Erri de Luca traces a Naples without artistic beauty and “where fools died as children” | Culture



There are cities so literary that, even if we do not visit them, we know them as our own, intimate and familiar territory, because literature and cinema have done so much for them that no travel agency will ever be able to surpass the offer of evocation. One of them is Naples, an intense, noisy city, as cultivated as it is eroded by the wear and tear of a history recorded not only in its stones, in its monuments and its forums, but in beautiful pages like those that Erri de Luca has just published under the qualification Napatrid. Return to Naples (Peripheral).

We knew a lot about Naples thanks to Elena Ferrante, who drew us in her tetralogy Two friends some neighborhoods where you can find a father throwing his daughter out of the window if she rebels. There was also a most natural launch from the balcony. The gold of Naples, by Vittorio de Sica, a film that combines astonishing stories of classism, pride and noise, in which a very young Sophia Loren, also the protagonist of Yesterday Today and Tomorrow, another look in a more cheerful key of the city, or of Italian-style marriage, with Marcello Mastroianni. Other films, such as I will Always Love You, with Ingrid Bergman running around under Rossellini, or The four days of Naples, about the epic resistance in war, they have also painted us an indomitable, vital city, of survival above all and beyond any rule. Without forgetting the most recent Gomorrahthe work of Roberto Saviano, also made into a film, which has cost him perpetual exile.

De Luca, born in 1950, had left us abundant glimpses of his hometown in books such as The day before happiness, but it is in Napatrid where he focuses on drawing the deepest, poetic yet dry and personal portrait of the city. It is a book where both the setting and the author’s relationship with it matter.

The poet who was a bricklayer or truck driver remembers well the smell of sulfur from which he fled at the age of 18 after a childhood that he endured, he says, “like a quarantine.” Also the severity of a father, the harsh and merciless treatment of the teacher, the haste, the gestures, the density of a city that he calls “intensive care” and “where fools died as children.”

“I have written in narrow and uncomfortable places because I come from the dense humanity of a crowded city,” he says. “Neither barred doors nor windows saved us from the sound of fights, arguments, meals, cisterns, parties, mourning, other people’s insomnia.”

From all this he fled to work with his hands and strength, building walls in the works he found and also sculpting words until he created a work of dozens of books that has grown in public and critical appreciation. And as he walked away from there, he says, “the city was getting under my skin like those fishing hooks that, once they enter the wounds, travel through the body, inextricable.”

He also returned, of course, Luca tells us, to hug a father who “spoke in Neapolitan again while he was dying.” “I can’t even die, he told me one morning when he was leaving a night when he spent hitting the end without being able to hole it.” And he was silent, he says, “if there are silences in Neapolitan.” He also returned for love, that of a woman who was waiting for her sandpaper hands with her delicate skin, but it was not enough to tie him back to her earth. In his book there is also post-war, there is Maradona, there is pasta, there is sea, there are sounds, there are smells, there are traces.

There are no monuments, museums or churches, there is no artistic beauty in this travel guide by Erri de Luca because, as he assures, “napatrid “He is the one who has scraped his origins from his body to give himself to the world.” And what remains in it is the smell of fireplaces, coal stoves, pots with remains of blackened tomato and clothes washed in the street. The taste of burnt tar, the salty oxygen of the port and the calcium sulfate of gypsum, the dust of work.

The right of citizenship has prescribed, says De Luca, at least his own. But, prescribed or not, the author demonstrates that Naples, in short, does have someone who writes to it.

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