Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Ferrara, 1930: coming of age by not coming out

The offshore wind 
would begin 
to wrinkle the water 
in an hour, no sooner. 
If I wanted, there was 
enough time.

But, at that same moment when, looking at that wretched, naked back - suddenly pure, unreachable in its loneliness - I was giving in to these thoughts, something must already have been telling me that while he, Luciano Pulga, was surely able to look it in the face, the whole truth, I wasn't.

Slow to understand, incapable of a single action or a single word, locked to my cowardice and my rancor, I remained the same little, helpless assassin as always.

And as for the door behind which, once again, I was hiding (from him, Luciano, and from my mother as well), I would not find in myself, now or ever, the strength and the courage to fling it open.

I note that we have some brilliant readers, who are interested in "coming of age" stories, and I should imagine that they might even include parents. The subject is not a strong suit of this blog, but there's no blinking its undying power. We make exception, of course, for those who come of age without apparent contemplation of what they are doing; but they, too, are not a strong suit of this blog. What instigates this digression, is that I'm particularly indebted to The Diary of a Wandering Eye for raising the matter in connection with a film treatment of Forster's Maurice, whose publication was not even intended.

It's my unironic feeling that the fiction of Giorgio Bassani ranks with the cinema of his subtle translator, Vittorio de Sica, in likening resistances to coming out of the closet to those in the Jewish community of Ferrara, 1933-1943, to coming out of Italy. It is Bassani's genius to show how a suspension in aesthetics (not always reflecting an obsession with class) can be definitively common to both predicaments; and I have never heard of anybody who was not moved by de Sica's depiction of that debilitation.

In that light, possibly "coming of age" has been a strong suit of this blog since before it was intended. If this is the case, it can only be that coming of age and coming out are plainly not the same thing, even if they mark the same thing: an adjustment that's assimilated before it's embraced. This blog happens to wear illustrations connoting the one condition, for texts which address the other, because while anyone can read Melville, he's more interesting to read in his own lan-guage.


Giorgio Bassani
Behind the Door
William Weaver, translation


  1. bravo for your brave flags of emotions !

  2. I appreciate very much your participation in this posting, Lucien. Flags are easier to post than they should be, of course, but I did wish to align Luciano (the 1st monochrome) with a characterisation which is consistent with Bassani's, because he is one of the two personages in this fragment whom we all know very, very well. The other, the conscious assassin, is a little masterwork of tragedy in fiction, but he is also familiar in life, as goes without saying. This final chapter - indeed, final paragraph - in Bassani's novel has impressed me for a long time; my copy of the text is in its first edition in English, and I got it when I was only slightly older than Luciano, who is in his last year in liceo. That I have found anyone to discuss it with in decades is made possible by my Apple computer. Embraces, Lucien.

  3. Lovely site - have you read the latest translation of Gli occhiali d'oro by Jamie McKendrick? Published by Penguin. Love your site/blog

    1. Thanks for the encouragement and the referral to this translation, which certainly carries a distinguished provenance. Best wishes.