To Mister Giulio Bollati di Saint Pierre

From the Author of Letters to the Heretics

Even though you, in your capacity as the director of the Einaudi publishing house, have to deal with matters of great importance, you do not disdain from occupying yourself with my book, thus demonstrating that you possesses, to the highest degree, the rare virtue of not despising little things. The letter that you sent to Tuttolibri, and that was published on 19 November under the title “Identikit of a Forger,” does justice to your scrupulous research into the identity of the author of the Letters to the Heretics, and, if it does not give luster to your nose, nevertheless is proof of the good will with which you fulfill the most thankless tasks in that connection.

And this generous zeal, proper to a man who is “attentive to the history of our generations,” must be appreciated by Giulio Einaudi for its true worth. And so I take the opportunity to congratulate his publishing house for entrusting its direction in you.

You are actually a very outstanding person, Bollati di Saint Pierre: the elevation of your rank, your brilliant fortunes, your glorious name, and your progressive choices would be enough to support such an idea, even if you had lesser talent than what you possess. The use that you make of these uncommon advantages could, perhaps, have been more honorable for you, but could not be more instructive for mankind.

In any other case, I have no doubt that you would have weighed carefully the consequences that could result from exposing your name and reputation to the sarcasm and malice of the world. But in this case, I presume, you thought you would lose the confidence and friendship of your boss if you delayed, even for a moment, publishing your conclusions about my book and putting aside an immediate concern for prudent reflection.

And so I cannot stop myself from admiring the courage with which you have signed your “Identikit of a Forger” and, if your letter did not demonstrate anything other than courage, I might end here, on this note of praise. But, in this case, since your daring essentially consists in publishing (in many thousands of copies) the most incredible nonsense about my pamphlet,[1] this is what must be spoken about.

To begin with, you say that Letters to the Heretics is more “the work of a literary moralist” than that of “a militant partisan.” Now, leaving aside the alienated expression “militant,” the very fact that I have chosen to respond to your stupidities about my book, and not to those spoken by many others, should be enough to show that I am more a partisan than a literati, and that my one-sided partisanship is irremediably hostile [giustiziato] to the miserable attribution “moralist.”

You were wrong to boast, Bollati, when you cannot even tell the difference between Céline and Stendahl! This fact gives us two things: the first is a guarantee of my reputation; and the second is a guarantee that you really do represent Leftist progressive culture, the “culture” that prides itself on its ignorance of Céline, Nietzsche, Hegel, Burke and Thucydides, because their works are the hallmarks of “that ‘reactionary’ culture,” the “disorder” you generously attribute to me, and [the culture that] “always fights against the advent of the ‘modern world.’” Nothing less!

You are an imbecile, Bollati di Saint Pierre, and your orderly and progressive culture does not know Céline but, as compensation, knows Stendahl so well that it cannot distinguish him from the “reactionary” author of Voyage au bout de la nuit. As if culture can ontologically be “reactionary” or “progressive,” and not the use that one makes of it! In your hands, not only my satire, but also [Marx’s] Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 would be reactionary works, because, if you are unable to understand the former, you will find it impossible to understand the latter. Bollati, haven’t you ever wondered by what mysterious alchemy the books by Hegel and Ricardo became revolutionary in Marx’s hands? Or how it is that, in your hands, the books by Marx become waste paper and goods sold in the supermarket?

I do not mind noting in passing that – having proclaimed the author of the Letters to the Heretics to be a “conservative,” even a “reactionary,” someone who is “disillusioned” and “opposes the advent of the ‘modern world’” – as I say, I do not mind noting that, after hurling these pompous anathemas, Bollati the progressive candidly betrays them by adding, “he must be close to us (…) maybe I’ll see him tonight (…) he belongs to our cultural and human world.” What nice people you progressives meet in the evening! What a beautiful world! What humanity!

You claim to do my portrait, genuine Bollati? On the contrary, you made my “identikit”: well, in point of fact, you made your own!

Then, it takes all of your perspicacity to mention, among the possible authors, your worthy accomplice Nanni Balestrini, whom, among other things, you show an ingratitude that he should hardly forgive you for, because if Balestrini did not exist, you, Bollati, would deserve the prize as the most laughable of the progressive intellectuals in Italy. Or was it simply because he arouses your envy that you did not hesitate to accuse unfortunate Balestrini, since he, for his part, had already been quick to declare to Panorama that he “did not share” [the perspective of] my pamphlet[2] – which no one asked him – because he considers it, as you do, to be “right-wing”? As you can see, Bollati, and despite your concerns, in your miserable “cultural and human” world, everything holds.[3]

Right-wing or left-wing? That is the question![4] Like so many diligent theology students, you pursue this malicious and recurrent metaphysical question amidst the pranks you play on reality. Anything that challenges your progressive certainties must immediately be brought back to this simplistic dilemma: “right-wing” or “left-wing”? And under the axe of your criticism without concessions, the answer, which always precedes the question, is always the same: “right-wing.” To reassure you, it must be said that it isn’t just you progressives who claim to have some semblance of reason to justify this conclusion, but you do not even care to simulate reasoning; what is important to you is the conclusion, which is: “right-wing.”

Since this magic formula is the only one that is able to reassure your false consciousness, and since your bad conscience does not demand anything but reassurance, you do not hesitate to repeat it every time reality troubles you. And you are right to be troubled, Bollati, at a time when disorder is not only in my culture, but also in the streets and the factories.

