso mondo da parte della scrittrice attraverso brevi commenti, quasi appunti che si susseguono senza montaggio sintattitico (Ria, Scrittura e fotografia, 363).

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a series of interjections. As Romano writes in the introduction, information is not provided, nor are stories recounted, in the sense of telling anecdotes.^^ She described how she wrote Lettura as follows: I put a literary text alongside the photographic text to be illustrative, not informative. What I intended illustrating was not the aesthetic quality ... but the richness of meanings, a way of reading the images themselves as symbols or metaphors... I chose to do without the information I had in order to interpret the signs of the images freely (creatively).^"^ Francesco Porzio points to the subtlety of Romanos use of word and image, and the way in which her texts differ from both art historical assessments of visual images and the simple narratives that might usually accompany a family album. Whereas a critical approach tends to be mimetic, seeking to explain in words the image and its style, in Romanzo di figure the comments introduce the meaning (the drama of spent lives, of destinies), and the styles evoked are not internal references but modes of reality.
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In this way, her words lend

knowledge to the photograph, which is in itself an unknowing fragment, without repeating its messages.^ Nevertheless, the accompanying words inevitably change the reception of the photographic message. As Jefferson Hunter writes: For good or bad, a photograph is always an object in a context, and the context is determined most obviously by the words next to the photograph. In Roland Barthess oddly melancholic terms, written as if in longing for a purely visual, purely denotative photography, the text loads the image, burdening it with a culture, a moral, and imagination.

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non vengono fornite notizie, ne raccontate stone.

Accostai al testo fotografico un testo letterario in funzione illustrativa, non informativa. Quello che intendevo illustrare non era Iesteticita..., ma la pregnanza del significati, una prospettiva di lettura delle immagini stesse in quanto stmboli o metafore... Scelsi di prescindere dalle informazioni di cui disponevo, per interpretare liberamente (creativamente) i segni delle itnmagini (Lalla Romano, II mio primo romanzo d immagini, in Un sogno del nord, in Romano and Segre, Opere, 1597). in Romanzo di figure il significato e introdotto dal commento (dramma di vite spente, di destini), e gli stili evocati non sono rimandi interni, ma modi della realta. Francesco Porzio, Su Romanzo di figure, in Intorno a Lalla Romano, ed. Antonio Ria (Milan: Mondadori, 1996), 344.
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Hunter describes the relation between photographs and texts as one of complementarity and antipathy. Pictures and texts together emphasize how the shown is never exactly the same as the spoken. Photo texts like Romanos are more than images and captions, because the words and photographs of photo texts contribute equally to their meaning; that is how the genre is defined. They must simultaneously be read and viewed.
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The desire to see words

and photographs as making an equal contribution is typified in James Agees introduction to one of the most famous photo texts, his and Walker Evanss Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, first published in 1941, where he insists the photographs are not illustrative. They and the text, are coequal, mutually independent, and fully collaborative.
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Romano goes a

step further, arguing that her text is illustrative of the photographs. Whereas Evans and Agees work is divided into pure photography and pure text, in separate sections, Romanos book fits the more conventional arrangement of photo texts, with text and image interwoven in a structure of what Mitchell calls rhetorical reinforcement and repetition a rhetoric of exchange and cooperation between image and text.^ As I shall discuss later, however, there exists a gap between rhetoric and reality, and the coequal status of text and image may be more asserted than actual. The ostensible interdependence of text and image in Romanos book contrasts with the book within a book structure of a photo-text first published in 2001 by another Italian woman writer, Dacia Maraini. Marainis La nave per Kobe, subtitled diari giapponesi di mia madre (my mothers Japanese diaries) is in fact a memoir about the writers childhood in Japan.^ Its central section consists of a photographic reproduction of all of the pages of the diaries of her mother, Topazia Alliata Maraini, from the familys time in Japan. These
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Hunter, Image and Word, 11. James A gee and Walker Evans, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (Boston; Houghton Mifflin, 1980), xv. Mitchell, The Photographic Essay: Four Case Studies, 296-97. Dacia Maraini, La nave p er Kobe. D iari giapponesi di mia madre (Milan: BUR, 2003).

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include numerous photographs (many taken by Marainis father, the well-known writer and photographer Fosco Maraini), accompanied by Topazias comments. Maraini in tum writes about both her fathers photographs and her mothers writings, but her own texts enclose her mothers diary and the images it contains, rather than accompanying it side by side. She also does not alter the order of the images or texts in the diaries. Nevertheless, as in Romanos work, the daughters text frames the parents representations of her childhood, both honoring and altering their implications and effects, as we shall see. Romanos photographic novel can also be usefully compared to the works of the brilliant German writer and photographer W.G. Sebald, who also died in 2001, and whose photo-texts are among the best-known recent examples of the genre.
oi

In works such as The

Emigrants, The Rings o f Saturn, Vertigo, and Austerlitz, Sebald inserts photographs and reproductions of other images such as maps, lists, and artworks. As is the case in many of Romanos books, Sebalds narrators both are and are not the author, and, like her, he always resisted calling his works novels. Rather, they represent a new literary form, a hybrid of novel, memoir, and travelogue. As in Romanos photo-texts, photographs appear without captions. His use of photographs also reflects a similarly spatial conception of time that sees past, present, and future as coexisting. Unlike Romano, however, Sebald

inserted the photographic images into the text rather than placing them on facing pages, so that the relationship of image to text is different. In this way, the photographs subtly absorb meaning from the surrounding text rather than being placed in a literal and sometimes metaphorical opposition to it, as in Romanos work. Another important difference regards the selection of images, since Sebald employed found images such as postcards and

On Sebalds work, see for example James Atlas, W.G. Sebald: A Profile. Paris Review 151 (1999), 278-95; Carol Bere, The Book o f Memory: W.G. Sebalds The Emigrants and Austerlitz, The Literary Review (2002); Eric Homberger, W.G. Sebald. The Guardian, December 17 2001; and Mark R. McCulloh, Understanding W.G. Sebald (Columbia, S.C.: University of South Carolina Press, 2003).
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See McCulloh, Understanding W.G. Sebald.

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pictures from newspapers, whereas Romano makes exclusive use of the body of photographs taken by her father, so that her own relationship to the images is different. This is in part a reflection of their very different scope and focus: Sebalds writings concentrate above all on the prolonged and painful aftershocksboth physical and metaphysicalof the Second World War, while Romano is concerned with the microeosm of a tiny Piedmontese village. Yet Romanos work represents a similar attempt to create a new and suggestive literary form. Porzio characterizes Romanos book as experimental, not in the historical avant-garde sense, but rather in its extreme concentration of the narrative instrument; the search for a mysterious and irrevocable expressive dimension, present and distant like that of dreams. ^ This particular kind of narration does not permit linear storytelling, and although there are dates, there is no narrative continuity. Although the discontinuities are more drastic in her photo-texts, a similar approach is common to almost all Romanos works.
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Despite this fragmentation, stones and characters emerge from the juxtaposition

and ordering of texts and images. In an interview when Romanzo di figure came out, Romano maintained that I dont think of the prose pieces that accompany the photographs as a series of notes, but as
or ^ ^

chapters of a novel Segre points to the way in which Romanos organization of the book into chapters emphasizes its novelistic aspects.
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The first few chapters introduce the

main protagonists (Romanos parents) and the setting (the isolated world of Demonte and
estrema concentrazione dello strumento narrativo; la ricerca, appunto, di una dimensione espressiva misteriosa e irrevocabile, presente e lontana come quella del sogno (Porzio, Su Romanzo di figure, 342). For perhaps the most extreme example o f this, see I.alla Romano, Le lune di H var (Turin: Einaudi, 1991)., originaily published in 1987, which, despite its diaristic format with dated entries, does not create a clear narrative continuity from one entry to the next. io non considero le prose che accompagnano le fotografie come una serie di appunti, ma come capitoli di un romanzo (In G. Nascimbeni, Quando le parole passano attraverso lo sguardo, Corriere della Sera 1986). Segre, Introduzione, LI.
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its surroundings). In the first chapter, I cacciatori (The Hunters), we see Romanos father and his fellow hunters in the mountains near Demonte. The second chapter, La valle (The Valley) shows more of their environment, while the third, Ritratto di signora (Portrait of a lady) introduces the mysterious figure of Romanos mother. The next, La societa (Society) sets them in their social context, and the following chapter, L inverno (Winter), emphasizes the impact of the seasons on the village and its inhabitants. Uninfanzia protetta (A sheltered childhood) ushers in the spring, and the happy triangle of mother, father and baby. In Montecarlo, Romano writes of the familys trip there, of her fathers longing to visit India, and of how Montecarlo was his India (117). 1

bambini (Children) gives both a glimpse into the world of children, and how it is shaped by adults, while La ruga del pensiero (The Thought Wrinkle) shows us an unconventional representation of childhood as a state of worry and perplexity. The next chapter, L altra (The Other), is concerned with the traumatic arrival of a rivalher younger sister, Silvia. It is followed by L amore coniugale (Conjugal love), which refers in particular to her parents, but is reflected also in other couples. Ritratti-destini Portrati destinies shows more of the characters who peopled the village, and leads into Carola, about her young aunt. The last chapter is entitled Foto di gmppo (Group photo) and is remarkable for its representation of relations between the various characters. Nuovo romanzo di figure contains one extra chapter at the beginning, made up of only one picture of Lalla Romano as a young girl, which had been on the cover of Romanzo di figure, and its accompanying text. It also includes the group of images and texts entitled Nuove figure, which resulted from the rediscovery of another fifty glass plates, and which makes up a separate section, although touching on many of the same themes. Lettura di unimmagine!Romanzo di figure/Nuovo romanzo di figure is closely connected to La penombra che abbiamo attraversato, and almost all the photographs
fu la sua India

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described in Penombra can be identified in Nuovo romanzo.

Here, too, the backdrop is

that of the village of Demonte/Ponte Stura, and the characters are those that peopled the intimate world of Romanos childhood. In Penombra, however, she gave more details about when and where the photographs were taken, while in Nuovo rom anzo she rarely explains the circumstances of the photograph being taken, instead concentrating on the characters photographed and on the composition of the images themselves. The main characters of Nuovo romanzo, like those of Penombra, are Lalla Romano, her parents, her sister, their dog, Muro, her aunt Carola, her aunts and uncles, the local peasants (for example, the hunter Cino del Cornale), the notary, the Doctor from the city and the unusual country Doctor who was a dear friend of her parents, and all the other assorted personalities of a small mountain village. The reader/viewer sees the infantrymen who cycle through, the doctors sleigh in winter, the first train to Demonte, and the changing seasons in the valley. The hook is marked above all by a strong sense of family and habitat. Roberto Romanos images are, as Giuliana Scime puts it, an intimate reflection on the people dear to him, the
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day-to-day places and the rituals of a peaceful existence. His daughters book re-tells the story of his relationship with those people and places as both a story of lost innocence, and a study of how familial and geographical origins shape us. At the same time, Romano analyzes Roberto Romanos images from an aesthetic perspective, using her painterly appreciation for composition and form to scrutinize the photographs for messages from her father and connections to the figurative arts.^*^ In part.

Indeed, it seems that Romano envisaged an ideal reader who would have read Penombra before reading Nuovo romanzo. Many o f her comments refer to characters from the earlier novel and point out the real names and faces o f these characters as they appear in her fathers photographs, such as Signora Borgo, Felicino, Idina, the doctor, the notary, and Cino del Comale. una riflessione intima sulle persone a lui care, i luoghi del quotidiano ed i rituali di una calma eststenza (Giuliana Scime, L album di Lalla Romano, romanzo di figure, Corriere della Sera, 4 March 1998). For a lucid discussion o f the relation between Romanos comments on her own paintings in LM.Ua Rom anopittrice and her texts accompanying her fathers photographs see Cesare Segre, Fotografia come pittura, in Intorno a Lalla Romano, ed. Antonio Ria (Milan: Mondadori, 1996).
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because she wants to show her father as an artist, she needs to show that photography can be an art, even if sometimes only a modest, relatively easy art, as she puts it {Nuovo romanzo, 7), or a middle brow art, to use Pierre Bourdieus term.^ This artistic aspect is what she seems to emphasize when she discusses the photographs in terms of form, composition, line, shadow, etc. Romanos comments often note compositional similarities between the images and works of art, like the rhythm like the poles in ancient pictures of battles of the hunters rifles on page 16, or the young man on the country road in his city suit who recalls Watteaus Gilles.^^ Romano likens the sheep on a mountain meadow to Ingress odalisques, while a young peasant girl on a donkey suggests a Courbet-like realism. A winter landscape in brown marks on white recalls Piero della Francescas

backgrounds.^ ^ For her, a couple on a flower-studded rise is a bal a la campagne di Renoir. A hunter raising his guns recalls a Degas ballerina ... in his wise and effortless movement, and an image of the village is both tiny and comprehensive, like antique printsas in the Flemish design of the hedges and fields, while the figure of a young man is described as in the style of Velasquez.^^ Reading these photographs in terms of their resonances with visual artworks, Romano attempts to appreciate her father as an artist. Romano claimed that while it was natural that she should be interested in photographs taken by her father, her interest went beyond the personal and familial: I presume that if I had encountered those images in an anonymous album they would have

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Bourdieu, Photography: A Middle-Brow Art. ritmo come le aste nelle antiche pitture di battaglie. realismo alia Courbet. a macchie brune sul bianco, ricorda gli sfondi di Piero [della Francesca].

una ballerina di Degas ... nel suo scatto sapiente e senza sforzo, insieme minuta e sommaria, come le stampe antichecost il disegno fiammingo delle siepi e del campi, alia Velasquez.

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captivated me in the same way.^For her, their importance is not so much a result of their depiction of the tastes of an era, nor of the photographers visual sensitivity: it consists in a mans contemplation of nature and his intuition of destinies {Nuovo romanzo, vi).^^ She claimed that: in the way I mean it, the reading of a photographic image is a fairly unusual, unpredictable occurrence. Not all photographs lend themselves to it, that is, speak, that is, are writing.^* When Romano says she thinks the images could have been anyones, she is asserting their broader creative value, and not their personal significance to her. This is a delicate point, however, because at the same time, Romano also asserts their value precisely as records of personal relationships between family members and friends, between these people and the places they inhabit, and, ultimately, as a portrait of the photographer himself. She wrote that while it was easy to see the evidence of particular local customs in the photographs, and not hard to see her fathers figurative tastes in them, their most important aspect was the opportunity they afforded to discover who was the man who expressed himself and his world in them, in the indirect, lucid and at the same time allusive way of art {Nuovo romanzo vii).^^ Although Romano had set out to read the images from a purely visual point of view, as though they were anonymous, she found that as she ordered them by themes and according to a vague narrative sequence, almost a portrait of her father began to take shape, because there is no image that is not in some

Presumo che se avessi incontrato quelle immagini in un album di ignoti mi avrebbero incantata alio stesso m ode. non e dovuta tanto alia raffigurazione del gusto di unepoca, e nemmeno alia sensibilita visiva del fotografo: consiste nella contemplazione della natura e nella intuizione del destini da parte della coscienza di un uomo. Nel senso che intendo io, la lettura di unimmagine fotografica e un avvenimento abbastanza raro, imprevedibile. Non tutte le fotografie si prestano, cioe dicono, cioe sono scrittura (Quoted in Alfredo Giuliani, L infanzia di Lalla, La Republica, 1 February 1998). scoprire chi era Iuomo che vi ha espresso se stesso e il suo mondo nel modo indiretto, lucido e insieme allusivo che e quello dellarte.
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way a cipher of his nature {Nuovo romanzo viii).^ At the same time, according to Romano, her fathers photographs also reveal his intuitions about the characters and destinies of the people who surrounded him, and in particular his immediate family and their home.

Clearly, then, despite the temporal gap between Penombra and the various editions of Nuovo romanzo, and the important differences in their construction and meanings, they are closely linked in terms of subject matter. But in both cases, they also negotiate the space between autobiography and fiction, representation and invention. Because of Romanos focus on the workings of memory and her consequent use of her own experience as the basis for her books, autobiography and fiction appear to be intertwined in almost all of her works. Nevertheless, Romano always resisted categorizing definitions, claiming that although from Maria onwards she had always written about real people she knew, she considered the label autobiographical inappropriate for her w ork.'' Since memory and imagination were inextricably linked for her in the process of transforming her personal memories into art, she considered the categories of fiction and non-fiction largely irrelevant to her own work: It is true that a novel, as such, burns up and recreates everything, every factreal or imaginaryso that the facts themselves constitute a material; now these data can always be related to the authors more or less direct experienceexistential, cultural, historical or fantastic; in my case it is effectively a question of a very close relation between life and narration: except that I am not fond of the usual term autobiography. On the contrary, I consider it the furthest from my taste, from my idea of narrative. I do not in the least write to give information about my life: however, my life is all that I have, it is my self.

quasi un ritratto, non c e immagine che non sia in qualche modo una cifra del suo animo. See Sereni, Colloquio con Lalla Romano.

102E ' vero che un romanzo, in quanto tale, brucia e ricrea ogni dato, ogni fattoreale o
immaginariocosl ehe i fatti stessi costituiscono appunto un materiale; ora, questi dati si possono sempre far risalire allesperienza piu o meno direttaesistenziale, culturale, storica o fantasticadellautore; nel mio

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By the time Romano gave this interview, postmodernist theorists were arguing that autobiography cannot be distinguished from fiction, since the self is constituted through language and in some sense constructed by the autobiographical p r o j e c t . C o m i n g at the question from the other direction, Romano argues that her writing is inextricable from her biographical experience, so that categorizing it as fiction or autobiography is irrelevant. This may seem like the other side of the post-structuralist coin, but she is clearly not interested in the notion that her autobiographical self is simply a collection of signifiers without external reference: My life is all that I have, it is my self. The English writer Martin Amis has described the present phase of Westem literature as inescapably one of higher autobiography, intensely self-inspecting, since in a world ... above all becoming more and more mediated, the direct line to your own experience was the only thing you could trust. Although the mediation of both memory and photography calls into

question the notion of a direct line to experience, their interaction has been an essential part of most autobiographical projects since photographys invention, and is particularly important to Romanos own patient search through the residue of the raw materials of her own life. Helen C. Chapman suggests that photographic images have the potential to trigger memories and responses in the viewer not so much because of the specific contents of the images, but because of the way in which these contents act as keys to unlocking broader meanings. She cites Walter Benjamins expression of this same idea:

caso si tratta effettivamente di un rapporto molto stretto fra vita e narrazione: senonche io non amo il termine usuale autobiografia. Anzi, lo considero il piu lontano dal mio gusto, dalla mia idea della narrativa. Io non scrivo affatto per dar notizie sulla mia vita; pero la mia vita e tutto quello che ho, e me stessa (In Lalla Romano, Conversazione con Lalla Romano, Uomini e libri, n. 76, November-December, 1979: 58). See for example Paul de Man, Autobiography as De-Facement, in his The Rhetoric o f Romanticism (New York: Columbia University Press, 1984). Martin Amis, Experience, 2 ed. (New York: Vintage, 2001), 175-77. Helen C. Chapman, Memory in Perspective: Women Photographers Encounters with History, ed. Marsha Meskimmon, Nexus (London: Scarlet Press, 1997), 24.
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When there is experience in the strict sense of the word, certain contents of the individual past combine with material of the collective past. The rituals with their ceremonies, their festivals... kept producing the amalgamation of these two elements of memory over and over again. They triggered recollection at certain times and remained handles of memory for a lifetime. If this combination with material of the collective past takes place, then rather than presenting the lost past of one individual, the photograph resonates with meanings that can also intervene in the present. Photographs and descriptions of photographs thus relate Romanos own family circle and its collective memories to a broader context. They are part of her attempt to expand the evocative scope of her writing, taking it beyond the narrow boundaries of autobiography and into the realm of the wider search for an understanding of the relationship between past, present, and memory. At the same time, they also represent an intensely personal configuration of this relationship. One might consider the distinction Walter Benjamin draws between reminiscence and experience in The Berlin Chronicle, where he writes: Reminiscences, even extensive ones, do not always amount to an autobiography... For autobiography has to do with time, with sequence, and what makes up the continuous flow of life. Here I am talking of a space, of moments and discontinuities. For even if months and years appear here, it is in the form they have at the moment of recollection. This strange form it may be called fleeting or etemalit is in neither case the stuff that life is made of.'^ The past as it really was is not accessible, and so the past can be interpreted only by taking into account its discontinuities and instabilities as revealed by the workings of memory. Lived experienee and memory have a different ontologieal status, with the latter originating in the former, but never being identical to it. Romanos work does not present itself as a straight record of the past, but rather as an investigation of the ways in which

Walter Benjamin, Charles Baudelaire: A Lyric P oet in the Era o f High Capitalism, trans. Harry Zohn (London: Verso, 1983), 113. Walter Benjamin, The Berlin Chronicle, in One Way Street and Other Writings (London: Verso, 1985), 316.
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past and present touch. As such, it is not a linear narrative; instead, her work is a series of discontinuous moments, often evoked through descriptions of photographs and the moments in which they were taken. Just as Benjamin uses the spaces of Berlin as a means of allowing his reminiscences to emerge, in Penombra, the narrators return to and re-exploration of Ponte Stura become one of the means by which a host of associations well up in her. The physical space of her
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childhood is the gateway to Benjamins indeterminate labyrinth of memories.

But the

memory and the sight of her fathers photographs also provide another way into the labyrinth. In Penombra, these remembered photographs take on the same status as memory-images. As Benjamin writes in his essay on Proust, most memories that we search for come to us as visual images.. .[and].. .even the free-floating forms of the memoire involontaire are still in large part isolated, though enigmatically present, visual images. '^ These memory images are laden with, and they hint at, associated feelings and experiences, and so the meaning of these images lies in the load they bear, not in the images themselves. In contrast, a photographic image cannot contain more within it than what it shows, yet it can be made to carry more than its own contents by the intervention of the text that accompanies it, as is the case in Nuovo romanzo. Through Romanos creative reading of the photographs, she opens them up to other possible readings, asserting the power of narrative to universalize even the most personal and inevitably fragmentary memories. One of the reasons that photography is so important to Romanos narratives of experience is that, like the various forms of autobiography, it too exists in the ambiguous and indefinable zone between document and invention, where identities are both presented

1n o

See Ibid., 318. The Image o f Proust, in Walter Benjamin, Illuminations, trans. Harry Zohn (New York: Schocken, 1985), 214.
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and created. As Linda Haverty Rugg puts it, autobiography and photography participate in a system of signs that we have leamed to readat one levelas highly indeterminate and unreliable. * A t the same time, as she goes on to point out, both readers of autobiographical works and viewers of photographs often find it difficult to resist the notion of referentiality. Despite knowledge of the codes that structure our viewing of photographs, and of the deceptions inherent in the medium, photographs are still most often seen and interpreted as traces or emanations of past reality.*** As Mary Price argues, whereas the conventions of cinema encourage suspension of disbelief, those of photography encourage investment of belief. 119 In a similar way, what Philippe Lejeune

called the autobiographical pact (the tacit agreement between writer and reader that where the author and protagonist share the same name they may be assumed to the same person and the work may be understood as a signed document) permits readers to invest belief in autobiographies, understanding and using them as sources of information about the lives of their authors.

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But by insisting on the creative process of reading (as the original title of Lettura di u nimmagine makes clear) that invests her family photographs with broader, more universal meanings, Romano makes the thorny theoretical issues surrounding the question of photographic truth irrelevant to her photo texts. By the same token, in refusing to call her books autobiographical, she sidesteps the issues of her reliability as a narrator. In general.

** * * Linda Haverty Rugg, Picturing Ourselves: Photography & Autobiography (Chicago and London: The University o f Chicago Press, 1997), 13. *** Barthes, Camera Lucida. For an excellent summary o f the history of the notion o f photographic realism, see Snyder, Picturing Vision. **^ Price, The Photograph, 174-75. See Philippe Lejeune, The Autobiographical Pact, in On Autobiography, ed. Paul John Eakin (Minneapolis: The University o f Minnesota Press, 1989).
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her protagonists are either nameless or do not share her name.''"^ Yet, with few exceptions, her novels follow the pattern of her own life to a remarkable degree, and are based almost entirely on places and people she knew, focusing particularly on her family. Discussing her Una giovinezza inventata (An Invented Youth), Romano maintained that while it, like most of her books, was historical in the sense that the characters are real people she had known: All together one can say that it is all invented, in the sense that this is my poetic truth of those people and of that time. It is youth that becomes poetic in old age. W hats more, the artists truth is not historical truth, but the tmth of his or her impressions, and these impressions in my book are absolutely authentic.' This idealistic notion of an artistic truth is central to her work, and, as we shall see, to her use of photography.^'^ Despite the very strong bond between her life and her literature, and her feeling that distinctions between autobiography, fiction, autobiographical fiction and so on were senseless, Romano ultimately decided simply to allow her books to be classified as novels, since the novel is a vast genre that would give her the freedom to express herself according to her own notions of truth.

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The exception is her photo-texts, where her name takes on a new importance.

' Insieme si puo dire che tutto e inventato, nel senso che questa e la mia verita poetica di quelle persone e di quel tempo. E la giovinezza che diventa poetica nella vecchiaia. D el resto la verita dellartista non e la verita storica, ma la verita delle sue impressioni, e queste impressioni nel mio libro sono assolutamente autentiche (Quoted in an interview with P. Bianucci, in La Gazzetta del Popolo, 15 December, 1979). In the introduction to her 1986 photo-text La treccia di Tatiana, Romano wrote of her use of photographs to tell a story: Qualcuno obiettera che ho inventato tutto: e appunto quello che accade con la scrittura (Lalla Romano, La treccia di Tatiana (Turin: Einaudi, 1986), vi.). il romanzo e un genere molto vasto (Quoted in Manuela Grassi, Come vivo scrivo, Panorama, June 21 1987). It should be noted, however, that Romano later admitted that she regretted changing the name o f her village, Demonte, to the fictional Ponte Stura in Penombra, saying that she had done so at the suggestion o f others who wanted her to locate her work firmly under the category o f fiction {Ritorno: iv). Nevertheless, Romano reiterated her indifference to this kind o f categorization numerous times: Non e importante la connotazione romanzo, che io pero non rifiuto in quanto e molto vasta e comprende infinite forme { L Unione S arda, 25 Luglio 1987); Riesco aesprimermi meglio scrivendo romanzianche se di genere un po particolare (Mauro Merosi, Impudica per vocazione, Brescia Oggi, 13 Settembre 1987).
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This freedom, however, came at a price. In the immediate post-war period and beyond, some critics saw her books as shirking the responsibility of confronting recent history and addressing social concerns. Her focus on family situations, and particularly, on the apparently autobiographical, was met with disdain in some quarters. Romano recalled that when Penombra came out in 1964, she and Natalia Ginzburg, whose Lessico famigliare was published the year before, were both written off ... as women writers of confessions. 118 Others, though, appreciated the significance of her books. In an article in

the Corriere della Sera Dino Buzzati responded to the critics who dismissed Romanos books as too personal by citing Montales comments on the book: Yes, it is only a book of memories, but they are exactly the memories and the images that one might relive on the point of death, I dont know, like the slippers forgotten one day at the Hotel Danieli, small but important things that leave a mark on our lives.'T h e s e small but important things are also the main focus of Lettura di u n immagine, and its status as literature or otherwise was also debated. Even its publication history reveals some of the difficulties that were encountered in categorizing the work. According to Antonio Ria, Lettura di u n immagine was published in Einaudis Saggi (Essays) series because of the need for good reproductions, but the choice of series is also an indication of its hybrid nature. 120 Romano

liquidate tutte e due.. .come scrittrici di confessioni (Lalla Romano and Sandra Petrignani, Le Signore della scrittura: interviste, 900 italiano; 54 [Milan: Tartaruga, 1984]. Si, e soltanto un libro di ricordi, ma sono esattamente i ricordi e le immagini che si possono nvivere in punto di morte, non so, come le pantofole dimenticate un giorno al Danieli, cose piccole ma importanti che lasciano un segno nella nostra vita (Quoted in Segre, Introduzione, LXXXIII).
119

118

120 Personal communication. May 2002. It is interesting to consider the ways in which Nuovo romanzo may
be considered as an essay. W.J.T. Mitchell writes about the photo-essay as a privileged site o f the encounter between photography and text. This is because both entail the presumption o f a common referential reality: not realism but reality, nonfictionality, even scientificity are the generic connotations that link the essay with the photograph (W.J.T. Mitchell, Picture Theory [Chicago and London: The University o f Chicago Press, 1994], 288-89). It is also because of the intimate fellowship between the informal or personal essay, with its emphasis on a private point o f view , memory, and autobiography, and photographys mythic status as a kind o f materialized memory trace embedded in the context o f personal associations and private perspectives. Lastly, it is also a result o f the root sense o f the essay as a partial, incomplete attempt, an effort to get as much of the truth about something into its brief compass as the limits o f space and writerly

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herself said that Its a book suspended between poetry, the essay, and not the novel, but narrative. 121 In re-titling it Romanzo di figure, however, she emphasized precisely its novelistic aspects, and Einaudi published the new edition as a part of its top-of-the-line literary series. Nevertheless, when Romanos complete works were published in Mondadoris prestigious Meridiani series, the photo-texts were left out. A note in the back of the second volume states that this was done for practical reasons, since the format of the series would not permit quality photographic reproductions. Such diffidence about the books status as literature was echoed by a number of critics when Lettura was first published. Some refused to accept Romanos definition of it as a novel, but they had trouble finding an alternative label for it. According to Augusta Grosso, it is not a novel, 122 while Alfredo Giuliani argued that it is neither a book of memories, nor an autobiography. 123 One reviewer rejected the very idea of this kind of book, stating baldly that: This book shows the impotence and pretension of literature when it gives up on itself and does not refuse to die and comes to terms with another m edium... I dont know what this book is exactly.. .1 dont know if it is a document of customs or a fairy tale.. .a short anthropological treatise.. .or the story of a man .. .and his dog.. .1 dont know in other words if this book is t* 124 literature.

ingenuity will allow. Photographs, similarly, seem necessarily incomplete in their imposition of a frame that can never include everything that was there to be, as we say, taken. The generic incompleteness o f the informal literary essay becomes an especially crucial feature o f the photographic essays relations o f image and text. The text o f the photo-essay typically discloses a certain reserve or modesty in its claims to speak for or interpret the images; like the photograph, it admits its inability to appropriate everything that was there to be taken and tries to let the photographs speak for themselves or look back at the viewer (289). Si tratta di un libro in bilico fra la poesia, la saggistica, e, non il romanzo, ma la narrativa (De Fra, A colloquio con Lalla Romano).
121

122 Augusta Grosso, Un album di fotografie per capire Lalla Romano, II Nostro
123 124

Tempo, 25 January 1976.

Alfredo Giuliani, Ritratto dellautrice da cucciola, La Repubblica, 13 December 1986.

questo libro mostra Iimpotenza e la velleita della letteratura quando rinuncia a se stessa e non rinuncia a morire e scende a patti con un altro m edia... Io non so cosa sia esattamente questo libro.. .non so se sia un documento di costume o una favola... un piccolo trattato antropologico.. .o il racconto di un u om o.. .e di un cane.. .non so insomma se questo libro sia letteratura (Claudio Marabini, Quando la letteratura tenta di forzare il silenzio della fotografia, II Resto del Carlino, 20 May 1986).

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But according to Cesare Segre, it was a new kind of narration, through images and commentary, whose novelty was one of the major reasons for the difficulties critics encountered in defining it. 1 Another reason, perhaps, is that not only did Romano

maintain the domestic, intimate focus of Penombra, but the writer of confessions now had the nerve to publish her family photographs as a photo text, in a combination of intimacy and imagery that, at least for some critics, seemed to summon up the low-brow connotations of the fotoromanzo (a magazine photo-story). Other critics, such as Carla Mazzarello, noted its detailed reference to Penombra'' and its essay-like quality, but transposed onto a level of creativity, an essay-novel. She saw it as Romanos most complete effort up until now, she too stressing the originality in the Italian context of the word and image interaction within it.
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More recently. Carlo Bertelli has discussed the relationship between Nuovo romanzo and the original family album from which its photographs were taken. He points out that a family photograph album is supposed to remain an unfinished work, with spaces at the end for more pictures to be added, and room for things to be written under the photographs, perhaps a date, or the record of deaths and family events. He goes on to note that when Roberto Romanos photographic plates were discovered, it was possible to print images of greater quality than Romano himself could have hoped to see. Technical developments beyond the intentions of the photographer come into play, so that a photograph remains, as in this case, an open work for ninety years.
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The photographs

nuovo tipo di narrazione, per immagini commentate (Segre, Introduzione, xxvi). Segres emphasis on the novelty o f the work suggests that he was unaware o f the precendents I discussed in the Introduction, such as Vittorinis photographically illustrated version o f Conversazione in Sicilia. puntuale richiamo alia Penombra, qualita di saggio ma trasposto su un piano di creativita, saggioromanzo; prova fino ad oggi piu completa (Carla Mazzarello, Lalla Romano Lettura di un immagine, Annali della Scuola Normale VI, no. 4 [1976]). una fotografia resta, come nel nostro caso, unopera aperta per novantanni (Carlo Bertelli, Presentation in the invitation to the exhibition Romanzo di figure, curated by Antonio Ria, [Galleria II Diaframma, Milan, 1986]).
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that Lalla Romano used to create Nuovo romanzo di figure were thus different from the photographs she knew as a child, from those she had used in writing Penombra, and from the ones she had used in the previous versions of the book, even setting aside the section of rediscovered images, N uove fig u re. Her multiple encounters with these images allowed for what Bertelli calls the shifting of the observation from a sympathetic, impressionistic criticism to an analysis of the texts construction, together with the conviction of its relatively provisory status.
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In this way, the encounter with the family album emerges

from the limits of a deep personal interest, however much it might have been communicated by literary means and affective gestures which speak to all of us; the event becomes both a literary episode and an instance of photographic criticism. 19 Q

Nevertheless, the fact that these images are family photographs both of Romanos family and by a family memberis centrally important. Just as writing about local and domestic subjects has been reappraised in recent years, particularly in the light of feminist studies of womens writing, so too have critics begun to pay increasing attention to the domestic uses of photography and their meaning, scrutinizing the conventions of family photography and the ideologies these conventions express and uphold, in a process that defamiliarizes accepted representations of the family and thus refocuses our ways of
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seeing it.

Pierre Bourdieu defines one of photographys key roles since its inception as

that of reinforcing the integration of the family group by reasserting the sense that it has both of itself and of its unity,^^^ while Ann Burlein notes that family photographs are

lo spostamento deirosservazione da una critica simpatetica e d impressione a unanalisi della costruzione del testo, insieme alia persuasione della sua relativa provvisoreita. rappuntamento con Talbum familiare esce dai limiti di un interesse profondo e personale, per quanto comunicato con mezzi letterari e movimenti affettivi, che parlano a noi tutti; Iavvenimento diventa insieme un episodio letterario e un fatto di critica fotografica (Ibid.). Marianne Hirsch, Familial Looking, in The Familial Gaze, ed. Marianne Hirsch (Hanover and London; University Presses o f N ew England, 1999), xvi.
131 130 129

128

Bourdieu, Photography: A Middle-Brow Art, 19.

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structured by notions of what a family ought to look like. She maintains that people most often see their families indirectly, through a screen onto which they project an image of the family they want to be, and that family photographs literalize this psychic screen, providing a site for the creation of the proper image of the family. As she notes, however, the proper image of the family is one that conforms to conventional notions of family.
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These conventions are historically and culturally specific, and are not

ideologically neutral. Hirsch makes the argument that: The dominant ideology of the family, in whatever shapes it takes within a specific social context, superposes itself as an overlay over our more located, mutual, and vulnerable individual looks, looks which always exist in relation to this familial gazethe powerful gaze of familiality which imposes and perpetuates certain conventional images of the familial and which frames the family in both senses of the term. She argues that while this familial gaze may alter from culture to culture, change over time, and function in different ways, an ideal image of the family always exists and has a determining influence in a given cultural context. Within that context, photographic images of the family operate as instruments of this familial gaze, locating its subjects in the ideology and mythology of the institution of the family. In this way, the screen of familial myths that is projected between camera and subject is not simply the site of individual fantasies of familial unity, but rather, it is conditioned by the familial ideology of a given society and culture. Hirschs distinction between the familial gaze and the familial look is important. The gaze is imposed by ideologies of the family; it is external and turns its subject into a

Ann Burlein, Focusing on the Family: Family Pictures and the Politics o f the Religious Right, in The Familial Gaze, ed. Marianne Hirsch (Hanover and London: University Press o f N ew England, 1999), 312.
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132

Hirsch, Family Frames, 11.

^^'^Ibid.

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spectacle, or, as Lacan would have it, a picture.
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The familial look, however, is local

and contingent, mutual and reversible, traversed by desire and defined by lack.*^^ Familial looks are exchanged through the screen that filters vision through the mediations of cultural conventions and codes that make the seen visible. The gaze is mediated by the screen, contested and interrupted by the look. Hirsch believes that photographs provide both evidence of this complex interweaving of visual relations and the means to study it, since interpellated by the photograph, its viewers become part of the network of looks exchanged within the image and beyond it. The viewer both participates in and observes the photographs inscription in the gazes and the looks that structure it. '^^ This complexity means that family photography can operate, as Jo Spence and Patricia Holland put it, at: The junction between personal memory and social history, between public myth and personal unconscious. Our memory is never fully ours, nor are the pictures ever unmediated representations of our past. Looking at them we both constmct a fantastic past and set out on a detective trail to find other versions of a real one.^ ^ Using her family photograph album, Romano set out on her own detective trail, in search of versions of the past that might go beyond the conventions of the familial gaze and correspond to her notion of artistic truth. According to Julia Hirsch, family photography is not only an accessory to our deepest longings and regrets; it is also a set of visual mles that shape our experience and our memory.
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Romanos use of photography reveals a

similar understanding of her family photographs as a structuring element of her relationship


Jacques Lacan, The Four Fundamental Concepts o f Psycho-Analysis, 1st American ed. (New York: Norton, 1978), 275. Hirsch, Surviving Images, 23.
137 138 135

Ibid.: 24, original emphasis.

Jo Spence and Patricia Holland, eds.. Family Snaps: The Meanings o f D om estic Photography (London: Virago, 1991), 13-14. Julia Hirsch, Family Photographs: Content, Meaning, and Effect (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981), 13.
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to and narratives about her past, and a close attention to the familial looks that emerge from within the constraints of the rules imposed by the familial gaze. As Ferroni points out, Romanos investigations into the private sphere of family relations and domestic life represent a constant interrogation of how these constitute the person who experiences them: concrete existences are formed within those relationships; and the social world in which we are all immersed is created in the encounter and conflict between those concrete existences.* '* ' Romanos fascination with this complex network of relationships is closely linked to her use of her fathers photographs in both Penombra and the various editions of Nuovo romanzo. Since both are, in many ways, portraits of a family and their environment, it is appropriate that family photography plays such a significant role in them. The photographic moments in which Roberto Romano presents and represents his family, and in which family members and friends present themselves for his camera structure both novels. These images provide essential clues along the detective trail his daughter follows to reconstruct her childhood world, and to rediscover her childhood self and her young parents. The photographs her father took of her mother, in what Romano describes as an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to capture her mothers true nature, become the focal point for memories that cast light upon the narrators parents relationship and her relationship to them, a process that in turn becomes an act of what Nancy Miller calls realization the act of trying to reimagine your parent[s] as [people] within the terms of your unchosen attachment. * '* * Romano repeatedly emphasizes her fathers sensitivity to the people he portrayed, and his ability to show something of their nature. Yet of all the characters in his

interrogazione continua del modo in cui essi costituiscono la persona che li vive: entro quel rapporti si fanno le esistenze concrete; e nellincontro e nel conflitto tra quelle esistenze concrete si fa il mondo sociale in cui tutti siamo immersi (Ferroni, Postfazione, 208). Nancy K. Miller, Putting Ourselves in the Picture: Memoirs and Mourning, in The Familial Gaze, ed. Marianne Hirsch (Hanover and London: University Press o f New England, 1999), 52.
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photographs, she says, the most secret is still the one he loved the most: his wife, who remained a mystery to her daughter as well (111)/"^^ One critic describes Lettura di unimmagine as the story of an extraordinary female figure, Romanos mother, and a man who through the eye of the camera lens seeks vainly to get closer to the woman he loves. All this is, in turn, seen through the eyes of the child Lalla who observes this struggle and this determination and becomes its depositary. In Nuovo romanzo, Romano reproduces the same photograph of her mother that she described in such detail in Penombra (see Figure 5). She first describes it in formal terms: the white makes the figure incorporeal, weightless, against the blurred and confused background ... the form is entrusted to line, and then moves on to describe her mothers expression and its significance. Her smile is almost conceded, but, she claims, trust emerges from a background of melancholy. Romano explains that: she knew that that photo was an act (however contemplative) of adoration, but she could not smile more than that, before returning to the analysis of the image. She notes the Romantic reference to the dawn dressed in white, but claims that the image itself is not Romantic: its grace is severe (49).^'^'^ While in Penombra, the description of the photograph was part of the narrators attempt to deal with her own feelings of loss, the image here becomes part of the story about her parents that Romano is telling, and a clue to the relation between the photographer subject, the photographed object, and the narrating subject for whom the previous two are now the objects of her text.

142 143

la piu segreta rimane quella piu amata da mio padre; sua moglie.

una straordinaria figura femminile, unuomo che attraverso Iocchio dellobiettivo cerca inutilmente di avvicinarsi alia donnna amata; osserva questo affanno e questa ostinazione e se ne fa depositario (Stefano Agosti, Limmagine e il discorso, Libri Nuovi VIII, no. 2 [1976]). il bianco rende la figura incorporea, senza peso, sul fondo mosso e confuso ... la forma e affidata alia linea, quasi concesso, lei sapeva che quella foto era un atto (per quanto contemplativo) di adorazione; non poteva sorridere piii di co si Faurora di bianco vestita, la sua grazia e severa.
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Figure 5: Roberto Romano, from Nuovo romanzo, 48

Although the figure of the mother is in many ways central to Penombra, and additionally her mystery is repeatedly referred to in Romanos photographic books, the figure of the father is the often hidden presence in all the images, even (and especially) those of his wife. As Robertos most important object of photography, Romanos mother is at the center of the photographic matrix, but in Nuovo romanzo, Romano turns her father into one of the main objects of her texts. Penombra provides readers with a certain idea of Roberto Romano and his photographic activity. Nuovo romanzo provides them with the evidenee of his way of seeing, but nevertheless still mediated by his daughters texts. As Segre points out, one of the striking features of Nuovo romanzo is that: It proposes a new and very original novelistic motif: the relationship between the photographerthe fatherand the objects of his photography. This sets up first and foremost a continuous, loving dialogue between the narrators father and m other... and then generally another loving game of superimposition, between the interpretation of the world proposed by the

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father with his shots and the interpretation of this interpretation carried out by the writer.''*^ In Penombra, the point of view was that of both Lalla Romano the child, and Lalla Romano the adult. The remembered scenes from her childhood were all seen from her vantage point at that time, as remembered by the older Lalla. In Nuovo romanzo, however, this double point of view is complicated by the fact that the literal point of view is that of the photographer, Roberto Romano, and his camera lens. Romano believed that: the importance of those photos is not so much owed to the visual sensitivity of the photographer, but consists of a mans conscious contemplation of nature and intuition of destinies. His choice of subjects, his respect for and irony about life show this. As occurs in a literary work, in poetry. In Nuovo romanzo, the reader/viewer sees the image that Roberto Romano sought to create of his family and their surroundings, inflected, however, by the comments of his daughter, so that the family is seen through the double filter of their two looks, as well as through the screen of conventions and ideology that makes up the familial gaze and dictates many aspects of the photograph, such as poses, subjects, and sometimes even expressions. The three different points of viewof Roberto Romano, of Romano as a child, and of Romano as an adultcorrespond to Roland Barthess three possible points of view from which photography may be considered: that of the photographer, that of the person photographed, and that of the viewer of p h o to g ra p h s.M ie k e Bal argues that: [The] defamiliarizing effect of photography is based on an awareness that is only today becoming fully understood: that there is an irreducible divorce between the subject who looks, the object that is fixed, and the operator who
ci propone un nuovo e orginalissimo motivo romanzesco: il rapporto tra il fotografoil padree gli oggetti della fotografia. Cio istituisce anzitutto un continuo dialogo amoroso tra il padre e la madre della narratrice... e poi in generale un gioco di sovrapposizione, anchessa amorosa, tra Iinterpretazione del mondo proposta dal padre con le sue inquadrature e Iinterpretazione di questa interpretazione auttuata dalla scrittrice (Segre, Introduzione, LVI). Iimportanza di quelle foto non e dovuta tanto alia sensibilita visiva del fotografo, ma consiste nella contemplazione della natura e nella intuizione del destini da parte della coscienza di un uomo. Lo dimostrano la scelta del soggetti, il rispetto e Iironia sulla vita. Come appunto avviene in unopera letteraria, nella poesia (lo e Iimmagine, in Romano, Opere, 1600).
147 146 145

Barthes, Camera Lucida, 9-10.

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clicks the shutter. Between the three positions of this visual or love triangle, there is the movement of the merry-go-round that hides an emptiness in the center. This is the problem that the photograph poses. Unable to immobilize, it is just as slippery as the object it is supposed to fix. And in its slipperiness, it acts, it strikes home, without the subjects being able to control it. Romanos use of the third person in Nuovo romanzo (unusual in her work) to describe her childhood se lf emphasizes the disjunction between her as a child and an adult. The child does not exist any more, yet she did, and Romano clearly sees something of herself, as she is now (in the present of her writing), in the self she was then. But her use of the third person may also be in part a result of her ambiguous position as both photographic object and literary subject. Barthes writes almost exclusively from the third point of view, but in the one brief chapter where he takes the position of He Who Is Photographed, he writes: Once I feel myself observed by the lens, everything changes: I constitute myself in the process of posing, I instantaneously make another body for myself, I transform myself in advanee into an image. This transformation is an active one:. I feel that the Photograph creates my body or mortifies it, . 149 < -> i according to its caprice... He continues, noting that the Photograph represents that very subtle moment w hen... I am neither subject nor object but a subject who feels he is becoming an object.'^^ As Jane Gallop emphasizes in her analysis of this particular section of Camera Lucida, the position of this subject who feels himself becoming an object seems to lead to silence, and so Barthes quickly abandons it in favor of the position of one who looks at photographs.'^^ Gallop goes on to point out that if the photographed subject does overcome this silence and speak, she does so from a position that is literally nareissistie, the position of

Mieke Bal, All in the Family: Familiarity and Estrangement According to Marcel Proust, in The Familial Gaze, ed. Marianne Hirsch (Hanover and London: University Press o f N ew England, 1999), 235.
149

148

Barthes, Camera Lucida, 10-11.

'^Ibid., 14. Jane Gallop and Dick Blau, Observations of a Mother, in The Familial Gaze, ed. Marianne Hirsch (Hanover and London: University Press o f New England, 1999), 69. For Gallops interesting reappraisal o f her own critical relation to Barthes, see Gallop, Jane. Precursor Critics and the Anxiety o f Influence, Profession: The M odern Languages Association o f America (2003): 105-09.

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someone looking at an image of herself, which may lead the subject to fall into the trap of Narcissus. She therefore reads Barthess rejection of that position as both a resistance to objectification and a strategy to avoid Narcissuss fate. At the same time, it reveals a common form of vanity, that is, the insistence that ones self and ones image do not coincide: We reject our images because we would so love to see our self; our rejection of our images actually manifests our love for our self.
152

In accepting and seeking to interpret

her fathers images of her, Romano attempted to go beyond narcissism and vanity. As she wrote in the introduction to the Nuove figure section of Nuovo romanzo: talking about yourself isnt always immodesty, it is choosing the closest horizon: the most problematic.(238).^^^ Romanos attempt to understand her fathers construction of an image of his family and their surroundings is perhaps one manner of coping with the disorienting feeling of being both inside and outside the photographic frame. Rather than accepting the silence of the photographic object, Romano tries to explain it, reclaiming her position as subject-wholooks in writing about herself as object-looked-at. In the introduction to Nuovo romanzo, she discusses the books first photograph (Figure 6), which shows her as a child of four, framed on one side by the lace curtain of a window through which she gazes, and on the other by deep shadow. It shows her as a silent little girl, as her mother used to say. What, Romano asks, was the meaning of that silence? She explains that she tries to respond in her comments for the photograph, and adds: fundamentally, this whole volume, in its new entirety, attempts to answer that question The answer, I shall argue here,

lies in Romanos construction of an identity beyond that of daughter and sister, and in the transition from photographic object to literary subject.
152 153

Gallop and Blau, Observations o f a Mother, 71. parlare di se non e sempre immodestia, e scegliere un orizzonte immediato; il piii problematico. in fondo, tutto questo volume, nella sua nuova interezza, tenta di rispondere a quella domanda.

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Figure 6: Roberto Romano, from Nuovo romanzo, xiv

In the section La ruga del pensiero, Romano mentions the cameras potential to act as an instrument of violence, or even violation {Nuovo romanzo, 143). At the same time, although she suggests that the childs expression may be one of fear of the camera as a symbol of aggression or repression, she also emphasizes her feelings of love and trust for her father, and his sympathy for all his subjectsparticularly, his daughters. She repeatedly questions whether the child Lallas expression is one of fear or perplexity, and describes it as anxious and worried (139, 143, 147, 151), yet her fathers presence is seen as a reassuring one (139), and she stresses his understanding of her. For example, on page 147 of Nuovo romanzo, she explains that her father never asked the child Lalla to smile for the

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camera: he respected her, perhaps he understood her.^^ On page 151, Romano suggests that the photograph that shows her dressed up in her fathers hat, with the spoils of his hunting (see Figure 7), represents the little girls accession to a mans world, and was perhaps an expression of Robertos desire that his daughter identify with him. Although uncomfortable with disguises, the child is aware of her role in an exceptional still life: the symbols of her fathers triumph (151).'^ But this image of her dressed in the accoutrements of her fathers hunting hobby links this pursuit directly to his other passion: photography. The opening chapter of Nuovo romanzo, I cacciatori, shows a series of selfportraits and group shots of Roberto and his hunting companions, in which they display the trophies they have shot. Like Calvinos La follia del mirino, discussed in Chapter One, Walter Benjamins 1931 A Short History of Photography makes the metaphorical connection between hunting and photography explicit, describing how the amateur returning home with his mess of artistic photographs is more gratified than the hunter who comes back from his encounters with masses of animals which are useful only to the
1 cn

trader.

Romano herself seems to make this connection when she describes how her
1

father loved, like every true hunter, his victim: here the free, fugitive hare (7).

His

pose in the image to which she refers here (see Figure 8) is echoed later in that of the proud father holding up his child (Figure 85), and Romanos text again makes the link between his manly pride in his hunting triumph, and his paternal pride in his d a u g h t e r . I n

la rispettava, forse la capiva. Romano repeatedly emphasizes both parents respectful treatment o f her as a child (for example, she describes her mothers tocco leggero, non possessivo, Nuovo romanzo, 111), but also the ways in which identity is shaped by the contest of the childs will and even the most benign parental expectations and desires. una natura morta eccezionale: i simboli di un trionfo del padre.
157 158 159

Benjamin, A Short History of Photography, 211-12. See also Chapter One, n. 88. amava, come ogni vero cacciatore, la sua vittima; qui la libera fuggitiva lepre.

Romano writes that her father era ingenuamente (virilmente) fiero della sua mira, del suoi campionati di tiro {Nuovo romanzo, 1). Describing the later picture, she writes: la bambina-fiore e sollevata in trionfo ... il padre non e ironico; e, quasi dolorosamente, fiero (99).

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relation to the last photograph in the Cacciatori section (Figure 10), she writes of the men who hunted with her father as contemplative hunters: just as he was (23).'^ Yet underlying the theme of affectionate contemplation that recurs again and again in Romanos comments on her fathers photographs is her awareness of the inevitable objectification of the photographic subject a metaphorical taking of lifeand her attempt to reverse this process.

Figure 7: Roberto Romano, from A^movo romanzo, 150

160,,'cacciatori contemplativi: cosi era lui.

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Figure 8 and Figure 9: Roberto Romano, in Nuovo rom anzo, and 96

Figure 10: Roberto Romano, in Nuovo romanzo, 22

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It should be remembered that although by the early twentieth century portable cameras were readily available and wildly popular, in Romanos small village no one else had a camera, so Romanos father was precocious in taking on the (most often paternal) role of family photographer. Romanos eomment highlights the directorial role of the father-photographer in the production of many family photographs, something that she had already emphasized in Penombra: Papa would compose the group. Mamma seated, a flat cap resting on her curly hair; me with my little white overcoat, leaning on her; papa standing behind us, his hunters jacket buttoned up to the neck and his fur cap. In front of everyone, Mur5 [the family dog]. In the background the road bordered by oaks and thin wild elms. Papa would be serious, a little proud, with a shadow of a smile in his half closed eyes. Muro was serious to o .... Mamma would look with her deep, slightly teasing eyes. (She found the whole photograph thing rather boring). I, as a little one, would stare with an almost painful stupor. {Penombra, 1021)^^^ The description of the spatial positioning of the figures for the photograph is a vehicle for expressing aspects of their character, and of their relationship to one another and their environment, but Romano also emphasizes the directorial role of the father-photographer (Papa would compose the group). In Nuovo romanzo, Romano shows what must surely be this photograph (see Figure 11). She and her parents are shown at the photography stone on the road to Comale, where her father loved to pose his photographic subjects (113). It is winter, and the trees are bare. Romanos comments describe them as a a very united group, gathered together in a block.'^^ She also comments on the strong black and white contrasts. The childs white coat and floral bonnet stand out against the dark background of her parents coats.

* ' Papa componeva il gruppo. La mamma seduta, un berretto piatto posato sui suoi capelli crespi; io col paltoncino bianco, appoggiata a lei; papa stava allimpiedi dietro a noi, la giacca da cacciatore abbottonata fino al collo e il berretto di pelo. Davanti a tutti, Muro. Sullo sfondo la strada bordata di roveri e di magri olmi selvatici. / Papa era serio, un p o fiero, con unombra di sorriso negli occhi socchiusi. Anche Muro era serio.... La mamma guardava con i suoi occhi profondi, un po canzonatori. (Lei trovava piuttosto noiosa la faccenda delle fotografie). Io piccola fissavo con stupore quasi doloroso.

162 Gruppo molto unito, raccolto in un blocco.

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and she is entirely framed by their figures, leaning slightly on her mothers legs. Her father stands over her, the cord of the photographic switch snaking over the rock where her mother sits. The family dog stands next to Lalla, facing the camera, and looking down. The other three look directly at the camera. Romanos describes her fathers imperceptible smile of security and her mothers tranquil smile of trusting acceptance.
163

The child,

who has a similar half-smile on her lips, is described as almost a doll, but with a vigilant look.*^'^ Romanos brief comments provide much more information than could be deduced from the photograph. Is the fathers smile imperceptible? And is it one of security? Is the mothers smile of trusting acceptance? Must the child be seen as a vigilant doll? None of these things is necessarily so, but these statements represent one of the ways that Romano makes her assemblage of text and image into a novel, subtly rendering aspects of family dynamics.

163

sorriso impercettibile di sicurezza, sorriso tranquillo di accettazione fiduciosa. quasi una bambola, sguardo vigile.

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Figure 11; Roberio Romano, irom N u ovo romanzo, 112

While Roberto uses a wire and switch in order to include himself in the above picture, this is often not the case. As Gallop writes, Not usually in the pictures, the fatherphotographer stands outside the image of the family. He is not simply outside the image but its master: the father-photographer directs the family picture, framing and composing the mother and children. ^ In Nuovo romanzo, Romano uses her text to make the relationship between photographer and subjects part of the picture. Her comments for the photograph of herself with her mother and sister on page 174 of the text (Figure 12) stress the significance of the role of the father-photographer. She describes the mother and her daughters as posed as they would be at a photographers studio, and says that the elder girls

165

Gallop and Blau, Observations o f a Mother, 76.

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deliberate smile is for her fathershe will be how he wants her to be (175).*^^ The familial looks between a specific father and daughters, and a particular husband and wife, intersect with the familial gaze that structures the conventions of images of a woman with two young children and makes this one seem at first glance like a picture taken at a photographers studio.

Figure 12: Roberto Romano, from A^movo romanzo, 174

In the image above, the elder child is complicit in the creation of a particular kind of familial image, but this is by no means always the case, and there are important differences in the ways in which the image of the family and the childs sense of self is portrayed in Nuovo romanzo and Penombra. In the latter, Romanos use of photographs often expresses the anxiety about her appearance that she felt as a child, and her resentment

in posa come dal fotografo, il sorriso della bambina grande, voluto, e per il padrelei sara come la vuole lui

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at the ways in which adults imposed on her their ideas about how she ought to look. In one episode, she describes her tears of disappointment when some local children came in costume for her father to take their photograph, and she did not have a costume (23). To cheer her up, the mothers dress her up in an obviously very improvised Arab costume, and she is so ashamed of it that she hides at the back of the other children, so that only her head shows. Romano describes the photograph as follows: In the midst of the other composed, serious children, I came out troubled and out of focus, my eyes a flashthey were shining with tearsmy expression full of humiliation and rancor (24). 167 When this photograph appears in Nuovo romanzo, however, Romano does not describe any of this emotion (see Figure 13). Indeed, she writes that the protagonist of the photograph is the girl in the center, with her grown-up eyes. The state of embarrassment is extended to all the children, uncomfortable in their costumes and staring fixedly at the camera, bewildered by the part imposed on them, mysterious and difficult. 1 Here the attention

has shifted to the ways in which adults assign certain roles and looks to children, attempting to make them to conform to certain ideological conceptions of childhood. Annette Kuhn describes the conventions of fancy dress as not only a sanctioned moment of carnivalesque splitting of the clothes/identity link, but also as an expression of fantasy. In the case of children dressed up by their parents, this is most often a parental fantasy of transcendenee of everyday limitations and dissatisfactions that may bear little or no relation to the childs own desires.

In mezzo agli altri bambini composti, gravi, riuscii torbida, sfocata, gli occhi un balcnioluccicavano di lacrimclo sguardo picno di umiliazione e di rancorc.

167

168 sgomenti dalla parte loro imposta, misteriosa e difficile.


