Games of Eternity (Giochi dell’eternità) by Antonio Moresco

                                   

The trilogy consists of the following novels: The Beginnings (Gli esordi), Songs of Chaos (Canti del caos), and The Uncreated Ones (Gli increati). To the best of my knowledge, only the first novel has been translated into another language. Aufbrüche, the German translation of the book by Ragni Maria Gschwend, was awarded The Leipzig Book Fair Prize in 2006. As for English-language readers, for the time being they have to content themselves with Moresco’s slim novel Distant Light (tr. by Richard Dixon), the only work by the Italian author that has appeared in English so far.

For the most part of its gestation, Moresco referred to the main literary project of his life as The Uncreated (L’increato), but eventually, when it was time to reissue all three novels as parts of the greater whole, he chose the title Games of Eternity (Giochi dell’eternità), which is the expression we come across on the first page of The Beginnings when the narrator describes how he is polishing his boots trying to catch the moment when the shoe polish disappears, and only “shining light” remains instead: “I play this and other games of eternity”. The entire opus is 2,760 pages long, and it took Moresco more than 30 years to create it: from 1984, when he started writing the first novel of the trilogy, to 2015, the year when the final volume came out. This long stretch of time comprises the four years it took the unknown author to write the first novel and eleven more to get it published with considerable revisions, as well as the fifteen years spent on writing the second novel. Not to be overwhelmed, I have decided that the best way to tackle Games of Eternity is by looking at one volume at a time, and, having accomplished that, to draw some general conclusions bearing on the entire trilogy. Stay with me — it will take me a while.

 

The Beginnings (Gli esordi)

In the second edition of the novel we can find a rather unusual document, one of those professional texts from the world of publishing that common readers usually don’t get to see. It is the synopsis of the book written by Italian writer Tiziano Scarpa for the publishing company Feltrinelli at which he was working as an editor. I would like to quote some sentences from this synopsis, which, in my opinion, accurately reflect the ambition, scope and anomalousness of Moresco’s novel as well as give us the idea why the literary establishment of the 1990s Italy was not ready for this bold and uncompromising work.

Let’s say that we deal with writing which is completely imbued, soaked with images. Come to think of it, Kafka comes to mind, but a Kafka completely stripped of any explicit argumentation or metaphysical discussions. […] in this writing any psychological drift has been removed; what is left is an animal, creatural, physical perception of the events. […] We are thrown into some kind of uninterrupted pre-Socratic dawn or, better still, into an atemporal tour in the claritas of the creation. […] what happens is, so to speak, aion, not chronos. […] I do not hesitate to say that The Beginnings is the cornerstone of our literature of the second half of the century. It resolves a myriad of aesthetical problems being neither mimetic nor fantastic; it gives a definitive word on the destiny of the individual in our time, on his prospects of finding an existential posture, a mark of his calling, a space of political expression, a connection between I am and I do. It is a book that will remain a literary event, the work of a lifetime.

A 600-page novel totally devoid of character psychology and blatantly unforthcoming with the motives for their actions is an uncomfortable read, to say the least. It would be easier to accept the book if it was a slim nouveau-romanish exercise in form and style, instead of an epic narrative spanning more than 20 years of Italian history in which the minutiae of everyday life and surreal episodes of brain-searing intensity are recounted in the same dead-pan, unreflective tone. There is some affinity between The Beginnings and Mircea Cărtărescu‘s latest novel Solenoid: both novels integrate the fantastic, bizarre and extraordinary into the mundane to a stunning effect. Both are ironic subversions of the Künstlerroman and both contain a heavy dose of autobiographical material. But Solenoid is all about the voice and attitude of its main character, who obviously serves as the mouthpiece for Cărtărescu’s own ideas. By shutting down this “channel” for his characters, Moresco heavily sacrifices the readability of his book: it’s as if he had chosen to show a sound film without the sound. Out of the two novels, Solenoid is by far more enjoyable, whereas The Beginnings is more iconoclastic in the uncompromising pursuit of its artistic principles to the detriment of readerly comfort.

The three parts of Moresco’s novel show us the three main stages of the unnamed narrator’s life: his studies at a seminary, involvement in the political activities of a left-wing extra-parliamentary group, and the period of uphill battle to get his novel published while living a lonely life in an apartment block in Milan. Moresco himself, of course, went through all these stages. He was a seminary student, spent a decade fighting for such leftist organisations as Servire il popolo and Autonomia operaia, and, having discarded the youthful illusions and maximalism, set out on a long and gruelling journey of becoming a writer.

The first part of the novel is called Scene of Silence (Scena del silenzio). It gives an account of a certain period in the narrator’s stay at a seminary in an unidentified Italian region interrupted by a short trip to his relatives in a country estate called Ducale. The boy has taken a vow of silence, and doesn’t utter a word until the very end of the first part. Everything we see and hear is channelled through his consciousness; he acts as an observer and chronicler of the events taking place in the seminary and its environs as well as in the Ducale estate. Although the events are narrated in the most neutral and objective tone possible, it would be rash to call the young seminarist a neutral observer. From the very beginning we are trapped in the ambiguous position between accepting the wild flourishes of surrealism as the inherent feature of the novelistic world and shrugging them off as the mental fabrications of the protagonist. As we proceed, we realise that there won’t be any resolution to this issue and the best way to act is just let the outlandish imagery wash all over us without looking for the underlying cause. The narrator contemplates with the same detached curiosity a can of shoe polish and the head of his fellow student covered in a translucent gelatinous crust with a whole shimmering city sprawling underneath, complete with an airport from which miniature planes take off. In the same matter-of-fact manner the protagonist describes how the calluses on his uncle’s foot grow into a complex structure of ramifying calcified protuberances which are expertly cut off by a chiropodist to be later used as animal feed or how a recently married woman goes through pregnancy and enters labour in the matter of hours.

A distinctive feature of The Beginnings worth mentioning is that the characters are not called by their proper names. They are mostly referred to by their occupation (i.e. the prior), their relation to the narrator (i. e. the Uncle) or by a nickname. Among the many eccentric personalities we encounter in the first part, the most prominent are the Cat (il Gatto), the senior prefect at the seminary who is about to get ordained as priest, the Black Sister (la Suora Nera), a mysterious black nun with a passion for knitting whose long hair completely wraps her body like a cloak, and the Peach (la Pesca), a strabismic girl at the Ducale estate who, as can be surmised, is the narrator’s love interest. The cat, as we know, is anything but an angelic creature: we’ve got centuries of folk and traditional literary forms depicting the animal as the faithful companion of witches, warlocks and other malicious entities consorting with the devil. For example, it’s not without reason that one of the members of Woland’s retinue in Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita has the appearance of a giant cat with the fitting name Behemoth. There is something diabolical about the senior prefect in Moresco’s novel, although we are not given any clear indication of that. But the way he can hardly contain laughter during a religious service or the fact that his newly tonsured scalp reveals an ugly scar that he constantly tries to hide from the narrator gives us an early hint that the Cat will not remain in the service of God for long. Neither will the narrator, for that matter, although the first part ends with him uttering an emphatic “yes” after the prior asks the boy whether he stands firm in his calling.

