5. asymmetrical theories
(a kangaroo and Kant)

Quel suo occhio diceva: «Kant ha ragione».

A native species of Eastern Australia, the duck-billed platypus was unknown to the European mind in Kant’s time, and in a way still is – hence its use in testing semiotic and epistemological theories, present and past. Thus Eco explains his title Kant e l’ornitorinco. The present work, which is neither on Eco nor on cognitive semantics, must justify its exploitation of the original idea in a Gaddian context.

Tullio Pericoli’s brilliant iconisation of the parts of the body of the imponderabile animaletto (il becco, lo sperone, la coda and, above all, l’occhio), the visual vivisection performed, as it were, on the cover of Eco’s book, and the rather fantastic report, in the opening pages, that Borges would not go to Australia because «oltre al canguro e all’ornitorinco, che è un animale orribile, fatto con pezzi di altri animali, adesso c’è anche il cammello», have suggested the reversal of Eco’s title and the replacement of definite with indefinite article. In this way an actual specimen is brought to the fore.

With the reversal, the terminus ad quem – «l’Oggetto Dinamico» of our perceptual, semiotic and cognitive activities, as Eco calls it – does not become the terminus a quo: «la Cosa in Sé». (1) If anything, the unidiomatic word order of the new phrase exposes the default orientation of knowledge (subject-object) hinting at a drama, that of being known. Unfold it, and it tells the story not just of the cruelty of the testing but also of the dubious morality of the resulting icon.

Modern narrative prose, for its part, abounds in incongruous-repulsive, fictional-autobiographical creatures rejected by the Superego. One such incongruity is Carlo Emilio Gadda, the self-styled kangaroo of Italian literature (Gadda 1984b: 44) – hence the final substitution here, our title is now set. Critics have indeed tried to inject some post-structuralist common sense into the aggressive mannerism of Cognizione and Pasticciaccio, the two Italian masterpieces of 20th century polyvocality. Literature, it is claimed, may well be a private affair based on vengeance (in response to parental rejection) and concealment (of the desecration perpetrated on the parent-judge). However, to post-Freudian, post-structuralist, deconstructed readers the obsessive self-portrayal of the narrative voice as the one cui non risere parentes matters only in that even this last negative identity can and does collapse. (2)

Arguably, in fact, right from the dialectal title Pasticciaccio represents Gadda’s own H.C.E. – Here Comes Everybody. The Milanese, middle-class teatrino dell’Edipo of the earlier output closes down with Cognizione, in itself already «un mondo sordo, perduto, già lambito da lingue di tenebra» (RR I 737). The ensuing verbal mess, not just dialects and jargons, diachronic and synchronic Italian, but the agency of the letter itself, now does speak the novelist. And although Gadda remains a satisfied customer of Freud (he must retain a foundational trauma of his own, a rejection ab ovo by clan and family), the conflict of conscience with which his modernism began has somehow been transformed, if not even dissolved, by the triumph of chance (the signifier) over causality and structure.

Read in this light, Gadda belongs indeed with Joyce, even though, strictly speaking, he wrote neither Finnegans Wake (Pasticciaccio does not allow as phenomenal a release of verbal energy), nor A Portrait of the Artist. Rather disappointingly, in effect, Gadda’s intense early modernist writing of the ’20s leads to but some unwieldy collections jumbled together with what could be salvaged from the collapse of the large-scale narrative projects. (3)

And yet – the argument continues – already by the ’20s a dispersive progettualità schizophrenically divided between compositional notes and writing proper had put into theory (as well as into some form of practice) the fractal, self-similar, rhizomatous, encyclopaedic chaos fully postulated in more recent years. Pasticciaccio, that is, may not be as bold as the Wake. However, the much quoted teoretiche idee of its incipit (given almost in full by Calvino in the fifth Memo for the Next Millennium, Multiplicity – Calvino 1995: I, 715-20) do condense Gadda’s unfinished post- Leibnizian monadology of 1928, Meditazione milanese (only first published in 1974, a year after the author’s death); while the dispersive neobaroque folds of the police investigation into the Merulana crimes surely represent the successful realisation of his earliest extant project, Racconto italiano (this too first published posthumously, in 1983, but dating back to 1924), Gadda’s founding narratological fiction:

