Ticketless – Zucca barucca

By Alberto Cavaglion*
We have been a little lonelier recently. Aldo Zargani – the unforgettable author of Per violino solo – For solo violin (1995, Il Mulino) – died yesterday in Rome. Including his book among those belonging to the abundant yet not always memorable Italian memoir writings on the Holocaust of the last 30 years would wrong him. Zargani wrote much more, but one may say that he was in some kind of state of grace when he wrote those pages. Per violin solo is one of the greatest gifts Italian Judaism offered to Italian culture. We lost sight of this too soon and Zargani suffered because of the loneliness and isolation of his last years: he felt forgotten and replaced by authors who were not even close to achieving such great accomplishments as his ironic, sharp way of indirectly writing about past troubles. “Describing grief was not easy for me: on the long term, it feels like only humour and rituals can survive, while memory fades with the death of those people who had been carrying it with them”. Zargani was the mouthpiece of a humble Judaism. He didn’t belong to any prominent family nor did he have any kind of relation with the establishment. Per violino solo gave voice to the anger of those who had to turn to the Zedakah of the worst Jewish middle class during their childhood: this may be the reason why he was almost immediately forgotten. The most refined and slightly snobbish people would find it hard to swallow his Livornese spirit and attitude. The zucca barucca – a variety of pumpkin typically found in the Veneto region – that Zargani chose as a metaphor of his writing “is nothing special”. He was wrong, his book is a blissed gourd. Savouring it with a teaspoon, chapter after chapter, is a treat.
Humour and prayer will help us deal with this loss over the long term. We will all do it by laughing, “sganasciandoci” (roaring with laughter), just like he wrote when he recalled that everybody was laughing on 25th April 1945, and even snapdragons were roaring with laughter. To those who would belittle him, to those who would snub him, we can only address that Livornese proverb that he used to like so much: “Chamorim – donkeys – don’t like dragées”.