1970 Fiat 500 L

Fast-forward to the 1970s, the years of social unrest and political violence in Italy. In the second part of the novel titled Scene of History (Scena della storia) we catch up with the narrator as a young man performing various agitation tasks for an underground organisation whose agenda remains obscure despite the detailed descriptions of its members’ frenetic activities. The boss of the main character, known simply as the bald man, makes him in charge of a certain zone that comprises several rural towns. His duty is to travel from town to town (first in a plastic car, then in a small yellow Fiat) equipped with a loudspeaker and a portable stage, disseminating leaflets and holding political rallies. The sheer absurdity of the task becomes apparent as we realise that most of the time there is no audience to listen to the protracted political rants of the young man. Moreover, the content of his speeches is never revealed. The empty squares of Italian towns harking indifferently to the lonely voice of the narrator remind us of the eerie town squares depicted by Giorgio di Chirico in his famous series of  metaphysical paintings. Gradually, the agitator picks up a company of collaborators, who might have easily migrated from the works of Beckett: a blind man with extraordinary hustling skills, a constantly yawning man with rotten teeth called Drowsiness (Sonnolenza), a factory worker with a blank face — literally blank: no eyes, no nose, no mouth — and an eye-seeing dog that eventually gets pregnant. By some feat of accommodation the whole crowd fits into the interior of the little yellow car together with the rally equipment, and in this composition they continue conducting their cryptic mission for a little while. In one of the rare episodes featuring a crowded square, the Black Sister, wrapped in the mantle of her long hair, reappears as the ringleader of violent protesters clashing with the riot police. The brutality of the confrontation stands in stark contrast to all the vacuous agitation errands run by the narrator and his companions. Stunned, he watches the Black Sister murder a police officer by driving a knitting needle through his nostril.

Giorgio de Chirico, Italian Square, 1948.

The folly of the whole pseudo-revolutionary enterprise reaches crescendo when the narrator is dispatched on a new mission in the fictional town of Bindra. His task is to join one of the regional headquarters of the organisation situated in an imposing three-story building. When he arrives at the site, he finds out that the building has long been abandoned and fallen into neglect: its spacious rooms that still contain some duplicating equipment and the cell’s documentation are now hung heavy with cobwebs and infested by rodents. In the same expressionless manner in which he does everything else, the newly arrived undertakes the futile task of reviving the local cell by tracking down all the people who at some point applied for the membership in the organisation. But the more he tries, the more conspicuous becomes the scale of the entropic dissolution that has permeated the activity of his group and, in fact, the whole cause of the radical left. Apart from the small boy remaining as the deputy head of the deserted HQ, the only other faithful member of the cell proves to be an eccentric old man called the Fop (il Gagà) who, when confined to sickbed, recounts a wildly delirious tale that cries to be included into any major anthology of weird literature. The story is about his early years of apprenticeship to a wandering embalmer who one day receives a commission to go to Vladimir Lenin’s residence in Gorki, a locality in Moscow Oblast, and carry out around-the-clock surveillance of the half-paralysed Communist leader. Their secret mission is to catch the moment just before Lenin’s demise and to carry out, as swiftly as possible, the initial steps of the embalming process. A considerable obstacle to the venture is posed by Lenin’s chambermaid who proves to be none other than Anastasia Romanov, a daughter of the assassinated Russian czar: the girl develops an uncanny affection for the wheelchair-bound leader, which is consummated in a hallucinatory coupling ritual involving a double split on cupboard tops and a sudden change of seasons. Like the previous part, this one ends with the narrator saying “yes”. This time the answer is given to the bald man’s proposal for him “to become a warrior”, i. e. a revolutionary terrorist. Next thing we know, instead of a Che Guevara there is a frustrated writer living on his own in one of Milanese tower blocks.

Scene of Celebration (Scena della festa) is the final part of the novel and is perhaps the most Kafkaesque. The parallels with The Castle are all too obvious. The narrator’s continuously forestalled efforts to meet the chief editor of a publishing house, who has expressed unbridled enthusiasm about the manuscript of his novel (actually, the first and second parts of the book we are reading), are only matched in their doggedness by the surveyor’s single-minded quest to enter the Castle. In the course of numerous phone calls, enquiries and visits to the publishing company’s offices, the writer on many occasions seems to be tantalisingly close to meeting the editor, but at the last moment some circumstance gets in the way and the cherished encounter has to be postponed. When the narrator gets through the web of chicanery and finally confronts its sleazy architect, he is surprised to see none other than the sinister Cat from his seminary days who, fittingly enough, has acquired a devilish limp. According to the Cat’s skewed logic the best way of dealing with such an extraordinary novel is to destroy it, to consign it to flames. I see here an obvious nod to The Master and Margarita with a very peculiar twist. As you might remember, Bulgakov’s Woland utters the proverbial phrase “manuscripts don’t burn” before conjuring up the restored novel about Pontius Pilate that was earlier burnt down by its author. The Cat as if refashions this famous saying into something like “truly remarkable manuscripts must burn”, for only then they will forever remain pure and intact.

After participating in a literary-themed variation on Walpurgisnacht that takes place in a roadman’s house and is attended by famous writers and book characters (i.e. Alexander Pushkin, Emily Dickinson, Giacomo Leopardi, Bartleby, Smerdyakov), and where he is briefly reunited with the Peach, the narrator goes for a walk with the Cat for the last time. In the final scene, imbued with Faustian undertones, the writer and his dark companion end up on the roof of Milan Cathedral, which they call “the cathedral of foam”. The third “yes” is in order, yet we do not hear the narrator pronounce it. This “yes” is embedded in the Cat’s wicked proposition: to take a leap into the uncreated. Although it appears that the Cat wants them both to do that when he says “let us throw ourselves headfirst into the uncreated” (gettiamoci a capofitto nell’increato), he nevertheless suggests that the writer should be the first to step off the roof of the beautiful building so that he can see “how worlds re-open” and enter “the realms where one appears and disappears at the same time”. The Cat is praying to God that his former seminary schoolmate make the fatal step into the void even before his mouth utters the third “yes” — the limping plotter seems to be well informed about the two previous assents of the narrator. However, the reader is left in the dark as to whether the writer will fulfill the wish of his diabolical editor by giving the expected assent and immediately acting upon it.

Milan Cathedral. Image by Jiuguang Wang.