Kuhn, Family Secrets: Acts o f M emory and Imagination, 57. The theme o f children being dressed up recurs often in Romanos work, for example in Ritorno a Ponte Stura, where the young Lalla is shown posed with an adults reading gla,sses, and again in Nuovo romanzo, where the group o f children in costume is shown again, this time outside in the village, and described once more as victims of a mysterious role play.
169

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Figure 13: Roberto Romano, from AImovo romanzo, 126

In Penombra, the narrator describes how a similar anxiety about dressing up also ruins the day of her first communion. With the best of intentions, her mother gets her a fashionable dress from Turin. It is by far the most elegant, but for the young Lalla it is completely wrongall the other girls have long dresses and hers is short, above the knee. Once again she describes her emotions through a description of the photographs her father took of her that day, where my pointy knees can be seen poking out from under my dress. My face, which usually looked engrossed or distracted, wears a direct gaze that is almost insolent, and a strained smile, with narrowed lips (24).^^* The proud fathers photographs of his daughter dressed according to her mothers loving idea of how she should look become a symbol for the older Lalla of her childhood frustration. In Nuovo romanzo, Romano reproduces two of these pictures, one of her alone, the other of her with her
si vedono spuntare dal vestito le mie ginocchia puntute; sulla mia faccia che di solito appariva assorta o distratta, c e invece uno sguardo diritto quasi insolente, e un sorriso tirato, a labbra strette.
170

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parents and sister (Figure 14 and Figure 1411). This time, however, she does describe her emotions at the time: distain and rancorI hate the too-short dress and my too-thin legs (283).*^' Yet on the next page, she is also able to go beyond her memory of a painful experience through looking at the photograph again, focusing now on her family members: I discover, now, my mothers calm beautyPapa in a sporty outfit, with leather leggingsSilvias composed grace. At the same time, her older self feels an affectionate sympathy for the younger oneI pity myself: I still hate dresses.
,,172

Figure 14 and Figure 15; R. Romano, from Nuovo romanzo, 282, 285

In Nuovo romanzo, Romanos comments hint at the relationships between the people in the photographs, providing suggestions of possible stories for the reader to develop. In Penombra, she uses descriptions of the photographs in a very different way.
'dispetto e rancorcdetesto il vestito troppo corto e le mie gambe troppo magre. scopro, adesso, la calma bellezza di mia madrepapa in tenuta sportiva, con i gambali di cu oiocomposta grazia di Silvia; mi compatisco: anche adesso odio i vestiti.
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working against the expectations provoked in the reader by the idea of a first communion photograph or a childrens costume party by using what strikes her as she looks at them, many years later, to describe how she remembers feeling at the time they were taken. We might link this to Barthess concepts of punctum and studium , in the sense that it is the punctums emotional evidenee, the details that strike her and open the photograph metonymically onto a contingent realm of memory and subjectivity, that interest Romano here, not the apparently objective historical evidence provided by studium. 1 The latter

corresponds instead to her analysis of form and composition in Nuovo romanzo, while the comments that provide information that would not be readily apparent from the photographs stem from the punctum she finds in each of them, and suggest ways of looking at the images that she hopes will provoke a similarly intense emotional and subjective experience for her readers. Celia Lury discusses the disturbing effect of photographs that subvert the conventions of family photography (such as the nude picture taken by Theodore Miller of his daughter Lee) and argues that perhaps the punctums of less disturbing family photographs have the power to disturb even normal moments of intimacy, for the punctum raises the question, whose memories are being made of this?^^ "^ The same question is raised by the images of childhood in Nuovo romanzo, and is answered, at least in part, by Romanos texts. In Penombra, her descriptions of her look at, and in, the photographs removes them from the context of the ideological gaze, which structures such images according to associations of childhood innocence, happiness, and purity, and instead reveals something about the complexities and tensions of many rites of passage and

Barthes defines the studium as a kind o f general interest.. .almost a kind of training in looking at photographs, while the punctum of a photograph is that accident which pricks me (but also bruises me, is poignant to me) (Barthes, Camera Lucida, 26-27.). For a useful analysis of the implications o f these terms, see Mitchell, Picture Theory, 303. Celia Lury, Prosthetic Culture: Photography, Memory and Identity (London; Routledge, 1998), 77.

173

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moments in which parents put their children on display. Her concern about her outward appearance is not a question of vanity, so much as an expression of her frustration over her lack of control over her own imagea rebellion against an imposed parental version of her. In writing about her fathers photographs, Romano both expresses her appreciation of them, and her desire to assert her own interpretation of them. In Penombra, where the photographs are described, the reader has no way of knowing whether or not they are real or not, and so the writer has far more control over how they are interpreted. In Nuovo romanzo, Romano must deal both with the photographs status as a supposed emanation from the past, as well as its openness to multiple and overlapping interpretations (what Mieke Bal calls their slipperiness), re-writing them into her own novel about her father and mother, and her childhood world. In so doing, Romano places a particular focus on the contrast between the familial gaze and the familial look. This is particularly evident throughout the entire section of Nuovo romanzo entitled L altra, which concentrates on Romanos sister Silvia and her arrival in the family. This section shows a series of episodes in which the older childs resentment of, and adjustment to, the new arrival plays out. In the first image (see Figure 16), the interplay of looks and their interpretation in Romanos accompanying text are particularly revealing. Her comments begin by citing le dejeuner sur Iherbe, recalling Manets image of the same title and placing the image squarely within an art historical context, with all the connotations of a controlling gaze that this implies, as well as the irony implicit in Manets painting (which itself mocks the classical tradition it imitates).

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Figure 16: R. Romano, from A^movo romanzo, 156

She goes on to note the protective position of the father, and the mothers smile, and contrasts them with the fearful gaze of the newborn and the suddenly adult face of the girl in the foreground, which, for Romano, is a comment on the new family situation represented.
1 7S

Directly above the child Lalla, a small female figure, who seems to be her

paternal grandmother, Madrina or Maman, can be made out, resting her hands on the wall behind the family group and apparently peering towards them. Madrina appears again in Penombra and in Romanos last photo-text, Ritorno a Ponte Stura. In both, Romano recounts the tension between her mother and Madrina, who would try to make Romanos mother jealous (Penombra: 82), but was ultimately reduced to staying in the kitchen peeling chestnuts, no longer possessing any authority (Ritorno: 44). Here, Madrinas position above the suddenly adult Lalla links her visually to the child, suggesting a
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sguardo spaurito della neonata, vise impovvisamente adulto della bambina in prime piano,

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shared sense of dispossession. It is almost as though Romanos adult narrator (now eloser to her grandmothers age in the picture than to that of her childhood self) were looking at the group from within, as well as without, the photograph, a ghostly presence from the futurecut off from, yet looking directly at her past self, who in turn gazes into the camera and into the future where this image will persist and be looked at by Romano the author. The babys face is at the central point of the image, marked by the intersecting lines of her parents arms, which make a v-shape above her, and their gazes down at her. Their figures form a protective circle around her, from which the elder sister is excluded. But while the parents look down at the baby, she and her elder sister are linked by the way they seem to stare directly at the camera into the eyes of the viewer. Furthermore, the pale color of the elder childs smock connects her to the pale figures of mother and baby, forming a triangle to which the darker, enshadowed figure of the father is in turn external. The complex composition to which Romanos comments allude, and her use of adjectives like adult and fearful hint at the realignment of the family that takes place when another member is added to it. Here, as in so much of her work, there is nothing shadowy or terrible.. .given the people concerned and their way of life, but she pays attention to what is normally glossed over or diminished. 1 Using an apparently conventional family

photograph, Romano suggests that this family, like any family, is neither, in Barthess terms a group of immediate allegiances, nor a knot of conflicts and repressions, but something more complex, united by pliable bonds of affection and traversed by sometimes conflicting desires and tensions. 177 Romanos texts offer hints about the relationships between the people in the images that it would be impossible to deduce simply from the photographs, and the ordering of

nulla di tenebroso o di terribile.. .date le persone e il loro stile di vita, cio che di solito si sorvola o si attenua (Segre, Introduzione, XLVI).
177

176

Barthes, Camera Lucida, 56.

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images and texts gives yet more information. For example, in the section entitled La ruga del pensiero, the first image shows Lalla as a baby in a little chair, outside, with the faithful family dog, Muro, sitting next to her (see Figure 17). Romano describes how the Doctor called the frown mark on her forehead her thought wrinkle. Romanos text defines her image in the photograph as solemn, even though clumsy, and as symbolic of her belonging to the world of ideas {Nuovo romanzo, 136-137).^^* In this way, she reads her literary destiny into the purely visual image of herself as a pre-linguistic being. Later, in the section on L altra (her younger sister, Silvia), there is another image of a baby seated outside on a similarly rustic chair (see Figure 174). This time, however, the baby is Silvia, and she is alone. She, too, is frowning, but we are told that she is serious, or rather, sulky. ^^^ Romano emphasizes the solitude of this monumental figure: She is alone, no one is near her. ^^^ Implicitly, she contrasts this image with Figure 16, and recalls the photograph discussed earlier of the child Lalla taking her first steps alone on the road, but with her father nearby: She is alone, but her father is close by (see Figure 19). 1 R 1

Presumably, the girls father was close by to both of them while taking all of these pictures, but Romano stresses her sisters solitude in contrast with her own solidarity with her father, and her sisters sulkiness with her own thoughtfulness. By hinting at such elements of personality and the tensions and bonds between these characters, she encourages the reader to provide possible plots to her family romance. Cesare Segre noted that, in this way, Nuovo romanzo maintains Romanos usual indirect approach to

178

solenne, anche se goffa, il mondo delle idee. seria, anzi musona.


. .

179 ,

e sola, nessuno le e accanto. e sola, ma suo padre non e lontano.

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narrative: The stories are to be intuited, if need be, by the reader, to whom tbeir construction is entrusted/
,182

.-'C-

-
't Figure 17 and Figure 18: R. Romano, from Nuovo romanzo, 136, 158

182

le storie saranno eventuaknente intuite dal lettore, cui e affidata la costruzione (Segre, Introduzione,

LI).

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Figure 19: R. Romano, ixom N uovo romanzo, 138

Later in the book, another photograph appears (see Figure 20), in many ways identical to that of Lalla with her parents (see Figure 11 above). Once again it is winter, and bare trees line the road. The mother is seated on the photography stone, the father standing to her right. Again, Muro sits near the young Lalla, standing nearby. But this time, the new baby is also in the picture and now she is completely one with her mother (161).'*^ Lalla is sulking, and perhaps doesnt know why, and has shifted over to her fathers side of the picture, detached from the figure of her m o t h e r . W e read that Muro is sulking, too, he has put himself in profile. ' ^ She and the dog are identified in their

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ora e lei tuttuno con la madre. imbronciata, e forse non sa il perche. anche Muro e imbronciato, si e messo di profile.

184,.. 185

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mood, while this time Romano does not comment on her parents expressions. Neither smiles.

VC

Figure 20: R. I'toiiuno, ViomNuovo romanzo, 160

A few pages later, another image echoes this identification of dog and child (see Figure 21).'*^ This same photograph is described in Penombra as follows: It was the time of my little sister. In a photograph she is on a country road in the middle of the dogs. She is crying desperately, and she is comical. Muro, mortified, is off to one side. He wasnt my

186 This bond between child and dog is emphasized numerous times in both Penombra and Nuovo
romanzo: In molte fotografie Muro appare come il mio custode. In una e accanto a me nellorto, seduto sulle zampe di dietro, il collo eretto; e fiero, consapevole della sua dignita. C e una somiglianza tra il cane e la bambina. Entrambi hanno sulla fronte - rigida e scura quella di lui, bianca e convessa quella della bambina un leggero corrugamento, unombra di malinconia. Ma Tocchio di Muro e fisso, intrepido ed ingenuo come quello di una recluta, mentre gli occhi della bambina sembrano rivolti a considerare qualcosa di lontano e preoccupante Penombra: 949-950; in Nuovo romanzo Romano comments on the photograph (fig. 12) as follows: fu il Dottore a definire Ruga del pensiero Tombra come di corruccio che si formava sulla fronte convessa della piccola figlia dellam icoIimmagine e comunque solenne, anche se goffa, seria come di un adultolo sguardo e concentrate appunto in qualcosa come un pensiero ... il cane, vigile, ha una fissita da idolo (o da recluta sullattenti)e un simbolo propiziatorio A^movo romanzo: 136.

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little sisters guardian any more (951).^ The photograph in Nuovo romanzo shows the younger sister, Silvia, small, charming, and comical on the gravel road, two dogs at her side, and here the accompanying text provides much more information. 188 The reason she

is crying, Romano tells us, is that she is afraid of the dogs, even though they are family pets. She describes Muros new companion as elegant, sleek, and young, the three adjectives echoing the description of Silvia and linking the two as the new arrivals, and
1 OQ

says that Mur5 feels deposed, too.

The too refers to Lallas own feelings of

resentment at the arrival of her sister. Although Romano does not mention it in her comments, her small figure appears, literally sidelined in the background at the far left of the photograph. No longer at the center of her fathers attention, she kneels on the grass, looking down, her face half in shadow, like Muro, who bows his head, mortified. She goes on to say that the dog would like to console the little girl, and the previous identification of Muro and the elder sister suggests that this is part of what the older child feels, too, or even perhaps what the adult Romano feels now as she looks at the image.

Era il tempo della sorellina. In una fotografia lei e su una strada di campagna in mezzo ai cani; piange disperatamente, ed e buffa. Muro, mortificato, sta in disparte. Non era piu il custode della sorellina. piccola, graziosa e buffa.
189 190

187

Elegante, svelte, giovane, si sente anche lui spodestato. abbassa la testa, mortificato; vorrebbe consolare la bambina piccola.

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Figure 21: R. Romano, from A^wovo romanzo, 166

In the photograph of the young Lalla with her mother and sister discussed earlier, she holds a book with the title A B C (see Figure 12 above). This is the only one of Roberto Romanos photographs in Nuovo romanzo that contains any textnot so much as a street sign or a label appears in any of the other images. On the one hand, this reflects the historical and geographical situation at the time the images were m adethat is, an isolated society into which the industrial-scale production and display of words and images had not yet exploded. On the other, within Romanos book, it makes for a clear division of photographs and texts, whose only meeting point is the book held between young Lallas hands. The bend of her left arm to touch the book that she holds in her other hand echoes the gesture of her mothers left arm across her lap to touch the baby, Silvia. In her accompanying text, Romano writes: she doesnt know but she feels that that book is also a destiny (174-175).^^^ The book itself mingles text and image; the picture beneath the letters A B C shows a mother and child, heads together in an embrace as they look at yet another book together, creating a mise en abyme effect. This is the last image in the section

191

non sa ma sente che quel libro e anche un destmo.

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entitled L altra. It suggests that through language, rather than images, Lalla has finally found a way of dealing with her emotions about the Other, the sister who displaced her from her rightful position at the center of the literal and metaphorical family picture. This one photograph, where text and image meet, perhaps provides a clue to the construction of the book and the meaning of its interspersing of text and photograph. Most critics have accepted Romanos assertion that her texts are subordinated to the images at face value. Anna-Grazia D Oria, for example, writes that Romanos poetic prose is restricted in a deliberate essentiality on the whiteness of the page to remain in the background with respect to the images, which reign supreme. 192 According to Cotroneo, the image doesnt explain the text and vice versa, but both lead to a further text: one that is no longer image, no longer word, it is something else that I would not know how to explain Yet none of the critics notes that between Romanzo di figure and Nuovo

romanzo di figure, a highly significant change takes place. When Einaudi published the new edition of Lettura di u n immagine as Romanzo di figure with the good-quality prints made possible by the discovery of the original plates, the image and text position was reversed. In the earlier books, the images are on the right hand, odd-numbered pages, and the texts on the left. In the later one, this ordering is reversed, as Figure 22 and Figure 23 demonstrate.

e costretta in unessenzialita voluta nel bianco della pagina per rimanere in secondo piano rispetto alle immagini che campeggiano sovrane (Anna-Grazia D Oria, Nuovo romanzo di figure, L immaginazione, no. 142 [1997], 7). Iimmagrne non spiega il testo, e viceversa, ma entrambi portano a un testo ulteriore: che non e piu immagine, non e piu parola, e qualcosa d altro che non saprei spiegare (Roberto Cotroneo, E naque 1 1 romanzo in versi fotografici, L Espresso, 29 December 1997,195).
193

192

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Figure 22: Romanzo di figure, 88-89

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To understand the significance of this change, it is important to bear in mind the difference between reading a book that contains only text and reading one that contains pages of both text and images. As any magazine advertiser knows, the right hand page has far greater visual impact, since when turning pages in documents from left to right, the eye falls naturally first on the right-hand page. By changing the order of text and image, the impact of each is affected. What is more, in Nuovo romanzo, the texts are much larger, they are positioned more centrally on the page, and while the quality of the prints was improved, their size was reduced. Although the photographic images are themselves more legible, the changed position and increased size of the written texts strongly asserts their importance of the written texts. Antonio Ria maintains that these changes were carried out by Einaudi, rather than at Romanos insistence, but the end result is that the text makes a bid for more of the readers attention, as though in recognition that the relationship of complementarity between text and image may also be one of competition. Another important difference between the first and second editions of the book is that the reproductions in Lettura have the form of the original photographic prints from the ghost-book from which this book is bom: Romanos fathers photograph album. Some have curved edges, others are cut to the shape of an artists palette, and still others are arched or irregular (see for example Figure 22 above and Figure 24 below). In Romanzo di figure and Nuovo romanzo di figure, many of these photographs have been replaced with reproductions of the plates themselves, where they were available. The quality is generally much better, but something else has changed too. Roberto Romanos album recedes into the past, and his, or his printers, choices eoncerning printing and cropping are drastically reduced. Instead, Romanos, or her editors, come to the fore. The plate as a physical object leaves its trace, and the album disappears. Some of the plates have scratches on themimperfections that might easily have been corrected but were not. This suggests that
194 Antonio Ria, Unpublished interview, April 14 2001.

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the physical nature of the plates as objects with a history of their own was considered important, especially since the cover photograph of Nuovo romanzo is both blurry and scratched (see Figure 25).^^^ Mary Price argues that although no photograph has the sacred aura of the unique work of art, many photographs have a secular aura constituted by use, familiarity, description, and interpretation, and it is this aura that Romano exploits in Nuovo romanzo. At the same time, the changes made to the images, along with the shifted and enlarged text, make Lalla Romano even more the author of the work; Roberto Romano, the photographic subject, becomes even more of a literary object. Ultimately, then, Romanos texts work both with and against the images, providing information that would be difficult or impossible to deduce from these images alone, and that adds to the experience of them. Despite Romanos claim that it is the images themselves that are the real story, her texts inevitably seek to guide the viewers response, and to assert a degree of mastery over the images. They are her fathers domain, but she controls the context in which they are viewed, suggesting a means of approaching them that takes them well beyond the family album and allows them to tell multiple stories about the construction of identitiesphotographer, artist, father, husband, wife, mother, daughter, sister, writerstories that are central to all her works. Nevertheless, while the photographs described in Penombra function as fictional fragments among the other fragments of memory and experience Romano narrates, the slippery photographic images in Nuovo romanzo ultimately both exceed and escape the framing texts, which, while they suggest ways of reading the images, neither contain nor exhaust them. Romanos book challenges

These shifts are also echoed in the cover illustrations for each o f the three editions o f the book. Lettura d i un immagine has a photograph o f her mother alone on the cover. The image is a reproduction o f a photograph, complete with curved edges, but it is quite clear and well-focused. Romanzo di figure has a picture of Romano as a child on the cover, and on the cover o f Nuovo romanzo is a reproduction o f a plate showing both Romanos parents with their dog, and far back on the path a group o f three tiny, indistinct figures. This image is blurry and unfocussed, as though the camera had moved, and it has a big scratch across it. As a photograph it is very unsatisfactory; as a symbol o f the effects o f time and the workings of memory it is extremely effective.

195

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the reader to continue the creative work of reading an image, creating living stories from the papery remnants of the past.

.*' ' 4 - .V *

Figure 24: R. Romano, from Lettura di unimmagine, 125

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t^V L L A R O M A N O N U O V O R O M A N X O D I F IG U R E

&

Figure 25; Cover, Nuovo romanzo di figure

Rejecting traditional assumptions about representations of experience in both autobiographical accounts and photography, Romanos La penombra che abbiamo attraversato and the various versions of Nuovo romanzo di figure represent a challenge to genre definitions and assumptions about representation and self-representation. Focusing on the domestic and the apparently small, uneventful world of childhood, these books touch on universal themes with precision and subtlety. They explore the tensions that flow beneath the surface of even the most affectionate groupings, and allow Romanos readers to draw their own conclusions and tell their own stories about the material she presents. In examining her own family photographs, Romano raises questions about all family photographs and what they represent, at the same time using them to reconstruct retrospectively the formation of her identity as not just a daughter and sister, but, above all, a writer. While accepting that the past, like happiness, is always over, it is the creative process of writing that enables her to traces out a route through memory and experience to

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the eternal present of storytelling. There, ancora in tempo, the possibility exists to prevail over both literal and photographic death through the combination of the creative forces of imagination and memory and the power of narrative.

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C h a p t e r

T hr ee

THE PHOTOGRAPHER PROTAGONIST IN NICCOLAI AND DE CARLO

Is the news photographer the true antagonist of the Sunday photographer? Are their worlds mutually exclusive? Or does the one give meaning to the other? Italo Calvino'

Outside the realm of the amiable amateur like Roberto Romano discussed in the previous chapter, the figure of the man with a camera has had a colorful and sometimes troubled history in the twentieth-century Italian imagination. From the eponymous hero of Pirandellos Serafino Gubbio operatore to that most famous o f fictional photographers. La dolce vitas Paparazzo, who gave his name who a whole genus of flash-popping progeny, to Calvinos Antonino in L avventura di un fotografo,^ and Michelangelo Antonionis David in Blow-Up,^ photographers have tended to be represented as at best fundamentally flawed and at worst cynical and manipulative. For Moravia, the photographer always falls into one o f the above categories, like the vain, voyeuristic and incestuous Viola of La vita interiore (1978) and the paparazzo figure of the short story The Swollen Face." *Gesualdo Buffalinos Tommaso e ilfotografo cieco ovvero II Patatrdc (1996) also connects photography, voyeurism and incestuous desire, with its plot revolving around the photographs o f nudes and of orgies taken by a photographer who is blind, and who takes
E il fotoreporter il vero antagonista del fotografo domenicale? I loro mondi si escludono? Oppure Iuno da un sense allaltro? (Calvino, L avventura di un fotografo. English translation from The Adventure o f a Photograppher, in Italo Calvino, Difficult Loves, trans. William Weaver, Archibald Colquhoun, and Peggy Wright (New York and London: Harcourt Brace, 1984), 234.
2
3

See my discussion o f this short story in Chapter One. See the Conclusion.

This despite Moravias respect and admiration for a number o f non-fictional photographers such as Andrea Andermann, with w hom he worked on a volume o f photographs of Africa for which he wrote the texts. See Andrea and Alberto Moravia Andermann, Quelques Afriques (Paris: Chene/Hachette, 1982).

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photographs of his sister as she sleeps naked. These unsavory characters are typical of portrayals of photographers in much European and American literature of the last century.^ In this view, they are either passive, voyeuristic bystanders who photograph when they ought to be intervening to prevent what is taking place in front of the camera, or provocateurs who deliberately intervene when they should not, and whose photography itself constitutes an intervention that changes what it purports simply to represent. Susan Sontag epitomizes these apparently contradictory criticisms in On Photography, where she wrote, Photography is essentially an act of non-intervention and later that photographing something is a routine part of the procedure for altering it.^ Chapter Five will further explore writers troubled attitude towards the ethical ambiguities of photographs and those who make them, but the present chapter addresses two authors who break away from the dualism described above to create more nuanced versions of the photographer figure. It examines the figure of the photographer protagonist and the literary representation of photographic effects and a photographic gaze in two novels that have been insufficiently studied from this perspective. It examines the anxieties and assumptions about the role of the photographer the texts express and the implications of the former for literary representation. The novels considered are Giulia Nicolais extraordinary II grande angolo (Wide Angle) (published in 1966, the same year that
n

Antonionis Blow Up debuted), and Andrea De Carlos Treno dipanna (1981), which won

See Bill Jay, The Photographer as Aggressor, in Observations: Essays on Documentary Photography, ed. David Featherstone (Carmel, CA: The Friends o f Photography, 1984), 7-23. Jay argues that the theme of the taking o f a photograph as a violent act, often with sexual connotations, is incessant and insistent throughout the literature o f this century (22). A counter-example is Vincenzo Consolos short story, II fotografo, from L epietre di Pantalica (Milan: Mondadori, 1988), 27-34, where the photographer is a sympathetic and even heroic character who relates on a human level to his subjects. Yet he too takes their picture without asking permission, and only makes up for it afterwards in conversation, establishing his solidarity with them. ^ Sontag, On Photography, 11, 64.. 7 Giulia Niccolai, 11 grande angolo (Milan; Feltrinelli, 1966).

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that years Premio Comisso, and was published in English as The Cream Train in
o

1987. In the former, the female protagonist, a photo-joumalist, tries to come to terms with the suicide of her photographer partner, while in the latter, the young Italian amateur photographer protagonist drifts through the images, photographic and otherwise, of a Los Angeles that only seems to exist on the level of surface. Both novels are semiautobiographical and closely connected to the photographic work that the two authors had done before they turned to writing. This work prompted them to reflect on photography and writing as means of communication, as well as on the differences and analogies between them. The results of this reflection are evident in the two novels under discussion, and critics have commented on the resultant photographic aspects of both. Nevertheless, few have attempted to analyze closely these effects and how they function. This chapter asks what it means to speak of photographic effects and style, or of a photographic gaze in the context of a literary work. It identifies some elements that could be characterized as such in the two novels and examines the ways in which the authors make use of them to express a particular postmodern epistemology. In so doing, it also relates the novels to the similar themes of Italo Calvinos L avventura di un fotografo, discussed in the first chapter. Giulia Niccolais work as a novelist is virtually unknown, so the chapter begins by contextualizing her only novel in relation to her other work, first as a photographer, then later as a poet associated with the Neo-Avantgarde Gruppo 63 and the experimental visual poetry of the 1970s, and finally more recently as a writer of both prose pieces and poetry. I argue that analyzing the role of photography in Niccolais early work provides useful insights both into her later literary production and into some important reconceptualizations of photography in relation to other forms of representation that were taking place in the late 1960s and beyond. Among the most important of these was a new emphasis on
Translations o f Treno di panna used here are taken from Andrea D e Carlo, The Cream Train, trans. John Gatt (London: The Olive Press, 1987).

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photography as a relational process rather than on the material end product. It is above all in these terms that Niccolais creation of a photographer protagonist and her verbal depiction of effects that are only known through photography takes on a special importance. This discussion leads into my analysis of Andrea De Carlos Treno di panna. Unlike Niccolai, De Carlo has a very high profile in Italy as a novelist, and is widely known for his popular fiction published with Mondadori. Some of his other novels also discuss photography, such as 1993s Arcodamore. Yet there photography functions most of all as a pretext for a certain kind of sentimental relationship between photographic subject and object, while in Treno di panna stiW his most interesting and original workphotography plays a much more complex role and has a much greater influence on the style and substance of the novel. 1 contend that while many critics have noted the importance of photography for the work, none has analyzed its textual construction of photographic effects and a photographic gaze in sufficient detail to adequately explain their function within the novel. Making use of the work of a number of important theorists of photography, from Andre Bazin to Claudio Marra, I argue that in Treno di panna, as in II grande angolo, photography operates above all as a means of relating to the world. In tune with developments in conceptual art, the key factor for these authors is the representation of the process of the photographic encounter with the visual and its epistemological implications, rather than an ekphrastic description of photographys end product.

Giulia Niccolai and II grande angolo Giulia Niccolai is best known for her poetry (such as the 1981 collection Harrys bar e altrepoesie and Frisbees (poesie da lanciare), of 1994), her work with linear and visual poet Adriano Spatola on the poetry review Tam Tam, and her recent book of

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writings, Esoterico biliardo (Esoteric Biliards) (Archinto, 2001). Nevertheless, she began her career in the early 1950s as a photojoumalist. This was a period often dominated by the antics of the paparazzi and a macho attitude towards the hunt for a great photograph.^ Very few women were involved in the profession at the time, particularly in Italy, and Niccolais experiences as a photographer shaped her first and only novel, II grande angolo, and were to have a lasting impact on her aesthetics and p o e t i c s . I n his Nuova fotografia italiana of 1959, Giuseppe Turroni describes Niccolais photographic style as harsh and tender, and speaks admiringly of the reportage on Harlem that she carried out at the age of nineteen (see Figure 26 andPigure 267 below). work as follows: He describes her

See Moravias short story La faccia gonfia in Alberto Moravia, L automa (Milan; Bompiani, 1962) for an example o f this common conception of the figure o f the paparazzo in literature o f the period. Ennio Flaiano gives the following account o f the phenomenon and o f his and Fellinis original use o f the term in La dolce vita in a diary entry from June 1958, now published in La solitudine del satire, (Milan: Adelphi, 1996); Una societa sguaiata, che esprime la sua fredda voglia di vivere piu esibendosi che godendo realmente la vita, merita fotografi petulanti. Via Veneto e invasa da questi fotografi. Nel nostro film ce ne sara uno, compagno indivisibile del protagonista. Fellini ha ben chiaro in testa il personaggio, ne conosce il modello; un reporter d agenzia, di cui mi racconta una storia abbastanza atroce. Questo tale era stato mandato al funerale di una personalita rimasta vittima di una sciagura, per fotografare la vedova piangente; ma, per una qualche distrazione, la pellicola aveva preso luce e le fotografie non erano riuscite. II direttore dellagenzia gli disse; Arrangiati. Tra due ore portami la vedova piangente o ti licenzio e ti faccio anche causa per danni. II nostro reporter si precipito allora a casa della vedova e la trovb che era appena tomata dal cimitero, ancora in gramaglie, e vagante da una stanza allaltra, istupidita dal do lore e dalla stanchezza. Per farla breve; disse alia vedova che se non riusciva a fotografarla piangente avrebbe perso il posto e quindi la speranza di sposarsi perche s era fidanzato da poco. La povera signora voleva cacciarlo; figurarsi che voglia aveva di fare la commedia dopo aver pianto tanto sul serio. Ma qui 1 1 fotografo, in ginocchio, a scongiurarla di essere buona, di non rovinarlo, di piangere solo un minuto, magari di fingere!; solo il tempo di fare unistantanea. Ci riusci. La povera vedova, una volta presa al laccio della pieta, si fece fotografare piangente sul letto matrimoniale, sullo scrittoio del marito, nel salotto, in cucina. Ora dovremmo mettere a questo fotografo un nome esemplare, perche il nome giusto aiuta e indica che 1 1 personaggio vivra. Queste affinita semantiche tra i personaggi e i loro nomi facevano la disperazione di Flaubert, che ci mise due anni a trovare il nome di Madame Bovary, Emma. Per questo fotografo non sappiamo che inventare; finche, aprendo a caso quellaureo libretto di George Cessing che si intitola Sulle rive dello Jonio, troviamo un nome prestigioso; Paparazzo. II fotografo si chiamera Paparazzo. Non sapra mai di portare Ionorato nome di un albergatore delle Calabrie, del quale Cessing parla con riconoscenza e con ammirazione. Ma i nomi hanno un loro destino.. . Niccolai has said that her work as a photographer and as a writer in those years meant that in quegli anni ho potuto constatare e vivere sulla mia pelle Iatteggiamento paternalistico di molti uomini nei confronti miei e di altre donne che facevano determinati lavori (Ciulia Niccolai, Secondo incontro; Ciulia Niccolai, in Incontri d ip o esia , ed. Luisa Ricaldone [Turin; Trauben, 2000], 34). '' aspro e tenero (Giuseppe Turroni, Nuova fotografia italiana (Milan; Schwarz, 1959), 64.. Very little of N iccolais photographic work is available, and all her original prints and negatives, which had been in the house she shared with Andrea Spatola, have been lost. The photographs shown here can be found only in their

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[Here] we have a photography that lends an uncommon sensibility to the exigencies of our time, that is not afraid of expressionistic shrillness, and that wants to respond in the most dramatic way to so many useless academic arguments over whether photography is an art for a few iniatiated or a collective document of the moral and social tensions of the times. Giulia Niccolai offers us details that might not express anything to an eye not accustomed to reality, but which in reality enclose a profound meaning.*^ This attention to apparently unimportant but meaningful details has remained a constant in Niccolais poetic work, which often makes use of words as though they were the kind of found objects that so profoundly influenced visual artists of the 20* century like Marcel Duchamp and whose reconceptualization as art objects created new and profound meanings for them.'^ Turroni goes on to describe Niccolais photographic work as revealing an authentic temperament, gifted with lucid intuitive capacities, and says that in his view she has found a dry and calibrated narration, positive and without any extraneous influence of low literature or frigid pictoricism. * " ^ These comments reveal something of the extent to which the debate on and practice of photography in the late 50s, particularly in Italy, was still dominated by earlier questions about its status as an art or otherwise and considerations

reproduction in Turronis volume. The only other reproductions of photographs by Niccolai that I have been able to find are in the three volumes o f her Borghi e citta d Italia (Milan: Amilcare Pizzi, 1962), a delightful photographic account o f some o f the lesser-known Italian cities and towns with brief written sketches also by Niccolai. Abbiamo una fotografia che presta alle esigenze del nostri tempi una sensibilita non comune, che non teme gli stridori espressionisti e che intende dare nella maniera piu drammatica una risposta a tante inutili discussioni accademiche, se sia la fotografia arte per pochi iniziati o un documento collettivo della tensione morale e sociale dei tempi. Lo specifico fotografico e folgorato nel suo centro vulnerabile. Giulia Niccolai ci offre particolari che a un occhio non avvezzo alia realta possono anche non esprimere nulla, ma che in verita racchiudono un profondo significato (Ibid.). See for example N iccolais collection o f geographical poems, Greenwich. These poems consist largely o f collections o f place-names strung together to create associations and multilingual word plays, as for example, in Como e trieste venezia, which reads: Igea travagliato/ trento treviso e trieste/ di disgrazia in disgrazia/ fino pomezia./ Como e trieste venezia Giulia Niccolai, Greenwich (Turin: Edizioni Geiger, 1971). N iccolais delight in visual and verbal puns and other forms of word play also connects her to both the historical and neo-avant gardes, something that is particularly clear in her book of concrete poetry, Poema e oggetto (Turin: Geiger, 1974), which includes objects like string, pins etc., as well as photographs as objects that are pasted in. On the connections between conceptual art and photography, see Krauss, The Originality o f the Avant-Garde and Other Modernist Myths, and Rosalind Krauss, Le photographique (Paris: Macula, 1990). un autentico temperamento, dotato di lucide capacita di intuizione, una narrazione asciutta e calibrata, positiva c senza alcuna influenza estranea, di bassa letteratura, o di frigido pittoricismo (Turroni, Nuova fotografia italiana, 64.).
13
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about its potential for contamination by the other arts. Nevertheless, they also show an increased interest in photography as a means of engaging with the worldthe aspect of it that most fascinated Niccolai.
15

Figure 26 and Figure 27; Giulia Niccolai, Street scenes, Harlem, New York, 1960s

Yet despite her ability as a photographer and her great love of the medium, Niccolai gave up photography in the late 1960s, turning instead to writing. In a recent interview, she talked about the reasons for this shift: Photography takes so much that you traveled and saw things from the point of view of photography. I couldnt see in any other way. I always saw things as though in a possible frame. When I noticed this, it also disturbed me, bothered me.'

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Giulia Niccolai, Interview with author, Milan, 26 February 2002.

La fotografia prende talmente che tu viaggiavi e vedevi le cose dal punto di vista della fotografia. lo non riuscivo a vedere in un altro modo. Le vedevo sempre come in uninquadratura possibile. Questa cosa che avevo constatato mi aveva anche disturbata, dato fastidio (Ibid.).

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Niccolai here seems to echo Susan Sontags concern that photography has become one of the principal devices for experiencing s o m e t h i n g . B u t her discomfort with this idea was rendered more acute by the fact that she did not have complete control over the results of that experience: I also had a great disappointment about the newspapers for which I worked... its that they refused to see what I had seen... That is, what you managed to see, if it wasnt the right moment, they wouldnt let it pass. And, because of my ingenuity, apart from my love of the medium, I made photographs that way precisely in order to see behind the scenes of life... I said. I ll go behind the wings with photography and understand something. Now, lucidly for me, 1 didnt have to make a living as a photographerif I had, naturally I couldnt have allowed myself these ideas. And so ... thats how it w ent... I mean to say, people started talking about these things twenty years later. 18 Finding herself constantly in opposition to editorial demands to illustrate stories that had already been decided, rather than showing what the photographer herself wanted to communicate, Niccolai chose to devote herself to writing instead. The potential for multiple interpretations and uses of the photograph led to the frustration of being misunderstood, willfully or not. In Niccolais poetry, however, this frustration turned into a fascination with the multiple possible interpretations of verbal messages. Since becoming a Buddhist nun in 1990, Niccolai has moved even further away from the notion of representation as a means of self-expression towards a notion of writing as a means of escaping the preoccupations of the self: For a long time 1 was convinced that writing was memory, a means of recording and saving... Certainly, it cannot help but be so. But the following step now seems to me more significant and decisive: once you have written.
Sontag, On Photography. It is worth noting that authors as diverse as Jean A. Keim, Franco Ferrarotti, Italo Calvino, Pierre Bourdieu, Roland Barthes, Umberto Eco, Liborio Termine, Marisa Galbiati and Rosalind Krauss have stressed that photography can also function as a device to enable one to rapportarsi con qualcosa, an idea which is also centrally important for both Niccolai and De Carlo in their approaches to photography. See Marra, Le idee della fotografia. La riflessione teorica dagli anni sessanta a oggi, 273. e che rifiutavano di vedere quello che avevo visto io .... Cioe, quello che tu riuscivi a vedere, se non era il momento, non te la facevano passare. E io facevo fotografie in quel modo proprio per vedere, per ingenuita mia, a parte Iamore tremendo per il mezzo, anche 1 1 retroscena della vita... D ico, vado dietro le quinte con la fotografia e capisco qualcosa. Ora, io, per mia fortuna, non e che facessi la fotografa per campare, se Favessi fatta naturalmente non potevo farmi di queste idee. E per c io ... e andato co si...Voglio dire, hanno cominciato a parlare di queste cose ventanni dopo (Niccolai, Interview).
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18 In piii avevo anche una delusione grandissima nei confronti dei giomali per i quali avevo lavorato...

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you forget what you wrote. Therefore writing seems to me above all a means of freeing yourself, of making what was previously a sort of badly assimilated bolus impersonal and fluid like the grains of sand in an hourglass. At the same time, connections to her photographic work, such as an aesthetic of fragmentation and an interest in fleeting yet revelatory moments, are evident in all her writings, from II grande angolo, to her visual poetry of the 1970s, to the word play of her later poetry, and the delight in tracing continuities in the apparent discontinuities and coincidences of life in Esoterico biliardo. According to Elio Grasso; Attentive and sharp

observation has always been a constant of Giulia Niccolais work, from her debut until now.^' II grande angolo represents, in Grassos words, a continuous journey that goes back and forth between the road and the map, between the human gaze and the camera.
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Niccolais novel bridges the gap between her work as a photographer and her experience as the only woman to have played an important role in the Italian Neo-Avantgarde Gruppo 63. 23 By closely analyzing II grande angolo, it is possible to see how Niccolai develops a

Per molto tempo sono stata convinta che la scrittura fosse memoria, un mezzo per ricordare e salvare... Certo, non puo che esserlo. Ma piu significativo e determinante mi pare ora il passo successivo; dopo che si e scritto, si dimentica cio che si e scritto. Dunque la scrittura mi pare, soprattutto, un mezzo per liberarsi, per rendere impersonate e fluido come i granelli di sabbia di una clessidra cio che prima era una sorta di bolo mal assimilate (Giulia Niccolai, Perche scrivi poesie?, 11 Verri, no. 15 (2001): 69. Niccolais poetic work focuses on linguistic invention, word-play, nonsensical constructions, and surreal imagery. Much o f her recent poetry takes the form o f what she calls frisbees; surprising or stimulating comments launched at the reader with the expectation that he or she seize the words and send them back. Although written in verse form, they do not follow precise metrical or rhythmic formulae, rather they resemble notes taken on the spot, or snapshots o f moments o f reality, fragments o f every-day revelations. Losservazione attenta e arguta e sempre stata una costante del lavoro di Giulia Niccolai, dagli esordi ad oggi. viaggio continuo che va avanti e indietro fra la strada e la carta, fra lo sguardo umano e la macchina fotografica (Elio Grasso, Due anni p e r Giulia Niccolai [web page] (Vico Acitillo 124, 1998 [cited January 6 2004]); available from http:www.vicoacitillo.it/recen/54/html. Niccolais connection to the Gruppo 63 in fact began through her work as a photographer, as is clear from a biographical piece she wrote about herself and her relation to the Gruppo 63: Dopo dieci anni di fotografia professionale ... i suoi interessi letterari la portarono ad assistere in qualita di fotografa alia prima reunione del Gruppo 6 3 .... Della neoavanguardia ha apprezzato lalezione sprovincializzante, Ieffetto tabula rasa sui vecchi linguaggi che la costrinse a trovarne uno personale, contemporaneo, e il fatto che per capire una scrittura sperimentale, non consolatoria, il lettore dovesse in pratica faticare come Iautore, questo le parve fair-play. Niccolai, Secondo incontro, 38.
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new model of representation that draws creatively on the procedures and techniques of photography with which she was so familiar and that evolves into a new approach to language. II grande angolo recounts the story of a young female photojoumalist, Ita, who sees herself and her surroundings as though through a camera lens. Ita is in almost constant movement, and her story jumps back and forward from one country to another, as well as backwards and forwards in time. Yet this uninterrupted movement is fixed by a series of still images, linked by a particular attention to details and fragments. Despite the structural fragmentation, the novel gains cohesion through the thematic importance given to points of reference and their absence, numerical calculations, and questions of navigation and framing, particularly as they relate to epistemological issues raised by photographic representation.^"^ Only the sky escapes measurement, but even it cannot escape framing: In the window frame she sees only sky, without points of reference. It is a blue and implacable sky, never crossed by a cloud (16).^^ The protagonist sees the world through a series of lenses and filters, and framed in innumerable ways, so that photography comes to symbolize the fragmentation of her world and her inability to gain access to any more than partial truths. Structured around the central event of the suicide of Itas lover, Dominguez, also a photographer, according to a carefully constructed play of numerical and symbolic symmetries and recurrent motifs, the novel is made up of discontinuous snippets from different times and places, reminiscent of an unordered pile of photographs. Graziella Pulce describes the use of photographic techniques in II grande angolo as follows: Behind the lens, the obsession with the detail to be clearly fixed, only to discover that an avalanche of perfect details does not decompress by a
Measurements are a constant: the depth o f the ocean (10); the statistics about the construction o f the dam (16); the proportions o f the temple and its decorations (26, 29); and so on throughout the novel. Nel riquadro della finestra finestn vede solo cielo senza punti di riferimento. E un cielo azzurro e implacabile. mai attraversato da una nuvola
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milligram the tension that rises from reality. The book was therefore construeted on a great, anxious silenee, on a wound kept covered: behind her [Ita]... there must be an unresolved trauma, but the text maintains a close 26 reserve about it. Despite this silenee, the fragments and details that make up the novel nevertheless come together to tell the story of Ita and Dominguezs meeting on an assignment to photograph the lands that were to be flooded by the construction of the Aswan Dam in Egypt in the early 60s, their subsequent relationship, Dominguezs death, and Itas ensuing mental breakdown and hospitalization, interspersed with memories from Itas childhood. Despite the centrality of Dominguezs suicide, no explanation for it is offered. According to Niccolai, this was because the book emerged from her inability to understand how things get lost. Itas loss of Dominguez is literally and figuratively the central event of the

novel, but the theme of loss ties together all its disparate sections. Photography, with its mediation of vision and its special relationship to loss, represents the main means by which the protagonist seeks to understand the appearances and disappearances with which she is faced.^ Ultimately, it is also the means by which she comes to recognize the contingency of all forms of knowledge. As the novel opens, Ita is on a boat en route to Egypt to take photographs of the lands and temples soon to disappear under the waters of the Nile because of the constmetion of the Aswan Dam. From the very beginning of the book there is a photographic emphasis on detail, a use of photographic similes and metaphors, and a
Dietro robiettivo rossessione del particolare da trafiggere di netto, salvo scoprire che una valanga di dettagli perfetti non decomprime di un milligrammo la tensione che sale dai fatti. II libro si costruiva percio su un grande, angoscioso silenzio, su una piaga tenuta coperta: alle sue spalle.. .doveva esserci un trauma irrisolto, ma 1 1 testo manteneva al riguardo un compatto riserbo. (Graziella Pulce, Giulia Niccolai, memorie alia camera oscura, Alias 15, no. XII (2001). come si perdono le cose (Niccolai. Ita imagines herself talking to the doctor about Dominguezs death: Pottei dirgli che la sua morte mi e rimasta attaccata, che non sono rimorsi, non e paura, non e Iavere acquistato la dimensione della mia morte, ma mi e rimasta attaccata. Capisce? Potremmo cercare di capire assieme perche Iha fatto, dire che e ragionevole ormai non accettare Iatto del suicidio con il criterio d el... ma qualsiasi ragionamento, qualsiasi! e inadeguato (75-76). See my discussion o f the links between photography, loss, and grief in Chapter Two and my examination o f photographys connection to death in Chapter Five.
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pronounced attention to technologies of vision. To look at the ships radar, the captain pulls across a black curtain like that of a darkroom (9), revealing how when the electromagnetic waves under glass encounter an obstacle they reflect themselves and return partially to their source, then break up against the metal in which the equipment is encased (10).
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The use of technology to visualize what cannot otherwise be seen is a reminder of

one of the key roles photography has played since its inception and of its difference from natural vision: its ability to show us what we cannot see, as well as what we can.
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Ita

pays close attention to all the various technologies of navigation employed by the crew, from the relatively low-tech magnetic needle of the compass and the parallel rule and pencil used with the nautical charts,
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to the radar and the echo sounder.

O -n

Throughout the

book, Itas gaze is almost always filtered through instruments, frames, windows, gaps, glass, and, most importantly, the lens of her camera. Technologies of perception and mediated forms of vision are emphasized from the beginning of the book. 33 So, too, are verbs of perception and sight (guardare [to look at], osservare [to observe],and vedere [to

le onde elettromagnetiche sotto vetro incontrando un ostacolo si riflettono e tomano parzialmente alia sorgente, poi vanno a infrangersi contro 1 1 metallo in cui sta incassato Iapparecchio. This idea was perhaps most famously expressed by Walter Benjamin: The camera introduces us to unconscious optics as does psychoanalysis to unconscious impulses The Work o f Art in the A ge of Mechanical Reproduction, in Benjamin, Illuminations. On the troubled question o f photographys relation to what w e see, see Joel Snyder and Neil Walsh Allen, Photography, Vision, and Representation, in Reading into Photography: Selected Essays 1959-1980, ed. Thomas F. Barrow, Shelly Armitage, and William E. Tydeman (Albuquerque, NM: University of New M exico Press, 1982). On the influence o f photographic technology, see Naomi Rosenblum, A World History o f Photography (New York: Abeville Press, 1984)., especially Chapter 6, N ew Technology, N ew Vision, N ew Users 1875-1925 (224-295) and the section N ew Ways o f Seeing: Images in Aid o f Science (608-615). The symbolic value of maps and their conflation o f abstract and direct knowledge is a recurrent motif in the novel. Here, the lines indicating depth are described as simili a impronte digitali and on page 19 the map o f the N ile gives Ita the feeling of navigating the river itself. The fragmentation intrinsic to maps is literalized later on, when Niccolai describes the lines showing borders between states on a map as like the lines che separano i diversi tagli di carne nel disegno di un hue (105). The relationship between sounds and images, and the visualization o f sounds are also recurrent motifs. See for example the description of the airport (48-51), and the description o f the aural and visual surveillance that Ita undergoes in hospital (71).
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See for example the use of the spirit level to see how the ground level changes in the temple (29).

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see] recur with almost obsessive frequency), and there are constant references to light, refraction and reflection?"^ Niccolais language is characterized by freshness and immediacy, for example in the rhythmic variation of long and short sentences, and the occasional omission of conjunctions and commas, e.g. She observes the people the movement the things on the ground (10). The entire novel is told in the present tense, except for a few sections of

reported speech in which Ita or others recount events in the past, and a section in the mental hospital in which Ita imagines herself recounting, or perhaps does recount, a series of events to her doctor. The immediacy that this produces, combined with the deliberate chronological confusion and the consequent creation of unusual associations, again creates an effect similar to that of a series of randomly arranged photographs. This is further

Niccolai describes the effects o f light in careful detail: II sole che entra dai finestrini fa risaltare le volute grigio-azzurre che salgono dalle.. .sigarette. / II sole dietro la tendina abbassata mette in evidenza la trama della tela incerata grigia, i fiori viola le foglie verdi stampate; altera e mgiallisce tutti i colori. Raising the blind, Ita rimane abbagliata dal riverbero del sole che si riflette nel flume largo e giallo poco distante (42) and a short while later she sees Iombra del treno che lambisce fino a meta il terrapieno della ferrovia e le prime baracche della citta (43). Descriptions of different kinds of light have an extraordinary impact in the novel; the sunlight at sunset (19), the light o f the petrol lamps (20), Itas flashlight beam (23), the brightly lit boat by the river (24), the lights going out and the brightening starlight (26), the moonlight that lights up the temple (27), the morning luce senza ombre in the desert (29), the limited view from the train o f green marks streaming by against the yellow o f the desert and the blue sky o f a luminous morning (41), and the many descriptions o f effects of light and shadow on the journey to Cairo and after their arrival (42-44), the strips o f light from the entrance to the dock at the Villa Darsena that make the water green (57), the riverbero rosa della citta illuminata and the guizzi della televisione accesa that light up their N ew York apartment (65), the lamp with its luce piacevole that is one o f the few personal objects Ita has in hospital (71), the bathroom lights (73), the subdued hospital night lights in una cornice di acciaio dietro vetri smerigliati come quelle che illuminano i fondi delle piscine (75), the sunset outside the marble workshop (88), the quarys walls o f marble that glitter in the sun (91), the luci spaventosi o f the restaurant in N ew York (101), the lampadina polverosa that illuminates the elevator (102), the weak light of their N ew York hotel room (103), the strips o f light on the sooty brick wall outside their window (104), the sunlight on the pavement (108) and in the diner (110), the red tail-lights o f the subway train (111), the sunlight glinting in UN Plaza (112), the dim light within the delegates chamber (114) and the sunset over the skyscrapers o f N ew York with which the novel ends (137). Reflections are also common, such as the villages reflected in the waters o f the Nile, and the temple whose walls seem green because it in tum reflects the N ile (30), Dominguezs reflection in the mirror on the train (42), and again at his house in Cairo(45), Itas own reflection in the mirror when she has a breakdown and is hospitalized after Dominguezs suicide (74), the petrol marks floating on the canal that reflect piccolo spazi di cielo scoperto (61), the restaurant mirrors in which Ita and Dominguez smile at one another (95), the large, gilt-framed mirror in their hotel that reflects her suitcases and his scattered belongings (103), the reflections in the glass o f the UN buildings (112), and the lights reflecting o ff the glass o f the translators booths (115).
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Osserva la gente il movimento le cose a terra.

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echoed by the novels many elliptical constructions and sudden jumps from one scene to another, linked by associations and oblique references. These effects are complemented by the descriptions of actual photographs and things or people photographed. On her arrival in Egypt, Ita finds she must have identification photographs made. Finding a street vendor in a park, she points to the sample photographs hanging up and manages to make herself understood and have her photograph taken, watching as her image is developed in a bucket and hung up to dry with a clothes peg (11).
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Later, as she travels up the Nile to the areas to be submerged, she

spends her days on deck, where she uses a very strong telephoto lens to take pictures of the life that unfolds along the river. The following are left impressed on the film
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peasants working the shadouf, a dipper two meters tall for drawing water from the river to irrigate the fields villages constructed out of mud and camel dung facades with a handful of plaster and camels aeroplanes ships trains mules bicycles boats on the houses of those who have made the pilgramage to Mecca and in this way recount the means they used to get to the holy city women dressed in black with their feet in the river filling the water-jars the palms the eucalypts the sugar canes the cultivated fields the sails of the feluccas.'^'^
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For example, w e read that Ita spends a couple o f days traveling around the with two state officials in a dusty black Citroen. The next line begins; Non passa quasi piii lu ce.. seeming at first to refer to the windows o f the car, but then goes on: .. .dalle grandi vetrate incrostate di terra e di sabbia and w e find that Ita is visiting a cotton processing factory, presumably with the officials in whose car she travels (11).
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riesce a farsi capire e fotografare. la vita che si svolge lungo il flume. impressi sulla pellicola.

contadini che azionano lo shadouf, un mestolo alto due metri per attingere acqua dal fiume e irrigare i campi / villaggi costruiti di fango e stereo di cammello / le facciate con una mano di calce e disegnati cammelli aerei navi treni muli biciclette barche sulle case di quelli che hanno fatto il pellegrinaggio alia Mecca e raccontano cosi con quali mezzi hanno raggiunto la citta santa / le donne vestite di n ew con i piedi nel fiume che riempiono gli orci di acqua /le palme gli eucaliptus le canne da zucchero i campi coltivati le vele delle feluche.

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As far as the reader can tell, she does not photograph the temples and the tombs of the kings that the other passengers go ashore to see, instead concentrating on what interested Niccolai herself as a photographer: the backstage of life. '^^ The list of Itas photographs is followed shortly afterwards by a list of Arabic words she writes down in a notebook (13): Shadouf e sakyieh = tools for drawing water bret = cold hart = hot jowa - yes shnee shnee - slowly sura Mdnfadlack = photo please? henna = here stenna shnoja = wait a moment mofa = water nabit = wine esh = bread chattachera = thank you shnajs = good sharmut = son-of-a-bitch tesnachlj = may I ? inshy yella = go away saida = good day."^^ This kind of listing, with the apparently coincidental associations it produces, was to be an important element of Niccolais poetry, and it appears again regularly in the novel.'^^ But comparing the list of descriptions of photographs and the list of words, there is a strong contrast between the wealth of detail and narrative content the visual medium apparently provides and the relative parsimony of language. The lists of photographs give at least the illusion of access to a culture that is almost entirely unavailable on a purely linguistic level
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la retroscena della vita (Niccolai.).

Shadouf e sakyieh = strumenti per attingere acqua / bret = freddo / hart = caldo / jo w a = sf / shnee shnee = piano piano / sura Mdnfadlack = foto per favore? / henna - qui / stenna shnoja = aspetti un momento / mofa = acqua / nabit = vino / esb = pane / chattachera = grazie / shnajs = buono / sharmut = figlio di puttana / tesnachlj = permesso / inshy yella = va via / saida = buon giorno. For example, there is a description of how Nella vasta mattina di luce implacabile che ha Iodore del cammello vedono le vele colorate delle fuluche sul fiume, gli uomini che dondolano sulle groppe, le donne nere e velate che camminano a fronte china ma alzano un attimo gli occhi profondi e bistrati per guardarli (36-7). Later, a list o f photo shoots around New York creates similar seemingly random connections between disparate places, things and people (106-07).

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to the visitor who does not speak the language.'^'^ It is also interesting to note that one of the first things Ita learns is how to ask permission to take a photographa courtesy that is almost always ignored by other photographer protagonists. Bill Jay argues that twentiethcentury fictions that deal with photography almost always represent the photographer as someone who is willing to violate any and all social conventions of good behavior in order to take a picture.'^^ Niccolais photographer is therefore notable for her tact and for her ambiguous feelings about photographing other people.'*^ The sometimes-troubled interplay of language, culture, and vision is emphasized when Ita, Dominguez and a German chemist called Karlheinz decide to go to see and photograph the lands that will be submerged. On the second evening, the boat stops at a prison farm, guarded only by the desert and the river, so that the passengers from the thirdclass rafts can buy supplies for the rest of the journey. Once again, there is a strong contrast between the visual and verbal, as the three Westerners stare down at the exchanges taking place below them and from which they are cut off both physically and linguistically (2122 ): They look down from their high bridge at the faces the arms and the hands that are exchanging food and money. Sometimes they are livid in the green

Back in Italy, walking beside the river Po, there is a similar build-up of details, but without the listing of photographs. Instead, direct verbs o f seeing are used: fissare (62), guardare (6 1 ,6 2 ,6 3 ,6 4 ), vedere (6 0 ,6 1 , 63). Yet similarly precise verbal descriptions o f visual details of the landscape and o f people Ita encounters are given, such as the rough hands o f the security guard she encounters, cupped together to shelter the flame that lights his cigarette (64), the limpid flow o f the river (62), or Itas mud-caked shoes (63). Here, however, the words of the security guard are clearly understood, although their meaning is ominous. Asked about the dangers of the river, he tells Ita that in the water the white stones she sees on the riverbank volano come piumi and can kill anyone who falls in. Ita contrasts the quick death that these stones would offer her, requiring ne coraggio ne rabbia from her with the gruesome manner o f D om inguezs suicide. Bill Jay, 8. This ambiguousness is certainly closely related to many o f Niccolais experiences as a photographer. For example, she told me that when she was sent to do a celebratory photo-story on the young African American runner Wilma Rudolph, who had won five medals at the Olympics, Niccolai found herself feeling deeply ambivalent about what it meant to photograph her in that way. According to Niccolai: La Wihna Rudolph aveva 18 anni, aveva vinto le 5 medaglie a Roma e in nessun modo avrebbe potuto fare di piu nella sua vita. Lei veniva allenata da quando aveva 12 anni, non sapeva niente della vita, del mondo, perche aveva solo fatto per 6 anni questallenamento e basta. Avendo vinto quella roba 1 1 lei era una persona distrutta.. Niccolai.
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light of the petrol lamps that sway, sometimes they are in shadow and look fluid and lengthened. She tries to understand the words these men are saying to one another, trying to recognize a couple because Dominguez has taught her thirty or so. Then all of a sudden.. .she seems to hear her own name, something similar to Ita, and she asks Dominguez what it could mean in that language. He does not know. Then he hears it too: Ita Ita on the lips of one of another of a third of five of ten...^^ Later we read that Ita was deeply upset by this incomprehensible repetition of her name, and that Dominguez had to reassure her that the men on the dock must have heard him or Karlheinz calling out to her, and repeated it, calling out to her just for a joke (68). These

kinds of communicative breakdowns and varying degrees of incomprehensibility are the subject of much of the novel, and it is in this context that Niccolai addresses photographys usefulness or otherwise as an interpretative and epistemological tool. The journalists refrain from photographing the people traveling on rafts attached to the boat that carries them up the river, although Ita observes them closely. These peoples expressions do not change when the Westerners smile at them, and they seem to feel their gazes upon them. The photographers instead focus their telephoto lenses on the distant bank and the villages reflected in the water (20), as though embarrassed by the proximity of those near them and the return of their gaze. The use of telephoto lenses throughout the novel begs the question of the difficulty of bridging the distance between photographer and subjectthe object of his or her gazeand of the ethics of a gaze that spies on its object

Guardano dal loro ponte in alto le facce le braccia e le mani che si scambiano i cibi e le monete. A tratti sono livide nella luce verde delle lampade a petrolio che oscillano, a tratti sono in ombra e appaiono fluide e allungate. / Lei cerca di capire le parole che si dicono questi uomini, cerca di riconoscere un paio perche Domihguez gliene ha insegnate una trentina. Poi di co lp o ... le pare di sentire il suo nome, qualcosa di simile a Ita, e chiede a Dominguez cosa possa voler dire in quella lingua. Non sa. Poi lo sente anche lui: Ita Ita nella bocca di uno di un altro di un terzo di cinque di d ieci.. . The difficulties and miracles o f communication are another constant in Niccolais work, as her Frisbeespoems launched into the space where reader and text m eetdemonstrate. See Giulia Niccolai, Frisbees: poesie da lanciare (Udine: Campanotto, 1994).
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from afar, with the violence this implies."*^ A few years after Niccolais novel was published, Susan Sontags insistence on the aggressive and sexual nature of the act of photographs caused a great deal of defensiveness among photographers. Sontag argued in 1973 that photographers were often profoundly alienated from their subjects and that as a result they may feel compelled to put the camera between themselves and whatever is remarkable that they encounter. She also asserted that There is an aggression implicit in every use of a camera, that To photograph people is to violate them, and even that To photograph someone is a sublimated murder.^While Sontag has recently reevaluated her assertions about photography in the light of the apparently even more pernicious effects of other media such as television, the uncomfortable ethical issues she raised in On Photography resonate strongly in Niccolais novel, which repeatedly acknowledges photographys potential for violence and violation. For example, later in II grande angolo, on an assignment at the UN in New York, Ita gets her camera ready along with a group of other photographers: She brings her eye to the viewfinder, with her left hand tests the focus, with her right tightly on the grip of a lever she makes a turning movement up and down. ..(114).^^ Like snipers, the photographers take their positions in the darkened booths, from which emerge altri teleobbiettivi puntati (115). Once the meeting begins, Ita keeps her telephoto lens aimed at the hands of the

For a detailed analysis of the implications o f the variety o f gazes involved in the making o f Westerners photographs o f non-Westerners in exotic settings, see Catherine Lutz and Jane Collins, The Photograph as an Intersection o f Gazes: The Example o f National Geographic, in The Photography Reader, ed. Liz Wells (London and N ew York: Routledge, 1994), 354-74. Sontag, On Photography, 1 , 14-15. This is partly related to photographys potential to distance the viewer from those photographed by turning the latter into two-dimensional objects. See Christian Metz, From the Imaginary Signifier, in Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings, ed. Gerald Mast and Marshall Cohen (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985), 782-302. Avvicina Iocchio al mirino, con la sinistra prova la messa a fuoco, con la destra stretta suirimpugnatura di una leva imprime un movimento girevole verso Ialto e verso il b asso...
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president of one of the countries represented, who is said to have been tortured, looking in vain for traces of what he suffered (115-16): In the ground glass of the reflex his hands are white and well-groomed. Perhaps nails that have been ripped out grow back perfectly without leaving scars, the torture of matches, the bums at the extremity of each finger.. .If it is true, no signs of it remain, or at this distance the lens is not sufficient to .. While a photograph is always in some sense a trace of an event, and can function as a record of the pain of others, to use Sontags term, the point here is that some forms of suffering leave no visible trace.^'^ Others do, as is made clear immediately afterwards, when the scene jumps to down by the ocean, where Ita and Dominguez walk along the snowy beach, watching the gulls wheeling above them. They meet a man feeding the birds, who tells them that he was bom in the Balkans, and that there the water freezes solid in winter: sometimes so suddenly that the waves are held in relief with their crests, as if in a cast, as if in a grey photographic background where the seas movement has been fixed(l 17).^^ As he reaches out his arm to mime the shape of the waves, they see a number tattooed upon it. The connection is made between the pseudo-photographic fixing of the wave, as though time has been suspended, and the tattoo fixed upon the mans arm in movement, a preserved but living trace of prior suffering. These associations between photography and the threat or memory of suffering hint at one of the sinister aspects of photography: its potential for voyeurism and violence. When Ita has her photographic equipment searched by the police officers at the UN, the sight of her 70 cm telephoto lens in their hands makes her think of the nose-cone of a missile. Later there is a long description of Itas visit to a facility near the Blue Ridge Mountains where missiles and spacecraft are tested. The spacecraft testing center represents
Nel vetro smerigliato del reflex le mani sono blanche e ben curate. Le unghie strappate forse rlcrescono perfettamente senza lasciare cicatrici, la tortura dei fiammiferi, le bruciature allestremita di ogni dito.. .Se e vero non sono rimasti segni, o a questa distanza la lente non e sufficiente per.. .
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Sontag, Regarding the Pain o f Others.

a volte COS! subitancamcnte che Ic onde sono bloccate in rilievo con l e creste come in un calco, come in un grigio fondale fotografico dove i l mare sia stato fissato nel suo movimento.

