Saturday, 1 February 2014
Lucio Fontana - Concetto spaziale, La fine di Dio, 1963
Extract from Curzio Malaparte - The Skin:
Dawn was already breaking, and a light green mist was forming on the skin of the mourners' faces, on the plaster of the walls, and on the gray blanket of the sky, in which gaps had been torn here and there by the bitter wind of early morning; and through the rents a pinkness was visible, like the new flesh that forms over a wound. The crowd continued to wait in the courtyard, praying aloud, and every so often interrupting its prayers to give expression to its grief.
At about ten in the morning pandemonium broke loose. Weary of the long wait, impatient to have news of their dear ones, to know if they were really dead or if there was any hope of saving them, and fearful of being betrayed by the doctors and orderlies, the crowd began yelling, cursing and hurling stones against the windowpanes; and finally, by sheer weight of numbers, they broke open the doors. As soon as the heavy portals yielded the deafening, ferocious clamor died down as if by magic; and silently, like a pack of wolves, panting, gritting their teeth, every so often peering through doorways, running with lowered heads through the passages of the ancient building, made fetid and filthy by time and neglect, the crowd invaded the hospital.
But having reached the entrance to a cloister, from which dark corridors radiated in every direction, they burst into a terrible cry, and halted, petrified with horror. On the floors, piled up on heaps of garbage, bloodstained garments and damp straw, lay hundreds and hundreds of disfigured corpses, their heads enormous, swollen through suffocation and blue, green and purple in color, their faces crushed, their limbs truncated or torn right off by the violence of the explosions. In a corner of the cloister stood a pyramid of heads with wide-open eyes and gaping mouths. With loud cries, frantic wails and savage laments the crowd threw themselves on the dead, calling them by name in voices that were terrible to hear, fighting for possession of those headless trunks, those torn limbs, those severed heads, those miserable remains which deluded pity and love seemed to recognize.
Surely no human eye ever witnessed a struggle so fierce, nor yet so pitiful. Every scrap of flesh and bone was fought for by ten or twenty of those demented creatures, who were maddened by grief and even more by the fear of seeing their own dead carried off by others, of seeing them stolen by their rivals. And that which the raid had failed to do was finally accomplished by their macabre fury, their mad pity; for every corpse, torn, truncated, rent asunder, ripped to pieces by a hundred eager hands, became the prey of ten or twenty demented creatures, who ran off, pursued by hoards of yelling people, hugging to their breasts the miserable remains which they had succeeded in rescuing from the fierce pity of their fellows. The wild affray spread from the cloisters and corridors of the Ospedale dei Pellegrini into the streets and alleys, and finally spent its fury in the cellars of the city's slums, where the people could at last find an outlet for their pity and love in tears and in the payment of their final homage to the mangled corpses of their dear ones.
Translated from the Italian by David Moore