conoscere è inserire alcunché nel reale […] tutto coesiste e tutto si codetermina […] Non è possibile pensare un grumo di relazioni come finito, come un gnocco distaccato da altri nella pentola. I filamenti di questo grumo ci portano ad altro, ad altro, infinitamente ad altro […] La casa non è una casa (pacco postale): ma è grumo o convergenza di complessi di relazioni […] Io non vedo, noto qui tra parentesi, né il fondo dell’abisso né l’assoluto cielo: ma partendo dal traballante ponte della realtà data cerco di estendere la conoscenza nelle (due) direzioni (ascensionale e involutiva). Aliter: non parto da un culmine assoluto né da un fondo assoluto, ma dal dato che è un punto del coesistente. E l’indagine si allarga come una chiazza d’olio sulla superficie sferica. (Meditazione, SVP 863, 865, 645, 666, 667)

Lines such as these, about the interrelatedness of all phenomena (from dumplings to houses), which the subject experiences as from the unstable deck of a ship, explain the optimistic funzione Gadda that from Arbasino’s nipotini dell’ingegnere and thanks to Roscioni’s Disarmonia prestabilita began to spread a chiazza d’olio in Italy in the ’70s, reaching, among others, the still doubting at first, then thoroughly converted Calvino (it was perhaps to make amends for his stance in Il mare dell’oggettività that he wrote Gadda into Lezioni americane and prefaced the 1984 American edition of the Mess). (4)

Seen from Roscioni’s extraordinary chapters Singula enumerare, Omnia circumspicere, Il groviglio conoscitivo, Gadda’s lesson in complexity was finally neither that Cognizione and Pasticciaccio might be whole textual bodies (as opposed to the earlier disiecta membra); nor that the modern macaronic writer should be provoked into Folenghian-Rabelaisian (i.e., pre-modern) linguistic experimentation by a neurotic matrix, as claimed by Contini. According to Roscioni, what sustained both complexity and failure and gave Gadda intellectual stature, was his continuing enquiry – novel-driven, defeat-driven, hard to believe in a writer until then judged to be incongruity incarnate – into the impossibility of knowledge.

A global (rather than analytical) approach to the monstrous mixture (La Bruyère’s definition of Rabelais’s macaronic) has dominated Gaddian studies since. Furthering Roscioni’s stance, critics have injected varying dosages of their own methodological Cognizione (or post-structuralist common sense, as it was called it earlier) into Gadda’s dolore, in an attempt to contain it. Somewhat paradoxically perhaps (but it is a paradox that befits current critical thinking), this has packaged Gadda’s grief as a truly windowless monad whose Munchian Scream cannot be explained, or even expressed, but must be endlessly folded out by both writer and readers (Dombroski in particular, as we have seen back in Cain 3, has convincingly written on the «monadic inner world of a hysterical subject»).

In this way, the supposedly wordless pain within is shown as being undifferentiated, mythical: a male invisibile it would be uncharitable exegesis to look into. The acquaintance with complexity becomes, then, a thoroughly static affair, and the subject a metaphorical and ever expanding non-narrative. Suitably packaged as a cognizione del dolore in which the two substantive partners form a non-dynamic duo, the single most problematic frame of reference – neurosis and its interpretative deliria – is thus neatly disposed of (as, say, Calvino would like to think he is doing with his Parisian Poubelle agréée).

Creative refuse, too, must comply with the terms and conditions of the social contract after all. Artists, that is, may engage in thoroughly Quixotic quests against themselves («en ella cada cosa engendra su semejante», Cervantes reminds us in his first Prologue to Don Quijote); their work be but the «outward dramatisation of inward feeling» (as Fredric Jameson said of Munch’s wordless monad). Yet their inner worlds must prove to be capable of controlled self-disposal and cathartic externalisation through the services of the Super-Reader / Judge. (5)

Fully canonical by the 1990s thanks to his expert readers’ sostegno superegotico, Gadda enjoys a unique position among contemporary Italian classics. A telltale sign of the growing legend, Roscioni now plays the no-nonsense but charmed chronicler to our errant knight’s mythomaniac fantasies with Il Duca di Sant’Aquila, a biography of the young Gadda. In effect, only a critic cast as an infinitely common-sensical and yet admiring-incredulous Sancho Panza can pay adequate homage to the boundless mythical potential of Gadda’s dolore and Cognizione, and still produce quite some feat of scholarliness. Anything else, or anything more will raise the spectre of a pathography à la Gioanola, as Petronio has repeatedly put it (Petronio 1992: 33-37).

