let's rediscover it to overcome our sense of emptiness - Corriere.it

let's rediscover it to overcome our sense of emptiness - Corriere.it


We publish the speech by Giovanni Bazoli, president emeritus of Casa Manzoni, on the occasion of the visit of president Sergio Mattarella to the house museum, in Milan, for the 150th anniversary of the novelist's death

Mr President, your presence here today is a tribute to one of the key figures in our history. Alessandro Manzoni lived for sixty years in this house which witnessed affections, joys and sorrowsbut also a laboratory of thought and very high poetic intuitions.

Manzoni traditionally placed in the canon of Italian literature centrally located next to Dante, because his work has made a decisive contribution to the construction and dissemination of the Italian language. And language was a decisive factor in national unification.

The betrothed
the great historical novel, the model par excellence of the unitary language, on which generations of Italians have learned to write and think. Almost a secular Bible, in which Italians of all social levels and of all faiths recognized themselves or in any case mirrored them. Here, in this house, an excited Giuseppe Verdi met the author he admired and almost revered on 30 June 1868, to whom he would later dedicate the immortal Requiem.

Manzoni was a reference figure in various phases of our national history. In Brescia, the Alessandro Manzoni student association, founded in 1909, brought together young people eager to feed on the writer's teaching, which appeared to them capable of reconciling national sentiment, religious faith, the value of conscience. The fifteen-year-old young Giovan Battista Montini, the future Paul VI, enrolled in it, who during Fascism would form the ruling class that in the middle of the last century contributed to the foundation of republican democracy.

However, it cannot be ignored that during the course of the twentieth century Manzoni's magisterium weakened. Of course, authoritative writers, such as Gadda, Sciascia, Primo Levi, Calvino, continued to consider Manzoni as a polar star. But indisputable that during the second half of the 20th century, interest in Manzoni's work progressively declined. For what causes? Due to the change in the cultural climate, due to the conflicting judgments expressed by some authors (from Gramsci to Moravia), due to the sliding of his work into a gray area in which the reading of the great novel became compulsory in schools, while outside was it overlooked?

Leaving these questions open, I mean here draw attention to the circumstances and reasons that seem to indicate the reactivation of an interestboth literary and civil and moral, towards Manzoni's work.

This re-emergence, after a long karst flow, attention for Manzoni is a completely recent novelty. The occasion was the dramatic juncture of the pandemic.

It was 26 February 2020 when, with the lockdown not yet proclaimed, the principal of a scientific high school in Milan, first of all, wrote a letter to his students inviting them to read Alessandro Manzoni, specifically chapters 31 and 32 of the Betrothed: In those pages, he warned, there is already everything: the idea of ​​the danger of foreigners, the violent clash between the authorities, the spasmodic search for the so-called patient zero, the contempt for the experts, the hunt for the infectors, the uncontrolled rumors, the most absurd remedies, the health emergency.

Also in this case, as in Manzoni's seventeenth century, Milan was an outpost of suffering severely hit by an invisible enemy. In such a dramatic situation that principal was able to immediately identify in literature, and in science, route indicators to navigate the storm.

therefore in Italy wounded by Covid that Manzoni finds many of the so-called common readers, who rediscover it as their own heritage. Indeed, Manzoni is incomparable in describing the presence of evil and corruption in human history. A sense of universal catastrophe hovers in many pages of the Betrothed — even if the rawest representations are found in the Fermo and Luciaa work of a more marked Jansenist approach - involving not only the faults of men, in the misfortunes and mourning they bring with them, but even nature (Brberi Squarotti).

Publishing, an antenna ready to pick up the signals of the contemporary world, has perceived this new attention to Manzoni and, thanks to the expiry of the anniversary of his death, has reprinted significant texts from the past and has published works by new authors not belonging to the academy, n to the circle of literary insiders. Plus the recent publication in America of the new translation of the Betrothedcost more than ten years of work to Michael Moore, former translator of Primo Levi, was greeted with admiration by critics overseas, Wall Street Journal understood, and has produced the online birth of novel reading circles.

This is what is happening: today's man once again feels the need to know the outcomes - the poetic and the existential ones, the resolved ones and the problematic ones - of the great research that occupied Manzoni's entire life and which is at the center of his his work: research on justice and human history, that is, on justice that is not realized in human history. In extreme terms: earthly justice considered impossible. A pessimism that Manzoni expressed in a radical way in History of the infamous column.

A fellow citizen of mine - whom you, President, have known and esteemed - Mino Martinazzoli, dedicated acute reflections, as a criminal lawyer, to the History of the infamous columncoming to define Manzoni a great Italian solitaireimpolitic not because he was ignorant of Machiavelli, but because he was unable to understand a power disjointed from moral reasons.

The presence of evil in human history (great history of peoples and small history of individuals), i.e. of dominance of the strong and wicked over the humble and honestat the center of Manzoni's reflections and also the almost nagging thread of the novel.

But the pathos of this meditation greatly enhanced by thequestion whether this human condition can be reconciled with trust in divine Providence. The presence of evil in the world in fact requires the believer to reflect not only on human justice but also on divine justice.

In Manzoni we find terrible words in this regard (far from prudence and calculation, far from the champion of apologetic rhetoric!). The meek Manzoni raises this cry: Thought finds itself horribly led to hesitate between two blasphemies which are two delusions: to deny Providence or to accuse it.

The greatness of Manzoni is manifested precisely in the fact of investigate evil and injustice in history from two opposing visions: the secular and rational one (pessimistic, almost desperate) and the religious one (which conceives of Providence as a universal order that includes time and eternity).

Manzoni's tormented itinerary leads to a mystery in which believers and non-believers can recognize each other. Returning to this house, we warn the comfort of a loud and inspired voice, which helps us overcome the sense of emptinessdue to the lack of ideal references, which characterizes the world in which we live.

May 22, 2023 (change May 22, 2023 | 5:52 pm)

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