Illuminations from Pier Paolo Pasolini

The magazine Ballast regularly gathers together citations of authors under the generic designation of an abécédaire.  We share below, in translation, their most recent “alphabet text”, from the work of Pier Paolo Pasolini.

His assassination in 1975 made the poet a myth; let us pass over this. What did Pasolini the man desire? “Throw your body into the fight,” he said a decade earlier. He who thought that “only communism was able to provide a new true culture”, capable of interpreting “the of whole existence”, bequeaths us a most dense literary, poetic and cinematographic work. Pasolini, a good client of the courts (for “obscenity” or “outrage to religion”), thus stepped forward as a fierce and melancholy critic of mercantile, productivist and capitalist modernity. Looking back, in twenty-six letters, on the thought of the Italian artist.

Abattre [to strike down]: “I have the nostalgia for the poor and true people who fight to bring down this boss, without becoming that boss. (Interview with Furio Colombo, La Stampa, November 8, 1975)

Bourgeoisie: “I harbor a visceral, deep, irreducible, hatred against the bourgeoisie, against its sufficiency, its vulgarity; a mythical hatred, or, if you prefer, religious.” (Interviews with Pier Paolo Pasolini, with Jean Duflot, Pierre Belfond Publishing, 1970)

Consolation: “When I was a child, the bourgeoisie, at the most delicate moment of my existence, excluded me: it put me on the list of reprobates,of other people [allusion to his homosexuality, ed]: and I can not forget it anymore. It left me with a feeling of offense, precisely, the perception of an evil: the same that a black man must have when he walks on Fifth Avenue. It is not a pure coincidence that, driven out of the center of the cities, I found consolation in their suburbs.”(Heretical Empiricism, Garzanti, 1972)

Division: “For: as long as man exploits man, as long as mankind is divided into masters and slaves, there will be neither normality nor peace. This is the reason for all the evil of our time. […] From this division comes tragedy and death. (The Rage, Nous, 2014)

Église [The Church]: “The Church can only be reactionary; the Church can only be on the side of power; the Church can only accept the authoritarian and formal rules of society; the Church can only accept hierarchical societies in which the ruling class guarantees order; the Church can only hate every form of thought that is even only timidly free; the Church can only be opposed to any anti-repressive innovation […]; the Church can only act completely outside the teachings of the Gospel; the Church can only make practical decisions by formally referring to the name of God, and sometimes even forgetting to do so; the Church can only impose hope verbally, because her own experience of human actions forbids her to nourish every kind of hope; the Church can only (to refer to current issues) consider as eternally valid and paradigmatic its concordat with fascism.” (Écrits corsaires, Flammarion, 1976/2009)

Fin [End]: “I love life fiercely, desperately. And I believe that this ferocity, this despair, will bring me to my end. I love the sun, the grass, youth. The love of life has become a vice in me more tenacious than cocaine. I devour my existence with an insatiable appetite. How will all of this end? I do not know. (“Tete-a-tete with Pier Paolo Pasolini”, Louis Valentin, Lui, April 1970)

Gigolos: “Upon my comrades of the underworld / upon my comrade gigolos / upon my unemployed comrades / upon my comrades of maneuvers / I write your name / freedom!” (The Rage, Nous, 2014)

Harlem: “In the United States, during my very brief stay, I lived for several hours in the clandestine climate of struggle, of revolutionary urgency, of hope that was that of Europe in 1944 and 1945. […] I followed a young black trade unionist who led me to the section of his movement, a small movement that only counts in Harlem a few hundred members – and who fights black unemployment; I followed him to one of his comrades, a mason who had had an accident at work and who welcomed us lying on his poor bed, with the smile of friend, accomplice and full of the love our resisters had and that we have forgotten. “(Heretical Empiricism, Garzanti, 1972)

Independence of Algeria: “Ah, France, / hatred! / Ah France, / the plague! / Ah, France, / cowardice! / The hatred, the plague, the cowardice / of the one who wants, who is master, who owns! […] People of color, / Algeria returns to its history! (The Rage, Nous, 2014)