Of course, «solo se malata [l’ostrica] genera la perla» – but the disease, this is Roscioni’s powerful balm, can also be lovingly nurtured by the neurotic subject (Roscioni 1997: 88). «Malati», as Gadda himself would say, «di quella strana e talora paurosa malattia che è appunto la loro grandezza», the most robust sufferers in any artistic category will in fact display symptoms that owe much of their gravity to obvious concause letterarie. No one doubts (Roscioni, at least, does not) that our author must have felt – ab origine, hence his negative birth myth – loin du regard de Dieu. The line, however, comes from Baudelaire, as cui non risere parentes does from Vergil.

To take the metaphor further. Hamlet, Raskolnikov, Don Quixote are indeed no medicinal ingredients, but have saved more than one whose unwelcome singularity (the outcome of affective singleness) could cause the persona to be temporarily lost in devastating «crisi di impersonalismo» (Roscioni 1997: 51). The Cervantian closure to Roscioni’s biography therefore does not come as a surprise: «Ma sebbene tanta parte del romanzo [La cognizione] sia dedicata a suggerire le più ragioni o più cause che hanno provocato il male di Gonzalo, queste sono destinate a restare “ignote agli umani, irreparabili”». Ed è bene che sia così, perché il prezzo d’una soluzione diversa sarebbe la banalizzazione del male e del personaggio. “Che un cavaliere errante diventi pazzo per qualche motivo è cosa che non ci fa né caldo né freddo – dice Don Chisciotte –: il merito sta nel perdere il cervello senza motivi”» (Roscioni 1997: 304).

And in fact, whenever anyone goes off the safe path of complexity and textual dispersal to pursue an analytical sequence other than the acceptable canonical one (which, in the case of Pasticciaccio, goes straight from the fold – the narrative unit – to Ingravallo’s teoretiche idee, and from there on to Meditazione, Roscioni, Calvino and beyond, as in Agosti’s Lacanian interpretation of Liliana’s dead body) – whenever that happens, what fellow critics tend to question is not only the methodological prudence but also the mythopoeic justice of such a move. For indeed, when Amigoni, quoting from Meditazione, calls Pasticciaccio «la più semplice macchina» and reads its spatio-temporal linearity as evidence of a functional, if uneconomical, narrative causality; or when Pecoraro examines the metaphorical metonymy of the double police investigation and finds out the Manzonian intertexts embedded for its solution, Gadda scholars witness the return of the Author in more than one ways, an exegetic Unheimliche they had done their best to exorcise. (6)

For it is, then, as if the mapping undertaken by a different breed of explorers revealed that the continent we rushed to call new is not even the Indies of the original planned journey. Provided with these first maps and forced to register the possibility of a cartography in scales other than the Borgesian one-to-one, some of us may look back at the theoretical need of Gadda that has led us to trust Columbus-Ingravallo without even thinking for a moment – a strange thing to happen in the age of suspicion – that the inspector so conveniently prefacing the novel from within its narrative structure might be fallible, have an agenda of his own. Obliging readers that we still are, we went on to read that the causes are too many for anyone to grasp, crimes repeat themselves, always, and self-similarity defies plot. A static, global fold – this is what is meant, we thought. A model fractal on the basis of which the infinite surface of contingency would somehow be transcribed. (7)

Instead, we appear to be firmly back on the Old Continent, in a Dostoevskian-Kafkian scenario, as it were. And in it Gadda does not at all look the ultra-modern writer we had constructed him to be, and for his own sake, too. Because this, in the end, is the really worrying thought. We cannot bring ourselves to accept (or shall we dare say like?) such an exact and exacting textual accountancy of one’s grief – Contini, for instance, had no qualms whatsoever to call Gadda un odioso scrittore (Contini 1988b: 5). This is to say and to repeat: for some reason, we cannot warm to Gadda’s authorial inscription (however much disguised as gnoseological dispersal) of the moral infinity, or infernal eternity, of an ingegneria testuale grown awesome (these very qualifiers and tags have already been used, at the close of Cain 3, but given that in Gadda studies the argument is hardly made, a bit of underscoring will not go amiss). In a way, the orthodoxy of complexity that for forty years has nearly dispensed the reader from reading, replacing the primary with the secondary texts as the latter provided even greater jouissance, has indeed a point, and a subtle one at that.