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the latest technology: memories accessible at high speed and of great capacity, the best devices for processing at a distance, capacities for processing scientific information contained in both fixed and variable depths of field(121).^^ When the program is intermpted for any reason, the alarm signal is a recording of a newborns cry. As with the descriptions of the places and people who would be affected by the construction of the Aswan Dam, here there is a tension between the desire for technologieslike photography itselfthat may offer opportunities to improve life and the knowledge of it and doubts about what is lost or obscured as a result of such technologies, something that is expressed in the choice of a crying baby as the alarm signal. At the same time, according to Niccolai, with the long chapter where we construct the telephoto lens it is clear that there is a return to the fact that we have to deal with technology, r e g a r d l e s s . Y e t doubts remain about what this technology in fact enables Ita and Dominguez to see, and particularly about the extent to which it can help them understand anything. The description of the spacecraft testing station is interspersed with Dominguezs description of the womens prison opposite his and Itas apartment. The women in the prison cannot be seen from the street, and outside their barred windows there are wooden screens that prevent them from looking down. In this respect, the prison resembles the hotel room where Ita and Dominguez first stayed in New York. As Ita looks out from the window of their apartment (126): Down below she sees the one way six-lane avenue, the yellow taxis the cars on the dark, almost black asphalt, the pedestrians on the sidewalks, the windows of the stores under the colored strips of signs that hide the first floors of the houses, the network of fire escape stairs, the red brick walls, the water tanks on the roofs, at the end the minaret of the courthouse and the heavy structure of the prison. She gets the telescope.. .the black, curly heads of two

memorie accessibili ad alta velocia e di grande capacita, i migliori dispositivi per Ielaborazione a distanza, capacita di elaborare informazioni di tipo scientifico contenute in campi di lunghezza sia fissa che variabile. con il lungo capitolo dove costruiamo il teleobbiettivo e chiaro che 1 1 si ritorna al fatto che comunque la tecnologia tu la devi fare (Niccolai.").
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of the prisoners, a sunset with palms and the sea in a color photograph attached to the wall of a cell.^^ Dominguez tells her that he has figured out a way for them to make photographs of the prisoners, using a very strong telephoto lens that they can construct themselves.^ Ita is enthusiastic about the project, and continues to stare through the telescope. She focuses on a woman using a compact mirror to apply lipstick by the light that enters from her window, her lips and hands framed in one of the squares of its bars. The womans incongruous self reflection recalls Itas application of makeup in the similarly confined environment of the mental hospital. Both episodes reveal both the force and the weakness of the fashion photographers cosmetic lie that masks the intractable inequalities of birth and class and physical appearance. Ita is fascinated by her glimpse into the prisoners world, and thus begins a lengthy scouring of second-hand photography equipment stores, photography fairs, and mail-order catalogues in search of a device that will double the power of photographers telephoto lenses. Having finally found what they need, Ita and Dominguez set up a camera in their apartment and take a series of test photographs. These reveal perspectival distortions and give them information about the relationship between aperture and focal length. They next try taking pictures of the prison, raising the window just a little and keeping the blinds down to not be seen by the prisoners, but realize that at those
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Vede in basso Iavenue larga a sei corsie e a sense unico, i taxi gialli le automobile sullasfalto scuro quasi nero, i pedoni sui marciapiedi, le vetrine di negozi sotto le strisce colorate di insegne che nascondono i prima piani delle case, i reticolati delle scale antincendio, i muri di mattoni rossi, sui tetti i serbatoi dellacqua, in fondo il minareto del palazzo di giustizia e la grossa costruzione del carcere. Prende il canocchiale... le teste nere e rice di due detenute, un tramonto con le pakne e il mare su una foto a colori attaccata al muro di una cella. This fascination with the prisoners recalls Michel Foucaults claim that photography promotes the normalizing gaze, a surveillance that makes it possible to qualify, to classify and to punish. It establishes over individuals a visibility through which one differentiates and judges them. Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth o f the Prison (New York: Pantheon, 1977). For more on photography and its connections to incrimination and identification, see Chapter Five. See also Tagg, Burden, and Ando Gilardi, Wanted! Storia, tecnica ed estetica della fotografia criminale, segnaletica e giudiziaria (Milan: Mondadori, 2003). And, for the argument that looking should not necessarily be equated with controlling, see Catherine Lutz and Jane Collins, The Photograph as an Intersection of Gazes: The Example o f National Geographic, in Visualizing Theory, ed. Lucien Taylor (New York: Routledge, 1994). Sontag, On Photography, 44.
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distances the air has a poor quality of resolution. ' This means that the thickness of the air between camera and subject has a negative effect on the clarity of the image, which gets worse as the distance between the two increases (135-36). Not even filters can perforate the dust and smoke. It is almost impossible to find a way to stop the snakings of the poles and the waves of the horizontals over great distances. A veil of heat a gelatinous quivering rises from the prison when the sun beats down on it. It is invisible to the naked eye, but the 3000 catches it. The bricks of the faeade and the bars over the windows get deformed and look as though they have melted in the cloudy printed image. ^ They imagine taking photographs with the lens high up in the mountains, but there too it seems likely that the same phenomenon would occur. The ideal solution would be to photograph a world all at the same temperature, or, in the absence of that, to stay far back in the shade so that the quiverings of the air would be present only in the distance (136). The two make other tests outside the apartment, and using color film, but nothing works. Finally, they go down to the Battery, where the waters of the Hudson River encounter those of the East River out in the Atlantic, "' and again there is a list of photographic sights (136): They intercept a merchant ship in the ocean. The masts the cranes and the hull are painted in miniature.
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' alzando appena il vetro della finestra e tenendo le veneziane abbassate per non essere visti dalle detenute, Iaria ha uno scarso potere risolutivo. La polvere e 1 1 fumo non si possono perforare nemmeno con i filtri. E quasi impossibile trovare il modo di fermare i serpeggiamenti dei pali e le onde delle orizzontali nelle ^randi distanze. / Dalla prigione si alza un velo di calore un tremolio gelatinoso quando il sole vi batte sopra. / E invisibile a occhio nudo ma il tremila lo coglie. / 1 mattoni della facciata e le sbarre alle finestre si deformano e appaiono come sciolti nellimmagine stampata e torbida. fotografare un mondo tutto alia stessa temperature o, in mancanza di questo, starsene bene addentro neir ombra di modo che i tremolii dellaria siano presenti solo in lontananza. " ' le acque del flume Hudson si incontrano con quelle dellEast River al largo nellAtlantico.
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They see her compressed in the ground glass squared and distorted as though in a childs drawing. The sea she furrows is dark green and looks as dense as melted metal. The prow splashes up sparks of white froth as it cuts into that crucible.^^ These images seen through the telephoto lens recall those seen similarly along the banks of the Nile, accompanied by lists of words and their translations. Like them, they reflect the valorization of the quotidian that numerous authors have seen as fundamental to photography.^^ At the same time, the difficulties the two photographers encounter throw light on the epistemological limits of photography and the shortcomings of photographic ways of seeing. It is also important to note that while Ita and Dominguez engage in the apparently voyeuristic practice of photographing the women prisoners (captive subjects who are divided from them by physical, racial, and class barriers), and find themselves in the potentially exploitative role of Western photographers of non-Western subjects, the photographs they take are never described. Instead, Niccolai provides lists of the objects, people and moments photographed. This interrupts Barthess triangle of photographer, photographic subject and viewer, leaving the viewer to imagine these purely fictive images from the clues offered by descriptions of moments of time that may or may not also have been photographs. This reverses the normal relation to photographs by which the photograph serves as a means of imaginatively reconstructing a moment of past time and focuses the attention on the process of photography rather than its end product. This is made clear most of all by the fact that although the reader is presented with multiple lists of photographs and descriptions of technical processes of vision and

Intercettano una nave mercantile nelloceano. / Gli alberi le gru e lo scafo sono dipinti in minio. / La vedono compressa nel vetro smerigliato quadrata e distorta come nel disegno di un bambino. / II mare che solca e verde scuro e appare denso come metallo fuso. La prua incidendo quel crogiolo sprizza scintille di schiuma bianca. valorizzazionc del quotidiano (Guido Piovene, II valore deHattimo, in Gli scrittori e la fotografia, ed. D iego Mormorio (Rome: Riuniti, 1988).

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photography, there are no ekphrastic descriptions of Itas photographs. Niccolai never presents Ita and Dominguez as contemplating their photographs, but repeatedly describes the processes by and contexts in which they make them. This attention to the process of photographing rather than to its final result means that Ita and Dominguezs photography can perhaps best be interpreted not as an attempt to exploit its subjects, but rather as an effort to understand fundamental questions concerning how people see themselves and the world in which they live, and what separates or unites them. The fact that these are ultimately unanswerable questions is emphasized by the absence of photographs (and photographic p ro o f), while the emphasis on the process of photographing seems to imply that there is still a value in asking them. The lists of words and photographic moments throughout the novel are also echoed by a list of images on the wall of one of the temples that stands in the area to be submerged that Ita, Karlheinz and Dominguez visit. There the three observe a king on his throne

surrounded by his officials, his carriage and bodyguard in armor, battlefields, wild horses and soldiers busying themselves to set up camp, the troops departing, the cavalry in action and many other scenes. This time, the visual images are accompanied by the voice of one of the group, who reads aloud from a guidebook, but while Niccolai lists the images, she does not quote the words of the guide. Instead, the words become sounds, as the walls of the temple send back multiple echoes of his words in French. As they look at the

figures, Ita slowly traces their outlines with the beam of her flashlight: In her hands the flashlight becomes a chisel, which allows Ita to carry out a metaphorical photo-graphya scratching or chiseling with lightof the ancient images that she and her colleagues have

Later still, a list o f images and pictograms from the tomb o f Ti that Ita and Dominguez visit at Sakkara merges into another list o f im agesperhaps photographed, perhaps rememberedo f their time in Egypt, and in particular o f moments marked by effects o f light (46): II sole del pomeriggio passa tra le stecche della saracinesca abbassata. / 1 corpi sui letto sono attraversati da strisce di luce e di ombra. / La grande luce effusa del tramonto.. ( 4 6 ) .
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rimandano molteplici echi delle sue parole francesi.

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come to register more enduringly on film (23).^ According to the film theorist Andre Bazin, an urge to counter times erosive effects lies behind every human act of image production: a mummy complex is at the origin of all the plastic arts7 In Bazins terms, there is an implicit parallel between the ancient stone carvers work, Itas gesture of tracing it with the flashlight, and the photographs she and Dominguez will take as records of places that are soon to vanish underwater. In the latter two cases, however, it is light that functions as a tool, a means of drawing out an already-present form from matter that recalls the work of the sculptors Ita will later encounter in Massa Carrara, and their most famous predecessor, Michelangelo.^^ The fragmentary vision of the sculptural reliefs on the temple is echoed in the description of the sculptural fragments at the workshop in Massa Carrara (84): Above those men at work stood white popes and princes, three meters tall, copies of sculptures destoyed by the war and recomissioned by the Monastery. On the work benches lay angels thighs, noble hands in blessing, heads crowned with laurel, which the stone-cutters were reproducing in statuary marble from plaster models.^^

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Nel polso la pila le diventa uno scalpello. Bazin, Ontology, 237. See also my discussion o f this in Chapter Five.
. .

Non ha Iottimo artista alcun concetto / c un marmo solo in se non circonscriva / col suo superchio, e solo a quello arriva / la man che ubbidisce allintelletto (Michelangelo Buonarroti, Rime 151). In a novel structured around an unexplained suicide the connection to Michelangelo implied by the references to Cararra is especially interesting in relation to the conception o f death as a medium o f self-recognition expressed in the same sonnet. See Laura Camille Agoston, Sonnet, Sculpture, Death: the Mediums o f Michaelangelos SelfImaging, Art History 20, no. 4 (1997). Niccolai has always been very interested in the visual arts generally, and the various parts o f her Spazio/tempooriente/occidente (published in various editions o f II Verri since 2000) are a tribute to many o f the artists who have been important to her, including Hockney, Duchamp, Hopper, De Chirico and Piero della Francesca. II grande angolo also contains numerous references to such artists and their works, for example the ancient temple and tomb images (1 3 ,4 6 ), Meret Oppenheims furcovered cup and saucer at MOMA (57), a painting by Salvador Dali (68-69), the picture by Palma il Vecchio in Karlheinzs room (69), the stone-cutters work (84-88), Giorgio Morandi (95), and the American painters Ita photographs in N ew York (132). Sovrastavano quegli uomini al lavoro papi e principi bianchi, alti tre metri, copie di sculture distrutte dalla Guerra e ricommesse dal Monastero. / Sui banchi di lavoro c erano cosce di angeli, mani nobili benedicenti, teste incoronate di alloro che gli scalpellini riproducevano in marmo statuario dai modelli di gesso.
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The connection between these sculptors and the ancient Egyptian sculptors whose work Ita traced with her flashlight is made explicit when Ita walks among the blocks of marble still to be worked. She tells Rocco, the sculptor whose work she has come to photograph, that she feels as though she is walking among the ruins of a temple.^^ Together they run their hands over the stone, following the vein, the direction of the cut, and pointing out to one another the minute forms of lichens and impressed fossils ( 8 8 ).^'^ This attention to the traces that allow one to reconstruct the past is emphasized again later in the same section when Ita and Rocco go up to the quarry: In the soil they saw the deep and broken lines that the tires had left. Following the traces they could reconstruct the path the trucks
nc

had taken to come up, load, turn, and go back down (91).

In a novel so concerned with

the question of photographys relation to reality and the question of the kind of knowledge it can provide, these indexical marks bear a special weight. As we saw in the Introduction, numerous important critics have addressed the question of whether or not the relation between light and photosensitive material can be characterized as indexical. The debate over the extent to which photography can be

thought of as a trace of reality and a tool for establishing at least the former existence of its object provides an important context for Niccolais novel, with its careful attention to traces of all kinds, and to the limitations of our ability to read and interpret them. Niccolais novel implies concurrence with writers like Sontag, who have argued that the specificity of the

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tra le rovine di un tempio. seguendone la vena, la direzione del taglio, le forme minute dei licheni e dei fossili impressi.

In terra vedevano i solchi profondi e tratteggiati che avevano lasciato i copertoni, seguendo le tracce potevano ricostruire il percorso che avevano fatto i camion per salire, caricare, girare e ridiscendere. See Goodman, Languages o f Art, Krauss, The Originality o f the Avant-Garde an d Other Modernist Myths, especially Notes on the Index: Part 2, 210-219; Tagg, Burden, 3; and Eco, Critique o f the Image.
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photographic trace lies not so much in the question of its resemblance to its object but in the way it can be considered as a literal translation of an event.
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This notion becomes crucially important in the long account of the evening that Ita discovered Dominguezs body. Niccolai says that although much of the novel is autobiographical, Itas relationship to Dominguez is not based in anything that actually happened to her. However, there was a Dominguez, a Surrealist painter whom she never met, but whose suicide was recounted to her by a friend. The story had a profound effect upon her: when my friend described the real Dominguezs suicide to me, an indeterminable but very powerful sense of recognition and compleness was released in me, as if I had finally been able to place the missing piece in a puzzle. I immediately said to myself that I had to tell that story. According to Niccolai, for her the story of Dominguezs death represented the metaphor of the egos awareness of a new level of fear and horror of death, inevitable for all of us. In the sense that when youre thirty you understand death differently from when you are ten, and at fifty in another way again... This connects Donunguezs death to the description of her mothers wounding by machine-gunfire on Lake Como during the war, and to the obsession with time that that event provoked in her. 80 Niceolais fascination with
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photography is an important aspect of her response to the fear of death and the obsession with time.^

See Marra, Le idee della fotografia. La rifiessione teorica dagli anni sessanta a oggi, 278 and Sontag, On Photography. quando Iamico mi descrisse il suicidio del vero Dominquez, dentro di me scatto un imprecisabile ma fortissimo senso di riconoscimento e di compiutezza, come se finalmente avessi potuto inserire in un puzzle Iultimo pezzo mancante. Dissi subito a me stessa che dovevo raccontare quella storia (Giulia Niccolai, email message to the author, April 14,2004). la metafora della consapevolezza egoica di un nuovo livello di paura e orrore della morte, inevitabile per no! tutti. Nel senso che a 30 anni la morte la si capisce in modo diverso che a 10, e a 50 in un altro modo ancora...
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ossessione del tempo (Ibid.)

Niccolais shift into writing poetry, and her subsequent commitment to Buddhism represent a continuing evolution of her response to the questions o f death and time, and her attempts to come to terms with

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In the extremely detailed description of Itas discovery of Dominguezs body, her photographers eye focuses on the details that enable her to reconstruct all of his actions with great precision (6 6 ): I went into the bedroom. I saw the bed immediately. The sheets. On the turn up of the sheet on the side where he slept there were two identical, red, almost brown, symmetrical designs. With his opened wrists he must have made larger and larger circular movements and drawn two big spirals like two big snail shells. After he did them he must have stretched out, then he must have got onto his knees and beaten his wrists against the headboard, then, standing up, against another wall of the room. When the blood was no longer spurting but only dropping, he must have gone back to the bed, because there were two parallel lines of red marks on the side where I slept. There was another design like two lines of ants that widened at the end and formed two other spirals, but these ones starting from the widest circle and then getting smaller. He was on the floor between the bed and the wall on my side. His face was gray. I saw the wounds on his wrists. Their edges were white and a couple of millimeters high (it was the fat and the skin), they opened in the shape of an almond, and inside they were brown. There is a striking contrast between the almost forensic noting of details and reconstruction of events, and the implicit emotion of what could only be a profoundly traumatic discovery. This disjuneture between the apparently objective description of appearances that has typically been ascribed as one of the key characteristics of photography and the pain and violence represented is also touched upon by many writers on photography, for whom one

Iinevitabile scorrere del tempo and the mutamenti interiori che questo comporta (Ibid.). In these terms, she says, lo scrivere poesia e stato un passo in avanti riguardo la paura e rorrore della morte. A vevo comunque capito che dovevo lavorare dentro di me e non fuori (Giulia Niccolai, e-mail message to the author, April 17,2004). Sono entrata in camera. Ho visto subito il letto. Le lenzuola. Sul risvolto delle lenzuola dalla parte dove dormiva lui c erano due disegni identici rossi, quasi marrone simmetrici. Con i polsi aperti deve essersi messo a fare dei movimenti circolari sempre piii larghi e ha disegnato due grosse spirali com e due grossi gusci di lumaca. Deve essere stato sdraiato quando li ha fatti, poi si deve essere messo in ginocchio e ha sbattuto i polsi dietro la testata del letto, poi in piedi su un altro muro della stanza. / Quando il sangue non zampillava piu ma uscivano solo gocce deve essere tomato al letto perche sui cuscino e sui lenzuolo dalla parte dove dormivo io c erano due righe parallele di tratti rossi, di gocce rosse, un altro disegno come due file di formiche che alia fine si allargavano e formavano due altre spirali ma cominciate queste dal cerchio piii largo per poi diventare piu piccole. Lui era in terra tra il letto e il muro dalla mia parte. In faccia era grigio. Ho visto le ferite ai polsi. Avevano i bordi bianchi e alti un paio di millimetri (era il grasso e la pelle), si aprivano a forma di mandorla, dentro erano marrone.
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of the potential problems with the medium consists of its indiscriminate representation of horrors and holidays, advertising images and scenes of misery. This is one of the aspects of photography that Calvino touches on in both La follia del mirino and Avventura di un fotografo, as we have seen.
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There, the issue is also

caught up with the question of posing or otherwise in photography. This becomes important in II grande angolo in the episodes that take place in the institution where Ita goes to recover from her breakdown. There it becomes increasingly clear that the obsessive concentration on surface is both her key coping mechanism and a symptom of her breakdown. In one of the very few recent critical pieces to consider II grande angolo. Franco Tagliafierro argues that both Dominguezs suicide and Itas breakdown are the result of their confrontation with an inauthentic and consequently inhuman reality. 85 Photography, so often regarded as having a privileged relation to reality, also represents a potential means of escaping reality, as Francesca Alinovi has argued persuasively. Alinovi points out that the posed visiting cards that were such a phenomenon of the late nineteenth century represented an opportunity for their subjects to assume another identity, rather than their own, posing with objects and costumes that reflected above all how they wanted to be seen, rather than what they necessarily were: Photography, born as an ideal tool for the verification of identity, at once becomes a chance to escape not only from ones own identity but from reality itself. As we saw in

Chapter Two with regards to family photography, even without particular props, the
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See, for example, Sontag, Regarding the Pain o f Others. This work also retracts or modifies many o f the opinions she voiced in On Photography.
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See Chapter One.

una realta inautentica e di conseguenza antiumana (Franco Tagliafierro, D a unavventura allaltra dello stile, in Giulia Niccolai, La misura del respiro: Poesie scelte [Verona: Anterem, 2002], 62). La fotografia, nata come strumento ideale per Taccertamento dellidentita, diventa subito occasione di fuga non solo dalla propria identita ma dalla stessa realta (Francesca Alinovi, La fotografia: Tillusione della realta, in Le idee della fotografia. La rifiessione teorica dagli anni sessanta a oggi, ed. Claudio Marra [Milan: Mondadori, 2001], 324).
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conventions of photographic representation mean that we almost inevitably assume particular attitudes when we are knowingly photographed, attempting to present a particular version of ourselves (and this is the case even if we seek deliberately to resist photographic conventions) in a process that makes photographer and photographed object collaborators in the construction of an image. Marshall McLuhan, whose extraordinarily influential work on media began to be published during the period in which Niccolai worked as a photographer and in the years leading up to the publication of II grande angolo, argued in 1964 that photography had influenced not only our external behaviors and attitudes, but had also had important effects on our psyche, arguing that the development of psychoanalysis and that of photography were c o n n ec te d .T h e se arguments are particularly relevant to the ways in which Niccolai characterizes photography and its effects on her protagonist in her novel. The sensorial and psychological transformation that McLuhan describes corresponds perfectly to Itas way of seeing, both in terms of how she views the world, and in terms of how she views herself, both literally and metaphorically. As Roland Barthes puts it in his Roland Barthes: You are the only one who can never see yourself except as an image; you never see your eyes unless they are dulled by the gaze they rest upon the mirror or the lens... even and especially for your own body, you are condemned to the repertoire of its images.
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This

repertoire of images also allows for the possibility of meconnaissances with other images, something in which photography is deeply implicated, in Barthess view.
89

Seeing herself reflected in the glass of her hospital room window, Ita reacts as though the glass surface were that of a camera lens and poses like a model from a magazine
87 88

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding M edia: The Extensions o f Man (New York; McGraw Hill, 1964).

Roland Barthes, Roland Barthes, trans. Richard Howard, 1st American ed. (New York: Hill and Wang, 1977), 31. On the question o f the image repertoire, see the 1975 interview Twenty Key Words for Roland Barthes, in Roland Barthes, The Grain o f the Voice: Interviews 1962-1980, trans. Linda Coverdale (Berkeley: University o f California Press, 1991), 209.
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advertisement for beauty products. In so doing, she becomes simultaneously photographer, photographic subject, and spectator. Trying to get the appearance exactly right, she then undresses and looks at herself in the wardrobe mirror, wearing only a belt with an ivory letter-opener thrust into it, then wets her hair. The description of Ita looking at herself in the bathroom mirror recalls the moments when Ita watched Donunguezs reflection as he shaved earlier in the novel (45).^^ When she flicks her wet hair back, splashing the mirror and the black-tiled wall with water while the drops fall onto her shoulders and down her spine, the reader is uncomfortably reminded of Donunguezs blood splashing onto the bedroom walls and the drops of blood that marked the sheets. Still looking at herself in the mirror, Ita makes up her eyes. Going back to the window, she again sees herself reflected there (74-75): She appears in profile in the glass, she sees her thigh and her bent knee. She rests her cheek on her knee and imitates the expression of a model with wet hair in the advertising photograph of a beauty product company. Looking at herself she says : Donunguez, I dont remember your face...
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Ita poses and makes herself up to look like the model as though trying on a new identity like the nineteenth-century posers Alinovi discusses. At the same time, in staring at her own changed face in the glass, she also and above all confronts the loss represented by her inability to remember the face of Dominguez. There is a complex operation that takes

place here in terms of the interplay of real and metaphorical gazes. Itas makeup and pose

Mirrors are strongly associated with Dommguez and his death. In the shaving scene, the movements of his razor and the symmetrical patterns they form are described in great detail, one o f the many premonitions of the manner o f his death that occur in the first half o f the novel.
91 92

90

le gocce le cadono sulle spalle e giii per la schiena.

Appare di profile nel vetro, vede la coscia e 1 1 ginocchio piegato. Appoggia la guancia al ginocchio e imita Iespressione di una modella con i capelli bagnati nella fotografia pubblicitaria di una casa di prodotti di bellezza. / Guardandosi dice : Dommguez, non ricordo la tua faccia... She imagines herself telling the doctor o f her inability to remember her lovers face; Potrei dirgli che non ricordo piu la sua faccia. Che la sua faccia mi appare di colpo solo se penso ad altro ma che se cerco di ricostruirla, di vederla... Potrei dirgli che la sua morte mi e rimasta attaccata, che non sono rimorsi, non e paura, non e Iavere acquisito la dimensione della mia morte, ma mi e rimasta attaccata. Capisce? (75).
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recall a model who represents what Laura Mulvey famously characterized in the eontext of cinema as a partieular kind of fetishized objeet whose meaning lies in her "to-belooked-at-ness.''^^ Ita is the object of her own gaze, not of anyone elses, but she is within the confines of the hospital, with its systems of examination and inspection. Lutz and Collins write that both mirror and camera are tools of self-reflection and surveillance. Each creates a double of the self, a seeond figure who can be examined more closely than the originala double that can also be alienated from the self, taken away, as a photograph can be, to another place.^^ Itas reflection in the glass funetions in these terms as an alienated version of herself, a character she assumes. The photographic allusions evoked by her reflection recall Barthess description of photography as a kind of primitive theater, a kind of Tableau Vivant, a figuration of the motionless and made-up face beneath whieh we see the dead.^^ Ultimately, Itas reflected image in the mirror-like surface of the window represents a substitute object for what her gaze really and vainly desires: the image and hence the p ro o f of the former existence (the 9 a ete) of Dommguez. Yet it also reflects her inability to know herself and the world around her. According to Tagliafierro, the novel turns on Itas search for her identity, and for a way to find meaning in life. However, sinee the present seems deliberately designed to depress vitality, and the past is never reassuring for anyone, her efforts are doomed to failure.
no

Q7

As such, she, rather than Dommguez, is

the books true tragic character. Itas faking the appearanee of the model is linked not only to the woman applying makeup in the womens prison described elsewhere, but also to the aceount a little later of a
Laura Mulvey, Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, in Feminist Film Theory, ed. Sue Thomham (New York: N ew York University Press, 1999), 418. Lutz and Collins, Gazes, 365.
96 97 94

Barthes, Camera Lucida, 32.

1 1 presente sembra fatto apposta per deprimere la vitalita, e il passato non e mai rassicurante per nessuno.

98

il vero personaggio tragico del libro (Tagliafierro, Avventura, 62).

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news story about the demand for art directors in Hollywood. They are apparently employed not to work in the movie industry, but to make hotels and bars look just like the famous hotels and bars shown on TV and in the movies, posing as the virtual, idealized versions of themselves (77). The realization of a fake reality recalls Claudio Marras characterization of photography as a form of proto-virtual reality. He argues that the invention of new forms of virtual reality has enabled us to see that relating to a fake reality as though it were real (for example by kissing the photograph of a loved one, or tearing up the photograph of someone despised) is not an absurd act of ingenuousness, but rather an aesthetic act that reflects the deliberate and weighty stimulation of the senses. This kind of stimulation takes place repeatedly in II grande angolo, and as an aesthetic act, it challenges Barthess notion that From a phenomenological viewpoint, in the Photograph, the power of authentication exceeds the power of representation. Niccolais novel continually undermines the idea that photography necessarily possesses an evidential force. The focus on deceptive appearances and the interplay of reflective surfaces and the tricks and deceptions of memory continue as Ita imagines herself describing to her doctor a series of incidents from her childhood in which the threat or reality of violence is present, interspersed with the description of what tums out to be her unfounded fear of sexual violence in an incident in Egypt (81-2). This unfulfilled threat of sexual violence is connected to an episode in which, as a child, she and two friends took a pair of scissors and a little box lined with pink cotton and took a little boy they knew off by himself. They try to persuade him that he needs to urinate, pushing and tugging at him until he panics and runs away, at which point they panic too, throwing the box and scissors into the bushes (82). Finally, she recounts that during the war her mother was wounded in an air attack, and
la stimolazione, consapevole e pregnante, della sensorialita (Marra, Le idee della fotografia. La rifiessione teorica dagli anni sessanta a oggi, 271. See also pp. 326-38. Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida (New York: Hill and Wang, 1981), 89.
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that when Ita went to find her in the former restaurant of a hotel that had been eonverted into a temporary hospital, she saw a series of grisly sights; they were amputating one mans leg with a knife.. .the floor was full of sheets stained with blood.. .one woman was holding her jaw in her hand.. .it was attached to her face only on one side, with a piece of the skin of her cheek (83).^' The description of the threatened castration and the grisly image of the amputated leg and severed jaw bone that follow immediately on Itas staging of the advertising photograph link the latter to the theme of loss and to Dominguezs grisly suicide. The fragments of marble heads and limbs laid out on the stone-cutters work benches at Massa Carrara also echo the images of dismemberment, although without the same horrifying effect. Such images recall Christian M etzs analysis of the photograph as fetish. He argued that what was cut off by the photographic frame became the absent object that created a compensatory fetish: The off-frame effect in photography results from a singular and definitive cutting off which figures castration and is figured by the click of the shutter. It marks a place of irreversible absence, a place from whieh the look has been averted forever.
1(Yy

This notion of a literal and figurative cutting o ff is figured in the novel

through Itas gaze, which continually frames its objects as though for a photograph, and which cannot overcome the irreversible absence brought about by Dominguezs death. After Itas gruesome description of childhood and wartime horrors, she immediately recants the whole thing: Doctor, I never watched an amputation in the Snia Viscosa printers office. I m unreliable. Let me sleep and stop interrogating me like in a

a uno stavano amputando una gamba con un coltello... per terra era pieno di fogli machiati di sangue... una si teneva la mascella nella m ano... era attaccato alia faccia solo da una parte, con un pezzo di pelle della guancia. Christian Metz, Photography and Fetish, in The Photography Reader, ed. Liz Wells (London and New York: Routledge, 2003), 143. The article was originally published in October, 34 (Fall 1985).
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spy film (83). The role of the camera as objective eyewitness is belied by this account of the photographer as unreliable narrator, just as the absence of ekphrastic or other descriptions of the photographs she supposedly takes undermines their status as documents of proof within the narrative economy of the novel. This throws the emphasis on both photography and narrative as processes rather than products. Niccolais unreliable narrator is a close relative of other unreliable narrators of twentieth-century Italian literature, like Italo Svevos Zeno in La coscienza di Zeno (Confessions o f Zeno) and the narrator of Luigi Malerbas II serpente (The Serpent), but, unlike them, her job as a photographer makes the disjuneture between the evidence of the eyes, the camera, and memory all the more powerful. The fact that this episode comes immediately after the description of her posing in the window of her room and its reference to the fictions and fetishizing of advertising photography confirms its questioning of notions of objectivity, photographic or otherwise and its connection to the psychological issues of mourning and melancholy discussed in Chapter One. Similar descriptions of moments from Itas childhood during the war appear later on, this time in quotation marks, perhaps as an indication that these are memories she is recounting to Dommguez, and perhaps also as an indication that they belong to the same category of unreliable memoirs. She describes the villa that was used as a hospital for German soldiers, the lake where she and her friends played, and the amulets or talismans they took turns looking after; a very white, oval stone and a hard, green, stone scarab, a paperweight (56).^'^ We learn later that Ita eventually lost the scarab after having had it for all her childhood, through until the end of the war and that she and her friends also kept

Dottore, non ho mai assistito a unamputazione neUuffido grafico della Snia Viscosa, sono inattendibile, mi lasci dormire e la smetta di interrogarmi come in un film di spie. un sasso ovale e bianchissimo, uno scarabeo di pietra dura verde, un fermacarte.

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a collection of little ivory animals on their nightstands (79).'*^^ These talismans clearly had an important symbolic value, which is something Ita misses in the world of superficiality and surface that she inhabits as an adult. The images from Itas childhood are again interwoven with images of surfaces and reflections in a long series of descriptions of the sounds and sights of the Italian airport where Ita waits for Dommguez, and a technical description of the processes by which sound waves reach our ears, and by which loudspeakers function. The space in which Ita waits is glossy and artificial, a space of tall glass windows, black granite floors, and reproduced sound. Both outside and inside the airport all is reflection and surface (48-51): From the airport carpark she sees the low gray clouds of the storm that is moving away reflected in the glass fa 9 ade, the porters in their uniforms under the awning, the movement of the people, the broad space with cars lined u p ... The wet asphalt reflects the silhouettes of the aeroplanes and of the little trucks that move around the runway, the yellow marks of the tank trucks with the fuel, of the mechanics wearing stiff, yellowish-orange waxed raincoats. Inside, banks of little reflectors encased in soundproof panels illuminate large rubber plants placed among the tables. The many series of details rendered with great precision recall the ways in which effects made possible by photography have changed ways of seeing and relating to the world, particularly in terms of the fixing of gesture and movement that provides the opportunity to study attentively details that would otherwise likely pass unnoticed.
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As such, a

These kinds o f amulets are another recurrent motif in II grande angolo. Marble, ivory, and stone are substances that are mentioned repeatedly. Here the mention o f talismanic ivory animals recalls Montales Dora Markus, a poem written in honor o f a woman known only from a photograph o f her beautiful legs sent him by Roberto Bazlen (see my account o f this in Chapter Five); forse / ti salva un amuleto che tu tieni / vicino alia matita delle labbra, / al piumino, alia lima: un topo bianco, / d avorio; e cosi esisti! For more than a century, photographs have often played this role, functioning as talismans that give p ro o f of existenceBarthess 9 a ete (see my discussion o f the latter in Chapter Two). Dal parcheggio dellaeroporto vede le nuvole basse e grigie del temporale che si allontanano riflesse nella facciata di vetro, i facchini in tuta sotto le pensiline, il movimento della gente, il largo spiazzo con le automobili allineate... . / L asfalto bagnato riflette le sagome degli aeree e dei furgoncini che si spostano sui campo, le macchie gialle delle autocisterne con il combustibile, dei meccanici che indossano impermeabili rigidi e incerati giallo-arancione. / Dentro, fasci di piccoli riflettori incassati in pannelli antiacustici illuminano grosse piante di ficus poste tra i tavoli.
107

Cf. Benjamins notion o f the optical unconscious, op. cit.

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photograph can be said to function not as an expression of a particular photographer and his or her point of view, but, in the words of another important Italian poet and writer associated with the Gruppo 63, Edoardo Sanguineti, as a second object, which is important for what it says about itself, with its own object language, beyond the interpretative solicitations of the executor. As such, the central characteristic of the

photograph, according to Sanguineti, would be the non-anthropomorphic nature of the image, the path that opens up, for everyone, towards a non-anthropomorphic vision, towards an optical system not based on the eye. The notion of a specifically artificial form of vision is also evident in II grande angolo in descriptions of the natural and human environment. For example, there is a photographic degree of detail to the description of the plants in the garden of the Honda (the mayor or leader that Ita, Dommguez and Karlheinz are taken to see near the site of the Aswan Dam), on page 30: They pass beside the sheathed stems of the bananas, under the broad leaves, a eouple of meters long with deep veinings. The central incision of the leaf is hollow and grooved. In the older leaves higher up, the veins correspond to so many cuts that reach beyond half way along the blade and are as clean as tears in silk cloth.' This level of detailed description continues for several more paragraphs: a series of botanical specimens that recall early photogenic drawings like those of William Fox Talbot, or the botanical images of photographers like Imogen C unningham ."' Repeated

un oggetto secondo, che importaper quello che dice per se, con il proprio linguaggio oggettuale, al di fuori delle sollecitazioni interpretative dellesecutore. il carattere non antropomorfico deHimmagme, la via che si spalanca, per tutti, verso una visione non antropomorfica, verso unottica senza occhio (Edoardo Sanguineti, Ma com e fotografica la realta... anche troppo, in Le idee della fotografia. La rifiessione teorica dagli anni sessanta a oggi, ed. Claudio Marra [Milan: Mondadori, 2001], 304). " " Passano accanto ai fusti inguainati dei banana, sotto le foglie larghe, lunghe un paio di metri con venature profonde. L incisione centrale della foglia e cava e scanalata, nelle foglie piu alte e piii vecchie le nervature corrispondono a tanti tagli che arrivano oltre la meta della lamina e sono puliti come gli strappi in un tessuto di seta. *'' For examples, see the website o f the Imogen Cunningham Trust, at www.imogencunningham.com
109

108

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descriptions of framing and verbs of vision also emphasize this distinctly visual approach. When the three companions first catch sight of the Honda himself, he is framed in the door (33),^*^ and as they eat, talk and walk about his lands with him, more and more details are presented, almost always with the same verb of seeing: They see him eat, reclining on his pillows... They see him smoking his narghile... They see his skull of white, close-cut hairs and his quick, automatic hands that wrap the long hand of white muslin thirty-two times around the fez crammed onto his head (34-35, emphasis mine).
113

At the same time, they feel themselves observed, although they never see those who watch them. After the build-up of images that create an affectionate portrait of the Honda, the destruetion of his lands is linked explicitly to his death, and his loss to the loss of a father: Perhaps the waves have already devastated his park, or it is rotting in the water that rises and slowly advances. Perhaps all his lands are already submerged. Perhaps his wife and children have already... Perhaps laid out in death on a stretcher his dark skin.. .in the light of a petrol lamp the thin line of his white moustache, the short heard on his chin his nose still more sharp and aquiline his wrinkles deeper his gray eyes his long and knotty fingers... Because in her memory the Honda is like her Father. This imagined funerary portrait of the Honda, like an early photographic portrait of the dead, is tied to Itas attempt to preserve in photographs the lands that will he submerged,

112

inquadrato nella porta.

Lo vedono mangiare reclinato sui cuscini..., Lo vedono fumare 1 1narghile..., 'Vedono il suo cranio di capelli bianchi e rasati e le sue mani veloci e automatiche che avvolgono per trentadue volte la lunga benda di mussola bianca attomo al fez calcato sulla testa... * Forse il suo parco e gia stato devastato dalle onde, o imputridisce nellacqua che si alza e avanza adagio. / Tutte le sue terre, forse, sono gia sommerse. / I x sue mogli e i suoi figli forse lo hanno g ia ... / Nella morte su una branda la sua pelle scura forse... nella luce di una lampada a petrolio la linea sottile dei baffi bianchi la barba corta sui mento il naso ancora piu affilato e aquilino le rughe piu profonde gli occhi grigi le dita lunghe e n odose... / Che nel ricordo IHonda e come il Padre (ellipses original).

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and once again recalls Bazins arguments in The Ontology of the Photographic Image about photographys status as a fetishistic response to the mummy complex.*^ This in turn is echoed in writing that seeks to preserve memories against the losses of time, while the discontinuities and omissions of photographs are echoed by the aposiopetic omission of what is too distressing to be said.'^^ The knowledge that what Ita and her companions see will all too soon disappear underwater lends pathos to everything they look at that is similar to the pathos that often invests photographs.
117

The anticipatory

nostalgia for places that have not yet disappeared melds with the nostalgia for times past as the sight of men playing back-gammon reminds Ita of the Villa Darsena, where she spent time as a child during World War II, and episodes from this period are interspersed with the events of Itas trip with Dommguez and Karlheinz. She tells the two men that she has experienced the moments they have spent together as though they already belonged to the past.. .these days, these places have the intensity, the melancholy of memory, of childhood recollections (39).^^^ Like Barthess description of the experience of looking at the photograph of a man condemned to die, Itas experience of the journey through lands condemned to drown takes place in a state of premonitory nostalgia that is closely

See note 70 above.

' This recurs when Ita tells Karlheinz o f Dominguezs suicide on p. 65, which is also how the reader learns o f it: Ma lo sal tu com e si e suicidato Dommguez? Si e ... e si e ... e si e ... e alia fine ha sbattuto i polsi svenati su tutti i muri della casa dipingendoli di rosso. These omissions recall Niccolais rejection o f the notion o f writing as a form o f memory or means o f saving something, and emphasize the ambiguous relation o f photography to the objects it ostensibly saves. See note 11 above. See my discussion o f this kind o f pathos in Chapter Two. Niccolai linked the tension o f these scenes to her own experiences in Egypt and the doubts they caused her: lo allora sono effettivamente andata in Egitto e ho fatto le foto di questi territori che sarebbero stati sommersi dalla grande diga, e anche di Abu Simbel nella sua collocazione originaria, assieme a due persone, uno spagnolo e un tedesco, com e sono anche nel libro. Dunque, a quelTeta U e chiaro che il concetto della grande diga in Egitto sembro una cosa straordinaria e si e all for it, volendo. Perche il progresso.. .did, qui adesso gli egiziani mangiano, capisci, te le conti su tutte, perche hai questottimismo, questenergia e te la conti su cosi. Quando pero io mi trovo la e vedo questi posti, comincio a essere presa da un dubbio se la cosa e giusta da fare o no. Ma non al livello razionale, solo di pelle. Allora, mi trovo con un problema nei confronti di me stessa, che essendo tutta per il progresso, la tecnologia, tac! una parte di me comincia a guardarsi indietro (Niccolai, Interview). com e se appartenessero al passato... questi giorni, questi posti hanno Iintensita, la malinconia della memoria, dei ricordi d infanzia.
118 117

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connected to her photographic work, which seeks to preserve at least the image of the places she visits. At the same time, Niccolai emphasizes the metonymic effects of memory (6 8 ): Because in her memory the river is like the sea. Memory has stretched out the water, rendered it bluer and stiller than it can have been, it has cancelled out the other shore [...] Memory has transformed the desert into a beach (that habit of Dominguezs of putting ambergris suntan oil on his face instead of aftershave.. .has permeated all the places where we went together with sea).^^ These effects of memory are also similar to the distortions photography makes possible, the kinds of manipulations and associations evident in montage works like Jerry N. Uelsmanns 1975 Untitled (Cloud Room), a photograph of what looks like a genteel nineteenth-century sitting room whose ceiling is a cloudy sky. 121 Similar kinds of parallels

among the experiences of memory, vision, and photography are drawn throughout the novel, for example in the description of Itas view through the keyhole of the gate of a castle she visited with Dommguez, which explicitly compares that perspective to the limited viewpoint offered by the viewfinder of a camera (77-78): I remain there with my eye glued [to the keyhole] and I see that from far back a little girl is coming towards the gate to open it for us. As she comes closer, I observe her: she has dark wool socks held up by elastic over her knees, you can see a bit of naked leg underneath her short pinafore with a big pouch where she plunges her fists (her knuckles press against the blue-checked fabric), her head and shoulders are cut off by the limited visual angle of the keyhole [...], like that of a viewfinder...

119 120

Barthes, Camera Lucida, 96.

Che nel ricordo il flume e come 1 1 mare. La memoria ha dllatato Iacqua, Iha resa piu azzurra e piu Immobile dl quanto possa essere, ha cancellato Ialtrarlva [ . . . ] / La memoria ha trasformato 1 1 deserto In una splaggla (quellabltudlne che aveva Dommguez dl mettersl dellollo solare sulla faccia Invece dl un dopobarba, dellAmbra proprio... ha permeato dl mare tutti 1 posti dove siamo statl assieme).
121

See Naomi Rosenblum, A World History o f Photography (New York: Abevllle Press, 1984), 569.

Rlmango con Iocchlo Incollato e da In fondo vedo che vlene verso 1 1 portone, per aprlrcl, una bamblna. Man mano che si avvicina la osservo: ha calze dl lana scure tenute da un elastlco sopra 1 1 ginocchio, si vede un pezzo dl gamba nuda sotto 11 gremblule corto con una grossa tasca a marsuplo dove affonda le mani chiuse a pugno (le nocche premono contro 1 1 tessuto a quadrettlnl blu), la testa e le spalle sono tagllate via nella vlsuale limltata della serratura [...], come quella dl un m irino..

122

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Niccolai also employs a specifically photographic vocabulary to make metaphorical reference to photographic effects. For example, as Ita waits for Dominguez in the bar at the UN, she drinks: an icy dry martini in a light, triangular glass like the point of a diamond upturned on a thin stalk. The liquid acts as a lens, enlarging the olive at the bottom and leaving vague oily traces on the glass as it diminishes (118).
123

Here the oily traces on the

martini glass recall the use of light-sensitive photographic plates in early photography, and the use of terms like lens, enlargement and trace shows how Ita constantly interprets her environment according to photographic criteria of the play of light on surface and the ways in which events leave their mark in the form of traces left behind. In the episodes that take place in New York before Dominguezs death, Niccolai emphasizes the artificiality of the urban environment and the ways in which it isolates and frames its inhabitants. Glass, plastic and other translucent or reflective surfaces become ever more prevalent. Even the sky seems like a giant mirror, as Ita tells Dominguez: Its as if these clouds in movement manage to reflect the space, the size of the country (119).
124

Sitting with him in a restaurant off 10* Avenue, Ita examines the cubes of ice melting in her glass of whiskey, and he tells her (somewhat implausibly!) that New York has the purest ice in the world... Its like chrystal. Without imperfections, transparent (94).
125

The

two of them are seated at the bar, where their faces are reflected in two mirrored pieces behind the upside-down bottles behind the counter. The waiters emerge from the kitchen through two hinged plastic doors with glass sections inserted into the top. The doors are described in great detail, as are the plastic and glass objects on the table at which the couple
un dry martini gelato in un bicchiere leggero triangolare come la punta di un diamante capovolto su uno stelo sottile. II liquido fa da lente, ingrandisce Ioliva nel fondo e diminuendo lascia delle vaghe tracce oleose sul vetro. E com e se queste nuvole in movimento riescano a riflettere a rispecchiare lo spazio, la grandezza del paese. At the same time, these vast American skies provide the point o f reference that was missing in the implacable blue sky of Egypt (34). Ita claims that: Se potessi essere portata in un punto qualsiasi degli Stati Uniti senza sapere su quale continente mi trovo, credo che mi basterebbe guardare il cielo per capire dove sono ( 120 ).
125 123

il ghiaccio piu puro del m ondo... E come cristallo. Senza imperfezioni, trasparente.

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sits down. When they leave, the wood-framed glass of the restaurants revolving door encloses them. The artificiality of the environment is emphasized in the descriptions of the lights and interiors, for example the dimly lit hotel room whose one window looks out on a brick wall, and from which Ita can see neither sky nor earth (104). The urban environment is entirely defined by effects of light on surface, as is clear when Ita sets out for a photo assignment at the UN (108): She sees that the fa 9 ades of the sidewalks in front are still in shadow but on the left there is a long, triangular blade of light that is beginning to descend into the narrow street and illuminate thin slices of very tall houses. She knows that in a couple of hours they will all be in the sun. Stopping at a diner for toast and coffee, Ita examines everything and everyone inside in minute detail, from the other clients, to the drops of melted butter used to fry eggs on the grill and the whole process of food preparation. Once again, Itas relationship to the space is defined in terms of the objects it contains and the play of light and surface ( 1 1 0 ): A thin blade of light that enters from the glass door of the entry way has almost reached her. The light is yellow on the tiles of the pavement Raising her eyes, the neon that lights the diner seems to her white and unbearable.'^ Arriving at UN Plaza, the glare of light on hard surfaces and the shock of bright colors continues ( 1 1 2 ): She descends into the wide space, white with marbe and windy. In front of her shines the green glass fa 9 ade of the skyscraper that reflects the houses in front and the blue water of the river where barges and tugboats pass. She reads Pepsi-Cola written large on the red, white, and blue side of a barge. She makes out its high, yellow load of cases. 198

Vede che le facciate del marciapiede di fronte sono ancora in ombra ma di sinistra c e una lama lunga e triangolare di sole che comincia a scendere nella strada stretta e illumina sottili fette di case molto alte. / Sa che tra un paio di ore saranno tutte al sole. Una sottile lama di sole che entra dalla porta a vetri dellingresso Iha quasi raggiunta. La luce e gialla sulle piastrelle del pavimento. / Alzando gli occhi il neon che illumina il locale le appare bianco e insopportabile.
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Once inside, she passes though the white marble space in front of the General Assembly building and the office skyscraper (113). Looking around at the other people scattered across the space, Ita tries (114-15): to picture in detail this scene, with the movement of the people in dark coats on the white slabs, the blue chain of police officers under the pennants, the colored national flags waving in the wind, the barrier, the line of young trees towards the river, as though she were seeing it from above, from one of the windows of the rooms and corridors. The blue of the police uniforms and the multiple hues of the flags bring color into the black and white world of dark coats on white slabs (it is worth noting that lastre is also the word used for photographic plates). At the very end of the novel, Ita and Dominguez take the ferry across to Staten Island, where one of them quotes the inscription on the Statue of Liberty, I lift my lamp beside the golden door! and they look up to see the crown of rays the eye the nose the mouth and a cheek of the copper face, incandescent in the light of sunset (136).
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The

novel ends with one final list of sights, perhaps seen directly, but described like the photographic images listed previously (136-37): A red firefighters tugboat that welcomes a passenger ship to the harbor, spraying its jets of water up to the sky. The three red and black smokestacks of the Queen Mary, a piece of her white side incised by regularly-spaced windows and portholes, perforated like a file card. A blurred and turbid tugboat against the light with its silhouette black and menacing like that of a submarine emerging from the golden water in front of

Scende nello spiazzo largo, bianco di marmo e ventoso. Davanti a lei brilla la facciata verde di vetro del grattacielo che riflette le case di fronte e Iacqua azzura del flume su cui passano chiatte e rimorchiatori. / Legge Pepsi-Cola scritto in grande sulla fiancata bianca rossa e blu di una chiatta, / Distingue il carico alto e giallo di cassette. di figurarsi dettagliatamente questa scena con il movimento delle persone nei cappotti scuri sulle lastre blanche, la catena blu di poliziotti sotto i pennoni, le bandiere colorati del paesi che sventolano, la ringhiera, la fila di alberi giovani verso il flume, come se la vedesse dallalto, da una delle finestre del saloni e del corridoi. la corona a raggiera Iocchio il naso la bocca e una guancia del volto di rame incandescente nella luce del tramonto.
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the skyline. The peaks of the quivering skyscrapers, lit up like torches in the red disk of the setting sun. The attention to light and the description of color and shape, of buildings and machines and their relation to the natural elements of light and water with which the novel ends serve as a reminder of its central preoccupation with the ways in which wc see and the impact of modern technologies on the environment and on ourselves. Above all, Niccolais novel makes use of photography not as a means in itself but rather as a process that is an integral part of the protagonists attempts to think about and understand the world around her and the appearances and disappearances that haunt her. It is also the main way in which she both tries and fails to find an identity for herself. Photography and a photographic gaze capture the surfaces of the world she inhabits and of her own body, but fail to allow her to understand her own or anyone elses motivations or fears. She finds that stilling the world around her through photographing it cannot stop the flow of time, nor preserve her and those she loves from the threat and the reality of death. The novel to which I now turn is much less haunted by these profound questions, but in its focus on the photographic representation of a world of surfaces and superficiality, it addresses similar issues to do with seeing, being, and understanding.

Andrea De Carlo and Treno di panna Treno di panna is based in large part on Andrea De Carlos experience of life in Boston, New York and Santa Barbara, where he worked in various temporary jobs, including, like his protagonist, teaching Italian. Like Niccolai, De Carlo worked as a photographer before writing his first published novel. While at university he carried out
Un rimorchiatore rosso del vigili del fuoco che da il benvenuto del porto a una nave passeggeri spruzzando al cielo i suoi getti d acqua. / Le tre ciminiere rosse e nere della Queen Mary, un pezzo di fiancata bianca e rettangolare incisa da finestre e oblo a distanze regolari, perforata come una scheda. / Un rimorchiatore controluce sfuocato e torbido con la sagoma nera e minacciosa com e quella di un sottomarino che emerge dallacqua doro davanti alia skyline. Le cime dei grattacieli tremolanti, accese com e torce nel disco rosso del sole che tramonta.
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various photographic projects and assignments, and later was employed to work on publicity photographs for design magazines in Milan by the photographer Oliviero Toscani, who is perhaps best known as the communications strategist and photographer behind United Colors of Benettons controversial advertising campaigns from 1982-2000. Again, as with Niccolai, the experience of working as a photographer had a profound affect on the subject and style of the literary work De Carlo produced. Treno di panna was immediately praised for its remarkable verbal representation of photographic effects, but critics have not attempted to analyze in detail what these effects are, how they are achieved, and what their function is within the novel. The novel recounts the adventures of a twenty-five-year-old Italian photographer, Giovanni Maimeri, who comes to Los Angeles to visit friends who are trying to make it in Hollywood. Although their world seems alien to him in many ways, he ends up staying on, working at a variety of dead-end jobs, before eventually leaving his friends behind and breaking into the world of movie actors and directors himself. He does so through meeting a movie star with the improbable name of Marsha Mellows (perhaps a reference to the sickly-sweet froth often produced by Hollywood), who supposedly starred in a movie called Treno di panna made in Venice in 1971. The novel was lauded by critics for its stylistic innovations and the originality of the detached voice of the narrator and his selective and zoom-like point-of-view. In a contemporary review, Mario Barone praised De
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De Carlo claims that he was originally attracted to what he saw as the glamour o f photography, but changed his mind about it once he actually came to work as a photographer: La prima volta che ho visto Blow up di Antonioni, mi ha affascinato Iimmagine del fotografo, dinamico e irregolare quasi come un musicista rock. Qualche tempo dopo ho fatto il secondo assistente a un fotografo di moda. Ma visto da dentro era un mondo molto meno affascinante di come sembrava da fuori: i fotografi spesso erano servi arroganti agli ordini di stilisti e art director e redattrici ancora piu arroganti. Tutti si rifacevano sulle modelle, che erano vittime compiaciute e mi facevano venire la nausea con i loro sorrisi finti e le loro braccia troppo magre. Andrea D e Carlo, Fotografia [Webpage] ([cited January 10 2004]); available from http://www.andreadecarlo.net/decarlol/ita/fotografia.html. D e Carlo has also worked in the world o f cinema: in 1982 and 1983 he was Federico Fellinis assistant on the film E la nave va (1983), and he also worked as a directors assistant for Michelangelo Antonioni. He directed a film version o f Treno d i panna in 1988, for which he also wrote the screenplay. O f his film, he has said: Se ci penso adesso, credo di avere concentrato in un solo film tutti gli errori che un regista pub fare in anni di lavoro. See Andrea D e Carlo, Cinema [Webpage] ([cited January 10 2004]); available from http://www.andreadecarlo.net/decarlol/ita/cinema.html.

