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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Pier Paolo Pasolini, « soldat sans solde »

by Joseph Andras

Pier Paolo Pasolini, "Soldier Without Pay"

Translated Tuesday 25 December 2018, by Henry Crapo

Here is a dry and naked body, sitting, with its eyes fixed on one of the pages of a book whose title we do not know. A mirror to his right, exposed stone walls, a window overlooking an autumn night. The author of this photograph, one of the last photographs of the living poet, is 25 years old - half as old as his model. Pasolini is about to present the translation of his collection The Ashes of Gramsci in Stockholm - in 1975, the year he completed editing Salò or the 120 Days of Sodom, announced the need to make a case against the Italian Christian Democratic authorities, and promoted the abolition of television. This image is a fragment of a series of photos in black and white: Pasolini moves, moving from seat to bed, lying down, straightening up, a mammalian clearly on probation, wiyh thin protruding muscles, sex relieved of its genesic shame. Perhaps he doesn’t really read, no doubt he lets his gaze float, offering only his solitude to the lens - the bulb draws an imperfect circle on the stone; the shadow surrounds the filmmaker’s hollowed out mouth.

This body - "a body of consumed desire", Pasolini noted two decades earlier - ignores that it will be found in a few days’ time, lying down, flayed, ravaged on a wasteland of the Ostia hydrobase. This body does not yet have its hair stuck with blood, its face reduced to meat, its nose broken, its left ear torn off, its liver torn, its testicles battered, his heart burst, his fingers cut off and ten ribs broken. In this naked body, as it was at birth, we see him alive, confident, insolent, without the odious white tarpaulin that will soon cover it, spotted, reddened, held to the rotten ground by two stones.

His Lutheran Letters, composed in the previous months, will sound, without his wishing it, as a testament. Text of "desperate and useless denunciation", draft paragraphs of a doctoral thesis, sermon to the youth, message whispered to his time: consumption, which has become a total social fact, leading to the ultimate disaster - totalitarianism, a new fascism, even genocide; the little people have disappeared under the repeated attacks of "development"; the technological empire has trampled on "ecology"; neocapitalism has transformed his contemporaries into so many "ugly and stupid automata, fetish worshipers". This "anthropological cataclysm", he confessed the same year, he experiences even "in his body". Pasolini, an atheist in love with an undivine Christ, a communist consumed by the past, a barbarian concerned with "lost brotherhood", the unrepentant provocateur persecuted, the opponent of liberal welfare, the contender of Power and Money, had once thought of moving to Morocco or Sudan - the nations of the Third World had all his love as "irreducible creature of the earth".

But this cliché, Pasolini will never see. Intending to insert this staging into a novel in preparation, Petroleum, he asked the author of the images, Dino Pedriali, not to publish anything. The two Italians were then in a village in the centre of the country, in Chia: a 40-metre medieval tower acquired by the poet five years earlier. It is here," confides the poet to the photographer, "that he writes best". Pasolini admits to him that he "no longer has the strength to fight". That he is not looking for scandal, but for the truth. That Petroleum will still be a real scandal this time. That photography will succeed where words have failed. Pasolini gives for his only instruction: to act as if the installation was not posed. The bed is pulled straight, the tray is empty on the chest of drawers; the series is taken from the outside, through one of the windows. Terror and magic are mingled in the mind of young Dino. "My artistic destiny ended tragically with these photos. My career was over. (...) His nakedness was a cry of despair. That’s why his friend, actress Laura Betti, wanted me to burn my photos," he said in 2013.

Sweden, then Paris; Pasolini will return to Rome on 31 October and will be massacred on the night of 1 to 2 November, having given an interview a few hours earlier. Humans are now just machines, he will repeat. We are all in danger. Projected into the "arena of having everything at any cost". High risk of drowning in the end. To the last question, he answers the journalist: "Everyone knows that I personally pay for my experiences." He promises to deepen the exchange, in writing, but to postpone that until the morning.

At that moment, Pasolini is getting dressed in his old tower. He ordered his young companion to keep quiet and warned him against the many enemies they would certainly make. The photographer will remember: "We left each other like that. »

This is part 1 of a series of 8 articles by Joseph Andras, under the banner "Poets in the City". The crashes of the world make their worms vibrate. For l’Humanité, the writer Joseph Andras gives body to poets who are struggling with the course of events. Intense lives, rooted in the struggle, maintained by a collective ideal. Today, between rage and the sacred, Pier Paolo Pasolini.


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