Moresco builds his strange world not only by the unexpected injections of the surreal, but also by the orchestration of the recurrent motifs and symbols. Mirrors, ladders, and, especially, fire, play as important a role in creating the effect of estrangement as more bizarre objects like the severed cat’s paw, which keeps appearing on different parts of the Peaches’ body or the glass reliquary in the hothouse at the Ducale estate containing a stuffed golden pheasant, grey heron, and toucan. There is a lot of confusion about the Peach’s ascending and descending the ladder: sometimes it is difficult to say whether by going down she is  more likely to reach the ground or end up upstairs. Depending at which angle the Peach places the mirror, the topography of the estate suddenly changes to correspond to its skewed reflection. As for the fire, one of the key scenes in the whole novel is the conflagration of the enormous pile of dry leaves at the Ducale, which utterly mesmerises the narrator. No less fascinating to him is the Fop’s description of the fireplace in Lenin’s villa in Gorki, which he comes to see as the metaphysical double of the Ducale estate.  And, of course, the narrator’s games of eternity consist primarily of his interaction with fire and light. At the seminary, he is fascinated by the shoe polish turning into pure light on his boots. Later on, he discovers the ability of splitting candle flames with his finger. The real purpose of these and other games could be getting a glimpse of or maybe even an access to what lies beyond everyday reality. Could it be that his unconscious search for the uncreated has already begun at an early age?

 

Songs of Chaos (Canti del caos)

 The second novel of the trilogy came as a shock. Based on a handful of the reviews in the Italian media, I had naively believed that I was ready for it. Not only because I had read the first volume, but because I had read François Rabelais, Jonathan Swift, the Marquis de Sade, Herman Melville, James Joyce, William Burroughs, Gertrude Stein, Günter Grass, Thomas Pynchon, Robert Coover, Joseph McElroy, Carlos Fuentes, Paolo Volponi, Alexander Goldstein, Alberto Laiseca, Miquel de Palol and, more recently, Mircea Cărtărescu. So, I thought nothing could surprise me anymore, there was no weirdness left that would be too weird for me, no imagery so violent and outlandish it would be scorched into my brain to haunt me for weeks, no narrative and language idiosyncrasies that would leave me infuriated, appalled, dismayed and, at the same time, intoxicated with the unexpected exhilaration of being in the presence of something significant, albeit extremely disturbing, being synthesised right in front of my eyes. Man, was I wrong! Songs of Chaos seems like a book from another dimension, written in some inconceivable language, which has been smuggled into our world and clandestinely translated into Italian. It doesn’t belong in this time and space. Yet it is here. I am far from declaring this flower of evil the greatest work of Italian literature — God forbid! But, if Earth was invaded by aliens and I was responsible for selecting just two Italian books for their museum of human culture, I would choose without hesitation Dante’s The Divine Comedy and Moresco’s Songs of Chaos.

This novel represents a drastic shift in the Italian author’s poetics, comparable to the leap from Newtonian mechanics to Einstein’s relativity. Despite being a direct continuation of The Beginnings, the second book is a whole new world in itself and there is precious little in the first novel which can help the readers stranded in the chaosmos of Songs of Chaos to find their bearings. The arduous task of disentangling the complexities of this depraved world will rest solely on their shoulders, and even if they manage to reach the final page, none of them will walk away from this experience unscathed.

Before I even start discussing this 1,000-page opus, I would like to quote Moresco himself who throws some light on the research that went into the making of the book in the brief note at the end of the novel:

Manuals, encyclopedic entries, scientific books and articles on astronomy, computer science, genetics, anthropology, human, pre-human and post-human biology, artificial intelligence, religion, history; travel accounts, fashion show reports and catalogues, but also first-hand investigations, inquiries, private meetings in the world of advertising, sperm banks, publishing, economics, pornography etc. … have been merged in an autonomous and unpredictable way in this adventure in the shape of a book that lasted for fifteen years.

The first remarkable thing about the novel is that while reading it, you wouldn’t have noticed all this insane amount of research. This is because Moresco, unlike many lesser writers who go out of their way to appear encyclopedic, does not parade the tremendous knowledge gained while writing Songs of Chaos — he seamlessly integrates it into the fabric of the text, modifying and transforming it to fit the purpose of his poetic vision.

The novel starts with the preface written by the Cat for the as-yet unwritten book by the narrator of The Beginnings,  who finally gets a name, or rather a nickname, from his Mephistophelian editor: from now on the writer is going to be called the Madman (il Matto). Please note that in Italian their names differ only by the initial letter: Gatto/Matto. (I owe this and some other insights to Raffaele Donnarumma’s brilliant essay La guerra del racconto: Canti del caos di Antonio Moresco). As was to be expected, the Cat refused to publish the Madman’s first novel, The Beginnings, because it did not correspond to the new spirit of our materialistic and information-saturated global society. Now the author is expected to write a new book, which is apparently destined to become the Songs of Chaos we are reading at this very moment. The problem is that the first pages of the new novel, in which the narrator finds himself lying in the grave and listening to the voices on the surface, do not satisfy the editor at all. The Cat is sure that the Madman is experiencing writer’s block and, therefore, he sends him to the Muse for inspiration.

The Muse is a prostitute moonlighting as a hard-core porn actress who receives blocked authors at her home and instills in them the cherished inspiration by a variety of manipulations, not all of which are of identifiable sexual nature. She introduces the first characters of the Madman’s future novel by telling their stories and thus sets in motion the erratic and unpredictable narrative-spouting machine which Songs of Chaos proves to be. The characters rapidly multiply and most of them have stories to tell with more characters in them, and then some of those characters unexpectedly show up at the principal narrative level to tell more stories. The violation of the diegetic hierarchy is perhaps the only constant in the highly volatile environment of this book. The narratives are created by a variety of ways: as oral tales, as written texts, as visual storytelling, as drug-induced hallucinations. A very important form of narrative is the song. In the novel, a song (canto) is a character’s incantatory monologue midway between prose and poetry embellished by rhetorical sweeps, rhythmic patterns, fixed epithets and recurrent motifs. It is through the songs that many of the characters reveal their backgrounds and the major events in their lives. And most of these characters are rather strange, to say the least.

