Books that choose you

I like to think that, even though we are rationally certain of the opposite, sometimes we aren’t the ones to choose the books we like, but that, in some rare and unforgettable times, books are the ones that choose our company, in that precise period of our life. As they would actually call us.

In those rare and unforgettable times, those books reveal themselves as essential readings for our spiritual growing, books that usually bring inside answers to questions our consciousness hasn’t create yet and that can surprise us for the right timing in which they are expressed in our minds, sentence after sentence, as we keep on reading them.

Maybe that’s what I mostly love about reading: that magical atmosphere that surrounds some beautiful and special books that will forever belong to our personality.

When this passionate correspondence takes place, I feel blessed. Blessed by a special gift, that makes my life different and deeper.

This time, the event was so fully flavored by magic, I really needed to tell you, as if it would have been the evident prove of a
hidden plan that somehow chose me as witness.

I like to visit second-hands shops. For me, it’s a relaxing and stimulating activity.
Before having children, I considered those places, mostly garages converted in shops, mishmashes of old, ridiculous, kitsch or simply shabby, items. Then, I changed my mind; and I began to like them, first for the creative reusing aspects of the objects. But now, I must confess, I like to go there mostly to watch the people inside the shop and those long corridors full of furniture from the past and for those several objects piled up in the rails.

I wonder about the people they belonged to, their faces, their houses and their habits; I think those items maybe belonged to grandparents who aren’t here anymore; and that their nephews decided to get rid of those objects when they moved in the old house.
Those objects – not all of them, but surely some of them – seem talking to me.

About one month ago, in one of these shops, I have been chosen by a book entitled: Giochiamo ai clown (Let’s play clowns). Characters and costumes, make up and tricks, sketches and comedies. By Dominique Denis, photographer Jean Claude Dewolf, 1975, Giunti Marzocco Publishing.

When I saw it, I was really astonished, because I am really passionate about Commedia dell’arte and Theatre Anthropology and I am also a fan of Steiner’s education!

It is a wonderful book. There are beautiful pictures of children dressed in clown costumes (and their style is so amazingly 70ies!), the detailed story of the three main characters (White Clown, Augusto and Mr Leale), acrobatic training of the clowns (rolls, stretching, handstands), detailed instructions of costumes’, stage’s’ and accessories’ setting-up, make-up’s how-tos and screenplays (canovacci) of lots of sketches as well, that children can improvise in front a smiling public of little ones.

Moreover, the book contains a special guest’s introduction by Federico Fellini.
It’s such an amazing work that I have decided to transcript it here, because it shows in few, simple and genuine words, some of my personal struggles and reflections as a parent. It’s a sort of Children Manifesto, where the Italian director, as often, uses the Circus’ metaphor to describe the 70ies’ society (and not only that one!) and, in particular, the relationship between adults and children.

Here is Federico Fellini’s introduction, entitled “The White Clown and the Augusto“:

When I say clown, I think about Augusto. In fact, the 2 main characters are the White Clown and the Augusto. The first is elegance, harmony, cleverness, clearness. Augusto rebels towards such perfection, get drunk. rolls himself on the floor, enlivening an endless protest.

The White Clown and Augusto are the teacher and the student, the mother and the brat: in the never-ending fight between the White Clown and Augusto, the more you force Augusto to play violin, the more he will fart at you by playing his trombone.The White Clown pretends Augusto to be elegant; but the more his request would be authoritarian, the more the other would be ragged, clumsy, dusty.

The White Clown is a rich and powerful bourgeois. His face is white, ghostly; he has grimaces in his haughty eye-laces; his mouth is signed by only a sharp, unpleasant, brusque, chill, line.
Augusto, on the contrary, is the homeless, the child, the tramp.
The bourgeois is an assembly of White Clowns where the child is Augusto. The mother says: “Don’t do this, don’t do that…“. When the neighbors come over and the child is invited to recite the poetry “Let the gentlemen see….“: that’s a typical Circus situation.
The White Clown frightens children, because he represents duty, or for better saying it with a stylish word, repression.
On the contrary, the child, recognizes immediately himself as Augusto, he’s the one who breaks dishes, roll himself on the floor, throws buckets of water on others faces: therefore, he does everything every child would want to do and that the adult White Clowns, the mother, the aunt, restrain him from doing.

On the contrary: at circus, by Augusto, the child can imagine himself doing everything is forbidden: dressing up as a woman, pulling faces, shouting in the square, saying loudly everything he thinks.
Nobody, here, condemns you. Indeed, on the contrary, they clap their hands to you.

There’s another aspect that makes this book so special to me: a 1976 inscription written in its first page by some children of the IV grade to “the most outgoing schoolmate on his tenth birthday” and below this, the signature of 15 children and, I suppose, even of their teacher.

I don’t know why this man isn’t the owner of this book anymore, but I am extremely blessed to be able, after 36 years, to give this precious gift, a new life.
Mostly because, I imagine its author, its first possessor and even the book itself, could be happy to know that its path brought it in a house of children, full of fuss, screams and laughs.

That’s why this book couldn’t be anything else than a Befana‘s gift: she surely knows about old and precious things!

Then, welcome in our home, little big book.
And may this second life of yours, another time as the first, accompany the growth of those lucky children it has been given to.