Anything that damages the Left, then, is “right-wing” – according to you, according to your boss, according to the Euro-Stalinist Berlinguer. For example, if a social revolution would break out tomorrow in Italy, it is clear that this would be detrimental to the Left (for the simple reason that the workers would hang the trade-union bureaucrats and the Stalinists alongside the capitalists and their managers[5]). And so, Bollati, according to your metaphysics and ontology, such a revolution would be “right-wing,” and I do not doubt that you, fearless as you are, would condemn it firmly from the gallows, saying that the workers who were carrying out this sentence were “opposed to the advent of the ‘modern world’” that men of your temperament have always favored (by having the magistracy seize copies of my “reactionary” book). Unfortunately for you and your accomplices, when the workers have reached such a point, it will be because your metaphysical logic will have lost its currency, and because the logic of the workers will have followed that of the dialectic. And the dialectic doesn’t know “Right” or “Left,” but only its own reason: the reason of history.

In fact, today, anything that harms the Right is “Left,” and anything that harms the Left is “Right,” and I think it frankly curious that, in the country of the “historic compromise,” there is still someone like you who is naïve enough to doubt it. History does not function like a [session of] parliament, Bollati, and its dialectic has nothing to do with what is known as the “parliamentary dialectic.” History is never either “right-wing” or “left-wing,” nor does it pay attention to people like you. And it is history and those who make it today who impartially harm both the “right-wing” and the “left-wing” of the old world, which never ceases to make the same accusations in vain, [even] while it disappears.

When my pamphlet[6] ridiculed your boss, Berlinguer, and all the stars[7] of the New Left, I quite simply ridiculed the spectacle of rebellion – and I certainly did not ridicule rebellion against the dominant spectacle, of which my satire is but one example among a hundred others. To understand the Letters to the Heretics as a subversive imposture, one need not be particularly well-versed in the affairs of global revolution: one need only be intelligent, as a few bourgeois commentators – such as Calasso at the Corriere – have understood.

Somewhere in your letter you complain that “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.” You are right to recognize the usefulness of reading. It would be bad if people did not read, especially for you, because you would be out of a job. But you do not even suspect that understanding what is being read is even more useful than reading. This is a banality, Bollati, but one that, if heeded, would have easily avoided so much of what is said in “Identikit of a Forger.”

It is certainly not surprising that the head of the Einaudi publishing house does not know how to write, and, moreover, no one asks him to be able to do so. It is more peculiar that its editorial director does not even know how to read, as your letter to Tuttolibri has shown. But I didn’t find this particularly astonishing, because I know the old adage: “as things are with the master, so there are with the servant.”

But anyone who reads this long letter from me, addressed to someone who is so rightfully accused of not being able to read, will detect the implicit contradiction or inconsistency in my behavior. To this well-justified objection, I do not in truth know how to respond.

To gain the forgiveness of these other readers, I will therefore provide an easy and short summary of what I have said, Bollati, for your own private and exclusive use.

I said:

First of all, that you are an asshole, and I think I proved this without hurry or effort;

That you are an ignoramus who is convinced that everything that differs from your ignorance “opposes the advent of the modern world”;

That you are a virtuoso progressive who accuses subversives of being reactionaries, but that, “in the evening,” you willingly dine with reactionaries without mincing words[8];

That your “identikit” does not fit me, unfortunately, but that, on the other hand, it fits you perfectly;

That you are a metaphysic: that you ramble on and on, and get paid to do so, about what is “right-wing” and what is “left-wing,” as in the past they used to quibble about the gender of the angels;

And finally (and this sums up everything else) that, if abstract thinking is not your strong point, Bollati, concrete uselessness is your weakness.

To conclude, I will say that I will not satisfy your “small-town curiosity” about my identity, but I can eliminate some of your “neurotic suspicions,” to use your expressions.

I am not “the famous Censor, that is to say, Gianfranco Sanguinetti,” but I have reason to believe that Sanguinetti would not mind seeing that he is not the only one in Italy who ridicules the powerful and the imbeciles. And I find it frankly bizarre that you, and so many of your peers, are able to remember “the famous Censor” with tranquility, happily forgetting the impression he made two years ago.

I have never heard of “Professor Losardu.” I have never set foot in Segrate, or in any editorial office. As for the situationists, everyone knows that the Situationist International no longer exists, even if situationists are now everywhere, in the streets and in the factories in revolt.

Who did you think you could deceive, Bollati, with your ridiculous letter? Whose gratitude did you hope to earn?

These are questions that you need not respond to and, moreover, none are necessary: your private life and your public behavior have already given sufficient responses.

Little books have their own destiny, Bollati, as do imbeciles![9]

The author of Letters to the Heretics
November 1977

P.S. A final word, this time not addressed to you, Bollati, but to your boss, who is a proponent of freedom of the press in Moscow, but very anxious to have books seized in his homeland. Einaudi: reading this letter addressed to your stooge, you cannot believe you’ve been spared, because this story is about you.[10] That you are a “foolish soul” has neither great importance nor need of further proof: in addition to all that you are, you employ people like Bollati.

[1] English in original.

[2] English in original.

[3] French in original.

[4] English in original.

[5] English in original.

[6] English in original.

[7] French in original.

[8] French in original.

[9] Latin in original.

[10] Latin in original.

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

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