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Carlo for offering readers a different investigation of a youthful literature that we thought was by now firmly anchored to certain cliches or linguistic notes. Refreshingly, De Carlos novel offers no existential outbursts or mannerisms. 1oo Although De Carlo

has said that he tried to create a character as unlike himself as possible, one who was unpleasant, frivolous, cynical, superficial, Treno di panna, like Niccolais novel, is clearly grounded in personal experience. As in II grande angola, Treno di panna contains both descriptions of photographs taken by the narrator and an intensive use of photographic analogies, metaphors, similes and terminology.
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It is different, however, in that, as Stefano Tani points out, the

narrating voice in Treno di panna is above all a look that is always slightly alien, emotionally detached from the world it describes, to the extent that Giovanni recounts even his own feelings as though they were objective data. At the same time, Tani argues, De Carlo does not aim for neutrality: the look is objective in the sense that it offers the reader mainly physical objects, but does so through original angles, emphasizing its own subjectivity... the point of view is selective, often idiosyncratic, sensitive to particular d e t a i l s . W h i l e De Carlos style has been linked by some critics to the nouveau roman in its focus on extemals and surface, it is important to note that the detached gaze that characterizes the novel is not impersonal. Rather, it is an active gaze that selects and processes images in a very individual way.
unindagine diversa di una letteratura giovanile che credevamo ancorata ormai del tutto a certi cliches o ad alcune note linguistiche. Niente sfoghi esistenziali o manierismi (Mario Barone, Piccole immagini di un uomo normale, L Ora, June 26 1981. antipatico, frivolo, cinico, superficiale (Andrea D e Carlo, Alter Ego [Webpage] ([cited January 15 2004]); available from http://www.andreadecarlo.net/decarlol/ita/alterego.html. He goes on to say, however, that ogni volta che mi addentro in una storia finisco per identificarmi con i suoi protagonisti: i filtri saltano, la distanza svanisce, i nostri sguardi e pensieri coincidono. Divento loro. See Maria Pia Ammirati, 11 vizio di scrivere: letture su Bust, De Carlo, D el Giudice, Pazzi, Tabucchi e Tondelli (Rubettino: Soveria Manelli, 1991), 60-62. Stefano Tani, La Giovane Narrativa: Emerging Italian Novelists in the Eighties, in Postmodern Fiction in Europe and the Americas, ed. Theo D Haen and Hans Bertens (Amsterdam and Antwerp: Rodopi and Restant, 1988), 164.
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Italo Calvino admired the novel for its representation of what he called the insatiability of eyes that drink up the spectacle of the multicolored world, enlarged as though they were looking through a telephoto lens and its depiction of a gaze that grasps and registers an enormous number of details and subtleties.
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Calvino was also the first of

many critics to link the protagonists selective choice of visual information, with its extreme focus on individual fragments of the extemal, and his distinctive narrative style to the work of American hyper or photo realists. Martin McLaughlin argues that Calvino,

who identified the primary focus of De Carlos novel as the surface of a consciousness that brushes against an entirely superficial world, must have connected this concentration on surface detail to his own Palomar, which he was writing at the time.
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In a piece

published on De Carlos website that discusses the influence of photography on Treno di panna, the author writes: When I wrote Treno di panna, I was attracted to the idea of being able to write a story starting from surface elements in order to reach what is underneath. It was an approach in between photography and ethology, which studies animal behaviors from what is visible. Hyperrealist painting, which in turn is based on and amplifies photography, also influenced me. As we shall see, there are also important points of contact between Calvinos L avventura di un fotografo and De Carlos work. It seems likely that De Carlo would have been familiar with the Calvino short story, published in 1970 as part of Amori dijficili, and

uninsaziabilita degli occhi che bevono lo spettacolo del mondo multicolore ingigantiti come attraverso la lente d un teleobiettivo, afferra e registra un enorme numero di particolari e sfumature (Italo Calvino, back cover blurb o f Andrea D e Carlo, Treno di panna (Turin: Einaudi, 1996). Calvino, Introduction to D e Carlo, Andrea, Treno di panna (Turin: Einaudi, 1981). See also Marco Biondi, Non scendete da quel treno, L Unitd, May 21 1981, Metropolitano milanese vagabondo a Los Angeles, II Giorno (1981), Giancarlo Pandini, Treno di panna, II Tempo, July 24 1981. la superficie della coscienza che sfiora un mondo tutto in superficie (Martin McLaughlin, Andrea De Carlo: The Surface o f Consciousness, in The New Italian Novel, ed. Zygmunt G. Baranski and Lino Fertile (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1993), 78. Quando ho scritto Treno di panna mi attirava Iidea di poter raccontare una storia partendo dagli elementi di superficie, per arrivare a quello che c e sotto. Era un approccio a meta tra la fotografia e Ietologia, che studia i comportamenti animali a partire da quello che e visibile. Mi ha influenzato anche la pittura iperrealista, che a sua volta si basava sulla fotografia e la amplificava (De Carlo, Fotografia ([cited).
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possible that he would have had at least some awareness of the theoretical debates over representational self-reflexiveness and the question of photographys relation to knowledge that dominated many discussions of photography at the time. One of the main strands of imagery in the novel is photographic, and the influence of a photographic approach to representation is also reflected in the immediacy of De Carlos language, notable for its paratactic constructions and its effective use of photographic terminology. Maria Pia Ammirati argues that De Carlos prose reflects the fact that for him the camera is no longer a useful tool for documenting images or reality.. .but a toold for transfering and contaminating two different languages, for changing literary language from a state of polysemia to the superficial state of iconography. ''^^ Contaminated in this way, De Carlos writing functions in a similar way to photography, proceeding in snatches, incorporating space in small, consequential scenes, and rendering the external with the minimum rejection of reality possible.
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This

kind of valorizing of everyday moments from ordinary life is similar to what Niccolai does with her lists of sights and images in II grande angolo, and reflects the ways in which photography has come to condition ways of seeing across an ever-increasing range of cultures since its inception.
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Many critics agreed that the most exciting and original aspect of the novel was its narrators photographic point of view, with its sharp focus on external details and an almost purely visual Los Angeles.'^'' This represented a response to a world in which the human relation to environment was becomingas it has continued to

la macchina fotografica non e piu strumento utile per la documentazione di immagini o di realta... ma e uno strumento che serve a trasferire e contaminare due linguaggi diversi, a mutare percio il linguaggio letterario da uno stato di polisemia a quello superficiale delliconografia. per strappi, inglobando lo spazio in piccole scene consequenziali, e rendendo Iesterno con minor scarto possible dalla realta (Ammirati, II vizio di scrivere.
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See Piovenes comments on this, note 6 6 . See McLaughlin, D e Carlo. See also Ammirati, II vizio di scrivere.

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becomeincreasingly a question of visual perception. Giovannis experience of photography makes him, like Ita, particularly sensitive to effects of light and dark and the arrangement of surfaces. For both characters, photography functions as a metaphor for fragmentation and superficiality, for the artificiality of life in a large, modem U.S. city, and for the desire to be a detached observer. But above all, in Treno di panna it serves as the protagonists primary means of relating to and understanding his environment. For this reason, it is the key means by which he attempts to make sense of the new space in which he finds himself and the jumble of images and impressions that flash by him. Giovanni perceives his new world through a series of lenses, reflections, and artificial and environmental filters. For example, he describes how the car window through which he sets up his shots in turn frames him, at the same time working with the reflections on the windscreen to shield him from the view of those he photographs: I would come to an intersection and aim my telephoto lens: partly concealed by the door frame and the reflections on the windshield (121).'"^^ Even when he is not looking through the lens of his camera, there are constant references to what he sees or imagines he sees through or reflected by windows and glass doors (7, 138, 148, 190, 205-207), mirrors (4, 31, 45, 100, 154), water (141, 187), panes of glass and shop windows (29, 76, 81, 91, 129), and sunglasses (136-7). Looking into and through fish tanks (126, 185, 206) and shop windows (76, 108, 114, 129), car windows (29, 41, 43, 75) and supermarket display cases, two-way mirrors (23, 205) and glass spheres, Giovanni sees L.A. through a series of transparent surfaces, and fragmented by the changing effects of light.''* This is clear from the beginning of the novel, which opens with the protagonist gazing down on Los Angeles from the window of his descending airplane. It is nighttime.

Arrivavo a un incrocio e puntavo il teleobiettivo: nascosto in parte dalla cornice della portiera e dai riflessi sul parabrezza (138). English translations are from Andrea D e Carlo, The Cream Train, trans. John Gatt (London: The Olive Press, 1987). This list o f page numbers refers to the original edition.

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and from that perspective, he sees the city only as a network of bright points, an incomprehensible swirl of flickering lights below him. His inability to comprehend this space continues even once he is on the ground. On the freeway with his friend Tracy, who has come to pick him up from the airport to take him back to the house she shares with her boyfriend Ron, he enters a stream of headlights, and the rest of the landscape seems to dissolve: In front of us could be perceived only red tail lights of the cars going the same was, white headbeams of those coming towards us. All around was this emptiness filled with lights and streaks of light, curving lines of headbeams, flashing of indicators. It was only in snatches that broader vistas appeared, swathed in a dull aura; smudged by the darkness and the water that streamed down the car windows, The effect of these descriptions of Giovannis disorientation is almost cinematic. At this point, he experiences the space of the city as a dark void traversed by lights, almost as though the whole of Los Angeles were one giant movie theatre, filled with competing movies, none of which he can understand as he is rushed past them. Even when they stop, he realizes that Ron and Tracys housein an unpleasant suburb far from the center of the cityis almost directly under the freeway: The traffic was passing by just a few meters beyond and above. From below we could see the headbeams spurting ahead; ripping away whole strips of darkness in the distance (7).
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The bewildering lights and movement

continue incessantly right above and beside them, creating a glow of unnatural, evershifting luminosities (9) in the darkened apartment. The next day Giovanni sets out on a walk with Ron through the urban wasteland of their neighborhood, and again his experience is one of complete disorientation. It is a
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Davanti a noi si percepivano solo luci rosse di automobili nella stessa nostra direzione, fari bianchi di quelle che venivano in sense opposto. C era intorno queste vuete, riempito di luci e strinamenti di luci, curve di fanali, lampeggiamenti di frecce. S ele a tratti aparivano visioni piu ampie, avvolte in un alone opaco; confuse nel buie e Iacqua che scerreva sui finestrini (6-7). Le macchine passavane pechi metri piti in la e piu in alte. Da sette si vedevane i fari che schizzavane avanti; si trascinavano via intere strisce di buie nella distanza (9).
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un riflesso di luminesita innaturali in continue spestamente ( 12 ).

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gloomy day, and both the light and the landscape create a monotonous, monochromatic effect in which every color wilted to gray.^^ As the two walk on, the landscape remains essentially unchanged: We seemed to be no nearer to any particular point, nor further from another; there were merely subtle differences of detail between the small houses that stood between the road and the freeway. There were details about the doors or the layout of the gardens: just barely distinguishable (17).^^^ These are the kinds of details to which Giovanni pays a particular and photographic attention, and they are the kinds of details he uses to orient himself in this confusing and almost entirely artificial new environment. He goes on to describe how the only notable element to emerge from this background was the sign of a service station in the distance. As they progress, however, it appears larger, but also further away: After w ed been walking for twenty minutes it was huge, though still kilometres away. This caused space to dilate, splaying it out in the late morning light (17).
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This, too, is a description that recalls photographic effects, in this case the

distortion caused by the use of a very strong telephoto lens focused on a distant object. A few mornings later, Tracy takes Giovanni to Beverley Hills, where they walk around the stores together. Giovannis encounter with this new area is described once more in purely visual terms. The description is completely dominated by the verb guardare and other verbs of seeing, and by a sense of disconnection and anxiety: I looked at the Italian fashion shops which faced onto the street like great chocolate-boxes.... I looked around with a certain morbid anxiety.... I looked at the people in front of the shop-windows and behind them; at the great cars that moved alongside the sidewalk and stopped for a short while without anybody stepping out. Standing at a comer I watched a lady park a grey Rolls in a tight space between two other cars. I tried to register her movements, her way of tilting her head to look at the rear-view mirror and see
tutti i colori tendevano al grigio. Non pareva di essere piu vicini a un punto, o lontani da un altro; tranne che le casette tra la strada e la freeway avevano sottili particolari diversi. C erano dettagli nolle porte, nella sistemazione dei giardini: giusto appena distinguibili ( 2 1 ). D ope vend minuti che camminavamo era immensa, ancora a qualche chilometro di distanza. Questo dilatava lo spazio, lo appiattiva e spampanava nel mattino tardo ( 2 1 ).
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who was driving along behind her and who was drawing in at the sidewalk. There was a connection between the clothes she wore, the leisureliness of her movements, the reflection of her car in the shop-window. I looked at the goods on display in the shop-windows: I was struck by their concreteness, their density to the light. I looked at swift-moving girls, in baggy pants gathered in at the ankles and with red cheeks; middle aged ladies with heavy glasses and flimsy sandals; men with paunches and tans of varying calibre. I couldnt quite work out who was part of the scenery and who was just an extra merely donning mannerisms and apparel suited to the role.'^^ These paragraphs function like the lists of photographs and sights in II grande angolo, creating the impression of a series of photographic details. At this point, the city of Los Angeles and its occupants remain as exotic to Giovanni as the landscapes of Egypt or the cityscapes of New York to Ita. The question of posing is also important again here, with Giovanni initially unable to distinguish between those who really belong, and those who are faking it, constructing an image of belonging in the hopes that it will become a reality. Giovanni only starts to form a clearer mental picture of the geography of Los Angeles more than half way through the book, once he gets his own car and uses it to drive around taking photographs. In control of his own movement, he uses his camera to still the movements around him, giving him a way of understanding and negotiating his surroundings: I began driving around town. I realized that up to now I d perceived only fragments of it, isolated atolls amid the ocean of thoroughfares and buildings. Little by little the relation between one point and another became clear (98-99), especially once he begins taking his camera with him on his drives and his gaze is doubly mediated by
Guardavo i negozi italiani di abiti che si affacciavano sulla strada in forma di immense scatole di confetti.... guardavo in giro in preda a una strana ansia morbosa. ...I Guardavo la gente davanti e dietro alle vetrine; le grandi macchine che passavano raso al marciapiede e si fermavano per qualche minuto senza aprire le portiere. Fermo a un angolo ho osservato una signora mentre parcheggiava una Rolls Royce grigia in uno spazio ristretto tra due altre automobili. Cercavo di registrare i suoi gesti, il suo modo di inclinare la testa per vedere nello specchio retrovisore chi guidava dietro di lei e chi invece arrivava lungo il marciapiede. C era una connessione tra i vestiti che aveva, la lentezza dei suoi movimenti, i riflessi sui vetri della macchina. / Guardavo gli oggetti esposti nelle vetrine: mi colpiva la loro consistenza, la loro densita nella luce. / Guardavo ragazze che camminavano veloci, con calzoni larghi chiusi alle caviglie e guance arrossate; signore di m ezzeta con occhiali pesanti e sandali sottili; uomini con pance e abbronzature di diverso spessore. Non riuscivo bene a capire chi faceva davvero parte della scena, e chi invece era ai margini e si limitava a indossare modi di fare e abiti di ruolo (29). 153

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te ch n o lo g y .Iro n ic ally , the camera, often a symbol of the fragmentation of the world, and the car, often thought of as a symptom of the isolation of the modern individual, provide Giovanni with his only means of mapping Los Angeles. Examining the mansions of Bel Air and Beverly Hills from multiple angles, he tries to absorb their overall aspect, the details of which they are made up, the consistency and thickness of their walls and hedges (99), putting together images from magazines and television with the ones he gathers in his travels with his camera (99-100).^^^ In this way, slowly, his mental map of the city takes shape. Nevertheless, it is a map consisting of discontinuous surfaces. He forms an idea of the city as made up of overlapping spheres which share the same space but without touching, like the worlds of those few who have made it and the many who are trying to do so. He uses the same metaphor of coexistent but not contiguous spheres to express the separation between the person he would like to be and the one he actually is: The sphere relating to what I wanted to be and do became solid, watertight; a world away from the one which actually contained my life. The glass constituting each of the two spheres was growing so thick and opaque as to screen out the light entirely (129-30).^^^ This kind of incommunicability is fundamental to Giovannis relationship to the world around him and to the others he encounters. Maria Pia Ammirati describes De Carlos gaze in Treno di panna as one that testifies to the separation that has occurred between the world and humans. Because of this separation the representation of reality emerges as the disarticulated cataloging of what exists outside hum ans.. .no longer with

Con la macchina ho cominciato a girare la citta. Mi sono reso conto che fino ad ora non ne avevo percepito che frammenti: atolli isolati nel mare di strade e costruzioni. Poco alia volta le relazioni tra i diversi punti sono divenute chiare (113). In the Italian edition, see pp. 113-114. La sfera di quello che avrei voluto essere e fare diventava spessa e stagna; lontanissima da quella che conteneva invece la mia vita. 11 vetro delle due sfere diventava cosi denso e opaco da schermare del tutto la luce (148).

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Yet the situation is more

any connections based on mutual understanding.

complicated than Ammirati implies, since photographydespite its flaws as an hermeneutic toolconstitutes the protagonists main way of relating to and interpreting the world. As such, it represents his method of dealing with his sensation of separation from the world, rather than a symptom of it. Massimo Caeciari has argued that photography does not provide a means of representation, duplication, or capturing of some kind of external truth, but rather that it provides a means of ereating a new reality.
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In Giovannis

case, photography enables him to create just sueh a reality: a world of which he feels he can make at least partial sense. Nevertheless, this only emphasizes his isolation from those around him, something that is made clear by his inability to communieate effeetively with other people, for example even in his encounters with people with whom it might be assumed he had things in eommon, like Ron and Tracy, his rather randomly aequired and eventually abandoned girlfriend, Jill, or another young woman encountered by chance at a party. With Jill, this is particularly evident. From the very beginning of their relationship he says: We didnt have much to say to each other in any case (76).^^^ Later he informs the reader that: During our row I noticed that we were only apparently communicating with one another; our arguments sank without a trace, without effecting any change of opinion (97); and eventually, as things degenerate even further, that communieation between us had dwindled to the minimum conceivable for two people living together (98).'^ With the girl

testimonia Iavvenuta separazione fra il mondo e Iuomo, per cui la rappresentazione della realta si pronuncia com e la catalogazione disarticolata di cio che esiste al di fuori dellu o m o ... senza piu legami d intesa. (Ammirati, II vizio di scrivere. Massimo Cacciari, II fotografico e il problema della rappresentazione, in Marra, Le idee della fotografia. La riflessione teorica dagli anni sessanta a oggi, 340-44.
159 158

157

Non avevamo molto da dirci in ogni caso (87).

In questo litigio ho notato che la comunicazione tra noi era solo apparente: i nostri argomenti si esaurivano appena pronunicati, senza produrre alcun cambiamento di opinione (110-11) La nostra comunicazione si e ridotta al minimo concepibile tra due persone che vivono insieme ( 1 12 ).

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at the party, he is equally inarticulate: We stared at each other, without communicating m uch.... Our utterances tended to dissolve as soon as formed, so much so that I was in doubt as to whether I was speaking, or had spoken before (179).'^' Even much of Giovannis communication with Marsha Mellows, with whom he desperately wants to make a connection, takes place, at least initially, in broken or meaningless Italian, as he tries half-heartedly to teach her the language, and never goes beyond the purely superficial. Words are insignificant to him in comparison with gestures, attitudes, and appearances, and photography provides him with a tool that allows him to study these latter in detail. Giovannis imaginative world is also populated by photographic images. Infected by the desire to make it that dominates the lives of everyone he encounters in Los Angeles, he imagines a version of a successful future for himself in LA made up not of confused sensations but rather of: mental images, films or photographs: myself driving a large car and responding to groups of people greeting me in the street; myself standing by a swimming pool in conversation with various beautiful girls; myself spewing in front of two or three television cameras, dazzled by the spotlights. These pictures were nearly always richly detailed and well-defined, down to their most minute particulars. I only had to explore their texture with a magnifying glass to detect the development of secondary images. At times I would spend hours on end studying them closely: I d go over them a dozen times, without succeeding in relinquishing the unreal warmth which they instilled. I had to wait for them to bum themselves out. (129)'^^ These mental slide shows of the future are unconnected to any attempt to do anything to make them come true (unlike the American characters like Ron and Tracy and Jill, who are all trying vainly to achieve success in show business) and have no value for Giovanni as
Ci siamo guardati fisso, senza comunicarci m olto... .Le nostre frasi tendevano a dissolversi appena pronunciate; tanto che dubitavo di stare parlando, o di aver parlato prima (203-4). This inability to communicate effectively verbally is another point o f contact between D e Carlos Giovanni and Antonionis David in Blow-Up, who is also fundamentally inarticulate. See Chapter Five. immagini, film o fotografie mentali: lo in una grossa automobile che rispondevo ai saluti di gruppi di persone in strada; io sul bordo di una piscina in conversazione con diverse ragazze molto belle; io che parlavo davanti a due o tre telecamere, abbagliato dai riflettori. / Quasi sempre queste visioni erano ricche di dettagli, definite nei particolari piu minuti. Mi bastava addentrarmi nel loro tessuto con una lente di ingrandimento per osservare lo sviluppo di immagini secondarie. A volte stavo per ore di seguito a guardarle da vicino: le ripercorrevo decine di volte, senza riuscire ad abbandonare 1 1 tepore irreale che producevano (147).
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photographs of a possible reality. Rather, the power of the images and the specificity of their details provide him with a kind of escape, which nevertheless leaves him feeling dejected when the images finally dissipate and he is left to contemplate their impossibility as one might look at a wall too high to get over (129). De Carlos extreme attention to photographic detail recalls John Szarkowskis claim that, with photographys invention the compelling clarity with which a photograph recorded the trivial suggested that the subject had never before properly seen, that it was, in fact perhaps not trivial, but filled with undiscovered meaning.'^"^ In De Carlos novel, however, despite the protagonists close scrutiny of his images, the meanings they yield are at best difficult to interpret, since they, like the world of appearances in which we exist, partake of the mysteries of vision and what John Berger calls the enigma of appearances, which are always read in different ways depending on mood, emotion, circumstances, etc.^^ Yet, as Berger goes on to point out, the photographers choices differ from those of just someone looking in that the former singles out particular details of appearances for attention, while the latters gaze is absorbed into a continuum of appearances. In the case of Giovanni, the fragments he assembles piece by piece in this way constitute his main way of relating to his surroundings and the people he encounters. However, this approach means that he prefers to remain distant from people, both on a metaphorical, emotional level and literally. Like Ita and Dominguez, Giovanni makes use of a telephoto lens, which enables him to take close-up photographs of people while remaining unseen himself, spying on them from a distance: The salesman who had sold me the 1000mm in Italy said it seemed absurd to him to use it for photographing people; that it was fine for taking lions in the

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come uno guarda un muro abbastanza alto da non poterlo superare (147). Szarkowski, The Photographers Eye. John Berger and Jean Mohr, Another Way o f Telling (New York: Random House, 1982), 116-17.

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savannah, or the craters of the moon. I told him that it was barely adequate; that I would still have to get too close. (105) By using his car in conjunction with the telephoto lens in order to remain hidden while taking pictures, Giovanni manages to maintain even more of a distance between himself and his photographic subjects. His use of the vehicle recalls Sontags comparison of cars and cameras as predatory weapons: Like guns and ears, cameras are fantasy-machines whose use is addictive... there is something predatory in the act of taking a picture. She goes on to argue that photography represents a kind of violation because it turns its subjects into objects that can be symbolically possessed and allows the photographer to have knowledge of them that they do not and cannot have. The results of Giovannis first efforts to photograph people rather than just places in Los Angeles frustrate him precisely because they do not provide him with this kind of knowledgea similar knowledge to that sought by Calvinos Antonino.
1 #^8

This is because
1

they fail to break through the carefully arranged surface appearances of his subjects:

took

hundreds of useless shots. When I saw the prints, I felt an idiot. I might as well have gone straight over to them with an Instamatic and asked if I could please take a few snaps (105).'^^ As a result, he expands his hunting ground from the luxurious mansions of Bel Air to more secluded homes and places of work, searching for moments of unbalance, the slipping of the mask:
^ II commesso che mi aveva venduto il 1000 mm in Italia diceva che gli sembrava assurdo usarlo per fotografare la gente; che andava bene per riprendere leoni nella savana, o i crateri della luna. Gli avevo detto che mi bastava appena; che anche cosf dovevo avvicinarmi troppo (120). Cf. Ita and Dom inguezs construction o f a 3000mm lens in II grande angolo above. There is a long history o f theorizing about taking photographs as opposed to making them. Photographers themselves are often eager to make this distinction, which opposes the notion o f a voyeuristic, exploitative taking to that o f a more collaborative making. On this topic, see for example Szarkowski, The Photographers Eye. Sontag, On Photography, 14. See also my discussion o f the relation between photographer and photographic subject/object in Chapter Two. See Chapter One, n. 115. Ho fatto centinaia di fotografie inutili. Quando le ho viste mi sono sentito idiota. Sarebbe stato lo stesso andare direttamente da loro con una Istamatic in mano e chiedere se per piacere potevo scattare qualche foto ( 121 ).
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.. .an actress and an actor who had been lovers would chance to meet outside a furniture store and stand for a moment in embarrassment, defenceless. Or else an aging star might have to persuade his dog to come back in from the garden and be forced into undignified behaviour in summoning him: shaking his fists. It was this momentary disturbance of features, this unforeseeable ripple on the surface homogeneity, that appealed to me. Out of a hundred photographs, two or three might fall into this category; and these were the only ones I kept. (106)^^ These are precisely the kinds of moments that indicated photographys greatest weakness to Marcel Proust, who saw them as representing an untruthful moment of a persons life, in the sense that they provided no information about his or her usual behavior and personality. Proust describes how if, in place of our eye, it should be a purely material object, a photographic plate, that has watched the action, then what we shall see, in the courtyard of the Institute, for example, will be, instead of the dignified emergence of an Academician who is going to hail a cab, his staggering gait, his precautions to avoid tumbling upon his back, the parabola of his fall, as though he were drunk, or the ground frozen over.' ' For De Carlos protagonist, however, Prousts notion of photographys betrayal or distortion of a persons true character is filtered through a Pirandellian desire to expose what can be glimpsed momentarily behind the maskor at least the construction of the mask. This exposure becomes literal and no longer transient through its preservation in a photograph. Looking from a distance at the pile of his black and white photographs spread out on the kitchen counter, Giovanni sees them as a single black and white mass. This recalls the self-reflexive photography of Calvinos Antonino, who ultimately decides that

. .capitava che un attore e unattrice che erano stati amanti si incontrassero per caso davanti a un negozio di mobili, e rimanessero per un attimo imbarazzati, senza difese. Oppure un dive anziano doveva convincere il proprio cane a rientrare in casa dal giardino, ed era costretto a richiamarlo scompostamente: agitando le braccia. Era questa momentanea sbilanciatura di tratti, questa increspatura non prevedibile in una superficie omogenea che mi attirava ( 121 ). Marcel Proust, R em em brance o f Things P ast, trans. C.K. Scott M oncrieff and Terrence Kilmartin, 3 vols. (New York: Vintage Books, Random House, 1982), 815.
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photographing his photographs is the only true photography.'^^ For Giovanni, however, the case is different: [I] picked up the folder in which I was keeping the latest photographs I had taken. I arranged them side by side on the kitchen worktop. Viewed from the end of the room, they seemed to form one single black and white figure. I brought the magnifying glass.. .and took a close look at them. There was one detail [of] the side of a white Cadillac standing outside an Italian fashion shop. Through the glass of one of the windows could be seen the face of a gentleman of around sixty. By holding the lens two centimeters from the picture, I was able to follow the line of the eyebrows, the cheekbones of smug affluence; the eyes distant, lost in self-engrossed images. I studied a succession of others: details of wrists, elegantly shod feet. The closer I set my left eye to the lens, the more new meanings such features yielded. I wondered what linked them all together, like a pearl necklace. From the distant view of the mass of images, Giovanni passesin Blow-Up styleto a series of extreme close-ups, through the use of the magnifying glass. Studying the photographs in such detail, he discovers more and more meanings in them, creating a photographic narrative that forms connections between the disparate images. In this, he is completely different from Ita, who sees everything as though she is photographing it, but never once contemplates any of the images she has presumably made. By studying his own photographs, Giovanni attempts to gain a clearer idea of his surroundings and the people he encounters, but he also makes use of other peoples photographs in similar ways. For example, when he moves in with Jill, who is the cashier at the restaurant where he works, he looks through her boxes of letters and photographs while she is out. Although he reads the letters, the photographs seem to provide the details he is
172 173

See Chapter One.

ho preso la cartelletta dove avevo messo le ultime fotografie che avevo fatto. In cucina le ho disposte sul bancone, una di fianco allaltra. Viste dallestremia della stanza sembravano formare u nunica figura bianca e nera. Ho preso la lente di ingrandimento.. .e le ho guardate da vicino. / C era un particolare della fiancata di una Cadillac bianca, ferma davanti a un negozio di moda italiana. Attraverso il vetro di uno dei finestrini si vedeva la faccia di un signore sulla sessantina. Con la lente a due centimetri dalla carta potevo seguire la linea delle sopracciglia, gli zigomi di persona soddisfatta e gonfia di benessere; gli occhi distratti, persi in immagini autoriferite. / N e ho osservate altre in successione: particolari di polsi, piedi scarpettati. Piil avvicinavo Iocchio sinistro alia lente, piu i particolari assumevano altri significati. Pensavo a cosa li collegava tra loro, come perle di una collana (137-8).

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really after. Having read a letter in which Jills friend Ray tells her euphorically about the possibility of working with a big record producer, he finds a photograph that seems to confirm its contents, and to provide further clues: The [photograph] of Jill and Ray on the hammock must have been taken shortly after the letter: it was in the same spirit (84).^^'^ After one of his many quarrels with Jill, Giovanni goes back to the photographs to try to get a better mental picture of her: I went and rummaged through her box of old letters and photographs so as to add some more details to the picture of her which I d built up (97).'^^ Giovanni goes to the trouble of finding and going through Jills letters and photographs, but is unable or unwilling to try to find out about Jill from actually talking or being with her. This inability or unwillingness points to one of the limitations of Giovannis photographic relational mode, i.e., that it reinforces to an extreme the notion of point of view and its assumption of dominance. 177 The cameras monocular mode of vision corresponds to Giovannis monologic d isc o u rse .A lth o u g h he recounts his story in a detached language that seems to take as its non-verbal model the apparent objectivity of the camera, this seeming detachment functions as a symptom of the absolute authority of his thought, as an expression of his unique and particular point of view of the world, and of his equally absolute inability of empathizing with or understanding another point of view.
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1K -\

Quella [fotografia] di Jill e Ray sullamaca doveva risalire a poco dopo la lettera: era nello stesso spirito (96). Sono andato a frugare nella sua scatola di vecchie lettere e fotografie, per aggiungere qualche particolare al quadro che mi ero fatto di lei ( 111 ). It is telling that he uses a visual metaphor (the picture o f her) to describe his understanding o f the kind o f person she is.
177 178 176 175

See my discussion o f point o f view and perspective in Chapter Four.

On the question of monologic form in the novel and its connection to aesthetic activity as a form of seeing, as opposed to the shift from seeing to hearing in the polyphonic novel, see Mikhail Bakhtin, Problems o f D ostoevskys Poetics, trans. C. Emerson (Minneapolis, Minn.: University o f Minnesota Press, 1984), originally published in 1963. assoluta autorita del suo pensiero, come espressione del suo unico e particolare punto di vista sul mondo, e sullestraneita ugualmente assoluta di partecipare o condividere o capire un altrui punto di vista (Ammirati, II vizio di scrivere.
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In this, Giovanni is different from Ita, for whom the photographic point of view also offers the possibility for a returned gaze and who calls into question her own reliability as a narrator.
180

In Giovannis case, being the object of anothers gaze does not guarantee any

sort of reciprocityquite the contrary. For example, working in the Italian restaurant (where all the other waiters are Mexican), Giovanni feels himself disappear from the visual field of his customers as the lens of their attention moves away from him, coming back into focus as soon as they need something from him: It was an almost physical sensation: the gradual elimination of my presence in terms of visual perception. I felt as though I was on the view-finder of a camera while the person holding it is adjusting the focus to close-up. My outlines dissolved progressively. My red jacket was a splash of colour; it spread wider and wider, more and more blurred, until it had become an evanescent shadow, quivering on the very edge of the field of vision, swallowed into the lights and darks of the background.... But my invisibility never lasted long: from time to time the lens would swing round towards me and I would spring into focus, outlined against a background of tables and chairs. (58-59)^*' Here he describes himself as part of the focusing mechanism of a camera, but he also uses similes related to photographic film to describe his relationship to the clients of the restaurant, describing for example how a single gesture by a single customer would sometimes remain imprinted on my mind as a significant occurrence for the whole of the following day (77), like the impression of light on a photographic negative. then break these gestures down into separate photographic details: He would

IS O

For example, the women prisoners opposite Ita and Dom inguezs apartment stare back and shout abuse

Era una sensazione quasi fisica; la scomparsa graduale della mia presenza in termini visualmente percepibili. Mi pareva di essere sullo specchio ribaltabile di una macchina fotografica mentre chi la tiene in mano gira Ianello della messa in fuoco su una distanza ravvicinata. I miei contorni si dissolvevano progressivamente. La mia giacca rossa era una macchia di colore; si allargava sempre piu sfumata, fino a diventare unombra labile, che vibrava sul piano estremo del campo visivo, assorbita nei chiari e gli scuri dello sfondo. ... Ma questo stato invisibile non durava mai molto: a tratti la lente girava verso di me e venivo improvvisamente a fuoco, stagliato sullo sfondo di tavoli e sedie (67-68). a volte il singolo gesto di un singolo cliente mi restava impresso come un episodio significativo per tutto il giorno dopo ( 8 8 ).
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I would wake up in the morning with my head filled with details from the evening before: expressions and mannerisms which Id observed and registered without being aware of it. These details would lose their true dimensions during the night, becoming magnified like photographic enlargements; they would grow grainy until it was impossible to grasp any overall image or understand how theyd originated. My mind would retain a fragment of a gesture; one expression isolated from the context of a thousand expressions which had made up the facial behaviour of a young woman dining with a suitor. (77)'^^ This description creates an almost Cubist faceting of reality that would be unimaginable without photographys capacity to still movement and to fragment space, as the explicit references to photographic enlargement makes clear. Giovannis description seems to echo the great American photographer Edward Westons definition of the photograph: The photographic image partakes more of the nature of a mosaic than of a drawing or painting. It contains no lines in the painters sense, but is entirely made up of tiny particles. The extreme fineness of these particles gives a special tension to the image, and when that tension is destroyedby the intrusion of handwork, by too great enlargement, by printing on a rough surface, etc.the integrity of the photograph is destroyed.' De Carlo, like Calvino, takes this notion a step further by considering not just the individual photograph as akin to a mosaic, but regarding collections of photographic moments as like a mosaic whose pieces have been shuffled and disassociated from one another. Giovanniby turns photographic eye and photographic negativecontrasts his own invisibility and impressionability with the visibility of Marsha Mellows, wondering if it is possible for her to go anywhere on her own, without being noticed, stopped, photographed (166-67).'*^ He imagines the hordes of journalists lurking among the

Di mattina mi svegliavo con in testa dettagli della sera precedente: espressioni e modi di fare che avevo notato e registrato senza accorgermene. Questi dettagli perdevano proporzione durante la notte, si ingrandivano come fotografie, si sgranavano fino a che era impossibile averne unimmagine d insieme, o capirne Iorigine. Mi restava in mente la porzione di un gesto; unespressione iso lata dal contesto di mille espressioni che avevano costituito Iintera recitazione facciale di una giovane donna a cena con un pretendente (88-89). Edward Weston, Seeing Photographically, in Classic Essays on Photography, ed. Alan Trachtenberg (New Haven, Conn.: Leetes Island Books, 1980), 172.
185 184

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per conto suo, senza essere notata, fermata, fotografata (189).

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shrubberies of Bel Air witb telescopic lenses at the ready, all set to surprise her at any
1

moment (167).

As usual, he is unable to see the parallels between other peoples

unsavory behavior and his own, not thinking to compare his own amateur photographic spying (like that of the Sunday photographer, to use Calvinos expression) with that of the news photographer. The question of Marsha Mellows photographically familiar image is an important one. Meeting her for the first time, Giovanni feels that he is seeing the event as though through a filter: through ground glass (114). 187 He watches her as though he is looking at

a series of photographs of her, like those he lays out on the kitchen counter: I was looking at Marsha Mellows at thirty centimetres distance and I seemed to be seeing just photographs of her, arranged in sequence so as to convey the impression of movement. I looked at these pictures full front, half on, and in profile, and they looked very familiar to me. I seemed to be able to anticipate, accompany and follow through her every gesture and expression. My vision wasnt very sharp. (114)^^^ Eventually he manages to sharpen his gaze a little better, and details come into focus: She was wearing a dark blue trouser suit; a narrow crocodile belt marked her waistline. Under her suit jacket she wore a silk blouse with equestrian motifs, softly rounded over her breasts. Her hair was held back by a bright yellow ribbon, baring her forehead and profile. She had narrow eyebrows: two regular bows of fair hair. Her eyes were the same blue as my own, perhaps a shade darker. These details came into focus slowly, as I managed to see the woman through the photographs in my minds eye. (115) 189

nascosti tra i cespugli di Bel Air con teleobbiettivi in mano, pronti a sorprenderla in qualunque momento (189).
187

attraverso un filtro; attraverso un vetro zigrinato (130).

188 Guardavo Marsha M ellows a trenta centimetri da me, e mi sembrava solo di vedere delle sue
fotografie, disposte in successione cost' da creare unidea di movimento. Guardavo queste sue fotografie di fronte e di tre quarti e di profilo, e mi sembrava di conoscerle bene. Mi sembrava di poter anticipare e accompagnare e concludere ogni suo gesto o espressione. Non vedevo molto nitido (131). Era vestita con un complete di giacca e pantaloni azzurro opaco; una cintura sottile di coccodrillo le segnava la vita. Sotto la giacca aveva una camicia di seta a motivi equestri, che si rigonfiava soffice attorno al seno. I suoi capelli erano tirati indietro con un nastro giallo chiaro, a scoprirle la fronte e il profilo. Le sopracciglia erano sottili: due archetti regolari di pelini chiari. I suoi occhi erano dello stesso azzurro dei miei; forse appena piii scuri. Questi particolari venivano a fuoco poco alia volta, man mano che riuscivo a vederla al di la delle fotografie che avevo in mente (131).
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Here the details of the real Marsha must compete with the photographic images of her that Giovanni already has in his mind. This doubling effect continues as they begin their lesson: When she drew breath, or swung her eyes round, she echoed images that I recalled from her films. Now they appeared more three-dimensional than in the reception room; just a bit more real than real (116).^^ The still photographs and cinematic images of Marsha the star that Giovanni recalls continually interpose themselves between him and the flesh-and-blood Marsha. When he goes to her house to teach, he is surprised to find her in the kitchen, baking, and tries to think of an image to help him interpret her presence there: I wondered whether I d ever seen her in some film in a kitchen scene, but couldnt recollect (137).^^ This inability to find a photographic or cinematic precedent for what he sees makes him uncomfortable, but the encounter in the kitchen turns out to be decisive for Giovannis ability to break through from one sphere to another because it leads to him becoming a photographer in Marshas eyes. This shift in identity takes place not because of any efforts on his part, but rather because of a chance remark he makes to Marsha Mellows as a conversational gambit in response to his discomfort about seeing her in the kitchen: I was slightly embarrassed.... I described to her some pictures I d taken the day before (137).'^^ Marsha replies distractedly that she would like to see them, but she does not seem particularly interested, and to Giovanni it sounds like an empty phrase. Nevertheless, from then on she apparently thinks of him as the photographer. Despite never having seen any of his photographs, she introduces him as a superb photographer to her husband (141) and friends (165), much to

Quando prendeva fiato, o girava gli occhi, ricalcava immagini che mi ricordavano dai suoi film. Adesso venivano fuori piu tridimensionali che in anticamera; appena piu vere del vero (133).
191

190

Mi chiedevo se Iavevo vista in qualche film in una scena di cucina, ma non riuscivo a ricordarmene

(156).
192

Ero in leggero imbarazzo....Le ho descritto alcune fotografie che avevo fatto il giorno prima (157).

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Giovannis embarrassment.

He tries to explain that he is not really a professional

photographer, but no one pays any attention. Giovannis voyeuristic hobby thus comes to validate him as a fellow artist to the group of actors, directors and producers of Marsha Mellows circle. Although Giovannis situation has changed, at the end of the novel he finds himself in a similar position to where he was when it opened. Once again he is looking down on the city, not from an airplane this time, but from the even dizzier heights of the Hollywood home of a famous actor, where Marsha Mellows has taken him: I looked below me, and suddenly, there was the town, like an immense black lake full of luminous plankton, stretching as far as the horizons edges. I looked at the points of light that glimmered in the distance: the ones that formed a flimsy framework of landscape, frail and trembling; the ones in motion along undulating pathways, along semi-circular trajectories, along intersecting lines. There were points that left trails behind them, dribbles of liquid light; points that clustered together in intense concentrations, so as to trace the outline of a fragment of the town and then shatter it once more, dispersing and receding and vanishing ever more into the darkness. I watched them slice through the dead, solid black spaces that made up the void, waiting to absorb some gleam in the moist night. (184)'^'* This time, however, he too is a fixed point of light, having perhaps himself absorbed a little reflection from the stars that surround him . ^ While Giovannis success is an ironic one, the legitimizing of his identity as a photographer, combined with his peculiarly photographic way of seeing, has enabled him to break through one of the transparent walls that separate one sphere from another. Yet the view turns out to be much the same view of points and surfaces: the patterns of light on dark that make of the night cityscape a kind of
193 194

In the original Italian edition, page 161; un fotografo bravissimo (165).

Ho guardato in basso, e di colpo c era la citta, come un immenso lago nero pieno di plancton luminoso, esteso fino ai margini dellorizzonte. Ho guardato i punti di luce che vibravano nella distanza: quelli che formavano unarmatura sottile di paesaggio, fragile, tremante; quelli in movimento lungo percorsi ondulati, lungo traiettorie semicircolari, lungo linee intersecate. C erano punti che lasciavano tracce filanti, have di luce liquida; punti che si aggregavano in concentrazioni intense, fino a disegnare i contorni di un frammento di citta e poi scomporli di nuovo, per separarsi e perdersi sempre piu nel buio. Li guardavo solcare gli spazi del tutto neri che colmavano inerti il vuoto, in attesa di assorbire qualche rifelesso nella notte umida (209-10). Tani points out that in Treno di panna light becomes above all light of appearance, spotlight and limelight, something that creates both illusions and disappointments. Tani, Giovane narrativa, 166.
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photographic negative, endlessly reprodueible, full of multiple meanings, but ultimately leading to only a limited kind of knowledge. It is this concentration on surface effects and the perceived need to interpret the world above all in visual terms because of a crisis of faith about what lies beyond the visual that most of all conneets Niccolai and De Carlos approaeh to photography in II grande angolo and Treno di panna. These are also the aspects that connect the two novels to Calvinos musings on photography in La follia nel mirino and L avventura di un fotografo. The question of what photography can actually reveal is central to all of these works, but it is one that is resolved only by a doubt about photographys ability ultimately to offer more than a limited perspective on the world in which we live. These authors suggest that, as appearances among appearances, photographs can perhaps at best work as tools to help us orient ourselves among them. In the next chapter, I will discuss how for writer Gianni Celati and photographer Luigi Ghirri, this function is photographys great strength, allowing it to provide a possible model for a new kind of writing and a new way of relating to the world of appearances.

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THE UNIVERSITY OE CHICAGO

PHOTOGRAPHIC FICTIONS: PHOTOGRAPHY IN ITALIAN LITERATURE 1945-2000 VOLUME TWO

A DISSERTATION SUBM ITTED TO THE FACULTY OF THE DIVISION OF THE HUM ANITIES IN CANDIDACY FOR THE DEGREE OE DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY

DEPARTM ENT OF ROMANCE LANGUAGES AND LITERATURES

BY SARAH PATRICIA HILL

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS JUNE 2004

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C h a p t e r

F our

LIVABLE FICTIONS; THE LANDSCAPE WORKS OF GIANNI CELATI AND LUIGI GHIRRI

We believe that everything people do from morning until night is an effort to find a possible account of the external, in order for it to he at least a little livable. We also think that this is a fiction, hut it is a fiction in which it is necessary to believe. Gianni Celati

A deep affinity for the places of their native Emilia-Romagna and a fascination with questions of appearance and representation closely link writer Gianni Celati and photographer Luigi Ghirri. Their individual works and interdisciplinary collaborations reveal uniquely interesting interactions between writing and photography, asking us to rethink the nature of these media and the relations between them. The friendship and working relationship that emerged from their collaborations over the course of the 1980s resulted in a joint exploration of the complex interactions between writing and photography that had as its main focus the landscapes of their native Po valley. Through this work, they subverted the strict division of territories that has traditionally separated the two media. The process of interdisciplinary exchange that took place between Celati and Ghirri affected their approach to representing landscape and the external world, particularly in terms of how space and narrative are treated in their works. This chapter looks at the points of convergence of the two mens work. It examines in particular how the experience of
Crediamo che tutto cio che la gente fa dalla mattina alia sera sia uno sforzo per trovare un possibile racconto dellesterno, che sia alemeno un p o vivibile. Pensiamo anche che questa sia una finzione, ma una finzione a cui e necessario credere (Gianni Celati, Fmzioni a cui credere, un esem pio, in Paesaggio italiano, ed. Luigi Ghirri [Milan: Electa, 1989], 32).
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See my discussion o f this in the Introduction.

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working with Ghirri and other photographers in the landscapes of the pianura padana the plains of the river Pobrought about a profound and lasting change in Celatis approach to representation, significantly altering the style and subject matter of his writing, providing him with the impetus to start writing fiction again after a seven-year hiatus, and eventually prompting him to move into visual media himself. For Celati, Ghirris photography provided a way out of what he saw as the cul-de-sac of contemporary literature, opening up new ways of seeing and communicating that enabled him to move beyond the stultifying opposition of fiction and non-fiction to concentrate on what he called the fictions to believe in that structure everyday existence. Ghirri in turn recognized that, for better or worse, photographs are fictions in which we tend to believe, and so sought to make of them a means of telling new stories about the world of appearances we so often take for granted. The two mens close study of the external relates their writing and photography to the ways in which we all seek to make sense of the world in which we live, and suggests new ways of thinking about how we go about this. The chapter begins by discussing the two mens similar backgrounds and experiences, and the shared link to the landscapes of the pianura padana that prepared the ground for their fertile collaborations. It discusses how these collaborations brought about a shift in Celatis writing style and a change of focus in his work. Using his writings for a volume he worked on with Ghirri, II profilo delle nuvole (The Outline of Clouds), it describes Celatis growing understanding of Ghirris approach to landscape representation and their mutual fascination with the marginal. It moves on to discuss their common interest in how humans organize experience and communicate perceptions of it, particularly in terms of the construction of narratives. The chapter then turns to Celatis return to the writing of fictional works, relating this return to his and Ghirris preoccupation with the blurred boundary between fact and fiction, particularly with regards to photographys traditional status as a documentary tool. It outlines some stylistic and formal similarities between Ghirris photography of the 1980s and Celatis writings of the

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same period. Finally, it argues that the most profound connection between photography and writing in the works of the pair takes place on a philosophical level and regards their approach to broad questions about being and representation.

Celati was bom in January 1937 in the town of Sondrio in northern Lombardy and although while he was growing up he moved frequently because of his fathers work, he eventually gravitated to the city from which his parents came, Ferrara. Ghirri was bom in January 1943, in Scandiano, a little town in the province of Reggio Emilia, and grew up in Sassuolo, near Modena, where his family had established themselves. Both thus have strong ties to the region of Emilia-Romagna, in the heart of the plains of the Po, which were to have an important impact on their later work. The professional backgrounds of the pair are also similar in that neither embarked on an artistic career immediately. Celati was 34 when he published his first novel,^ and Ghirri was in his thirties when he began working

Celatis career has been a varied one. As a student in the early 1960s, he lived in Germany for several months, studied English language and literature, philosophy and linguistics at the University of Bologna, and wrote a thesis on James Joyce. During the 1970s he divided his time between teaching in the United States and at the University o f Bologna, finally leaving Bologna in 1984 to live in France. He returned to the United States as a visiting professor at Brown University in 1990, and since then has lived mainly in England, with occasional trips to Italy and the US to teach, most recently at the University o f Chicago in 2003. Since the late 1960s, he has written critical and theoretical works on both literature and photography and has translated Jack London, Jonathan Swift, Louis-Ferdinand Celine, Stendhal, William Gerhardie, Mark Twain, Roland Barthes, and Herman Melville. He has published innumerable essays and articles in Italian newspapers and neoavantgarde journals such as II Verri and Quindici, as well as a collection o f essays, mainly in the field o f American and English literature, entitled Finzioni occidentali in 1975. He published his first work of fiction, Comiche, in 19 7 1, at the insistence o f Italo Calvino, who wrote an introduction to the novel and was a constant source of encouragement. Comiche was followed in 1973 by Le avventure di Guizzardi, La banda dei sospiri in 1976, and Lunario del paradise in 1978. In 1989 these were republished, with a rewritten version o f Lunario del paradise, as the trilogy Farlamenti buffi. After a long break from writing novels, Celati returned to writing fiction with a collection o f stories, N arrateri dellepianure (1985), followed in 1987 by Quattre novelle sulle apparenze. The non-fictional Verso la fa ce was published inl989. During the 1990s he published L Orlande innamorate raccentato in prosa (1994), Recita d ellattore Vecchiatto nel teatro di Rio Saliceto (1996), and Avventure in Africa (1998). In 2001 he published a collection o f stories written over a period o f many years as Cinema naturale. Encouraging others to write has also been important to Celati and in 1992 he edited a collection o f short stories, mostly by little-known writers, entitled N arrateri delle riserve. He co-founded and co-edited the literary journal II semplice: Almanacco della p resa and is part o f the editorial board o f the on line journal, Zibaldeni ed altre meraviglie. Over the past decade, his creative focus has shifted towards video and film. He directed a video, La strada provinciale delle anime in 1991, followed at the end o f the decade by II mondo di Luigi Ghirri (1999), and most recently by Visioni di case che crollano (2003).

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full-time as a photographer.'^ Although they rank among the most important figures of their generation in their respective fields within Italy, they also share the fate of being relatively little known to the non-specialist public outside Italy, although in recent years their importance has begun to be properly recognized abroad.^ Another important similarity in Celati and Ghirris artistic careers is the way in which they can be divided into two phases. In Celatis case, the division is particularly clear because after the publication of his third novel, Lunario del paradise (The Almanac of Paradise), in 1978, he did not publish any more fiction until Narrateri delle pianure (Voices From the Plains) was published in 1985. In addition, the works of the 1980s appear so different from those of the 1970s that the casual reader could be forgiven for thinking that they were not by the same author. Most obvious among the differences between Celatis writings of the 1970s and the 1980s is his use of language. The virtuoso grammatical blundering and the ebullient style of the early novels, epitomized by the language of Le avventure di Guizzardi (The Adventures of Guizzardi), is replaced in
Ghirri graduated from high school in Modena in 1962 and went on to train and work as a surveyor and graphic artist. Despite his long interest in photography and in the arts in general, it was not until 1970 that he began his career as a photographer. He had been attracted to photography since his childhood, but had been prevented from taking it up as a profession because o f financial constraints. Even after he began photographing, he was not able to rely on it for his livelihood until the mid 1970s, and he continued to work as a graphic designer while developing his interest in photography. Fortunately, like Celati, he was assisted by a number o f important mentor figures, particularly the art historian Massimo Mussini (who in 1974 persuaded him to make photography his full-time career) and the historian o f Italian photography Arturo Carlo Quintavalle. With the help o f Qumtavalle, Mussini and others, Ghirri was eventually able to build a career as a photographer and achieved notable success, particularly in Italy and France. Like Celati, he was also interested in encouraging others, and through his work with a number o f young photographers something of an informal school grew up around him, especially during the 1980s and very early 90s. His photographic production from the time he commenced in 1970 was vast, cut short only by his untimely death in 1992. See bibliography for a complete list o f his exhibition catalogues and photographic volumes. ^ Celatis increasingly high profile in North America is due in large part to the scholarly work o f Rebecca West over the past two decades. Her monographic study o f Celati (the only such work in any language), Gianni Celati: The Craft o f Everyday Storytelling, was published by the University o f Toronto Press in 2000. In 1998, Celatis Avventure in Africa was awarded the inaugural Zerilli-Marimb prize, which included support for the books translation by Adria Bernardi and publication in English as Adventures in Africa (Chicago: University o f Chicago Press, 2000). A major exhibition o f Ghirris work on the architecture of Aldo Rossi, Things Which Are Only Themselves, was held at the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal in the fall o f 1996, and collections of his photographs are increasingly exhibited in a number o f North American galleries, such as the Julie Saul gallery in New York City. In 2001 Massimo Mussini published a large-scale monograph on Ghirri, with numerous examples o f his photographs from throughout his career, but there is as yet no English translation. See Massimo Mussini, ed., Luigi Ghirri (Milan: Federico Motta, 2001).
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Narratori delle pianure with a quiet, reflective style that seems utterly removed from the quick-fire verbal barrage of the earlier novels. Robert Lumley argues that in the 1980s Celatis writing undergoes a radical transformation. There is a shift away from dialogue, the construction of character and the attempt to create a strong visual language and a move towards minimalism.^ Other critics have also emphasized the many differences between the two periods of Celatis work. Nevertheless, Rebecca West argues persuasively that it is wrong to assert such a radical discontinuity as Lumley seems to suggest between Celatis works of the seventies and those of the eighties, despite the seven-year hiatus between Lunario del paradise and Narratori delle pianure. 8 As she points out, the kind of narrative

that has always interested Celati has not changed radically, although its primary focus and many elements of his narrative style have. From his earliest fictions on, Celati has consistently refused the model of what he has called 1 1 racconto monumentale.^ Instead he has stressed the importance of narrative as one of our primary cognitive instruments, as Louis Mink puts it, an irreducible w ay.. .of making the flux of experience comprehensible.^'^ A concern with the ways in which we make sense of the world of appearances is perhaps the most important constant in all his work. Yet there was undeniably a marked shift in focus and style in his works of the 1980s, and this was intimately related to his experiences with Ghirri in the plains of the Po. Although there was no hiatus between Ghirris work of the 1970s and 1980s, there are notable differences between the works of the two periods, some of which are associated
^ Robert Lumley, Gianni Celati Fictions to Believe in, in The New Italian Novel, ed. Zygmunt Baranski, and Lino Fertile (Edinburgh; Edinburgh University Press, 1993), 50-51. For example, Guido Almansi sees the difference between the two periods in terms o f fat and thin writing. See Guido Almansi, Gli idilli padani, Panorama (1985): 14.
g

Rebecca West, Gianni Celati and Literary Minimalism, L anello che non tiene 1, no. 2 (1989): 14. ^Ibid.: 15. Louis O. Mink, Narrative Form as a Cognitive Instrument, in The Writing o f History: Literary Form and Historical Understanding, ed. Robert H. Canary and Henry Kozicki (Madison: University o f Wisconsin Press, 1978), 131.

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with his meeting Celati and collaborating with him on their studies of the landscapes of the Po valley. Ghirris earlier work reflected his contact with the conceptionalist Modena art scene, capturing day-to-day objects like shop windows and advertisements in surprising ways in order to analyze the construction of the visual world (see Figure 28). In his later work, in particular his studies of interiors, landscapes, and architecture, an ontological approach shared with Celati comes to the fore. Although he did not have a seven-year break from his photographic work in the way that Celati did from fiction, Ghirri did undergo an important period of reflection on his work near the end of the 1970s with the publication in 1978 of the book Kodachrome, an anthology of his photographic work up to that point, and with the mounting of a major retrospective exhibition, Verafotografia (True Photography), in 1979. Partly as a result of this re-examination, he turned increasingly to landscape, and embarked on several new projects that were significantly different from his earlier works. As in Celatis case, however, it is important to stress that these differences are the result of an evolution of his style rather than a radical break with his previous work. Like Celati, and often with him, he spent the decade from the early eighties to the early nineties deeply involved in meditations on the external world, perspective, space: all in turn tied to shared problematics of photography and narration. The background of these

meditations was most often the landscapes of the Po valley, and so it is to these that I now turn.

*^ Rebecca West, Gianni Celati: The Craft o f Everyday Storytelling (Toronto: University of Toronto Press,

2000 ), 106 .

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Figure 28: Luigi Ghirri, Rotterdam, 1973

Celati, Ghirri, and the Plains of the River Po Jefferson Hunter writes that combinations of photography with writing work, when they do work, not by some impossible feat of mixing incompatible artistic modes but by discovering similar artistic predilections, using analogous techniques, drawing on the strengths rather than the weaknesses of each mode, and in general finding common ground. ^ In the case of Celati and Ghirri, that metaphorical common ground is also a literal one: that of the landscapes of the plains of the river Po, the pianura padana. These landscapes are unlike any other in Italy. An extraordinarily flat, agriculturally rich plain, the pianura padana spreads outwards on either side of the river Po to cover a vast area of northeastern Italy. One of Europes great rivers, the Po runs from its source in the mountains of Piedmont across the plains of Lombardy to the Po Valley and out through a
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Hunter, Image andWorcI, 35.

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flat, marshy, five-branched delta to the sea. The order of the rows of trees, ditches, canals and roads that pattern the plains contrasts with the ever-present threat of flooding, the marshy fields of rice, and the strangeness of the unstable reclaimed land that in many places has sunk below the level of the river that flows past above it between the high, builtup banks. The apparent featurelessness of the pianura padana makes it seem the epitome of plainness in every sense, seemingly a tabula rasa awaiting the inscription of a giant hand. Yet this plain contains a rich amalgam of landscapes, from the fruit orchards of Emilia to the woods of Mesola and the mouths of the Po. It also masks a rich narrative and cultural history, making of the pianura padana less a tabula rasa than a palimpsestwritten, erased, and re-written by generations of its inhabitants and by the forces of nature. The relationship between humans and nature in this region has often been a stormy one. Ariosto described the way in which the landscape was frequently transformed by the fury of the King of rivers, whose floods obliterated the reclaimed land which had been so painstakingly created so that Over the elms high top the fishes glide, / Where fowls erewhile their nimble pinions plied
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The overturning of established order brought about

by the floods erases human stories and replaces them with a natural cycle of destruction and renewal that is, in turn, re-written once again by human industry and imagination. Austrian rule after the defeat of Napoleon saw the progressive marginalization of the pianura padana and especially the delta of the Po in relation to the rest of northern Italy. Neglected and undervalued by its foreign rulers, the region grew poorer. Even after the unification of Italy, it remained a neglected backwater and was one of the last areas to be incorporated into the new nation. It was not until the 1950s that industrial development led to greater economic prosperity in the area. This, however, led to a rejection of old
re de fiumi altiero, guizzano i pesci agli olmi in su la cima / ove solean volar gli augelli m pnma. (Ludovico Ariosto, Orlando furioso, edited by Lanfranco Caretti [Turin: Einaudi, 1992], Canto 40, ottava 31). English translation taken from Orland Enraged, trans. William Stewart Rose (1775-1843), available at http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/OMACL/Orlando/ 13

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traditions. The ancient houses of the peasant workers were abandoned for new concrete apartments and villas in the rush to urbanize, or at least modernize. Industrialization and agricultural development, particularly during the economic miracle of the 1950s and 60s, have transformed the area, vastly increasing its wealth, but at the cost of major environmental problems. The river Po has been polluted and neglected, and its rich

potential as a major waterway has never been realized. Although the economic development of the region during the 1950s played a key role in the gradual emergence of the river Po and its surrounds from the obscurity that had descended on them since the eighteenth century, cultural factors also contributed to this emergence. As early as the 1940s, through the work of directors like Michelangelo Antonioni, in films such as Gente del Po (People of the Po) and II grido (The Outcry), and Luchino Visconti with Ossessione (Obsession), the delta of the Po and the pianura padana began to achieve greater cultural p ro m in e n c e .A s we saw in Chapter One, in 1955, Cesare Zavattini and Paul Strand published Un paese, on the people and places of Luzzara, a small town near Reggio Emilia. The Italian screenwriter and the American photographer brought together the written narrative tradition associated with the river Po with its parallel photographic tradition. Long before Celati and Ghirris work together, Zavattini and Strand set a precedent for the exchange between writing and photography in these landscapes. Guido Almansi goes so far as to compare Celatis writing of the 1980s with a model of

This process can be traced back to the early 1950s and Enrico Matteis creation o f ENI, a government operated holding company which was granted the exclusive rights to exploit the natural resources of the Po valley in 1953. Mattel was legendary for the speed with which he effected change and his complete disregard for local authorities and environmental planning. For a comprehensive discussion of late twentieth-century Italian literary images o f the landscapes o f the pianura padana, see the excellent volume by Davide Papotti, Geografie della scrittura: Paesaggi letterari del medio Po (Pavia: La Goliardica Pavese, 1996). On the influence o f these directors on Celati and his move into film-making, see Gianni Celati and Sarah Patricia Hill, Documentari imprevedibili com e i sogni, in L idea documentaria. Altri sguardi dal cinema italiano, ed. Marco Bertozzi (Turin: Lindau, 2003).

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literature tied to the world of Zavattini and Neorealism.^^ West rejects this interpretation, arguing that for Celati and Ghirri reality is far too problematic a category to allow them to attempt any sort of Neorealist representation.^^ However, there are important similarities between Zavattinis approach and that of Celati, particularly in terms of Zavattinis careful attention to the voices of his fellow villagers. Furthermore, Strand and Zavattinis collaboration was an influential precedent to Celati and Ghirris decision to work together on the landscapes of the Po Valley. For both Celati and Ghirri, working in the Po valley was a multi-layered experience that involved an exploration of personal and family narratives, as well as the wider narratives of the place itself. Since both of their families were from the area and it remained Ghirris home until his death, their knowledge of it had a marked impact on the work they carried out there. Asked how he felt the experience of being in that particular landscape had affected the kind of work he and Ghirri had produced, Celati replied that although it had seemed to be a matter of convenience given that he and Ghirri were both living in the area, it was in fact fundamental to what they produced. He pointed out that when he and Ghirri had tried to carry out other works together in Tuscany and Switzerland they eame out really badly because there wasnt the background study. That is, that came out badly because here [in the pianura padana] we had the possibility of studying the same place for years, whereas we went there a bit like tourists.'* The two mens repeated journeys through the Po valley, knowledge of its cultural history, and concentrated study of a landscape in which their own family stories were inscribed allowed them to appreciate it in a profound way.

un modello di letteratura legato al mondo di Zavattini e del neorealismo (Almansi, Gli idilli padani, 14). West, Minimalism, 14. sono venuti malissimi perche non c era lo studio. Cioe, sono venuti male perche qui [nella pianura padana] avevamo la possibilita di studiare per anni lo stesso luogo, mentre 1 1 siamo andati un p o come turisti (Gianni Celati, Interview with the author, Bologna, May 30 1995).

