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History strolling along the avenue of holm oaks

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History strolling along the avenue of holm oaks

In Il concerto del viale dei lecci, Davide Rondoni implements a real “memonoir”, that is, a sort of memoir made captivating by a mysterious, shadowy story, which concerns his family, his ancestral home and above all his grandfather Enea, a “old liberal”, with a past in Eritrea and tightened in the painful loss of the third child Marta, who died at the age of twenty-two in a car accident.

Silent dialogues

Observing the silent dialogues between grandfather and grandson are the “anarchist trees”, the holm oaks, which have seen the passing of the ages, from Mussolini to the Red Brigades, remaining in their place, unbreakable in a Chekhovian manner. «Under the avenue of holm oaks – writes Rondoni – not only the comings and goings of great history took place with its upheavals between regimes, politics, terrorism, but also the confused comings and goings of the working time, low, that of the simple and the marked, the novel of the humble. The low tide confused and powerful, the splashing of shallow things, the force that consumes the banks and rocks. Perhaps that violent force that redraws the stories, the profiles of the world. Because in the avenue of holm oaks every beauty and every pain passed. Even the unimaginable ones.”

Rondoni’s prose, divided into four parts and seventy-one rapid chapters, is obviously lyrical, full of bold evocations and combinations, contracted and essential sentences, outbursts of passion and regret. There’s a lot of Romagna in the story, there are girls, flakes of the sea, trees and typical dishes. But above all, in narratological terms at least, there is the so-called Spannung, the moment of maximum diegetic tension. It corresponds with the arrival of a «man coming from the station, with a slow step». “The first thing I saw was his crooked nose. As a boxer. Here you are. He walked like one who has taken many blows. I find him in front of me, he has the same crumpled suit as a few days before, when I saw him from the window. “You are Aeneas’ nephew, aren’t you?” He was staring at me. “Yes why?””. The man with the broken nose is there to settle the accounts with Aeneas once and for all. They will later meet at the bar and make a pact…

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Ahistoricity of memory

Beyond the more properly impenetrable aspects of the text, the profound meaning of Il concerto del viale dei lecci lies in the substantial non-historicity of the memory, in moments of full beauty and understanding, with an eye always turned to transcendence. Rondoni returns to the events that accompanied his youth to draw from them a reason for remembrance-redemption, in the specifically Benjaminian meaning of the word. Here is a shining example: «The afternoon light is declining. I get up from the bar table, take a stroll along the avenue. It begins as a light wave, almost a diffused ultrasound, and then very rapidly rises, vast and sensational the chirping of birds. It’s time to return to the nests. A thousand and a thousand little creatures whirl in the thicket of holm oaks, enter and exit the foliage, others, even smaller, chirp in the hidden nests. A widespread crowd of little winged beings, of spouts, of little heads that turn jerkily, of little paws that jump, of very short and very precise flights. A confused and feverish writing fills the sky around the avenue. Then I raise my eyes smiling at the building, at the bar, at the row of holm oaks, at the noise and I say softly: “Shall we go to the beach?”».

Benjamin said that “in remembrance we have an experience which prevents us from conceiving history in a fundamentally atheological way”. Rondoni’s book moves on the same level of history – personal and universal – and of redemption, emancipation, salvation.

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