Jeunesse [Youth]: “[…] At that time, young people, hardly freed from their uniforms and setting out on the road towards their country and their fields, that they became again the Italians of fifty or a hundred years ago, as before fascism. Fascism had in reality made them puppets, servants, perhaps partly convinced, but it had not really reached them in the depths of their souls, in their way of being. On the other hand, the new fascism, the consumer society, profoundly transformed young people; she touched them in their intimacy, she gave them other feelings, other ways of thinking, of living, other cultural models. It is no longer, as in Mussolini’s period, a superficial regimentation, scenography, but a real regimentation, that stole and changed their soul. Which means, ultimately, that this “consumer civilization” is a dictatorial civilization.”(Article published in L’Europeo, December 26, 1974)

Kibbutz: “These were gods, or the sons of gods,/ who mysteriously fired, /with a hatred that would have caused them to melt chalk mountains, like blood-thirsty husbands, on the invading Kibbutz, / on the other side of Jerusalem … / These beggars, who go away to sleep now, / without shelter, at the end of some suburban meadow. / With their older brothers, soldiers / armed with an old rifle and a pair of mustaches / mercenaries resigned to death forever. / These are the Jordanians, terror of Israel, / those who, in front of me, cry / the ancient pain of the proscribed.” (“The southern dawn”, Poesies, 1953-1964, Gallimard, 1980)

Lucioles [Fireflies]: “At the beginning of the sixties, because of the air pollution and, especially, in the countryside, because of the water pollution (blue rivers and limpid channels), the fireflies began to disappear. It was a violent and rapid phenomenon. After a few years, there were no more fireflies. (“The emptiness of power in Italy”, Corriere della Sera, February 1, 1975)

Monde [World]: “A new problem explodes in the world. Its name is Color. / It’s called Color, the new enlargement of the world. We must integrate the idea of thousands of black or brown children, children with with black eyes and curly hair. / […] Other voices, other looks, other loves, other dances: / everything will have to become familiar and enlarge the earth!” (The Rage, Nous, 2014)

No: “Refusal has always been essential. Saints, hermits, but also intellectuals. The small number of men who made History are those who said no, and not the courtiers and valets of the cardinals. To be effective, the refusal must be great, and not small, total, and not focus on one point or another, an absurd and contrary to common sense point. Eichmann, my dear, had a lot of good sense. What was he lacking? The ability to say no loudly, to the hierarchy, from the beginning, while performing a purely and ordinary administrative, bureaucratic task. Perhaps he told his friends that he did not fancy this Himmler very much. He murmured, as one murmurs in publishing houses, newspapers, in the homes of lower level political leaders and on television. Or he will have protested because this or that train stopped once a day to let the deportees fulfill their needs and take in a little bread and water, while it would have been more functional or economical to plan for two stops . He never stopped the machine.” (Interview with Furio Colombo, La Stampa, November 8, 1975)

Official: “However, I want to say that if I am a Marxist, this Marxism has always been extremely critical of official Communists, especially with regard to the PCI; I have always been a minority outside the Party since my first book of poetry, The Ashes of Gramsci.”(Interviews with Pier Paolo Pasolini, with Jean Duflot, Pierre Belfond Publishing, 1970)

Poetry: “In football, there are exclusively poetic moments: these are the moments when the action leads to the goal. Each goal is always an invention, it is always a disturbance of the code: it always has something of the inevitable, the dazzling, the stupefying, the irreversible. This is precisely what happens with the poetic word as well. The top scorer of a championship is always the best poet of the year.” (“Il calcio “è” in linguaggio coni suoi poeti e prosatori”, Il Giorno, 3 January 1971)

Quand [When]: “When there is nothing left of the classical world, when all of the peasants and craftsmen are dead, when industry has made the cycle of production and consumption turn relentlessly, then our story will be over.” (La Rabbia, 1963)

Reason: “I am not Catholic ideologically and I am not a believer, so I do not see why my rationalization of the irrational must be Catholic, my rationalization is Marxist.” (Cited by René de Ceccatty, Pasolini, Gallimard, 2005)