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Viaggio in Italia Celati and Ghirris shared cultural heritage, and the tradition of interdisciplinary exchanges in the area made it natural for Ghirri to invite the writer to work with him and a group of other photographers on the book Viaggio in Italia (Travels in Italy). The volume, published in 1984, represents a key moment in the revisioning of Italian landscape photography and of the contemporary Italian landscape itself. It consists of an introductory essay by Quintavalle, a prose piece by Celati, and a series of photographs by many of the most innovative Italian landscape photographers of that generation, some of whom formed part of a loose group centered on Luigi Ghirri. In his introduction to the volume, Quintavalle relates their work to the development of Italian photographic representations of Italy over the course of the twentieth century. He points out that the two dominant Italian photographic schools of the post-war period, despite their differences (one consisted of those involved with journals such as Politecnico and II mondo, whose photographs showed the strong influence of American and particularly Farm Service Administration photographers, while the other was made up of a European and Crocean group who were aligned with the model of Henri Cartier Bresson), both tended to embrace an episodic approach that presented an image of Italy outside time. This was an Italy rooted in peasant culture, rural ways of life, and traditional customs and values. Ironicallyand by no means coincidentallythese representations flourished just at the moment that Italy was entering the industrial boom. A supposedly realistic model of representation of a mythical, rural, traditional Italy, it actually reflected very little of the contemporary reality of the vast majority of Italians. Instead, it became a highly successful and lucrative cliche on which a whole industry and a whole representational tradition were based. In their work for the Viaggio in Italia project, Ghirri and the other photographers sought to transform the image of Italy through a careful analysis of its construction. By
Arturo Carlo Quintavalle, Appunti, in Viaggio in Italia, ed. Luigi Ghirri, Gianni Leone, and Enzo Velati (Alessandria; II Quadrante, 1984), 9.
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looking at photography as a means of reflecting on the problem of image making, they escaped from cliched photographic rhetoric. As Quintavalle puts it, these photographers confronted landscape as an ignored and thus marginalized and exluded place. was thus a search for the Italy of the margins, of ambiguity, of the fake, of the double, of the Italy that is essentially excluded. But this is also the only Italy that we know, that we understand and experience, because it is the only one that we can consider in direct relation to our dissociated existences.^^ It was this Italy that also interested Celati, who as early as 1975 was writing about the importance of paying attention to the marginalized or simply ignored spaces of history and tradition.
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Theirs

His interest in the marginal subjects not usually addressed by traditional

literature was also apparent in his earliest fictions, whose protagonists are all marginalized and shut out in various ways.
'j'l

Ghirris desire to photograph sympathetically what is normally ignored or excluded had enormous appeal for a writer who had given up writing fiction because, as he put it: I didnt believe that there was any credibility in normal literature, which is industrial literature, in the sense that you have to accept and take for granted that you are reading a fiction ... [which] then implies that you are in a fictionalized position vis-a-vis your everyday life, which implies youre in a separate position vis-a-vis your own experience. I wasnt satisfied with this idea of fiction...

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com e luogo ignorato e quindi emarginato, escluso.

una ricerca delFItalia dei margini, dellambiguita, del finto, del doppio, dellItalia sostanzialmente esclusa, dellItalia che pero e anche la sola che noi conosciamo, comprendiamo, viviamo perche e la sola che possiamo considerare in diretto rapporto con la nostra dissociata esistenza (Ibid., 11), spazi emarginati o semplicemente ignorati dalla memoria-tradizione (Gianni Celati, II bazar archeologico, / / Verri 12 (1975): 14). See his Comiche (Turin; Einaudi, 1971), Le avventure di Guizzardi (Turin: Einaudi, 1973), Celati, Gianni. La banda dei sospiri (Turin: Einaudi, 1976), and Lunario del paradiso, (Turin: Einaudi, 1978). West points out that Celatis fictions of the 1970s all adopt the point of view o f emarginated types (insane people in Comiche, idiots in Le avventure di Guizzardi, adolescents and exiles in La banda dei sospiri and Lunario del paradiso) (West, Craft, 67). Robert Lumley, The Novella and the New Italian Landscape: An Interview with Gianni Celati, Edinburgh Review, no. 83 (1990): 43.
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The fictions that interested Celati were rather those of day-to-day life, the stories we tell ourselves and one another to help us deal with our dissociated existences. West points out that Celatis work differs from the epistemological strain of narrative typified by other Italian writers such as Carlo Emilio Gadda, Umberto Eco, Leonardo Sciascia, Luigi Malerba, and Italo Calvino, in that he is concerned less with the possibility of knowing the world than the attempt to make it more livable through the construction of fictions to believe in.^^ She argues that Celatis turn to the external world and his work on seeing and describing it as it wants to be seen were ways for him of positioning literature more in line with everyday experience and with the common communicative pacts that we enter into when seeking to reach others. Celatis collaborations with Ghirri in the landscapes

of the pianura padana were instrumental in this shift of focus. Ghirris influence on Celati was not just on the level of his theoretical approach. In fact, as Celati became more involved in the Viaggio in Italia project, he found himself leaming to work like a photographer, in the sense that usually you write a story at home, you set off from something you have in mind and go ahead like that. But a photographer has a different method, he has to go around and look at things.
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He found this technique

enormously liberating and discovered that it enabled him to write in a new way. As he has put it: I started to do what Luigi and the other photographers did.. .that is, not writing at home any more, but always going around writing, that is, doing what photographers do. For example, Luigi would take a thousand photographs, and out of a thousand there would be, I dont know, twenty or ten that were good. So its the same thing to go around for days and days.

West, Craft, 10. Ibid., 148. nel senso che di solito uno scrive un racconto a casa sua, parte da qualcosa che ha nella sua testa e va avanti cosi, invece un fotografo ha un metodo diverse, deve andare in giro, guardare le cose (Celati, Interview, Bologna, June 14 1995).
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taking thousands of notes and notes and notes, descriptions, stories all heard on the road, and then frame them a little, find a way of framing things.^^ Working with Ghirri and the other photographers on Viaggio in Italia, and later on their study of the via Emilia (which eventually resulted in two books, Esplorazioni sulla via Emilia: Vedute nel paesaggio and Esplorazioni sulla via Emilia: Scritture nel paesaggio), Celati would rise at five each morning, going out simply to wander around and take notes on what he saw and heard. Celatis method of writing enplein air during his travels through the landscapes of the Po valley rather than writing from home was crucial to his writings of the 1980s. He says that this was perhaps the thing that connected us the most, Luigi and me, because it seemed to me a healthier way of working, less subjective. 9 Q Out of this experience, he

developed a style that is not descriptive but rather a kind of existential note-taking. This new style is evident both in the non-fiction works on which he collaborated with Ghirri and in Verso la face (Towards the Rivers Mouth), a collection of non-fiction writings made up of Celatis notes on four different journeys through the region of the Po delta with Ghirri and the other photographers. The composition of these pieces, which Celati calls stories of observation, marked his transition to a new kind of writing.
30

Although the collection was

not published until 1989, it represents a summary of many of his concerns throughout the whole period of his collaboration with Ghirri from the early 1980s on. The dated entries of Verso la face have a diaristic quality at first glance, but Celatis desire for a simple mode of expression is evident in his preference for taking notes rather than keeping a diary as such.
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ho cominciato a fare come Luigi, come i fotografi ... cioe di non scrivere piu a casa mia, di scrivere sempre in giro, cioe fare come fanno i fotografi. Per esempio Luigi prendeva mille foto, e da mille ne venivano fuori, non so, venti o dieci che andavano bene, quindi e la stessa cosa andare in giro per giorni e giomi, prendere un migliaio di appunti, appunti, appunti, descrizioni, racconti sentiti tutti per strada, e poi utilizzarli un po con un frame, trovare uninquadratura delle cose (Ibid.). la cosa che ci ha legato di piu, io e Luigi, perche mi e sembrato che fosse un modo piu sano di lavorare, meno soggettivo (Ibid.). 30 racconti d osservazione (Gianni Celati, Verso la face, [Milan; Feltrinelli, 1989], 9). 29

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He points out that whereas a diary is almost always a relatively self-eonscious and posterity-conscious form, notes operate much more as a kind of communication with oneself. 3 1 Celati made use of the notes he took on his travels with Ghirri and the other

photographers to communicate his impressions of those travels to the reader using as simple a style as possible. The last story, Verso la foce, was the first of the four to be written, adapted from the piece of writing Verso la foce (reportage, per un amico fotografo) (Towards the Rivers Mouth [reportage for a photographer friend]) which he published in Viaggio in Italia. The other three narratives that make up the book were written over the course of the period that he and Ghirri were working together, so they too are strongly influenced by that experience.

It profilo delle nuvole and Ghirris approach to landscape Celati and Ghirris conversations and collaborations over the course of the 1980s are perhaps best summed up by their IIprofilo delle nuvole, published in 1989, with photographs by Ghirri and a long text by Celati. Many of Ghirris ideas about photography are incorporated into Celatis notes that accompany the photographs. His incisive comments on Ghirris photographs reveal the extent to which he responded to Ghirris approach to landscape, and he pays tribute to the impact Ghirris technique had on his own. Their eonversations, as reported by Celati, provide an important insight into the interchange between writing and photography that took place between them and their shared musings on representation. Celatis text is a fascinating and profound work in its own right, and one of the most perceptive commentaries on Ghirris work. It also reveals the extent to which, for a writer so disillusioned by what he saw as the senselessness of much contemporary literature, Ghirris ability to continue to find a sense for thingseven in the eontext of the senseless environmental damage perpetrated on much of the pianura padana was enormously encouraging. Ghirris respect for the seemingly empty or insignificant suggests
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Gianni Celati, Interview with the author, Comacchio, June 26 1995.

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a means of coping with the confusion of appearances in which we live. His work was of particular interest to Celati because of the photographers avoidance of all forms of cultural elitism, his refusal to dominate the landscapes he looked at, and his desire to value everything that exists for the fact of its existence. 32 Ghirris landscape photographs of the 1980s are without extravagant gestures or effects. In their apparent simplicity they ask the viewer to contemplate the ordinary and the empty in such a way that whatever is seen is accepted as of interest simply because it is part of everything that exists. His 1984 picture of earthworks near Sassuolo is an excellent example of this kind of accepting gaze (see Figure 29). The deliberately non-aesthetic subject matter and the apparent lack of formalism allow viewers space to look at the interaction between humans and nature that is literally constructing this landscape before their eyes. With this type of work, Ghirri taught Celati to look at places without imposing preconceptions or projecting oneself onto them, and without taking them for granted. Landscape tends to be interpreted as a natural given, a space that is both sight and site. Ghirri problematizes this unthinking acceptance by emphasizing the largely ignored status of landscape as a cultural construct. He achieves this through photographing it with a

certain degree of distance, something which allows us to see it as though from outside. As Celati wrote in IIprofilo delle nuvole, Ghirri says the we dont usually see what is spread out at the sides of our gaze, we spy on the world from a reduced angle. We are always within something that is like an enveloping embrace and we have to use of peripheral

32 33

Celati, Esempio, 32.

On this complex issue, see for example Trevor J. Barnes and Jtimes S. Duncan, eds.. Writing Worlds: Discourse, Text & M etaphor in the Representation o f Landscape (London and N ew York: Routledge, 1992), Denis E. Cosgrove and Stephen Daniels, The Iconography o f Landscape: Essays on the Symbolic Representation, Design, and Use o f Past Environments, Cambridge studies in historical geography ; 9 (Cambridge [England]; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988), W.J.T. Mitchell, ed.. Landscape and Power (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1994), Simon Schama, Landscape and Memory (London: Harper Collins, 1995).

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vision.^ "^ Celati recognizes that one of the most important problems we face in theorizing about or representing landscape is that, in W.J.T. Mitchells phrase, landscape ... always greets us as space, as environment.^^ As a result, it is all too easy to take it for granted or interpret it according to set conventions of the beautiful, the picturesque, the interesting or uninteresting. Ghirris photographs deliberately set out to subvert such conventions.

Figure 29: Luigi Ghirri, Sassuolo (Mo), 1 9 8 4

While we inevitably experience the physical landscape as environmentthe space in which, as Mitchell puts it, we find or lose ourselves written or photographic representations of landscape are necessarily fragmentary. Ghirri saw in this the

opportunity to create landscape photographs that offer the viewer the opportunity to briefly

Ghirri dice che di solito non vediamo quello che e diffuse ai lati dello sguardo, non spiamo da un angolo ridotto. Siamo sempre dentro a qualcosa che e come un abbraccio avvolgente e dobbiamo usare la visione periferica (Gianni Celati, Commenti su un teatro naturale delle immagini, in IIprofilo delle nuvole: i/uff/aginldi un paesaggio Italiano, ed. Luigi Ghirri [Milan: Feltrinelli, 1989], 12 maggio).
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34

Mitchell, ed., Landscape a n d Power, 2.

^^Ibid.

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step outside the enveloping embrace of the landscape and the stifling constraints of pre-learnt ways of seeing. By paying close attention to the landscape and how it is framed, both literally and figuratively, Ghirri sought to show it as a construct that relies on its inhabitants and observers for its significance. One of the most interesting features of Ghirris landscape photographs of the 1980s is the way in which they translate the landscape into what appear to be progressively less abstract representations. Contrasting his 1972 Atlante series, where he photographed details from his daughters school atlas (see Figure 30), with the photographs he took for Viaggio in ItaJia or IIprojilo delle nuvole (see for example Figure 31) reveals this change as particularly striking. Even in comparison with his studies of the urban landscapes of the Po valley, the later works are remarkable for their quiet reflection on the landscape. A photograph of a half-submerged house at Comacchio (see Figure 32) shows his movement away from an overtly conceptual view of landscape to a subtler approach, which recognizes the landscape itself as symbolic and seeks to pare down the constraints of pre-learnt ways of seeing the world. This photograph of a landscape that has been literally deterritorialized reveals it as a contested site between humans and nature.

' mX
Figure 30: Luigi Ghirri, From Atlante, Modena, 1973

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Figure 31: Luigi Ghirri, C ackcoppl {Mo), /9 8 6

Figure 32: Luigi Ghirri, Comacchio: Argine Agos/iz

In his comments for Profilo, Celati points out that one of the most important developments in Ghirris work over the course of the 1980s and up until his death in 1992

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is his increasing desire to look at things as they ask to be looked at.

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This is not a

claim to some privileged, mystic communication with the landscape, but rather an attempt to avoid preconceived ways of viewing and interpreting the world. In the same way that Walker Evans, perhaps the photographer whom Ghirri most admired, was willing to let his human subjects pose themselves, stage their own images in all their dignity and vulnerability, rather than treating them as material for pictorial self-expression, Ghirri works to render the structures he sees in his landscape subjects as sympathetically as
on

possible and without any kind of artistic self-indulgence.

He thus tries to look at objects


on

in the landscape according to the movements and angles that let us see them best.

While he recognizes that our interpretations of the landscape will always and inevitably be subjective, Ghirri highlights the ways in which this subjectivity partakes in the dialogue between collective identity and landscape. He thus refuses to allow interpretation to be absorbed into the conventions of mass culture or sublimated into artistic expression. Looking at the landscape as it asks to be looked at involves opening ones mind to its diverse possibilities, being sensitive to the ways in which the landscape has been shaped to be viewed in certain ways or to resist other ways of seeing, and framing it accordingly. Ghirris approach to landscape represents an ideology as much as any other landscape representation, but it is unusual in its overt recognition of landscape as the site of ideological struggle.'^' In a 1982 interview, Ghirri said that he would like to be remembered for the attempt to have a gaze free of preconceptions, a broadened gaze rather than a fixed.
guardare le cose com e richiedono di essere guardate (Ghirri, quoted in Celati, Commenti, 4 settembre). Mitchell, Picture Theory, 299. secondo i movimenti e le angolature che ci portano a verderle meglio (Quoted in Celati, Commenti, 4 settembre). On the ideologies o f landscape see Cosgrove and Daniels, The Iconography o f Landscape: Essays on the Symbolic Representation, Design, and Use o f Past Environments, Denis E. Cosgrove, Social Eormation and Symbolic Landscape (Madison, Wis.; University o f Wisconsin Press, 1998), Renzo Dubbini, Geografie dello sguardo: Visione e paesaggio in eta moderna (Turin: Einaudi, 1994), Mitchell, ed.. Landscape and Power, 2, and Schama, Landscape and Memory. 40 39 37

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maniacal one." ^ ^ While he recognized that one can never entirely rid oneself of prelearnt ways of seeing the world, Ghirri saw the attempt to do so as worthwhile in itself, and encouraged Celati in his attempts to avoid artistic conventions and pre-established representational modes. Furthermore, as Celati points out, the observed world is not the one that appears though the point of view of a single individual. It is what, before him, is already common to all the various observations and representations, because it is part of a form of life."^ ^ This distinction between individual interpretations of the world and the commonality of the observed world itself is one of the interesting points of tension in Celati and Ghirris work. In this context, landscape can operate as a common ground, with individual representations and observations overlapping and impinging upon one another to create a more-or-less common narrative that allows for the possibility of communication. While acknowledging their own subjectivity, Celati and Ghirri made a conscious effort in their works of the 1980s and early 1990s to move beyond it and to be sensitive to this more general observed world, at the same time resisting pre-learnt interpretations. Their awareness of earlier representations of the plains of the Po helped them to appreciate the ways in which that landscape had previously been made legible and to use that landscape as a common ground from which to attempt to communicate with others. Ghirris interest in this kind of communication is evident in his attempt throughout the 1980s and up to his death to open up the landscape, dislocate the gaze, get out from

il tentativo di avere uno sguardo libero di preconcetti, uno sguardo allargato invece che fisso, maniacale (Quoted in Sergio Alebardi, Intervista con Luigi Ghirri, Progresso fotografico [1982]: 35). 42 il mondo osservato non e quello che appare attraverso il punto di vista d un individuo singolo. E quello che, prima di lui, e gia comune alle varie osservazioni e rappresentazioni, perche appartiene ad una forma di vita (Celati, Commenti, 1 ottobre). Jonathan Smith, The Slightly Different Thing That is Said; Writing the Aesthetic Experience, in Writing Worlds: Discourse, Text & M etaphor in the Representation o f Landscape, ed. Trevor J. Barnes, and James S. Duncan (London: Routledge, 1992), 79. See also Antonella Campagna, ed., II Po del 900: arte, cinema, letteratura (Bologna: Grafis, 1995). 43

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behind the wall of art."^ He wanted to construct photographs that would free viewers from traditional constraints, enabling them to find a new way of looking at landscapes that might otherwise seem alienating or discomforting. Celati describes how Ghirris recognition that: things want to be represented in a certain way that is already theirs.. .1 wouldnt say its a question of freedom, its no longer the problem of the Romantic, of the artistic, of having a freedom of the gaze, but rather a problem of managing to understand all these lines of sight, all these points of attention that are there in all things, in stories too, and finding a way to organize them. For Luigi it was a simpler mode of organization, and for me too.'^^ Celati and Ghirri see the desire to create order out of chaos as a fundamental human response to the confusion of appearances we inhabit. They link literal and imaginative constructions so that the architectural and geographical organization of space becomes a metaphor for all the ways in which humans organize experience. As Celati puts it: Its always a question of organizing experience. Experience is disorganized, experience is always something chaotic.. .the kinds of work that are called artistic, in short, or even that of telling stories, they are all work that we do naturally to organize experience, anyone does it this way. Together, Luigi and I came to understand these things a little."^^ This organizational principle thus links all forms of creative production, from working the land or building a house to having a conversation, writing a novel or taking a photograph. Celati and Ghirri avoid the elitism that sees artistic production as somehow intrinsically superior to any other kind of human eonstruction. Their attitude reealls J. Hillis Millers deseription of human acts of building and making as a species of poetry and poetry as
aprire il paesaggio, dislocare lo sguardo, uscire dal muro dellarte (Quoted in Celati, Commenti, 10 maggio). le cose vogliono essere rappresentate in un certo modo gia loro ... non e un problema direi della liberta, non e piu il problema del romantico, dellartistico, di avere una liberta dello sguardo, ma e un problema di riuscire a capire tutte queste linee di fuga, questi punti d attenzione che ci sono in tutte le cose, anche nei racconti, e trovare un modo di organizzazione. Per Luigi si trattava di un modo di organizzazione piu semplice, e anche per me (Celati, Interview, Bologna, May 30). Si tratta sempre di organizzare Iesperienza. L esperienza e disorganizzata, Iesperienza e sempre una cosa caotica... questi lavori che si chiamano artistici, insomma, o anche quello di raccontare storie, sono tutti lavori che noi facciamo naturalmente per organizzare Iesperienza, lo fa chiunque in questo modo. Ecco, io e Luigi abbiamo capito un p o queste cose insieme (Ibid.). 46 44

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only one example of the human power to construct something, whether out of words or out of wood, metal, or stone."* ^ These creative acts are all based on the desire to order experience, and Celatis and Ghirris awareness of this basic human need meant that their individual responses to the landscape and its stories were modulated through the process of exchange, not just between writing and photography and all the other disciplines which their wide-ranging curiosity and eclectic tastes led them to explore (such as architecture, film, sociology, philosophy, and linguistics), but also between their own disciplines and the practice of everyday life. It was partly through Ghirris studies of both ordinary and high art architectural structures and organization of space that he was able to recognize and work with the structures underlying the natural landscape, structures that differ from landscape to landscape."^^ Celati describes Ghirris photographs of the unattractive, geometric little houses that dot the plains of the Po and his awareness of the structuring devices that organize them: In those little geometrical houses, Ghirri has uncovered a regularity of lines, symmetries, colors, with which people try to furnish the void as best they can. He has revealed that, if you observe them frontally, they can make you think and imagine as much as a noble monument. Because, in those little houses, the technique of furnishing space implies perpectives similar to those of the fifteenth century, symmetries of a neoclassical kind, colors that recall Piero

J. Hillis Miller, Topographies, (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1995), 278. Michel D e Certeau, The Practice o f Everyday Life, trans. Steven Rendall (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1984). The title of W ests monograph on Celati, Gianni Celati: The Craft o f Everyday Storytelling, justly emphasizes his approach to writing as just such an act of craftsmanship. For example, some theorists believe that one-point perspective was initially discovered in Tuscany because o f the particular structure o f that landscape, with its hill towns and rows o f vines making it readily comprehensible and translatable into a mathematical system o f perspective. For Ghirris work specifically on architecture as an art form, see for example Luigi Ghirri, Aldo Rossi, and Paolo Costantini, Luigi Ghirri Aldo Rossi (Milan: Electa, 1996). Ghirris early work as a surveyor from 1963-1973 was also significant in enabling him to develop his sensitivity to the structures of landscape. On this period o f Ghirris life and its influence on his work, see for example Vittorio Savi, a-b, in Luigi Ghirri, Atlante (Sesto San Giovanni: Charta, 1999). 49 48

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della Francesca. In short, he has uncovered that those boring little houses are a form of life, an example of the culture of the void.^ Ghirri explored the architectural evidence of the culture of the void with sympathy rather than scorn to create images that he hoped would stimulate the viewer to think and imagine, and so move beyond visual preconceptions. Celati points out that Ghirris ability to look at the landscapes of the pianura padana as they ask to be looked at depends upon architecture, because this is one of the most structured landscapes in the world.^^ Ghirris photograph of a snowy embankment on the river Po and distant trees viewed between the symmetrical gate-posts of an old villa reveals exactly these kinds of architectural structures in the landscape (see Figure 33). The symmetrical arrangement of the gateposts and buildings on either side are echoed by the tire marks on the driveway. These marks in the snow, like the buildings and the embankment itself, are an example of the ways in which humans leave their marks on the landscape. The snow, which is both transformed and transforming, also serves as a reminder that the construction of the landscape is always caught up in the dialectics of nature and culture. The snowy bank, which masks the river below it, reminds us of the transience of appearances. It is an image that recalls the Kafka quote with which Celati begins his Quattro novelle sulle apparenze (Four Novellas About Appearances): For we are like tree trunks in the snow. In appearance they lie sleekly and a little push should be enough to set them rolling. No, it cant be done, for they are firmly wedded to the ground. But see, even that is only appearance.
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Together, Ghirri and Celati

In quelle villette geometrili, Ghirri ha scoperto una regolarita di linee, simmetrie, colori con cui si tenta di arredare il vuoto quotidiano meglio che si puo. Ha scoperto che, se osservate frontalmente, potevano far pensare-immaginare quanto un monumento insigne. Perche, in quelle villette, la tecnica di arredo dello spazio comporta delle prospettive simili a quelle quattrocentesche, delle simmetrie di tipo neoclassico, dei colori che possono richiamare Piero della Francesca. In breve, ha scoperto che quelle noiose villette sono una forma di vita, un esempio di cultura del vuoto (Celati, Esempio, 32). dipende dallarchitettura, perche si tratta duno dei paesaggi piu architettati del mondo (Celati, Commenti, 5 settembre. Poiche noi siamo come tronchi dalbero nella neve. Apparentemente vi aderiscono sopra, ben lisci, e con una scossa si dovrebbe porterli spingere da parte. No, non si pub, perche sono legati saldamente al suolo. Perb guarda, anche questa e soltanto unapparenza (5). English translation from Franz Kafka, The Trees, trans. Willa and Edwin Muir.
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explored the paradoxical landscape of appearances, looking for the ways in which humans have attempted to organize it and the ways in which nature conflicts with or complements this attempt.

Figure 33; Luigi Ghirri, Pomponesco (M/i), /9 8 5

As Celati explains, Ghirri recognized that there is always something in the landscape that is already preorganized. On the one hand, theres this, that there are always lines of sight, objects of attention that are preorganized, they come before us and impose themselves upon us, because everything is already codified, and so there is never a free gaze, it doesnt exist.^'^ Ghirris particular sensibility enabled him to look for the structures underlying the landscape and to explore the ways in which our gaze is guided through it. He was very much aware that architectural and photographic framing (like all forms of framing) determine what is central and what is marginal. In a 1990 interview, he stated that Ive always been interested in landscapes considered marginal, I have always found them

c e sempre qualcosa che e gia preorganizzato nel paesaggio. Da una parte ce questo, che ci sono sempre delle linee di fuga, degli oggetti d attenzione che sono preorganizzati, vengono prima di noi, che si impongono a noi, perche tutto e gia codificato, e quindi non c e mai uno sguardo libero, non esiste (Celati, Interview, Bologna, June 14 1995).

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very stimulating.^'^ It was this fascination with the marginal that enabled Ghirri to centralize the marginal spaces of the plains of the Po in his works even while he resisted the traditional creation of visual hierarchies. Ghirri paid attention to a landscape that does not necessarily make itself readily understandable or legible in terms of three-dimensional space and is largely codified in linear terms. The flatness of the plains of the Po means that they are already comprehensible in terms of two dimensions even before they have been translated into their written or photographed representations. As a result, they ask to be looked at in a particular way. Ghirri was especially sensitive to this and this sensitivity was one of the elements of his photography that enabled him to avoid pre-learnt ways of seeing. The pianura padana is an ideal place to practice this because it is so unusually flat that, as Celati points out, the eye is drawn to even the smallest vertical. In this way, these landscapes ask the viewer to question some of the givens of the Italian tradition of landscape representation. Classical notions of the picturesque in landscape, with the gently rolling hills and diminishing perspectives that this usually entails, or Romantic conceptions of the sublime, are totally inappropriate to the landscape of the pianura padana. The curious flatness of the pianura padana, criss-crossed by lines of trees, ditches, roads and ploughed fields, also creates a system in which perspective is simultaneously reaffirmed through the convergence of these lines and undermined by the apparent featurelessness that denies set perspectival systems. Celati wrote of Ghirris landscapes that in them the photographer: has managed to recount the fixity of empty space, the space that we cannot manage to understand. He has carried out a radical cleansing of the intentions or aims of the gaze. Finally he has shown us a gaze that is not spying out spoils to capture, that does not hunt down exceptional adventures, but reveals that everything can be interesting because it is part of what exists.^^

[m]i sono sempre interessato a paesaggi ritenuti marginal], mi hanno sempre suggerito grandi stimoli Ghirri, quoted in Angelo Pangrazio, Luigi Ghirri e le sue foto: anche le emozioni hanno un profile, L Arena, February 6 1990,17. e riuscito a raccontare la fissita dello spazio vuoto, lo spazio che non si riesce a capire. Ha compiuto una radicale pulizia negli intenti o scopi dello sguardo. Finahnente ci ha fatto vedere uno sguardo che non spia un

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Photographs such as Ghirris 1988 photographs of power lines and fields near Migliarino demonstrate this ability to represent a seemingly incomprehensible space with care and curiosity (see Figure 34). The photographer used a mundane subject like the wires that stretch out into the distance to capture the extraordinary vastness of the plains. The photograph shown in Figure 35 creates a similar effect with the lines of the drainage ditch and the dusty road. Their converging lines disappear into an unimaginable vanishing point on the horizon, both recalling and mocking the Albertian perspective of traditional landscape representations that has dominated since the Renaissance. No idealized palace appears to block this perspectival free-fall. In its place, various low, block-like agricultural buildings are grouped to the side of the vanishing point. The conventional rules of perspective are distorted by the flat, uniform surface of a terrain that both invites and refuses representation. Mathematical perspective requires a system of lines to position people or objects in pictorial space. Here, instead, we have a disturbing void that distils perfectly the disorienting sensation produced by these plains. They allow the gaze an unconditional liberty that is further emphasized by the deliberate contrast with a perspectival system that shapes and directs the spectators gaze.

bottino da catturare, che non va a caccia di avventure eccezionali, ma scopre che tutto puo avere interesse perche fa parte dellesistente (Celati, Esempio, 32).

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y'

Figure 34: Luigi Ghirri, Ve/so M g /ia rin o ( fe), /9 8 8

Figure 35: Luigi Ghirri, Ve/so Lagosanto {Fe), /9 8 8

The attempt to avoid preconceived modalities of representation was a constant in Ghirris search for alternative means of photographing landscapes that were most often dismissed as uninteresting. As he wrote, perhaps in the end, places, objects, the things or

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faces encountered by chance, are simply waiting for someone to look at them, recognize them, and not disdain them, relegating them to the shelves of the endless supermarket o f the external. This meant allowing for a localized vision of the landscape,

one that would spare it the fate of becoming a place without history and without geography.^^ Moving from his earlier study of the tacky objects and places from which we often snobbishly avert our eyes, Ghirri in his works of the 1980s tells the story of those places often ignored as boring. In his comments in II profilo delle nuvole Celati describes how, while he was working with Ghirri in the landscape of the plains of the Po, he would sometimes complain about the difficulty of finding something to marvel at. When he commented that everything was monotonous and tired, Ghirri responded by saying that monotony is just the disappointed feeling of a person who is always waiting for new tricks, as though one had to be seduced even into taking a single step.58 Celati goes on to say that: only from here can the strange idea emerge that there is something to see, like an absolute quality of places, quoted from a list of values. While in reality, there is never anything to see, there are only things that we happen to see with more or less delight, independently from their quality. Mourning fades all the colors of a landscape, and falling in love revitalizes them.^

forse alia fine i luoghi, gli oggetti, le cose o i volti incontrati per caso, aspettano semplicemente che qualcuno 11 guardi, li riconosca, e non li disprezzi relegandoli negli scaffali dello sterminato supermarket d ellesterno luogo di nessuna storia e di nessuna geografia (Luigi Ghirri, Niente d i antico sotto il sole : scritti e im m aginiper unautobiografia, Fotografia e storia [Turin: Societa editrice internazionale, 1997], 88-89). la monotonia non e che il sentimento deluso di chi saspetta sempre nuovi illusionismi, come se occorresse essere sedotti anche per fare un solo passo (Quoted in Celati, Commenti, 11 settembre). solo da qui puo nascere la strana idea che ci sia qualcosa da vedere, com e una qualita assoluta dei luoghi, quotata da un listino di valori. Mentre in realta non c e mai niente da vedere, ci sono solo cose che ci capita di vedere con maggior o minor trasporto, indipendentemente dalla loro qualita. Un lutto attenua tutti i colori d un paesaggio, e un innamoramento li ravviva (Ibid.).
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Celati writes that he learnt from Ghirri that when it seems impossible to do anything because everything seems dull and already-seen, by raising ones eyes to the horizon it becomes possible to once again dislocate the gaze and open up the landscape.

Ghirri as Narrator Another important point of contact between the two men was their shared interest in narrative. Ghirri was fascinated by how the inscription of identity in the landscape is in many ways a narrative process, and sought to express this inscription in his photographs. At the same time, he was conscious of the narrative limitations of photography. He believed that photographys concentration on objects rather than events was one of the key things that differentiated it from film and writing. Because of the lack of movement, the reduction of the possibilities of representation becomes a form of aphasia of the gaze very similar to the reduction of the codes of representation of advertising or art catalog photography.^^ He sought to overcome this limitation as far as possible and even to turn it to his advantage with photography in 360 degrees, without limitations. He saw this way of working as allowing for a broadening of perceptual and storytelling possibilities.
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Susan Sontag argued that photographs cannot narrate, and therefore they can never make us,understand. She claimed that the knowledge gained through still photographs will always be some kind of sentimentalism, whether cynical or humanist. It will be a knowledge at bargain pricesa semblance of knowledge, a semblance of wisdom. Ghirri was very interested in Sontags writings on photography, but always resisted her

dislocare lo sguardo, aprire il paesaggio (Ibid.). la riduzione delle possibilita di rappresentazione diventa una forma di afasia dello sguardo molto simile alia riduzione dei codici di rappresentazione della fotografia pubblicitaria o di catalogo d arte. a 360 gradi, senza limitazioni; unamplificazione delle possibilita percettive e di racconto (Quoted in Arturo Carlo Quintavalle, Muri di carta: fotografia epaesaggio dopo le avanguardie [Milan; Electa, 1993], 134). 63 Sontag, On Photography, 24.
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notion of its inability to narrate or to help find ways to understand the world.^'^ While he saw photography as essentially non-linguistic (unlike semioticians like Barthes and Eco, as I discuss in the introduction), he wanted to expand the possibilities of his medium and what he could say, as well as show, with it. His photographs of the pianura padana, to which he returned time and again, re-photographing and rearranging the pieces of the narrative, express his desire not only to depict that landscape, but also to narrate it in successive images. Montage was one of the ways in which Ghirri sought to overcome the narrative limitations of photography. He particularly enjoyed making books, and used the book

form to explore affinities between single images and between those mounted opposite one another on double pages. At first glance these affinities often appear to be formal ones, for example in terms of patterns of lines and horizons in many of the images from works such as Paesaggio italiano or II profilo delle nuvole. A closer inspection reveals that they are also, as Quintavalle puts it, ironic oppositions, moments of critical reflection that are sparked precisely by contrast.^^ Despite the linear sequential progression that a book implies, Ghirri arranged his photographic books to create a range of possible options for the reader/viewer, as if the photographs were spread out on a large floor on which everyone

^ According to Paola Ghirri, in conversation with the author, 10 May, 1995. It should be noted that Sontag has since drastically revised and updated her work on photography. See Sontag, Regarding the Pain o f Others. One particularly interesting example is the project entitled Infmito. Exhibited for the first time in 1974, this work resulted from Ghirris discovery o f a nineteenth-century diary in a second-hand market. The diary contained nothing but a brief description o f each days weather. Delighted by this low-key meteorological narrative, Ghirri set out to emulate his anonymous predecessor. In his case, he used his camera as his diary, photographing the sky from his own back garden every day for a year. Its 365 images can be reordered and played with like a huge photographic puzzle, rearranged to create new stories like the tarot cards in Italo Calvinos II castello dei destini incrociati. The work is an excellent example o f Ghirris notion o f photography come linguaggio, ars combinatoria (Ghirri, quoted in Quintavalle, Messa afu o co , 447). It was published posthumously as a book, thus fixing one o f its many possible narrative orderings. See Luigi Ghirri, Infmito (Rome: Meltemi, 2001). ironiche contrapposizioni, momenti di critica riflessione che scatta appunto dal confronto.

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might choose the directions he or she found most congenial.
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While he recognized

that it is impossible for photographs to narrate with the specificity of written or verbal narratives, Ghirri sought to create tools for storytelling, each with their own unfixed narrative possibilities, allowing them to operate as a collection of different, intertwined plots. Ghirri wrote about the landscape of the imagination that he wanted his sequences of photographs to create. He argued that by assembling his photographs one after the other; These places form a kind of sequence, made up of stones, churches, gestures, lights, mists, brine coated branches, blue seas. In this way they become our impossible landscape, without scale, without a geographical order to orient us, a tangle of monuments, lights, thoughts, objects, moments, analogies that make up the mental landscape for which we go looking, even unconsciously, every time we look out of the window, in the open space of the external world, as though they were the points of an imaginary compass that indicates a possible direction. ^ Ghirris interest in narrative as a means of finding a way around both physical and mental landscapes was an important aspect of his work. Exploring the ways in which humans use various forms of representation to make sense of their surroundings, Ghirri made, arranged, and rearranged his photographs to suggest stories about places and their inhabitants. Quintavalle saw this as a central feature of Ghirris later work, commenting that Ghirri, unlike what one might think, is a great narrator, above all because he has some minor narrative systems, which are his images. They are brief stories that he remembers perfectly, so he always knows how to find them in his archive of memories and put them back together, place them in new

come se le fotografie si disponessero su un grande pavimento sul quale ciascuno potesse scegliere le direzioni che piu ritenesse congeniali (Quintavalle, Muri di carta, 134). Questi luoghi formano una specie di sequenza, fatta di pietre, chiese, gesti, luci, nebbie, rami coperti di brina, mari azzurri, e cost diventano il nostro paesaggio impossibile, senza scala, senza un ordine geografico per orientarci, un groviglio di monumenti, luci, pensieri, oggetti, momenti, analogic formano il nostro paesaggio della mente che andiamo a cercare, anche incosciamente, tutte le volte che guardiamo fuori della finestra, nellaperto del mondo esterno, come fossero i punti di unimmaginaria bussola che indica una direzione possibile (Luigi Ghirri et al., Luigi Ghirri: vista con camera: 2 0 0 fotografie in Emilia Romagna [Milan: F. Motta, 1992], 181).
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contexts. Now Ghirris images araear.. .like a narrative sequence, like a construction, like a conversation. Ghirri believed that storytelling was an inevitable part of photography. Like Wim Wenders, he believed that telling stories is something you cant avoid: as soon as you place two paintings next to one another, if you just join one image to another, the effect is that of the beginning of a s t o r y . A c c o r d i n g to Ghirri, photographic montage takes place even when images are only casually ordered so that photographs always come together as though in a family album, where there is a narrative that appears while you flick through it. 71 He believed that the attitude which separates each individual photograph from its surrounding images was only a modem convention. He linked his approach to photographic narrative to the narrative cycles of Giotto or Fra Angelico, where each image carries you to the next, and the general sense of what you see does not depend on an aesthetic evaluation, but on the understanding of a story that talks about events to remember.
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Only later did the

Renaissance focus on the individual lead to the creation of the kind of isolated, discrete images that remained the norm for centuries. The pre-Renaissance fresco cycle is in fact much more like the common use of photography, in which individual photographs are only detached moments that are pasted into an album and fall into a story, based on the fact that there are occasions to remember.
Ghirri, diversamente da quello che si potrebbe pensare, e un grande narratore, e lo e sopra tutto perche ha come dei sistemi narrativi minori, che sono le sue immagini, racconti brevi che ricorda perfettamente, sa quindi sempre ritrovare nel proprio archivio delle memorie e rimette insieme, ricollega entro nuovi contesti. Ora le immagini di Ghirri appaiono... come una successione narrata, come una costruzione, com e un discorso (Quintavalle, Muri di carta, 135). raccontare storie.. . [e] una cosa.. .che non si riesce a evitare: appenaaccosti due quadri, se soltanto attacchi due immagini Iuna allaltra, Ieffetto e quello dellinizio dun racconto (Wim Wenders, Una volta [Rome: Edizioni Socrates, 1993], 385). le foto stanno sempre assieme come in un album di famiglia, dove c e una narrazione che appare mentre lo sfogli. unimmagine ti porta allaltra, e il senso com plessivo di quello che vedi non dipende da una valutazione estetica, ma dalla comprensione dun racconto che parla di avvenimenti da ricordare (Quoted in Celati, Commenti, 27 giugno). The comic strip represents a twentieth-century pop culture return to the visual narrative cycle, complicated, however, by the inclusion of text.
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like confirmations, weddings, trips and so on.^ "^ Celati, too, has long been fascinated by these kinds of narrative forms, both literary and visual, stating that he has always preferred the more archaic narratives, fairy tales and epic poems, and the pictorial cycles of Giotto, Sassetta, Piero della Francesca. Here the principle is that everything can be memorable just because we recount it. What counts is that something surfaces in the images and words, and what surfaces is a set of stories about the world.^^ Ghirris approach to photographic narrative was one of the features that brought his work closer to written narrative, enabling the intellectual exchange that took place between him and Celati.

Celatis Return to Fiction This exchange was central to Celatis search for an authentic and convincing nf\ reason for writing more fiction. Ghirri wrote of his friends seven-year break from writing fiction that it has not been an interval of silence... for him this has been a time full
nn

of voices to listen to and worlds to look at.

The experience of working with Ghirri in the

landscapes of the pianura padana and observing his method of accepting the interest of everything around him was one of the key things that enabled Celati to hear those voices

sono soltanto moment! staccati che si incollano su un album e cadono in una storia, basata sul fatto che ci sono occasion! da ricordare, come le cresrme, i matrimoni, le gite e cose simili (Celati, Commenti, 27 giugno). le narrazioni piu arcaiche, le favole e i poem! epici, e i eicli pittorici di Giotto, Sassetta, Piero della Francesca. Qui il principio e che tutto puo essere memorabile solo per il fatto che lo raccontiamo, cio che conta e che qualcosa affiori nelle immagini e nelle parole, e quello che affiora e un insieme di racconti sul mondo (Quoted in Manuela Teatini, II sentimento dello spazio: Conversazione con Gianni Celati, Cinema e cinema 62 [1991]: 26),
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Rebecca West, Gianni Celati. N arratori delle pianure," Forum Italicum 19, no. 2 (1985): 361.

non e stato unintervallo di silenzio... per lui questo e stato un tempo pieno di voci da ascoltare e mondi da guardare (Luigi Ghirri, Una carezza al mondo, Panorama [1985]: 24). In terms o f voci da ascoltare, some of the most important voices for Celati were those of the ethnolinguists and sociologists whose work on communication he studied. Reading the works o f Erving Goffman and his followers, the writings of Dell Hymes, Livia Polanyis articles on the conventions of conversation, and William Labovs work on the storytelling of young Black ghetto-dwallers, Celati became convinced that his be.st sources of inspiration would be ... everyday people telling everyday stories naturally and unliterarily West, Gianni Celati, 362.

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and see those worlds. When West met Celati in 1979, he described his break with fiction as a necessary if painful withdrawal from a literary scene that he believed was commodifying literature, including his own, to such a degree as to make the practice of publishing not only distasteful but quite literally impossible for someone of his proclivities, interests and style (both artistic and personal).
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Since the commercialization of literature

was so repugnant to him, he respected the extent to which Ghirri resisted the temptation to commercialize his art. He commented that Luigi could have become a millionaire if he had followed the path of successful photographers. But instead he make the photographs he
7Q

liked. This is a thread that connects us.

Celati retains a strong skepticism about the

institution of Literature and loathes what he sees as the ever-increasing trend toward those books that set out to explain everything to readers, leaving them nothing to imagine for themselves. Similarly, Celati compares what he sees as over-explanatory photographs to Ghirris, in which where the photograph was taken and what is happening is often not clear, thus forcing the viewer to use his or her imagination much more: I believe it ought always to be like that: not to think that the reader is stupid, not guide the reader too much, but give him a frame, some reference points, an approach. That is important in the sense of organizing the basic things well. But for the rest, I cant stand literature for this reason too: precisely because it seems to me a literature for idiots, that is, this modern literature seems to me a literature for guiding the audience. But instead what is needed is to make it imagine.

West, Minimalism, 16. Luigi avrebbe potuto diventare milionario se seguiva la strada di tutti i fotografi che hanno avuto successo. Ma invece faceva le foto che piacevano a lui. Ecco questo e un fdo che ci lega (Celati, Interview, Bologna, June 14 1995).
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Gianni Celati, Interview with the author, Chicago, April 7 2003.

lo credo che dovrebbe essere sempre cost; non pensare che il lettore sia stupido, non guidare il lettore troppo, ma dargli un frame, i punti di riferknenti, un taglio. Quello e importante nel senso di organizzare bene le cose di base, ma per il resto non riesco a sopportare la letteratura anche per questo, proprio perche mi sembra una letteratura per deficienti, d o e questa moderna mi sembra una letteratura solo per guidare il pubblico. Invece bisogna farlo immaginare (Celati, Interview, Bologna, June 14 1995).

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The attempt to make readers or viewers use their imaginations is one of the most striking similarities between Celati and Ghirri, and it is linked to their shared skepticism about strict distinctions between fiction and non-fiction, Literature and writing. Art and non-art. Celati describes how: Luigi was always sarcastic about art, aesthetics, all these things, and rightly so because theyre things that always make you think that there is an original artist...What he said instead was that thats not the real question, its not a question of originality, but of learning to look, and this is a kind of work that you do, and it takes a long time, in short, to learn to look at everything. Celati responded to this anti-aesthetic mode and emphasizes the impact that it had on his work. He stated that when he and Ghirri first began working together, he no longer wanted to carry out so-called artistic work, which he saw as having neither place nor context, but rather a work that would be similar to the work of certain anthropologists: a work tied to places, so not an artistic work.
oo

His involvement with a specific landscape and his

appreciation of Ghirris ability to stimulate the imagination without recourse to artistic pretensions or conventions were thus extremely important to Celatis decision to recommence writing fiction. The combination of what he leamt from Ghirri and his own response to the landscapes they were working on and in enabled him to cireumvent the cliches and pre-organized, pretentious models of literature he so despises, deeply affecting the kinds of narrative he produced.

Narratori delle pianure and Quattro novelle sulle apparenze Seven years after the publication of Lunario del paradise, Celati re-emerged as a writer of fiction in 1985 with the publication of Narratori delle pianure, a collection of thirty stories apparently gathered over the course of a journey through the Po Valley,

Luigi aveva sempre una specie di sarcasmo contro Iarte, Iestetica, tutte queste cose, e giustamente perche sono cose che ti fanno sempre pensare che ci sia un artista originale... quello che diceva lui era che invece la vera questione non e quella, non e una questione dl originalita ma di imparare a guardare, e questo e un lavoro che si fa e ci vuole tanto tempo insomma per imparare a guardare tutto (Ibid.).
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82

ne luogo ne contesto, un lavoro legato ai luoghi, quindi non un lavoro artistico (Ibid.).

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although the journey itself is not recounted. This work was profoundly related to Celatis heightened awareness of landscape and the way stories are inscribed within it, and to the mediations on perception, space, and representation that the writer shared with Ghirri.
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The title itself implies the importance of both narrative and landscape to his later

works. Although an interest in narrating rather than dictating was always an important part of Celatis work, the title of Narratori delle pianure suggests the extent to which Celati had moved even further from the notion of an omniscient author-figure directing the action. These extremely varied stories assert themselves as the tales of ordinary people told simply and without artistic pretensions. Just as Ghirri makes use of a non-traditional photographic technique, so too is Celatis a determinedly non-literary literary technique. Many of the stories that make up Narratori delle pianure and Quattro novelle (published two years later in 1987) are closer to the forms of oral narrative tradition than to literary forms. There is no omnipotent and omniscient Author laying bare the psyches of his characters to the prurient gaze of the reader and offering pat answers to the problems they face. Instead, the narrators of the stories remain for the most part obscure, making ironic the title of the collection. Although from time to time he states certain simple conclusions about the nature of the human condition that he or his characters have come to, Celati makes no obvious judgments about the people and events he shows us. Judgments, if they are to be made at all, must be made by the reader, who is not assumed to be in a position of pre- or co-knowledge with the teller but rather is allowed the maximum freedom to bring to bear her or his imagination and personal experience to the story as it unfolds.85 At the same time, the fact that the reader has to work harder to draw his or her own conclusions about the stories suggests that he or she must engage with the important philosophical questions about the nature of

WespCraJf, 121. oc West, Minimalism, 22.

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existence which these stories raise. Although Celati does not believe that there are easy answers (or perhaps any answers) to the questions he raises, he sees this kind of questioning as a positive, constructive process that is valid in itself as a means of making life more livable, as attested to by the many stories that contain theories about existence. Celati explores the landscapes of his stories in the same spirit in which Ghirri said that he sought to photograph the landscape: knowing that definitive answers do not exist, but continuing to ask myself questions, because the answer is contained in the gesture of continually posing the question to myself.*^ As Michael Hanne puts it, Celati revives the very traditional notion, almost entirely abandoned by modem writers of fiction, that stories serve to convey wisdom.
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This is very different from the kind of literature in which an


88

authorial and omniscient narrating voice ... directs us to a clear moral.

Celatis

underlying philosophy of humility and openness expresses itself both through the stories themselves and through the way in which they are told, so that the form and the content of Narratori reflect each other. Celatis narrative technique is such that the seemingly simple surface of the stories in Narratori allows for a vast range of possible interpretations by the reader. He makes no special claim to authority, in any sense of the word, often leaving the identities of his narrators in doubt and making no claims as to the truth of the tales. The reader is free to interpret them, believe them or disbelieve them as he or she sees fit. Form and content are closely linked in these stories, and the humility of Celatis mode of seeing and describing the world is often echoed by the characters themselves. They are usually un-named, and even when they are given a specific identity, they are people who are known to the

sapendo che non esistono risposte definitive, ma continuando ad interrogarmi, perche nel gesto di pormi continuamente la domanda e contenuta la risposta (Ghirri, Niente di antico, 18). Michael Hanne, Narrative W isdom in Celatis Narratori delle pianure, Rivista di studi italiani 14, no. 1 (1996): 134. West, Minimalism, 19.
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narratoran uncle, a friend, an acquaintance. They are neither famous nor players on a world stage. They live on the peripheries of society, in ordinary and marginalized or mundane suburbs and towns. What we see of their lives is shown to us on a small scale. Yet their experiences range from the prosaic problems of day-to-day existence, to bizarre episodes such as meteorite landings, and everything in between. Their stories are told in a way that makes it possible to find universal elements in them to which readers can all relate in one way or another. What links the scattered narrations of Narratori delle pianure is the humble and open approach of the author, which gives the stories the casual tone of a conversation between acquaintances sharing stories to while away a journey, perhaps the meandering journey from West to East that constitutes the geographical frame of the stories. This antiliterary approach owes much to Ghirris low-key aesthetic philosophy. His work provided Celati with a means of expressing his fascination with every aspect of existence in a new way, both in the subjects he chooses to turn his patient and open attention to and in the techniques he uses to portray them. Through his work with Ghirri, his studies of nonliterary narratives, and his non-fictional writings, Celati had discovered new ways to position himself as a narrator, rather than Author. The title of his first fictional work since his Lunario del paradiso also suggests that this is a work, like his collaborative and non fiction works of the 1980s, that is tied to placesin particular, to those of the plains of the Po. As Lumley writes, in Narratori Celatis incantatory writing evokes the flatness of the plains, yet without monotony.
og

A good example of this is Celatis description of the

landscape surrounding Ca Venier on the Po delta in the story How a Photographer Landed in the New World. We are told that

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Lumley, Fictions, 54. Come un fotografo e sbarcato nel nuovo mondo.

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Wherever one is in this area there is little to be seen in any direction except stretches of cultivated fields, mostly of wheat. Further on towards Ca Zullian, marshlands loom on the horizon, but everywhere the eye can see there are straight roads crossing the flat, unchanging terrain that used to be lagoons before they were filled in. (141)^^ The writing style Celati uses echoes the landscape he describes, and this coincidence of content and form means that even when he does not directly describe the landscape we are given a sense of it through the very form that the stories take. Almansi describes Celatis style in Narratori as reducing the world of the story to writing that is without undulations as much as possible, as flat as the pianura padana from which it emerges. Q 9 In the same

way, Ghirris horizontally structured photographs of the plains of the Po involve a similar reduction of formal possibilities to create a style that is eminently suited to its subject. Perhaps the most striking illustration of this is the photograph of a ditch near Roncocesi that he took shortly before his death in 1992 (see Figure 36). The image is breathtakingly simple, its subject matter seemingly banal, yet in its enigmatic simplicity it reveals both the extent of Ghirris profound contemplation of appearances and his intense awareness of the narrative wealth and mystery of this deceptively plain landscape.

In quel posto cio che si vede airintorno, piu o meno da ogni punto dello spazio, sono solo distese di campi coltivati soprattutto a grano; piu oltre verso Ca Zullian spuntano allorizzonte gli acquitrini, ma dovunque strade dritte a perdita d occhio attraversavano terreni piatti e sempre identici che sono vecchie lagune ora interrate (131). The Italian edition used is Gianni Celati, Narratori delle pianure (Milan; Feltrinelli, 1985). English quotations are taken from Gianni Celati, Voices From the Plains, trans. Robert Lumley (London: Serpents Tail, 1989). riducendo il mondo del racconto a una scrittura quanto piu possibile senza ondulazioni, piatta come la pianura padana da cui prende spunto (Guido Almansi, La ragione comica [Milan: Feltrinelli, 1986], 61).
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Figure 36: Luigi Ghirri, Ao/icocesi (^), g em a io /9 9 2

Photographs like this are, as Celati puts it, photographs at the limits of the possible, which generously open up vision. They take it away from the idea of something to see, and bring it back to an animating movement that makes you open your eyes wide. The more one approaches the mouth of the Po, the more the landscape resists conventional representation. Celati describes this area as almost unapproachable photographically, since photography is ill-at-ease where there is only sky and horizon.^ "^ In the same way, as Lumley points out, it is also difficult for a writer to render a landscape so apparently featureless.^'^ Yet in Celatis writing on the area, his calm observations of the landscape build up to a strangely striking rendition of it. In his description of the shoppers descending from their cars in the story Tempo che passa (Time passing) in Narratori who find themselves adrift in the open space of the low plains of the Po, he reveals his
foto al limite dei possibile, ehe aprono generosamente la visione. La sottraggono allidea del qualcosa da vedere, e la riportano ad un movimento d animazione che fa spalaneare gli oechi (Celati, Commenti, 11 settembre). fotograficamente quasi inavvicinabile, perche dove ce solo eielo e orrizzonte la fotografia si trova a disagio (Ibid., 4 ottobre). 95 Lumley, Fictions, 54.
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understanding of the strange visual effects of this landscape (49).^ This kind of representation of the apparently unrepresentable in his works of the 1980s and early 1990s links them to those of Ghirri. Both men emphasize the importance of the imagination as a tool for creating paths for ourselves through a world that is incomprehensible without it. While they present their shared exploration of the plains of the Po as a low-key yet universal metaphor for the way in which we make our way through the often incomprehensible landscapes of existence, they never lose sight of the specificity of narratives of this particular landscape. Ghirri himself noted the use that Celati made of his observations about photography and the representation of landscape in Narratori. He wrote that in Narratori it is the protagonists are the voices to which he listened and the spaces he explored. Here, everything that is externalsounds, voices, lights, spacesbecomes the center of the narrative.
0*7

According to Celati; appearances, which are the support for external

representation, are closer to our heart than any general interpretation of the world: in fact,
QO

they are all we have to orient ourselves in space.

What he calls the fictions to believe

in that we construct can do nothing more than give us some comfort and help us to orient ourselves as we wander among the appearances scattered through empty spaces. ^ These fictions are our humble means of attempting to organize experience. Fiction and reality are therefore closely associated, often inextricably so, and Celati recognized an active awareness of their interaction in Ghirris photographs.

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straniti nello spazio aperto (49).

le voci ascoltate e gli spazi esplorati a essere i protagonisti. Qui, tutto quello che e esternosuoni, voci, luci, spazidiventa il centro della narrazione (Ghirri, Carezza, 24). le apparenze, che sono il supporto della rappresentazione estema, ci stanno a cuore piu d ogni interpretazione complessiva del mondo: infatti sono tutto d o che abbiamo per orientarci nello spazio. le apparenze di.sperse negli spazi vuoti (Gianni Celati, Finzioni a cui credere, Alfaheta, no. 67 [1984]; 13).
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A similar interaction is at work in Narratori, evident in the first instance in a number of framing devices that are used throughout the text. The first of these are the photograph by Ghirri on the eover (see Figure 37) and the map of the plains that preeedes the stories (see Figure 38). The use of the photograph and the map to introduee the stories themselves suggests a transition between what have been ealled (in the eontext of the visual arts) levels of unreality. The apparent realism of the photograph and the preeision of

the map at first seem to make claims for the veracity of the stories, as if furnishing evidence of the reality of this landscape and the setting of the stories. These claims are subsequently undermined, however, by Celatis deliberate mingling of faet and fietion, and by his refusal to tie down the stories to specific temporal points on his own implied journey through the plains. They are also subverted by the eontrast between the indeterminaey of the photograph and the apparent precision of the map. Despite the clarity with which we can see the lone figure and the mud and melting snow beneath his feet, we eannot clearly identify where he is because the featurelessness of the landseape and the way in whieh the photographer has chosen to represent it give us no clues. The crisp lines of the map, on the other hand, create a sensation of exactitude that is belied by the emptiness above and below them. The photograph both asks us to believe our eyes and questions the extent to which we ean trust appearanees, while the map suggests the role of eartography as the theoretieal and/or spatial exploration of uneharted territory.

See Sven Sandstrom, Levels o f Unreality: Studies in Structure and Construction in Italian Mural Painting During the Renaissance (Uppsala: 1963). Exellent analyses o f the relation o f space and cartography in Narratori can be found in Rebecca West, Lo spazio nei N arratori delle pianure, Nuova Corrente 33 (1986); and in Papotti, Geografie.

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EcoMxnita Ffeltrinelli

mBBmm

r > \ ;I

DELLE PIANURE

Figure 37: Luigi Ghirri, Gianni Celati

:ahta o e u e pianure

Figure 38; Map, Gianni Celati, N arratori delle piantrre

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Issues about the ambiguities and slippages between representation and reality are at work in this mapa reductive visual representation of the pianura padanathat posits cartography as both science and art, a halfway point between purely visual representation and writing. It is also a symbol of the ways in whieh we orient ourselves. Robert Harbison comments that we use maps to align ourselves with the external world and place an almost religious faith in their ability to guide us through it.
102

In Narratori,

however, Celati deliberately undermines our faith in the map. For one thing, his map contains no indication of the distances it portrays and omits many towns and other landmarks. His most effective subversion of the conventions of the introductory map, however, is his refusal to tell its story. The map operates as an ordering structure, organizing the stories along the line of a rough journey from west to east. The notion of the landscape as a text to be read is here emphasized by the way in which the stories roughly follow the itinerary suggested by the map from left to right, in the same way that the readers eyes follow the text as he or she makes a journey into it. In Michel de Certeaus words, an element of mapping is the presupposition of a certain itinerary.
1QQ

Yet in Narratori this implied journey is never recounted. Instead, we

are offered other narrative journeys. De Certeau further points out that in Greek, narration is called diegesis; it establishes an itinerary (it guides) and it passes through it (it transgresses). The space of operations it travels in is made of movements: it is topological, concerning the deformations of figures, rather than topical, defining places. ' "^ In Celatis work, the narrative-as-joumey is overtly linked to the idea of a map as a Baudelairean invitation au voyage. As West writes, maps speak to the nomadic impulse, the attraction to the ever-different, the not-yet-experienced, which continues to

102 103

Robert Harbison, Eccentric Spaces (London: Andre Deutsch, 1977), 124-25. De Certeau, The Practice o f Everyday Life, 120. Ibid., 129.

