Letters to the Heretics

Notice to the French Reader

In 1977, when Letters to the Heretics appeared, the structures of Leftism were already fully decomposed. And yet, many stars[1] of the epoch, implicated by the critiques of the false Berlinguer, felt the need to take positions to show everyone that they were still alive: fans[2] of proletarian virtue, politicized homosexuals, feminists with easy access to Valium,[3] and several others surreptitiously subscribed to the opinion that the unknown author was a reactionary.

The publisher Giulio Einaudi, then considered to be representative of Leftist culture in Italy (a hybrid of Gallimard and Maspero,[4] to give the French reader a clear picture of him) and whose trademark had been borrowed by Letters to the Heretics, went even further and didn’t hesitate to denounce the work to the magistracy – the very one that, several years later, took care of Einaudi’s petition for bankruptcy. The morality of this man, inflexible in matters of literary fakes, because curiously malleable when it came to falsifying his accounting books. But today it would be cruel to hound Einaudi, reduced as he is to wandering from antique dealers to directors of art galleries to sell off the furniture that he amassed when his [proverbial] cows were fat.

This was the epoch of the impegno (l’engagement, to say it in your language),[5] a formidable paralysis of the spirit communicated to Italy by the boulevard-based workshops in Paris where, in the 1950s, provincial fashions were created.

Today, all of them – just like Einaudi – have closed their shops due to the general bankruptcy of the imposters: the militants of the local Communist Party, the intellectuals of the Left in general, and the progressives. Their silence has been bought by industry, the mass media,[6] and local governmental ministries and administrations, in which those who were “committed” are now employed as executives. Is this a good thing? Personally, I believe it is, at least because, at this stage of decomposition, no one, not even the most timid and amiable person, hesitates to treat them like old and worn-out shoes. The addressees of the letters from the false Berlinguer, as well as their friends, are among them, and remain so.

The partisans of armed struggle, who were openly criticized, never objected to the Letters to the Heretics. Obviously, they have shown themselves to be deprived of the gift of speech, that common property of all.[7] We had already intuited that, when they operated on the ground, and we have had confirmation of it since then, when they had the chance to speak from the cages of the courts: aphasia, in both cases, in freedom as in captivity.

The literary critics of the newspapers, however, condemned the text loudly and strongly; some of them called out the misprints in it, while others saw in it a pastiche of theses,[8] that is to say, [ideas that were] too explicit and thus unfortunate. But above all, what appeared incomprehensible to the men of the pen was the question who benefits?[9] from this literary hoax, and it seemed unacceptable to them that a small, anonymous book could not only be openly sold, [or] stolen, but could also benefit from publicity provided by the newspapers and television stations, right away,[10] without its author having to produce a laborious curriculum vitae composed of pettiness, compromises and flattery.

I must formally acknowledge that a certain free spirit showed his approval for the Letters to the Heretics.[11]

In general, the predictions of the false Berlinguer have today been confirmed: the “heretics” have renounced their beliefs; the Socialist new comers[12] have looted the country like they were Verres;[13] public opinion has become exhausted and rendered apathetic; starlets and showmen[14] (which is what wandering minstrels are called in Italy these days) associate with government ministers, a little like Rome under Caligula, forty years after J.C.[15] I note in passing that chiffoniers and hairdressers have become national treasures (in France, you have experienced the same thing). Executives are well off and are as bold as ever, spending their income with a repugnant bulimia, as when one throws a few morsels of spoiled liver to sea lampreys so as to catch them.

According to an aphorism of one of your philosophers, the spectacle is wealth that is only contemplated.[16] That is the state of things in Italy in 1987: a deaf and dumb people who limit themselves to contemplating the spectacle. Such a people, finally deprived of all interpreters of their silence, “can inspire nothing good,” as the Letters to the Heretics said ten years ago.

Pier Franco Ghisleni
September 1987

[1] French in original.

[2] English in original.

[3] The meaning of the French here, féministes au Valium facile (“feminists of easy Valium”), is obscure, and we have been unable to locate the Italian original of this “Notice.” And so we chosen a phrase that conveys the most likely meaning.

[4] A combination of a Stalinist and a bowdlerizer.

[5] i.e., political commitment.

[6] English in original.

[7] Latin in original.

[8] This could be an allusion to Giulio Bollati, the director of Editions Einaudi, who asked, in a letter published in La Stampa on 19 November 1977 (and reproduced on the cover of the French translation of this book), “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?”

[9] Latin in original.

[10] French in original.

[11] This could be an allusion to Gianfranco Sanguinetti, who, in 1978, wrote Il Caso Berlinguer e la Casa Einaudi.

[12] English in original.

[13] Gaius Verres (120-43 BCE), a Roman magistrate who “mismanaged” Sicily.

[14] English in original.

[15] Jesus Christ.

[16] Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle, Thesis 49, which states, Le spectacle est l’argent que l’on regarde seulement (“the spectacle is money that one only looks at”).

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