Emanuele Trevi takes us inside «The magician’s house»


By John

What heavenly bodies, the fathers. In orbit up there, where we can see them and not see them, know them and not know them, scrutinize them with apprehension: what tide, what current, what phenomenon will it cause when it passes? How glittering, yet dark; how impenetrable they are, even though we have lived alongside them for years, and know we know everything about them. Except perhaps the essentials. But who can we say we know? Isn’t there perhaps in each of us a dark kernel unknown to ourselves? And whether others give us a handle or not, can we say we really know them? Thus, the infinitely unknown object in «The magician’s house» (Bridge to Graces), the new novel by Emanuele Trevi, a half (maternal) Calabrian writer and very attached to Calabria, Strega award in 2021 with «Due vite» – which today at 7pm will inaugurate the VIII edition of Summer at Casa Berto in Capo Vaticano – , is the father, the magician of the title. Mario Trevi, well-known Jungian psychoanalyst, who passed away in 2011, “magician” of the psyche, or magician as in children’s nursery rhymes – teaches them to the narrator Trevi, the beautiful Peruvian prostitute Paradisa, a woman who never questions existence but simply enjoys it , with an instinctive and placid satisfaction that extinguishes every anxiety, every question.

A father-magician with unknown tools, unknown thoughts, certain “absences” and distractions, or rather a programmatic, constitutive “desertion” from reality which is a family legend (the book opens with the maternal intercalation: «You know what he’s like» ). And the writer-son who goes to live in the “magician’s house” after his death, and soon realizes that he is, rather, “the curator and custodian” of his father’s museum, of which the novel is “a kind of catalog raisonné”.
The magician left a lot of things in there: very dense notebooks, surprising drawings (on the cover is one of the “mandalas” that he patiently composed: writing and drawing as opposite exercises, of consistency and “evaporation”, of awareness of death and avoidance of the ego and death, of being and non-being). Smoothed stones. An immense wooden desk, around which the “magic”, the healings, took place. And books, obviously, with their nature of compasses and maps and oracles, from Jung (in the most emblematic case, the patient he never met, Miss Miller) to The Kings.
And there is a persistence of the father, a sort of magnetic field that cannot be seen but is felt, and makes the house unsellable, off the market. And which attracts, through those unknowable processes that only psychoanalysis aspires to touch upon and sometimes modify, precisely that child who does not ask and does not investigate, who “is satisfied” (as if we didn’t know, that the other “magician” is the writer, the one who handles a matter that is equally dark and treacherous, but from which moments of shining beauty and truth can flow).
With his soft and light prose, apparently distracted, suffused like the smile of Hermes, god of changes who seems to be the tutelary deity of these pages, hermetic and hermeneutic together, Trevi moves dreamily among the objects and events of the “museum ” – the prosaic ones, like the incursions of the Degenerata, a Peruvian maid who brings not order but chaos; the mysterious ones, like the nocturnal passages of the unknown Visitor, similar to a house spirit who hides objects and turns on the lights at will – and shows us, at the same time, the substantial uselessness of investigations into the nature of those we love (or of anyone else, in fact), since “we are neither true nor false” (and this is a truth), but we can only shine, for a few moments, like the stones smoothed with infinite patience by the father, like the carefully composed pages from his son. Starting from the most common, deaf, banal material: the stones of the (Calabrian) beach, the words. Stolen “from the anger and hunger of time”, saved, healed. Close, even, present beyond space and time and death.
Here it is, the magic to live by.