104

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lure us even in this global village of a world where little is further away than a television screen or fax.'^ The importance of real or conceptual maps in Celatis works links them to Ghirris conception of photography as a means to journey over the map and to his earlier fascination with maps in works such as his Atlante (see Figure 30).'**^ Furthermore, Celatis writing in Narratori can be seen as topographic in the sense of Hillis Millers definition of topography as substituting the names of things for the things themselves. 107 To a certain extent, writing must always have this quality about it, but this

is emphasized in Narratori by the way in which Celati builds up a comprehensive list of names of places. Although the narrators of the title themselves remain anonymous (as do the characters of the stories, in general), the different locations through which their narratives wend their way are carefully named and placed. Despite its fluidity, the landscape seems to be granted a more stable identity than the characters themselves. Yet, in his contribution to Viaggio in Italia, Verso la foce (reportage, per un amico fotografo), Celati writes of the way in which the void is filled up with names of nonexistent places, in any case not places but just names places on road signs by some administration of external space.
1rtO

The names of things are indicators of an imaginative space, not necessarily

reliable guides to the things themselves, as Ghirris photograph of a road sign in the snow seems to imply (see Figure 392).

Rebecca West, Gianni Celatis La strada provinciate delle anime\ A Silent Film About Nothing, Romance Languages Annual 4 (1992): 368. viaggiare sulla carta. See Quintavalle, Fuoco, 431 and Luigi Ghirri, Luigi Ghirri: Atlante (Milan: Charta, 1999).
107

Hillis Miller, Topographies., 3.

11 vuoto e riempito da nomi di localita inesistenti, comunque non luoghi ma solo nomi messi sui cartelli stradali da qualche amministrazione dello spazio estemo.

108

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/ Ali/t ?

Figure 39: Luigi Ghirri, Reggio Emilia

In the same way that Ghirris Atlante photographs invoked all possible voyages through the imaginative expansion of the atlas from microcosm to macrocosm, and his later works suggested itineraries for an imaginative voyage in Italy and beyond, Celati makes use of the oxymoronic status of the map at the start of his book as a concrete abstraction that both represents and refuses its referent in order to offer his readers the possibility of an imaginative joum ey.^ The stories themselves recall De Certeaus definition of narratives as spatial trajectories that traverse and organize places ... select and link them together ... make sentences and itineraries out of them.^^ Celati uses the map in Narratori to align himself both with something both more distinctly local and more universal than any itinerary the map is capable of representing. He uses the landscape of the pianura padana to tell intensely local stories and as a base from which to shoot out all over the worldfrom Gallarate to Glasgow (L isola in mezzo allAtlantico [The island out in the Atlantic]), from Piacenza to Los Angeles and Kansas and back (Storia dun apprendistato [The story of an apprenticeship]), and from Mirandola to Medina Sabah
West, Strada, 367. * De Certeau, T ie Prax:Ice ojE veryday Lije, 115.

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(La citta di Medina Sabah [The city of Medina Sabah), to give but a few of the many examples of this kind of journey that take place in Narratori. Celati reconciles the strong local narrative tradition with the universalizing potential of the pianura padana's apparently blank slate. In this way, he asks the reader to make a number of imaginative journeys within the journey that is the process of reading a book by following these itineraries both within and without the frame of the unrecounted journey he made through the pianure of the title. Celatis stories suggest that narrative allows us to make imaginative journeys as a means of dealing with the restrictions of life in the ever more confusing profusion of appearances that surrounds us. There are a number of movements through Narratori, one of which is the readers physical and imaginative journey through the pages of the book, from the cover, with Ghirris photograph of Celati, to the map inside and on into the stories themselves. This is a journey through an increasingly abstract landscape, a progressive movement away from the reality of the landscape and towards a potentially liberating space where the readers imagination is allowed to move with relative freedom. This is not just because of the absence of an authoritarian and God-like Author who seeks to choreograph the readers experience of the text, but also because of the structure of the stories themselves, whose closeness to oral forms of narrative reminds the reader that the liberating potential of narrative and imaginary journeys is accessible to all, not merely restricted to a literary elite. The readers journey through Narratori moves from the apparently realist landscape representation of the photograph, to the abstract authority of the map, to what we expect to be the imaginary world of the stories. Yet these stories are not just imaginary, as the dedicationTo those who told me stories, many of which are transcribed here s u g g e s ts .'I n Narratori, we are constantly left in doubt as to the identity of the narrator or narrators and the extent to which Celati is

*" A quelli che mi hanno raccontato storie, molte delle quail sono qui trascritte

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fictionalizing his own and other peoples stories. Hanne sees Lumleys choice of title for the English translation of the novel, Voices from the Plains, as a reflection of the almost complete invisibility of these narrators. 112 Although their stories sometimes merge with Celatis in moments of autobiographical reference and references to his own family, friends and acquaintances, they are fictionalized to an unknowable degree."^ Celati thus makes the point that all narratives are fictions to some degree, from the most scientific of accounts to everyday conversations. Although voice is precisely what can never be part of a photograph, these issues about the blurry edge that separates fiction and fact connect his work on a profound theoretical level to issues regarding the reality effect of photography.^*^ Ghirri argued that one of the reasons that photography was important to Celati was because he saw it as both image of reality, and fiction; a found reality and a construction of reality. Calvino also identified this exchange between reality and fiction, between

the internal and the external in Celatis work. Celatis narrators may be invisible, but their surroundings are not: Calvino wrote that Narratori was based around the representation of the visible world, and even more, an internal acceptance of the day-to-day landscape in that
Hanne, W isdom, 136. Although the English title is apt in this respect, Celati says he would have preferred the English translation to be entitied Narrators o f the Plains because o f the importance to him of the specific connotations o f narrator which he always sees as operating in opposition to the term author (Conversation with the author, Chicago, May 4 ,2 003). Among the cast o f N arratori delle pianure and Quattro novelle are people who have also appeared in the apparently non-fictional Verso la face. In the story La macchina del moto perpetuo di seconda specie, w e are told first that [u]n amico tedesco mi ha raccontato la storia dun operaio della Ruhr and then that this friend is in fact Reinhard Dellitthe same Reinhard Dellit with whom Celati traveled verso la foce in the book of the same name. Another of Celatis friends who appears in Verso la face, Luciano Capelli, reappears in Condizioni di luce sulla via Emilia in Quattro novelle. Narratori also contains a number o f stories about members of their unnamed narrators family, such as Traversata delle pianure and Mio zio scopre Iesistenza delle lingue straniere. Talking to Celati and reading his non-fictional works, it becomes clear that these are stories based on his own family and their journeys through and from the plains o f the Po. The story Traversata delle pianure recounts the story of his mothers familys journey to the city they were to make their home, while 11 ritorno del viaggiatore relates or at least echoes Celatis own search for his mothers childhood home. ** " * See my discussion o f the issues surrounding the notion of the photograph as indexical or otherwise in the introduction. * immagine della realta, e finzione, realta trovata e costruzione della realta (Ghirri, Carezza, 25). 113
112

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which would least seem to stimulate the imagination.'^^ Calvino felt that this was partly due to that spilling over of the internal onto the external that seems to me the most characteristic movement of the 1980s.
117

Lumley also links the visibility of Celatis

later writing to moments in his other writings in which the division between inside and
1 1Q

outside, body and mind is momentarily annulled.

The increased importance of the

visible, external world in Celatis later writings therefore evolves out of his earlier work, as well as being linked to a general change in the literary climate and, most importantly, to his experience of working with Ghirri. The fluid movement between levels of reality and unreality is evident in the very first story in Narratori, L isola in mezzo allAtlantico (The island out in the Atlantic), where a young Italian couple find themselves imaginatively constructing a visual image of the island home of a manwhom they know only as Archie with whom the young man communicates via amateur radio. We learn that slowly the young man begins to imagine the island as if he had seen it with his own eyes (10). We are told how he

imagines the island spread out below Archies house, with a road curving amid fields of cows and sheep, a low, heather-clad promontory to the right, the rocky coast interspersed with beaches to the left, and so on. This precise description encourages the readers process of mental mapping.'^*' As Hillis Miller writes, every narrative.. .traces out in its course an arrangement of places, dwellings and rooms joined by paths or roads, arrangements which

la rappresentazione del mondo visibile, e piu ancora una accettazione interiore del paesaggio quotidiano in cio che meno sembrerebbe stimolare Iimmaginazione. quel rovesciamento dallinterno sullesterno che mi sembra 11 movimento piu caratterizzante degli anni ottanta (Italo Calvino, D a Buster Keaton a Peter Handke, L Espresso, June 30 1985, 95). ^Lumley, Fictions, 55.
119 117

com e se Iavesse vista con i propri occhi ( 12 ). Visual Imaging as Reader Response (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins

120 See Ellen J. Esrock, The R eaders Eye:


University Press, 1994), 139-40.

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tend.. .to be mapped, at least implicitly, in the mind of the reader as he or she reads.
1 I

In this way, as the couple in Celatis story begins to imagine the island, so do his

readers. Yet, like the readers, they remain uncertain as to whether or not the island really exists. When they finally go there, the landscape becomes real for them, and is just as they imagined it: They recognized almost everything and could find their way about as if they had been there before ( 1 1 ).^^^ For readers, however, the island remains an imaginative construction within other imaginative constructions. We are brought face to face with the strange doubling that is always involved in the representation of landscape, and must negotiate our way through its various levels of reality. West uses the visual metaphor of the frame to explain how the construction of the story helps us to work through these. The Italian town of Gallarate, near Milan, constitutes the initial frame, but within that context another landscape is imposed, creating a movement outwards that expands and then breaks the frame of the story. West suggests that we can imagine an analogous effect by thinking of seeing a landscape on a cinema screen, and then, with the screen removed, seeing the landscape really before us.'^^ Yet, since the landscape described to us must remain on the level of description, an alternative visual analogy might be made with Rene Magrittes The Human Condition I (1933), a depiction of an easel painting of a landscape that is contiguous with the landscape outside the frame of the represented painting and within the frame of the represented window. By creating an imagined landscape within an imagined landscape, Celati points to the constructions and imaginative processes that are always at work in our interpretations of landscapesomething to which his work with Ghirri and the other photographers had

121

Hillis Miller, Topographies, 10. Riconoscevano quasi tutto e riuscivano ad orientarsi come se ci fossero gia stati (13).

122 123

Possiamo immaginare un effetto analogo pensando prima di vedere un paesaggio su uno schermo cinematografico e pci, tolto lo schermo, di vederlo realmente davanti a noi (West, Lo spazio, 6 8 ).

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made him particularly sensitiveand hence to the ways in which storytelling is the central means by which we map the confusion of our lives. In the same way that Ghirri assembled and reassembled groups of photographs to create new stories, Celati, in his works of the 1980s, begins going back over notes and memories to tell new tales. In reading his contributions to collaborative interdisciplinary works such as Viaggio in Italia and II profilo delle nuvole and the non-fictional writings that make up his Verso la foce in conjunction with the fictional works, Narratori delle pianure and Quattro novelle sulle apparenze, close links between his fictional and nonfictional writings become apparent, blurring the boundaries between these categories. The ambiguous slippage between author and narrator that was sometimes evident in Celatis early fictions is made more overt in Narratori. Although we can never know the names of all of the narrators of the title nor the extent to which their stories have been fictionalized, they are all related to Celatis own experience to some extent, often in a more direct way than is usually the case in fictional narratives. They are also all related in one way or another to the landscapes of the pianura padana. The extent to which these stories do or do not reveal the true story of Celatis own journeys through that landscape is irrelevant. Ultimately they emphasize the impossibility of ever determining what the true story is, since all stories, however they may be classified, are a mixture of fact and fiction. Celatis consciousness of the blurred boundary between fiction and non-fiction is one of the reasons why he presents his stories as fragments of existence without fixed meanings for his readers to make of them what they will. As with the horizontal emphasis of Ghirris photographs, Celatis low-key approach to introductions and endings gives a sense of a continuing world of stories and experiences beyond the frame provided by the limits of each individual story. Because he does not seek to round off each story tidily, or to introduce each one with background detail about the previous existence and psychological make-up of the characters, the stories perform a function much more like that of storytelling in day-to-day life. As with gossip or ordinary conversation, readers are given

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fragments of information about parts of someones life.'^"^ This creates a feeling like that of leafing through someones photograph album, with snapshots of a life that give the impression of a narrative whose gaps readers must fill in for themselves. This approach is exemplified by the story Sul valore delle apparenze (On the value of appearances) in which the protagonist, who has carefully saved her meager earnings for years in order to buy her delinquent son an apartment as a wedding present, is swindled by him and his erooked father. The story tells the bare outlines of her life, the lead up to her sons wedding and the event itself. The way in which it is told gives the impression of a tale that has circulated, espeeially in the gossipy details about her battles with her former husband. The reader is told that the story goes th at... and that they say that..., leaving the identity of the teller in doubt (43).
125

The importance of the stories we

tell about ourselves and others is recognized by the protagonist, who wants the stories that will be told about her sons wedding day to be happy ones, even though she knows that it is a sham that will be discovered all too soon. This fiction to believe in resembles some of the uses to which photography is put in daily life, as I discussed in the chapter on Lalla Romano. We often dress up and pose for the camera, creating fictionalized photographs of events we want to remember as even better than they were. The fiction that the central character of Sul valore delle apparenze creates allows her to play the role of the proud mother-of-the-groom for which she has worked for so long. The guests who crowd the pizzeria (and who are actually nearly all just passers-by who have stopped for something to eat) all think that the others are the invited guests and the absence of the grooms father is not noticed at all. As the mother of the groom puts it, If nobody notices anything, its as if

124

Gossip is one of the forms o f non-literary storytelling that fascinates Celati. Di lei si racconta ch e.. . and that si dice c h e.. . (41).

125

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nothing had happened (46).

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Until the deeeption of her son and his father is

diseovered, she can be happy. As with all the stories in Narratori, this one is written without any explanations from the author about what it means, but the structure of the story, as well as the content, suggests that the act of storytelling, even when it involves making believe against the odds, is to be respected as a proactive means of making life more bearable, even for those to whom it has been particularly cruel. This is also the case in Idee d un narratore sul lieto fine (A scholars idea of happy endings), where the scholarly protagonist devotes the latter part of his life to re-writing happy endings for over a hundred stories, perhaps as a riposte to his own sad love story. He dies alone, but with his hands on his newly completed masterpiece. By changing an ending with just three words, he transformed a tragedy into a satisfactory resolution of lifes problems, overturning the sacred role of the traditional Author and taking the readers active role to an extreme (65).
1 97

The old scholar uses the

stories of others to create new fictions that give him comfort, compensating for the frustrations of life. As Celati writes elsewhere: We believe it is possible to stitch together the appearances scattered across the empty spaces, through a story that organizes experiences, and that therefore give relief. There is no story in the world that is worth telling, if it doesnt give relief.. .We believe that everything people do from morning until night is an effort to find a possible account of the external, in order for it to be at least a little livable. We also think that this is a fiction, but it is a fiction in which it is necessary to believe. This brief statement, part of which I also cited at the beginning of the chapter, could stand as the manifesto for Celatis and Ghirris approach to their respective arts, so perfectly does

Se nessuno si accorge di niente, e come se non fosse successo niente (45).


127 128

ha trasformato una tragedia in una buona soluzione di vita (59).

noi crediamo sia possibile ricucire le apparenze disperse negli spazi vuoti, attraverso un racconto che organizzi Iesperienza, e che percio da sollievo. Non esiste al mondo nessun racconto che valga la pena d esser fatto, se non da sollievo... .Crediamo che tutto cio che la gente fa dalla mattina alia sera sia uno sforzo per trovare un possibile racconto dellesterno, che sia almeno un p o vivibile. Pensiamo anche che questa sia una finzione, ma una finzione a cui e necessario credere (Celati, Esempio, 33).

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it sum up their desireand awareness of a human needto find ways to make the confusion of the external world more bearable through telling stories about it. Here, too, we see the influence of Celatis experiences with Ghirri, for whom photography was neither a simple document of reality nor an exclusive aesthetic product, but rather a means of renewing our ways of seeing and coping with the world of appearances. Just as Ghirri sought to get out from behind the wall of art, Celati has said that he would prefer to write only ostensibly non-fiction works so as to be able to avoid the pretensions and labeling of the literary world. The question of the truthfulness or

otherwise of a tale is irrelevant for Celati. According to him, Storytellers.. .dont invent whatever they want, they have to stick to what the story says. And you cant ask a storyteller Is your story true?.. .because it would be a great offense.
1 "^0

His interest in

storytelling and oral narratives leads him to assume the position of a conduit for tales, rather than their god-like author. In this way, he seeks a kind of minimal objectivity that turns away from the self (and especially self-expression, a notion Celatilike Niccolaidespises and finds ridiculous), based instead on a system of thought that refuses to impose itself on reality and tends to establish a more cautious hermeneutic relation.. .which proceeds by trial and error.. .which tends to consider certainty as an error and the claim to have understood as a illusory.
I O1

In rejecting the role of the author in

favor of that of the narrator, Celati is rejecting the claims to certainty and mastery that authorship implies.

129 130

Gianni Celati, Interview with the author, Bologna, June 14 1995.

I raccontatori di storie ... non inventano quello che vogliono, devono attenersi a quello che dice la storia. E a un raccontatore non si puo chiedere Ma e vera la tua storia?. .., perche sarebbe una grande offesa (79). che rifiuta di imporsi sulla realta e tende a stabilire con essa un piu cauto rapporto ermeneutico ... che precede per tentativi ed errori ... che tende a considerare errore la certezza, ingannevole 1 1 ritenere di aver compreso.
131

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This is evident, too, in the title of Quattro novelle sulle apparenze, which links the work to the narrative tradition of the Italian novella stretching back to Boccaccio and beyond, rather than to the more modern history of the novel and the contemporary literary scene. Although, as the title also implies, it moves further towards the fictional, it is still very much concerned with issues of authorship and authority. In I lettori di libri sono sempre piu falsi (Readers of books are ever more untrue) the young ex-student who becomes a well-known literary critic experiences doubts about the value of what he does, and he no longer knows if it is he or another who speaks and wntes (94). 1 3 2 , Even in his

description of the emptiness of words at the end of the story, Celati has his ex-student return to metaphors of the visual and the landscape to express the possibility of finding some degree of comfort among the ephemeral threads of human discourse by celebrating this lack of substance, and emptiness, shadow, dry grass, the stones of the walls that are collapsing and the dust we breathe (95).^^^ We are told that it is the ex-student who writes these words by way of a conclusion the words which also conclude Celatis story. Once again, the identities of the writer of the story and the writer within the story coalesce. Similar questions of authorial identity are raised in the final story, Scomparsa d un uomo lodevole (Disappearanee of a praiseworthy man), as the protagonist stares out the window at a man who resembles him almost exactly. He tells us I had the strong suspicion that it could easily be he who was writing my memoir; or at least an entirely similar memoir, based on the script that joins us and makes us so similar (114). 13S The doubts about

identity that these characters undergo emphasize the importance of a narrative form that is.

132 133

e non sa piu se e lui o un altro che parla e scrive.

questo insostanziale, e il vuoto, Iombra, Ierba secca, le pietre del muri che crollano e la polvere che respiriamo.
134 135

a m o di conclusione.

mi 'mi e venuto il forte sospetto sos potesse essere benissimo lui a scrivere il mio memoriale; o quanto meno un memoriale in tutto simile, basato sul copione che ci accomuna e ci rende cos! simili.

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Ill
as Celati wanted, one based fundamentally on its connection to specific places rather 1'2A than the psychological make-up of individuals. Although the four stories in Quattro novelle sulle apparenze reverse the progression towards the Po delta that takes place in Narratori, the role of the landscape as a repository of appearances and narratives remains a crucial part of these stories. The first is set mainly in and about Piacenza, the second beside the via Emilia, and the third mainly in Milan. The last story is set outside Italy, in Paris, far from the Po valley (although here the Seine serves a similar function as a metaphor for the way in which life passes by), but even this story ends with the protagonist and his companion traveling through an unnamed landscape. From the specifically named landscapes of the Po valley that Celati used in Narratori as a jumping-off point for stories that wander all over the world, he shifts to an even more precise idea of landscape as a metaphor for the world of appearances in which we find ourselves and through which we are constrained to wander like pilgrims in the world, not knowing where we are going, even if we never leave the place where we were born {Quattro novelle, 126) This is especially clear in Condizioni di luce sulla via Emilia (Conditions of light on the Via Emilia), in which a signwriter, Emanuele Menini, ponders the ways in which light and shadow shape our perceptions of the appearances of objects in the world. We are told that he had often reflected on all this, even if he had always limited himself to observing a little stretch of that road, between his house and a bar five-hundred meters from his house, there and back (41). 138 The physical and mental peregrinations of the characters who people Celatis fictions, both early and late, reflect his belief that the stories we tell

They also recall a number of Ghirri photographs in which the photographers reflection is shown superimposed over images under glass, and others in which figures are shown through clouded glass, rendering their contours blurry and their identities unclear. See Mussini, ed., Luigi Ghirri.
137 138

com e pellegrini nel mondo.

aveva spesso riflettuto su tutto questo, anche se s era sempre limitato ad osservare un piccolo tratto di quella strada, tra casa sua e un bar a cinquecento metri da casa sua andata e ritorno.

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ourselves and others are what helps us make our way through the world of appearances as best we can. As he writes in Tre giorni nelle zone della grande bonifica (Three days in reclaimed land) in Verso la Joce, we are inept and forgetful, and not even cunning enough to stay at home, keep silent and not move, do what trees do (104).'^^ Yet however much he might pretend to wish that we could do what trees do, Celati sees our literal and narrative journeys as a part of the human condition. His description of the two figures walking into the landscape at the end of Quattro novelle emblematizes this state of wandering through a world of appearances. Furthermore, the description is also a verbal reconstruction of a visual imagethat of the Ghirri photograph on the cover of the book (see Figure 40).

Figure 40: Luigi Ghirri, Quattro novelle

noi siamo inetti e smemorati, e neanche tanto furbi di restare a casa, tacere e non muoverci, fare come gli alberi.

139

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Beyond Ghirris influence on Celatis attitude towards looking at his surrounding and translating that experience into writing, there are also more specific analogies to be made between Ghirris photography and Celatis writing on the stylistic and formal level. Ghirri used unusual angles, examined empty or mundane spaces closely, focusing on the horizontal, and often photographed his human subjects with their backs to the camera. These devices help to distinguish Ghirris images from more traditional photographs in which the viewers eye is overtly directed by the photographer to a specific image or scene, and it also reveals the way in which he moved increasingly away from a notion of representation as a form of self-expression. Ghirris approach reflects his empathy with a landscape that does not present itself in terms of points of interest and his determination to avoid preconceptions in his representation of it. An interesting element of Celatis narrative style that can be linked to what he learnt from Ghirri and other photographers, as well as to his interest in oral narratives, is his use of the indefinite article. Typical is the Storia d un falegname e d un eremita (Story of a carpenter and a hermit) in Narratori, which begins with the phrase There was a man who lived in Fiearolo... (93).''^ The use of the indefinite article not just in the title but also throughout the story is a recurrent feature of many of the stories in Narratori delle pianure, and one that connects them to earlier forms of narration, such as the fairy tale (C era una volta un re ... [Once upon a time there was a king...]). By leaving the specifics of the characters in doubt, by writing of un uomo (a man) rather than of Iuomo (the man), or of a specific, named character, Celati leaves his readers free to imagine this man for themselves. A similar effect can be found in some of Ghirris photographs of human figures shown from behind, as in the photograph of Celati on the cover of Narratori (Figure 37), or the photograph of a couple in the Swiss Alps that Celati

C era un uomo che abitava a Fiearolo.. . ( 8 6 ).

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used on the eover of Quattro novelle (Figure 40). This makes the figure less specific and therefore leaves more to the viewers imagination. The image on the eover of Narratori is a remarkably accurate portrait of Celati, both physically and psychologically, but readers can only know that the figure on the cover is Celati if they have access to that information through other sources. The photographic credit makes no mention of the name of the man who stares out into the desolate, snowy landscape, standing a little hesitantly as if about to take a step. His face is invisible, so clues as to the type of man he is can only be gleaned from what his back view reveals. Without a face, the lonely figure in a landscape can be interpreted as an everyman: a stand in for any of us, or for anyone we choose to imagine. Indeed, in art historical terms, the single figure that gazes into a landscape is often viewed as the painted or depicted deputy for the real spectators displaced gaze, mediating that spectators experience of the s c e n e . G h i r r i wrote of how as a child he particularly loved the photographs included in his atlas in which always there, immobile, with waterfalls, mountains, rocks, very tall trees and grandiose palms towering over him, or else on the edge of a ravine, appeared a little man."^ ^ This figure seemed to him both to introduce a human scale to these works and to keep the photographer company on his or her travels. These are precisely the roles implied for the figure on the cover of Narratori, who is about to lead the reader into the text and keep him or her company on the journey through it. What is different about Ghirris works, however, as we can see in Figure 3710, is that this spectator figure is not portrayed in such a way as to dominate the landscape. Nor is he overwhelmed by Sublime visions of the scenery, as was the case with spectator

For a good discussion o f this visual effect and some literary equivalents, see Joseph Leo Koerner, Borrowed Sight: The Halted Traveller in Caspar David Friedrich and William Wordsworth, Word and Image 1, no. 2 (1985). immancabile, immobile, appariva un piccolo uomo sovrastato da cascate, monti, rocce, alberi altissimi e palme grandiose, o sul ciglio di un burrone (Luigi Ghirri, Rappresentare per immagini, Quindi, January 1986,14).

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figures in the art of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century/'*^ The figure in the photograph on the cover of Narratori is neither the conqueror nor the worshipper of the land in front of him. He is a part of the scene in the same way as the distant trees or the road that stretches out ahead. This very much sums up the attitude to the landscape displayed in Celatis writings of the 1980s. It finds its most extreme expression in the character of Baratto in Quattro novelle, who loses sight of his own subjectivity in a way that is simultaneously puzzling, frustrating and attractive to others. Baratto reveals the influence of the eponymous hero of Melvilles Bartleby (which Celati later translated into Italian) and the passive, yet extraordinarily effective resistance of his response to every question: I would prefer not to.^ "^ '^ This weak mode of being is also evident in Ghirris photograph of Celati, which does not seek to establish a strongly individual identity. While the figure of the man seems a part of the landscape, it is also possible to imagine any face for him. In this way, the faceless figure with his or her back to the camera functions as the visual equivalent of the universalizing indefinite article as used by Celati, even as it represents Ghirris very personal vision of a friend. This non-specifie approach signifies a deferential mode, whichtends to be more anonymous and universalizable (akin to the folk or fable-like mode of early and/or oral narrative, the once upon a time style of storytelling), emphasizing the shared and collective nature of narration. The minimalist style he uses, derived in many ways from Ghirris photographic style, suited Celati ideally in his desire for a meditative and anonymous kind of narration that would impose as little authorial presenee onto the reader as possible. ^ "^ ^
143

There is a vast body o f literature on landscape and notions o f the Sublime, picturesque etc. Some useful examples include Stephen Copley and Peter Garside (eds.), The Politics o f the Picturesque: Literature, Landscape, an d Aesthetics since 1770, (Cambridge; N ew York; Cambridge University Press, 1994), Walter John Hippie, The Beautiful, the Sublime, and the Picturesque in Eighteenth-Century British Aesthetic Theory (Carbondale,: Southern Illinois University Press, 1957), and Charles Rosen and Henri Zemer, Romanticism and Realism: The M ythology o f Nineteenth-Century Art (New York: Norton, 1985).
144

See Herman Melville, Bartleby lo scrivano, (Milan: Feltrinelli, 1996). West, Minimalism, 22.

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The value of listening to the stories of others is constantly emphasized in Celatis works, and strongly related to Ghirris belief in the necessity of paying close attention to the landscape. As Celati writes, listening to a voice telling a story is good for you, it takes you out of the abstraction of when you stay at home believing you have understood something in general. Following a voice, it is like following the banks of a river, where something that cannot be understood abstractly runs past (Verso la foce,
2 7

) 146

jaijucchi argues that in Celatis works the narrators almost magic secret consists

above all in listening: it is a disposition of the spirit that presupposes humility and silent docility, and that functions like a medium, as a potent means of transmission. This

attitude also presupposes a very careful attention to external appearances and voices. In an article published the same year as Narratori, Celati emphasized the importance of paying attention to appearances instead of so-called deep structures or symbolic inner m e a n i n g s . B y working with Ghirri and other photographers, whose photographs of the plains of the Po attest to the value of paying attention to a landscape that is usually ignored, Celati was able to build on his earlier interest in minimizing the divisions between inside and outside, in order to become permeable by the external world. ^ '^ Many of the characters in Narratori learn to heed closely that which might at first seem unworthy of such attention. In the opening story mentioned earlier, one of the two Archies goes into self-imposed exile to learn to observe the things around him so as to teach himself to be more careful in his thoughts and actions, in order to make amends for the terrible mistake

ascoltare una voce che racconta fa bene, ti toglie dallastrattezza di quando stai in casa credendo di aver capito qualcosa in generate. Si segue una voce, ed e come seguire gli argini d un fiume dove scorre qualcosa che non puo essere capito astrattamente. il segreto quasi magico del narratore consiste prima di tutto nellascoltare: e una disposizione dellanimo che presuppone umilta e silenziosa condiscendenza e che funziona com e medianita, come potente mezzo di trasmissione (Antonio Tabucchi, V oci sperdute fatte racconto. II nuovo libro di Gianni Celati, II Manifesto, June 22 1985, 10).
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West, Minimalism, 21. Ibid.: 2 0 .

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he made through his insensitivity to and contempt for his surroundings (12).^^ Celati makes no overt judgments about the rights or wrongs of the case, but the notion of the importance of paying attention to ones surroundings, whatever they may be, is clearly established right from the beginning of the book. The same is true of Quattro novelle, as in the case of the landscape and sign painter Emanuele Menini in the story Condizioni di luce sulla via Emilia. He maintains his great love of landscape and his curiosity about the world despite the pollution that mars his own immediate surroundings. There is a great contrast between the landscape in which Menini lives and those he creates. We are told that most of all, landscapes were his passion, when they had snowy mountains in the background, streams wandering among the meadows, little pastoral figures, and a lake with a large tower on its shore {Quattro novelle, 53).^^^ These imaginative constructions constitute a means of drawing solace from the outside world that is analogous to the way in which Menini uses his theories about light and movement to make sense of the chaotic whirl of traffic and haze that surrounds his home. Celati contrasts this ability to retain a sense of wonder with the sophisticated and blase approach of so-called experts, a group of people whom he despises only slightly more than their irritating sycophants.
1 CO

In Verso la foce, he tells of the expert who says that he

has no interest in the places and landscapes he is supposedly expert in, and advises him that its useless to travel to see places that are the same everywhere, by now. If you really have
osservare cio che gli stava attorno per rendere attenti i propri gesti e pensieri (14). soprattutto i paesaggi erano la sua passione, quando avevano montagne innevate sullo sfondo, ruscelli che vagano tra i prati, piccole figure pastorali e un lago con un torrione sulla riva. The hapless teacher o f mathematics in Un paesaggio con centrale nucleare who raves passionately about the nuovi scrittori italiani but is perplexed by Celatis suggestion that he read Ariosto, com e se Ariosto non s intonasse al vestito che porta is one example (Verso la foce, 23). A s far as the experts are concerned, Celati knows that there are no easy answers and believes that anyone who professes that there are is at fault, as he makes clear in Come fa il mondo ad andare avanti. In this story the conference which is held to determine the question o f what makes the world go on sees a guest speaker sort it all out in half an hour. Everyone is delighted to discover that la fuori c e un mondo cosi facile da spiegare che uno se la puo cavare in m ezzora, as Celati laconically puts it {Narratori, 53). Immediately after the conferenee, however, everyone forgets everything that had been said, even the title o f the conference and everything goes on as before, except for the fact that even more words go on being produced.
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to write, cite some book or statistic, and youll see that it always turns out fine. Im telling you (24).^^ Later in Verso la foce Celati writes that: Sometimes the desire to write leaves me, I have the impression that its useless to note down what I see, because this is a fiction like the others. But then I think of those who take care of everything with their knowledgeability, they only believe what theyve read in their books and newspapers, and they treat this entire world with arrogance because they hate to feel lost, exposed to the chanciness of appearances. If you have the feeling you understand everything, you lose the desire to observe. (Verso la foce, 95) The ability to accept ambivalence is very important to Celati and is one of the reasons for his intense dislike of so-called experts. In the story Dagli aeroporti (From the airports) in Narratori, he writes of the protagonist: He too was considered by many experts as an authoritative expert in something. However, he had often wanted recognition not for the specialist formulas that he used to teach others, but rather for the obscure and mundane work through which he had contributed to sustaining the age-old con-trick that was his science, picking his way through facts that werent facts, evidence that wasnt evidenee, and explanations that explained only themselves, and finally making it all add up thanks exclusively to the precision of the terms employed. (73)'^^ Celati highlights the same kind of intellectual confidence tricks in the story from Quattro novelle, I lettori di libri sono sempre piu falsi, mentioned above. Here the imposing edifice of literary history is juxtaposed with the ludicrous machinations of a crude book salesman who sees the secret of his success as his refusal ever to read his own wares. Yet his candid declaration of the need to avoid reading books if you want to sell them seems

e inutile fare viaggi per vedere dei posti che ormai sono uguali dappertutto, Se proprio deve scrivere, citi qualche libro o statistica, e vedra che va sempre bene, glielo dico io. A momenti la voglia di scrivere mi passa, ho Iimpressione che sia inutile annotare cio che vedo, perche questa e una finzione come le altre. Ma poi mi vengono in mente quelli che sistemano tutto con la loro saputezza, credono solo a cio che hanno letto nei loro libri e giornali, e trattano tutto questo mondo con sufficienza perche odiano sentirsi smarriti, esposti alia casualita delle apparenze. Se hai la senzazione di capire tutto, passa la voglia di osservare. D a molti esperti era considerate anche lui un autorevole esperto in qualcosa. Ma aveva spesso desiderate che qualcuno lo retribuisse, non per le formule specialistiche che insegnava agli altri, bensi per il lavoro oscuro e pratico con cui aveva contribuito a tenere in piedi il lungo imbroglio della sua scienza, orientandosi tra fatti che non erano fatti, prove che non erano prove, spiegazioni che spiegavano soltanto se stesse, e facendo quadrar tutto alia fine solo grazie alia precisione dei termini usati (65).
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almost preferable to the pretentious mouthings of the experts from whom the young student protagonist initially flees and whose ranks he eventually joins. Whether he would admit it or not, the young students incorporation into the literary establishment represents the kind of loss which Lumley sees many of the characters in Narratori as undergoing. As he puts it, this loss is frequently a loss of particularity, of uniqueness, in which the colonization by the architecture of uniformity has its parallel in the language of experts and advertising.^^^ Just as Ghirris photographs ask the viewer to question the limits of representation and our definitions of the normal through his patient, open examination of the marginal and the mundane, so too do Celatis stories seek to undermine the architecture of uniformity. In a 1986 article, Celati writes that psychoanalysis, sociology, anthropology and the whole institution of what he calls essay culture have developed the notion that cultural representations of the external world can be examined in isolation from relationships between people, and between people and places, and described as a particular kind of mental content. He suggests instead that we

think of these representations not as a content of thought but rather as an infinite and heterogeneous series of practical problems to be resolved at every hour of the day. Although the external world can be described as if it were complete and readily comprehensible, Celati sees this as nonsensical in terms of our actual experience of the world, in which the only thing that can make sense is the fact that there is an order out there, with boundaries on all sides, beyond which there is an horizon of incomprehensible events. In other words, out there is the void, but this void is the space in which the
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Lumley, Fictions, 53.


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la cultura saggistica.

un contenuto del pensiero but as una serie infinita ed eterogenea di problemi pratici da risolvere ad ogni ora del giorno. e il fatto che la fuori vi sia un ordine, con confini da tutte le parti, oltre i quali c e un orizzonte di eventi incomprensibili.
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mind o p e r a t e s . C e l a t i constrasts the narratives of experts, which attempt to clarify the unclarifiable, with those of ordinary people attempting to communicate with one another in the limited space of the comprehensible, most often on the margins of the wider societal discourse. The centrality of the marginal in the work of both Celati and Ghirri is one of the most interesting features that links them. One of the ways in which they draw attention to these marginal realities is through their unusual perspectives on the outside world. Lumley sees analogies between Celatis writing and Ghirris photography in the way in which they both treat perspective so as to shift the viewer or readers point of view. Perspective, he writes, implies a position of knowledge and hence of power or powerlessness. It also implies r e l a t i v i t y . I n 11 ritorno del viaggiatore (The travelers return) in Narratori, Celatis equality of vision and his unusual perspective can be seen in the descriptive passage in which he juxtaposes the image of a man seen at a window with a description of the doings of two May bugs and a column of ants as they disperse in the gravel amongst lumps of brick and plaster (117). The same kind of effect occurs in Come e cominciato

tutto quanto esiste (How everything that exists began), where the old man tells the narrator that when he dies he will return as a mosquito. He has asked his friends not to shoo mosquitoes away after he dies, as he will come to visit them in that form. In this story, vast differences in scale do not denote differences in value for the old man. Instead, they are reduced to equality by his viewpoint. He believes that everything that exists originated in a cloud of dust, from the stars, to humans, to mosquitoes. The equality of large and small, foreground and distance is reminiscent of certain photographic effects in which both near and distant objects can be seen in focus. This technique gives equal importance to both.
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la fuori c e il vuoto, ma questo vuoto e lo spazio delle operazioni della mente (Gianni Celati, Un sistema di racconti sul mondo estemo, Quindi, January 1986, 9). Lumley, Fictions, 51.
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due maggiolini e una fila di formiche ( 110 ).

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allowing small foreground objects to appear as large as much bigger, distant objects. Ghirri pointed out that the same effect can be found in some Japanese prints, in which, for example, a blade of grass may appear as large as a mountain or a distant village may be viewed through the legs of a horse in the extreme foreground. These perspectival effects seem like distortions because of our acceptance of Renaissance-based ideas of harmonious one-point perspective. Celatis low-key approach achieves a similar disruption of conventional perspective without the sense of spectacular distortion sometimes achieved in visual media. The reason that we perceive unusual juxtapositions as such is because perspective is something that has to be learnt; it is a point of view informed by knowledge, as is aptly illustrated in the story entitled Traversata delle pianure (Crossing the plains).
1

Here

the newly arrived immigrants believe the customs officers who tell them that the sun never sets on the horizon in the town they have moved to. It is only when the outsiders become a part of their new world that they are able to understand its perspective and to put the comment of the customs officers in perspective. The act of storytelling in itself is an attempt to convey a certain perspective, bridging the distances between ourselves and others and ourselves and the world, even as it simultaneously and paradoxically expresses the distances that separate us from that which is other. Photography has much in

common with this in terms of the way in which it is able to show us so-called slices of life, even as it constructs those segments of seeming reality and places us eternally at one remove from them. In Narratori, we are offered snippets of narration, reminiscent of an album of snapshots shown to us by a stranger, but even more like Ghirris much more thoughtful photographic montages. Despite their thoughtfulness, Ghirris photographs retain a sense of the casual because of the egalitarian vision that notices and values every

Ibid., 54.
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West, Gianni Celati, 361.

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object and space within them. This reflects Ghirris belief that before anything else you have to find points of view that are comprehensible to others. You have to give up your own point of view, otherwise you are spying instead of looking.^^^ Only by attempting to communicate with others is it possible to arrive at an approximation of a common vision and a spontaneous gaze. ^^^ In this way, Ghirris photographs seek to be neither Art nor Life, rather they represent a crystallized moment of experience in which it is accepted that the arrangement of appearances is all there can be and in which the comedy and tragedy of everyday life are captured with affection and humility. This egalitarian approach to perspective stems in part from the crisis of faith in the reliability of the grand narratives of history and literature and the recognition of the biased perspectives that underlie such narratives. West characterizes Celatis fiction as part of a category of minimalist fiction that points to a lack or radical limitation within traditional Western philosophical and literary cultures orientation that is blind to the presumption of mastery and power contained in its own rhetorical and argumentational strategies. Postmodern theorizing has done much to point out and discredit such presumptions, but often without offering strategies of resistance that seem relevant to day-to-day uses of narrative. While both Ghirri and Celati tended to shy away from the postmodernist label, their work provides important examples of modes of representation that seek to avoid presumptions of power, providing valuable suggestions for ways to create and preserve more open kinds of verbal and visual communication. The shared insistence on the importance of attempting to communicate with others through narrative rather than creating self-reflexive works is another strong link between Ghirris photographs and Celatis writings. Celatis approach to narrative can, in turn, be

prima di tutto bisogna trovare punti di sguardo che siano comprensibili ad altri. Bisogna rinunciare ad un punto di vista proprio, altrimenti si spia e non si guarda. una visione comune ed uno sguardo spontaneo (Quoted in Celati, Commenti, 6 ottobre). West, Minimalism, 17.

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related to what Andreas Huyssen has called the recuperation of history and the reemergence of story in recent decades. As Huyssen points out, these are not part of a leap back into a pre-modem, pre-avant-garde past, as some postmodernists seem to suggest. Rather, [t]hey can be better described as attempts to shift into reverse in order to get out of a dead-end street where the vehicles of avant-gardism and postmodemism have
1

come to a standstill.

Ghirri also used the metaphor of the dead-end street to express his

frustration with some aspects of a postmodern photographic practice that he saw as overly self-reflexive and at times self-indulgent, trapped in the the rigid space of reproducing itself. '^ He wrote that to get out of this dead-end it is necessary to make a clean break with a whole series of paralyzing problems, and in the first place pass from research photography to the search for photography.
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Ghirri sought a kind of photography that

would stimulate new dialectic relationships and suggest ways of organizing the gaze such that it does not remain inert before an external world that is increasingly incomprehensible and complex.
1n 1

Ghirri and Celati both believed that it is this kind of inertia that allows the pollution of the landscape and the corresponding degradation in our ability to communicate. They believed that it was crucial to restore the intensity of our gaze and thus engage in the kind of close observation of the world which, as Celati wrote in the introduction to Verso la face, makes us less apathetic (madder or wiser, happier or more desperate) (9).
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Ghirri

was very much concerned with the ways in which we respond to the environment and, in a
Andreas Huyssen, The Search for Tradition; Avant-garde and Postmodernism in the 1970s, in Postm odem ism : A Reader, ed. Thomas Docherty (New York, London, Toronto: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1993), 231. rigido spazio della riproduzione di se stessa. bisogna dare un taglio netto, a tutta una serie di problematiche paralizzanti, ed in primo luogo passare dalla fotografia di ricerca alia ricerca della fotografia. questo non rimanga piil inerte di fronte ad un esterno sempre piu incomprensibile e complesso (Ghirri, Rappresentare per immagini, 15).
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ci rende meno apatici (piu pazzi o piu savi, piu allegri o piu disperati).

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1986 article, he wrote of how struck he was by a recent announcement that visibility on our planet had diminished by ten percent. Despite his dismay at the metaphorical and literal pollution that creates an ever-shrinking horizon, Ghirri took a seemingly paradoxical pleasure in the thought that if the line of the finite has got closer, then the infinite is also closer to us.
1 l'\

At the same time, his concern about the ecological and political

implications of this situation also included an awareness of the parallels between this kind of atmospheric pollution and the state of saturation of visual media today, which he saw as a similar kind of pollution that prevents us from seeing c l e a r l y . C a l v i n o related this erosion to the fact that: Today we are bombarded by such a quantity of images that we no longer know how to distinguish direct experience from what we have seen for a few seconds on television. Memory is covered with layers of fragments of images like a warehouse for garbage, where it is increasingly difficult for one figure 175 among so many to stand out. These words recall Calvinos earlier arguments in La follia del mirino and L avventura di un fotografo. Like Ghirri, Calvino made a metaphorical connection between the destruction of the environment and the erosion of our ability to communicate with one another. We might ask, then, how a photographer like Ghirri, who was so concerned by this bombardment of images, could justify creating more. Sontag is among those who have suggested a morbid reason for the continual creation of photographic images, linking the increasing use of cameras to that moment when the human landscape started to undergo a vertiginous rate of change. For her, photography developed as a device to record the
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se la linea di passaggio del finito si e avvicinata, allora anche Finfmito e piu vicino a noi.

state di saturazione dei media visivi di oggi, specie di inquinamento che ci impedisce di vedere con chiarezza (Ibid.). Oggi siamo bombardati da una tale quantita di immagini da non saper piu distinguere Fesperienza diretta da cio che abbiamo visto per pochi secondi alia televisione. La memoria e ricoperta da strati di frantumi d immagini come un deposito di spazzatura, dove e sempre piu difficile che una figura tra le tante riesca ad acquistare rilievo (Italo Calvino, Lezioni americane: S eiproposte p er ilprossim o millennio [Milan; Garzanti, 1988], 91-92).
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untold number of disappearing forms of biological and social life. Photographs thus serve as mementoes of what has been lost: Like the dead relatives and friends preserved in the family album, whose presence in photographs exorcizes some of the anxiety and remorse prompted by their disappearance, so the photographs of neighborhoods now torn down, rural places now disfigured and made barren, supply our pocket relation to the past.
1K\

She went on to say that photography has become the means by which we prove

our own existence to ourselves, asserting that needing to have reality confirmed and experience enhanced by photographs is an aesthetic consumerism to which everyone is now addicted.
177

Sontag also argued that photographic knowledge of the world is limited

because it can never narrate, since it cannot explain over time, and only that which narrates can make us understand. As a result, she claimed, while it can goad conscience, it can, finally, never be ethical or political knowledge.
1

no

This view seemed to be

supported by Jean Baudrillards description of the incessant multiplication of photographic and other images in terms of the creation of a hyperreal world of simulacra in which no recourse to an original is possible.
17 0

Ghirri himself wrote that the increasingly vertiginous multiplication, and the increasingly fast visual stimulation seem to cover the whole world in a totalizing fashion, making our environment increasingly dense and ever less comprehensible.
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In this

context, the development of ever-more sophisticated post-photographic technologies might seem to imply that photography is an obsolete form. In a discussion of the development of
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Sontag, On Photography, 16. Ibid., 24. Ibid., 23, 24.

See for example his Simulacra and Simulation, translated by Sheila Faria Glaser (Ann Arbor; University o f Michigan Press, 1994); his article The Evil Demon of Images and The Precession of Simulacra, in Postmodernism: A Reader, ed. Thomas Docherty (New York, London, Toronto: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1993): 194-199; and his Simulations (New York: Semiotext(e), 1983). molteplicazione sempre piii vertiginosa, la stimolazione visiva sempre pin veloce sembrano ricoprire tutto il mondo in maniera totalizzante (Ghirri, Rappresentare per immagini, 14).
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computer-processed digital imaging, Mitchell argues that from the moment of its sesquicentennial in 1989 photography was deador, more precisely, radically and permanently displacedas was painting 150 years before.
1R 1

Photography has

undoubtedly been overtaken in terms of what Mitchell calls the production of reproduction. However, Ghirri believed that just as the so-called death of painting did not signal the end of painting as an art form and in fact preceded all the great movements in painting of the twentieth centurythere could be a continuing and vital role for photography into the new millennium. He argued that rather than documenting or seeking to aestheticize the heterogeneous and apparently endless creation of analogues, photography can be a significant moment in which to pause and reflect, a necessary moment of reactivation of the circuits of attention that are shorted out by the speed of the external world.^^^ This was not to say that photography should seek to hold back time, but rather that it could function as an image o f equilibrium, or of reconciliation, between known representations and those still to come, between the saturation of the external and the void into which our gazes fall increasingly often.
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His own photographs are images

of just such equilibrium; remarkable for the stillness that characterizes them and the sense of infinite attention to the external world and its appearances. This is never more obvious than in his landscape works, which function as images of reconciliation between the landscape and its inhabitants and the landscape and its representations. Celati saw in Ghirris photographs a desire to find moments of calm amid

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Mitchell, The Reconfigured Eye: Visual Truth in the Post-Photographic Era, 20.

la fotografia puo essere, un non marginale momento di pausa e di riflessione, un necessario momento di riattivazione dei circuiti dellattenzione fatti saltare dalla velocita deUesterno. una immagine d i equilibria, o di pacificazione, tra le rappresentazioni conosciute e quelle che saranno, tra la saturazione dellesterno e il vuoto su cui cadono sempre piii spesso i nostri sguardi (Ghirri, Rappresentare per immagini, 14).
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the chaos of appearances and to use representation to show a kind of pity for the world that he deeply r e s p e c t e d . H e wrote that: In Ghirris photographs, it would seem that only a laborious practice of using the inauthenticity and artificiality of all words and images can redeem each moment of the world; that it can transform them all into phenomena of the great theater of nature, covered only by the horizon and the awning of the sky; that, finally, all the artificiality of art and life may no be longer faults from which we must redeem ourselves but first and foremost signs of 185 willingness. In this sense, photographs such as that shown in Figure 31 function as images of reconciliation between humans and their environment. These photographs, as Quintavalle writes, do not want to make you contemplate but rather think, a kind of thought that
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creates action.

It is in this way that Ghirri saw photography as having a continued use in

a world full of images. Ghirri pointed out that neither cinema nor literature has become aware of the great environmental change and the ecological alarm in recent years. Only photography has done so, perhaps balanced between documenting and interpreting them.^^^ He points out that this awareness of the destruction of the landscape and the related degeneration of social relationships was one of the most important reasons that he and Celati came to work together, organizing among other things a conference on landscape in Reggio Emilia entitled Narratori delle pianure after Celatis book. Ghirri saw his photographs as a means to suggest new ways of reconciling humans and nature

pieta per il mondo. nelle foto di Ghirri, sembrerebbe che solo un laborioso esercizio per usare bene Iinautenticita, Iartificialitadi tutte le parole e le immagini, possa riscattare ogni memento del mondo. Che possa trasformarli tutti in fenomeni del grande teatro naturale, chiuso soltanto dallorizzonte e dalla tenda del cielo. Che, finalmente, tutta Iartificialita dallarte e della vita, non siano pin colpe da cui dovremmo riscattarci, ma siano prima di tutto segni di buona volonta. Celati, Commenti, 3 ottobre.
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vogliono ... non far contemplare m afare pensare, un pensiero che fa azione (Quintavalle, Fuoco,
> -

435). la grande mutazione ambientale e Iallarme ecologico non sono stati avvertiti in questi anni ne dal cinema ne dalla letteratura. Solo dalla fotografia, magari in bilico tra documentazione e interpretazione (Ghirri, quoted in Elena Ferrari, II paesaggio secondo Luigi Ghirri: Profili di nuvole per un album di racconti, La Gazzetta, December 17 1989, 18).
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through looking at the landscape with care and attention, and thus to suggest that we value and protect our surroundings. This requires a way of looking at the world that breaks free of photographic and visual conventions. When asked about the difficulty of finding a photographic language of his own in a world in which our minds are saturated with hyper-codified images, Ghirri pointed out that the problem of the explosion of vast quantities of kinds of information is not restricted to the world of images, but affects every field of human activity. Nevertheless, he believed that a possible means of escaping this bind might be to work as though we were in a state of necessity, in a way that I could define as ethical.
1go

For

photography, this would mean trying to see the world as though it were the first and last
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time.

Ghirri argues that this attitude might lead to a more profound gaze, and would

lengthen and broaden the space and time of the gaze, giving new depth and new feelings to our perceptions. This desire for a photographic ethics and attitude of openness towards the external world was profoundly important for Celati. Like Ghirri, he was very much concerned with the degradation of the natural and social environment. In his writings of the 1980s, his awareness of the fragility of the environment and the alienation and disintegration of social groups is evident. Verso la face makes this particularly clear, with its descriptions of the effects of large-scale ecological disasters such as the Chernobyl nuclear power station and the less dramatic, but perhaps more insidious, disaster which has befallen so many of the rivers of Europe in the form of unremitting pollution. The degradation of the sense of community that was once a part of the landscape is also made clear in these works. The

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come se ci si trovasse in uno state di necessita, in un mode che potrei definire etico. com e se fosse la prima e Iultima volta.

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allungare ed allargare spazio e tempo dello sguardo, dare nuova profondita e anche nuovi sentimenti alle nostre percezioni (Emanuela Teatini, Un canto della terra: intervista a Luigi Ghirri, in Luigi Ghirri, Paesaggio italiano, ed. Luigi Ghirri [Milan; Electa, 1989], 49).

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four journeys in Verso la face represent the crossing of a kind of desert of solitude, which is also normal, everyday life iyerso la face, For Celati and Ghirri, apathy

(unlike the inertia of the passive resistance of Melvilles Bartleby or Celatis Baratto) represents an inherently destructive response to the external world, as Celatis description of the uncaring landscape expert later in Verso la face reveals. Celati looks at environmental degradation in the landscape as a political and social issue, but it also becomes a metaphor for a similar degradation of peoples ability to communicate with one another. The theme of the difficulty and the desire for communication is a recurrent one in Quattro novelle. Celati suggests that even when people speak the same tongue, they often speak different languages to each other. In Scomparsa d un uomo lodevole, the narrator and his son talk past each other in the languages of different generations. This contrasts with Barattos lively dinner with a Japanese tourist who speaks only Japanese. The success of this dinner reflects the extent to which having a seemingly attentive listener is often more important than knowing for sure that our listener understands what we are saying. Watching from outside, Barattos friend Berte sees that the Japanese widow is talking constantly and very quickly in her language, probably telling Baratto her life story. And Baratto sometimes widens his eyes, other times he shakes his head, or stretches out his hand and gives her a little pat on the arm {Quattro novelle, 28).'^^ His responses parody the conventions of communication and mark the fact that Baratto, who had ceased to speak months earlier, is now getting better, and beginning to think only the thoughts of others {Quattro novelle, 29).'^^ His return to the normal world of ordinary phatic communion, signaled by the ludicrously anti-climactic statement; Oh,
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Iattraversamento d una specie di deserto di solitudine, che pero e anche la vita normale di tutti i giom i. la vedova giapponese parla in continuazione e svelta svelta nella sua lingua, probabilmente raccontando a Baratto tutta la sua vita. E Baratto a momenti spalanca gli occhi, altre volte scuote la testa, oppure allunga una mano e le da una pacchetta sul braccio.
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e comincia a pensare solo i pensieri degli altri.

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the pain in my meniscus is back!, ^^'^ recalls the way in which the protagonist of Meteorite dal cosmo (Meteorites from outer space) in Narratori learns to accept the conventions of communication and not to take too much notice of that automaton who does everything for us, who talks when one should talk, returns greetings when greeted, and laughs when it is appropriate to laugh (83).'^^ In these stories, Celati often concentrates on the inability to communicate and the seemingly hopeless inadequacies of language. This is another reason for his great interest in Ghirris photographs and in the visual world in general. He sees the attitude of openness with which Ghirri approaches the external as a possible means of escaping the expectation of finding clear, comprehensible meanings. At the same time, his fascination with narrative reveals his understanding of the human need to create bearable versions of events and to communicate them to others. Hanne points out the extent to which Celatis later fiction, particularly Narratori delle pianure, takes up questions raised by narrative theorists about the ways in which we communicate with one another. West in turn points out how Celati

uses space in the first story in Narratori to show how a communicative exchange made difficult by distance, language barriers and reserve still takes place.
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This occurs first

through an imaginative journey and then through a physical one, both of which are part of the readers own imaginative journey through the text. The imagination has to be made to work for this to happen, and it is here that Celatis approach is once again related to that of Ghirri, who often discussed with him the notion of thinking in terms of images and who saw landscape as a potential common ground from which it was possible to attempt to communicate with others despite the difficulties which mental, physical or linguistic
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Oh, mi e tomato male al memsco!

non badare pin molto a qualla specie di automa che fa tutto per noi, che parla quando deve parlare, saluta quando lo salutano, ride quando bisogna ridere (76). Hanne, W isdom, 141. West, Lo spazio, 6 8 .

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distances can create. For Celati and Ghirri, however, this communication must be based on recognition of the ultimate unknowability of the world: a crucial step towards the creation of a more egalitarian gaze, which valorizes all appearances. It is a gaze that asks us to respect things and others equally, without attempting to impose our own interpretations on them, even while it empowers our individual imaginations and permits us to make the imaginative journeys that are a part of our every attempt at communication. Celati and Ghirri seek to communicate this respectful and humble approach to the external world through their own works. For Celati and Ghirri, this is also a question of the responsible representation of the visible in a world already saturated with words and images. Ghirri wanted to practice photography in such a way that photographing the world might also be a way of understanding it, not through making judgments about the world, seeking to transform it or to penetrate its mysteries, but rather through a recognition that seeing is the magical aspect of photography. 1Q X According to Ghirri, an awareness of this magic can create a

moment of reconciliation, which allows a face, a place, or a landscape to be recognizable, familiar, i n h a b i t a b l e . T h i s relates Ghirris work back to Celatis belief that everything we do is based around the desire to create a livable space amid the confusion of appearances through the power of storytelling. It also relates to the acceptance of the

limitations of the external world that is evident in Ghirris sensitivity to the depiction of horizons, as in photos such as those shown in Figure 34-9. Celati sees this sensitivity as a particularly important aspect of Ghirris work. He comments in IIprofilo delle nuvole: I thought that the profession of the photographer, perhaps more than any other in our time, seems to bear witness to this limit to the representations that give
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fotografare il mondo sia anche un modo per comprenderlo, vedere e Iaspetto magico della fotografia. un momento di pacificazione, che consenta a un volto, a un luogo, ad un paesaggio di essere riconoscibile, familiare, abitabile (Ghirri, Rappresentare per immagini, 15). See Celati, Finzioni, 9.
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meaning to our normality and ease. And this is not a social or historical limit, but a spatial limit. It is the horizon as the last proscenium of all possible appearances, and the sky as the last backdrop of the colors and tones that have an affective quality to the phenomena around us.^' Celati clearly understood Ghirris approach to framing and recognized the potential that Ghirri saw for photography to provide a kind of reconciliation between humans and nature through an awareness of the line between earth and sky that signals the disappearance of all appearances. A similarly philosophical awareness of the transience of appearances is apparent in Quattro novelle sulle apparenze. The back cover blurb described these four stories as stories in which some fundamental themes of contemporary philosophy surface, and which can be traced back to the tradition of the philosophical novella.^^^ But rather than creating aesthetic illustrations of philosophical theories, Celati makes his point about the difficulties and necessities of observation and communication through the form the stories take. His belief in the impossibility of establishing certainties about existence and appearance is made evident through his engagement in that special kind of game that consists in telling stories in order to be p u z z l e d . T h e strange muteness of the protagonist of Baratto and his eventual return to speech, the complicated theories with which Emanuele Menini seeks to come to terms with his surroundings in Condizioni di luce sulla via Emilia, the complementary abandonment and rediscovery of reading of the protagonists of I lettori di libri sono sempre piu falsi, and the mysterious Scomparsa

Ho pensato che 1 1 mestiere del fotografo, forse piu d ogni altro nel nostro tempo, sembra testimoniare questo limite delle rappresentazioni che danno senso alia nostra normalita e disinvoltura. Ed e questo non un limite sociale o storico, ma un limite spaziale. E Iorizzonte come proscenio ultimo di tutte le possibili apparizioni, e il cielo come sfondo ultimo del colori e toni che hanno una qualita affettiva ai fenomeni attomo a noi (Celati, Commenti, 4 ottobre). racconti in cui affiorano alcuni temi di fondo della filosofia contemporanea, e che possono essere ricondotti alia tradizione della novella filosofica. quello speciale tipo di gioco che consiste nel raccontare storie per rendersi perplessi (Back cover blurb, Gianni Celati, Quattro novelle sulle apparenze [Milan: Feltrinelli, 1987]).
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d un uomo lodevole work to leave the reader feeling perplexed in this way, but also thoughtful. This sensation is similar to that experienced by the viewer of some of Ghirris photographs in which, as Celati put it, he: Leads all appearances and apparitions towards that ultimate background, towards the limit upon which openness makes itself world. He manages to do so through atmospheric vision, that is, through the affective flavor of colors and tones. And this allows him to present all the appearances of the world like suspended phenomena, and therefore no longer as facts to be documented.^^'* This movement toward the infinite is summed up in Ghirris photograph of the ditch at Roncocesi (Figure 369). Looking at this photograph, it is easy to see how Ginette Blery saw a particular approach to eternity and death in Ghirris work. According to her reading, the horizon in Ghirris work functions not only as photographys ultimate frame, but also as a metaphor for the ultimate frame of all our lives, death. She wrote that: [l]infini telle est une des tentations de Ghirri, Iinfini dans toute sa plenitude, infini des espaces mais aussi infini du temps, plus souvent nomme eternite, et par la nous rejoignons la mort. Jamais nommee, jamais suggeree, elle est pourtant omnipresente dans tout le livre, cette mort que genere la photographic, art du temps suspendu, negation de la vie. Yet Ghirris is not an art that negates life. This death, if death it is, is like a kind of

enchantment, giving the impression that Ghirri has somehow magically frozen an aspect of reality. It is a death that somehow affords comfort. Where Roland Barthes sees the irreversibility of photography as deathlike, Ghirri argues that it is also possible to think that times renews, that every accidental scrap renews perception, instead of being just the tombstone of moments of life, since each photograph recalls other photographs taken or to

Riconduce tutte le apparenze e apparizioni verso quellultimo sfondo, verso il limite sul quale Iaperto si fa mondo. Riesce a farlo attraverso la visione atmosferica, cioe attraverso il sapore affettivo del colori e dei toni. E cio gli permette di presentare tutte le apparenze del mondo come fenomeni sospesi, e dunque non piil come fatti da documentare (Celati, Commenti, 4 ottobre).
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204

Ginette Blery, Kodachrome, Photo Cine Review (1979). See Chapter Five for an analysis of the debate over photographys connection to death.

