L'uomo con il sole in tasca

With this novel published by Feltrinelli in January 2012 De Marchi seems to have returned to the political engagement that makes itself felt in La malattia del commissario. The main character of this novel also appears here, Luigi Leandri, at that time superintendent of the murder squad in Milan who, at a moment when he sees his pension approaching without any hindrance, is suddenly called to the Central Police of Rome, and asked to find the hideout where a group of terrorists are keeping the Head of Government, kidnapped in a bloody action that seems to repeat the kidnapping of Aldo Moro 40 years earlier.
     In reality the Italy that forms the background of this imaginary scene is present-day Italy, and the president has the unmistakable traits of Silvio Berlusconi. It is he who is the true protagonist, who gradually turns into a character of the novel and, as such, is portrayed «from inside» with the author's favourite technique, the free indirect speech. It is no doubt Cesare De Marchi's merit not to have reduced the man Berlusconi to a figure of fun, as so often happens in most recent political controversy and in the daily press. Instead, De Marchi accentuates the determination and consequence of his character, without which the importance and seriousness of his threat to democracy would be hard to seize.
     The policeman Leandri, a faithful servant of the State, is expected to find and free the kidnapped man, from whom he however feels totally distant: «He disliked him; from the very first moment the undeniable positive aura of confidence, even of sympathy which the man radiated, couldn't overcome his diffidence» (p. 59). Leandri is aware that the very survival of the democratic state is in jeopardy, whether the kidnapped man is freed or murdered. «But now the ghosts of the past, the nauseating arbitrary executions and senseless bloodshed confronted this man», and Leandri's choice cannot be in doubt. The introspective movement of the chapters dedicated to Leandri develops a sort of counterweight, swaying from disconsolate lyricism to the vibrant moralism of a vituperatio patriae. Before his inner eye appear the last decades of Italian history which then return again and again in the course of the narration.
     The third figure of the novel is represented by the terrorists: hence a new glance at the facts: the leader of the group, the older Luca, then young Mario and the beautiful but irascible Cecilia. In a claustrophobic atmosphere they pressurize the abducted man with massive interrogations. But at no moment do they get the upper hand because their opposite defends himself with indomitable obstinacy by successfully trying to sow mistrust among them. Perhaps the decisive moment of this development is the attempt of the President to flatter the chief terrorist when he brings him coffee in his cell: «You know what, I regret not being able to see your face, you seem to me to be the most capable member of the group. If you should change your ideas any time, come and see me! I think we could be of use to each other. I may have many failings but I am certainly not unforgiving!» (p.146). Their conversation intertwines skillfully with the inner monologue of the terrorist, who with a brusque gesture dissimulates his own fragility.
     In such a narrative construction the author could only express his point of view indirectly, namely in the terrorists' reproach that the prisoner had contradicted his own political principles. Nor can his sarcastic reaction («I had not suspected a similar attachment to the Constitution among the Red Brigades... No doubt that is why they called themselves "new"», p. 127) deceive the reader as to the meaning and function of this and other interrogations and discussions or even the author's attitude.
     The very last heated pages of the book describe the precipitation of the situation, leaving the reader breathless right up to the last line.

© 2019 Cesare De Marchi

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