And yet, even if we do not like our author, we must still account for his texts – something we have been more than willing to postpone in the name of methodology and methodological coherence. Ironically, somewhat paradoxically in actual fact, a writer so badly self-enclosed and self-entrapped in authorial consciousness can do real wonders for us, and expose our present reader culture and reader narcissism, showing us that, exactly as parental love, our response is utterly self-reflective, conditional.

Never trust literature even when it declares its own powerlessness, could indeed be the motto for a less granular, less pretentious understanding of the literary mind. On the textual duplicity of Pasticciaccio – dispersive in the outer layers, focused and extremely simple in the core, an utter non-fractal then – one could re-train «that ideal reader suffering from an ideal insomnia» Eco is fond of quoting from the Wake. (8)

The training programme could be drawn on Leibniz’ Nouveaux Essais: «Il quadro, del quale si discernono distintamente le parti, senza capirne l’insieme, se non guardandolo in un certo modo particolare, rassomiglia l’idea d’un mucchio di pietre, la quale è realmente confusa […] fino a tanto non se ne sia distintamente conosciuto il numero e le altre proprietà». Words which in the ’20s triggered the following comment in the Milanese engineer taking notes for the final dissertation he was never to write out, thus never completing his degree in philosophy: «Importantissimo gruppo di idee. Specie per la Poetica. Ogni discorso, ogni immagine o concetto o giudizio, in genere ogni composizione […] può avere un suo segreto ordine, una ragione di sintesi che al lettore può non apparire (mia teoria embrionale sulla fatalità spaziale e geometrica dell’ordine cristallografico)». (9)

However, concealment (dissimulation, actually) «è un mezzo disperato» – Kant argues in the Pedagogy. And Gadda underlines heavily this time, annotating verità tragica!, in the margin. A trick of the morally deprived – the philosopher explains –, for only those unjustly overpowered in childhood by their educators learn the evil ways of dissimulation. «Il mio lavoro», Gadda would write to Contini nearly forty years later, proving the correctness of Kant’s pedagogical convictions, «è logicamente, esteticamente, e narrativamente “sbagliato”, fondandosi sulla stolta speranza di “narrare intorbidando le acque” per dépister il lettore dalla traccia della sua reale esistenza. La sua essenza, il movente vero, è un disperato tentativo di giustificare la mia adolescenza di “destinato al fallimento dall’egoismo narcisistico e follemente egocentrico dei predecessori, dei vecchi, e degli autori de’ miei anni in particolare”. Carità e pudore filiale mi hanno frenato e distorto la penna a una significazione impossibile, tale da rendere impossibile ogni vera esegési». (10)

The subject as victim of a dubious pedagogy. The subject as evidence of the corruption of the moral law within, following la clausurizzazione delle speranze (Apologia, SVP 594). This, in a sense, is the kind of laying to rest, or condidit pietas, required by Gadda’s output as a whole: the recognition that injustice, not random textual genetics, was its organising concern: the realisation that sequence and structure do matter in our writer’s unlovable, unsublimated attack on the intolerable persuasion, the collective, exclusive sanctity of family, state, discourse. Il becco, lo sperone, la coda and, above all, l’occhio untiringly displayed by this literature do in fact unfold the tragic truth of the line, from Meditazione, «Il male è una coesistenza eticamente periferica del bene» (SVP 681). But even in that text, a ben vedere, despite the attempt to conduct a philosophical debate super partes, the question «Perché gli Eletti?» is actually Gadda’s first and only response to the issue posed by the section’s title, Il male: «Nel mezzo del tessuto gli eletti si ergono, come parole di verità, sulla confusione tenebrosa che viene indotta in chi deve delinquere ed è margine doloroso del compatto tessuto». In a way, it is the very suspicion that evil may just be born of discursive preference that jeopardises Gadda’s exploration of the inexhaustible surface of reality, gives him a voice above the rest, as well as above polyphony – for he will not reconcile himself with having been cast in the role of the discarded and the rejected. Ultimately, this is also what lends his page – mannerisms, intransitivity, and all – its incredible, utterly non-postmodern urgency, and, on so many occasions, its extraordinary classical roundness, or narrative quality, in the true (or in the best) Manzonian sense of the word. (11)

