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12 Swiss Books – 2015

The Living


GENRE Poetry, LANGUAGE Italian


“A book […] characterised by the relationship that things and humans (or whatever is left of them) have with the world.”




Portrait_GezziMASSIMO GEZZI was born in Sant’Elpidio a Mare (in the Italian region of Marche) in 1976. He now lives in Lugano, Switzerland, where he teaches Italian in a high school. Il numero dei vivi is his fourth collection of poetry. For Mondadori, he has edited Diario del ‘71 e del ‘72 by Eugenio Montale and Poesie 1975-2012 by Franco Buffoni. In 2015, Italic Pequod published a collection of his essays on poetry, Tra le pagine e il mondoPHOTO © Silvestar Vrljić

Six years after his collection L’attimo dopo, Massimo Gezzi, with The Living, has reached a new stage in his poetic journey. If, in his previous work, the influence of certain poets was evident – Eugenio Montale and Vittorio Sereni, for example, as well as Fabio Pusterla – in The Living, such influences are less pronounced, and Gezzi comes fully into his own with poems that tend progressively towards prose. The title reveals a need: to start counting again, to enumerate the topics and things which, in the previous book, focused on the theme of time; which were so precarious and ephemeral as to prove tragically elusive. The Living instead suggests a different ethical position and a new necessity: one that is born of being part of a community that is local (a house, a classroom, a city), but also planetary, that finds itself in an uncertain and violent time, and tries, sometimes without hope, to resist or oppose it.
It is a book about the living and about their existence, deeply flawed, yet full of dignity.
In Alias, the weekly literary feature of Il Manifesto, the literary critic Massimo Raffaeli writes of this new collection of poems by Gezzi: “The Living testifies not only to a further deepening of his exploration but, in particular, it reveals the author’s true character. The lessons of the masters and of his poetic peers have been absorbed and processed into a style that progressively tends towards prose […], while the themes that in the past were linked to a historical or generational situation here are developed according to a pattern that is essentially existential: the uncertain and ambiguous light of everyday life; the privilege and the burden of fatherhood; the Socratic enigma of those who, in order to make a living, must teach every day, and must therefore take upon themselves the experiences of younger individuals, who are even more vulnerable and helpless.”

TITLE Il numero dei vivi
PUBLISHER Donzelli Editore, Rome
ISBN 978-8-86843-186-0
TRANSLATION RIGHTS Elena Munafò, e.munafo@donzelli.it


Italian original (p. 80)
Unisci i puntini

Da un cancello socchiuso ognuno vede
la propria vicenda sotto forma
di rogge, campi di colza,
profili impettiti contro i colori
variabili delle albe. Cos’è rimasto, si chiede,
di quelle tracce, che disegno ho fatto emergere
dai puntini da unire collegando le cifre
che ne indicavano la successione? Fuori dalla finestra
un vento acerbo maltratta un oleandro,
una palma, una magnolia dai fiori sfatti.
Attraverso questi rami si compone
il disegno di una casa dai serramenti
verde scuro – o non erano arancioni?
e si affacciavano sul mare? –,
una delle tante case perse di cui si tiene in mente
ogni particolare.

Ecco, se alza lo sguardo,
una mattina di metà maggio mentre
perde del tempo, riflette, osserva il gesto
grazioso di una ciocca di capelli sistemata
dietro l’orecchio, ognuno può comporre
i punti di luce che un mattino di un altro secolo
gli ha impresso nella memoria: trova le differenze,
sembra dire quest’altro gioco
che il vento si ostina a suggerire.
Vedo solo ciò che è uguale, risponde,
mentre il verde della porta trasuda
arancione e un campo di colza
si tinge di marea.


Excerpt translated by Moira Egan with Damiano Abeni
Connect the Dots

From a gate ajar everyone sees
their own stories in the form
of irrigation ditches, fields of rapeseed,
profiles strutting against the changing
colours of sunrises. He asks himself
what’s left of those traces, which drawing did I bring
to the surface from the dots to be joined by linking
the figures that marked their sequence? Outside the window
a bitter wind mistreats an oleander,
a palm tree, a magnolia whose flowers are withered.
Through these branches emerges the design
of a house with shutters
of dark green – or were they orange?
And did they face the sea? –
one of the many lost houses whose every particular
we keep in mind.

Here, if he looks up,
one morning in mid-May as
he wastes time, reflects, observes the graceful
gesture of a lock of hair arranged
behind the ear, anyone can compose
the points of light that a morning of another century
has impressed upon the memory: the wind insists
on suggesting this other game
that seems to say, find the differences.
I see only what is the same, he answers,
while the green of the door exudes
orange and a field of rapeseed
is tinged with the tide.

“This is a book about the living and about their existence, deeply flawed, yet full of dignity.” DONZELLI EDITORE

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