Donna Angela’s funeral was not even a funeral.

It was a Ravel Bolero without the same variety of instrumentation. The same phrase repeated endlessly, with very few and inconsistent variations. Ad libitum, as they write in the scores.

He had concelebrated the liturgy reluctantly and almost with a sense of bewildered and childish amazement. Of course, he respected the solemnity of his measured but firm gestures, he accompanied the thurible that incensed the remains of the deceased without taking his gaze away from its hypnotic swinging, and he had a moment of brief surrender and emotion at the

Whoever believes in me will never die”

proclaimed from the pulpit.

And then again hands, hands to hold, now white as a bride, now worn out from work, now deformed by rheumatoid arthritis and offering only their bones to the uncomfortable rite of farewell to those who remained.

He led the funeral procession towards the cemetery and sealed the tomb, blessing it again, and cementing it with a “Requiem Aeternam”, from which no resurrection of soul and body could ever make him emerge again.

He felt the God decomposition with an inexplicable but persistent sense of dizziness. And when had he ever suffered from dizziness, Don Fiorentino? Even to change a burnt out lamp he had to call the electrician, such was the sense of loss of balance that afflicted him every time he had to stand on a table or chair. Vertigo was, for him, much more than a sign of what he himself called “static counting of nothingness.”

He came back on the morning of Holy Thursday. He did not even show up and, to return to the church, he went through the side door of the building, taking care not to make too much noise when handling the old iron gate covered in rust. He had it oiled very well but his, stubborn, persisted in making his lament of decadence heard.

The church seemed bare to him. Yet it was as he had left it. The time had come for him to do like Christ.

Now, before the feast of the Passover, Jesus, knowing that the hour had come for him to pass from this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, loved them to the end.”

And he almost did not even realize that another bundle of thick brown paper had been placed with delicacy and knowledge on the balustrade, in the same place where he had found the telegram announcing the death of God, of his God, the one who was a mother.

He noticed that he was well tied with a white string, thin but strong and that the lead seal that held him had opened. A sign that it had to come from afar. Or that he had been on a tortuous journey.

However, he was not immediately curious about it, on the contrary, he took it to the desk and left it there until he had lunch. He remembered it after he had drunk the last sip of Chianti that was left in the flask. “That this is how Chianti should be served”, he mused aloud, “not in bottles, that Chianti is something for poor people, of those who pay more attention to quantity than to quality.”

And he even agreed with himself for the clarity and detachment from human events with which he had concluded this viaticum of simple things, by placing the fiasco upside down in the empty basket.

Only then he remembered that anomalous package, which continued to maintain all the aura of the mystery of its contents lying inert on the desk, and waiting for thin and expert fingers to free first the knots, then the package, the packing carton. And finally discovered its contents. Don Fiorentino did not have thin fingers, much less wise ones.

He looked at her blackened and neglected nails for a few moments and opted for the pruning shears that he kept hanging on a kitchen wall, considering that it was good for his yellow roses, which grew in every season, despite the weather and lack of his care, it would have been even better to cut a double-passed tie. However, after a brief fumbling, which seemed eternal to him, he extracted a book with a cream-coloured cover and a letter, written in a rapid and incomprehensible handwriting. He sat down and, throwing away the cigar which had been reduced to a stub, read:

Salamanca, December 31st, 1936.

Reverend Father,

I am happy that my Don Manuel – poor Don Manuel, dead of deception! – has come into your hands.

You will want to give me credit if I tell you that your writing has alleviated the suffering I feel at having to stay in this Salamantian home of mine, sad, tired, thoughtful and old, as I head towards the daily and tiring sunset.

I do not know who this Fogazzaro is, but many of my critics, not to mention detractors, have compared me – be ashamed of the pages they have written! – to the Pirandello who quotes me, who seems to be very popular with you.

However, my sick heart and the ailments of age prevent me from dedicating myself to reading everything new. Life is too short to read bad books, believe me.

As for your anxieties, I heard that there is a doctor in Vienna who works miracles by making your patients lie down on the bed, letting them relax and taking notes.

If the act were mortal, not acting would be life, and I, who am an expert in paradoxes, am happy to underline his point.

You ask me about my writings and I am happy to send you a copy of the enlarged second edition of my “The Agony of Christianity”, which I hope you will welcome. Why die while dreaming, yes, but if you dream of dying, death is a dream.

I greet you


He remained petrified, while he observed himself, as if placed outside his own body, by descending into the whirlpool, silent, as Cesare Pavese wrote in the most devastating of his poems. He had always felt an almost filial affection and tenderness for him. He cared little for songs, but he liked those ramshackle verses that a modern minstrel had dedicated to the Piedmontese poet. He certainly would not have been able to repeat them from memory, but Pavese’s image, who waited for six hours in the rain for a dancer with whom he was uselessly in love remained imprinted on his mind. And he thought that love, all love, as an absolutely free gift of self had the shuddering characteristic of not being democratic at all.

Indeed, he was a fascist to the core. He was merciless, he plunged the blade of his knife into living flesh and tore it into shreds.

He rose from his chair and rushed towards the 1969 edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica which he kept evenly distributed on two painted wooden shelves.

The date of December 31st, 1936 was the same as the death of his Unamuno, who wrote to him from the past making fun of him.

Assailed by a sense of nausea and disorientation, Don Fiorentino groped for the volume he had received and, opening it to a random page (he also did the same with the Holy Scriptures), read there, with stentorian and blurred vision:

We talk about the struggle for existence, but this struggle for life is life itself and is at the same time the struggle itself.”

And, a little further on:

Life is a struggle and solidarity for life is a struggle, and it manifests itself through struggle. I will never tire of repeating that what unites men most among themselves are their discord.”

He felt his fever rising. So, was this the agony of Christianity, the same agony as him? A struggle that rises to Golgotha of men’s discord and their love?

Charity is magnanimous, charity is benevolent; it is not envious, it does not boast, it does not swell with pride, it does not lack respect, it does not seek its own interest, it does not get angry, it does not take into account the evil received, it does not enjoy of injustice but rejoices in the truth. He excuses everything, believes everything, hopes everything, tolerates everything.”

He no longer found in those words any correspondence with all the love that had sustained him and, feeling his forehead burning, he went to bed, falling asleep and letting his chest be crushed by useless dreams.