Academic journal article Romance Notes

Decolonizing the Imagination in the Early Works of Valerio Evangelisti

Academic journal article Romance Notes

Decolonizing the Imagination in the Early Works of Valerio Evangelisti

Article excerpt

TWENTY or so years ago, an Italian science-fiction writer would have assumed an Anglo-Saxon-sounding pseudonym in order to become popular at home. Valerio Evangelisti is one of the first such authors to have attained success using his real name. (1) As winner of the Premio Urania for science fiction in 1994 with Nicolas Eymerich, Inquisitore, he launched a prolific career during which he has since published sixteen novels. Although frequently characterized as an author of science fiction, Evangelistas works actually resist generic classification. Indeed, he is committed to a type of paraliterature characterized above all by genre mixing. (2) So any of his fictional works might include elements of the detective and/or the historical novel, fantasy, horror, science fiction and the fantastic. These latter two offer an effective approach to the opus of an author whom some consider to be the most famous Bolognese since Umberto Eco, for it is by means of science fiction and the fantastic that Evangelisti intends to liberate his reader's imagination in order to create a heightened awareness of the "colonizing" forces that shape our thoughts and beliefs systems. The "decolonizzazione dell'imaginario" is one of his primary goals. (3)

How then might one arrive at an acceptable definition of the fantastic and of science fiction as far as the works of Evangelisti are concerned? According to such theorists as Pierre-Georges Castex (5-8), Louis Vax (53-4), or Tzvetan Todorov (29), the fantastic is always inextricably intertwined with known reality, which it thoroughly defies by recounting events irreducible to human logic and reason. Situated in the present with respect to the narrator, the fantastic erupts when a phenomenon impossible according to known scientific and rational knowledge occurs, thereby unleashing a mystery that is never solved. The disturbance provokes fear, insecurity and alienation; the moorings of stable reality are lost; our "colonized" imaginations are in a state of crisis. Clearly, the fantastic is different from science fiction therefore in the sense that the latter, futuristic, concerns scientific and especially technological discoveries and inventions possible within the realm of the narration. Evangelisti seems to concur with these views when commenting on "lo sfondo [...] totalmente onirico" of Maurizio Cometto's fantastic, for example, described as a "bizarro che emergeva, poco alla volta, dalla quotidianita," (4) or in "Prima della rivoluzione," Introduction to Antologia del Fantastico Italiano Underground, where he qualifies the fantastic as "il preannuncio di una rivoluzione. Da sempre cio che e underground, se si aggrega, puo emergere. Prepariamoci a dubitare della realta che ci circonda" (10). In contrast, Evangelisti notes that science fiction is "quel filone [...] che situa le proprie storie nel contesto dei sogni e degli incubi generati dallo sviluppo scientifico, tecnologico e socioeconomico di un'epoca data" (Alphaville, "Su Lovecraft," 143). Accordingly, the appearance of the fantastic in Evangelisti's novels exists in opposition to widely accepted "truths" and may therefore disappear once that view of contemporary reality changes owing to scientific discovery. In fact, many of Evangelisti's novels secrete their own scientific explanations. In this way, one set of "sogni" replaces another and contributes to the overall intention to "decolonize the imagination."

A second fundamental element of the definition of the fantastic pertains to the nature of the phenomenon of the uncanny itself. More precisely, need it be outside consciousness and in a sense concrete, a weird event experienced by more than one person? Can it also be exclusively inside consciousness, and as such personal, subjective, hidden from the outside world within the depths of someone's dreams, nightmares, or hallucinations? According to such theorists as Joel Malrieu, it can be both or either. He in fact insists that the fantastic can be an outward visible event as well as a uniquely personal phenomenon (49). …

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