There is a programmer who also happens to be a sperm donor. He is developing software for a video game whose main theme is the conflict of generations. The idea springs from the never-ending feud between his father Pericles and sister Grace. In the game, the young generation is represented by hoodlums zipping around on roller-skates, whereas the old one by geriatric stilt walkers. Both groups are wearing stylish helmet masks of the designated colour. There is a woman called the Interface (L’interfaccia) who is artificially inseminated with the programmer’s sperm. She gets inspiration and instruction by pressing her vagina to the screen showing the Muse’s vagina broadcast via a private TV network. There is the hit-and-run driver (l’investitore) whose hobby is driving through the city streets at night and running over pedestrians. Mind you that investitore also means “investor”. There is Inspector Lanza who has no previous experience of solving crime cases but aspires to become a writer and is responsible for a few exciting narratives in the novel. There is the old man suffering from a masturbatory paresis, who is constantly trying to foist on the Cat his manuscript. The editor eventually borrows its title for the Madman’s novel: Songs of Chaos. There is the woman who screams. There is the priest, who is addicted to heavy drugs. He keeps a cut-out picture of the Muse’s vagina in the tabernacle alongside the Eucharist and gets to meet the fugitive Pope Elvis II whose first edict was the dissolution of the Roman Catholic Church. There is a Bantu prostitute called Princess who falls in love with the mover (il traslocatore): a man in possession of a truck who almost daily moves to a new place completely removing not only all the furniture but also all the fixtures of the previous place of residence and installing them in his next domicile. There is the girl with the sanitary pad with an unnaturally copious menstruation flow and the girl with acne, who proudly proclaims that it’s the first sign of leprosy. There is the tamer (il domatore) whose principal task is to break the recalcitrant girls dragooned into hard-core pornography. He sports a world map tattooed on his penis, which reveals unexpected details during tumescence: an ancient sailing ship, Napoleon with his general staff atop a hill, a bas-relief depicting archers on the palace of Assyrian King Ashurbanipal. There is the prepuce trumpeter who sounds a prepuce like a trumpet. There is a snake involved in the making of underground porn movies. There is the lady with a tail, who is also an emissary of the world of underground porn. There is the spastic gynecologist. There is the rapist of pregnant women. There is the man who steps into shit. Gradually, different geological layers of the substance on his foot soles coagulate to form some kind of flexible stilts and allow him to cover great distances and step over buildings. There is the sky of shit. Yes, it’s a fully fledged character with its own song! There are the signs: people who got completely squashed on the highway and then unstuck themselves from the tarmac and started moving and showing directions. There are the flag wavers whose flags are anatomical extensions of their muscular bodies. There is stylist Lupus suffering from lupus who copulates with his own dogs. There are three men on the bridge of a ship traversing the ocean: in profile, who sees only the waves in transit – the present; from behind, who sees only where the waves end up – the future; in front, who sees only where the waves come from – the past. There is God who appears to humans as a man with a hoarse voice wearing a porcelain mask. And many, many others.

In Songs of Chaos to narrate often means to create, and once a character is mentioned he or she cannot be cancelled and might turn up at any place any time. The competition for the right to be the main narrator runs through the whole novel. If in The Beginnings all the events were filtered through the Madman’s consciousness who was the only first-person narrator of the highest level, in the second novel this position is contested, fought over, and usurped. The Madman maintains this high status until he decides to save his beloved the Meringue (la Meringa), the Cat’s secretary, who is kidnapped by an unknown cyber-biological terrorist group that first demands that a novel should be written for their heinous purposes (and again, it is quite possible that Songs of Chaos is this novel), and then hands the girl over to an extreme pornography syndicate. The Meringue is wrapped in tinfoil with only two holes cut out (and those are not meant for her mouth and nose) and is carried from one secret porn set to another by a laryngectomised thug. If that wasn’t bad enough, there are preparations for brutally murdering her on the set of a snuff movie. The Madman sets off on a long quest to locate and rescue the girl, which is at the same time hilarious and shocking. Moresco is so over-the-top with all the naturalistic details of the porn set activities that at a certain point one stops perceiving all the accumulating intercourses as proper sex scenes but rather as conceptual elements of a greater surrealist collage. All the fornication and violence that pour onto us also have distinct Rabelaisian undertones and could be considered as the ultimate triumph of what Russian critic Mikhail Bakhtin called “the material lower body stratum”. Sperm, blood, shit, and other bodily substances gush on the pages without restraint. There are animals involved you would never think could be cast in bestiality porn: a crocodile, an ant-eater, and the already-mentioned snake. The Madman, guided by a mysterious and powerful ally named Lazlo, tracks the syndicate all the way to Los Angeles, to a decommissioned tower for space simulations, to save the love of his life with the help of a flamethrower. However, in order to do all that, the Madman becomes just one of the characters, and the privilege of narrating the frame story passes over to the Cat. It is also the Cat who takes the responsibility for writing the novel which the Madman failed to produce.

The cunning editor narrates the second part whose main focus is the greatest business transaction of all time: the selling of the planet Earth. It is God, of course, who has grown tired of his creation and wants to fob it off to somebody else. He commissions an advertising agency to plan, develop and carry out the media campaign for selling the planet, appearing to them, as we already know, as the mysterious man in the porcelain mask. It is worth noting that the chief members of the agency, the art director, the copywriter and the account executive, come from a short story written by the inept Inspector Lanza. Moreover, the book that the Madman was supposed to write and the video game developed by the programmer/sperm donor are all part of the advertising campaign. The course of the campaign is discussed by the Cat and the advertising agents during an interminable briefing somewhat similar to the mad tea party in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.  All kinds of absurdities and common sense violations thrive as more guests join the meeting, which is supposed to end with the announcement. This announcement, pre-heralded by the lady who screams and given by God, will declare the birth of the redeemer, the baby girl of the Interface artificially inseminated by the programmer’s sperm. The announcement should immediately follow the selling of Earth to the highest bidder in the heretofore unforeseen global auction. But what does it mean, to sell Earth? And who would buy it? As becomes clear from a conversation between the masked God and the account executive, this could only mean that the global market will buy itself. This situation is not unlike the destiny of a star collapsing into itself and becoming a black hole. And indeed, something of the kind happens in the third part of the novel. But let us not run too far ahead.

Among the first to join the briefing is the programmer with his computer. He continues working on the software, tweaking some details and following the multiplying storylines, while the advertising campaign is gathering momentum and the borderlines between the video game and reality are getting ever more tenuous. Some of the characters appear to operate simultaneously in the video game and in the real world. Moreover, by changing the code of the character on a computer, the programmer inevitably changes the appearance of the respective person in real life. His main concern is the safety of the Interface pregnant with his child, the future redeemer. The notorious rapist of pregnant women whom the programmer himself created for this game (because the Cat mentioned him, and anything which is mentioned in Songs of Chaos comes alive) is intent upon raping the Interface and thus thwarting the whole advertising campaign. The man who steps into shit is designated as the Interface’s guardian angel and saves her from several insidious encroachments of the rascal, ultimately bludgeoning him to pulp with a car jack.

