A father who erects walls between the windows, transforming a 60 m2 apartment into a sort of labyrinthine beehive. A house of childhood as changeable as a theatrical scenography, without locks or privacy, which frames and even shapes life, perpetually in quarantine, of the protagonist.
We laugh a lot reading Niente di vero (Nothing true), the book by Veronica Raimo recently released for Einaudi. Novel, autobiography, memoir? It is not important to define it, it is important how the author plumbs and paints a dysfunctional family (like every dysfunctional family is dysfunctional in its own way): with lashes of irony and style. An unsettling prose, , out of any rhetoric, which mixes hilarious events with tame memories, to reveal the growth of a never banal girl-teenager-woman, not icy (quote) let alone cynical, but authentic and sincere, very sincere.
A father who builds walls in (purely nominal) rooms
At the origin of the spatial configuration of the house d ' childhood a father with architectural, as well as hygienic, obsessions who gives his children various limitations in terms of games, sports and activities (but also only movement), condemning them to stay constantly at home to deal with boredom. What the father builds is a chameleon house that changes from morning to evening: moving panels and raising curtains the rooms disappear to make way for other functions. Windows? Sawn in half from walls.
“My father had the urge to share rooms, for no reason whatsoever. He just built a wall inside it. He built walls in the rooms, it cannot be said otherwise. There were four of us living in a sixty square meter apartment where he had managed to create three bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen, a dining room, a veranda and two bathrooms, plus a long loft tunnel (...)”.
“There were no real doors, only pocket doors without locks. It was like living inside a theatrical staging, the rooms were purely nominal, simulations for the benefit of the spectators”.
An invasive mother who does not contemplate privacy
The mother Francesca is the character - anxious and intrusive - central : storytelling engine and constant presence in the life of the children, but also of their friends, traceable always and everywhere, and of everything that gravitates around them, of which he wants to know and in some way participate. The house, of course, does not contemplate privacy.
“Privacy is a concept my mother has always fought strenuously against. D ’other part of our house there is ’ was a door that could be locked. When my brother and I talked on the phone, she stood behind us suggesting answers, a habit that she has not lost over the years (...)”.
Anecdotes, memories and hilarious digressions
The book is full of anecdotes and memories, with the doubt that they are rigged, like the game of data that the protagonist played as a child by deceiving (?) her brilliant brother. Between temporal fluctuations and hilarious digressions, the family is at the center of the protagonist's stories, where friendship, love, desire, sex, feeling like children are also found and not parents, abortion. What emerges is the complicity between siblings in dealing with boredom and frustration during a past childhood mostly between the walls, or rather the flexible and reconfigurable partitions, of home.
“Thanks to the strict education of my parents, neither my brother nor I have ever learned to do those reckless things like swimming, cycling, skating. jump rope (it was a moment to drown, split skull, break leg, end up hanged). We spent the ’ childhood locked up inside the house pissing our balls. It was such an intense activity that it soon became an existential pose. We knew how to get bored like no other”.
Books to help dope boredom
The labyrinthine house thus becomes the space where the two brothers , Veronica and Christian Raimo who will both become writers and they will renew mutual aid also in the publishing field, invent ways to not succumb to boredom, and not even all envy seeing from the window (cut in half) other children play carefree all 'open . Always with a touch of sarcasm, but always with unsettling sincerity.
“When the discovery of the books finally arrived, it was not a form of escape, rather a soothing coalescence of boredom (...). The very idea that reading could be a pleasure was completely misleading. Why create that useless mess? C 'was something my family feared more than the toxic Chernobyl cloud: the hedonism”.
Polluting the room and rules of the ration
Intense, bold and unscrupulous , the spirit of the book and of the life of his author, true or true-like (falsified?), is eviscerated in these passages, stinging, frank, true.
“And indeed that's what I've always done in my life. Every time I felt closed in a bedroom, in a game with rules, I didn't try to escape but to pollute the reasoning of the room and of the rules. Imagining fake things, saying them, provoking them, to the point of believing them”.
“In my life I never see the glass half full. Not even half empty. I always see him on the verge of overturning. Or I just don't see it. There is no glass. There is nothing. I am in front of an ugly table and on top of nowhere. The coffee table may also disappear. Indeed, it has already disappeared. I don't have the absence, but the perplexity. Sorry, I don't remember anymore. What is it I had to see?”.
A book – with exact doses – to read
It is clear from the title, Niente di vero is not a book to define or to tell: it is a book to read. Compact but fluid, it can be eaten and tasted at the same time. The secret? The exact doses. If the terms are caustic but calibrated, the hypnotic scanning of syntactic constructions (like Thomas Bernhard to be clear), even when punctuated by foul language, becomes pressing but at the same time sophisticated..
The mix of linguistic ingredients, cooked with the wisdom of a writer who is also a translator and screenwriter, gives a decidedly pleasant reading: ironic yes - sometimes grotesque, never rhetoric, always sagacious - but full of reflections, disturbances and painful folds, faced with modesty. And with an air that makes impeccable style her strong point.
Cover photo: in the photo from Cristina Coral's Making Architecture series the body is positioned in the space in such a way as to become part of a geometric composition, consequently the woman portrayed becomes part of a unified form. © Cristina Coral, Italy, Shortlist, Open, Creative, 2020 Sony World Photography Awards.