Moral philosophy being no longer as Kant knew it, and with the primacy of motive and autonomy in the subject but gone, all that narratology does at present is to reflect on the kaleidoscopic disaggregation seen through the eyes of an inexistent beholder – theoretically, at least, there should be little drama left in being a kangaroo in our time. And yet, in practice, the destabilisation of the surfaces, the distracting self-similarity of matter do not actually liberate anything – certainly not a texts of texts, or system of systems –, nor justify the attempted ermeneutica a soluzioni multiple that keeps the professional readers better excited. The culpable narcissism of the other never in fact ceases to thwart the chances of the signifier, let alone the subject’s chances. «Solo venticinque lettori hanno compreso l’atroce sarcasmo di ciò» (Racconto, SVP 596) in connection with Manzoni – even fewer with regard to Gadda. But, then, what of our best contemporaries’ cheeky mano mozza (Calvino 1992: 779) painstakingly smuggling in their makers’ subjectivity disguised as severance, as downright freedom, for there is downright daring and faking in here. Contini was right in remarking Gadda’s «importanza teorica» (Contini 1989: 3). Only, the question remains – which theory?

close the loop / restart the loop


1. U. Eco, Kant e l’ornitorinco (Milan: Bompiani, 1997), xi-xiv.

2. On literature’s vengeful affairs see – it is a classic quote – a letter sent by Gadda to Contini in May ’36, a month after his mother’s death: «Fra l’altro la mia casa di campagna (bella grana anche questa!) mi procura più grattacapi che una suocera isterica. Sono le fisime casalinghe, brianzuole e villerecce di un mondo che è tramontato per sempre lasciandoci solo stucchevoli tasse da pagare. – Mi vendicherò» (Gadda 1988b: 19), a remark that twice prompts the following comment in the addressee: «è il primo annuncio della Cognizione del dolore» (Contini 1989: 37). Vergil’s «cui non risere parentes» (Ecl., IV, 62) gives Gadda’s argument its focus in Psicanalisi e letteratura, SGF I 459-60, 469. The same line provides closure in Dalle specchiere dei laghi, SGF I 229. For its earliest occurrence see Meditazione, SVP 884-85. A narrative fragment not included in Cognizione also bears it as its title (Gadda 1987a: 525-35).

3. The parallel with Joyce was established by Contini, well before Gadda wrote his major works (Contini 1989: 3-10). It seems fair to say that Gadda’s most advanced narrative sits somewhere between Ulysses and the Wake, and that in his earlier output he produces neither the novel nor the short narrative that could settle the accounts with Victorian realism by exploiting it one last time, the case of the Portrait. For his part, and given the frightening degree of reassemblability characteristic of all Gadda’s writing, Roscioni warns fellow scholars against the sense of philological well-being brought about by the Garzanti five-volume Collected Works (1988-1993). For we may now have Gadda within some sort of bounds: yet the oeuvre still consists of «poco comprensibili accorpamenti» (Roscioni 1995a: 215-35).

4. Calvino’s motto «Amo Manzoni perché fino a poco fa l’odiavo» could be extended-adapted to his (latish) apology of Gadda. For the earlier stance see Calvino 1995: I, 51, 59, 71-72, with La macchina spasmodica marking the turning point, following an enthusiastic reading of Roscioni (Calvino 1995: I, 252-55; but cf. also 1067-070, for the preceding Il mondo è un carciofo).

5. Jameson’s definition of the Scream is used, in a Gaddian context, by Dombroski 1999: 19. On the packaging and disposal of creative refuse see I. Calvino, Romanzi e racconti, ed. by M. Barenghi and B. Falcetto (Milan: Mondadori, 1994), III, 59-79. Cervantes, for his part, speaks of the delivery of the like created by like (the book-child) in the opening lines of his first address to the «Desocupado lector». For the undisposable Gaddian and universal inner mess, see Cognizione, RR I 607: «E c’era, per lui, il problema del male: la favola della malattia […]. Secondo cui la morte arriva per nulla, circonfusa di silenzio, come una tacita, ultima combinazione del pensiero. È il “male invisibile”, di cui narra Saverio López, nel capitolo estremo de’ suoi Mirabilia Maragdagali». Paratextually, the diagnostic myth even establishes the equation between destiny (i.e., destiny’s hidden mechanism, or conseguenza) and morality: «I Mirabilia», we learn in a footnote on the same page, «paion voler accreditare una sorta di moralità, o etica, per quanto discosto dalla consueta e perenne controversia de’ filosafi circa la predestinazione e l’arbitrio libero: e discrivono il macchinismo interiore e propio della vita d’ognuno».

