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  • Pasolini Discovers Love Outside
  • Michael Hardt (bio)

During a brief period in the late 1940s, when he is in his mid-twenties, Pier Paolo Pasolini finds satisfaction for his quest for love in the world of peasants and their political struggles. Although at first this love seems possible only outside, fleeing the dominant structures of Italian society, his encounter with class struggle, particularly the peasant rebellions of 1948, allows him to recognize a political form of love that can develop within a history-making process. Through the "discovery" of Marx he is able to reinterpret his aesthetic and erotic desires in such a way that they become an essential part of his political project.

The novels and poetry Pasolini produces during these years, however, are not among his finest. In fact, the major projects are all in his estimation failures, either abandoned completely or published only a decade later with substantial revisions. Failure, though, is often more interesting than success. And Pasolini's disappointment and dissatisfaction with his writing during this period is directly linked to his political accomplishments and ideological transformation. One remarkable achievement is his articulation of a multifaceted concept of the outside, which he identifies as a space of freedom and liberation at once erotic, aesthetic, and political. Specifically, he manages to construct in social and subjective terms a space of erotic desire outside of the norms of homophobic society that is animated by noncapitalist or anticapitalist social practices. Communism is the name of that free space outside and, for a brief period, it appears to Pasolini to be inseparable from love, a red love. Together with the peasants he discovers a nexus between love and struggle, poetry and history, and this experience, although short lived, powerfully influences the remainder of his career, setting a standard against which all subsequent experiences of love, political and erotic, fall short.


Love Outside

Pasolini's political transformation in the events of 1948 should be understood in the context of the aesthetic and ideological importance he attributes to the outside in his work of the previous years. Dialect appeared to him, first of all, as a linguistic outside, external to the national language and thus open to aesthetic authenticity. Pasolini had studied the dialect of Friuli, his mother's native region in far Northeastern Italy, and published in 1943 a well-received book of poetry in that dialect, friulano, titled Poesie a Casarsa. That same year, to escape the increasing dangers of war, he moved to Friuli with his mother and brother from Bologna, where he grew up. Pasolini also discovered a social outside in the peasant world of Friuli, external to the dominant social formations. His dedication to the authentic life he finds expressed in these linguistic and social outsides lead Pasolini [End Page 113] in early 1947 to become a member of the executive committee of the Friulian Popular Movement (MPF), which was dedicated to regional autonomy.1

During this period, however, Pasolini's dedication to a linguistic and social outside becomes subordinated to his search for love, which similarly, he concludes, can only be found outside. This is the theme of two failed novels begun in 1947, which function as a pair, Atti impuri [Impure Acts] and Amado mio [My Beloved].2 Both novels are told from the perspective of an intellectual in his mid-twenties who is desperately in love with one or several teenage boys. They are highly autobiographical texts and read as extended confessions. In fact, Atti impuri, the more fully realized of the two, largely consists of rewritten entries from Pasolini's diary between 1943 and 1947. During this period Pasolini lives through tumultuous personal and historic events: the Germans impose marshal law in Friuli, the Allies bomb the region as the Germans retreat, the war comes to an end, and his brother Guido is killed in the partisan struggle. All of these events appear in Atti impuri but they are eclipsed by the central focus, Pasolini's love for a Friulian boy named Toniuto Spagnol, designated in the different drafts alternatively as T. or Nisiuti.

Atti impuri opens with its narrator, Paolo, wracked with guilt for the sin of his homosexuality and...


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pp. 113-129
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