La vocazione

This novel, published by Feltrinelli in January 2010, reveals a number of special themes within de Marchi's production that have not escaped the notice of attentive critics. Compared with the other novels, the narration moves on faster and more plainly, although complex approaches are here, too, blended in the narrative flow virtually unnoticed. The plot consists of just a few characters, almost without any secondary figures, blending its components step by step into a unity which, in the main episode, comprises the entire second section of the novel. Thus, in the first section of the the novel, the time structure does not follow the normal course of before-and-after, but revolves in a spiral around the protagonist, gradually viewing him from all sides.
     He fries chips in a snack-bar during the night shift so as to be able to sit in the library mornings and early afternoons to reconstruct past events and to interpret them. He also succeeds in developing a theory of history, according to which social changes are the product of a terrible «intolerance of any insecurity». This intolerance pushes people towards a desperate attempt to «nail down the world in its present immobile and hence tranquilizing state». On occasion his heated imagination conjures up a vision of the encounter between Attila and Pope Leo, or the mysterious death of Charles XII of Sweden.
     His friend Giuseppe is Luigi's sole intellectual companion, a witty teacher suffering from a hereditary disease. This he is trying to forget in flirting with younger and younger women. Luigi demonstrates his vitality in nightly embraces with a waitress in the snack-bar, Antonella, the single mother of a delicate child, to whom Luigi cannot refuse his affection. But her proposal to share his flat infuriates him because living together means renouncing his life's vocation. The turning point of the novel comes with Luigi's attempt to unravel a knot of his life in a single act with which he risks all he has and is. He will kidnap a little child, demanding a ransom from the family, but reality becomes more and more confused in his mind, whose darkness is lit up by very few flashes: the suicide of his friend Giuseppe and his intuition of something like a universal genetic destiny.
     Although the author, in this novel as in almost all the other novels, makes use of indirect free speech, his style gets more rapid and more fluent, though without sacrificing any of its elegance. The sentence docilely plies itself to the narration, shortening or contorting, distending or accelerating. In this way, the author succeeds unambiguously in presenting in a like number of pages entire years of Luigi's life (chap.1-6) and the few days and weeks of his breakdown (chap. 7-10.)
     Some critics have detected a semantic proximity between the title of the novel of 1997 Il Talento and La Vocazione. No doubt this proximity exists. But while Luigi Martinotti's vocation is authentic, translating into a courageous choice of life, though always «on the verge of obsession», the vocation of Carlo Marozzi, the first-person narrator of Il Talento, turns out to be nothing but a mere assertion without substance, a lightheaded refusal of moral engagement, and in this respect it is irrelevant that both protagonists on their various paths (also stylistically) are doomed to failure.

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