"The room of spirits" Paolo Buzi
to hear the story
narrator Maria Carla Scorza
music of Luca Figliuoli
On the desk there were white sheets of paper and sharp pencils with which I wrote words as thin as silk threads that only I could read.
If, in my absence, someone had entered that little room intending to steal my secret phrases, he would have left disappointed and mocked.
We must present our thoughts and every single word that makes them up, but only when we are first convinced of the goodness of their meanings and the form in which we have expressed them.
At that point we must release them, so that they can belong to everyone, and it is wonderful for a writer to feel quoted by someone, to know that he has reached his mind, or his heart, or both the rooms of his temple so intimately that he earned the honor of remaining there, of becoming part of it.
It is a feeling similar to the one a painter feels when one of his paintings enters a stranger's home or a small provincial museum and remains there, available to other eyes.
At the mere thought that someone might resort to one of his sentences, the writer feels repaid for his efforts, for the sleepless nights, for the publishers' refusals, for the cheap alcohol he has guzzled or for certain cramps of hunger that usually extinguish many lights above concentration and imagination.
Will there still be, in the third millennium, writers who defy hunger to pursue an unpopular idea, one of those ideas that do not touch the sensibilities of the masses, that do not even scratch them, that at most bore them?
And if any of them still exists, who will encourage them, support them, secretly reveal to them that boring the masses is equivalent to touching a literary apogee?
Will they ever call for a special prize, for those heroes without flags?
If you are not a prophet, if you do not have archangels behind you dictating redundant texts of repetitive apophthegms, then you must organize yourself.
First of all, it is necessary to have a place where one can linger in sacred peace, at least when you wish it, a place that is not disputed by others and where no one comes or goes without our consent.
I, too, once had such a place.
What I called the room of the spirits was a small furnished room that was rather cramped, but which I found cozy and sufficient for my modest needs.
I didn't need more; everything happened between the bed and a small desk.
All that was needed was a light, even a dim one, confined to the work surface, a supply of sheets of paper and my pencils.
For a time I even had a pen: it was a pen of the German Supreme Court.
(Could this be the reason why I hate pens?).
If it was dark around the desk, so much the better for me; I was not distracted and I could listen to the murmur, confusing at first, that came from the shadows.
I see that little has changed, except for the writing instruments. The keyboard and the screen, source of their own light, have replaced paper, pens, pencils and the small abat-jour that was always at risk of falling when I stacked too many books on the desk.
What constituted the body of my ghost room was not the solid things, but its emptiness, the elusive darkness.
It was like a great safe that held words.
I drew from its darkness; and I did so sparingly, for I had learned that certain particularly beautiful words should never be abused.
On the contrary, one must take care of them and preserve them with patience, because the occasion to use them will present itself sooner or later, and it will have to be unique.
Then it will be a matter of giving them breath, surrounding them with clear and simple words.
When every accent, every syllable, every tone suggested by punctuation marks will give life to a free, natural and euphonic metric, of course according to our sensibility, the sentence, even if read in silence, will sound inside our heads like a beautiful song.
I had learned these few things by straining my ear toward the darkness of that small room. I knew I was not alone, so I did my best to appear kind to the spirits who shared the same space with me.
I showed them my understanding and they reciprocated with new words, with poems, with whole thoughts.
Which I didn't always understand.
More often their voices confused me and when they spoke all together they emitted a sometimes nagging sound, similar to a whistle, or perhaps the sound of a vortex. They stayed there, between eardrums and temples, like loud crowds on the square.
I could never tame them.
Yet I'm sure they were saying important things.
Sometimes I could understand some of their words, and although they hardly ever formed whole sentences, I sensed that they had the power to go deep inside me.
It was something that made me apprehensive and I didn't want that to happen. I was afraid that if they managed to penetrate my unconscious, or even just my innermost self, and dig deep into it, they might discover something terrible that I would never be able to live with.