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be taken, or other images seen.

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In this way, the situation is that of a story, which is

composed of states of contingency, passages from one moment to another. But if every moment is discarded in favor of the next, which renews expectations, then every moment renews the perception of the whole story. Many of Ghirris photographs at the very edge of the pianura padana where it meets the sea on the Adriatic coast provide perfect examples of this effect. These, like so many of his images, are associated with the notion of the marginal. Photographs such as those of the beach at Cervia (see Figure 41 and Figure 42) represent studies of the beach as a zone of transition between one state and another. The holiday brights of tacky tourist constructions along the beach contrast with the empty flatness of the beach and sea, and the attenuated color which characterizes these photographs lends a sense of strangeness to scenes of uneventful relaxation. The delicate color, particularly in Figure 42, suggests that perhaps these beachside constructions are as ephemeral as the photograph itself and might just as easily be washed away by the infinity of the sea. Rather than creating a gloomy or ominous feeling, however, they suggest an attempted reconciliation between land and sea, and between humans and nature. These images imply that there are always possibilities, which are available to all, for liberating the imagination from the constraints of convention and conformity through the medium of landscape. We are all capable of looking at the landscape as if it were the first and last time if we devote enough attention to it. Ghirris images suggest that if, as Mitchell puts it, landscape is the place where we both find and lose ourselves, then losing ourselves is just as valuable an experience as finding ourselves.^^
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e anche possibile pensare che il tempo rinnovi, che ogni scarto accidentale rinnovi la percezione, invece d essere soltanto la pietra tombale dei momenti di vita. la situazione e quella dun racconto, che e composto di stati di contingenza, passaggi da un momento allaltro. Pero se ogni momento e uno scarto rispetto al precedente che rinnova le aspettative, ogni momento rinnova la percezione di tutto il racconto (Quoted in Celati, Commenti, 10 maggio). See note 36 above.
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F igure41: Luigi Ghirri, C ervia(F o), /9 8 9

i- A I iA ./'

Figure 42: Luigi Ghirri, C e/via ('/ oj, /9 8 9

This is very much a part of Celatis philosophy, as his introductory comments at the start of Verso la joce reveal. This introduction finishes with the following words: Every observation needs to be freed from the familar codes that it bears with it, it needs to drift into the midst of all that it doesnt understand, in order to then arrive at a river mouth, where it must feel lost. Like a natural tendency that absorbs us, every intense observation of the external world perhaps takes

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us closer to our death; or rather, it makes us less separate from ourselves. (Verso la face, 10)^^*^ Lumley points out that, for Celati, seeing ultimately concerns an awareness of mortality, linking this awareness to Emanuele Meninis death in the story Condizioni di luce sulla via Emilia.^ '' Menini, who has struggled to understand the visual effects of light in motion and the perspectives that make visible the cloud that envelops the plains near his home, dies in a still, snow-covered landscape whose description recalls photographs such as that which Ghirri took near Modena in 1985 (see Figure 43). The stillness of this photograph recalls the effect of a perennially undisturbed place that the avenues of cemeteries create, which Celati describes (Quattro novelle, 60). 212 In a 1989 article, he suggests that contemporary society in general cannot bear to recognize the inevitability of death because of its exaggerated sense of subjectivity.^'^ The relief that narratives provide is, as Tabucchi puts it, certainly the relief of the imminence of death (or of the irrational and incomprehensible).
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At the same time, in a world of constantly changing

appearances, Celati finds in the inevitability of death at least the minimal comfort of certainty.

Ogni osservazione ha bisogno di liberarsi dai codici familiari che porta con se, ha bisogno di andare alia deriva in mezzo a tutto cio che non capisce, per poter arrivare ad una foce, dove dovrk sentirsi smarrita. Come una tendenza naturale che ci assorbe, ogni osservazione intensa del mondo esterno forse ci porta piii vicina alia nostra morte; ossia, ci porta ad essere meno separati da noi stessi. Lumley, Fictions, 52.
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213 214

Gianni Celati, Sciamani damore. II libro di Carlo Ginzburg, II Manifesto, April 30 1989.

certo il sollievo dallincombenza della morte (o dellirrazionale e incomprensibile) (Tabucchi, Voci, 10).

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Figure 43: Luigi Ghirri, Ca/npagna modenese, /9 8 5

The intense observation and contemplation of appearances that Celati sees as taking us closer both to ourselves and to death encourages us to value our observations of the external world and to explore the means by which they can also bring us closer to others. Celatis writings do not offer glib solutions to the problems of existence, but they do offer the consolation of knowing that we all tell stories and that there are always stories left to be told; that we can share the middle through which are all passing even if the beginning and the end are outside of our control.215 The metaphor of the river that runs through Narratori and Quattro novelle suggests that perhaps, as Hanne writes, our whole lives add up to little more than a brief downhill torrent, followed by a long meandering across flat ')\f\ land until we leak into the sea. Ghirris desolate and uncanny photograph of the Adriatic sea and distant horizon (see Figure 447) seems like the perfect illustration of this idea and recalls the low-key ending of the last story in Narratori, in which a group of young men, on the run following the death of their friend in a nightclub brawl, row out to sea, not knowing where they are going and unable to turn back. Yet the seeming
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West, Minimalism, 24. Hanne, Wisdom, 150.

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hopelessness of this image is mitigated a little by the last words of the book: They had the idea in their heads that, if they went on rowing, they would reach some place or other' (158).
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Celati offers us no reason to think that the young men are right, yet the fact that

they still believe that it is possible for them to get somewhere affirms the power of the human ability to narrativize events and construct fictions to believe in that enable us to endure the confusion of existence.

Figure 44: Luigi Ghirri, Mare odriaAco, /9 8 9

These issues, so closely bound up in Celatis and Ghirris work, are profoundly philosophical. They reveal the extent to which Celatis interest in photography springs from his concept of it as a means of bringing being to light. West sees Celati as amongst those for whom ontological issues dominate, and emphasizes his avoidance of hermeneutics in favor of an attempt to see what is and to respond to it as being rather than as meaning.
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The same could be said of Ghirri, who sought to escape what he saw as the

217, 218,

'avevano Fidea che, continuando a remare, sarebbero arrivati da qualcbe parte (146).

Rebecca West, Before, Beneath and Around the Text: The Genesis and Construction o f Some Postmodern Prose Fictions, AnnallcCitallanlsAca9 { \9 9 \)\ 2 1 5 -lb , 361.

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trend in photography to search for a meaning for things rather than a sense of them. He described his photographs of the pianura padana as the representation of the existential experience of those who live there.
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Within the context of this ontological approach, the

two are further linked by their great interest in narrative as a means of bridging the distances between others and ourselves. Despite their recognition of the pitfalls and obstacles that hinder it, Celati and Ghirri share a commitment to communication that uses the landscape and the external world of appearances as a common ground from which to attempt to reach others. They achieve this through a low-key style based on their studies of the visible and the external. Celati and Ghirri suggest that while we cannot see the world, except through organizing it through narrating it or representing it in some way, we can challenge the systems of organizationthe narratives and representationsthat are given to us and that we accept as normal. They see a liberating, or at least comforting potential in the fact that, as Celati writes, there are worlds of stories in every point of space, appearances that chance with every opening of your eyes, infinite disorientations that continually require new stories: they require above all a way of thinking and imagining that does not paralyze itself in disdain for what surrounds it. ^^ Their shared approach is strongly bound up with their profound appreciation of and respect for the landscapes from which they both emerged. These landscapes provided them with a base from which to make imaginative journeys through time and space and suggested new possibilities for recounting versions of the world that would make it more livable. The work which Celati and Ghirri carried out on and in the landscapes of the pianura padana thus moves outward from a concern with local, precise positions and identities to embrace universal questions of being, telling, and representing. It suggests that photography and writing can be tools for
la rappresentazione del vissuto esistenziale di chi ci abita (Quoted in Pangrazio, Luigi Ghirri e le sue foto: anche le emozioni hanno un profilo, 17). ci sono mondi di racconto in ogni punto dello spazio, apparenze che cambiano ad ogni apertura d occhi, disoricntamenti infiniti che richiedono sempre nuovi racconti: richiedono soprattutto un pensareimmaginare che non si paralizzi nel disprezzo de d o che sta attomo (Celati, Esempio, 35).
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asking such questions and watching and listening for what provisional answers there may be.

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h a p t e r

i v e

IDENTIFYING THE BODY: PHOTOGRAPHY AND DEATH IN SOME LATE TW ENTIETH-CENTURY ITALIAN FICTIONS

There is nothing more terrible, I learned, than having to face the objects of a dead man. Things are inert: they have meaning only in function of the life that makes use of them. When that life ends, the things change, even though they remain the same. They are there and yet not there: tangible ghosts, condemned to survive in a world they no longer belong to. Paul Auster, The Invention o f Solitude (New York, 1988), 10.

Paul Austers description of the objects of a dead man closely echoes the sense of simultaneous presence and absence invoked by the photograph, whose subjects, too, are tangible ghosts surviving in a world no longer theirs. The idea of an intrinsic connection between photography and death is common to the work of numerous writers on the subject throughout the twentieth century. Previous chapters have also hinted at the ways in which death hovers close to the surface of photographic images and writing that addresses such images. Romanos narratives of memory dwell on the quasi-photographic presence of lives past, while her photo-texts represent an attempt to breathe life into the still death of the photographic image. A violent death lies at the heart of Niccolais photographic novel, where the connection between the cutting performed by the photographic frame and the mutilation of living human bodies is repeatedly implied. Celati and Ghirris work argues against the idea of photography as necessarily death-like, while at the same time asserting its potential to serve as a tool to help us get beyond the exaggerated sense of subjectivity that prevents us from accepting the inevitability of death. The metaphor of the death of a

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moment of time lurks in the background of virtually all writing about and around photography. This chapter concentrates on the ways in which a number of prominent Italian writers of the last few decades have directly engaged with photography and its connection to death. I focus in particular on the works of Daniele Del Giudice and Antonio Tabucchi, but also discuss works by Pier Paolo Pasolini and Italo Calvino in which the photographydeath nexus comes to the fore. The chapter begins with a review of the work of some of the most important theorists who have discussed photographys relation to death, from Roland Barthes to Christian Metz and Susan Sontag, as well as others who have concentrated on its use for identification and incrimination, such as the Italian historian Ando Gilardi. It discusses the difference between photographs of the dead taken while alive and post mortem photographs, looking at both in relation to the psychoanalytic concepts of the fetish and the relic, and relating these ideas to Giulio Ferronis conception of literature as a posthumous practice. The chapter addresses the scandal over the photographs of the corpses of Aldo Moro and Pier Paolo Pasolini that were published in Italian newspapers, and looks at Pasolinis own photo text. La Divina Mimesis{\915) (Divine Mimesis). It briefly discusses Calvinos reaction to the disfigurement and death of Roland Barthes in relation to his meditations on Camera Lucida, before moving on to Del Giudices literary response to the photographs of Pasolinis cadaver in the short story Come adesso! (How She Looks Now!) The chapter goes on to analyze Del Giudices novel Lo stadia di Wimbledon (1983) (Wimbledon Stadium), in which the protagonists mistrust of photographic evidence is a key theme. It ends by examining other literary works which deal with the question of photographic proof, looking in particular at Antonio Tabucchis nuanced use of the recurrent theme of photography and its connection to death in II jilo delVorizzonte {The Edge o f the Horizon), Notturno indiano {Indian Nocturne), and Sostiene Pereira {Pereira Declares).

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As previous chapters have shown, photography has been associated with death almost since the invention of photographic processes.' One of its first uses was to record the image of the dead after death as a memento for the living: for example, there is a vast body of nineteenth-century photographs of dead children and other family members, posed as though they were just sleeping.^ Contemporary photographers such as Sue Fox, Clare Strand, Rudolf Schafer, and Andres Serrano have taken up the theme, for example in Serranos morgue series (e.g. Fatal Meningitis, 1992). Christian Boltanski has created inventories of the dead and of objects belonging to the dead."' Images like Franco Zecchins photographs of mafia murders in Sicily show brutally violent deaths while Max Jourdans photographs of the cadavers preserved in the catacombs of the Cuppuein Zeta Church in Palermo emphasize their relation to the surviving community. While carefully conceived photographs like the latter have usually to be sought out, we are also confronted
One early writer on photography, Jane Welsh Carlyle, called it an art by which even the poor can possess themselves o f tolerable likenesses o f the absent dear ones. Quoted in Helmut Gernsheim and Allison Gernsheim, The History o f Photoeraphy from the Camera Obscura to the Besinnins o f the M odern Era (New York; McGraw-Hill, 1969), 239. In poor families, often the only photograph o f a family member would be such a post-mortem image. On this topic, see for example Barbara P. Norfleet, Looking at Death, 1st ed. (Boston: D. R. Godine, 1993), and Jay Ruby, Secure the Shadow: Death and Photography in America (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1995). In another article. Ruby refutes the argument that the practice was common only in America, showing that it was widespread in Europe also. See Jay Ruby, Post-Mortem Portraiture in America, History o f Photography 8 , no. 3 (1984). On Serranos work, see for example Daniel Arasse, Andres Serrano: Le somm eil de la surface (Arles: Actes Sud, 1994), Andres Serrano et al., Andres Serrano, Works 1983-1993 (Philadelphia: Institute o f Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, 1994), and Andres Serrano and Brian Wallis, Body and Soul (New York: TakarajimaBooks, 1995). F oxs work is discussed in Chris Townsend, Vile Bodies: Photography and the Crisis o f Looking (Munich and New York: Prestel Verlag and Channel Four Television Corporation, 1998), and works by all o f the above artists (as well as by other artists interested in post-mortem photography) can be seen in Greg Hobson and Val Williams, The D ead (Bradford, England: National Museum of Photography, Film & Television, 1996). ^ These include his series Les Suisses morts (1991), based on obituary photographs published in a Swiss newspaper, Classe terminale du Lycee Chases en 7937(1987), which uses a class photograph from a Jewish high school in Vienna, many o f whose students were sent to Nazi death camps, and his Inventaire d es objects ayant appartenu a un habitant d Oxford (1973), which shows all the objects belonging to a young student who died. For reproductions and a discussion o f these works, see Marjorie Perloff, What Has Occurred Only Once: Barthess Winter Garden/Boltanskis Archives o f the Dead, in Writing the Image After Roland Barthes, ed. Jean-Michel Rabate (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1997), and Nancy M. Shawcross, The Filter o f Culture and the Culture o f Death: How Barthes and Boltanski Play the Mythologies o f the Photograph, in Writing the Image After Roland Barthes, ed. Jean-Michel Rabate (Philadelphia: University o f Pennsylvania Press, 1997).
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with more immediate photographic images of death on a daily basis in our newspapers and other media. Scholars of photography have also paid a great deal of attention to photographys literal and metaphorical connections to death. One of the most famous contributions is Andre Bazins essay, The Ontology of the Photographic Image, in which he argues that photography is the only art that is based on human absence rather than the presence that is fundamental to the other arts. As I pointed out in Chapter Three, he argues that a mummy complex lies at the heart of all the figurative arts. These arts represent both humans attempt to defend themselves against the depredations of time, which corrupts bodies and objects, and the dream of a victory over death: all are agreed that the image helps us to remember the subject and to preserve him from a second spiritual death. To preserve ones bodily appearance, says Bazin, is to snatch it from the flow of time, to stow it away neatly, so to speak, in the hold of life.^ This creates an obsession with visual reproduction that is more important than any other aesthetic consideration. He identifies a struggle in the plastic arts between the desire for the expression of spiritual reality wherein the symbol transcended its model and the other, purely psychological desire to duplicate the world outside.^ With the invention of photography, this obsession with realism based on the fear of deathcould finally be satisfied: The objective nature of photography confers on it a quality of credibility absent from all other picture-making. In spite of any objections our critical spirit may offer, we are forced to accept as real the existence of the object reproduced, actually, re-presented, set before us, that is to say, in time and space.^

^ Bazin, Ontology, 238. Ibid., 239. Ibid., 241.

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As photography (and cinema after it) is ontologically tied to reality in a way that the other arts are not, according to Bazin, photography is able to fully realize the mummy complex^ because it embalms time, rescuing it simply from its proper corruption.^ In his well-known article on Photography and Fetish, first published in 1985, Christian Metz argues that photography is linked to death in three principal ways. The first is through the social practice of keeping photographs of dead loved ones. The second is the way in which photography serves as a reminder of our own approaching death by functioning as the mirror, more faithful than any actual mirror, in which we witness at every age, our own aging. The third connection lies in the way in which the snapshot abducts the object from the world into another world, into another kind of time. Photography is thus a cut inside the referent, it cuts off a piece of it, a fragment, a pan object, for a long immobile travel of no return... with each photograph, a tiny piece of time brutally and forever escapes its ordinary fate, and thus is protected against its own loss. Metz argues that this is one of the ways in which photography resembles the fetish, since both simultaneously signify loss and a defense against it. He goes on to say that

photography is very different from film in this, since Film gives back to the dead a semblance of life while Photography, on the contrary, by virtue of the objective suggestions of its signifier (stillness, again) maintains the memory of the dead as being dead."^ * Not just photographs of loved ones but all kinds of photography, according to

This is, o f course, a much-contested claim. See my discussion o f the question o f photographic realism in the introduction. ^ Bazin, Ontology, 242. See Metz, Photography and Fetish, 140-41. ** Ibid., 141. Psychotherapists who make use o f photographs with their clients recognize this aspect of photography and its potential to either aid or hinder the mouming process. See for example Edoardo Giusti and Maria Claudia Proietti, Fototerapia e diario clinico (Milan; Franco Angeli, 1995). A s Freud put it, Mourning has a quite specific psychical task to perform: its function is to detach the survivors memories and hopes from the deadwho must, therefore, be accepted as dead (Mourning and Melancholy in Sigmund Freud, The Standard Edition o f the Complete Psychological Works o f Sigmund Freud. Vol. 14, [New York; Norton, 1953-1974], 13,122). See also Pierre Fedida, The Relic and the Work o f Mourning, Journal o f

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Metz, partake of the relationship to space and time implied by the objectivity he sees as fundamental to the medium, and all make a compromise between conservation and death.^ Barthess Camera Lucida repeatedly addresses this compromise, expressed in terms of the uneasy coexistence of presence and absence. As previous chapters have suggested, the bookwritten shortly after the death of Barthess mother and shortly before his own, and based upon the melancholic contemplation of photographic portraits of people now deadis in large part concerned with photographys relationship to death. Whereas in his earlier works Barthes examined photographys artificiality and potential to serve an ideological function, Camera Lucida examines photography from a phenomenological,

and much more personal, perspective. Barthes argues that although photography can lie about the meaning of what it shows, it can never lie about the fact that something was there in front of the camera, because of the physical connection established through the action of rays of light emitted from the object and the chemical reactions of photographic materials.'"^ As such, every photograph is a certificate of presence. At the same time.

Visual Culture 2, no. 1 (2003).,Creekmur, Lost Objects., and my discussion o f mourning, memory, and photography in Chapter Two. Metz, Photography and Fetish, 141. This is the case in essays such as The Photographic M essage (1961), The Third Meaning (1970) and Rhetoric of the Image(1964). See also Roland Barthes, The Photographic Image, in Image/Music/Text (New York: Hill and Wang, 1977). Barthes was of course referring to analog photography. With the advent o f widely available digital photography it has become much more possible to lie about what was in front o f the camera, although it is still usually the case that something was there. Nevertheless, photographs continue to be used as proof and evidence, as the scandal over the photographs that came to light in early May 2004 o f abuses o f prisoners by U.S. soldiers in Abu Ghraib prison in Bagdad, Iraq has shown. On the ways in which digital photographs continue to be used in similar ways to analog ones, see Claudio Marra, Le idee della fotografia. La riflessione teorica dagli anni sessanta a oggi (Milan: Mondadori, 2001), and Claudio Marra, Pensare la fotografia: teorie dominanti dagli anni sessanta ad oggi (Bologna: Zanichelli, 1992). Barthes, Camera Lucida, 87. For Barthes The photograph is literally an emanation o f the referent (80) and the photographic referent is not the optionally real thing to which an image or a sign refers, but the necessarily real thing which has been placed before the lens, without which there would be no photograph (76, emphasis original). Strikingly, Barthes repeatedly uses the metaphor o f touch to explain the connection between photographic subject and viewer; the photograph o f the missing being, as Sontag says, will touch me like the delayed rays o f a star. A sort o f umbilical cord links the body o f the photographed thing to my
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this very presence simultaneously evokes the absence that is death, since the Photograph mechanically repeats what could never be repeated existentially.'^ At the moment the photograph is taken, the photographic subject becomes a lifeless object. A photograph is thus the return of the dead; Death is the eidos of the Photograph.'^ As a result, All those young photographers who are at work in the world, determined upon the capture of actuality, do not know that they are agents of Death. Photography creates an image which produces Death while trying to preserve life, showing us an anterior future of which death is the stake. 18 Sontag also makes the connection between photographys supposedly indexical registering of the real and death. In On Photography she argues that a photograph is a trace, something directly stenciled off the real, like a footprint or a death mask.'^ For Sontag, as for Barthes, the essence of photographys connection to death lies in the apparent proof it offers of a past existence, and thus that it is past. Sontag writes that All photographs are memento mort. To take a photograph is to participate in another persons (or things) mortality. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it all photographs testify to times relentless melt.^ This slicing and freezing of moments of time like anatomical samples is what enables photography to function as the inventory of mortality. As such, Photographs state the innocence, the vulnerability of lives heading toward their own destruction, and this link between photography and death haunts all

gaze: light, though impalpable, is here a carnal medium, a skin I share with anyone who has been photographed (80-81). ' ibid., 4. '^Ibid., 15.
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Ibid., 92 and 96. Sontag, On Photography, 154. Ibid., 15.

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photographs of p e o p l e . I n her more recent writing on photography, she maintains this connection, arguing that Ever since cameras were invented in 1839, photography has kept company with death. She claims for photography a particular authority and immediacy in conveying the horror of mass-produced death and the suffering, pain, and death of others.^^ John Berger has also written on the affinity between photography and death, arguing that photography, because it stops the flow of life, is always flirting with death.^^ Similar concerns about photographys connection to death and dissection have been taken up by Italian writers on photography throughout the second half of the twentieth century. In a piece first published in 1949, Leo Longanesi discussed photographys extraordinary impact on Italian society in relation to its intrinsic connection to death: The poetry of lost time lives today in our imaginations as a whole that is connected to us: while in an old photograph, that time is there, stopped, abstract, more real than any other reality, unreproducible, already dead. And it is precisely the sense of death that emerges from old photographs that disturbs us: because photography fixes something that is alive in order to kill it through an optical process: and we remain pierced through by the pin on card, like so many beetles. And I would add that as soon as photographys brief life as current events is over, it enters into the Jesuit inventory, with flowers and wax mortuary masks.^"^ In 1957, the sociologist Franco Ferrarotti wrote that in every photograph that is authentic, not purely escapist or aestheticizing, there lies the pain of a wound inflicted on the unitary

21
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Ibid., 70. Boltanskis photographs play upon precisely this aspect o f photography. See note 3 above. Sontag, Regarding the Pain o f Others, 24.

Berger, The Sense o f Sight, 122. See also John Berger, Photographs o f Agony, in Photography: A Reader, ed. Liz Wells (London and New York: Routledge, 2003). La poesia del tempo perduto vive oggi nella nostra fantasia come un tutto legato a noi: mentre m una vecchia fotografia quel tempo e 11, fermo, astratto, piu vero di ogni altro vero, irriproducibile, ormai morto. Ed e proprio il senso della morte che esce dalle vecchie fotografie quel che ci turba: perche la fotografia fissa qualcosa che e vivo per poi ucciderlo attraverso un processo ottico: e noi restiamo trafitti con lo spillo sul cartoncino, come tanti coleotteri. E aggiungerei che la fotografia, appena tramonta la sua breve vita di attualita, entra nel repertorio gesuitico, coi fieri e le maschere mortuarie di cera (Leo Longanesi, II cadavere e il bello fotografico, in Gli scrittori e la fotografia, ed. D iego Mormorio (Rome: Editori Riuniti, 1988), 29.
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body of the living by a trick.^^ He thus prefigures Barthess assertion that the photographs connection to death is a corollary of its status as a means of certification of the real, since by showing what was it inevitably also shows what is no more. Moravia, too, picked up on this aspect of photography, writing that photography tells u s.. .that what it shows us has been, that is, is dead and that this mortuary character of photography creates an unhistorical, sentimental, and affectionate relation between us and the past. Diego Mormorio gives photographys cutting off of moments of life a potentially positive spin by likening it to a form of surgery. He compares doctors and photographers, arguing that both try to shore up the corruptibility of being, the individuals inevitable submergence in the infinite sea of nothingness. ^^ He claims that Western culture is based on the conviction that everything is just a momentary apparition, a brief journey towards nothingness, thus taking on the form of an extraordinary and enchanting castle whose foundations rest on the anguish of the fear of death. The beauty and particularity of

such a cultural creation are born from the desire to hide this anguish. Photography represents one of the best hiding places, since if everything is nothing and nothing will remain of their passage except a memory, photography is the entire being of a thing.
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As
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a result, Westerners have found partial shelter from the anguish of death and decline.
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C e in ogni fotografia autentica, non puramente evasiva o estetizzante, il lamento di una ferita inferta a tradimento al corpo unitario del vivente (In Marra, Le idee della fotografia. La riflessione teorica dagli anni sessanta a oggi, 38. ci d ice.. .che cio che essa ci mostra, e stato, cioe e morto, carattere mortuario della fotografia crea tra noi e il passato un rapporto non storico, sentimentale e affettuoso (Alberto Moravia, Carlo Nay, in Gli scrittori e la fotografia, ed. D iego Mormorio (Rome: Riuniti, 1988), 137. cercano di arginare la corruttibilita dellessere, Finevitabile inabissarsi dellindividuo nelF infinito mare del nulla (Diego Mormorio, U naltra lontananza (Palermo: Salerio, 1997), 65. la convinzione che tutte le cose non sono che una momentanea comparsa, un breve viaggio verso il nulla, uno straordinario e incantevole castello (Ibid., 6 6 . se tutte le cose non sono che niente e del loro passaggio non rimarra che un ricordo, la fotografia e tutto Fessere di una cosa. nella fotografia Fuomo occidentale ha trovato parziale riparo dalFangoscia della scomparsa e del decadimento (Ibid.).
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Nevertheless, as all of these writers stress, photography can only ever be a very partial victory over death, since to preserve it must embalm, to use Bazins term. This conception of photography relates in thought-provoking ways to Giulio Ferronis problematic yet stimulating work on the posthumous condition of literature, in which he suggests that writing is similarly inextricably bound up with the relation of the living to the dead. 31 Ferroni argues that the posthumous condition of writing is like that of the son whose father dies before he is bom, and is based above all on the inevitable relation of every experience to death and ruin, and on the persistence of something that, precisely because it lies beyond death and ruin, remains marked by them.^^ This notion of the persistence of something that outlives death and yet is marked by it connects Ferronis idea of literature to Fedidas definition of the relic, which I shall discuss presently. Ferroni emphasizes that he too is talking about physical, concrete, irremediable death, not a metaphysical death, not a mere subtraction of spiritual substance.
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His approach

implicitly contrasts the function of literature with that of the photograph, with its apparent containment of a preserved and fixed moment of time. Ferroni attempts to demonstrate that literary works have always existed as a afterwards in three main ways: in their fixing something for afterwards, in their extraction of something that remains afterwards from present experience, and in their persistence when the life that generated them is spent. Not only do such works literally

outlive their authors, but they must also take their place in the tradition they follow after. As such, they are inevitably connected to the deaths of those whom they follow and that of
condizione postuma. See Giulio Ferroni, D opo la fine: Sulla condizione postum a della letteratura (Turin; Einaudi, 1996), inevitabile rapporto di ogni esperienza con la morte e con la rovina e nella persistenza di qualcosa che, proprio nel suo essere al di la della morte e della rovina, resta da esse segnato. morte fisica, concreta, irrimediabile, non morte metafisica, non mera sottrazione di sostanza spirituale (Ferroni, D opo la fine, 5.) ncl loro fissarc qualcosa per dopo, nel loro ricavare da esperienze presenti qualcosa che resta dopo, nel loro persistere quando si e esaurita la vita che le ha generate (Ibid.).
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the authors for whom they represents a wager that they will live to complete them. Furthermore, readers find themselves in the position of coming after a work, and of feeling themselves to be in living relation to a spent tradition. 35 Ferroni argues that all authors carry the burden of the fear of death and hence of not completing their work, and that therefore they have to place their hopes in the posthumous life of their works, aiming for their completion while constantly having to face up to their partial nature.
36

He identifies

the posthumous as the necessary condition of all literature, but claims a special awareness of this status among many twentieth-century authors. It is apparent above all in the proliferation of fragmentary forms of writing, of effects of incompleteness, and of structures of inconclusiveness.
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This increased focus on fragmentation and

incompleteness over the last hundred years perhaps reflects to some extent the continued influence of a photographic aesthetic that first began to take hold in the works of writers of the second half of the nineteenth century, when photographys apparent ability to still the living and to cut a slice out of life dramatically altered visual representation.
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Although Ferroni does not specifically discuss the work of writers who engage with photography, he does address the dominance of photographic images over the past century, arguing that; in this society submerged by photographs, video clips, cassette tapes, screens and monitors of all types, the dominance of the image is perhaps tantamount to its complete emptying, to the loss of any definitive meaning. The image counts for itself, beyond the messages it transmits and the values to which it refers: or rather, it triumphantly affirms the dominion of the absence of

35

in rapporto vivo con una tradizione esaurita (Ibid., 11). 18-21.

proliferazione di forme di scrittura frammentaria, di effetti di non finito, di strutture della non conclusivita (Ibid., 58). See my remarks on this in the Introduction. See also Remo Ceserani, L impatto della tecnica fotografica su alcuni proccdimenti dcllimmaginario Ictterario contemporaneo, L asino d oro, no. 9 (1994): 53-64.
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meaning. For this reason, the history of images also seems to be finished; iconology can only be a posthumous discipline and method. A negative perception of the primacy of the visual in the photographic image seems to underlie this statement and connects Ferroni to a widespread philosophical rejection of ocularcentrism among many twentieth-century thinkers."*^ Its dismissal of the possibility of photographic meaning ignores the photographs inevitable relation to text and context, and its potential load of metaphorical and symbolic meanings, but it also reflects an attitude shared by writers like Del Giudice, as we shall see. However, as Creekmur points out, novels that engage with photography can also be a way of investigating how the psychic negotiation of loss is conducted in a century that has been, more or less, recorded, preserved, even visually embalmed, on film.'^^ Yet how does this negotiation of loss take place with regards to photographs that show death itself, in the form of dead bodies, rather than symbolizing it through stilling the living? The preoccupation of the theorists of late twentieth-century culture mentioned above with the theme of the connection of both photography and literature seems to suggest something of the tectonic shift in attitudes towards death and its representation from the nineteenth to the twentieth century."^^ While the earliest post-mortem photographs were

in questa societa sommersa da fotografie, clips, cassette, schermi e monitors di tutti i tipi, Iimpero dellimmagine equivale forse al suo totale svuotamento, alia perdita di ogni sua definitiva significazione. L immagine vale di per se, al di la del messaggi che trasmette e del valori cui rimanda: o meglio essa afferma trionfalmente 1 1 dominio della mancanza di significato. Per questo anche la storia delle immagini appare finita; riconologia puo essere solo disciplina e metodo postumo (Ferroni, D opo la fine, 142), See Martin Jay, D owncast Eyes: The Denigration o f Vision in Twentieth-Century French Thought (Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University o f California Press, 1993).
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Creekmur, Lost Objects, 76.

It also hints at an important aspect o f the taboo that now surrounds what we might call private photographs o f dead bodies; that is, personal or artistic photographs o f the dead that fall outside the categories o f images of violent death to which news photography has accustomed us. Whereas such photography was a common occurrence in many nineteenth-century Western cultures, it is now more often than not a subject for scandal and offense. In the nineteenth centuiy, high child mortality rates and the relative expense o f photography meant that often the only portrait taken of a child would be a post-mortem image. Over the last century, however, and especially from the 1950s onward, family photographs tend to document every stage of a childs development, often in exhaustive detail, and the notion o f photographing a dead child has come to

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generally dignified and cherished images of departed family members or leaders (such as Abraham Lincolns famous death portrait), artfully arranged and surrounded by the accoutrements of mourning and preserved in the altar-like setting of the living room mantelpiece, the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries saw the widespread entry into the public domain of brutally frank photographs of the dead, especially in the context of war photography.'^^ Over the last fifty years in particular, media images of death and destruction, for all their ubiquity, have provoked and continue to provoke widespread debate about the rights and wrongs of making and looking at photographs of the dead, as do the controversial works of photographic artists such as Serrano.'^'^ While photographic images in the press are most often of anonymous victims, the ever-stronger hold that the cult of celebrity has over popular culture has also driven the demand for images of every aspect of the lives, and ultimately deaths, of celebrity figures. The publication of graphic images of the deaths and dead bodies of both named and un named victims is often justified in terms of their supposed value as historical, scientific, or

seem distasteful in the extreme. On this topic, see the introduction to Hobson and Williams, The D ead. See also my discussion o f the conventions and practices o f family photography in Chapter Two. See for example Jorge Lewinsky, The Camera a t War (London: W.H. Allen, 1978) and Alan Trachtenberg, Reading American Photographs: Images as History (New York: Hill and Wang, 1989), especially Chapter 2, Albums o f War, 71-118. Serranos work has been harshly criticized and labelled as obscene by some, such as Senators Alfonse D Amato and Jesse Helms, who objected to National Endowment for the Arts funding o f Serrano (see the Congressional Record, Senate, May 18,1989). Cincinnati photographer Thomas Condon, who claimed to have been inspired by Serranos 1992 series The Morgue: Cause of Death, was prosecuted and sentenced to two and a half years in jail (later reduced to 18 months) in 2 0 0 2 for taking photographs o f bodies in the morgue in Hamilton County, Ohio without the permission o f the families o f the dead. Photographic representations o f violent death in the media are nothing new, but the debate about their purpose and meaning rages on. On March 3 1 ,2 0 0 4 the New York Times website was offering a slide show o f photographs o f the horribly burnt and mutilated bodies o f four American civilians killed in Iraq that day. These photographs, like others o f their ilk before them, provoked an outcry, and corresponding defenses in the name of the publics right to know, often assumed to include a right to see. For a response to the debate, see Martha A. Sandweiss, Death on the Front Page, New York Times, April 4 2004. On the topic o f media representations o f death, war, and violence, see for example Eleanor Heartney, Is the Body More Beautiful When Its Dead? The N ew York Times, Sunday, June 1 2003, Lewinsky, The Camera a t War, Sontag, Looking at War: Photographys V iew o f Devastation and Death; Sontag, Regarding the Pain o f Others', and Trachtenberg, Reading American Photographs: Images as History.
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juridical evidence, or their rhetorical power as a call to act i o n. Ho we v e r , writers on photography have just as regularly challenged this justification. For example, as early as 1949, Longanesi would write of photography that: The cadaver is its preferred theme; the murder victim is its true still life. The beautiful in photography found its realm in violent death. And we, too, have ended up getting used to seeing cadavers, to admiring their tragic positions, and uncovering with morbid curiosity their grimaces and sneers. And this constant observation of cadavers has not made us insensitive to the idea of death, but less used to respecting the lives of others."^^ Longanesi made these remarks more than twenty years before Susan Sontags more famous comments on the dangers of photographys potential to aestheticize death and thus to inure the viewer to the horror of violence against others. * ^ Longanesi argued that there was no great difference between photographs of the living and of the dead, sinee flesh.. .in photography, is always flesh by weight, butchered. Yet the potential shock value of pictures of dead bodies continues to contrast strongly with the elegiac nostalgia provoked by old photographs of the living who must now be dead. Some have argued that as death has become increasingly taboo as a subjeet, photographic images of it have correspondingly taken on a morbidly titillating appeal.
On this subject, see for example D Autilia, L indizio e la prova: La storia nellafotografia; Mignemi, La sguardo e Iimmagine: L afotografia come documento storico; Gilardi, Wanted!', and Sontag, Regarding the Pain o f Others, 3-17 and 49-58. Sometimes the justification for showing such photographs is that the photographer (or newspaper, magazine etc.) owes a duty to history, or to the public, who need and have a right to be informed. Others claim that the public either does not want or ought to be protected from such information, if that is what it is (see for example Sontag, On Photography). There is a great deal of anxiety about the process by which graphic photographs o f death and violence are acquired and distributed. The debate tends to be particularly intense when the images concerned are of beloved celebrity figures, as is clear from the uproar over the publication o f photographs such as those o f Marilyn M onroes autopsy and Princess Dianas death. II cadavere e il suo tema preferito; il motto ammazzato e la sua vera natura morta. II bello fotografico ha trovato il suo regno nella morte violenta. Ed anche noi abbiamo finito per abiutarci a vedere cadaveri, ad ammirarne le tragiche posizioni, a scoprime con euriosita morbosa le smorfie e i ghigni. E questo continuo osservar cadaveri ci ha reso non insensibili allidea della morte, ma ci ha abiutati a meno rispettare la vita altrui (Longanesi, 11 cadavere e il bello fotografico, 29. "^^See Sontag, On Photography. The argument about this aspect o f photography continues today, for example in the debate over beautiful images o f violence and oppression taken by photographers like Sebastiano Salgado. la carne ..., in fotografia, e sempre carne a peso, macellata (Longanesi, II cadavere e il bello fotografico, 30.
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which can feed into an appetite for a kind of pornography of violence."^^ At the same time, while it is easy to be pious about the intrusiveness of photography and photographers, for example in the lives of celebrities or victims of disaster, many photographers who take such photographs would say that they do so primarily because a market exists for them.^ One reason for this is perhaps because, as Sontag wrote almost thirty years ago: A society which makes it normative to aspire never to experience privation, failure, misery, pain, dread disease, and in which death itself is regarded not as natural and inevitable but as a cruel, unmerited disaster, creates a tremendous curiosity about these eventsa curiosity that is partly satisfied through picture-taking.^' In contrast to the photographs of the dead taken before their deaths, photographs which show dead bodies as both unequivocally dead and de-humanized (rather than illusionistically sleeping, as in many nineteenth-century post-mortem photographs, or earlier death masks and tomb sculptures) disturb Metzs compromise between conservation and death, since what they conserve is a literal rather than a metaphorical image of death. They brutally reveal what is repressed in photographs of the living,

which, like fetishes, mask absence with the illusion of presence, enabling us to avert our eyes from what has been cut off.
ca

Photographs of the dead that violate the convention of

death as sleep and our notions of the respect due to the dead make present the brutal
See Geoffrey Gorer, The Pornography o f Death, in Death, G rief and Mourning (Garden City, N. Y .: Doubleday, 1965). In Sontags words; All images that display the violation o f an attractive body are, to a certain degree, pornographic, but she also points out that there can be a kind o f disturbing appeal in the repulsive and gruesome Sontag, Regarding the Pain o f Others, 95. She goes on to say, however, that this is nothing new, noting that Book IV o f Platos Republic contains perhaps the very first acknowledgem ent... of the attraction o f mutilated bodies in the story o f Leontius, son o f Aglaion, who was unable to resist the temptation to go and look at the bodies o f executed criminals. As Sontag puts it, Plato appears to take for granted that we also have an appetite for sights o f degradation and pain and mutilation (96-97). This argument of course quickly descends into a chicken or egg debate about whether the appetite for such images is formed by their availability or vice versa. Sontag, On Photography, 167-68.
52 53 49

See note 12 above.

According to Freud, the fetish remains a token o f triumph over the threat o f castration and a protection against it (Sigmund Freud, Fetishism, in Standard Edition o f the Complete Works o f Sigmund Freud (London and New York: Penguin, 2000 [1961]), 353). Translated into Metzs terms, photography is thus a token o f triumph over and a protection against the threat o f death.

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finality of death, no longer hidden or disguised. Barthes strange tense of the photograph (the anterior future of the impending catastrophe that has already happened) resolves itself into a simple pastthat of a lifeand a simple futurethe death that awaits us all. But the key difference between photographs of the living and the dead is perhaps that of function. Photographs of dead loved ones taken while they were alive may operate as part of what Freud called the work of mourning. Taking Freuds analysis of mourning as a starting point for a discussion of uses of photography in literature, Creekmur argues that: Between fiction and history, as between private and public experience (and, importantly, in the context of the avoidance and repression of mourning rituals, in a culture that finds death pornographic), affective attention to the photograph of the lost loved object is perhaps the most important means by which a fundamental psychic experience is undertaken in our time.^"^ He goes on to say that the desire to reanimate what has been stilled not only characterizes mouming, but may be an interpretive impulse common to all but the most formal attention to a photograph.^^ Photographs of the dead as corpses clearly have a dramatically different effect and function, and the notion of re-animation here becomes the stuff of horror movies. Whereas the photograph selected for a tombstone or a mantelpiece provides an image of the dead as we wish to remember them, or believe they would have wished to be remembered, most people would certainly not choose to be remembered by graphic images of their cadaver, nor would those who love and admire them wish to do so.^^ Images of the

54

Creekmur, Lost Objects, 80. Ibid., 77.

Of course there are exceptions to this rule, the most famous being those o f Lenin, Ho Chi Minh, and Kim Il-Sung, whose loyal followers had them embalmed and put on permanent public display. There has been recent talk o f removing Lenin from the public eye, but for the time being he can still be visited in his mausoleum in Red Square, while thousands of visitors every year view Ho Chi Minh in the city that bears his name and Kim Il-Sung in Pyongyang. Italy has its own example in the anthropologist and criminologist Cesare Lombroso, who made use o f photography for his now notorious system o f identification of criminal and other types through forensic phrenology, similar to that of Bertillon in France, and based upon measurements of skulls and the study of facial characteristics. This is perhaps the most extreme case, given

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dead portrayed without disguise as dead haunt us, since they recall the ancient horror of the unburied dead. Pierre Fedida observes that The repugnance at the idea of the decomposed cadaver is, if not on a perverse mode, of the order of the intolerable [...] As Freud recalls, it is the cadaver which has furnished the first notion of the bad spirit.
S7

The implication is that if you do not bury the dead, they will come back to haunt you. This is perhaps the most powerful effect of transgressive photographs of the unburied dead. Fedida contrasts the role of the fetish in the process of mouming and of laying the dead to rest with that of the relic. Whereas the fetish bespeaks a disavowal of the reality of loss or absence (the return of the dead, as Barthes puts it), the relic represents that which is preserved, from the dead person, in order to guarantee, in the name of reality, that the dead will not return.^* At the same time, it embodies a belief in the persistence of some kind of connection to the dead, despite the knowledge of the reality of the separation of death. Since the body of the dead must be disposed of, the relic represents a material fragment extracted from a disappeared body that legitimizes a visibility of the hidden.^ It therefore represents a means of realizing the illusory compromise that permits us to resist the anguish of death, since only the memory of the dead - and memory is the relic par excellence - allows us to avoid the intolerable revelation of our own death. In these

that he left instructions in his will for his body to be decapitated and for his head to be cut up, de-boned, and preserved in a glass jar alonside those o f the numerous criminals upon whom he had performed the same service in the name of scientific investigation. After his death in 1909, his wishes were carried out and his head placed on display in the Museo Lombroso. It was later used as part o f an art exhibition. See Gilardi, Wanted ! , 8 8 . On Lombroso and Bertillon and their uses o f photography in the identification o f types, see also Michel Frizot, Body o f Evidence: The Ethnophotography o f Difference, in A N ew History o f Photography, ed. Michel Frizot (Cologne: Kdnemann, 1998). Fedida, The Relic and the Work of Mourning, 64. This is also the origin in Western culture o f the notion o f the refusal to bury or otherwise dispose of the dead as the ultimate form o f disrespect. W e might think for example o f Sophocles Antigone who is prepared to die herself in her determination to cover the unburied shame of the hapless corpse o f Polyneices, her brother (Sophocles, Antigone, translated by R.C. Jebb, available at www.classics.mit.edu/sophocles/antigone.html) 58 59 60 Ibid.: 62. Ibid.: 64. Ibid.: 63. 57

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terms, photographs of obviously dead bodies represent an illegitimate visibility of what ought to be hidden. Such photographs remind us that if we do not lay the dead to rest, they will not let us rest either.'

In Italy, some of the most notoriousand haunting examples of such photographs are those that were published in the newspapers of the battered bodies of Pier Paolo Pasolini after his killing in 1975 and of Aldo Moro after his kidnapping and murder in 1978.1 would therefore like to turn briefly to an examination of Pasolinis relation to photography, both before and after his death, to illustrate some of the points raised above. As a film-maker, Pasolinis relationship to photographic images was a particularly intense one, but in the early 1970s, in the period immediately before his death, this relationship expresses itself in some particularly interesting ways. One such expression was his decision, about a month before his death, to have the photographer Dino Pedriali take a series of nude photographs of him. These were to have been an appendix to his unfinished and at that time unpublished novel Petrolio, and they represent what the poet Dario Bellezza calls the last scandal for which he was preparing. Instead, the photographs of

Pasolini that were published were the much more profoundly shocking ones of his naked, battered corpse on the autopsy table, which appeared in L Espresso in February 1979.^ According to Bellezza, the photographs were a vicious and hateful sign of a kind of persecution beyond the grave, a second killing carried out on a defenseless victim. Although Bazin sees photography as preserving the subject from a second spiritual death,
' At the same time, if we do not remember the dead in an acceptable way, then we are faced with the intolerable revelation of the finality of death. Iultimo scandalo che si accingeva a consumare (Dario Bellezza, Morte di Pasolini (Milan: Mondadori, 1981), 24. Bellezza describes his reaction to these images: Quelle foto, nellobitorio, del suo corpo massacrato e lavato, come disossato, inerme e inoffensivo, dove la morte aveva gia compiuto ogni ulteriore strazio e castigo, mi davano un malessere senza limiti, al limite dellorrore (27).
64 63 62

Bellezza, Morte di Pasolini, 50.

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it would seem that the photograph of a dead body shown as definitively dead can in fact have the opposite effect.^^ For writers like Bellezza and Daniele del Giudice, as for many other people, the publication of these photographs raised fundamental questions about the limits of any supposed right to see and the reasons for the morbid curiosity behind such pictures. Pasolini chose to have Pedriali take photographs of his fifty-year-old body, willingly submitting to the cameras gaze. But, as Bellezza writes, he would never have wanted to be remembered by his friends, his readers, and his admirers with those photos torn who knows how from the hands of the morgue police.^^ He goes on to say that the crime that was committed against him, of showing those repugnant photographs, must go back to a psychotic and necrophiliac force that no longer knows how to abandon itself to the pleasure of real life, but insistently wants to recall not what Pasolini was and will always be, a poet, but only a clinical, pathological ease.^^ We might connect these remarks to Sekulas characterization of the emergence in the nineteenth century of photographic portraits and depictions of the body as part of a system of representation capable of functioning both honorifically and repressively The honorific function emerged from photographys popularization and degradation of portraitures traditional function of providing for the ceremonial presentation of the bourgeois self, while the repressive function stemmed from the imperatives of medical and anatomical illustration and worked to establish and delimit the terrain of the other, to define both the

See note 5 above. n on .. .avrebbe voluto mai farsi ricordare ai suoi amici, ai suoi lettori, ai suoi ammiratori con quelle foto strappate non si sa come dalle mani delle polizia dellObitorio. il misfatto che e stato compiuto contro di lui, di mostrare quelle foto ripugnanti deve essere fatto risalire ad una forza psicotica e necrofila che non sa abbandonarsi piu al piacere della vita vera, ma vuole insistentemente ricordare non quello che Pasolini e stato e sempre sara, un poeta, ma solo un caso clinico, patologico (Bellezza, Morte di Pasolini, 29. Bellezzas suggestion is that while the nude photographs Pasolini chose to have taken would have deeply scandalized those who were horrified by his politics, his sexuality, and his art, these same people were far less upset by the gruesome photographs o f his cadaver. He contrasts this with the reaction to the publication o f the morgue photographs o f Aldo Moro. While there was an investigation into how the latter came into the public domain, and those responsible were eventually punished, no such investigation took place in the case o f Pasolini.
67

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generalized Zoo/cthe typologyand the contingent instance of deviance and social pathology.
68

In the context of their connection to Petrolio, Pedrialis photographs can thus

be interpreted as an attempt to undermine bourgeois convention by employing the honorific function of photography in the interests of a ceremonial presentation of deviance. In Sekulas terms, Bellezzas repulsion at the publication of the photographs of Pasolinis cadaver reflects his anger at the co-opting of Pasolinis image into the institutional typology and archives of deviance. The fundamental question is one of identity: here we are confronted with a far more graphic instance of photographys distortion than the famous instance of Prousts Academician caught in an undignified pose by the heartless gaze of the camera, which, as Sontag in turn puts it has the power to catch so-called normal people in such a way as to make them look abnormal. ^ Prousts description of the photographic violence of the image of the Academician caught unawares points to the potential deceptions of supposedly objective photographic identification. 70 It is also uncannily reminiscent of

aspects of the accident near the College de France that killed Roland Barthes. Italo Calvino picked up on the connection between Barthess death and his meditations on death in Camera Lucida in a piece he wrote shortly after Barthes died. He notes that among the first things to be discovered about the accident that led to Barthess death was that he had been disfigured, so much so that no-one there, a couple of steps from the College de France, had been able to recognize him, and the ambulance that had picked him up had taken him to the Salpetriere hospital as a nameless

Allan Sekula, The Body and the Archive, in The Contest o f Meaning: Critical Histories o f Photography, ed. Richard Bolton (Cambridge, Mass. and London: MIT Press, 1989), 345. Sontag, On Photography, 34. Jean Paul Sartre also noted that while a photograph can show the features o f a person it can fail to reveal anything about his or her nature because it lacks life and does not show the persons true expression. See Jean Paul Sartre and Arlette Elkaeim-Sartre, The Imaginary: A Phenomenological Psychology o f the Imagination (London ; N ew York: Routledge, 2003). Kracauer in turn argues that in a photograph, a persons histoiy is buried as if under a layer o f snow (Siegfried Kracauer, Photography, in The M ass Ornament: Weimar Essays [Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995], 51). 70 See my discussion o f this in Chapter Three, n. 171. 69

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victim (he had no documents on him), and so he lay unidentified in the ward for hours7^ Calvino writes that he was immediately reminded of Barthess last work, Camera lucida, and the relation between the subject and his image, so among the first thoughts I had in my apprehension over his fate arose the memory of what I had recently read, the fragile and anguished link with ones own image that was ripped in a moment as one rips up a photograph.
79

Calvino goes on to say that after Barthess death, looking at him lying in

his coffin, his face was not at all disfigured. He looked just like himself, as Calvino had so often encountered him, except that he was fixed there for always as though in a photograph. 79 The semantically strange concept of looking like oneself is tied to the

notion of identity and the ways in which we see ourselves.^ ^ Calvino goes on to quote a passage from Barthess book on Japan, The Empire o f Signs, in which he writes of discovering a distinctly Japanese air in the photographs of him published in the Japanese papers due to the method of retouching employed, which made the pupils of the eyes rounder and blacker. He connects this to the passage in Camera lucida in which Barthes describes seeing a photograph of himself in which he believed he could see the traces of suffering of a recent bereavement, only to find the image used on the cover of a book that satirized him and his work, so that the photograph showed a disinteriorized and sinister face. Barthes himself wrote about the flimsiness of a photographic identity, arguing that

era rimasto sfigurato, tanto che nessuno, 1 1 a due passi dal College de France, aveva potuto riconoscerlo e Iambulanza che Iaveva raccolto Iaveva portato allospedale della Salpetxiere com e un ferito senza nome (non aveva documenti su di se) e cosi resto per ore non identificato in corsia. cosi tra i primi pensieri che mi presero nellapprensione per la sua sorte saffacciava il ricordo di quella lettura recente, il legame fragile e angoscioso con la propria immagine che veniva lacertato a un tratto come si lacera una fotografia (Calvino, In memoria di Roland Barthes, 77. 73
11 fissato per sempre.

71

72

Barthes addressed the vexed question o f identity and the splitting of the je in depth in an autobiographical photo-text whose epigraph claimed that it should be considered as if spoken by a character in a novel and where he refers to h im self as I, he, R.B., and you. See Barthes, Roland Barthes. 75 una faccia disinteriorizzata e sinistra (Calvino, In memoria di Roland Barthes, 80.

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as an individuals identity is more and more defined through resemblance, it becomes an absurd, purely legal, even penal affair; likeness gives out identity as itself. nf\

This question of photographys ambiguous relation to identity and identification can be viewed in terms of the institutional implications of the term identification of the body (where the body is a purely passive object) as opposed to the shared construction of an identity that takes place in posed photographic portraits, where the person photographed is both photographic subject and object.^^ Yet photographic portraiture, too, can be seen as a disciplining of the subject, as Celia Lury points out.
78

The debate over Pasolinis

photographs, living and dead, reflects the complex issues at stake in the abyss that lies between the construction of identity and the identification of the dead. Among these issues, Sekulas distinction between an honorific and a repressive function of photography and his discussion of the institutional or personal context and control of the image are centrally important. As the Pedriali photographs intended for Petrolio demonstrate, Pasolini himself experimented with the notion of the photo-text. La Divina Mimesis represents the deliberately partial realization of one such text, and, as we shall see, it demonstrates some of the problems of attempting to establish identity through photographs.
7Q

Although it was

the last of Pasolinis books to be published during his lifetime, he chose to present it as though it were a posthumous work. In the section entitled Per una Nota del editore (For an editors note), Pasolini assumes the role of an editor publishing an unfinished work after its authors violent murder: This is not a critical edition. I am limiting myself to publishing everything that the author left. My only, very modest, critical effort.. .has been to
76 77 78 79 Barthes, Camera Lucida, 102-3. See my discussion o f this complex role in Chapter Two. Lury, Prosthetic Culture: Photography, M emory and Identity, 77.

Walter Siti suggests that Pasolinis increasing interest in the romanzo autobiografico Petrolio was part o f the reason for his abandonment o f the poema allegorico La Divina Mimesis. See Walter Siti, Nota introduttiva, in La Divina Mimesis, ed. Pier Paolo Pasolini (Turin: Einaudi, 1993), VII.

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reconstruct the chronological order of these notes as precisely as possible.

80

Pasolini

(in the role of the editor) claims that the notes were found in a notepad discovered after the author was killed, clubbed to death in Palermo last year. 81

It can also be considered as posthumous in many of the other senses that Ferroni describes. For one thing, it shares with Petrolio the status of medley-work or conglomerate work, unfinished by its own formal definition, since it challenges reality on the level of accumulation. 89 The booka fragmented prose re-writing of Dantes Divina

Commedia, based on Pasolinis apocalyptic view of the neo-capitalist inferno of 1960s Italyalso takes its place in the long tradition of re-writings of Dante. As such, it contains numerous references to the souls Pasolini encounters in that inferno, and which he must be presumed to come after. His guide through hellhis V irgilis his younger self, and therefore a self he has survived, if not entirely outlived. Furthermore, the photographs included at the end under the heading Iconografia ingiallita (Yellowed iconography) include portraits of a number of figures in relation to whom Pasolini was both literally and metaphorically posthumous. The Dantean encounter with the shades of the dead is particularly suggestive in the context of these photographs. Pasolini writes in the preface that the photographs aim to have the logic of a 89 visual poem (which is, apart from anything else, quite legible). ' Yet as Walter Siti points out in his introduction, the legibility of these images has declined over time, so

Questa non e una edizione critica. lo mi limito a pubblicare tutto quello che Iautore ha lasciato. II mio unico sforzo critico molto m odesto.. .e quella di ricostruire il seguito cronologico, il piu possibile esatto di questi appunti.

80

8 1 a colpi di bastone a Palermo Ianno scorso. Siti points out that this is a reference to the verbal attacks
made on Pasolini at the meeting of the Gruppo 63 in Palermo in 1965; a linciaggio puramente letterario quindi, nessuna tragica profezia. See Siti, Nota introduttiva, IX. opera-coacervo o opera-conglomerato, non finita per propria stessa definizione formale, perche sfida la realta sul piano dellaccumulazione (Siti, Nota introduttiva, VII. vogliono avere la logica, meglio che di una illustrazione, di una (peraltro assai leggibile) poesia visiva.
83 82

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that they require further information beyond the simple legends included in the index.

84

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For example, the first two photographs, on page 69, are of the Spanish Communist leader Julian Grimau, who was executed on April 20, 1963 for resisting Francos regime, and of Grigori Lambrakis, a left-wing Greek parliamentary representative who was wounded in a protest at Salonica on May 22, 1963, and killed in the police car that was supposed to take him to the hospital (see Figure 45). The dead heroes are shown here side by side in respectful and somewhat stylized head-and-shoulders portraits, of the honorific kind that would be appropriate conventional memorial images for their gravestones, or for friends and admirers to hold on to. While their faces would have been well-known to many contemporary viewers (particularly on the left), without any written explanation they do not necessarily have any meaning for viewers today. In this sense Pasolinis description of the images as a visual poem is apt, since their allusiveness requires a similar effort to that
oc

which poetry can ask of its readers.

84 85

Siti, Nota introduttiva, VII-X.

It also connects his use o f photographic images to his believe in the need for a cinema di poesia in contrast to the lingua della prosa narrativa o f the cinematic tradition. See Pier Paolo Pasolini, II cinema di poesia, in Saggi sulla letteratura e sullarte (Milan: Mondadori, 1999), 1468.

