Lives that are not mine, but mine are so deeply intertwined that they show me the way. The title of one of Emmanuel Carrère’s most engaging books, borrowed here only, introduces another, equally intense. “Two lives” by Emanuele Trevi (Neri Pozza, € 12.50) he talks about happy encounters and friendship, and he wants to remind us of two existences that ended too early, but not so early as not to leave tangible and lasting proof of their beauty and importance.
The two lives are a man and a woman, have a name and a surname, a date of birth and death. Rocco Carbone, scholar, academic and narrator (1962-2008). Pia Pera, writer, translator, Slavist and botany (1956-2016). Linked to each other, and to the author, from one of those friendships that are born at 20 years of age, they become very close and then perhaps fray, while continuing to act as a constant substrate for the years.
Rocco and Pia are the opposite of each other: as much as the former is granite, immovable in its “rigidity from a mineral kingdom”, so much the latter is changeable and light, capable of producing “a kind of perpetual sparkle”. And while the one faces life and writing with obstinate, persistent asceticism, the other always finds new opportunities for action. After the profound disappointment linked to his novel “History of Lo” – Lolita of Nabokov from the point of view of Lolita herself – for which she was accused of plagiarism, returns to the work of translator, completing a version of Pushkin’s Onegin that Trevi takes into account as one of the enterprises of Pia’s life.
To put it in a verse by Angelo Maria Ripellino, she belongs to the “lineage of demons and jugglers”, she is quick, she never stands still, travels, turns, changes. Last time he does it by leaving Milan, his city, for the countryside. Indeed, for a garden under the Pisan Mountains to which he devotes himself with absolute devotion. And this garden is the protagonist of his other work to remember: the book “At the garden I still haven’t said it” in which Emily Dickinson’s verse is the trigger of the painful but not desperate story of a disease reflected in the green space that acts as a mirror.
Rocco also changes, and the change is traumatic: he goes through a “catastrophic manic crisis, a kind of prolonged delusion”, he leaves the university world to devote himself to writing, in search of a literary success that is never what was hoped for. By dint of “polishing bones and nerves with an iron brush” he writes his most important novel, “The apparition”. He manages to find an unstable equilibrium when he dies in an accident in 2008: “What is an accident? Without a doubt, something refractory to any form of story. Free from the constraint of necessity, free, unpredictable, it happens without stopping to remind us that it could very well not happen. “
In the swing between the poles Rocco and Pia the space for friendship is created, which also contains Emanuele: a welcoming place where misunderstandings and momentary detachments also arise. A place to return to after many years, to honor the memory of the dead through what they left behind. “Two lives” is not only the biographical / autobiographical tale of the encounter between two men and a woman, it is an essay capable of evoking, with a language that is intensely poetic, precise and transparent, the irreducible uniqueness of two figures of our culture .