6. Significantly (and again, quite typically), Agosti subtitles his study of the body of Liliana Una lettura del «Pasticciaccio», as if the isolated episode could stand for the entire text. He then goes on to argue the «totale indecidibilità assiologica dei contenuti manifestati» from the one unit, no sustained reading is actually possible or desirable: Liliana’s cut throat raises «l’immagine più profonda del Reale come sospensione del significato e arresto di ogni discorso» (Agosti 1995: 251, 262). Similarly, though in a different frame of reference, Dicuonzo 1994 applies exclusively external parameters (such as Calvino’s totalità potenziale, congetturale, plurima) to a number of decontextualized units of narrative; the structural study promised in the title (a title and an approach already queried in Cain 4) thus produces but a string of heavily prefixed definitions of Pasticciaccio as astructural, polymorphic, polycentric, heterophonic; while Ceccaroni’s old chiasmus argument (according to which the ten chapters, the symmetries post factum, the supposedly neat cross-over of the two enquiries in chapters VI-VII form a structure «bloccata nel parallelismo, non dinamica» – Ceccaroni 1970: 60-75, here with cf. to Cain 3 and 4) is passed on unchanged. The marked temporal linearity and the millimetric mapping-out of Roma e dintorni instead leave no door open to the ermeneutica a soluzioni multiple advertised by the theorists, according to Amigoni; infinite narration may inhabit the mind of God, but Gadda’s more modest engine is ultimately governed by the human number two. The number, as hinted in Cain 4, is embedded in the prose itself – a fact that prompts Amigoni to query the very notion of the system of systems: «è strano che partendo dall’infinito Gadda arrivi a rappresentare la libertà morale sempre come una scelta tra due sistemi» (Amigoni 1995a: 40). On the accumulation of the clues, on the murder as execution of a just death-sentence, on the intertexts, mostly Manzonian, and, above all, on the critic’s duty to «render conto del maggior numero di fatti narrativi» see also Pecoraro 1998a: 136, 154-63, 167-73, 217-32. Another conclusion worth returning to (it already served our purposes in Cain 4) is the one by Sbragia 1996a: 181-82. The main argument, the fact that the late Gadda may cave in as subject, ultimately deconstructs the original postmodernist frames of reference of the study taking the critic to a post-postmodernist understanding of complexity as the undisconcertingly simple discorso rivolto ad altri surfacing from a strong (primeval and childlike) surviving centre of subjectivity.

7. And here again, Calvino comes in handy / all too handy / all too deceptively handy: «Solo dopo aver conosciuto la superficie delle cose […] ci si può spingere a cercare quel che c’è sotto. Ma la superficie delle cose è inesauribile» – I. Calvino, Romanzi e racconti, ed. by M. Barenghi e B. Falcetto (Milan: Mondadori, 1992), II, 920.

8. Cf. U. Eco, The Limits of Interpretation (Bloomington & Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1990), 143, 146; Lector in fabula. La cooperazione interpretativa nei testi narrativi (Milan: Bompiani, 1997), 58. That ideal reader hides in J. Joyce, Finnegans Wake (London: Faber & Faber, 1982), 120, ll. 13-14.

9. Lucchini 1994a: 235. Cf. Meditazione, SVP 651: «Esiste (kantianamente) una attività nucleante che [...] dispone il reale raggrumandolo». It is tempting to set Leibniz’s and Gadda’s thoughts against Eco’s reflections on the granular composition of tarmac – cf. U. Eco, Opera aperta, Forma e indeterminazione nelle poetiche contemporanee (Milano: Bompiani, 1967), 166. The motif of the hidden mechanism as secret order runs through Gadda’s work from the early Racconto (SVP 540) and the earlier still Passeggiata autunnale (RR II 944) to, say, Un’opinione sul neorealismo: «Un lettore di Kant non può credere in una realtà obbiettivata, isolata, sospesa nel vuoto; ma della realtà, o piuttosto del fenomeno, ha il senso come di una parvenza caleidoscopica dietro cui si nasconda un “quid” più vero, più sottilmente operante, come dietro il quadrante dell’orologio si nasconde il suo segreto macchinismo. Il dirmi che una scarica di mitra è realtà mi va bene, certo; ma io chiedo al romanzo che dietro questi due ettogrammi di piombo ci sia una tensione tragica, una consecuzione operante» (SGF I 630). Gadda certainly applies his crystal theory in chapter 2 of Pasticciaccio – the violent mineralisation undergone, in death, by Liliana is then explained, indirectly, in chapter 9 (RR II 232; cf. Pedriali 1999a: 81).

