Just two cues: Achille Campanile’s upside-down tragedy


  • Elisa Martini University of Florence




A bonfire should “make this false and conventional literary world crash down loudly”, since it cannot gracefully ‘jest’ and ‘laugh’ anymore. This is Achille Campanile’s wish, the same he cultivates in his Tragedie in due battute [Tragedies in Two Cues]. These ‘tragedies’ are quick pieces of witticism which materially live in the narrow space of a slip of paper – the physical boundary of Campanile’s ‘tragic’ writing – and whose brevity serves their author’s purpose of meditating on the way of the world by humorously overturning the aulic genre par excellence, that is, tragedy. Campanile “distorts the rule” and consequently ushers in a “silly laughter” conducing to the discovery of a void that discloses, beyond the comic, an authentic human tragedy; it is the tragedy of contemporary bourgeois society, of its inane triviality, confined within its own formal conventions and doomed to a sterile and useless anticipation of Fascist triumphalism. Fascism relished on high-flown magniloquence and on the grandiosity of events and celebrations. Campanile overruled this pretentiousness through the tragi-comic velocitas of his two cues which became an alternative voice next to the régime’s officiality. Campanile’s outlook reverses the norm and sparely sketches out man’s actual reality. Although belonging to a specific historical moment, his “cues” humorously portray the whole humanity that remains unchanged through the centuries, constantly play-acting and periodically in need of a purifying fire lit by a ‘humorist-physician’ in order to dispose of its false and conventional literary and social masks.






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