Ennio Flaiano hasn’t been sleeping well.

The celebrated writer and poet - and occasional screenwriter - is behind on several projects. Deadlines for two film scripts have come and gone. Production companies are chasing him for meetings.

All the while Rome is in the full bloom of spring, spoiled with gossip and scandal. Culture is in crisis. Society is in peril.

All Ennio needs is a little hope.

And a good night’s sleep.

1,000 words / 4 minutes of otherworldly reading pleasure

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‘We’re like so many puppets hung on the wall, waiting for someone to come and move us or make us talk.’ Luigi Pirandello 



Copyright 2024 Stefano Boscutti
All Rights Reserved

It’s 1959 in the month before summer and Rome is asleep.

It’s two o’clock in the morning, light reflects over the city from low-lying clouds. Via Veneto is deserted, as if asleep since the beginning of time.

Buildings along the serpentine boulevard are shut tight, dark, with squalid façades that not even advertising is able to brighten up.

There’s a sound, a low rumble, a rattling of drums coming from Porta Pinciana and behold, out from under the ancient vaults emerges a tumultuous parade.

Leading it are a dozen majorettes, with bare legs and white suspenders and wide smiles. Beating on their drums, and a tall long-legged girl twirling a baton and catching it in mid-air.

Behind them - smiling, responding to the greetings of an invisible crowd - come a group of happy poets and writers, and a few painters.

An old man, borne upon someone’s shoulders and closely surrounded like a saint in a procession, protests amiably to his admirers as he sways this way and that.

‘You lunatics, what are you doing, let me down.’

Sandro Penna waves at Ennio as if apologising for having to go on. Rocco Sinisgalli is driving a pretty little jalopy in which all his manuscripts and drawings - more than a few unpublished - are displayed behind the windshield.

Giorgio Bassani is arm in arm with Alberto Moravia, and Goffredo Bellonci between Alberto Arbasino and Italo Calvino. Singing loudly, proudly.

Mario Soldati is imitating himself, dashing from one group to another and reciting a few lines he had written about life and meaning, and seeing the difference.

Suddenly the boulevard is filling up with people - as when guests come on stage in Eugène Labiche’s plays. From side streets pour swarms of tourists, waiters getting off their shifts, cab drivers just beginning theirs, abusive parking lot attendants, married couples emerging from movie houses discussing Antonioni, photographers, gangling Americans, the entire crews of jet-liners, townsfolk, students, girls with rustled hair, young men with high collars, prostitutes, pimps, street types, playboys.

All are applauding, loudly, wildly. Without knowing for what or for whom. At the wheel of his 1937 Fiat 500, the poet Juan Rodolfo Wilcock is declaiming his immortal verses.

Ennio cannot see Pier Paolo Pasolini. Where is Pasolini? Can his shyness have kept him at home? Wait! No, there he is too, in the middle of a group of young poets and calm, haughty film directors.

They’re following swarms of girls, actors, actresses, more directors, the juries of literary prizes, worker-writers, worker-painters, worker-critics, fellow travellers, misanthropes, sons of celebrities, wives of painters, the whole confusion.

Flowers are raining down from above. Ennio asks a poet where he’s going. The poet, keeping himself a little out of sight, answers with a vague gesture. 

Ennio runs to the head of the parade, which all of a sudden has come to a halt. In the middle of the street is a man, waving his hand to indicate that he wants to speak. It’s Vincenzo Cardarelli in his long, heavy black coat with the fur-lined lapels. His voice is somewhat hoarse, subdued.

‘Friends, I have asked you for too much, and you have given me too little. It has been a marriage of convenience and incompatibility. We have not understood each other and we have been unable to communicate. We have suffered so much being together! But now we must go our separate ways.’

Someone in the procession’s front rank yells, ‘Who is he anyway? What does he want?’

Cardarelli continues. ‘But you do not know what it is that is useful to life. Your word does not bear witness. What do your silences say? There is no system in your silences or in your words.’

‘Down in front!’

‘You do not know that words, if they have any value at all, have it only by virtue of their implications.’

‘Enough talk! Music, play on. Let’s get going again. Long live culture!’

‘Your measure is lacking in freedom and miserly in hope.’

‘Take off! Cuckold! Police!’

‘You cannot imagine all the duplicities and sorceries and abuses of intelligence among men!’

‘Silence! Beat the drums! Continue!’

‘We have shared a consciousness without horizons, It has forever covered us over and exhausted its continuity. Upon every new occasion, when we have separated, we have been curt and threatening.’

The crowd boos. Cardarelli looks away.

‘And now it is time for us to bid each other farewell.’

At this point the procession starts to move on again, squawking and clamouring.

And at this point Ennio wakes up.

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Copyright 2024 Stefano Boscutti

All Rights Reserved

The moral rights of the author are asserted.

No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, digital, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying or copying and pasting, recording or any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing.

Stefano Boscutti acknowledges the trademark owners of various products referenced in this work. The publication or use of these trademarks is not authorised or sponsored by the trademark owner.

This is a work of fiction. While many of the characters portrayed here have counterparts in the life and times of Ennio Flaiano and others, the characterisations and incidents presented are totally the products of the author’s heady imagination. This work is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. It should not be resold or given away. Thank you for your support. (Couldn’t do it without you.)

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