What is it about Le Perfezioni (The Perfection), the novel by Vincenzo Latronico published by Bompiani ?
As a couple and digital, creative, nomadic and without too many constraints. To live in Berlin in a bright apartment, full of emerald green plants and cozy corners. Of design objects and contemporary art exhibitions. But above all of a life "smooth and neat" made to be shown on social networks.
It is a book that stages illusion and disappointment. An album (strictly digital) of perfectly calibrated photographs that emanate a authenticity that is increasingly breakable. It is a book on the image: on representation and perception of himself.
Anna and Tom, digital creatives in Berlin
Anna and Tom are a couple of young digital creatives who in the 10s of 2000 moved to Berlin because they feel lacking in their city of origin “the freedom to be oneself, that is, to invent oneself, that is, to be different from oneselfi”.“They were creatives. The term seemed vague and stinging to them too. Their professional titles varied but even at home they would have been in English - web developer, graphic designer, online brand strategist. What they created were differences”.
The perfect life photographed on Instagram
At the heart of Anna and Tom's routine is work from home and the omnipresence of social networks, in particular of Instagram, which allows you to share images of a perfect life. A limpid and seductive everyday life like a timeline of carefully taken photographs, but off-screen a dissatisfaction grows as deep as it is difficult to focus on.
Reality, the tangible one and that of the images
“They lived two lives. There was the tangible reality that surrounded them; there were the images. Those too surrounded them”. “As they worked, the images came in like a storm through the windows left open in the background. They sent a quote and checked the Instagram feed. The predictions about the last election at home claimed their attention with a notification in the browser tab”.
A life as reassuring as it is predictable
Between the work that, like sex, becomes repetitive, the friends that turn out to be only acquaintances, the progressive political impulse that is extinguished in generic actions, decidedly not very participatory, the couple drags themselves into an existence so pleasant - beautiful to look at - and reassuring but leading to a future that always seems the same: “They could not imagine it substantially different from their everyday life - so smooth and well-finished - and this gave it an abstract and unattractive quality”.
And in that life so similar to an image - perfect in composition and colors, but flat, limited and predictable - Anna and Tom feel trapped, tormented by the need to find something more real. But does it exist?
The home-office (seems) to promise a clear and happy life
With impersonal but accurate writing in the descriptions - tribute declared to Cose (Things) by Georges Perec (Einaudi), book from 1965 which talks about a young couple of Parisian intellectuals whose greatest dream is to “own things” - Vincenzo Latronico paints with elegance and detail the living spaces-working which have a central role in the life of Anna and Tom and at the same time perfectly represent them in all their contradictions.
The bay window, the light and the dazzling green
In the absence of dialogue, with a deliberately neutral and non-judgmental prose, the description of the Berlin apartment unfolds, between spaces, objects and habits, for the first two chapters.
“Sunlight pours into the room from the bay window, tinges the openwork leaves of a tropical monstera house with emerald”. “The dazzling green of the plant, the red of the cover, the petrol of the padding and the light ocher of the floor stand out against the dusty white of the walls, recalled by a corner of a light carpet that vanishes at the edge of the image”. “A large hanging ivy drapes itself from the curtain rod to the window, recalling the dazzling green of the mosaic tile floor that also covers the tub wall”. “The life promised by these images is clear and concentrated, happy”.
Objects out of place, mental order and solidity
“They counted them in an instant, embracing the rooms and each item on the list with their eyes. A physical discomfort was growing in them that was more than irritation, almost discomfort (...).“Every object out of place, every sign of slovenliness besieged their field of vision, impeding concentration”.
The sense of inadequacy
The confrontation with friends who have remained at home to live a less creative but more regular life - set, channeled, wedged - is inevitable.“They finished a call or looked up from a complicated email and saw outside, among scraps of food and litter, the bathrobes on the Danish armchair - and they felt flawed, impostors in an adult world that would have discovered their inadequacy if only the objective of the calls had had a broader perspective”.
Chaos as a symptom of impermanence
“That house and those objects did not just correspond to their personalities: they provided them with a foothold, demonstrating in their own eyes the solidity of a lifestyle that from a different perspective (which would have been the norm a generation earlier) it appeared crumbly. The chaos (...) seemed a symptom of impermanence”.
Imperfect time and precluded possibilities
Scanned into four chapters bearing the name of four tenses - Present, Imperfect, Remote and Future -, the book comes to life in the second, with a significant double meaning, when the protagonists feel the desire to raise the bar, and change, or at least try.
“In the apartments blossomed the chairs of the original Eames, the chessboards by Breuer, the dourmouse by Le Corbusier, the lamps by Castiglioni with the perforated marble block”. “Anna and Tom had no desire for such brazen luxury, but its appearance seemed to reveal a horizon of possibility that was precluded to them”.
Mediterranean clichés ...
What changes is the city above all: they leave Berlin for a return to the Mediterranean and the heat. First in Lisbon for a job that will prove to be a source of disappointment, then a stay (to be forgotten) in Noto, Sicily, and finally landing in “sea region famous for the weddings of the sheikhs”.
Without spoiling too much, the ending will be in a farm where they will create, in every detail, a new personal life that also embraces and extends the professional, increasingly demanding one. But will Anna and Tom be more satisfied? Will they be more authentic? In short, will they change?
... and changes (?)
“They will bring a friend who specializes in photography of museum displays, promising her a package of free nights to capture the interiors of the farm in a series of symmetrical images with the abstract beauty of the renderings”.“To meet the not always refined troubles, tourists also inserted some trivial shots”.
Not too much. It would seem that Anna and Tom will not change too much.
Ph. Cover: USM Haller modular system. Ph. Courtesy USM.