For several years now, the word “getaway” has taken on a positive meaning far removed from its original meaning of “delivery,” as bellicose rhetoric would have it. MediterraneanThe Oscar-winning film by Gabriele Salvatores opened more than thirty years ago with a quote from philosopher Henri Laborit (“In times like these, escaping is the only way to stay alive and keep going. dreaming “), taken from his In praise of the escape which dates back to 1976, and ended with an even more explicit stance: “Dedicated to all who flee.”
EscapeRaffaele Mantegazza’s good essay recently published by AnimaMundi Edizioni lists eight types of escape: failure per I from freedom, the escapades in other times, the creative escapades, the sacred ones, the learned ones and finally the remembered ones. In the first category, that of failures, Mantegazza rightly attributes Kafka in relation to Prague, which he considered a tyrannical maternal figure who took him by “mother’s claws.” But the tyrannical mothers of writers, responsible for these failed, or successful but clumsy and hasty leaks, cannot be counted, and often have a name beginning with A, such as the Marquise Adelaide Antici for Giacomo Leopardi, or Adele Lehr for Carlo Emilio Gadda, or Amelia Censi for Giorgio Manganelli, whose tremendous possessiveness forced her son to make a legendary flight to Rome aboard a Lambretta named “Bakunina” (legendary even in the sense unlikely, according to some).
Mantegazza’s essay, short but full of references, has a comparative approach that analyzes the concept of escape, going through the different artistic expressions, but literature certainly remains its center of gravity. The greatest merit of the author is to be able to “hide the whole book apparatus, and make it appear that judgments, aphorisms, paradoxes come out as whistles, because this is the art of essay artists, and what distinguishes them. of the professorone, which for every uncomfortable idea is half the story of philosophy ”, as Italo Calvino wrote in a beautiful letter to Elsa from Giorgi.
Among the declensions of the subject addressed by Mantegazza could not miss the biblical and pictorial of Escape to Egypta theme practiced by generations of artists over the centuries, as reported in a beautiful exhibition held in Cremona last year, which the author updates recalling that, essentially, this story stages “the fate of a refugee family” , not much different from that of so many desperate people who land on our shores to escape the misery and wars of their home.
Interestingly, one of the softest and most dreamlike declinations of that pictorial theme was the work of Caravaggio, the champion of the rawest naturalism, the artist of the quintessential escape, based precisely on the obvious biographical references (such as the ill-fated flight from Milan, the flight from Rome due to the capital’s ban, and finally the flight from Valletta for such an infamous crime that he was expelled from the Order of the Knights of Malta as “membrum putridum et foetidum”), But this depends above all on the fact that it represented the most idyllic and bucolic moment of that drama, that is, the rest during the flight to Egypt, when the holy family takes a break because they are aware of having escaped danger. Also in this case the update arises spontaneously, recalling a constant of the stories of volunteers who sail the Mediterranean to save refugees fleeing Africa, that is, the fact that the first thing they do, once they are uploaded on the boat and they feel safe, it’s just to fall asleep safe.
And here the young Caravaggio, despite having included in the composition the anomalous and transcendental musical angel, does not lack realism in the detail of the bag with the rolled mattress on which St. Joseph rests, most likely the personal mattress of the artist, recognizable by the green band on the thickness that, in fact, we find identical to the “plebeian triclinium” of the Bacchus of the Uffizi (not surprisingly his only paintings executed on a linen tablecloth from Flanders); in practice the classic poor mattress to fold like the famous “cube” of the naja. And if there is one detail that immediately identifies the sudden and desperate distances of homeless people, it is precisely the mattress, the most precious, as in the famous photo of July 5, 1913 that places the scene of the ordeal of Amedeo Modigliani, the evacuation. from the town on rue Delta, with the cart full only of mattresses and their paintings.
But Mantegazza warns us not to idealize flight too much, and warns us that it is not always synonymous with resistance, as it does not always mean surrender; it is simply a tool, and as such depends on the purpose for which it is intended.
Take Rimbaud. What does your flight to Africa represent? A capitulation? The admission that art cannot change the world? Yes, of course, we have lost the reformer of modern lyric, the seer, so mature for his age, but how not to love Rimbaud’s “fugitive” A season in hell, the defeated and “black” Rimbaud who starts from scratch at the other end of the world and is stubbornly silent, rejecting any literary flattery that comes to him from France? How many works is this silence worth? Or does anyone believe that there are hells that do not fall into one of these silences? If we look more closely, his fame today derives from both the books he wrote and those he refused to write, and in his African destiny we find inscribed the same destiny of every work of art, which, as Maurice Blanchot said, it is not made to be achieved, but abandoned.
In the chapter on “learned getaways”, Mantegazza quotes a passage from Walter Benjamin that praises running away from home as a child, understood as a kind of educational getaway on which “the luck of a lifetime” could depend. True, this is the right age, when you are older it is impossible to escape carefree: you always leave with one eye, the other is left behind, begging, trying to imagine what effect your absence will have on others: what ? Will they think when they find our bed empty? Impossible to know, except to return to that place which is already inexplicably alien to us, which is perhaps the reason which prompted Wakefield to return, because “only in the brief moment of our return can we suddenly witness our absence.” . as Proust put it.
Benjamin is right, but if there was anyone who was blatantly wrong at the time of his escape, it was he who did not understand how threatening and threatening the Nazi danger to a Jew was. Deaf at the constant offers of his friend Gershom Scholem, who had been offering him work and accommodation from Jerusalem for years, Benjamin decided to leave his Parisian home, fleeing by train to the still free south of France, only when Hitler’s troops they passed. under the Arc de Triomphe. In Lourdes, in a guest house overlooking the Pyrenees, he waited two months for the documents to be expatriated. But Lourdes did not work the miracle, and so it continued Lister route, a heavy road that crossed the mountains parallel to the official road, usually traversed only by smugglers who smuggled across the border between France and Spain. It was September 25, 1940.
There Lister route represents the last of his Passages, and perhaps it is no coincidence that the European intellectual who more than any other cultivated a true interdisciplinary vocation, the unclassifiable always moving from one cultural sphere to another, took his own life just when he was blocked on a border. Today that those barriers no longer exist, that the path can be made freely in both directions, the Lister route has become a destination for literary pilgrimages, a kind of Way of St. James teacher where to do an expiatory trek and pay homage to the memory of those who, like Benjamin, wonderfully embodied “the beauty and purity of failure.” But precisely its tragic end introduces in my opinion the quintessential escape, the only one I did not find in Mantegazza’s beautiful book: suicide as an extreme escape, the flight from reality, the flight of the self that is it consumes at the cost of its own suppression, as the social psychologist Roy Baumeister theorizes. An escape without return and obligatory, if we agree with Guido Morselli, who maintained that “no one has ever taken his life voluntarily. Suicide is a death sentence that the judge orders the convict to execute.