The novels “L’amara favola albanese” (Rubbettino Editore, Roma, 2000), and “La Quinta” (Europa Edizioni, Roma, 2018) narrate the life of society under totalitarian regimes. The second novel, in particular, tells the artist’s difficulties and the conflict between his creativity and deviated power.
At present and for the future, the author considers the knowledge of the totalitarianisms of the last century as necessary and important.
For this reason, for the novel “La Quinta”, the author has written an introduction to better insert the reader in the historical background of the events narrated. This introduction has the function and nature of an essay.
The author thinks that the violence and propaganda of totalitarianism, even if they are two expressions of Absolute Evil, cannot bend the convictions and ideas of the citizen.
From the novel “La Quinta”, Alberto Frasher
(Europa edizioni, Roma, June 2018)
Almost thirty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Western world cannot free itself from a crisis that we can hardly consider exclusively economic. Far beyond the economic difficulties, one has the impression of an existential crisis linked to values and our model of life. A model of society substantially corroded by the times. Truth, which until yesterday we believed solid, today we see them crumble and then set.
It was carried out a gigantic experiment, absurd and violent, that was believed to be able to solve the problems of society by splitting the poverty of citizens into equal parts. All equal before the law. The rhetoric of this false principle cannot result in anything other than misery. Life, the universe and its evolution consist in the spontaneity of differences, which in turn generate movement, development, conflict and even peace. From the beginning it became evident that the success of the experiment would have been unlikely. The discontent was inevitable, after which violence appeared, unleashed as never before, against the citizen and his creativity. Man, as a citizen, became
subject. Creativity ended up having the semblance of propaganda, the half-sister of an ideology that has only created illusions.
Often the lucky countries of the West, launching propaganda against the former Eastern European regimes, boast of their solid democracy. To truly understand and evaluate reality, we have to confront the ideal of the future and not the totalitarianisms that still lie beneath the rubble. Only while using this perspective can democracy evaluate and understand itself.
Going towards the future cannot be without a historical and cultural reference. It would be like trying to walk on water. Knowledge and true understanding of the past are indispensable for making the citizen aware of his path to the future. In the last two decades the evolution of the democratic order towards perfection has diminished in favor of the nostalgia of the past. The crisis of the great uncertainties of our time pushes many European citizens to relive a sort of nostalgia for the past. The past of totalitarian regimes, both right-and left-wing, which stifled all freedom in the tunnel of poverty, deception and submission. For nearly five years the Holocaust was unleashed on the nations of the old continent. Another holocaust, fierce and interminable, occurred from 1917 to the fall of the wall. That wall that saw Germany, one of the most civilized nations on the continent, split into two.
Having known, through direct personal experiences, left totalitarianism in its relationship with the daily life of the citizen, I was impressed for many reasons. One of the most complex aspects, I think it is the relationship of power with the world of research and, in particular, with the universe of art. The free thought of the citizen is formed and evolves spontaneously in the space between society and the propaganda of power and, in this evolution, the function of art is fundamental. This also happens in our democratic societies. All of them, as soon as they are in power, invent theories that tend to transform art into an ally of ideology and propaganda. The longevity of totalitarianism is dependent on this critical area. The relationship between the power and creativity of the citizen inevitably becomes conflicting . The artist and every form of human creativity became the sublime victim of totalitarian regimes.
In Western countries, the left-wing parties were not happy to witness the shameful collapse of communism in the second half of the continent, because it knew it had to pay the consequences. The collapse, spontaneous but consistent with the logic of history, was a veritable and shameful implosion, without dignity and, certainly, written in the DNA of their ideology.
After the fall of Nazi-Fascism, the arts have revisited endlessly the reality and suffering caused by two of the most ruthless totalitarianisms in the history of humanity. In the case of the totalitarianisms of the East, a relative silence reigns, which I would call serious. It will not be the nostalgia of totalitarianism that will save the world. And, I would add, it cannot be the propaganda of the political parties that will deepen the knowledge of the truths about the absolute evil of the twentieth century. Only art, in all its forms, can transmit historical truth to the young citizens of the world along with the tragedy of human suffering in the whole of Europe.
Ideology and power tend to dominate art and transform it into an instrument of propaganda, something that is not always possible due to a relative innate independence of the artist. I think it is art and every form of research that defines this human trait that has always characterized the best of our existence. The Universe and Nature, the mystery of beauty and the light of wisdom, Peace as the expression of equilibrium and harmony, freedom and creativity of man do not have nationality. The artists and the great citizens of the world know this well. In their creativity, they see the charm of Nature and, in a certain sense, the immortality of the human race. Because of their noble conviction, they are the first to suffer the violence of Evil.
This is the historical background of my novel that I tried to tell through indescribable human events. I believe that the conscious knowledge of Evil has a limit which is not negligible and that depends largely on the sensibilities and personal experiences of those who grew up, culturally speaking, in a democratic society. This limit, in a certain sense, is inversely proportional to the wickedness and violence of the events that have had as victims millions of human beings, children, women, the elderly and unarmed citizens.
