Table of Contents
Capitolo 3
Human responses
Song of an Italian who got lost in his pavilion
Capitolo 3: Human responses

Song of an Italian who got lost in his pavilion

I walk among the stones of this land unable to be read, or as I would wish it to be read. As I would wish that geography were really handwriting

Gianluigi Ricuperati

I got lost in the night of the comets; but they are not real comets, they are comets guided by our hand. I got lost in a land with too many dimensions, a landscape gutted and incinerated by burning mirrors. In the night I got lost Italy became a geographical installation. I was in love with a woman and I got lost somewhere. I got lost somewhere and the only thing I remember is the perceptible texture of her skin’s pH, the precise assault on the papillae and nostrils, everything. We were reading Machado, dreaming of the hills and the visual rod that separates the Delirium of a Knight from Spain. We were reading the thoughts of Leopardi, who defines almost everyone as a brigand. We were reading about James Ballard and the Sino-Japanese war, or James Salter and the Korean War, just some of the many wars that had driven nails into our brains. We were walking in a wilderness that looked like a brain scattered with nails.

When I say I got lost, I do not mean to use a metaphor. It is all physical. Literal. Strange that to indicate when something is true, one uses the adjective “literal”. As if the body of things were made of letters, and to really come close to touching it were to brush against the foreign outline of a series of signs. And yet I keep asking myself: what happened before I got here? Because I can’t remember the way, what I did, who I am. Precisely because of a simple observation: something must have happened. Before. I’m not old enough to get sick of these things. I am 44.

Suddenly I remember phone numbers, and I do so with micrometric precision. 0177 33 21 50.

The number belonged to my best friend when I was twenty. His name was Filippo.

Suddenly, no less, from one moment to the next, I saw my phone, a talismanic rectangle capable of anything light or dark, turn into a pistol. I was in the street. Christmas shopping. The same thing was happening to all the humans I was surrounded by in the flow of the moment, under the flickering Christmas lights in the cities. White, led, vermillion, alabaster, bright emerald green and again diffuse yellow. And below, hundreds of telephones suddenly turned into revolvers. A jump backwards. Gunshots. Screams. Cars braking without warning and swerving into the cars in front of them. Objects leaping from their hands, like insects found in a pocket. There are piles of dust that pass themselves off as “landscape”. Another phone number came back to mind, maybe it has something to do with what happened and the reason I am here lost on a piece of land I don’t know. I go on. I walk a bit, I don’t remember what to say when you do a bit of street, all I can think of is the word “glass”. Night. I did a few glasses. I did four glasses forward. The wardrobe measures three glasses. What does glass mean? I have shivers. The atomic sun is still high. I feel a strange pincer spread in my stomach and lower throat, where all the internal chorus is: perhaps eat? There are blades of grass, these I recognise. Can I eat blades of grass? I try. I’m sick. Not vomit, just an intimation of payment for vomit. A shudder. They don’t eat. A few more glasses. The floor may creak. The floor is dirt. Stones. Pebbles. I’m lost somewhere, and I don’t know much more.

There are very distant noises, even if it all sounds like a lisergo, like the lisergo of the Gobi, I remember, or like the lisergo of the Sahara, I remember, or like the lisergo of the Sahel. Now I know what hunger is, even if it is colder here, not warmth like that I associate with the distant sensations perhaps of when I was a boy and went to a place of prayer with my mother, and there they collected offerings for black-skinned children very different from me, and the sentence I remember is the name of the place where they lived, or died it would be better to say: the Sahel. An aspiration. I go on but I feel my legs dripping with something, I pull up my trousers, and they are full of wounds, blood starts, blood oozes, but who could have given me these dragons, these scratches, not these dragons? Who reduced me to this? Who brought me here?

I remember. Before losing consciousness, before losing everything, I was on a road, on a street, walking, and in front of me was a little girl, she must have been six or seven years old.

She was gliding on her scooter along the pavement, that segment that separates the part you walk on from the part where cars stop or park.

The girl was panting a little. She was looking ahead. She looked to the side. She looke at a car. In the car, her father, the window down, was shouting COME ONE, soft come on, again, GO, what are you doing, you idiot, STOP. Then again, STOOP. With so many Os anchored to the gold of the shout, that fragment of voice in the throat that if it were a mine to dig you’d get rich. I suddenly remember, as I walk among the stones of this land unable to be read, or as I would wish it to be read. As I would wish that geography were really handwriting; that the world really was like a book. There. I remember, like a laugh in the theatre of the mind’s sounds, that I used to do the opposite of a dangerous job: I used to sell rare books to people sick of rare books. And now I am here, lost somewhere, boned by the civilisation of lines and pictures and small windows to which I am accustomed. Why did I end up here? I don’t remember that. How strange. How heart-breaking. They stick out like weapons in the arms of a people in revolt, these fragments of how it was, how I ended up here. Yet I am not dead. I am proud. I am wounded. I walk. In my own way I feel good. It must be twenty degrees, my watch is not far off, because the clouds filter out the afternoon sun and it is probably not that far off five in the afternoon.

But it was winter. It was a peevish planet. It’s warm here. The planet got peeved.

Gianluigi Ricuperati

Gianluigi Ricuperati (1977) is a writer, essayist and editor. He has published four novels, five essays and edited various catalogues in Italy and abroad. His publishers include Feltrinelli and Gallimard. He has directed the Domus Academy. He was curator of the Ukraine pavilion at the 23rd Milan Triennale. He edits Nova Express international magazine and agency. His book A cosa serve l’arte written with Hans-Ulrich Obrist, is soon to be published by Marsilio.