Places Are Our Story

by Pino Corrias

It is not just time that holds the key to stories. Geography too keeps them chained to places. You can tell the story of a country starting out from the past and arriving at the present. But you can also do it by starting from a map and choosing certain places where the past has changed our present and continues to do so, for good or ill, every time we go back to look at them again. Working on a book on our recent history a few years ago, I made a promise to myself that I would turn that history into a journey, choosing ten places among the many possible that in my view contained crucial points at which our memory had coagulated. Locations that in their turn contained the even more inward map of our collective destiny. Places of narration where we need to sit down and listen again to what they have to tell us.

I had started with Vajont, the dam of the flood, of the tragedy that marked the beginning of a long series of deaths for which no justice was ever done. Then Piazza Fontana, with what is left of the Banca Nazionale dell’Agricoltura, the claque commemorating the massacre, its bottomless truths, its fathomless mysteries, its consequences that last to this day. Then the meadow at Vermicino, where Alfredino Rampi died during the longest and most emotional night in the country’s history, ushering in the television of tragedy broadcast live, and then of tears, of models built in the studio, of the sentimental bad examples with which we are poisoned every evening. Then Via Fani, where Aldo Moro was kidnapped, his escort killed, the social movements entrapped, the country destabilized in order to bring stability. Then the seafront at Ostia that swallowed up Pier Paolo Pasolini, but not his films, not his poetry.
And more. Capaci, at the point where Giovanni Falcone’s car exploded and the Second Republic began, baptized with the blood of Mafia carnage. The Pio Albergo Trivulzio in Milan that was supposed to look after the elderly, but was corrupted by kickbacks and has never ceased to astonish us since with its recurrent scandals. The rooms of the villa at Arcore, where Silvio Berlusconi invented commercial TV and Forza Italia, two machines that changed first the workings of television and then those of politics, turning them in the end into one and the same thing. The house at Cogne, where blood was made a spectacle and the scene of the crime became a collective destination of voyeurism.
Within the perimeter of those mirrors I laid out clearly the chronology of the dates, the faces of the protagonists, their stories, the intrigues in which they were lost, were saved, were caught up; intrigues which have left their mark on us. A journey that I chose to end within the structures of Teatro 5 at Cinecitt. where Federico Fellini, our greatest storyteller since the war, recounted his dreams and ours, Italy and the Italians. And I picked that place - in tribute to the grace of those tales and to the art that ought to save us - as a bet on a happy ending that is still to come.

Now that journey which I had entitled Luoghi comuni (RCS MediaGroup, 2006) is starting again.
Perino & Vele have borrowed the title. Pushing even further the double meaning of that definition capable of indicating places common enough to speak to us of our common destiny. But also exceptional enough to fence off the boundaries of our memory.
For the name of each of those places is now identified with its and with our history. They have become the emoziona construction sites of a story and thus a work. A work made up of thousands of words, images, emotions, revelations and enigmas, as if it had been an artist (or a pair of artists) who conceived it.
For art, which gives a new name to things, and puts them in a special place where they are exposed to our gaze, helps to reveal to us in that new light the great and small mysteries which surround us. And in particular not to lose our bearings in the geography of life.
A couple of years after I had finished my book I came across this sentence in one of Cormac McCarthy’s novels: ‘The story on the other hand can never be lost from its place in the world for it is that place’. And a little further on: ‘For this world also which seems to us a thing of stone and flower and blood is not a thing at all but a tale’. I thought that there was no better way to unveil the mystery of the places that had so fascinated me. For it is that never-ending tale which (in the end) keeps our vision on the move.