The nightmare

Everyone has his borderline experiences. I had had one of these in Paris a few years before I started working as a tourist guide for Paris Vision. My existential angst, which I had long been keeping under control by sheer will power, suddenly exploded. Then a nauseating, gloomy, intolerable vision of life took hold of me, possessed me. There was no escape from it. I hated everything, death above all. Just the idea of it terrified me, made me feel powerless, rebellious, neurotic. I felt trapped, couldn’t free my mind and my gut of these destructive, negative feelings. I even despised the world that man had constructed, a world that I knew something of by then, having had personal experience of it. I knew what it meant to work, to struggle to survive. I tried to find an acceptable comparison between living with human animals and living with animal animals, such as goats, and I couldn’t find one. Goat society seemed to me to be a million times better than human society. Goats don’t kill each other, they live pacifically together. I had become convinced that any other animal on earth, however brutal, could not possibly have created such a false, bestial society.

The life I was leading had turned into a nightmare. Nothing amused me, consoled me or relieved my desperation. Paris felt like a cemetery to me. I lived with fear, with a terror of reality, and a contempt for the grotesque world in which I lived and, when I didn’t have a job and couldn’t find one, I saw myself in a state of decomposition, a coward who was incapable of action.

This period of my existence was enshrouded in a choking mal de vivre, oppressive and stormy. A violent, yet silent rebellion coursed through me. As well as my social and existential drama, I was beset with financial and emotional problems, I was constantly preoccupied with my roots, my identity. Even my health (I was not yet aware of my thalassemia), which I was so proud of and which made me feel immortal, was being been put to the test. I wallowed in a world of distress, squalor and misery. I even toyed with the idea of suicide.

One day when I was feeling particularly wretched, in an attempt to stave off somehow the temptation of an untimely death, I found myself jotting down in a diary that I always carried with me poetry, short stories, ideas that would suddenly come into my head. I discovered that I liked writing, that it made me feel less oppressed. It was a relief to pull out of my brain the ideas that were tormenting me. By writing I was able to establish a dialogue, a sincere, open dialogue with myself. It was my first dialogue: the soul talking to the soul. This mental exercise calmed me down, put me in touch with the deepest, most unexplored parts of myself, made me feel like a different person, gave me meaning and direction. I understood that writing wasn’t an escape, but a cure. After this revelation I couldn’t stop treating myself with this wonderful mental medicine. I would fill pages and pages of diaries and notebooks with words. I even bought a small tape recorder, which I would carry around with me as well as the notebooks, so I could quickly record any ideas that flashed into my mind and that I didn’t have time to write down.

When I lived in Melbourne, I belonged to a writers’ club. We used to meet every fortnight to read out excerpts from our work. After reading them we would examine them objectively, criticizing the style, discussing the content, the form, the originality of the work and its chances of publication. I really enjoyed this mental exercise. This ping-pong of ideas stimulated my brain, making it more productive and creative. Eventually, with the help of some of the club members, I had the opportunity to read some of my poems on the Melbourne radio. When I first heard my voice I couldn’t stop laughing.

At the age of 34 I drafted my first novel in English: Against the grain Contro corrente. I gave it to read to Philip Adams, an Australian journalist and essayist, whose writings I read and whose oriental philosophies appealed to me. He came in person to bring it back to me at my home in Albert Park but I was out. He left it behind the door with a letter inside which I should still have, unless it has been lost during my many travels and removals from one place to another. However, he didn’t have such a high opinion of my work: too many ideas, too immature, rather incomprehensible -or words to that effect. I had also written an essay on existentialism. The professor of philosophy at the Council of Adult Education, Max Charlesworth, said that the idea was not bad but that I needed to work on it more.

My writing adventures eventually led to the publishing, by small publishers, of four novels and three collections of short stories: “Fiori di sierra”, (The return of the emigrant), 1993 (translated into Greek); “Lis Finn”, 1994 (translated into Greek); “La svolta” (Turning Point), 1997 and “La particella seminale” (The Seminal Particle), 2002; and the stories: “ Anch’essi non sono che parole” (These are only words too), 1996; “Andando a Canberra” (Going to Canberra), 1998; “Ribelli non si nasce” (Rebels are not born), 2000. Some of these stories have been made into short films. “Il testamento di Orazio Guglielmini” (Orazio Guglielmini’s Will), consisting of four books: “L’Indifferenza divina” (Divine Indifference), “Lo Stato predatore” (The Predatory State), “Ha un senso la vita?” (Does life mean anything?) and “Il Paese delle meraviglie” (Wonderland), is my most recent work.

My literary work, whatever it is worth, is the fruit of my existence.

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