She wrote, in the last pages, of feeling all the evil of the neighborhood around her. Rather, she wrote obscurely, good and evil are mixed together and reinforce each other in turn. Marcello, if you thought about it, was really a good arrangement, but the good tasted of the bad and the bad tasted of the good, it was a mixture that took your breath away. A few evenings earlier, something had happened that had really scared her. Marcello had left, the television was off, the house was empty, Rino was out, her parents were going to bed. She was alone in the kitchen washing the dishes and was tired, really without energy, when there was an explosion. She had turned suddenly and realized that the big copper pot had exploded. Like that, by itself. It was hanging on the nail where it normally hung, but in the middle there was a large hole and the rim was lifted and twisted and the pot itself was all deformed, as if it could no longer maintain its appearance as a pot. Her mother had hurried in in her nightgown and blamed her for dropping it and ruining it. But a copper pot, even if you drop it, doesn't break and doesn't become misshapen like that. "It's this sort of thing, " Lila concluded, "that frightens me. More than Marcello, more than anyone. And I feel that I have to find a solution, otherwise, everything, one thing after another, will break, everything, everything.
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I feel no nostalgia for our childhood: it was full of violence. Every sort of thing happened, at home and outside, every day, but I don't recall having ever thought that the life we had there was particularly bad. Life was like that, that's all, we grew up with the duty to make it difficult for others before they made it difficult for us.
I believe that books, once they are written, have no need of their authors. If they have something to say, they will sooner or later find readers; if not, they won't... I very much love those mysterious volumes, both ancient and modern, that have no definite author but have had and continue to have an intense life of their own. They seem to me a sort of nighttime miracle, like the gifts of the Befana, which I waited for as a child... True miracles are the ones whose makers will never be known... Besides, isn't it true that promotion is expensive? I will be the least expensive author of the publishing house. I'll spare you even my presence.
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The most difficult achievement is the capacity to see oneself, to name oneself, to imagine oneself. If in daily life we use ideologies, common sense, religion, even literature itself to disguise our experiences and make them presentable, in fiction it's possible to sweep away all the veils-in fact, perhaps, it's a duty.
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I liked to discover connections like that, especially if they concerned Lila. I traced lines between moments and events distant from one another, I established convergences and divergences. In that period it became a daily exercise: the better off I had been in Ischia, the worse off Lila had been in the desolation of the neighborhood; the more I had suffered upon leaving the island, the happier she had become. It was as if, because of an evil spell, the joy or sorrow of one required the sorrow or joy of the other; even our physical aspect, it seemed to me, shared in that swing.
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On the page was exactly what I had written, but it was clearer, more immediate. The erasures, the transpositions, the small additions, and, in some way, her handwriting itself gave me the impression that I had escaped from myself and now was running a hundred paces ahead with an energy and also a harmony that the person left behind didn't know she had.
I pretended to be interested in their secret undertaking, but in fact I was very sorry about it. Although the two siblings had involved me by choosing me as their confidant, it was still an experience that I could enter only as witness: on that path Lila would do great things by herself, I was excluded. But above all, how, after our intense conversations about love and poetry, could she walk me to the door, as she was doing, far more absorbed in the atmosphere of excitement around a shoe?... What did I care about shoes. I still had, in my mind's eye, the most secret stages of that affair of violated trust, passion, poetry that became a book, and it was as if she and I had read a novel together, as if we had seen, there in the back of the shop and not in the parish hall on Sunday, a dramatic film.
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At the ponds that evening I said to Antonio: "It's always been like that, since we were little: everyone thinks she's bad and I'm good." He kissed me, murmuring ironically, "Why, isn't that true?" That response touched me and kept me from telling him that we had to part. It was a decision that seemed to me urgent, the affection wasn't love, I loved Nino, I knew I would love him forever. I had a gentle speech prepared for Antonio, I wanted to say to him: It's been wonderful, you helped me a lot at a time when I was sad, but now school is starting and this year is going to be difficult, I have new subjects, I'll have to study a lot; I'm sorry but we have to stop. I felt it was necessary and every afternoon I went to our meeting at the ponds with my little speech ready. But he was so affectionate, so passionate, that my courage failed and I put it off.
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Certainly something had happened to me during the night. Or after months of tension I had arrived at the edge of some precipice and now I was falling, as in a dream slowly, even as I continued to hold the thermometer in my hand, een as I stood with the soles of my slippers on the floor, even as I felt myself solidly contained by the expectant looks of my children. It was the fault of the torture that my husband had inflicted. But enough, I had to tear the pain from memory, I had to sandpaper away the scratches that were damaging my brain.
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Adults, waiting for tomorrow, move in a present behind which is yesterday or the day before yesterday or at most last week: they don't want to think about the rest. Children don't know the meaning of yesterday, or even of tomorrow, everything is this, now: the street is this, the doorway is this, the stairs are this, this is Mamma, this is Papa, this is the day, this the night.
Lila was able to speak through writing; unlike me when I wrote, unlike Sarratore in his articles and poems, unlike even many writers I had read and was reading, she expressed herself in sentences that were well constructed, and without error, even though she had stopped going to school, but-further-she left no trace of effort, you weren't aware of the artifice of the written word. I read and I saw her, I heard her. The voice set in the writing overwhelmed me, enthralled me even more than when we talked face to face; it was completely cleansed of the dross of speech, of the confusion of the oral; it had the vivid orderliness that I imagined would belong to conversation if one were so fortunate as to be born from the head of Zeus and not from the Grecos, the Cerullos.
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It's only and always the two of us who are involved, she who wants me to give her what nature and circumstances kept, I who can't give what she demands; she who gets angry at my inadequacy and out of spite wants to reduce me to nothing, as she has done with herself, I who have written for months and months to give her a form whose boundaries won't dissolve, and defeat her, and calm her, and so in turn, calm myself.