If Eugenio Montale lived…

His dream was to be a baritone, but when his singing teacher died, he decided not to continue studying. Soon after, he is dragged by the First World War and in 1925 he becomes one of the signatories of the Anti-Fascist Manifesto drafted by Benedetto Croce. Seven decades later he will be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Yes, it is about Eugenio Montale, one of the most important writers of prose and poetry of the 20th century, the author in whose work religiosity and philosophy merge under one sign, that of “bad living”. The lacerating pain that many times, as reflected in his homonymous poetry, throughout his existence has been found.

Pain that was not unique to him. Many other writers shared it and captured it in his works, from Thomas Mann to Pavese, Canetti and Pirandello, but through his pen it flows heartbreakingly discreet. It is the uncertainty of contemporary man who feels trapped by the absurdity of a life in which only in a few moments can he find any possibility of salvation, because if he is convinced of something it is that life is disappointment and his voice can only sound tired, ironic and sadly disappointed. In this critical state he writes his emblematic work Ossi di seppia (Cuttlefish Bones) in 1925, which becomes the song of the voice of an exceptional poet, a worthy heir to the lyrical tradition of Carducci, Pascoli and D’Annunzio, whom the grave reality engulfed

Montale, the opposition poet critic, hermetic, austere, the physical and metaphysical poet, as Pancrazzi called him, will not fear being lapidary and demonstrating against fascism. True artist at last. But his art goes further, it attends, as he himself recognized, to the human condition considered in itself. Here are some of his verses extracted from Ossi di sepia: “Do not ask us for the word that scrutinizes from each side / our unformed spirit… / Ah!, the man who leaves safely, / of others and of himself a friend, / without worry about his shadow, / Do not ask us for the formula that worlds can open to you… / We can only tell you that, / what we are not, / and what we do not want”.

It is art in which its author, instead of speaking with a poetic “I”, appeals to a “we”, and with this he identifies himself as a generational, social voice that transcends him. This will contribute to making his poetry a kind of powerful and diaphanous collective symbol and announcement of the poetry to come. It is fabric through which the poet speaks and dialogues with the time of which he is the interpreter, even if he does not always like it. For something he refers: “I have found too much the pain of living… burned, the horse was collapsed”. Without a doubt, his poetry is devastating, as devastating are the times that he foresees will come. Let’s not forget that it is 1925 when he writes it. And to announce them, he resorts to multiple allegories and symbols, as in the case of his poem “Primavera Hitleriana”, of which I transcribe a dramatic fragment in the translation of Rodolfo Alonso: “A short time ago an infernal envoy flew down the avenue / between a ulular of assassins, a mystical gulf on fire / and bunting with swastikas anointed him and swallowed him, / windows were closed, poor / and inoffensive but also armed / with cannons and war toys, / jammed the butcher who adorns / with berries the snout of the dead kids, / … and the water still gnaws / the shores and no one is innocent anymore”.

By 1940, in the midst of a madness that will end with the extermination of the Hebrews, Montale begins to write the first texts of his critical review in the work La Bufera, which he will publish in 1945, in which he exposes his concept of “consciousness of abjection”. Text that seeks to confront historical evil by maintaining a space of resistance against human misery and cruelty, because the miracle of salvation that awaits at some point ends up unrealized. In subsequent years he would come to write for the newspaper “Il Corriere della Sera” political texts, as well as literary and musical criticism, in which his loneliness is perceived. He does not understand how someone could believe in fascism, and this brings him down and distances him from society.

It was certainly inconceivable to him, as it is to many of us today that someone could believe in and defend a government regime that destroys human rights, constitutional guarantees, the rule of law in its entirety, that undermines social harmony and peace, instead of justifying, promoting and exalting resentment, hatred, division, discrimination, violence, insecurity, criminality in all its ranges and manifestations, but tragically there were and are.

If Montale were alive, the poet who sang against tyranny in the name of freedom, with renewed pain would write. A century has passed since Ossi di sepia and humanity has not only not changed: it has become even more degraded, desensitized and cruder.

If Montale were alive, after confirming the humanitarian crisis that our Mexico is facing today, I am sure that he would remain silent and would prefer to die again.



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If Eugenio Montale lived…