Giulio Bollati to the Editor of Tuttolibri(*)

Concering Letters to the Heretics

Dear Editor,

They are all talking about it, and I’m sorry to add more words, because I am helping to magnify an episode that has so excited the small-village curiosity of some people and the neurotic suspicions of others. Both curiosity and suspicion agree in preferring an ingenious hypothesis, a satisfying invention, to a reality that is certainly quite modest. And the history of this pamphlet[1] certainly is interesting (though I don’t think there will be a lot more of it): one can see it as a sign of the rapidly growing tendency to overlook or even ignore the facts so that one can pursue the interpretations, the meanings, that are “behind” the facts themselves. In this case, few among those who are interested in this satire have considered that, to know the identity of the author, it is necessary to read what he has written. From this fact has come such a torrent of opposing and contradictory suppositions that they have shaken the already weakened confidence of the ones who believe that they must seek out an indicator of the truth in the only place where it can be found, that is to say, the text itself. Unless – and this is the chief suspect – the confusion is already in the source itself, and one is struggling with a writer who writes differently from what he actually thinks, unaware of the connection between means and ends.

[Is the writer] Balestrini? The situationists? The famous Censor, that is to say, Gianfranco Sanguinetti? An editor in Segrate? Professor Losardu? And then, is it an individual or a collective of authors? And the place: Milan, Rome, Turin? And why rule out the possibility of a woman? I do not know, and to tell you the truth, I do not care. The little that matters is what the book itself says. Not at all unseemly in its style, it is more the work of a cultured moralist than a subversive militant. The thesis is classically conservative: the heretics, the rebels, (in this particular case) the feminists, the [members of the] Radical Party, the homosexuals, the armed groups, the ecologists, etc., imagine that they are liberating the spontaneity and creativity of life, but in their actions they are actually collaborating with the Communist Party in the perpetuation and perfecting of the existing social order. There’s nothing very new here: this is in the line of the ‘reactionary’ culture that has always hindered the advent of the ‘modern world,’ understood as the degradation and death of values. Something along the lines of De Maistre-Ceronetti.

Therefore, the author is a sentimental person, perhaps a little disappointed by the failure of the revolutionary dreams of his youth. My guess is that he is of average age and average height. He is secluded, even if he confides in one or more friends. A man who has read widely and wildly, ranging from Macrobius to the most recent literary reviews in the Corriere, but lingering for a long time on Swift. Stendhal is particularly dear to him, because when quoting a passage from him, he refusing to declare his name, as if afraid to confess [his love.]

In short, he is a dilettante, in the non-pejorative sense of the term. Perhaps someone who, if not a dilettante, imagines that, today, he can expound his ideas freely and by hiding behind the refined literary ploy of anonymity? Who, if not a dilettante, would lose the thread of his ideological proclamations to ramble on in laborious digressions that betray his true convictions and break the unity and credibility of the pastiche?

He must be close to us: geographically and in direct association. He loves typography and publishing, which he knows well. He has an attentive and excellent memory, and perhaps is a collector. Books? Newspapers? I would not rule out knowledge of the law, whether he was a proper graduate or whether he threw his schoolbooks from the top of a bridge doesn’t matter.

I feel like I know him, maybe I'll see him later tonight. But it is more likely that the “type” that I am describing seems familiar because he belongs to our cultural and human world, we all have a friend who resembles him a little: and his kind is not without interest for those of us who are attentive to the history of our generations.

So things are not so bad for him. If one day I come to know that I’m wrong, I can answer again if he is more careful about what he writes.

Giulio Bollati

(*) This letter, published on November 19 under the title of “Identikit of a forger” by Tuttolibri, was preceded by the following introduction:

Enrico Berlinguer’s Letters to the Heretics, a satire mockingly attributed to the Secretary of the Italian Communist Party and illegally published under the name of the Einaudi publishing house, continues to provoke an indulgent curiosity. We are looking for news from “alternative” bookstores, where the book is being sold for 2200 lira, hoping to work back upstream to the distributors, in search of the real name of the unknown author or authors. We wish to establish, based upon the book’s complicated ideological-stylistic traits [dosaggi] and disparate assumptions, all of which appear legitimate at first glance, an understanding of how much confusion Italian political life nourishes. And, as is the case of kidnappings, there have been claims of responsibility that are motivated by vanity or the spirit of parody. To raise the stakes, to pass the fake Berlinguer through other hands, we asked Giulio Bollati, the general manager of the Einaudi publishing house, to draw an “Identikit” of the anonymous author for us.

[1] English in original.

(Translated from the Italian by NOT BORED! 14 November 2012.)

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