Maria Cristina Mannocchi: Storms and Landing - The literature of the shipwreck as a search for salvation

Maria Cristina Mannocchi
Ed.Ensemble Roma 2012

"Who has never felt at the mercy of the storms of life, lost, shipwrecked, unable to find a possible port, to hope for salvation? At times, those who have experienced this loss have had the intuition that from there, beyond the waves, they could begin their rebirth. You learn a lot from the experience of total loss. The shipwreck literature deals with this, of life, and wonders about questions never solved: the reason of death, of pain, of the existence or not of God."Thus, the author, Maria Cristina Mannocchi, a teacher at a scientific high school in Rome, in the introduction, makes us understand that the sea, through the narratives of philosophers, writers and poets, is the absolute protagonist of this book, whose pages go through the centuries.

"The narratives are the place of the encounter between human experiences. Sailors sow stories in every corner of the earth. The sea collects their stories, their joys and despair that become a symbol of our daily frenzy in search of a route."

It starts from the sea of ​​the ancients, a sea that was scary because, according to the myth, the gods had used it as a weapon of mass destruction; a sea crossed by unrepentant people, the merchants. "Navigation was felt as a prodigious act that went against the laws of nature because man was born to be on land."

Then there is Socrates who "finds himself having to make a difficult navigation in the sea of ​​knowledge, forced to go rowing to get out of the calm."Gilgamesh, a character of Mesopotamian mythology, begins his journey by sea in search of immortality, represented by a flower that he plunges into the abyss but which will be subtracted from a snake. "Tired and defeated Gilgamesh abandons the boat on the shore and begins to engrave his story on a stone. It is interesting to replace navigation with the writing with which the Mesopotamian epic ends, because it is the metaphor of an obligatory passage for humanity: from the search for an eternal youth, impossible to reach, to immortality given by intellectual activity. , from writing."

In the Bible, where we find a personified sea, Jesus is the character who has the greatest power of pacification on it. "Who is this to whom both the wind and the sea obey? The apostles are asked immediately before the miracle of the sedated storm."The fury of the sea, if not controlled, can generate shipwrecks. Virtuoso is the castaway who endures adversity with patience. Ulysses is the prime example. Those who can not deal with the waves wisely become the last of society. "The intellectual distinguishes himself from the begging mass precisely because the shipwreck does not bring him any harm"In fact, as Fedro says, the cultured man always has his riches in him. A sea whose events, at times, can only be understood by a few initiates. The preaching of Jesus begins right by the sea and " the storm sedated, the walking on the water, the miraculous fishing are marine prodigies that Jesus will show only to the closest disciples."Storms can also be internal.

For Seneca, the wise man does not seek the storm. "But if the battle is inevitable, the wise man will be able to hold himself firmly at the helm with the help of philosophy."For Sant'Agostino, instead,"a good shipwreck is the best that can happen to an individual to understand himself, others and his relationship with God."And the solid ship, on which to cross the sea of ​​life, he will find it only in Christ, using, by his navigation, the wood of the Cross.

As in the classical world, even in the Middle Ages it is used to compare the literary composition to a sea voyage, where "the poet is assimilated to the sailor and the boat represents his intellect, his work,"So much so that Dante remembers"to his readers that in terms of textual navigation he has a sort of unexceptionable 'nautical license'."In the Convivio he invokes the art of reason, where with artimone, in the nautical language, we mean a sail that is used to maintain a steady course and not to give speed. In the Divine Comedy, out of the forest, Dante "he is like a shipwrecked: he looks from the shore, still terrified, to the fury of the waves from which no living person ever came out."His encounter with the sacred, therefore, is arranged by having experienced the shipwreck. Then the author takes a leap forward, passing first for Leopardi, where "the sinking of the ego in the great sea of ​​being is the beginning of a different awareness", Then for Defoe, with his Robinson Crusoe, modern Ulysses, up to" The Truman Show ", the film by Peter Weir of 1998, where, in the final scene, the protagonist, Truman, breaks the barrier of the fiction television, throwing himself, new Christopher Columbus, into the unknown.

A book, therefore, which, as Antonio Tabucchi writes, is nourished by an exceptional culture, above all classical, but lightened by an extremely seductive narrative prose, so much so that we forget its non-fictional nature in favor of the pure pleasure of the text, of the narration of a story, the story of the shipwreck interpreted as a supreme test that instead of overwhelming the shipwrecked man in his waves leads him to a sort of rebirth or regeneration.

Gianlorenzo Capano