«Life is short, etc.» by Veronica Raimo: narration as an act of rebellion against reality

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By John

If he were a poet he would look in the mirror and take notes. Instead, Veronica Raimo is a writer. And in his stories – the latest collection has just been released, «Life is short, etc.» (Einaudi) – lets his characters navigate reality and take notes. More than resistance, that of the protagonists of his stories is habit. Here, his protagonists have become accustomed to resisting. And they do it in all sorts of ways, perhaps unlikely, perhaps not always right, but certainly true.

Authenticity is the heart of writing from which stories are born by Veronica Raimo. It is as if each of the heroines of these eleven fairy tales of our time was gripped by such a desire not to tell the truth that she cannot tolerate those who always tell things as they are: narration, therefore, as an act of rebellion against reality, first and foremost, but also as a claim for the freedom to reconstruct the so-called reality constructed by everyone else with other words, in a different way.

The protagonists of her stories feel the full weight of the banal. Sometimes they go along with it, sometimes they fight it, but they definitely try not to be like it. On the other hand, this is impossible, because it is Raimo’s writing that forces her protagonists to look at themselves – with admiration, perhaps, but also with amazement – ​​and to continue to study themselves as if they were in front of a mirror.

Raimo’s writing is dangerous. No frills. Unscrupulous. It’s scary, like the mirror, in fact. But he doesn’t run away from all sides. It reflects the reader’s thoughts. And she denies it. The reader hears her breathing in the darkness, like an enemy that sooner or later he will have to face. She forces him to suffer the truth: the words that feed Raimo’s writing are skin, eyes, blood. His language, his writing are entrusted to the monologues of Roberta, Irene, Carla, Marianna – to mention the names of some of the protagonists – who at a certain point in their stories stop and listen to the uselessness of everything.
And it’s pleasant, after all, like looking at the sea from the top of the cliff. Then, it’s up to you to decide whether to take a dive into the ocean of existence or stay and observe the view from afar. «A parody of life where you can abandon yourself to the vanity of infinite squalor»: is this all your characters are looking for? In fact, Silvia, the protagonist of “Canicola Privata”, admits it right away: «she adored the God of squalor». In her photos of her – Silvia is a photographer – «she managed to find ruin in everything, wounds of uneasiness under smiling faces, landscapes full of disaffection and distance. (…) Every single object was transformed into waste. Wreck. Rejection. A world of things gone adrift.” Here, Raimo’s are stories behind which irony clumsily hides melancholy, stories that closely recall Grace Paley’s “small setbacks in life” (“I wanted to write a poem, instead I made a cake”), in whose irreverent tone highlights even more the irresistible fascination that the author feels for the present moment.

The result is a composite portrait of women and their relationships, a portrait resulting from a “free gaze” that certainly amuses, but at the same time offers us crumbs of the absolute: «He wouldn’t have wanted to kill anyone. Or everyone”.