Looking deep inside without masks: Claudia Cautillo's latest novel


By John

The “Double Look” of Rebecca, the woman who lived twice. Or perhaps – as she can only do with truly alive people – many more. A novel, the latest by Claudia Cautillo for “The Plots of Circe”, played on the ambiguous thread of time, therefore of memories, which return and return – continuously – influencing every new trajectory, every action, every choice. Until they fade, until they become – the memories of each of us – so inert as to be exemplary: a thousand stories and plots, which are finally, simply, our story.

A novel, in fact, about identity. Because – Cautillo always reminds us with his usual sensitivity and clarity – we take possession of ourselves slowly, experience after experience, picking up pieces and making as many fragments that serve to laboriously recompose, every day, the person we become again.

Looking at the past, the too many masks we have worn, the others we have been, emerge – before our eyes. And it is only then that we finally try to be naked, to archive – without denying it – every disabling appearance. A parable, for some spirits, which is perhaps inevitable. Certainly painful at times, but to be done without excessive feelings of guilt.

Here the story of Rebecca, who arrived in the judiciary after an adolescence in the seventies, lived among a thousand anxieties, becomes an opportunity to delve into old and new fragilities, into old and new certainties. Rebecca, thanks to an autobiographical novel, is among the finalists of an important literary prize; she in the car, with her niece Margherita, a teenager and full of questions, she travels quickly to participate in the event where the winner will be announced. In her words, with Rome in the background, the upheavals and battles – won and lost – of the post-1968 generation come to life again, the correct demands that have borne excellent fruit, favored emancipation, ensured rights, but the excesses also resurface and errors. Someone sensational and very serious, so much so that he jumped to the forefront of the national news.

Living means taking risks, and you learn this especially at your first steps. During childhood, adolescence, youth. Great passions, some falls, and – above all – secrets. There are many secrets, and some – in the dramatic awareness of the difficulty of being “accepted” – will remain forever unmentionable. Many open wounds and, soon, the habit of scars, ugly but often romantic memories: this is how, Cautillo shows us, growth works, of the body and the soul.

Margherita, in every “sequence”, is the clear mirror of Rebecca's strength but also of her weaknesses: experiencing life (as the diary inserts of one of the characters also verbalize) is, in fact, trying. She risked Rebecca, she risks – always – Cautillo. As in the previous, very courageous one, “The Naked Fire”, finalist for the 2016 Calvino Prize, suggests that it is people, rather than stories, that are scabrous: we should perhaps approach ourselves, and others, with more “ caution”, but almost never succeeds – sometimes disastrously.