The large office in which the impossibly long briefing is taking place is a convenient environment for the participants to tell various stories, which provide entertaining digressions from the immediate business matters. The place serves as the modern analogue of the abandoned Florentine villa in The Decameron or, more appropriately, the remote mountain castle of The 120 Days of Sodom. One of those tales stands out in particular. It is the story told jointly by the girl with acne and her boyfriend copywriter, in which the girl recounts her terrifying experience of working as a model for stylist Lupus and the copywriter recounts his thrilling mission to rescue his beloved from a most horrible fate. It’s one of the greatest surreal set pieces I have ever read. I’d put it at the same level as the story of Byron the Bulb in Gravity’s Rainbow. If only fifty pages out of the whole novel could be translated into English, it must be those containing this story, which showcases in a condensed way, as if reflecting its subject matter, all the abilities of Moresco the stylist, the story-teller, the satirist, and the innovator. The main object of the Italian author’s satire here is the world of fashion with its detachment from everyday life and common people’s needs as well as its commodification of the female body. A similar critical attitude could be found in Robert Altman’s film Prêt-à-Porter, at the end of which the models saunter down the catwalk without any clothes on. But, Moresco, of course, goes well beyond that. In this narrative the models strut about without skin, which has been abraded with sandpaper so that the girls’ bodies can have a closer contact with space. The depraved and disease-ridden Lupus, always surrounded by his barking pack, chooses for his unusual fashion show only girls with perfect bodies but deformed or blemished faces. At first they are even allowed to wear some shreds of clothing on the catwalk. Soon enough, they walk completely naked, for, in Lupus’ words it is “cosmos” which they are trying to put on. Then come the sandpaper and more grisly stuff. The real purpose of Lupus is to make his models tear down the invisible wall between their bodies and space itself, by pushing the latter to the point of absolute concentration, which will create a pocket of completely immobilised space, a present-day inferno. And it is from this inferno that the copywriter has to save his girlfriend, with the help of a jackhammer and guided by an unlikely Virgil in the person of a porn actress.  No retelling will ever convey the inventiveness and decadent poetic charm of this episode, and therefore I will stop here. It has to be read to be believed. The least I can do is to offer my translation, no matter how inadequate, of a passage in which the girl narrates her peregrinations as a member of Lupus’ entourage, couched in the typical for this novel style of a cascading litany:

And also other cocks and other shapes flickering in the dark, during the relocations, here and there on earth, in front of the tumultuous turreted cities we were traversing in the jeep, in the midst of the exploding bodies, all that detached live matter which swarms in the interstices of the confronted plane of space, the obtuse masks of faces, flashing teeth, turbans, those blind fissures of eyes riddling the entire space with holes, limbs moving over the gravitational line of the horizon, cities suddenly coming into view, at night, against the space, crenellated walls of mud and water in front of which we could make out the magnified shapes of the flag wavers stirring against the tumultuous celestial vault, while we were travelling beyond, tossing between sleep and wakefulness in the tundras, in the savannahs. Cities never seen, places almost imagined and dreamed about, our flayed, inflamed faces poked out the windows, we felt the air of the night teeming with starlight dust on a one-way journey through space wash over our projecting faces. The noises of the running engines, the convulsed barking of the perfumed dog pack running at large around the jeep and the cars, when Lupus unleashed the dogs in the dead of night and let them trot along by the vehicle column, in the cloud of red dust lifted by the large wheels crossing desert territories. Inside the cars more and more distinctly could be heard the sounds made by the girls who continued to sandpaper the egg-yolks of their bodies half-dormant in the seats, injecting the space with the yawns of what was remaining of their mouths and tongues. And then other relocations, and other journeys, rushing blindly in a confronted and retreated space. Other cities in turmoil, other skies, while we were racing through the cavity of the vertiginous and animate space. Other undulating bodies against the backdrop of the nocturnal structures of other cities of glass and steel. The bodies that were snapping into motion as we were passing by, greeting us with their incredible banners fluttering in the night wind, against the backdrop of other skies, retreated and ruptured, the jets of decorticated matter, the ignited, nebulous stars on a one-way journey in the massacred matter of the confronted universe, with their orbital movements, the shapes glimpsed in the wind raised by the flags, by the flag wavers. Their gestures silent, concentrated, solemn. In the night there was nobody to watch them but us. Their banners, glimpsed in the dark, appeared to make up a whole with the musculature of their flag-waving bodies. But what flags were those? Who could be those flag wavers?

Meanwhile the avalanche of economic transactions is rapidly growing as the moment of the announcement and of the selling is approaching. The Ashanti sovereign, riding a bicycle across Africa and simultaneously travelling in time all the way to the Quaternary Period, has been designated as the symbolic driving force of the deal. By pushing the pedals he is dragging the economic avalanche towards the grandiose culmination. Lanza, who has become a TV presenter now, arrives at the briefing with the camera crew to live-broadcast it. At this point, the interpenetration of the various media harnessed for the purposes of the sale reaches the apogee. Everything and everyone is connected, and there is only one to narrate it all! For some time, the programmer usurps the right of the first-person narrator from the Cat, for it is his video game which gave the initial spark to the campaign and it is his sperm, which fertilised the Interface: “My semen and my video game have been explosively fused into one thing, here inside. Your figures have been thrown beyond themselves into that new uncreated space.” This fusion illustrates one of the overarching concerns of the whole novel: the impact of computer and information technologies on biology. But it’s not the software developer who will have the final say in the second part. He loses this privilege to the Meringue, the Cat’s secretary and apparent éminence grise, thus re-establishing the supremacy of the printed word embodied by her boss’s publishing house. That doesn’t last long either. Finally, the buck stops with the creator of the highest rank, as God himself sits down to give the announcement. And what an announcement is that! The man in the porcelain mask proclaims that from now on spacetime will become immobile, for his time has come and theirs is over. And it is in that frozen domain, also known as “the uncreated space” that the final part of the novel is set.

In the third part, which is radical even in comparison with the most off-beat passages in the previous two, Moresco undertakes to represent the unrepresentable: the uncreated space, which appeared as a consequence of time grinding to a halt. For that purpose, he invents a new language. He doesn’t introduce a lot of neologisms to achieve his goal, but rather manipulates grammar forms to approach the most suitable linear representation of a situation in which the past, the present, and the future are no longer relevant, which results in a progression of ambiguities when the characters themselves are not sure whether something has already happened, is happening or will happen. The resultant prose, repetitive, redundant, yet utterly mesmerising, reminds in equal measure of Gertrude Stein’s iterative narration in The Making of Americans and of the most rampant swirls of verbosity in Günter Grass’s Dog Years. The paradoxical statements enveloping all temporal possibilities permeate the text to such an extent as to make it extremely disorienting and difficult to understand, but far from rendering it illegible as some of the book’s detractors have complained. It just takes a bit of patience and perseverance to follow the final stage of Moresco’s visionary enterprise.

