Is It Real or Is It Fiction? the Dimorphous World of Giose Rimanelli in Familia

Article excerpt

At the very opening of his most recent narrative, Familia, Giose Rimanelli informs the reader, in his premessa, that:

      L'idea era quella d'intitolare questo libro Tre passi infamiglia,
   in quanto si compone di "3 libri", indipendenti l'uno dall'altro ma
   uniti dallo stesso tema: famiglia come tronco genetico e famiglia
   come massa di gente che emigra da un posto all'altro, in questo
   caso da un continente all'altro, con uguale affanno e speranza. (1)

The writer produces a photographic montage of the Italian emigrant experience which spans, largely, from the middle of the 19th century to the post World War II years. The black and white images, initially viewed on the book jacket, are expanded within the text to incorporate the entire expatriates' atmosphere and are held together by the presence of the author's own immediate family. The writer then employs the chiaroscuro techniques of shadowing and illuminating to highlight the migratory circumstances of the century covered within his text. Moreover, Rimanelli generates a nickelodeon type effect with these vivid, quasi-monochromatic descriptions by simultaneously adding a musical background gradation: jazz, with its concurrent development and migration during this same time period. The author blends and splices this all-American music genre with the refugee influx from Europe and, thereby, demonstrates the totally multi cultural American tapestry, with its roots, developed in two separate environments. (2)

Familia is a saga that encompasses the social, economic and political realities of two worlds, the Old and the New, separated by an ocean. The emigrant, who left his homeland like the Jews crossing the Red Sea in search of a better life for themselves and their children, (3) ultimately survived the arduous expedition and thrived in the new environment.

But, more substantially than a photo collage of these two separate and diverse realities in which the refugee life is portrayed, the author, using these same images and likenesses, creates a Picasso-like picture in which he positions, juxtaposes, shades and highlights the materiality and historicity of the real world with the creativity, depth and spontaneity of the invented. Rimanelli, therefore, becomes a guide through the labyrinthine world of the artists dedicated realms of truth and fiction, and as such, indicates the necessary path to visualize the dichotomy of the journey.

Structurally the text has three main branches that the author labels as Emigrazione come ricordo, Emigrazione come destino, and Emigrazione come arte. Each of these books has its own subdivisions: Ricordo has seven mini chapters; Destino has ten; and the last part, Arte, incorporates everything from the previous narrated and documented units and now presents it in a dramatic, theatrical fashion. Moreover, the author experiments with the use of multiple writing styles to compose the text. The reader is confronted with narrative, poetry, history (literary, music, social, political and economic), and theater. At the same time, the writer has combined his academic pursuit of research and it is evinced by the constant reminder at the base of the page with topics and texts composed in footnote style. The narration presented is a documented and researched instrument for future scholars.

Moreover, like Julio Cortazar's Rayuela, Rimanelli's Familia can be read from many perspectives. Each book, presented with its own, diverse epigraphy, could be considered as an independent and separate entity, not qualified nor linked to the other part, and therefore has a oneness onto itself. It could, also, be studied in its integrity, as one complete and continuous text. Additionally, the annotations at the foot of the page could be seen as a distinct and segregated totality from the rest of the prose and, consequently, another text evolves and develops within the original chronicle.

Time is fabulistic and not chronological in nature. …