To find those millions of words, I had to cross the threshold of the broom cupboard that my father insisted on calling a ‘study’: a little room about a couple of metres square, suffocated by books piled up on the floor or on shelves so full that the walls resembled the dome of a church. In the evening I went to sleep by the light that came through the frosted-glass panel in the door that marked the boundary between me and him. My father worked at night. He spent his time at a desk built with his own hands in the workshop of his carpenter brother: a board and four feet, then a chest of drawers that didn’t work. On this little table there was room, more or less, for a small lamp, which lent a conspiratorial air to everything, but it was a sign that I wasn’t alone in the world, that someone was keeping watch over me as I slept on the couch, and as soon as I slipped under the covers I was aware of that same someone’s thoughts from the faint scratch of pen on paper: scritch, scritch, scritch …
So as not to disturb me, my father wrote by hand rather than typing, and his ideas had the sound of a woodworm burrowing into wood, they kept company with the light before emerging into the open, into the whirl of night. Every now and again, when he wasn’t around, I would approach his pages like a thief determined to steal the future of the man who brought him into the world: ‘Mountain communities should be set up and organised around the valleys, and the valleys should unite the mountain tops.’ That was what my father wrote. I didn’t think about it much at the time, but now I do: utopias are born in the mountains, because that’s where the sunset takes longest to die.
I looked around. I studied the covers of the books, the dates, the colours. I imagined the mountains I would see if I appeared at the window opposite the table, and I felt as if I was not in a room of nocturnal writings, but in a room of light, of ideas, the room where, with platforms and scaffolding, the man who had brought me into the world constructed history.
By Giuseppe Lupo
Translated by Shaun Whiteside
From BREVE STORIA DEL MIO SILENZIO (‘A Short History of My Silence’)
By Giuseppe Lupo
Published by Marsilio (2019)
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Giuseppe Lupo is a widely published Italian writer of both fiction and non-fiction. His books include Gli anni del nostro incanto, Breve storia del mio silenzio and Viaggiatori di nuvole. Lupo is also a lecturer in contemporary Italian literature.
Shaun Whiteside is a literary translator from German, French, Italian and Dutch. His translations from Italian include Q, 54, Manituana and Altai by Luther Blissett/Wu Ming Foundation, The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano and Venice is a Fish and Stabat Mater by Tiziano Scarpa.