di G.A. Borgese
Entrò a piedi in città. Pranzò solo, senza appetito, in una trattoria dove nessuno lo conosceva, con un giornale appoggiato su un bicchiere come su un leggio; e lo andava leggendo mentre masticava di mala voglia. Il titolo a sei colonne annunciava l’imminenza della guerra, con una specie di gaudio convulso che faceva ballare i precordi per l’incomparabilità dello spettacolo. Anch’egli ne era attratto a suo modo. Sentiva che finalmente qualche cosa di grande accadeva, di molto più grande che non fosse la morte del padre, e ch’era finito lo stagnare dell’acque tra le basse rive. Ma era scosso sino in fondo dalla novità occorsagli negli ultimi momenti passati a Villa Monti. Fino allora la guerra, di cui cupidamente aveva sollecitato la genesi dal giorno dell’assassinio di Seraievo, era per lui una cosa interessante ed estranea, gioco appassionato d’immaginazione e d’intelletto, in cui la Germania, la Russia e tutte le altre stavano simmetricamente in fila pronta scattare di sbieco come i pezzi della partita a dama. Ora, dopo quella contemplazione da un belvedere di stelle, sentiva cupamente che la guerra era cosa degli uomini e sua, e gli bruciava il sangue come una bevanda attossicante trangugiata in fretta. Non era più fuori di lui, la guerra, ma dentro; e i suoi belli e strani colori, una volta assaporata la bevanda, si mutava in agitazione consumante. L’entusiasmo della curiosità si ottenebrava di una foschia, che non era terrore e pietà, ma poteva chiamarsi sbigottimento almeno.
Sebbene fosse indolorito come di battiture, evito il tram ove l’aria chiusa e il fiato umano gli mettevano talvolta quasi voglia di precipitarsi giù in piena corsa. Rincasò tortuosamente scegliendo vie solitarie. Si svestì subito senza accendere, al riflesso del fanale; lasciando cadere ogni cosa a fianco del letto. Dormì dieci ore coi muscoli avvelenati, con la lingua amara e grossa, supino, senza sogni, coi pugni chiusi presso le tempie.
by G.A. Borgese
He made his way into town on foot. He ate lunch with no appetite, alone in a trattoria where no-one knew him, behind a newspaper he had leaned on a glass, like a lectern; and he read while chewing half-heartedly. The six-column headline announced the imminence of war with a sort of convulsive joyousness that pulled at his heart-strings for the incomparability of the spectacle. He too, had been drawn to it somehow. He sensed that something big was finally about to happen, something much bigger than the death of his father, and that the waters would no longer stagnate within the shallow banks. But he was shaken deeply by what had just happened to him in Villa Monti. Until that moment, war, of which, since the day of the assassination in Sarajevo, he had passionately urged the onset, was something interesting and new, a fascinating game of the imagination and the intellect in which Germany, Russian and all the other countries stood symmetrically in rows ready to charge diagonally, like the pieces in a game of checkers. Now, after his contemplation from an observatory of stars, he gloomily understood that war was man’s war, and his, and his blood ran hot like after gulping down an intoxicating beverage. It was no longer outside him, the war, but inside him; and his beautiful and strange colours, after having tasted the drink, were becoming overwhelming tension. His enthusiasm, born of curiosity, was obscured by a cloud, which was neither terror nor compassion, but a sort of consternation.
And although he ached, as though he had been beaten, he avoided taking the tram where the air was heavy and the breath of other humans sometimes made him want to jump off while it was still in motion. He made his way home, zigzagging through secluded streets. He undressed immediately, without turning on the light, in the glow of a street lamp; dropping his things near the bed. He slept ten dreamless hours, on his back, muscles taut, his tongue bitter and thick, his knuckles pressed to his temples.
Translation by ©Matilda Colarossi
«Life is a table full of fine dishes which, since my birth, I have not been allowed to touch. » Filippo Rubè, in Rubè (1921) by Giuseppe Antonio Borgese, from which the excerpt was taken.
This great, almost completely overlooked 20th century author was born in Polizzi Generosa, Sicily. He graduated in literature at the University of Florence in 1903. In his early years he founded several literary reviews, including the Dannunzian Hermes (1904), and worked for newspapers such as Corriere della Sera, La Stampa and Il Mattino. He taught German literature and aesthetics at the universities of Turin, Rome and Milan until 1931 when, under the Fascist regime, he was forced to move to the United States. He was the William Allan Neilson Professor at Smith College from 1932 to 1935 and professor in the Universities of Chicago and California until the end of World War II.
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