New characters appear, and most of them carry the names of Asian cities: Benares 2, Chongqing 3, Tokyo 4, Shanghai 5, Semarang 8. We follow the vicissitudes of their travels and encounters, with the special focus on the love story of Chongqing 3 (male) and Shanghai 5 (female). The symbolic mainstay of the whole part is the phenomenon of the Asian megacity, that sprawling conurbation with its towering skyscrapers, tangled multi-level stack interchanges, gargantuan shopping malls and the tiny flecks of its human population, hustling and bustling inside this cyclopean infrastructure not unlike nimble spermatozoa in search of the ovum. And, in fact, this is what they are: all these characters fulfilling their minor missions, narrating stories and interacting with the participants of the briefing, because the briefing cannot finish when time has stopped, are just gametes each dreaming about its own potential provided they end up as zygotes and then get born. Chongqing 3 and Shanghai 5 are a potential couple that due to the paradoxes of immobilised spacetime has never met, but, at the same time, has met, fallen in love and had children. The situation gets even more complicated when the megacity dwellers/gametes, while trying to reunite/meet for the first time and also running away from a group of hostile creatures that want to merge with them, get unexpected assistance from their parents who are also their children: Shanghai 5’s fatherson (padrefiglio) and Chongqing 3’s motherdaughter (madrefiglia).

Chongquing. Image by Archey Firefly.

The final destination of these characters as well as of numerous other people/gametes is the ultimate megacity: the splendid city of sperm. And in order to get there, they have to break through the wall of immobilised spacetime. To that end, if we are to believe him, Chongqing 3 has created a Trojan virus, which is at the same time a huge wooden Trojan horse, in whose dark belly billions of spermatozoa attempt to reach the genetic utopia, the City of God for the information age. The foggy stainless steel megalopolis with the constant temperature of -80 °C is an enormous cryopreservation facility, and once its dam protecting the ova is burst by the deluge of the spermatozoa, the ovulation process will begin. This is how the process of “uncreation” takes place. As a result of the global collapse provoked by selling the planet and the subsequent immobilisation of spacetime, all the humanity has been reduced to genetic material. The cycle of the creation has come to an end, and the new one is about to begin. The hope for the regeneration is offered by the city of sperm, but this time all the creation will be artificial and maybe even the masked God will not be able to predict the consequences. As he himself declares: “I am the shadow of the spermatozoon of God who will dream, who will be”.

All the while, the characters continue to sing, revealing more clues not only about the chaotic developments in the uncreated space, but also about some of the significant past events narrated in the first volume of the trilogy. In his song the Cat unequivocally admits his diabolical character, which was just hinted at in The Beginnings, by referring to himself as “the demon”. What is more, in his torrential, cadenced monologue he recounts a new version of the Gospels in which Jesus Christ appears as a donkey-riding man/spermatozoon called Jerusalem 9. Just like the biblical Satan, the Cat leads Jerusalem 9 to the top of a temple. However, if in the Gospels the Devil urges Christ to throw himself down alone, the Cat suggests that he and Jerusalem 9 jump together “headfirst into the uncreated”, which brings us back to the episode on the roof of the Duomo at the end of The Beginnings. As you remember, that time, the scenario was more similar to that of the Bible, although the Cat did say “let us throw ourselves” he wanted the Madman to do it on his own. By looking at the final scene of The Beginnings in the light of the devil’s temptation of Christ, we can surmise that the Cat was tempting the Madman as well, and that it was not the uncreated dimension he really wanted the writer to jump into, but something else.

The video game is finished, and the next step in “uncreating” is the wholesale massacre of the characters of the novel as the briefing continues inside the hit-and-run driver’s car. The right to destroy is contested as ardently as was the right to narrate. Despite all the violations of narrative hierarchies, when even God could be handled as just another character, there is one authority who can still effectively exercise his power: writer Antonio Moresco. His alter ego Madman, who even declares in his song “my name is Antonio Moresco”, regains the control over the narrative, pushing the tail of the ouroboros into its mouth. We get back to the story of the Madman buried alive, which was discarded by the Cat as inappropriate for the novel he commissions him to write. Only this time, the indeterminacy of uncreation has taken hold. The Madman’s monologue refers simultaneously to the past and the future, the epitome of which is the neologism “beforafter” (primadopo). He vaguely remembers being run over by a car and wonders what will be made of the manuscript of Songs of Chaos left on his desk: “No one will be able to understand anything, to decipher it, let alone discern its projections, incarnations.” Now, almost ten years after the novel’s publication, we know that this prediction is valid only to a certain extent, for more and more serious readers and academics tackle this fascinating and formidable novel. And so, just as the Madman deliriously shares his impressions of the uncreated dimension and its ramifications, declaring, paradoxically, that his time is over and now his time has begun, we brace ourselves for the final volume of this incomparable lifetime undertaking.

 

The Uncreated Ones (Gli increati)

It would have been hardly possible to surpass the feral energy of Songs of Chaos, so the final novel of the trilogy offers, understandably, a more subdued narrative, written in a more limpid language with fewer stylistic embellishments. Yet, it’s the most radical part of the trilogy. With this one, Moresco throws readability to the dogs, not at the lexical level like Joyce did in Finnegans Wake, but at the level of constantly reiterated and recycled phrases and sentences which pervade the text in such frustrating profusion as to drive nuts even the most patient reader. To make matters worse, there is no lack of painstaking recapitulations of many episodes from the previous novels, which might serve as useful reminders for those who read them a long time ago and forgot most of the evoked details, but prove to be a mind-numbing chore to read for those who, like me, have been reading all three novels in close succession. Although there are enough moments of original brilliance in this novel which do not allow me to call it a failure, it is definitely the weakest book of the trilogy: exhausting and not often rewarding. Who knows, maybe that’s the price Moresco had to pay for the faithful representation of the uncreated universe.

The challenge of the third part of Songs of Chaos now passes on to the whole of The Uncreated Ones: how to describe by linear and sequential means the situation inside the uncreated dimension, in which time has lost its relevance. On the one hand, the author cannot just dispense with the plot as this would render the novel too chaotic and incomprehensible. On the other, it should be obvious that we are no longer subject to the laws of everyday reality. As in the previous book, the ambiguity of the situation is conveyed through the employment of mutually exclusive tenses (i. e. something happened and is happening now, something happened and will happen later) as well as through the characters’ constant confusion with regard to the time of the events: how can something be happening for the first time now if it has already happened? There is no shortage of time warps, doppelgängers, and bilocations either. The basic categories of our logical universe are reversed by the main tenet of the novel according to which death always comes before life. So, the main character’s death is just the beginning of his journey that will take him to the world of the living and then beyond to the state of uncreation. This might seem like a typical linear progress from one point to another, but we shouldn’t forget that this is not what actually happens. This narrative is just a convenient approximation of the ineffable and unrepresentable process to which none of our criteria and none of the known terms can be applied, including the word “process”.

