Olivier Friggieri

Olivier Friggieri

Bruno Rombi’s name has long been established as a major one in the whole of Italy’s contemporary literary scene. He has been active in the cultural field of literature and the media, including RAI, for the past fourty years. His long list of books, published in various Italian cities as well as in a considerable number of foreign countries in translation, is quite mpressive. It has motivated critics of the calibre of Carlo Bo to write quite favourably of his works. Having handled poetry and narrative prose with equal ease, Rombi has managed to publish a large number of volumes of poetry as well as a number of novels. He has participated in numerous literary congresses, and fourteen of his books are selections of his verse launched outside Italy.
His latest novel, Un oscuro amore, published by Condaghes of Cagliari,

is indeed the work of a mature, sober writer who cannot at this stage afford to delude either himself or his readers. He writes in an Italian which is equally classical in the choice of words and phraseology, elegant in structure and attitude, equally detached and fluent. He knows quite well how to be at times subtle and direct, simultaneously discreet and obvious. Moods change a lot in his narration, but all is due to his ability to remain in full control of every stylistic and narrative mood.
His type of language belongs to the one commonly spoken nowadays, and in no moment throughout the whole novel does Rombi resort to archaisms or words of a non-Italian origin, even those which by now can somehow be accepted as parts of the new norm. His style seems to adhere to a set of unwritten but well known priciples which are expected to prove relevant in conveying the message unambiguously.
Bruno Rombi’s Italian is discreet, and it shows that the author is an experienced one, having himself lived throughout diverse eras of literary debate, and having himself taken an active part in such a confrontation of cultural ideas and literary principles.
Un oscuro amore is somehow related to a previous novel of Bruno Rombi, Una donna di carbone. Rombi is now returning nostalgically to his own loving stretch of land called Sulcis in Sardegna, where he was born and brought up before settling permanently in Genova. It was in Genova that he attained national recognition, but he has never been oblivious of his remote past. Indeed, his origin is the real source of all his inspiration, spread over a long period, both as a poet and as a narrator. In this respect works like Canti per un’isola (1965), Oltre la memoria (1975), and Sardegna madre di pietra (2000) immediately come to mind.
This new novel depicts village life with great gratitude and love, evoking landscapes and rural situations which are now largely obsolete. He revives the past he himself has gone through in the late fifthies and other decades, and evokes ethical principles and modes of behaviour which are equally folkloristic and reminiscent of any post-war period in the southernmost part of Europe..
The plot is quite clear. Two workera meet each other as they find themselves in front of each other, in a strange manner, constructing a dyke. A specific occasion gives room to the reconstruciton of the whole past. They come to know each other gradually, as truth unfolds itself to both of them unequivocally and with a rhythm which Bruno Rombi manages to retain throughout. It is all about how the past can attain its full relevance through reference to the present.
A man called Salvatore Cannas should actually be called Salvatore Basciu. The man was born as Basciu but was actually named Cnnnas. From this initial ambiguity, which as a theme is somehow reminiscent of another Italian island, namely Luigi Pirandello’s Sicily, Bruno Rombi brilliantly embarkes on an investigation of what does it actully mean to be oneself, to be fully aware of one’s own consciousness of the self. The whole narrative now reduces itself to a subtle trip towards self-rediscovery.
Although the novel is full of long detailed descriptions of the colourful landscape which is so decisive to the development of the story, the author is actually concerned with investigating the innermost regions of the human soul. Who is the real Salvatore, after all? Rombi is mainly interested in depicitng characters and situations which somehow further delineate the condition in which a particular soul, actually any soul, navigates till the very end, where self-rediscovery is bound to occur.
The intriguing landscape of Sardegna plays a most decisive role in Un oscuro amore, and it frequently assumes a dense symbolical significance. Direct reference is made to the rural aspect of Arbatax. The place is easily identifiable. That is the village, ancient as much as alive, in which whatever is natural and whatever is human and cultural eventully fuse into one unique whole.
Within the limits of such a context the problem of identity – being Cannas or being Basciu – gradually unfolds as events and memories reach a higher level of significance in a narrartive which, in spite of its persistent psychological dimension, never loses sight of place and time. In the light of all this, chapter thirteen is the most decisive.
Bruno Rombi has reached new peaks through this psychological novel. He has managed to strike a middle course between description of a landscape and the investigation of a troubled soul. It is to Rombi’s remarkalble credit that he succeeds in mainting a balance between the two extremes, so much so that Un oscuro amore makes interesting reading to readers of any disposition. The novel may prove relevant and revealing to readers who like to delve into the intricacies of a closed, inward-looking community, as well as to those who prefer eventfulness in all its varied, unexpected developments.

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