Nove storie storiche

These nine stories, published by Il Saggiatore in 2013, were written during a period lasting more than twenty years. Originally conceived by the author as a preliminary work for a novel of ample proportions (to this day still unwritten), they have an obvious common character giving life to a coherent and articulate narrative structure. The nine stories, in fact, are placed in Genoa, the author's native city, and develop against a background of historical facts dating from the 16th to the 20th century, their numbers growing the closer they approach the present day. Thus the 16th century has only one story (taking place during the famous plot of the Fiesco family in 1547), and the following 17th century also has only one, with its scenario of the disastrous naval bombardment of the town ordered by Louis XIV in 1684. The 18th century has just one as well, treating the popular uprising of 1746 against Austrian occupation during the Austrian war of succession. But two stories deal with the 19th century, the first with the Risorgimento and the second dedicated to emigration oversea. Finally the 20th century has four stories, the first dealing with World War I, the second with the aftermath of WW II, the 1968 youth revolt and in the end the overthrow of the traditional political parties following a succession of trials for corruption in 1992. The language adapts easily to each historical situation, notably in the dialogues which intertwine with the voice of the narrator without ruptures. In this way Bombe is characterized by amusing baroque colourings, whereas Patrioti is distinguished by forceful eloquence without rhetorical twists.
     As is usual with De Marchi, none of these stories is conducted according to «objective» ways of the omniscient narrator, but always from the point of view of this or that literary figure, using the technique of free indirect speech - as if to underline that the protagonists here are not the great historical events but their victims; whether these persons are looking for a way to escape or are striving (like the Ruffini brothers and Mazzini, like the aspiring volunteers of WW I, or the young idealist of 1968) to influence the course of history. In some cases the plot borders on farce, as in Bombe, where a doctor tries to remedy the impotence of the medecine of his time by inventing a curious therapy for sane people; on other occasions, however, a poetic flight from reality seems to take effect, or to lead to inevitable disaster. But, even in cases where individuals surrender, the thread of life still continues uninterrupted via the indifferent process of History.
     Certainly, the novel that the author has had in mind for years, is no traditional historical novel, and the tenor of these stories reveals their individual, completely subjective character. This novel does not seem to us to intend to move its plot and its protagonists from a point in the past towards the present, but to drag its figures (or perhaps one single figure including them all) from a present chosen as an arbitrary fixed point, backwards towards a past that is more and more blind and narrow.

© 2019 Cesare De Marchi

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