Like the two previous books, The Uncreated Ones consists of three parts. The first one, titled Preface of the Dead (Proemio dei Morti), follows the Madman, who is still the main narrator, on his journey across the continent of the dead where he ends up after being killed in the above-mentioned road accident. It’s worth noting that the nickname “Madman” has been revoked, and the protagonist once again turns into the nameless first-person narrator, just like in The Beginnings. The narrator travels through the enormous cities of the dead following the elusive Peach, who is there to show him the way out of the dark reign of death into the world of the living. The cities of the dead are similar to the sprawling megalopoli of our world, but they are constantly being shaken by tremendous earthquakes which inevitably cause the skyscrapers, in which most of the dead reside, to crack, crumble and ultimately collapse. The reason of the cataclysms scourging the dead cities is the waves of the new arrivals from the continent of the living. This process is called “overflowing” (tracimazione). When people die they “overflow” from one realm into another. At the same time there is the contrary movement  of the dead who “overflow” into the continent of the living. Some of the dead choose first to resurrect inside their realm and only then to overflow, and others prefer to get to the other side while still being dead. Thus, the two continents are caught in a perpetual collision.

On his journey, the protagonist meets a bunch of colourful characters, both familiar from the previous books and completely new. For some time he is accompanied by Lazarus, who is actually Jesus Christ, who resurrected Lazarus, lay into the tomb instead of him and then refused to get resurrected himself. While the Christ aspect of this character remains entombed and unresurrected in the biblical Bethany, his Lazarus aspect in the reign of the dead wants to resurrect as well as to trigger the “vortex” of resurrection on the whole continent. Things get more complicated when another Lazarus, identical to the first one, joins them. This one, on the contrary, is against resurrection within death and proselytises remaining dead within death. This and many other situations of that kind reflect the recurring mantra of the universe subject to uncreation: “everything is split in two”. Thus, for example, there are two gods: the God of the living who is dead and the God of the dead who is alive. Both are wearing a porcelain mask, naturally. The encounter with the Black Sister allows the narrator to fill in some of the gaps left in The Beginnings. While driving him to the next point of his itinerary in a stolen truck, the woman reveals to her passenger that she was having an affair with the Cat at the seminary. It also turns out that after she joined the left-wing terrorist organisation which can be easily identified as the Red Brigades, she was in charge of kidnapping the former Italian prime minister Aldo Moro.

The meeting with the Muse takes place underground where the narrator discovers vast subterranean cities quaking and rumbling on account of millions of bodies of the dead denizens engaged in sexual intercourse. All the sperm spilled as a result of that activity forms a turbulent river. The protagonist and the Muse have to swim in it in order to reach the upper regions of that realm. From there the narrator, alone again, passes through the sky of the underworld and back onto the surface to find the dead and the resurrected clashed in a furious battle that inaugurates the commencement of the Third World War between the living and the dead. The growing army of the resurrected is considered to be the fifth column of the living who are continuously overflowing into the continent of the dead, and there is no one better to perform the task of slaughtering the resurrected cohorts than Napoleon himself. But he is the dead Napoleon, of course. Moreover, the commander of the dead troops is Napoleon with a female womb, as the genitals were removed from his corpse on the island of Saint Helena. Another significant historical personage met by the narrator before he is temporarily reunited with the Peach is Vladimir Lenin accompanied by Anastasia Romanov. The Soviet leader’s mission is to foment the revolution of the dead, whereas the resurrected ones are dismissed by him as the equivalent of the Mensheviks. In order to get to the continent of the living, the dead have to jump down from the tops of tall towers, and that is what the Peach and the protagonist do. Following his beloved, he overflows into the world of the living, having resisted two temptations: that of resurrection within death and that of remaining dead within death. The Peach, his Beatrice, guides him to a different destiny, which, as we suppose, can only be uncreation.

The second and the longest part is Preface of the Living (Proemio dei vivi). It recounts the wanderings of the solitary narrator on the continent of the living, which are at the same time a journey into his past and the revisiting of some of the events narrated in The Beginnings and Songs of Chaos. In the course of what seems like a time-travelling adventure, the narrator keeps losing and finding the Peach again and again until their final reunion in a royal palace.

As the world war between the living and the dead rages on both continents, and, as the new belligerent force of the immortals enters the scene, the protagonist becomes a small boy and retrieves his family home in Mantua. As he keeps searching for the Peach, he grows up again and revisits all the most important places featured in The Beginnings as well as re-encounters all its major characters. At the same time, his quest is a fictional recreation of the main stages of Antonio Moresco’s life. The “everything is split in two” principle becomes especially evident when the protagonist meets himself two times: his younger self studying at the seminary, and his older self — a disillusioned writer who is about to die in his Milanese apartment. The narrating voice shifts from one self of the protagonist to another, which is yet another approximation on the part of the author to show that all the events take place in a timeless dimension. What is happening now has already happened in The Beginnings, but it is also yet to happen in the future.

Saint Lucy by Domenico di Pace Beccafumi, 1521.

Besides the well-known characters already seen in the first and the second books of the trilogy, the narrator interacts with an array of martyrs, rebels and the revolutionary heroes of his youth. He receives Letters to No One (Lettere a nessuno) (Moresco’s memoirs about his struggle to become a published author) and the Peach’s love letter from Saint Lucy, a Christian martyr who carries her torn-out eyes on a plate. She now acts as a letter-carrier between the worlds of the living and the dead. At the seminary he meets the first cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, an icon of the Soviet atheism who, we could also say, has become the new martyr of the space age. There are also appearances by John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Malcolm X, Marilyn Monroe, Che Guevara, Pasolini, Jan Palach, a Czech student who committed self-immolation in protest against the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, and Mao Zedong, “the obese idol”.  The upheavals caused by the attraction of all matter towards the uncreated have affected not only human beings, but also man-made images. There is, for instance, a captivating digression about the love affair between Che Guevara and the funerary effigy of Italian noblewoman Ilaria del Carretto. At one point, while traversing the war-ravaged Milan, the protagonist sees Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man engulfed in flames.

The Cat doesn’t remain unaffected by all the transformative processes either. Being just the devil in the world of the living does not appear to be enough for him anymore, so he has embarked on an evolutionary journey of his own. When the narrator sees him again at the seminary, the young Cat has become the prior and is now in charge of the derelict place with just a small cluster of students remaining under his supervision. In contrast to the narrator, who has just overflowed into the world of the living while still being dead, the Cat has been resurrected. The next step for him is immortality. But he will not become a mere immortal, of course, he will change his demonic status to the divine one by becoming the God of Immortals. The duality of everything is also reflected in the religious, or rather pseudo-religious, services held by the new prior. First he celebrates the mass of the living, and then the mass of those who have overflowed (la messa dei tracimati). During the latter, conducted on the Christmas Eve, the Cat is assisted by three people: the protagonist as a young seminarist, the protagonist as an adult, and Yuri Gagarin. The mass gets interrupted all the time by the appearance of Biblical characters, such as the prophet Micah and the angel Gabriel, as well as God himself, who impugn the veracity of the canonical account of the saviour’s birth.

