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Sometimes I was a little bored reading because I didn't really identify with any of ...
on March 24, 2015
I didn't get this book at first, but after thinking about it I have come up with a theory.
Sometimes I was a little bored reading because I didn't really identify with any of the characters. Even though their lives were undergoing dramas, somehow their pain and suffering didn't move me much.
After considering, I've decided that the author doesn't care much for her characters either. I read a review by a man fluent in Italian who had read the original novel. He comments that the title is a misrepresentation of the author's intended image. The Italian work uses the word cane - not reed. A reed is soft and flexible and bends softly when the wind blows. The characters in this book were more like canes, stiff, inflexible and I imagine they would stand rigidly against the wind rather than bending with it.
The Pintor family's financial and social situation had changed. Rather than changing their lives to make the most of their new circumstances, the sisters become shut in spinsters as they cling stubbornly to their previous status.
Efix also clings stubbornly to his servant title. I thought he would be portrayed as selfless, but how selfless is one when they are motivated by guilt? When people at the festivals threw coins that hit him in the chest Deledda describes his enjoying "the delight of matyrdom."
I could relate to Deladda's impressions of the natural world. The closest thing I have felt to religion has been sitting in the sun, feeling my fingers in the dirt in nature, feeling the thrum of life all around me. My brain tells me it was just probably my heart beat in my ears and perhaps I was overheated, but emotionally I felt that the rhythm was from the earth, a life force that all living creatures must share.
This passage from page 2 seemed to sum up my experience:
"The moon rose before him, and evening voices told him the day had ended: a cuckoo's rhythmical cry, the early crickets' chirping, a bird calling; the reeds sighing and the ever more distinct voice of the river; but most of all a breathing, mysterious panting that seemed to come from the earth itself."
I believe that Deledda paints her characters as petty, because she feels a greater connection to nature than to humans. I am left with the impression that her characters are rodents scurrying to hoard a harvest in the fall; tiny creatures preocupied with their own dramas while the earth continues to turn, the stars continue to shine, unmoved.
This passage from page 155 supports my theory:
"All the freshness of the evening, all the harmony of the serene distance, and the stars smiling at the flowers and the flowers smiling at the stars, and the proud joy of handsome young shepherds, and the repressed passion of women in red bodices, and all the melancholy of the poor who live waiting for leftovers from the tables of the rich, and the distant sorrows and hopes, and the past, the lost country, love, sin, remorse, prayer, the hymn of the pilgrim who travels far not knowing where he'll spend the night, but feels he is guided by God, and the green solitude of the little farm down there, the odor of euphorbia, Grixenda's laughter and tears, Noemi's laughter and tears, Efix's laughter and tears, the whole world's laughter and tears, trembled and vibrated in the notes of the nightingale above in the solitary tree that seemed higher than the mountains, with its top touching the sky and the tip of the highest leaf stuck in a star."
It seems to me she is reminding us that we all laugh, we all cry, but it really doesn't matter to the nightingale. We are small beings all connected to the great big web of life on earth. Reminiscent of how looking down from a mountain top, or out into the expanse of the ocean makes you feel small and insignificant in a comforting way.