My room was also inhabited by silent spirits.
No one could animate better than them the shadows on the walls and ceiling. They gave them a new vitality, moving them along the contour lines by means of quick, contracted flickers, perceptible even to the naked eye.
When I sat at my desk and scribbled on papers without getting anywhere, I felt their invisible masses pressing against my back, as if they were competing for space to see what I was doing or wanted to push me to work harder.
Sometimes I feared that some of those beings were aiming to enter my body to undermine and replace me.
That's also why, when nothing came down on the white paper, I preferred to go out and wander the streets, until I reached the woods outside the city, along whose paths I sometimes ended up getting lost and feeling happy.
I don't think that the spirits in the room particularly cared about my work, but if I spent too much time bent over a sheet of paper without giving results, they would become aggressive and irritable.
One day, quite unexpectedly, I found that I could understand them.
It happened all of a sudden, without the help of any particular accidents, high fevers, unconsciousness, waking up from a coma, trance states, trips under the guidance of magical substances.
None of this.
I could talk to them as if I were talking to a friend, an acquaintance or a passer-by.
It had seemed pretty obvious to me that every self was a spirit and that every spirit could have multiple selves, as could any of us.
This time, however, I was cautious and confided it to no one.
It is strange how the deep differences in cultures lead to have totally opposite opinions and reactions on the same phenomenon.
In many parts of the East, Africa and South America a person capable of speaking with spirits is held in high esteem, while in the West the same ability is considered, until proven otherwise, a personality disorder, an auditory hallucination, a symptom of schizophrenia.
Moreover, in the West a contrary proof is not even contemplated. They treat virtue directly, annihilating it.
I think that for a writer, on the other hand, the ability to listen to the spirits, the ability to distinguish them from one another, the ability to make oneself understood and to get answers, are rare and blessed gifts that could allow him to draw on almost inexhaustible sources of inspiration.
I soon realized that some spirits, indeed, had a natural tendency to dictate thoughts, reflections, phrases, events that had happened, if not also true chronicles from their world.
I suspected that they did this in the hope, perhaps in the belief, that the casual listener, mesmerized by the revelation of their existence, would be willing, like the most humble scribe, to slavishly write down everything they dictated to him without ever interrupting, without asking questions, without winking
Such an intention, in my opinion, revealed in some of those spirits the existence of something unresolved along their timeline.
Whatever it was, it was evident that they needed to spread it among the living, perhaps in the hope that they would, sooner or later, turn it into doctrine or legend.
This explanation, which I still believe to be among the most reliable, made me quite wary of it.
Even today I strive to behave with shrewdness and diplomacy, of which I do not abound, in the face of their desire to suggest, to dictate, to influence.
Because by dint of being with them, it is natural to think that every desire that seems to be ours has its own "identity", that our victories and defeats, our ambitions and regrets have one for each individual case, that the feelings we feel, the passions that exalt us and those that enchain us have more than one.
Not having religions has allowed me to better understand their ties with the world, to interpret more freely the messages they send to us and to see that precisely because of their religious beliefs many of those spirits are still here, imprisoned and suspended between the two dimensions.
In this respect they are very tender.
Their weaknesses make them similar to us, make them mortal despite their immortal nature.
I am close with some of these spirits and I'm not sure I'd be really happy if they suddenly left.
For the same reason, I will never cease to love Lea and Chanan, beautiful souls in love who in the Dibbuk of Sholem An-Ski defied the Laws of the Supreme to join together and become one.
Under this little sky I know legions like them.
Therefore, be serene and do not feel alone.
The void is filled with the infinite unities of the one: nothing but this is the Supreme.
And while you read these few things, think with the same freedom of the one who wrote them that any sentence, that every shortest sentence, that every single word, maybe even every comma and every pause between two breaths have an "identity".
taken from "La passeggiata a ritroso di Robert Walser" courtesy of the author.
EDIZIONI DEL FOGLIO CLANDESTINO