Pier Paolo Pasolini. His life
The second world war. - His brother Guido's death.
Pasolini between 1945 and 1949
The second world war was for Pasolini an extremely hard period. One can gauge his state of mind from the contents of his letters:
"As to my health, it's not bad, indeed it is just fine. So is my morale, when all is quiet, which is rarely. Otherwise, I'm very afraid. I fear for my skin, do you understand Rico? And not only for mine, also for the others. We are so exposed to destiny; poor naked men." (7)
"I don't know if we'll see each other again, all smacks of death, of end, of shooting... , everything is disgusting, if one thinks of those fellows shitting on this earth. I would like to spit on the earth while at the same time little leaves of green grass poke out along with yellow-and sky-blue flowers, and jewels on the trees..." (8)
Pasolini was conscripted into the army in Livorno, in 1943. The day after the 8th of September he disobeyed an order to deliver his arms to the Germans and fled. After moving around Italy he returned to Casarsa. The Pasolini family decided to go to Versutta, a place less exposed to Allied bombing and German siege. Here he taught boys in their early years of high school.
But the main event of those years was his brother Guido's death. Guido refused to stay hidden in Versutta and decided to join the partisans in their fight. Pier Paolo took Guido to the railway station after buying a ticket for Bologna so as to divert suspicion. From Spilimbergo Guido reached Pielungo where he joined the Osoppo partisan division. He used the war-name of Ermes, the given name of Parini, one of Pier Paolo's friends who was lost in the Russian campaign.
Internal conflicts developed between the various groups of the anti-fascist resistance. The Communists of the "Garibaldian" brigades brought pressure to bear for the annexation of Friuli to Titoist Yugoslavia, while the Osoppo brigade was for the Italianization of Friuli. Guido wrote about this to Pier Paolo, because he wanted his brother to advocate the Osoppo position in his articles. Pasolini never wrote those articles.
In February 1945 Guido, together with the entire command of the Osoppo division was massacred in Porzus malga [shepherd's shut in the Alps, t.n.]. A hundred "Garibaldian" men approached the division, pretending to have disbanded. After capturing the Osoppo men they executed them. Guido, although wounded, succeeded in fleeing and a country woman gave him sanctuary. He was ultimately found by the "Garibaldian" men, dragged out and executed. The Pasolini family learned about the death and its circumstances only at the end of the war. Pasolini wrote:
"I often think about the section of road between Musi and Porzus, running along side my brother on that frightful day and my imagination becomes bright through an unexplaining burning whiteness of snow, a clearness of sky. And the presence of Guido is so alive".
In the 15 September 1971 Vie Nuove, a communist periodical, Pasolini answered a reader's request that he address the matter of Guido's death:
"The facts can be recounted in a few words: my mother, my brother and myself were evacuated from Bologna to Friuli in Casarsa. My brother continued his studies in Pordenone: he attended to "liceo scientifico" [high school, t.n.]. At 19 he immediately entered the Resistance. I, who was not much older than he was, had converted him to the better anti-fascism, with a passion for catechumens, because I had known since the age of two that the world in which I had been born without prospects was a ridiculous and absurd world. Some Communist friends from Pordenone (at that time I hadn't yet read Marx and I was still liberal, with a bent for the "action party") had drawn Guido into active fighting. After a few months he had set off into the mountains, where they were fighting. Graziano's edict, which had called him to arms, was the chance motivation for his departure, the excuse to my mother. I took him to the train, with his little case containing a Colt hidden in a book of poems. We hugged each other: that was the last time I saw him.
In the mountains, between Friuli and Yugoslavia, Guido fought long and valiantly for several months: he enlisted in the Osoppo division that worked in the Venezia-Giulia zone, together with the Garibaldi division. Those were terrible days: my mother felt that Guido would never again return. Hundreds of times he could have been killed fighting against Fascists and Germans: because he was a boy whose generosity didn't admit any weakness or compromise. But he was destined to die in an even more tragic way.
As you know Venezia Giulia lies on the frontier between Italy and Yugoslavia; so, in that period, Yugoslavia aimed to annex all the land, not just the section immediately bordering it. My brother, even if enlisted in the "action party, even if tentitively socialist (surely he would be with me now), couldn't agree to the idea that an Italian land, such as Friuli, could be the object of Yugoslavian nationalism. He rebelled, and he fought. In the last months, on the mountains of Venezia Giulia, the situation was desperate because everyone was between two fires. As you know, Yugoslavian Resistance was Communist, more so than the Italian version: so Guido found as his enemies Tito's men including some Italians whose political ideas of course he shared, but with whom he couldn't share the immediate nationalist politics.
He died in a way that telling it breaks my heart: he could also have saved himself, that day: he died running to help his commander and comrades. I think there isn't any Communist who could disapprove of partisan Guido Pasolini's actions. I'm proud of him, and it's the memory of him, of his generosity, of his passion that makes me follow the road I'm running along. The fact that his death happened in this way, under circumstances apparently so difficult to judge, doesn't make me want to turn back. It only confirms my belief that nothing is simple, nothing happens without complications and suffering: and that what is more, most of all, is the critical lucidity that kills words and conventions and goes to the end of the things, in their secret and inalienable truth." (9)
Pasolini put into verse in the Corus in morte di Guido, published in Stroligut in August 1945:
La livertat, l'Itaia
e quissa diu cual distin disperat
a ti volevin
dopu tant vivut e patit
ta quistu silensiu
Cuant qe i traditours ta li Baitis
a bagnavin di sanc zenerous la neif,
"Sçampa - a ti an dita - no sta torna' lassu'"
I ti podevis salvati,
i no ti às lassat bessòi
i tu cumpains a muri'.
