“Peter would think her sentimental. So she was. For she had come to feel that it was the only thing worth saying – what one felt. Cleverness was silly. One must say simply what one felt.” 

I love this quote from Mrs Dalloway and day after day Woolf's melancholic heroine becomes dearer to my heart.  Mrs Dalloway's suggestion of saying what one feels simply and plain  is something I can agree with. Not an easy task, though. To reveal one's own feelings makes a person fragile but,  if you think twice, it makes a person stronger as well. 

Cleverness may help you look stronger, but it may be silly on certain occasions in life. What ones? Those Woolf calls "moments of being".  It is not your brain nor your cleverness which help you through those moments. It is not a question of sentimentality, but one of honesty and truth. 

I may have become a tiny bit sentimental in my old age, I can't deny it,  and that is something,  I hope,  understandable. However, I think this is the time to say what we feel, because ...  if not now, when? How we feel is important, crucial, vital and we have not much more time to waste in lies and not much more space for regrets. 

I started writing this post after meeting,  for the second time in less than a year, a man who dares to share what he feels, not only what he thinks: gifted writer and extraordinary man, Fabio Stassi. He is highly communicative,  grounded and self-deprecative, smiling and direct, simple and astonishingly deep. 
Second meeting and second epiphany: this man and his words can make my heart melt and my brain  work out a flow of thoughts quite like ... fireworks. So many inputs that my mind's reaction is an explosion of ideas and feelings. You see?  I'm just telling you what I felt, the only thing worth saying.  

So what did Fabio Stassi say that was so thought - provoking and emotionally strong? He discussed his book, Come un respiro interrotto, with an audience of readers in a town not distant from mine and I was there with friends. He managed to surprise me with the analysis of themes, motifs and ideas which were different from the ones we had discussed when I happened to listen to him for the first time last summer. 

Come un respiro interrotto,  is the story of a woman, Soledad, Sole, an amazing singer and a fascinating woman.  It is told by many different characters who knew/met her and who contribute details to her portrayal. "All those who heard her singing said they felt as if they had stepped into the void"
It is also the story of Matteo, a musician, in love with Sole, and one of her best friends. His narration opens and closes the book. 

Music, nostalgia, melancholy, Italy's recent history, the shattered dreams of my own generation are among the themes in this book.

Now, it was interesting to discover new details, to be led to new reflections and interpretations thanks to Fabio Stassi's  great openness and sensitivity,  as well as to the dances, songs and readings local fans and supporters had prepared for the occasion.

What I especially like of Fabio Stassi is his disarming way to reveal  what he feels through words, both written and spoken. Through beautiful words.

The nostalgia of the future

This was one of the points he proposed which have stayed with me. It's paradoxical, but lyrical. Stassi's  novel is filled with nostalgic moments and nostalgic characters. None of them, he says, comes from fantasy. They are all inspired to his own  direct or indirect experience.  What he says about nostalgia, though, is that it shouldn't be a painful sense of void,  of loss, of lack.
What Stassi's words suggested is a sense of nostalgia turning into hope, like roots in the past that help you grow stronger but don't hold you still. The nostalgia of the future if when you don't live always looking back,  because what you left on your path is not apart or away from you, is inside you, part of you.  To feel nostalgia for what and whom we left along the way should become a sense of richness, energy and fuel to propel our journey, something to treasure which will help  us go on.

In my personal vision, what we lost is what we have to reach ahead. If it is love or friendship or knowledge which we lost, we have to look ahead for them and look forward to reaching out for them.

Soledad's favourite songs, the songs Stassi writes about in the book,  are his own favourite songs and they are both lyrical hymns to nostalgia: Vuelvo al sur and Alfonsina y el mar. Volver al sur, to go back to the South,  may well represent what nostalgia of the future may mean.

By the way, it has just come to my mind that I've just recently rewatched Roberto Faenza's Anita B. on TV and there's a line at the end of the movie somehow connected to these thoughts:  when young Anita, who survived Auschwitz, starts her journey to Jerusalem she says:  "I'm travelling light toward the past. My only baggage, the future"


Apparently, right while talking to us, Fabio Stassi realized that his characters, not only those he created for Come un respiro interrotto, but also others - like Chaplin in his previous novel, Charlie Chaplin's last dance - have something to do with the voice. Or better, they are voices.  It is easy to recognize Soledad as a voice, to identify her  with her unique voice, since she is an extraordinary singer. But also Stassi's  other characters are predominantly voices, even Chaplin who is a mime and communicates without using it or Soledad's uncle, lo zapatero, who never says a word. His language is made up of the sounds of his work.

Books like voyages, books like rooms

Actually all books are voyages but, maybe,  that's something we all already know. There is no Frigate like a Book , isn't thereEach time we open a new one, we set for a journey towards the unkown, toward adventure and discovery. Along the way we learn more about people, places, facts and,  last but not least, about ourselves.

What Stassi probably meant with "books can be voyages or rooms", isn't simply that we can recognize some of them as movement from a place to another or  some others as    closed places, in which the limited space brings the reader to focus on the character's thoughts, memories, dreams, reflections. I'm sure there's a less obvious difference and I've been thinking about it since then.

Can you think of any book  you read as a journey or as a room? I like to figure some of them out  as shelters, that is to say rooms. Those are the ones I love and re-read from time to time , the ones that give me certainties, make me feel grounded,  in a certain sense.
Then there are the other ones, which bring me away from my safety zone,  from my ordinariness and certainty. Those I consider as journeys and my stamble on  them is usually destabilising. They usually bring me to redesign and reconsider.

In Come un respiro interrotto rooms, houses and closed spaces are prevailing. They are the places of memory, nostalgia, love, feelings, emotions, dreams, thoughts, self-realization, struggle and pain. But is this book a room or a journey? May I say it may have been both to me?

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