Société de consommation [Consumer Society]: “The fever of consumption is a fever of obedience to an unspoken order. Everyone, in Italy, feels the degrading anxiety of being like the others in the act of consummation, of being happy, of being free, because that is the order that each one has unconsciously received and to which he “must” obey if he feels different. Never has difference been such a frightful fault, as in this period of tolerance. Equality has not, in fact, been conquered, but is, on the contrary, a “false” equality received as a gift.” (Écrits corsaires, Flammarion, 1976/2009)

Television: “[…] The responsibility of television is enormous, not, of course, as a technical medium, but as an instrument of power and as power itself. Because it is not only a space through which messages circulate, but is also a message-processing center. It constitutes the space where a mentality is realised which, without it, would not know where to house itself. It is through the spirit of television that the spirit of the new power concretely manifests itself. There is no doubt (the results prove it) that television is authoritarian and repressive, as no other means of information in the world has ever been.” (“Challenge to Television Leaders”, Corriere della Sera, December 9, 1973)

Urban: “Without ceasing to live in Rome, I can say that I lived outside the city. Gradually, this attachment became ideology and I came to travel frequently and to love the countries of the Third World, an irreducible earthly love.” (Interviews with Pier Paolo Pasolini, with Jean Duflot, Pierre Belfond Publishing, 1970)

Vampire: “The bourgeois – let’s say it with wit – is a vampire, who is not at peace until he has bitten the neck of his victim for pure, natural and familiar pleasure, to see her become pale, sad, ugly, lifeless, twisted, corrupt, worried, guilty, calculating, aggressive, terrorizing, like him. […] The time has come to recognize that it is not enough to consider the bourgeoisie as a social class, but as a disease; henceforth, to regard it as a social class is even ideologically and politically an error (and that even through the purest and most intelligent instruments of Marxism-Leninism). In fact, the history of the bourgeoisie – by means of a technological civilization, which neither Marx nor Lenin could have foreseen – is about to concretely coincide with the totality of world history.” (“Against Terror”, Tempo, August 6, 1969)

Wagner: “Who gave us – both young and old – the official language of protest? Marxism, poetry and the memory of the Resistance, which revives the thoughts of Vietnam and Bolivia. Why do I regret the official language of protest that the working class, through its bourgeois ideology, has given me? Because it is a language that never forgets the idea of power and is therefore always practical and reasonable. But are not pragmatism and reason the same gods who have made our bourgeois fathers mad and idiots? Poor Wagner and Nietzsche!” (Letter to Allen Ginsberg, October 1967)

XXe siècle [20th century]: “from a horizon of our century, / the entire neighbourhood … It’s the city, / buried in a festive glow, / – it’s the world. What cries, is what / ends, and starts again. What was / field of grass, open space, and which becomes / a courtyard, white as wax.”(“The crying of the excavator “, Poésies, 1953-1964, Gallimard, 1980)

Yeux [Eyes]: “Do not delude yourself. And you, with your schools, with your television, with your quiet newspapers, you are the great conservatives of a horrible order based on possession and destruction. Be happy, you who are happy only when you can stick a label on a crime. To my eyes, this is but one of the many operations of mass culture: being unable to prevent certain events, we find peace by manufacturing custom made drawers, that once filled, are closed immediately.” (Contre la télévision, Les Solitaires intempestifs, 2003)

Zealots: “I have always been astonished and even, to tell the truth, deeply indignant at the clerical interpretation of Christ’s phrase: Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what belongs to God: an interpretation in which is concentrated all of the hypocrisy and the aberration that characterised the Church of the Counter-Reformation. It passed off – however monstrous it may seem – as moderate, cynical, and realistic a statement by Christ which was clearly radical, extremist, and perfectly religious. In fact, Christ could in no way mean to say: please everyone, do not worry about politics, reconcile the advantages of social life with the absolute character of religious life, care for the goat and the cabbage, etc. . […] By posing this extremist dichotomy, Christ pushes and invites an eternal opposition to Caesar, even if it must be non-violent (unlike that of the zealots).” (“Nouvelles perspectives historiques : l’Église est inutile au Pouvoir”, October 6, 1974)

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