"Sçampa, torna indavour"
I te podevis salvati
i ti soso tornat lassu',
To mari, to pari, to fradi
cun dut il to passat e la to vita infinida,
in qel di' a no savevin
qe alc di pi' grant di lour
al ti clamava
cu'l to cour innosent
Guido's death had a devistating effect on the Pasolinis, but most of all on the sorrow-stricken mother. Following his father's return from imprisonment in Kenya the relationship between Pier Paolo and his mother only became closer:
"So he arrived in Casarsa, in a sort of new imprisonment: and he started his twelve year long agony." (10)
For years afterwards, Guido's
death would be exploited with unscrupulous cynicism uncountable numbers
of times by Italian Right newspapers as a means of attacking Pasolini:
In 1945 Pasolini graduated with a thesis entitled "Anthology of pascolinian lyric poetry (introduction and comments)" and settled definitively in Friuli. Here he found a job as teacher in a secondary school of Valvasone, near Udine.
In those years he started his political activity. In 1947 got near PCI [Italian Communist Party, t.n], starting a contribution to the party-weekly "Lotta e lavoro".
Circumstances of his brother Guido's death surely represented a difficulty for joining PCI. However Pasolini had always avoided that affair, he seemed to stain Guido's memory. Pier Paolo also had to justify that allegiance to his mother and his father, who accused his wife of allowing Guido to go about with riff-raff.
Loyalty to PCI represented for the young poet a deep courageous act: in that way he wanted to sacrifice the deep sorrow caused to himself and his family to a social ideal, fall shareable with that Friulan PCI that politically drove brother's killers.
Pasolini became secretary of the Section of San Giovanni di Casarsa, but the party and most of all intellectual Friulan Communists didn't like him. They wrote political subjects using the language of '900, while Pasolini wrote using people's language without entering necessarily on political subjects. For many people that was inadmissible: many Communists suspected Pasolini of disinterest in socialist realism, cosmopolitism and an excessive attention in bourgeois culture.
During those years Pasolini knew the painter Zigaina; they were bound together till death by a close friendship.
That period, of communist involvement, is the only one in which Pasolini was actively engaged in the political fight. During those years Pier Paolo Pasolini wrote and drew "manifesti murali", charging writings against the constituted "democristian" [from "Democrazia Cristiana", an old party of the Centre, t.n.] power.
On 15th October 1949 Pasolini was pointed by Carabineers of Cordovado for minor corruption: that was the beginning of a delicate and humiliating series of legal actions, that definitely changed Pasolini's life. After that trial there were many others, but one is allowed to think that if there hadn't been the first proceedings, the others wouldn't have followed.
Years later, in a letter sent to Silvana Ottieri from Rome, where he settled, Pasolini said among other things: on me there's the sign of Rimbaud, or of Campana or also of Wilde, whether I like or not, whether the other people agree or not. (See on this theme also the linked page Il segno di Rimbaud).
Pasolini was accused to have withdrawn with two or three boys, on 30th September 1949, in the fraction of Ramuscello. The parents of the boys didn't sue him but the Carabineers of Cordovado got to know of the rumours in the village and investigated further. It was a period of very harsh contrapositions between the Left and DC [Democrazia Cristiana, t.n.], during the depths of the cold war and Pasolini was very vulnerable because of his position of communist- and anticlerical intellectual. The charge for the facts of Ramuscello was continued both from the Right and from the Left: still before the trial, on 26th October 1949, Pasolini was expelled from PCI. This is what "l'Unità" [a Left newspaper, at that time linked to PCI, t.n.] reported on 29th October:
""POET PASOLINI EXPELLED FROM PCI
The federation of PCI of Pordenone delivered in the 26th of October the expulsion from the party of Doctor Pier Paolo Pasolini from Casarsa for moral unworthiness. We take the facts that caused a grave disciplinary measure for Doctor Pier Paolo Pasolini as a starting point for reporting once again the ruinous influences of some ideological and philosophical currents of Gide, Sartre and -as much extoled- poets and literary men, who want to pose as progressists, but who in reality gather the more ruinous aspects of burgeois decline".
In a few days Pasolini fell in an abyss apparently without a way out. The resonance in Casarsa of the facts of Ramuscello had big echoes. Before the Carabineers he tried to justify those facts, intrinsically confirming the accusations, like an exceptional experience, a sort of intellectual disbanding: that only aggravated his position: expelled from PCI, he left the job as teacher, while his relationship with his mother was momentarily distrupted. Pasolini decided to run away from Casarsa and his often mythicized Friuli. Together with his mother he moved to Rome, beginning a new life for Pier Paolo. He wrote afterwards:
"I fled with my mother and a case and a few jewels that turned out to be fake, / on a train slow as a freight train, / along the Friulan land covered by a light and hard coat of snow. / We went towards Rome. / So we went, left my father / nearby a little stove for poor, / with his old military overcoat / and his horrible cirrhosis-sick furies and paranoiac syndromes, / I lived that / page of novel, the only one of my life: / as for the rest, / I have been living inside a lyric, as every madman". (11)
(7) Letter to painter De
Rocco, Autumn '44