10. Contini 1989: 42. The annotated copy of Kant’s Pedagogy can be seen at the Fondo Gadda, Biblioteca teatrale del Burcardo, Rome. Gadda is a reactive reader on the subject (the Pedagogy is one of the most heavily annotated books in what survives of his personal library). That he did have an overriding concern for pedagogical matters is proved, additionally, by his essays (the obvious reference here is I viaggi, la morte, or even Eros e Priapo and I miti del somaro). Certainly, most of his fiction denounces, often deliriously, the affective hierarchies, the parental «nefandi errori nel conoscere e nell’eleggere, il credere possibile il bene d’uno senza quello di tutti, l’amare il suo figlio e non la sua figlia, il seppellire da vivo chi è nato come noi» (Racconto, SVP 597). As a reader of the pedagogical Kant, Gadda underlines more or less heavily according to relevance (i.e., relevance to the personal case); while his comments in the margin signal approval and disapproval equally graphically, thus elaborating Gadda’s own Vor dem Gesetz (e.g., «le leggi sono la conoscenza dei vincoli ed evitano i disperdimenti di energia»; «[educazione] fisica intende “disciplina”, cioè coltivazione della natura, qui sono le leggi»; «mio metodo con gli italiani – sviluppo della personalità morale, la norma, la legge!»; «Il Kant con grande acume distingue anche nel tempo il periodo disciplinare (ed. fisica) dal normativo. Teoretica legge!»; «La parola stessa lo dice morale = secondo la norma. Bisogna imparare e attuare la norma» – cf. I. Kant, La pedagogia (Turin: Paravia, without date), 26, 72, 78, 82, 94. The verità tragica! is noted twice (82, 86). Officially not Gadda’s favourite philosopher (Gadda 1993b: 95, 164), Kant features on a good many occasions in his writings, most notably in Madonna dei Filosofi (RR I 43 – our epigraph comes from there), Un’opinione sul neorealismo (as already seen), Pasticciaccio (RR II 16), the close of Socer generque (RR II 813), Eros («la volontà del bene: die gute Wille», SGF II 1059). Mention of Kant in connection with the Pedagogia is to be found in I viaggi, la morte (SGF I 563).

11. Bound by now, like all epilogues, for the back loop (certainly to Cain 3 – given that sanctity is the unfailing trigger of Gadda’s sardonic laugh – and therefore to I viaggi, la morte, SGF I 573), we can nonetheless still compensate, mitigate, substantiate, by adding two (in)essential finishing touches. Grief (Oedipal grief) gives Ingravallo his iconic and motivic ghigno from his first appearance, in the incipit (the officer’s quasi ghigno is part and parcel of his character portrayal, RR II 16), to the climax in the close of chapter 4, the procedural «sdentato ghigno» that concludes the Valdarena interrogation (RR II 119, and Pedriali 1999a: 81-82). «Condidit pietas» (Gadda 1993a: 56) were instead the words Gadda chose for his own epitaph (they were indeed his epitaph, at Prima Porta, but no longer are, at the Acattolico, replaced, since the 2000 transfer, by Luzi’s definitive critical disclaimer, that Gadda signore della prosa which implies ma non della narrazione rightly criticised by Benedetti 2004b) – a statement quite unlike the one on Kant’s tombstone, from the Critique of Practical Reason («the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me»).

Published by The Edinburgh Journal of Gadda Studies (EJGS)

ISSN 1476-9859
ISBN 1-904371-13-2

© 2007-2024 by Federica G. Pedriali & EJGS. First published in EJGS (EJGS 6/2007). Cain and other symmetries reworks, retitles and redistributes material previously published in journals.
artwork © 2007-2024 by G. & F. Pedriali.
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