Meanwhile, the character of the global war undergoes an important change. It is no longer a conflict between the dead and the living, but between the immortals and the joint forces of the living and the dead, as death and life turned out to be the same thing: lifedeath (vitamorte). The final destination of the protagonist is the city of Milan heavily bombarded by the immortals using missiles with genetic warheads. The blaze of explosions illuminating the city’s night sky brings to the narrator’s mind TV broadcasts of the US forces’ missile strikes against Baghdad during the invasion of Iraq. Most of the loose threads are tied here as the narrator undergoes his final test, which is inextricably linked to the Cat’s temptation at the end of The Beginnings. Escorted by a crowd of human torches led by Jan Palach, the protagonist enters, one after another, two identical palaces. The first one is hosted by the Muse and is the portal to immortality. There, the Cat as the God of Immortals tries for the last time (or perhaps for the first time, since there are no temporal coordinates anymore) to trick the narrator into accepting immortality. This harks back, once again, to the episode on the roof of Milan Cathedral in The Beginnings. When the Cat suggested jumping “headfirst” into the uncreated, he was tempting the protagonist with immortality, pretending to tempt him with uncreation. Such a tangled explanation would be in keeping with the perplexing character of the whole trilogy. Not yielding to the temptation allows the narrator to enter the second palace where the Peach awaits him. There he embraces love and uncreation. Finally he is ready to take the jump into the uncreated from the roof of the Duomo. But this time, the magnificent cathedral is wrapped in flames, and it is the Peach who jumps together with him, leaving the frustrated Cat on the burning roof.

The last part, Preface of the Uncreated Ones (Proemio degli increati) is just about 100 pages long. It consists of three chapters that finally take us to the point where there is nothing left except the uncreated in its pure state. The characters of the final part somewhat resemble the ones in the first two, but it is impossible to ascertain whether we’re really dealing with some transformed versions of the Peach, the Cat, and the protagonist; rather, these are archetypes that demonstrate at a much higher and more abstract level the progress towards uncreation made by the main characters of the novel.

The chapters are tellingly titled The Creator (Il creatore), The Destroyer (Il distruttore), and The Uncreator (L’increatore), and can be regarded as some sort of holy scripture of the uncreated ones. The creator is similar to the biblical God who creates the earth, the first man and the first woman. However, the borderlines between the creator and his creation become blurred as the god falls in love with the first woman (who proves to be none other than the Peach), and as the first man (who in many aspects resembles the Cat) takes over the narration from his creator as he moves on to a more advanced stage of creation: that of destruction. The destroyer espouses the supremacy of destruction over creation, for the latter is comprised by the former, until reaching even higher ontological state and becoming the uncreator. What is interesting, it is hinted here that the main precondition for accessing the uncreated is the merging of the destructive and creative potentials personified respectively by the Cat and the protagonist. The great meeting of the creator, the destroyer and the uncreator accompanied by their spouses that takes place in the same royal palace in which the protagonist has been reunited with the Peach can inaugurate only one thing: at last nothing and nobody have any relevance, even the figure of the uncreator, the last link in this chain of transformations, as there is nothing left but the uncreated itself.

So, what is, after all, Games of Eternity, and why did the author decide to discard The Uncreated, the initial title of the trilogy, putting thus emphasis not on the destination but the journey, not on the result but the process, not on the findings but the search? This message, so simple and yet hard-earned, derives from looking at the development of the main character, which mirrors the development of Moresco the writer. After all, what is any creative writing if not a game, and what is any good creative writing if not a game of eternity? The protagonist escapes from the rigid systems of religion and ideology to break through to the pure essence of creation only to find himself trapped in yet another system: that of the predominant literary aesthetics upheld by the leviathan of the publishing industry. Only as the Madman he is capable to fully liberate his creative potential, which in equal measure proves to be destructive. This results in the emergence of Songs of Chaos, the terrifying masterpiece that threatens to engulf its own creator-turned-destroyer. It becomes clear that despite its immense appeal, destruction is not really what the protagonist has been looking for. Since there is nowhere he can move on further, the protagonist does not really move forward, but re-traces and, actually, re-assembles his previous life with a view to finding what he now firmly believes to be his Holy Grail: the state of uncreation predicated upon his love for the Peach. Perhaps, plunging into the uncreated is equivalent to reaching the Nirvana in Buddhism or returning to the One in Neo-Platonism. It is quite possible that Antonio Moresco, the greatest living Italian writer and one of the greatest writers of our time, eventually realised, along with his protagonist, that no matter how sweet and coveted the moment of achieving your goal could be, which is the dissolution in the uncreated for the latter and international recognition for the former, it is the boldness to play the games of eternity despite the odds that counts above anything else. And this whole trilogy, massive and messy, splendorous and horrendous at the same time, is nothing more and nothing less than an immortal paean to those who dare to play games.

Coda

Some final words about Songs of Chaos. Even if Moresco had not written the other books of the trilogy, even if it was the only book he had ever written, that would have been enough to secure him a prominent place in literary history. Riccardo Dal Ferro, a writer, philosopher, YouTube personality, and a fervent promoter of this novel, has said: “Songs of Chaos is perhaps the only contemporary work of Italian literature that will be studied in 200 -300 years from now.” It was this statement that goaded me into reading the novel in the first place, and I have to admit that it’s not an exaggeration. The Anglophone trendsetting in innovative literature is over. If Ulysses was the pinnacle of modernism, and Gravity’s Rainbow of postmodernism, it is the Italian Songs of Chaos that is the next big thing for which we don’t have a name yet.

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10 Responses to Games of Eternity (Giochi dell’eternità) by Antonio Moresco

  1. tonymess12 says:

    Phenomenal – brilliant work indeed

  2. Melissa Beck says:

    This is stunning! Congratulations on a spectacular piece of writing. I read his short book A Distant Light. I think it was published by Archipelago. I wonder what the chances are of them or someone else translating it?

  3. MarinaSofia says:

    Wow! What a tour de force – reading it and reviewing it. I admire your perseverance, although it does sound like you quite enjoyed it. I think this might be one that I admire for its cleverness rather than enjoy. I am intrigued, though, partly because of your comparison to Solenoid.

    • Thank you so much! I did like reading it, at least the first two parts, and, indeed, that was one of the reasons this review turned out the way it is. But I have some reservations whether it was written for the enjoyment of the reader! Moresco was probing how far he could depart from conventional literary models and had no qualms in clubbing the reader with his disturbing discoveries.

  4. Dario Voltolini says:

    Grazie! Sono anni che cerco di dire le stesse cose.

  5. sergiofalcone says:

    Antonio Moresco, un maestro. Se amo ancora il mio paese è per gente come lui.

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