Pier Paolo Pasolini by Anatole Saderman, 1962
Pier Paolo Pasolini by Anatole Saderman, 1962. Reproduced by Wikimedia Commons.

The simplification necessary to present Pier Paolo Pasolini is an inglorious task: its facets were multiple; among them, the one chosen by professor Maria Betânia Amoroso to represent him was that of a certain “diagnostician of the times to come” ahead of him. One of the main scholars of the Italian filmmaker in Brazil, Amoroso was responsible for the translation and presentation of the Corsair Writings (Editora 34), a compilation of articles critical of Pasolini, and the book with the same name, published this year by Editora Nós, in which Amoroso brings together a portion of her notable research on him (the teacher's interventions mentioned below will come from this compiled).

In the year of its centenary, exhibitions and retrospectives illuminate its celebrated cinematographic contribution – made up of titles such as Mom Rome, The Gospel according to Saint Matthew, The Trilogy of Life and Salò or the 120 days of Sodom🇧🇷 However, even before contributing to the seventh art, Pasolini was already dedicated to poetry and literature, and, even when already inserted in the moving image industry, he did not abandon such vocations, much less the dedication to the critical spirit, whose conscious manifestation still occurs in his youth. “The very fact that the first verses published (and still not repudiated), verses from the age of 18, are in Friulian demonstrates that my poetic operation took place under the sign of a strongly critical, intellectual inspiration”, he even confirmed. The dialect in question was spoken by his mother, Susanna Colussi Pasolini, born in Casarsa della Delizia, a city located in northern Italy. As Amoroso points out, in addition to the affective aspect of the choice, Pasolini uses Friulian to “express a whole culture and feelings that were silenced or purged by fascism”.

Having been born in Bologna, in March 1922, his late contact with the Friuli region (where he came to live with his mother and brother Guido from 1943 onwards, before moving to Rome at the beginning of the following decade) is formative because, according to Amoroso, “his interest in the language spoken by the region's peasants led him to discover a world full of mysteries and enchantment that was opposed to the city, to his own family tradition. This coexistence gave rise to Pasolini's deep respect for the vital, rich, diversified peasant culture, and his familiarity with its meanings and symbols”. She adds that “there, for the first time, the writer witnesses a confrontation between the rural workers of his region and the landowners”.

His experience in Friuli will also provide a rich mental counterpoint to the transformation that took place in Italy – through the advance of capitalism and its dehumanizing materialism –, often brought up by Pasolini in his criticisms (which will lead to accusations of nostalgia for the peasant universe and the past ). “Whoever manipulated and radically changed the great Italian peasant and working masses is a new Power, for me very difficult to define, but I am sure that it is the most violent and totalitarian that has ever existed: it changes the nature of people, it achieves the most depth of consciousness”. Pasolini account observe a profoundly neurotic “physical sadness” in the population. “It results from a frustration of society. Now that the social model to be realized is no longer that of the class itself, but imposed by Power, many are not capable of realizing it. And that terribly humiliates them”, reports the poet.

Faced with the consolidation of the values ​​of capitalism (which Pasolini now refers to simply as “Power”), the poet warns of the risk of “a form of dehumanization, a form of atrocious aphasia, a brutal absence of critical capacity, of a factious passivity. Against his own foresight, Pasolini wages a faltering battle, for which he finds insufficient consolation in his intellectual colleagues, since “the danger of bourgeois entropy was imminent, but still recognized by few of his generation, who they will need the fall of the Berlin wall and the neoliberal advance to admit that Pasolini's diagnosis was at least illuminating”, as Amoroso explains. However, we Corsair Writings the intellectual seems to continue to converse, at times, with these contemporaries themselves, when expressing their indignation at conformism (“The thirst for conformism is, therefore, equal to modesty [...] the intoxication of serving Power is a gratification”) and a form of resistance described as essentially welcome to Power.

Pier Paolo Pasolini by Anatole Saderman, 1962
Pier Paolo Pasolini by Anatole Saderman, 1962. Reproduced by Wikimedia Commons.

As time passes, his assault on Power does not fade. Amoroso notes that “when reading Pasolini today, one realizes that, on the one hand, the interpretations given to the course taken by Italian society were becoming increasingly forceful and alarmed, but that, on the other hand, the poet exuded vitality and vigor” . The energy described by the teacher does not preclude, however, a growing distance from Pasolini. In her book, she brings up the presentation that the writer makes when he debuts his column The chaos, in the newspaper Tempo. There, he states: “If I am independent, I am so with anger, pain and humiliation, not a priori, with the calm of the strong, but forced. […] My case is not one of indifference or independence: it is one of loneliness”. A lament also translated into a poem by the same: “And I, adult fetus, wander more modern than all moderns in search of brothers who no longer exist”. On the other hand, Pasolini points out this suffering apartment as something, to a certain extent, necessary for the critical exercise: “That is, moreover, what guarantees me a certain (perhaps crazy and contradictory) objectivity. I have no one behind me to support me and with whom I have common interests to defend”.

In his reflection on the ideal conduct of the critic, Pasolini emphasizes the importance of dialogue and a certain abdication of both authority and credibility, a gesture to which he links freedom from the fear of contradicting oneself and being able to place oneself “in a condition of not having nothing to lose and, therefore, not to be faithful to any pact, except the one with a reader that I consider worthy of increasingly daring research”.

One should not confuse the observations above about the freedom (even if resulting from solitude) of the intellectual with the isolation of these figures in themselves, frowned upon by the author – the divorce from the real world, academicism and officialdom are not appreciated by him either. In one of his skirmishes with Italian intellectuals, Pasolini recounts: “I was able to prove that Italian intellectuals have never considered the problem of popular 'culture', and they don't even know what it is. They believe that the people have no culture because they have no bourgeois culture; or else, that their culture is that larva of bourgeois culture that they can learn at school, in the barracks or, in any case, in bureaucratic relations with the ruling class. That the people, therefore, live in a kind of pre-cultural dream, that is, pre-moral and pre-ideological. Where morals and ideology are seen as the exclusive prerogative of the bourgeois class”.

Like all historical documents, the Corsair Writings need to be read within their situational coordinates, but questions like those brought up above could be put to the present, as well as their provocation about what we now call cancel culture: “Whoever felt the primary need to 'revoke' me […] he would be a priori prevented from understanding anything else I said, because, as lawyers well know, one must mercilessly discredit the person who testifies in order to discredit his testimony”. One of the contradictions of this complex figure (which can be seen in the Corsair Writings and exemplified in this topic) is that Pasolini himself, even with his free and serious intellectual commitment, is not immune to the condemnation of the witness in the place of testimony, or the invocation of castrating Judeo-Christian moral guilt.

Perhaps Pasolini was, as referred to by the French publication Les Cahiers du Cinéma, an “arsonist”, but not unreasonable. His provocations go far beyond the topics brought throughout this text; they range from religion to anticlericalism; of sacralization, desacralization and resacralization; from maternal love to the conflict of generations; from sex to abortion; from the rational to the irrational; from language, from dialects to behavior; from progress to “development”. When one thinks that one has traversed the complete circumference around Pasolini, he eversions his own sphere. Professor Maria Betânia Amoroso recalls that shortly before being brutally murdered, Pasolini wanted, whether through reinvention or redemption, to rewrite his works.

“Perhaps the reader may think that I say banal things. But whoever is scandalized is always banal. And I, unfortunately, am scandalized.”


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