“Without telling anyone”: those “halved” kids that we don't know how to understand in Giorgio Scianna's novel


By John

«Sometimes one believes himself incomplete and is only young», cut in two, «halved» like the viscount of Calvino, and like the sixteen-year-old Manish of «Without telling anyone» (Einaudi), the beautiful novel by Giorgio Sciannaa writer from Pavia who with his stories traces an anthropological map of the relationships between generations, moves through the minefield of families, investigates the sadness and silences of adolescence, tackling with his plain prose but with pressing narrative tension the complexity of social issues.

We learn from an early age that in real life, as in fiction, nothing is too clear, nothing is whole; and certainly that half-being experienced by the Calvinian Viscount, that incompleteness of young people but also of adults, is a good, a way to meet on the terrain of mutual errors. And wholeness is a “dull and ignorant” condition (as Calvino put it) from which it is good to free oneself, in order to understand one another and to understand.

Manish is a “halved” boy: son of two separated parents, he, Kirti, a naturalized Indian photographer from London, she, Barbara, an Italian dermatologist, who returned to Italy, to Genoa, to live with her second partner and the twins born to him. Manish, on the other hand, through a “shared” choice, has lived with his father in London since the age of seven, in a coexistence characterized by freedom that would make any teenager happy. So, one summer day, while his father thinks he is at school, Manish leaves at dawn to get to Rome where in a park in the center he is arrested for drug dealing together with other boys. The mother runs immediately but finds herself in a strange situation: all the boys are hastily released with many apologies as if nothing had happened. She therefore stops in Rome with her son, closed in his polite silence, to understand and investigate. Which he does with an Italian lawyer, bothering embassies and “higher levels” from which the order to free the boys came.

The days pass in a surreal Rome numbed by the atrocious heat, between questions on their parents' choices (even the peaceful and acquiescent Kirti will arrive) and the polite silence of Manish who wanders around the city on an apparent holiday. But, as often happens in Scianna's novels, if the kids choose not to answer, then it's time for the adults to ask themselves some questions, as Barbara and Kirti will do, while reviewing their role as “open” and accommodating parents.

What is the secret of the enigmatic Manish, who does not smoke or take drugs, still uncertain about who he wants to be in life, Scianna will tell it page by page, taking inspiration, as always, from real events even if freely reinvented by the writer. But the story concerns the mistakes of adults when a family breaks up: it is not enough to be honest and serious parents like Kirti and Barbara, it is not enough to have “civil” relationships in the couple, you must not be distracted, take on responsibilities towards your children, deserve their trust, entering the tangled bramble of adolescence.