sabato 15 aprile 2017

Una favola morale

Concepita in origine da Montale, questa novella breve esce sul New Yorker trasposta e un po' rimpolpata da Irma Brandeis. (E. Montale, Lettere a Clizia, con un saggio introduttivo di Rosanna Bettarini, Mondadori, Milano, 2006, p. XXVII).

Clytia  or Clytie  was a water nymph, daughter of Oceanus and Tethys in Greek mythology. She loved Helios.

Irma Brandeis, Nothing serious, The New Yorker, July 13, 1935

In a little city, in a city the size of Florence, one does not take a taxi. There are taxis, to be sure:large green, fragile, metal taxis, with fantastic meters in full view of the client, and woven mats on the floor. But in Florence, if one rides, at all, one rides in a carrozza - a beautiful Italian barouche - with the driver in front, a sad but agreable horse to draw it, and an umbrella to keep off the sun in summer. Or one takes the electric tram. Or one walks. Inside the city all distances are short and attractive, so that no one takes taxi, unless an accident has happened, or there is a wedding, or a train to catch in the rain.
I took a taxi that day because I had to meet my Dutch friends at Rifredi, and there were no trains, and I was late. I took it regretfully and the driver accepted me with contemptuous surprise. We started off in these moods. We rushed down the first street. When we had driven about four blocks, and were on the Lungarno Guicciardini - that is to say when I had just about enough time to settle my suitcase away from my knees, light a cigarette, and lean back, I saw the other taxi coming. It was driving fairly stright towards us, and the traffic was thick. Nothing as obvious as what this threatened could possibly happen. I thought, and I thought of the rarity of traffic accidents in Florence. Then I closed my eyes, and put my hands over them. There was a loud, neat, metallic bang.
The situation was exceedingly clear and perfectly simple. My taxi had turned over and stoods on its head, wheels up. When I became aware of anything, it was of myself, sitting on the roof inside, with the gleaming leather seat hanging slightly loose above me. The windows were smashed and there were large splinters of glass about. My suitcase was jammed against one door and a street hydrant appeared to be lining in at the other. Outside a large crowd had formed, talking a great deal and elaborately lifting out my driver who swored as loudly as possible and felt himself all over with concern. I couldn't see the other taxi; although I tried, for I had nothing else to do.  I couldn't get out. I couldn't lean out because of the broken glass. I was too near to the ground to be heard above the angry yelps of the driver and the commiserations of the crowd.
"My leg is probably broken" he screamed, and the crowd felt his leg and yelled. "My taxi is in fragments!" He cursed well. I could not decide from his wether he was a native of Pisa or of Lucca. It was difficult to tell, with so much going on. I couldn't see wether the police was on the scene or not. The roof of a taxi when upside down is flat on the ground. It was odd and embarrassing to be forgotten like this.
But I had been forgotten. The talk was going on rapidly and informally outside. Nobody or everybody had seen everything. It was neither or both taxis' fault. My driver was having the time of his life talking. Everybody was enjoying the occasion. There was no hurry. I could see any number of parked bicycles on the sidewalk. The Arno flowed quietly on one side and doorsteps stood in the shadow on the other.
Then somebody said out of a clear sky, "So didn't you have a passenger with you?" There was a fraction of a seconds' pause. I do not know whether my driver had a moment's temptation to repudiate me. But he replied at last in a low, disgusted voice, Già! There should have been a woman." Ah, ah, ah!" responded the crowd. At once a child's face appeared outside the broken window. Then two. "There she is! She's there!" the first child shrieked. "Happily I am here," I said, but no one heard me. They were all screaming louder than before. "She is dead! She is killed!" they shouted. "A woman has been killed!". Then someone put his hand in through the glass and opened the door. It was my driver looking whole and interested. He lifted my suitcase out, carefully. I crawled after him between icicles of glass. I tried to crawl with dignity and composure. I knew the crowd would expect me to be dead, or if not, at least to be scream, to demand a million dollars. I had the American face. They became perfectly silent, staring at me. There was not a trace of accident, excerpt in the odd position of the taxi.
I came out and bowed. I said, "Gentlemen, I am the corpse." The moment I took a step forward, a path through the crowd opened out for me of its own accord, and I emerged with a silent escort of eyes. At the next corner I took a carrozza. It had all been simple and perilous and lightly incredible, and now was ever [over]. The River Arno rippled under the Ponte Santa Trinità.