Most unreliable narrators imagine themselves to be right when they are actually wrong. But very few imagine themselves, as Zeno does, to be analysing their wrongness from a position that they imagine to be right but which is actually wrong. Svevo bends confession back on itself and makes his readers sleuths after equity, hungry for a moral and psychic justice which is just out of reach. The entire novel must be read in the light of the comic paradox whereby Zeno thinks he is analysing himself while at the same time being certain that psychoanalysis lacks the means to analyse him.
And given this paradox, what are his confessions for? Why has he written them? Yet we, the readers, can see that the man who wrote them is still imprisoned. Zeno thinks that if he confesses to once harbouring a murderous impulse towards his brother-in-law, then he has absolved himself of the charge that he truly hates his brother-in-law. But we can see that he hated him right from the beginning, and hates him still.
Last cigarettes have a taste all of their own, he says. Zeno continually assumes that he can control the terms of his freedom — which we can see are merely the terms of his imprisonment. The man who wrote this marvellous and original book was born Ettore Schmitz, in Trieste, in His pseudonym, Italo Svevo, or Italus the Swabian, was adopted as a way of acknowledging his mixed heritage: Italian by language Trieste dialect was spoken at home , Austrian by citizenship Trieste was a city of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and German in fact, German-Jewish by ancestry.
The family was large and prosperous: there were 16 children, of whom eight survived. Svevo was large-headed, deep-browed he went bald early , dark, with kind, extruding eyes. He was charming, insomniac and neurotic, prey to psychosomatic twinges and spasms. Numerologically superstitious, he often decided to smoke his last cigarette at seven minutes past four, the time at which his mother had died. She tells a story in which her husband left the house with lire to buy something needed at the Veneziani factory, and returned hours later without the object, but with a box of sweets and lire in his wallet.
He was devoted to Witze , witty paradoxes and contradictions. He could recite many passages of Schopenhauer from memory. Clearly, the idea, central to Confessions of Zeno , of life as a sickness, is indebted to Schopenhauer to whom Freud in turn admitted his debts ; but Svevo, I suspect, was also enthralled by the jaunty paradoxical wit of Schopenhauer, who, for example, writes in The World as Will and Representation that walking is just a constantly prevented falling, just as the life of our body is a constantly prevented dying.
The gist of them was that animals can never fathom the mysterious wickedness of humans.
By contrast, Alfonso and Emilio fill themselves only with neurotic introspection. Like Zeno, they are obsessive self-brokers, continually doing smoky deals with their consciences that allow them to think they have done good when they have really done harm. Like Zeno, they have a nasty tendency to feel calm at precisely the moment they ought to be feeling concerned. He is largely oblivious to the fact that he has caused her decline, and even excuses himself from her deathbed to have a final meeting with his mistress at the quayside. This gave him an even greater sense of calm.
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If, just once in his life, it had been his duty to untie or retie a rope; if the fate of a fishing boat, however small, had been entrusted to him, to his care, his energy; if he had been obliged to prevail over the howling of the wind and the sea with his own voice, he should be less weak, less unhappy. Deeply hurt by this reception, by the impounding of his deepest ambitions, Svevo essentially garaged his writing for twenty years.
Over these years, he assumed greater responsibility at the Veneziani firm, overseeing the building of a factory in South-East London, in Charlton. From until the outbreak of war, Svevo spent a month or two every year in a rented house in Charlton — one of those comic dissymmetries worthy of Schopenhauer in Wimbledon and Kropotkin in Brighton. Joyce was working as a private tutor when Svevo contacted him in Joyce, who spoke Triestine dialect at home, was an unorthodox teacher of English; he once asked Svevo, as an English exercise, to write a review of the first chapters of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.
Svevo was initially secretive about his two ignored novels, but eventually admitted to having been a writer himself, and gave his teacher his books. But Svevo would call on that friendship in , after Confessions of Zeno had been published to the now familiar roaring silence. Svevo duly sent copies to them, and Joyce busied himself at the kind of high cultural bustle that he was now very good at.
Because Svevo is well known to have disliked organised religion, and because his novel is framed by the procedures of psychoanalysis, Confessions of Zeno is generally read only in a secular light: here is the great comic document of modern stasis and neurotic introspection. He saw quite a lot of it: his brother Elio died in , at the age of 23, from nephritis; his sister Noemi died in childbirth; another sister Ortensia died of peritonitis; yet another sister Natalia gave birth to two deaf children; and in , just before he started writing Zeno , Alfonso, his brother-in-law, died of heart disease.
He always expected the worst, and was prepared to meet suffering at any moment, almost as if in the deepest part of his being he had foreseen the appalling suffering the Second World War was to bring his beloved daughter. He goes on to suggest that if he had children he would try to make them love him less, so as to spare them suffering at his passing. I thought always of death, and therefore I had only one sorrow: the certainty of having to die. Living only in preparation for death: but not wanting to die.
What is this but an essentially religious vision, without the consolation of religion? Svevo would have loved that. When Joyce returned to Trieste from Zurich in , Svevo asked him about his experience of psychoanalysis.
Well if we need it, let us stick to confession. But perhaps he was stimulated by it, for the novel he would go on to write expresses a rather similar sentiment.
Renato Poggioli once wrote that in Zeno Svevo psychoanalyses psychoanalysis itself. But one might equally say that he forces it to confess itself. Augusta Malfenti. Alberta Malfenti. Anna Malfenti. Dottor Muli. Dottor Coprosich. Enrico Copler. Trieste, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy. World War I. Information from the Portuguese Brazil Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language. Guardian Family and self.
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Introduction: See my childhood? When I spoke to the doctor about my weakness for smoking he told me to begin my analysis by tracing the growth of that habit from the beginning. Misunderstanding women is a clear sign of scant virility.
Zeno’s Conscience | centtigastmos.tk
There will be a tremendous explosion, but no one will hear it and the earth will return to its nebulous state and go wandering through the sky, free at last from parasites and disease. Bennett, Arnold. Kronenberger, Louis. Josephson, Matthew. References to this work on external resources. Wikipedia in English 1 William Weaver. No library descriptions found. Una coscienza inutile a mutare un destino che sembra ineluttabile. Haiku summary.
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