Pier Paolo Pasolini, whose notoriously controversial death happened 40 years ago to the day, was the last truly great Italian intellectual of the XX century: greater than Calvino – who was maybe better than him as a novelist, but was not a poet, an essayist and most of all a film maker as PPP – and Leonardo Sciascia, whose musings on mafia-permeated Sicily were, despite their courage, more parochial.
And even superior to the Anglo-darling Umberto Eco, whose semiotic intricacies so much better complemented liberal views and made him palatable to mainstream international audiences. Furthermore, none of the above provided, in their work, an equally effective application of Gramsci’s thought to post-war Western culture.
The same could not be said for the hard leftist, gay and uncompromising Pasolini, who died a death as tragically violent as the life he had described in the novel that gave him national notoriety, Violent Life.
At the time, in the booming Sixties that saw rural Italy morphing into an industrial country at impossible speed – a process superintended by the USA-controlled and funded Christian Democracy party – Pasolini was deemed a terrible nuisance: not just by the bigot Right, but by large swaths of the May ’68 generation too, who mostly saw in him a backward-looking Marxist (before becoming themselves enthusiastic praetorians of the status quo). To say nothing of the PCI, the Italian Communist Party: its culture commissars could hardly stand some of his staunch anti-modernistic views. Maybe unsurprisingly, that party has now transmogrified into the Christian Democracy of yesteryear.
He ended up ageing better than all three. It suffices taking a look at the mostly depressing cultural panorama offered by Post-Berlusconi Italy to realise that, today, many of his prophesies have indeed come true. The commodification of every social and civil interstice by an unbridled capitalism that morphed into liquid and cognitive (to escape overproduction) against which he so sternly tried to warn us, is complete. A ruthless testament to that is the almost unstoppable cultural downward spiral of our offerings: today, his place would be occupied by a Baricco, just in the same way that, in music, Jovanotti is the new De Gregori, or any other engagé cantautore of the Seventies.
Pasolini’s tortured genius was beautifully portrayed in a recent Abel Ferrara movie and that is the aptest and most heartfelt tribute of love toward him that I can think of. Forget the rest. All the regime-sponsored commemorations of today sound like all regime-sponsored commemorations: hypocrite and false.