Not only violence, but there is also the absurdity of evil that makes events very incredible. Two brothers during the war, one with the nationalists and the other with the communists. Both worked in the same city. The nationalist boasted of having had a partisan brother and went on in his career; the communist partisan, on the other hand, had always been in the crosshairs of the regime because he was the brother of a nationalist. How can people believe such absurdity?
It is necessary to understand that every form of extremism is a distortion of balance and harmony in Man’s life and thoughts. Evil takes refuge in the folds of every extremism to sprout as soon as conditions make it possible. I realize with bitterness that it is difficult, if not impossible, to write about these events, painting the authentic picture of lives altered by the plague of totalitarianism. From the numerous contacts with old friends, since the first years after the fall of the wall, I realized that people lived in a sort of nightmare not related to the past, formally closed, but to the future. Little thought was given to the past and its infinite Evil.
In 2010 I went to Albania to visit the sanctuary of Sant’Antonio, forty kilometers north of Tirana. A sixteenth-century sanctuary, which was razed to the ground by the communist regime of Hoxha, in 1967. When I was a child, once a year I went to the sanctuary of St. Anthony with my parents, Maria Venturi e Francesco P. Frasher. We slept outdoors with thousands of other believers. A forest of young oaks was our night shelter. We were fond of these customs. They were part of our tradition and our way of being. When I visited the sanctuary again, rebuilt from nothing, I had a long talk about the tragedies of the past with friar Fran Pёrlala. Friar Fran told me: we have to think a long time to understand the reason for these tragedies.
Understanding the reason of a human tragedy. . . This is often easier said than done!
History can hardly provide a comprehensive answer to the problem. Personally think the nature of Evil must be sought in the complexities of our individual and collective existence, and it can be expressed in a thousand of unpredictable forms. An immense system of data, political and economic analysis and much more is limited to building the theory, so to speak, of totalitarianism. This is a formal and cold truth, or supposed so, simply taken from history books. Although absolutely necessary, history remains so because it is independent of human pain. Only art, unaware of formal theories, enters the life of the individual, tells the monstrosity of Evil and the suffering of Man.
If we want to understand history, we must start from the individual, telling of his joy or suffering. With the story that focuses on man, one could weave the immense canvas of history. It would be impossible to understand the reality of Man solely by looking at the heights of formal history. It would not have been possible to understand the evolution of Man and his thought without the work of Homer, Dante, Shakespeare, Goethe or Dostoyevsky. Art, in its long historical journey, through painting, music and poetry, has immortalized the faithful image of human evolution. Today we know how to distinguish the ancient Mediterranean man from that of the Vikings, the man of ancient Rome from that of the Middle Ages. Works of art that have focused their patient research on the evolution of Man throughout the ages, made such sensibilities and knowledge possible.
The survivors of the Holocaust and the various violence of the Second World War, almost no longer exist. Future generations will certainly understand the human pain and the deeper meanings of that tragedy from history books, but above all from works of art.
Those who have lived difficult realities, far beyond the tolerable dimension of man, come to a state of continuous reflection. Initially, just after liberation, one lives an uncontainable and invasive joy, almost to frighten. It is trauma of liberation, that then becomes a calm sea, but always deeper. Over time a sense of rejection prevails over what has been experienced. The pain for the injustice suffered becomes dominant. The economic difficulties experienced and the relative consequences move to the background. For an animal, hunger is the cause of physical suffering. For a man, on the contrary, this condition hurts the soul for the humiliation suffered and for being the target of absurd injustices.
When it is believed that everything is lost, suddenly the clarity of thought comes along. Reflection helps us to understand that the humiliation of submission has been an infinite suffering. You are immersed in the calm and deep sea of the bitter awareness that your life has been violated and ruined and that there is no remedy for this wound. For this reason life is marked by a latent sense of unease that lasts until death arrives.
With the first and second books I wanted to respond to my conscience that leads me to tell the absurdity of a reality that should never be underestimated as a curiosity or a strangeness of the past. I think there are few occasions for reflection on the wrong paths of contemporary society. Special attention must also be paid on the widespread injustices and on the current absence in the world of truly enlightened leaders. In the condition of a very dangerous turn of the economic reality of these decades, people will soon wrongly risk re-entering the illusions that had led to so much suffering yesterday.
Modern man, tired of the incredibly boring routine of everyday life, avoids telling the worst of his being, rejects the idea of being sick and with the help of propaganda, he feels less suffering or even sadly happy. Often one lives in a virtually altered state of reality, without the full awareness of one’s existence. We ignore affections, passions, talents and inevitably lose the most human traits of our being. These circumstances may foster the spontaneous and latent growth of the nostalgia of the past and the dangers that derive from it. We must be careful and prudent.
In every man, a tyrant slumbers. Plato