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Figure 45: Grimau and Lambrakis

Yet they also point to a potential problem with photography. The photographs show, among other things, a series of living and dead figures of great significance to Pasolini, from the two portraits of the left-wing martyrs Grimau and Lambrakis, to the photograph of Gramscis tombstone, that of Pasolini with Carlo Emilio Gadda, and portraits of Gianfranco Contini (in Pasolinis words the only Italian critic whose problems were the literary problems of Gramsci), Emilio Cecchi, and Sandro Penna.
86

There are

also photographs of protests in Reggio Emilia in 1960, cars parked in Rome, old women chatting, a Communist rally, a group of partisans, a still from Pasolinis Vangelo (Gospel), the frontispiece of his Poesia in forma di rosa (Poem in the Form of a Rose), a gathering of some of the Gruppo 63, a group of fascists, a picture of the Nymphaeum in Valle Giulia,

86

il solo critico italiano i cui problemi siano stati i problemi letterari di Gramsci.

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the piazza in front of the church at Casarsa in his native Friuli, and a group of African children. How are we to read these disparate images? While the presence of named and recognizable literary figures perhaps requires little explanation for viewers familiar with Pasolinis work,
Q-y

the photograph of the protests in Reggio Emilia on pages 70-71 makes

more sense if the reader knows that police killed five people and wounded eighteen there in protests against the short-lived right-wing Tambroni government (see Figure 46). 88 In order to perceive this photographic connection to the literal death of those people the viewer requires prior knowledge of the events that took place outside the frame of the photograph. To understand the presence of the photograph of members of the Gruppo 63 and its position opposite the frontispiece to Poesia in forma di rosa, it is important to know that they were intellectual adversaries of Pasolinis at the time, while the significance of the photograph of the Nymphaeum of Valle Giulia is that it is where the Premio Strega is awarded annually (and where in 1968 Alberto Bevilacquas L occhio del gatto [Cats Eye] beat Pasolinis Teorema [Theorem] for the prize). Finally, the image of the church at Casarsa on page
88

and that of children in Africa on page 89 represent the juxtapositioning

of an element from Pasolinis Friulian childhood and his experiences in Africa in an attempt to enclose in circular unity the irreducible opposition between the 40s and 50s and the 60s, experienced throughout the poem as an opposition between hope and bewilderment.
89

Gaddas plurilingualism was an important model for Pasolini. See, for example, Tullio D e Mauro, Pasolinis Linguistics, in Pasolini Old and New: Surveys and Studies, ed. Zgmunt G. Baranski (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 1999), 80. Pasolini was also a great admirer o f Sandro Pennas poetry and was his most sympathetic critic. For a concise account o f the circumstances surrounding the protests, see Paul Ginsborg, A History o f Contemporary Italy: Society and Politics 1943-1988 (London and N ew York: Penguin, 1990), 256-57. chiudere in circolare unita il dissidio insanabile tra anni 4 0 -50 e anni 60, vissuto in tutto il poema come dissidio tra speranza e smarrimento (Siti, Nota introduttiva, IX.
89
88

87

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Figure 46: Reggio Emilia 1960

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'W i.| :

Figure 47: La p ia zza della C hiesa a C asarsa and Paesaggio africano

As Sitis comments make clear, the text and the images are designed to work together, despite the apparently similarly irreducible split between the two forms. This is made particularly clear in a photograph like that of Gramscis tombstone on page 79, which represents both a visual tribute to a dead intellectual hero and an intertextual reference to Pasolinis own work in the form of Le cenere di Gramsci {The Ashes o f Gramsci) through the inscription Cinera Antonii Gramscii (see Figure 48). As with Lalla Romanos photo texts, however, this cooperation sometimes becomes competition. In La Divina Mimesis Pasolini therefore presents the texts and photographs as separate works with different

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roles.^ Nevertheless, the photographs are ultimately unable to fulfill their role without the aid of the numbered references in the index in the first instance, and subsequently the descriptions provided by Siti in his introductory note.
91

'.GRAMSCI
KOM A m r

ON1 1^

Figure 48: La tomba di Gramsci a Testaccio

Pasolini describes the photographs as a poem, and the often highly lyrical text (based, after all, on the most famous poem in the world) as a document, in this way defining unexpected roles for word and image and setting up a tension between creativity

This recalls Lalla Romanos description o f the texts and photographs in her Nuovo romanzo d i figure. See Chapter Two, Without the captions at the back o f the book, it would be impossible to tell those nemici to whom Pasolini offered the book as a means o f offering them una ragione di piu per andare alTInferno (Prefazione, DM) from those who represent Dantean heroes encountered in that inferno. Christian Boltanskis installation Detective (first mounted in 1972, with a more extensive version carried out in 1987) makes the point about the ambiguity o f photographic authentication (to use Barthess term) by bringing together four hundred black and white photographs that originally appeared in the magazine D etectiven weekly that presented pictures o f both murderers and victims. In Boltanskis work, the two categories are not distinguished through captions, so that it is impossible to tell which is which (see, for example Perloff, What Has Occurred Only Once: Barthess Winter Garden/Boltanskis Archives of the Dead, 47-50.
91

90

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and authenticity. This recalls Lalla Romanos description of Nuovo romanzo di figure as a work in which the texts illustrate the photographs rather than vice versa. As with Romano, it is not enough to simply take Pasolini at his word as regards the interrelation of text and image, but it is important to think about what his definition of the terms of this interrelation implies. His deliberate undermining of the documentary status of the photographic image is especially significant. The word document, with its connotations of evidence, ownership, and witnessing, is often connected to photography, particularly the kind of relatively straight, journalistic photographs Pasolini reproduces in his book. As we saw in previous chapters, photographs are often included with texts in order to authenticate them, since, to quote Sontag once more, a photographany photographseems to have a more innocent, and therefore more accurate, relation to visible reality than do other mimetic objects. ^ Maya Deren also argues that photographic authority is what allows for the creative use of reality in film.
go

These ideas can be related to Pasolinis theory of cinema as a language, which helps to explain his use of photography in La Divina Mimesis and his planned use of it in P e t r o l i o He believed that since no dictionary of images exists, in every film the cinema has to invent its own signs, or image-signs, which Pasolini calls im-segni (image-signs)^^ As such, it occupies a territory completely different from that of literature, where writers must refer to a code shared by their readers, a code that is necessarily at least in part the vocabulary of their common language. In contrast, the filmmaker has to invent a new voeabulary with every film. Yet despite this lack of a common language, according to Pasolini, the cinema manages to communicate extremely effectively. He argues that this is
92 93

Sontag, On Photography, 6.

Maya Deren, Cinematography: The Creative Use o f Reality, Daedalus: The Journal o f the American Academy o f Arts and Sciences, Winter, 1960. A lso available at www.enterprise.is.tcu.edu/~bplate/deren.htm. See also the Introduction.
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See also my discussion o f semiotic approaches to photography in the Introduction. See Pasolini, Cinema, 1464-65.

Q S

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because the cinema, even in its dreamlike physicality, employs the evidence of the real, so that its im-segni are confused with actual things in the world, and watching/reading a film therefore means watching/reading the world. Expressing reality with reality itself, the cinema eopies the world rather than having to employ a specific shared language to describe it. For Pasolini, cinema is a language, since in the cinema, the world appears as the representation of itself, and thus as language. He writes that In film, we recognize reality, which expresses itself in us and to us, as it does ordinarily in life. As Peter Bondanella puts it, for Pasolini the poetry of the cinema conserves not only realitys poetry but also its mysterious, saered nature; in its most expressive moments, film
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is simultaneously realistie and anti-naturalistic.

However, fundamental to his conception

of cinema is what Pasolini ealls the first principle of human languages.. .action itself: inasmuch as it is a relation of reciprocal representation with others and with physical reality. He goes on to argue that The written-spoken languages are just an integration of this first language; I get my first information about a man from his physiognomy, his behavior, his

fisicita oniric,(Ibid., 1468. This was one o f the points on which he was in polemical disagreement with Christian Metz, who saw film as mainly oriented towards a show-business-like or imaginary referent Metz, Photography and Fetish, 139. and as having a fictional relation to reality, while Pasolini argued instead that la realta e una lingua. Altro che fare la semiologia del cinema! E la semiologia del cinema che bisogna fare! (quoted in Gian Piero Brunetta, Storia del cinema italiano: D al miracolo economico agli anni novanta, 4 vols., vol. 4 (Rome: Editori Riuniti, 2001 [1982]), 111.). In another piece Pasolini writes that L intera vita, nel complesso delle sue azioni, e un cinema naturale e vivente, e linguisticamente Tequivalente della lingua orale nel suo momento naturale o biologico. V ivendo.. .noi ci rappresentiamo, e assistiamo alia rappresentazione altrui. The cinema is therefore il momento scritto di una lingua naturale e totale, che e Iagire nella realta. Pier Paolo Pasolini, La lingua scritta della realta, in Saggi sulla letteratura e sullarte (Milan: Mondadori, 1999 [1966]), 1514. Noi nei film riconosciamo la realta che si esprime in essi e a noi, come fa quotidianamente nella vita (Pasolini, Realta, 1515. Peter Bondanella, Italian Cinema from Neorealism to the Present, 2nd ed. (New York: Continuum, 1995), 179. il prime e principale dei linguaggi umani.. .Iazione stessa: in quanto rapporto di reciproca rappresentazione con gli altri e con la realta fisica.
99 98 97

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habits, his rituals, from his coiporeal technique, and also in the end from his written-spoken language/ Furthermore, the minimal unities of cine-language are the objects, forms, and actions of reality, reproduced and made into a stable and fundamental element of the signifier. ^ ^ Photography shares with film the expression of reality with reality and the possibility of providing information about physiognomy, but, crucially, it lacks sound and movement. The combination of the photographs supposed ontological connection to reality with its the silence and stillness is precisely what connects it to death. It is also apparently what precludes it from sharing cinemas ability to function in Pasolinis terms as a language independent of written/spoken language.
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La Divina Mimesis evidences both this slippery

dependence on the written or spoken word, and the potential to employ photography in the creative use of reality. As such, it has been interpreted in semiotic terms as a contamination among poetic and cinematographic languages and, definitively, the language of Pasolinis own action.

In contrast, Daniele Del Giudice seems to question the semiotic approach that views photography as a kind of language, and to view the potential to use reality creatively as one of the dangers of photography. The ways in which photography is represented in his writings seem to suggest that he sees it primarily as a form of falsification or deception rather than authentication. This is never clearer than in the extraordinarily darkly comic short story Come adesso! Del Giudice was inspired to write the story after seeing the
Le lingue scritte-parlate non sono che unintegrazione di questo linguaggio primo: le prime informazioni di un uomo io le ho dalla sua fisionomia, dal suo comportamento, dal suo costume, dalla sua ritualita, dalla sua tecnica corporale, e anche inline dalla sua lingua scritto-parlata. '^ le unita minime della cinelingua sono gli oggetti, le forme e gli atti della realta, riprodotte e divenute elemento stabile e fondamentale del significante (Pasolini, Realta, 1515.
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On the importance o f sound in cinema to Pasolini, see Ibid., 1517.

una contaminazione tra il linguaggio poetico, il linguaggio fotografico, il linguaggio cinematografico e, in definitiva, il linguaggio dellazione stessa di Pasolini (Giuseppe Zigaina, Pasolini tra enigma eprofezia (Venice: Marsilio, 1989), 38.

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photographs of the cadavers of Pasolini and Aldo Moro at the morgue, which led to a negative epiphany of the sort described by Sontag. The story appears in the critically

acclaimed collection Mania, whose epigraph (taken from Foscolo) reads Note that mania stems from feeling too much. ^ * ^ ^ In Come adesso!, however, it is more a question of the mania to see too much.*^ The narrator is certainly manic; a bizarre kind of cultural entrepreneur who prefigures the vulgarity and excess of many of todays reality TV shows (still a distant twinkle in some producers eye at the time the story was written) in his determination to create a spectacle in which the public would be shown how a dead star looks now, that is, after d e a t h . T h i s would take place first through a photograph of the exhumed body that would be the subject of a competition to guess the stars identity, and finally in an on-stage extravaganza that would reveal a wax model of the corpse (if not the corpse itself) to an eager public, accompanied by artful black and white photographs of the stars glory days. The story begins with the narrator going to see a man who, we are told, buys and sells stories for a living, perhaps some kind of producer. The narrator tells the producer a story about a woman who tries to sell the idea of Com e adesso! to the respectable son of a much-loved actress. The producer thinks that the narrator is trying to sell the story, and it is only at the end that it becomes clear that the he is in fact selling the

See the authors note at the end o f Daniele D el Giudice, Mania (Turin: Einaudi, 1997). Sontags negative epiphany occurred when she saw for the first time the photographs of Bergen-Belsen and Dachau taken in July 1945. See Sontag, On Photography, 19. Notate che la mania deriva del troppo sentire. On Mania and its critical reception, see for example Lalla Romano, Onore al ritmo, collega [ review o f Mania by Daniele D el Giudice ] [webpage] (Mondadori.com, May 9 1997 [cited November 2 2003]); available from www22.mondadori.com/panl997/magx/libri_1997_0_x.html. Given that the subject o f Com e adesso! is that o f the ultimate disrespect o f tombs, the connection to the author o f D ei Sepolcri (written in response to Napoleons edict o f Saint Cloud banning burial within the city and the decoration and inscription o f graves) seems apt, especially when w e recall that Foscolos own remains were exhumed in order to be transferred to Santa Croce in Florence. In essence, D el Giudices story describes a kind of photographic perversion or parody o f Foscolos corrispondenza di amorosi sensi by which si vive con Iamico estinto/ E Testinto con noi (Ugo Foscolo, D ei Sepolcri, 30-33). Cf. De Carlos descriptions of Giovannis encounters with m ovie stars in Los Angeles, particularly with the actress Marsha Mellows.
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idea for the spectacle itself, because the producer is the son of someone famous, a great man, a great man who died recently, a figure loved by all (64). 1 D R

Del Giudices concerns about photography and its misuse in the cult of celebrity underlie the whole text. He has his protagonist describe how the stars house and garden speak of a life that has formed out of itself every object, every photo, every decoration, every tree, transforming it into a meaningful relic (46).^^ This notion of the relic is one important aspect of the photograph that Del Giudice satirizes in the short story. So, too, is the idea of photographic proof, as when the narrator describes the kinds of star he has in mind, such as one of those enormous opera singers who, if you abstract them from the top note, from the grotesque makeup, from the darting eyes, do not seem to have any substance in life. Only the infinite faded photographs of triumphs in Argentina or Japan or New York demonstrate the fact that they existed at all, and yet they are deeply rooted in the hearts of the people, even those who would never set foot in an opera theater, and, above all, have never heard them sing. (47)^^^ Ordinary peoples cultish relation to fame is described in terms of a scopic regime that bases fame on visibility, on appearance rather than substance, and it is therefore closely connected to photographic ways of s e e i n g . D e l Giudices narrator has his female entrepreneur describe the good fortune of the sons and daughters of the famous, who get to be closer to them than anyone else: How many people would have wanted to be, if not her husband, then her lover, if not her lover, her son, if not her son, her servant, and if not her
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un grande, un grande scomparso da poco, una figura che tutti hanno amato.

una vita che ha formato di se ogni oggetto, ogni foto, ogni arredo, ogni albero, trasformandolo m un significativo cimelio. ' uno di quegli enormi cantanti lirici che se uno li astrae dallacuto, dal trucco grottesco, dagli occhi dardeggianti sembrano non avere alcuna consistenza nella vita, e il fatto che siano esistiti davvero e dimostrato solo dalle infinite sbiadite fotografie trionfali in Argentina o in Giappone o a N ew York, e che pero sono radicati nel cuore della gente, anche di quelli che mai metterebbero piede in un teatro d opera, e mai, soprattutto, li hanno sentiti cantare. '' ^ I use the term scopic regime here in the sense employed by Martin Jay in his excellent survey o f what he calls ocularcentric discourse in Western (particularly French) culture: that is, as a regimented way of seeing shaped by dominant ideological forces. See Jay, Downcast Eyes

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servant, an invisible presence in the house, a pure gaze that might follow that figure instant hy instant every day, without being seen. (49)"^ This notion of the pure gaze that looks without being seen recalls the voyeurism of which photography has repeatedly been accused (and has indeed, at times, been guilty). 113

Out of this cocktail of ingredients emerges the key idea of Com e adesso! as spectacle. The narrator explains that How She Looks Now! is global action, its an event, something that wasnt there and then is, an artificial event created out of nothing, an irreversible event, but one which produces emotions like an action carried out by hand, without being one ( 5 0 ) . This artificial event is like the events first staged by the paparazzi of the 1950s and 60s, who provoked fights and scandals out of nothing in order to create photo-opportunities, and like the media-created events that have been taken to ever-greater levels of artificiality and insubstantiality since then. When the narrator has his woman character finally explain that what she wants is to take a photograph of the mans mothers exhumed corpse, thousands of copies of which will circulate in hundreds of newspaper pages, in hundreds of moments passing through the ether, the producer protests uncertainly that the photo of a cadaver is u n s e e m l y . T h e use of this particular adjective, which can mean both unseemly, improper, unattractive and unprofitable, reveals the extent to whieh commercial and aesthetic issues have swamped ethical ones and sets the tone for the rest of the conversation. The narrator is unfazed by any concern about the appropriateness of his suggestion, replying blithely.

Quanti avrebbero voluto esseme se non il marito Iamante, se non Iamante il figlio, se non 1 1 figlio il cameriere, se non il cameriere una presenza invisibile nascosta nella casa, un puro sguardo che potesse seguire quella figura istante per istante ogni giorno, senza essere visto.
113 114

112

See my discussion o f this in Chapter Three, particularly in relation to D e Carlos Treno dipanna.

C om e adesso! e Vazione globale, e un evento, un fatto che prima non c era e poi c e, un fatto artificiale e creato dal nulla, un fatto irreversibile, ma che produce emozioni come unazione compiuta con mano, senza esserlo. * da far circolarc in migliaia di copic, in milioni di copie, in centinaia di pagine di giornale, in centinaia di istanti via etere, la foto di un cadavere e sconveniente.

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No, why? .. .Not a flash photo that flattens and dramatizes, no, a soft eolor photo, full of effeets of light and shade, a photo that would remove any harshness, really a lovely photo, in soft-focus, lightly veiled, a veil that would give an almost metaphysical feeling about death and time. In another words, an art photo. Art and culture! (51)' ^ This argument eomes close in some ways to those advanced in support of Andres Serranos work. His very beautiful color photographs full of light and shadow are artworks that aestheticize the dead body.
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But the narrators ecstatic invocation of art and culture! is

revealed as the ploy it is by the macabre suggestion his interlocutor makes just afterwards, that a bit of powder would help. This is taken up enthusiastically by the narrator: Powder on a decomposing skull! I shouted, miracle of makeup! (51)an image that recalls medieval memento mori, which might show death represented in fancy clothing or surrounded by the accoutrements of wealth. 118

At a certain point, the producer begins to join in and make suggestions of his own about: That photograph of a decomposed face that circulates everywhere, that photograph that makes everyone wonder who is in it. Then perhaps each day a new detail is provided, a little extra particular, an old photograph in whieh she is only partially visible (53)."^ But in order to really convince the son of the film star, the narrator tells the producer that his female character will have to emphasize the pedagogical side of the competition, its formative coefficient. 190 Throughout the story the narrator congratulates himself on his

' No, perche?... Non una foto col flash che appiattisce e drammatizza, no, una foto a colon morbida, plena di chiaroscuri, una foto che tolga ogni scabrosita, una bella foto proprio, un p o flou, leggermente velata, un velo che dia un sentimento quasi metafisico della morte e del tempo, insomma una foto darte. Arte e cultural His Cause o f Death series is a good example. Val Williams describes it as a still and reverent nature morte" o f serene grace (Val Williams, Secret Places, in The D ead, ed. Greg Hobson and Val Williams (Bradford, England: National Museum o f Photography, Film & Television, 1996), 11.). See also Serrano and Wallis, Body and Soul.
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Cipria su un cranio in decomposizione, gridai, miracolo del trucco.

Quella foto di un volto decomposto che circola dappertutto, quella foto che tutti si chiedono di chi e, poi magari ogni giorno viene dato un particolare in piu, un piccolo dettaglio, una foto d epoca in cui si vede e non si vede.
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il lato pedagogico del concorso, il suo coefficiente formativo.

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own mise en scene, here commenting in parentheses thats exactly what I said, formative coefficient (54). 1 9 1 The female character will argue that today no-one has the

courage to look death in the face and that it is necessary to reacquire the intimacy with death that we once had (54).
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The narrator describes how once the son finally succumbs

and allows the body to be exhumed and the photograph of it to circulate, the vast majority of people will join in the game of guessing who it is, while a small minority will debate about whether or not it is right to play such a game over a dead body. This in itself will only add to the success of Come adesso!: So many lines of print, so many opinions over the ether! W ork for everyone! Ha, ha! Ultimately the woman, our woman is giving work to everyone, she has produced something, she has produced an event that wasnt there and then is. Ultimately shes someone who does good, she creates work, she creates pages to be filled, forms to be updated, telephone calls to make. What more do we want? (57)^^^ While most events created out of nothing require some cost (a murder, a fight etc.), says the narrator, for How She Looks Now! the dead are already there, at zero cost. The dead are there, right ready, famous dead people. All you have to do is photograph them, right? (57).'^'* Del Giudice puts into the mouth of his objectionable narrator arguments that are often advanced in defense of various kinds of photographic intrusion, such as an argument for the meaning and ethics of the project, to which the producer replies leave ethics alone, I dont think thats your subject (58).
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The narrator goes on to claim that the

competition will not only give people back their intimacy with death, but will also serve a

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dissi proprio cosi, coefficiente formative. Iintimita con la morte, che una volta c era.

Quante righe di stampa!, quante opinioni via etere!, lavoro per tutti! eh, eh, in fondo la donna, la nostra donna da lavoro a tutti, ha prodotto qualcosa, ha prodotto un fatto che prima non c era e poi c e, in fondo e una che fa del bene, crea lavoro, crea pagine da riempire, moduli da aggiornare, telefonate da fare, che vogliamo di piu? per Com e adesso! i morti ci sono gia, a costo zero, i morti sono 11 belli e pronti, morti famosi, basta fotografarli, no? 125 ma lasci stare Ietica, non mi pare materia sua.
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pedagogical function by working to spread a deductive, circumstantial mode of knowledge, a way of getting from the detail to the whole, thats it. Here I would put this love for the detail, like Maigret and Sherlock Holmes had, this faith in attention, curiosity, precisionwell, these, are really values! (58). Everyone who guesses about the identity

of the body will be learning these values with the talent of someone who knows how to reconstruct a face from an empty jaw, or the history of cinema from a shred of putrefied costume. All things that could be useful one day, right? (58).^^^ Del Giudices biting irony reveals the extent of his doubts about the value of the knowledge to be gained from photographs. The narrator continues to explain that the public will be kept guessing until the event of the spectacular unveiling in a theater of not just the photograph but a wax model of the corpse; the image concentrates on that putrefied or mummified or saponified former face, and, with a slow, agonizing fade, another image emerges from it, an image without the greenish yellow of rot, transforming it into a marvelous black and white image, in the good old black and white we all love, in the framing of the splendid face of a young woman. (61)^^^ This televisual effect will finish on a still from one of the actresss films. Then comes a pathologists description of what happens after death, step by step, as though shown in time lapse photography: the vital functions halting, the blood pooling, the acidification of the cells, the darkening of the skin, the swelling of the body etc. The narrator goes a bit too far in his description of these processes, moved, truly moved and saddened at the thought of what an exhausting passion the body undergoes, and of all that it must suffer in order to
diffondere un modo deduttivo, un modo indiziario di conoscere, un modo di risalire dal particolare al tutto, ecco, qui ci metterei questo amore per il dettaglio, come Iavevano Maigret e Sherlock Holmes, questa fede nellattenzione, nella curiosita, nella precisione, b e, questi sono proprio valori! col talento di chi sa ricostruire un viso da una mandibola vuota, o la storia del cinema dal brandello di un abito di scena putrefatto. Tutte cose che un domani possono servire, no? Iimmagine si concentra su quellex volto putrefatto o mummificato o saponificato, e con una lenta struggente dissolvenza da quellimmagine ne nasce unaltra, unimmagine senza piu il giallo verdognolo dei liquami, che si trasforma in un meraviglioso bianco e nero, nel vecchio buon bianco e nero che tutti amiamo, nellinquadratura di un viso splendido di donna giovane.
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disappear, the achieve the stony, essential imperturbability of the skeleton (63)/^ The producer rebukes him, saying that you cant put certain things into a story, there are some things that no one can bear to imagine or see, theyre literally unseeable (63).*^^ With darkest irony, Del Giudice points out that in todays worldone that by the 1970s had already been marked by what Pasolini called the wild explosion of mass culture and the mass media there is no longer anything that is truly unseeable.
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What is more, he

aligns himself very clearly with the school of thought that sees the knowledge gained through photographs as a knowledge at bargain pricesa semblance of knowledge, a semblance of wisdom; as the act of taking pictures is a semblance of appropriation, a semblance of rape.
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In Come adesso! photography represents a literal appropriation

and a literal desecration. Del Giudices profound doubts about the value of photographs as information, and his fears about the potential for their spectacular appeal to be employed exploitatively are a central element of the short story described above. They are a similarly significant element of his first novel, Lo Stadio di Wimbledon, which was published in 1983 and which fits Ferronis model of posthumous literature very well, particularly in its intertextual
com m osso, veramente commosso e rattristato al pensiero di una cost estenuante passione del corpo, e di tutto cio che il corpo deve patire per sparire, per raggiungere la pietrosa, essenziale imperturbabilita dello scheletro. certe cose non si possono mettere in una storia, certe cose nessuno puo tollerare di immaginarle o di vederle, sono letteralmente invedibili. Iesplosione selvaggia della cultura di massa e dei mass-media. Pier Paolo Pasolini, Lettere luterane (Turin: Einaudi, 1977), 115. The kind o f voyeuristic scrutiny o f dead bodies described by Del Giudice has an important literary precedent in a novel profoundly affected by the invention o f photography: Emile Zolas Therese Raquin, whose grisly morgue scene in chapter 13 recalls D el Giudices narrators ecstatic description o f horrors and evinces the same kind of titillated fascination. In the preface to the novel, Zola defined the new creed o f Naturalism, which was strongly influenced by the new subject matter and intense realism of photography. See Emile Zola, Therese Raquin (London and N ew York: Penguin, 1962 [1868]). For a discussion o f the relations between photography and literature in nineteenth-century France, see for example Jill Kelly, Photographic Reality and French Literary Realism: Nineteenth-Century Synchronism and Symbiosis, French Review 65, no. 2 (1991). French Naturalism in turn had a significant impact on Italian veristi like Giovanni Verga and Luigi Capuana. On the connections between verismo and photography, see for example Nemiz et al., Capuana, Verga, D e Roberto: fotografi. and G. and Settimelli Garra Agosta, W., ed., Giovanni Verga fata grafo (Milan: Centro Informazioni 3M, 1970).
132 131 130 129

Sontag, On Photography, 24.

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Whereas Sontag argued that in the situations in which most people use

richness.

photographs, their value as information is of the same order as fiction, Del Giudices Lo stadio di Wimbledon suggests that fiction can in fact be more valuable than photography, perhaps not as information, but certainly as a means towards a kind of understanding. By resisting both the emotional pull of the photograph (Barthess punctum) and its potential for distancing the viewer from the aestheticized subject photographed (a process in turn allied to the notion of studium), Del Giudices protagonist relies instead at first on language, both spoken and written, to provide him with clues to the mystery he seeks to unravel, and on his posthumous relation to the Italian literary tradition. The novel centers on the absent figure of Roberto (Bobi) Bazlen, the legendary literary talent scout who was friends with major twentieth-century writers like Eugenio Montale, Umberto Saba, Italo Svevo, and James Joyce. Bazlen served as editorial adviser for numerous Italian publishing houses, including Einaudi and Adelphi, and his translations introduced Italians to Kafka and Musil, yet he remained a a writer who did not write.
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The protagonist-narrator of the novel sets out on a literary detective trail to try to find traces of Bazlen and understand the reasons why he chose to intervene in the lives of other writers rather than writing his own work. He does so by tracking down and talking with those who knew Bazlen in Trieste, his native city, and in London. In the process, many of the people the protagonist encounters (including several of the women whose names are known to us

To give but one example, almost all the chapters are framed by the narrator awakening and going off to sleep, often in trains. The opening o f the novel, where the narrator awakens in a broken down train with a young soldier recalls what is perhaps Sandro Pennas most famous poem: La vita... e ricordarsi di un risveglio/ triste in un treno allalba: aver veduto/ fuori la luce incerta: aver sentito/ nel corpo rotto la malinconia/ vergine e aspra dellaria pungente.// Ma ricordarsi la liberazione/ improvvisa e piu dolce: a me vicino/ un marinaio giovane: Iazzurro/ e il bianco della sua divisa, e fuori/ un mare tutto fresco di colore. See Pier Vincenzo Mengaldo (ed.), Poeti italiani del Novecento (Milan: Mondadori, 1990), 738.
134 135

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Sontag, On Photography, 22.

scrittore che non scriveva (Giulia D e Savorgnani, Bobi Bazlen: Sotto il segno d i Mercurio (Trieste: Lint, 1998). The only writings o f Bazlens in print were all published posthumously. See Roberto Bazlen, Lettere editoriali (Milan: Adelphi, 1968)., Roberto Bazlen, Note senza testo, ed. Roberto Calasso (Milan: Adelphi, 1970)., and Roberto Bazlen, 11 capitano di lungo corso, ed. Roberto Calasso (Milan: Adelphi, 1973).

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through the poems of Montales Le occasioni, such as Ljuba of A Ljuba che parte (To Ljuba as she leaves) and Gerti of Camevale di Gerti (Gertis c a r n i v a l ) , t r y to show him photographs of Bazlen, but he steadfastly refuses to look at them, resorting to crossing his eyes or shifting his focus when politeness forces him to at least pretend to study them: I wasnt expecting it: the silver frame is almost against my jacket, turned in my direction, with the photograph inside. Its impossible not to take it. I hold the photograph away, stretching out my arm and pushing my head back, like long-sighted people do. I hope all this appears somehow natural. She says: There he is, Bobi. I look at an abstract point, outside the frame. (39)' ^ This particular encounter with, or rather, refusal to eneounter the photograph of Bazlen oceurs just after the protagonist has been admiring the collection of sextants of the woman he has come to see, who is one of Bazlens old friends. These sextants, like the camera, represent a technology of vision, but one to which the protagonist responds differently: I think about the last time they were used to find the point of intersection: the man makes a sighting, then looks up and studies the side of the instrument, controls the turning of the endless screws. He doesnt trust it anymore. Then a new, more precise and manageable model comes out. Then theres the long wait in the box, the bottom of which has the sextants form earved out in negative; all the truly dead time between an objects activity and its collection.

(3 9 ) 1 3 8

There are echoes of photography in the description of these objects detached from thenoriginal context and collected together, and even in the description of the relation of the object to its shape carved out in negative in his protective case as though in a kind of threedimensional photography. But where the photograph functions in M etzs terms as a fetish, these objects are relics, in the sense that Fedida and Freud use, and this distinction between

136 137

See Eugenio Montale, Tutte le poesie, ed. Giorgio Zampa (Milan: Mondadori, 1990), 124-26,28.

Non me Iaspettavo: ho la com ice d argento quasi contro la giacca, girata dal mio verso, e con dentro la fotografia. E impossibile non prenderla. Allontano la fotografia distendendo il braccio e spingo la testa allindietro, com e fanno i presbiti. Spero che tutto questo possa apparire in qualche m odo naturale. Lei dice: Eccolo, Bobi. lo guardo un punto astratto, fuori della cornice. Penso air ultima volta che sono stati usati per fare il punto: Iuomo traguarda, poi toglie Focchio e studia di lato lo stmmento, controlla il gioco delle viti senza fine, non si fida pid. Poi esce un modello piu precise e maneggevole. Poi c e la lunga giacenza nella cassetta, sul cui fondo e scavata la forma al negativo; tutto il tempo veramente morto tra Fattivita di un oggetto e la sua collezione.
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the photograph-fetish and the object-relic is at the heart of the protagonists refusal to look at photographs of Bazlen. When he goes to visit Gerti, who was also an old friend of Bazlens, she, too, is eager to show him photographs. This time, however, the protagonist has time to prepare

himself and comes up with a system to avoid seeing the photographs of Bazlen: every time she turns a page, I blur the image, crossing my eyes toward my nose or mouth. Like this, I wait until she says something. She always says something about the photographs in front of us, even though each of them has a little caption written in white Indian ink.^ '^ '^ Here, too, photography is contextualized by language. At a certain point, Gerti announces unequivocally There he is and the narrator blurs his vision as much as he possibly can, until the page becomes a kind of dark puddle, multiplied and indistinct; at some moments, because of the effort, I feel an opaque vibration in my ears ( 6 3 ) . The protagonist is willing to endure intense physical discomfort in order to avoid seeing photographs of Bazlen. Although this is never explained, the novel hints at the reason for this refusal in the protagonists dedication to the mystery of Bazlens silence. Allan Sekula points to the use of photographic evidence as a silence that silences.^'^^ If the photograph represents the stilling and silencing of its subject in a metaphorical death, while simultaneously functioning as a fetish object that substitutes for the knowledge of that death, then Del Giudices protagonist can be seen as rejecting the literal photographic silencing of Bazlens voice and the fetishizing of Bazlen as photographic subject in order to remain focused on the subject of his investigation. This subject is still that of an absence, but it is not that of
This is the Gerti o f Montales Carnevale di Gerti, from his Le occasioni collection. See Montale, Tutte le poesie, 124-26. ogni volta che lei girapagina io sfoco Timmagine, piegando gli occhi verso Tintemo, verso il naso o la bocca. Aspetto cosf che lei dica qualcosa. Dice sempre qualcosa a proposito delle foto che abbiamo davanti, anche se ognuna ha una sua piccola didascalia scritta a china bianca. Eccolo, il foglio diventa una specie di guazzo scuro, moltiplicato e indistinto; in certi momenti, per lo sforzo, sento una vibrazione opaca nelle orecchie
139

14?

Sekula, The Body and the Archive, 344.

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the absent photographic subject. Rather, he is concerned with the absence of writingan unrepresentable silence. This interpretation is supported by the protagonists willingness to look at photographs of subjects other than Bazlen. For example, when it is clear from Gertis descriptions that the photograph is not of Bazlen, the narrator looks at them; photographs of Montale, of Gertis husbands, of other men she knew. When she does not speak, he does not risk looking, and when she makes a generic remark, he focuses very slowly. Every time she says II poeta (the poet) he relaxes and focuses, knowing that it must be Montale. He describes him in the photographs as almost always turned, or with eyes lowered or raised; he looks away as though somewhere else a small, reparable disaster has just taken place (64).''*^ This description seems to imply something about Montales character, but the ambiguity of photographic information is emphasized by the way in which the protagonist is both curious and disquieted to find that he cannot decide whether or not Gerti was beautiful from looking at her photographs. This kind of doubtful evidence is further emphasized when she shows him another photograph famously connected to Montale: I hear her say: Legs worthy of a poem. I dont know whether to look. I look. Theres just one photograph in the middle of the page. The background is indistinct, the image framed from the waist down. Two legs in white stockings, ending in equally white shoes with low heels emerge from the pleated skirt. Its an almost perfectly abstract image. The legs are long and very beautiful, as though traces by the stockings. I read beneath the photo. Dora Markus is written there. (64-65)'^ '^ This is the photograph that Bazlen sent Montale, telling him that he should write a poem in honor of Dora Markus because of her beautiful legs, yet as Gerti tells the protagonist, Doras beautiful legs were belied by her worn face (65). Montale never met Dora, but the

quasi sempre girato, o con gli occhi bassi, o alti; guarda come se da unaltra parte fosse appena successo un piccolo, riparabile disastro. Sento dire: Gambe per una poesia. Non so se guardare. Guardo. Ce una sola fotografia al centro del cartoncino. Lo sfondo e indefinito, Iinquadratura dalla vita in giu. Dalla gonna plissettata escono due gambe in calze bianche, e finiscono in un paio di scarpe egualmente bianche, a mezzo tacco, E unimmagine quasi perfettamente astratta. Le gambe sono lunghe e molto belle, come ricalcate dalle calze. Leggo sotto la foto. C e scritto DoraM arkus.

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poem (once again, from his Le occasioni) is among his most f a m o u s . T h e photograph is particularly important here because it makes Montales writing present and provides evidence of the kind of way in which Bazlen influenced writers and what they wrote. The protagonist encounters and examines numerous photographs over the course of the novel, including photographs of other authors and poets, and the novel also employs metaphors and similes taken from photography. In the monumental bookstore he goes into in the first chapter, the temple-like quality of the space is emphasized by the way in which a huge photographic image of Saba dominates the interior: very old, tiny, dressed in black, his decisive stride suspended half way, his stick parallel to the leg thrust forward
( 7 ) 146
3

]^Q j.qy

afterwards, the protagonist goes into another bookstore where he finds an

old book on Bazlen: On the cover theres a photograph of the author, as though handcolored: blond, with straight hair pulled back, glasses and a tie, and a circular wrinkle on his neck In a restaurant in Triestes old Jewish ghetto, he finds himself lost in an

opaque laziness of imaginings: about the photo of boxers on the wall or about the Neapolitan owner (11), and after gazing at a French battleship in the port of Trieste, he finds a photograph of it in an old catalogue of ships (46).
148

Arriving in Wimbledon

towards the end of the book, he studies the Polaroids outside a real estate agents, imagining the dark interiors, walled-up chimneys, and the smell of dust and damp (91). Later, he witnesses a house fire in the same neighborhood, and watches a boy take photographs of it, carefully choosing how to frame his shots. When the boy and the other neighbors leave, the narrator uses a photographic metaphor to describe his sense of 145
See Montale, Tutte le poesie, 130-32.

vecchissimo, minute, vestito di nero, il passo deciso sospeso a meta, il bastone parallelo alia gamba slanciato in avanti. Sulla copertina c e una fotografia dellautore, com e colorata a mano: biondo, con i capelli lisci tirati allindietro, gli occhiali e la cravatta, e sul collo una ruga circolare.
148

una pigrizia opaca del fantasticare: sulle foto dei pugili alle pareti o sul gesture napoletano.

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exposure, as he is left alone without any kind of diaphragm next to the woman whose house has been destroyed (105).' ^^ Yet the images that are alive to the protagonist are those of the imagination, either his own or that of other writers, and of sensoiy perception. For example, when he finally meets Ljuba Blumenthal, he describes how There was a m oment.. .in which everything I had imagined up until a second before simply adjusted to reality, with the habitual opportunism of perception (92).^^*^ In another episode, before going to meet a woman writer who was a friend of Bazlens, the protagonist reads a description of how, one evening at the famous Caffe Garibaldi, a famous haunt of Triestine intellectuals, Italo Svevo exclaimed over the woman writers splendid eyes. Waiting for the bus and imagining the woman he is about to meet, the protagonist realizes that A few dozen minutes have passed since Svevos exclamation, and the joumey from the image of a young woman with sparkling eyes to the one I am making for myself now, all that time,
1 Cl

has lasted as long as the wait for several buses (10).

While photography embalms time,

the workings of imagination have the power to compress it. Later during the protagonists visit to the bed-ridden poet one of the nurses who looks after her reads aloud from the blond authors book about the Saturday evenings Bazlen and his friends would spend together at the poets house, looking at works of art, reading poetry or listening to music. As she reads, with the poet herself lying dazed in her bed, the protagonist longs simply to disappear: Ideally I would disappear from here and reappear down in the center of town, far from the background murmuring that comes from the corridor, and from this almost entirely monotonous reading. Now, in the house, it must be another Saturday, and sculptors carrying their sculptures, musicians with their
senza alcun diaframma. 150 ^ m om ento.. .in cui tutto quello che avevo immagmato fine a un secondo prima si e semplicemente adeguato alia realta, con Iabituale opportunismo della percezione. Sono passate poche decine di minuti daUesclamazione di Svevo, e il percorso daHimmagine di una giovane dagli occhi sfavillanti a quella che ora mi vado facendo, tutto il suo tempo, e durato quanto Iattesa di alcuni autobus.

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instruments are arriving. Everyone talks, laughs, and drinks tea; they listen to unpublished prose pieces by Triestines and French poets in French; Giotti recites, comments, and mops his brow, people I dont know come in and place their paintings all around; Giotti reappears and reads Saba, Ungaretti, Montale, and Quasimodo... (17).^^^ Once again, time is telescoped and the protagonist imagines himself present at one of the evening parties at the woman poets house. In these descriptions he affirms the power of imagination and of literature to affect this kind of joumey through space and time. In this context, his refusal to look at photographs of Bazlen seems to imply a rejection of the strange tense of the photograph in which the presence of figures serves as a constant reminder of their absence. In this sense, literature has the ability to function Idee

memory, transporting the reader back in time and bringing the past to life in a way that photographs alone cannot. Talking about the problem of writing a novel about real people, Del Giudice has said: You have to approach memory delicately. Above all in this case, where the fictional characters were at the same time real people. To be able to call them by their real names was a point of strength that gave a kind of guarantee to the novelistic invention. It was a real joumey and a real encounter, an encounter with figures of memory and of the present. And a real encounter with a city that I deliberately wanted to draw out, removing it from historical legend and recounting it instead in its physicality.^^^
152

Lideale sarebbe sparire qui e riapparire giii in centro, lontano dal balbettio di fondo che viene dal corridoio, e da questa lettura quasi sullo stesso tono. Ora, nella casa, devessere un altro sabato, e arrivano scultori portando a braccia le sculture, musicisti con gli strumenti, tutti parlano, ridono e bevono il te; ascoltano prose inedited di triestini e poeti francesi in francese; Giotti recita, commenta e si asciuga la fronte, entrano persone che non conosco e mettono i loro quadri un p o dappertutto; riappare Giotti che legge Saba, Ungaretti, Montale e Quasim odo.. The reference to Giotti is to the poet Virgilio Giotti (pseudonym of Virgilio Schdnbeck), 1885-1957, best known for his Triestine dialect poetry.
153

Barthes, Camera Lucida, 92, 94. See also my discussion o f this in Chapter Two. See my discussion o f this in Chapter Two.

155 memoria bisogna avvicinarsi con delicatezza. Soprattutto in questo caso, dove i personaggi di finzione erano al contempo personaggi reali. Poterli chiamare con i loro nomi anagrafici era un punto di forza che dava una specie di garanzia allinvenzione romanzesca. Era un vero percorso e un vero rapporto, rapporto con figure della memoria e del presente. B rapporto vero con una citta che intenzionaknente ho voluto stanare, tirarla fuori dalla sua leggenda storica e raccontarla invece nella sua fisicitT (Del Giudice, quoted in Roberto Ferrucci, Lo stadio di Wimbledon [Web page] (5 November, 2003 2003 [cited February 3 2004]); available from www.robertoferrucci.eom/archives/000049.html.

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In contrast to Lalla Romano, who, as we saw in Chapter Two, sought to use photographs to provide a sort of guarantee of authenticity, while providing texts to lend them context and life in her La penombra che abbiamo attraversato, Del Giudice relies instead on names to provide a similar kind of guarantee. He rejects the supposed authority of the photograph in favor of a different kind of authenticity, the much older one that connects naming and being. Yet there are numerous episodes that imply a connection to photography, or at least the ubiquity of photographic ways of seeing in our time. For example, looking around the cafe full of elderly men where he has come to meet another of Bazlens old friends, the protagonist imagines the way in which the men look at one another in the face of their shared aging: They must observe each other methodically here, these elderly men; paying attention to the first yielding, to the neck of a shirt that is suddenly a couple of fingers wider, or to a shave that always misses the same point, until the thing, the terrible thing, would be in everyones eyes, no longer directed towards the person concerned but comprehensively around him, like an image blurred in the center. (27)'^^ The simile of the image that is blurred in the center is obviously taken from photography, without which it would be incomprehensible, but the description of the burden of the awareness of aging also recalls what William Henry Fox Talbot, one of the fathers of photography, called the photographs special ability to record the injuries of time.
157

It

also closely echoes M etzs definition of photography as the mirror in which we witness our own aging. This kind of contemplation of aging and death seems also to have concemed Bazlen. The old man with whom the protagonist has come to talk tells him that at the age of
D evesserci unosservarsi metodico qui, tra gli uomini anziani; unattenzione al primo cedimento, a! collo di una camicia improvvisamente piu largo di un paio di dita, o ad una rasatura trascurata sempre nello stesso punto, finche la cosa, la terribile cosa, sarebbe negli sguardi di tutti, non piii diretti verso Iinteressato ma complessivi intorno a lui, come unimmagine sfocata al centro.
157 158

Quoted in Sontag, On Photography, 69. See note 10 above.

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forty-two Bazlen sent him a letter with a little list of those who died or collapsed at his critical age (27-28), and later we read that Bazlen wrote to another friend write and tell me who dies; when everyone is dead I will come back to Trieste (49).^^^ Here the old man goes on to say that he knew that Bazlen wrote, but that this writing of his way always fragmentary.. .he had things but he threw them away. For him, if somethingwasnt sufficiently newor original, it wasnt worth anything. And perhaps this was a problem.^ ^ * ^ In response, the protagonist cites Bazlen as saying that the only value was that of first ness, but that he also said one cant write books any more, I only write footnotes (2 9 )
161

protagonist points out the difficulty of reeoneiling these two statements: its

difficult for there to be a first time if something in general is not possible any more (30).^^^ The old man goes on to say that all the books he receives for review nice ones, too, but most of all a lot of themdiscourage him from writing himself, and that perhaps the same was true of Bazlen, working as he did as a reader for publishing houses (30).^^^ The suggestion is that Bazlens found the posthumous relation to literature inhibiting rather than inspiring, although his writing of fragments also suggests the influence of an aesthetic of fragmentation that can be traced back to photographys impact on the art and literature of the late nineteenth and early twentieth c e n t u r i e s . T h e old man recognizes

con un piccolo elenco di morti o crollati nella sua eta critica Scrivimi i morti, quando saranno tutti morti tornero a Trieste. questo suo scrivere era sempre frammentario [...] A veva le cose ma le scartava. Per lui, se una cosa non era sufficientemente nuova o originale non aveva valore. E questo forse era un problema. primavoltita, non si possono piu scrivere libri, io scrivo solo note a pie di pagina.
162 163

159

e difficile che possa esserci una prima volta se una cosa generalmente non e piu possible. belli anche, ma soprattutto tanti.

See Krauss, The Originality o f the Avant-Garde and Other M odernist Myths, and Claudio Marra, Fotografia e plttura nel Novecento (Milan: Mondadori, 1999).

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that the mystery lies in the the idea of writing and of being in the world behind Bazlens choice, but ultimately claims that he simply does not know the reason for it.'^ This mystery is all the greater for a writer like Del Giudice for whom writing and being are inextricably intertwined. As he put it in an interview: My relation to others took place through a story, a narrative (as a boy I did it out loud), and then even as a little boy I started to w rite.. .its my way of being with other people. Its not a question of writing or not writing, nor of life or literature. For me, it has always been my way of being in the world. Probably its not one of the best ways of being in the world, but its the one that fell to 166 me. The book in fact traces the journeys to Trieste and London that Del Giudice made. He has said that he wrote the book because: I was very curious about the imprint that the character of Roberto Bazlen had left on many people. I was curious.. .and I really did meet them. It was like a sort of journey into the echo left by bodies, the echo left by voices, by powerfully emotional encounters...
1fn

This emphasis on the corporeal and auditory

imprint left by Bazlen once again suggests that a rejection of the fetishizing of the image of the photographic subject lies behind the protagonists rejection the photographic imprints he is offered. At the same time, the protagonist sometimes seems to feel that his vision is somehow mediated or incomplete. In the grip of the disorienting sensation of being in a strange city, he feels the obsession with what others would know to see where I, walking

idea dello scrivere, e dello stare al mondo. II mio rapporto con gli altri e avvenuto attraverso un racconto, una narrazione (da ragazzo lo facevo a voce), e poi anche da ragazzino ho incominciato a scrivere... e il mio modo di stare con gli altri. Non e il problema di scrivere o non scrivere, ne di vita o letteratura. Per me e sempre stato il modo di stare al mondo. Probabilmente non e stato uno dei migliori modi per stare al mondo, pero e quello che a me e toccata (Daniele Del Giudice, Lo stadio di Wimbledon: intervista a cura di Martina Palaskov Begov, Fucine mute 3, no. 26 ( 2 0 0 1 ). Ero molto curioso dellimpronta che, su molte persone, il personaggio, Roberto Bazlen, aveva lasciato. Ero curioso... e li ho veramente conosciuti. Come una sorta di viaggio nelleco lasciato dai corpi, nelleco lasciato dalle voci, dalle conoscenze forti di sentimento.. . (Ibid.).
167

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and looking, see nothing (34).

350

Shortly afterwards, in a bar near the harbor station he

describes the scene as though it were taken from a film: The music has the effect of a soundtrack, it distances everything in a parallel abstraction, and everything becomes an image: the bar, the girl once again behind the counter, the trucks passing swiftly beyond the window, my own being here (35).^^^ Visual effects and distortions continue throughout the novel, for example when the protagonist walks down Wimbledon high street in a daze, until slowly the glazes acquire their true density: the white of the windows, the black of the taxis, the yellow of the signs, the special red of the buses (90). 170 The attention to color

and to details of appearance shows the importance for Del Giudice of visual perception, and helps to explain the combination of attraction and repulsion towards photography implied and at times made explicit in the novel. As in Giulia Niccolais II grande angolo, which I discussed in Chapter Three, Lo stadia di Wimbledon displays a consistent attention to different ways of seeing.
171

For

example, looking up at a French battleship berthed in the port of Trieste, the protagonist imagines one of the midshipmen showing the ship to the two French tourists he has seen

168 Iossessione di quello che gli altri saprebbero vedere dove io, camminando e guardando, non vedo
nulla. La musica ha Ieffetto di una colonna sonora, allontana ogni cosa in unastrattezza parallela, e tutto diventa imagine: il bar, la ragazza di nuovo dietro al banco, i Tir che passano veloci oltre la vetrina, il mio stesso stare qui. gli smalti acquistano la loro vera densita: il bianco delle finestre, il nero dei taxi, il giallo delle insegne, il rosso speciale degli autobus. For example, there are numerous descriptions o f seeing or not seeing through windows, glass, and mirrors, e.g. Bazlen walking into a sheet o f glass (15), the reflection in the train windows (19), the reflection o f the old mans wrinkles in the bar mirror (25). There are also a number o f descriptions o f eyes themselves: for example, the protagonist encounters a woman with huge eyes, come dipinti sul retro degli occhiali (47). Later, he describes the eyes o f the little boy in the train: gli ho visto gli occhi di profile, la pallina trasparente con Tiride piatta, una specie di cartoncino colorato alia base di una bolla di vetro. Mette sempre un leggero brivido vedere che anche dentro gli occhi non c e assolutamente niente (80). 171 170 169

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going aboard, and describing in detail the ships the navigational instrumentation.^^ He thinks of the things he envies the official: His way of concentrating on angle and height, and his habit of considering himself in reference to something. Or his way of seeing: he often makes a sighting, hes accustomed to seeing by collimation. I could envy him his declension from the star, since the star, too, declines [wanes] like a noun. Or his unlimited field, the eye that loses itself at dawn and sunset, the only moments in which the star and the instrument coincide. Most of all I think I would envy him the consistent art of the map. (45)^^ This emphasis on navigation and aids to navigation is important in a novel whose protagonist is searching for ways to orient himself, and who rejects the apparent visual evidence of photography as a means to make sense of his main subject. In one of the protagonists many departures by train from Trieste, he notes that when we pass through the narrow stretch between the rocks and the sea, at the exit from the city, a slash of light dazzles on the window, and for an instant draws the outline of things on the floor. I looked out at the lighthouse, white and monumental: you could imagine the trajectory of that flash out to the eyes on the sea, and how there it would be recognized by its timing, by the type and eolor of the light. The navigator follows the lighthouse continually calculating distance: getting closer to things by constantly measuring how far you are from them is a good method, I believe. (79-80) The image of the light tracing the forms of objects is another reminder of photography, but here the function of light is as a pointera conventional sign rather than an indexical
There is a similar description later on of the navigation o f the airplane that carries the protagonist to London (81-85). Just as he imagined the ships officials reaction to the notion o f shipwreck, he imagines what would happen if the plane were to crash. The fascination with technologies o f sight, measurement and navigation is common to many Del Giudices works. See for example Daniele D el Giudice, Atlante occidentale, 1. ed. (Turin; Einaudi, 1985) and Daniele Del Giudice, Staccando Iom bm da terra (Turin: Einaudi, 1994). The question of defining the truth o f what w e see is also extremely important to him. See Daniele Del Giudice and Marco Nereo Rotelli, Nel museo di Reims, la ed. (Milan: A. Mondadori, 1988). II modo come si concentra sullangolo e sullaltezza, e Iabitudine a considerarsi in riferrmento a qualche cosa. Oppure il modo di vedere: molto spesso traguarda, e abituato a vedere per collimazione. Potrei invidiargli la declinazione dellastro, dato che anche Iastro si declrna come un sostantivo. O il campo illimitato, la perdita d occhlo allalba e al tramonto, gli unici istanti in cui la Stella e lo strumento coincidono. / Piu di tutto credo che gli inviderei Iarte conforme della carta. quando passiamo nel pezzo stretto tra le rocce e il mare, alluscita dalla citta, una sciabolata di luce abbaglia il finestrino, e per un istante disegna a terra i contorni delle cose. Ho guardato fuori il faro, bianco e monumentale: si poteva immaginare la traiettoria di quel lampo fino agli occhi in mare, e come If sarebbe stato riconosciuto dalla periodicita, dal tipo e dal colore della luce. II navigante segue il faro calcolando continuamente la distanza: e un buon modo, credo, quello di avvicinarsi alle cose misurando sempre quanto se ne e lontani.
173 172

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trace.

175

The protagonists desire to find reliable means to navigate the world is

frustrated by the absence of fixed points of reference. The nautical references also serve as a reminder of Bazlens II capitano di lungo corso (The Master Mariner) and the metaphorical implications of the theme of shipwreck. The protagonist quotes one source that claimed that Bazlen was beyond the

book (31) and hints that this in itself might represent a kind of metaphorical shipwreck; shipwreck.. .is already all here, included in the ironic lightness of probability. Why look for it outside, like that master mariner? Why throw away, as he did, everything that exists between the metaphor of the West and socks, all the rest, with which one writes? Perhaps it is also the fact that most of our metaphors end up in the sea, like trash. And then that captain had the problem of how to be on the earth. (46)'^^ The novel suggests that the problem of writing and the problem of how to be on the earth are closely intertwined. Photography in this sense does not provide the information the protagonist seeks, because it cannot represent what Pasolini called the primary human language, that of action itself: inasmuch as it is a relation of reciprocal representation with others and with physical reality. 178 This connects the question of representation and

communication to that of a way of being and behaving. The protagonist describes navigation itself as a good mixture of abstraction and a way of behaving (45), reflecting the attention Del Giudice gives the issue of comportamento, not just in the sense of

Another interesting episode takes place on the train when the narrator sees a small boy playing with a model train, rolling it up and down on the window o f the real train; forse ottiene cosf Iinfantile pienezza di essere dentro qualcosa e continuare a possederla dal di fuori (79). This is a fulfilment that is also offered us by photography, where we are offered the opportunity both to see ourselves within the image and to possess it from outside.
176 177

175

See Roberto Bazlen, II capitano di lungo corso. ed. Roberto Calasso, (Milan: Adelphi, 1973).

oltre il libro, il naufragio.. .e gia tutto qui, compreso nella leggerezza ironica della probability. Perche cercarlo fuori, com e quel capitano di lungo corso? Perche buttare via, com e lui aveva fatto, tutto cio che esiste tra la metafora dellOccidente e i calzini, tutto il resto, con cui si scrive? / Forse e anche il fatto che gran parte delle nostre metafore finiscono in mare, come i rifiuti. E poi quel capitano aveva il problema di come stare sulla terra. Iazione stessa: in quanto rapporto di reciproca rappresentazione con gli altri e con la realta fisica (See note 101 above).
178

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behavior but especially in the sense of a way of being in the world.

17Q

In his final

meeting with Ljuba Blumenthal in Wimbledon, he tells her that: The true behavior in books is a way of behaving when confronted with form. The behavior of someone who writes (117).* This behavior is not something that photography can easily capture. The protagonist tells Ljuba that he is not interested in Bazlen as an eminent reader, as a guru, or a source of anecdotes, since all this.. .is an image (96).* Instead, I m interested in a point where perhaps knowing how to be and knowing how to live intersect. Anybody who writes imagines it in a certain way. But with him in that point there was an
1on

exclusion, a refusal, a silence. I would like to know why (97).

In the blurb he wrote for

the back cover of the first edition of the novel, Calvino wrote that the key question that Del Giudice raises is that of how someone who has established the relation between knowing how to be and knowing how to write as the primary condition of writing can think of influencing others if not in the indirect and implicit way in which literature can teach us how to be.*^ Calvino points out that the protagonist chooses to represent people and things on the page, not because the work counts more than life, but because only by dedicating all his attention to the object, in a passionate relation to the world of things, will he be able to come up with a negative definition of the irreducible kernel of subjectivity, that is, himself. *' As Ferrucci also points out, Del Giudices first novel boldly tackled the

una buona compresenza di astrattezza e comportamento. II vero comportamento che c e net libri e il comportamento di fronte alia forma. II comportamento stesso di qualcuno che scrive.
181 182 180

tutto questo.. .e unimmagine.

Quello che a me interessa e un punto, in cui forse si intersecano il saper essere e il saper scrivere. Chiunque scrive se Iimmagina in un certo modo. Con lui invece in quel punto c e stata unesclusione, una rinuncia, un silenzio. Io vorrei capire perche.
183 184

se non nel modo indiretto e implicito in cui la letteratura puo insegnare a essere.

rappresentare le persone e le cose sulla pagina, non perche Iopera conta piu della vita, ma perche solo dedicando tutta la propria attenzione alloggetto, in unappassionata relazione col mondo delle cose, potra definire in negativo il nocciolo irriducibile della soggettivita, cioe se stesso (Italo Calvino, back cover blurb o f Daniele Del Giudice, Lo stadio di Wimbledon (Turin: Einaudi, 1983).

R ep ro d u ced with p erm ission o f th e copyright ow ner. Further reproduction prohibited w ithout perm ission.

354
question of a deliberate and voluntary silence that negates writing.
1

As we have

seen, the protagonists attempt to explain this silence entails his rejection of photographys silencing, which has been described as the negation of the narrative aspects of writing. 186 In an interview with Ferrucci, Del Giudice commented that it was a question of setting out across the most desertified zone, that of the refusal of writing and the choice of acting in life. You have to cross that desert to put back in motion the action of narration. There was a figure; a character who maintained that you couldnt write books anymore. I only write footnotes, he once said...For me it was a question of writing my first novel, and I wanted to set off from the crossing of that desert in order to emerge in the diametrically opposed position: the strong reprise of narration. Yet within the novel, the closer the protagonist/narrator gets to the object of his research, the harder it is for him to contain the formal demands of representation with the limits of literary narration. In Wimbledon, where he meets with Ljuba, the person who may finally be able to help him resolve the Bazlen mystery, on his last morning he finds himself drawn to Wimbledon Stadium. Inside the stadiums museum, he notes that All the objects are isolated from the passions, in their own perplexity, like photos (112).
188

Sitting inside the

stadium itself, looking out over a deserted tennis court, he thinks confusedly about the final visit to Ljuba he is about to make, his last chance to understand Bazlens silence. But nothing he thinks fits with the view in front of him: I would just like to see and hear; and for the first time, right now, its displeasing not to be able to photograph a view of the

silenzio volontario e intenzionale.


186 187

See my discussion o f photography and narrative in Chapter Four.

zona piu desertica, quella della rinuncia alia scrittura e la scelta di agire nella vita. Bisognava attraversare quell deserto per rimettere in moto il fare della narrazione. Cera una figura, un personaggio che sosteneva che non si possono piu scrivere libri. Io scrivo solo note a pie di pagina, aveva detto un giomo... Per me si trattava di scrivere il primo romanzo e volev