A rush, a long pass, feigning a change of direction with a step-over that you see in Italy doppio passo calls, a bit of dribbling and then the shot on goal – Pier Paolo Pasolini, left winger, went all out every time. Whether in a field by the Tagliamento river in the Friulian summers of his childhood, on the Caprara meadow in Bologna when he was in high school, on the wasteland in the fraying Roman suburbs in adulthood, on improvised squares at film locations or in the countless stadiums between Genoa, Naples, Milan, Turin and Venice, where he and his crew of film people and musicians, the Nazionale dello spettacolo, played games for a good cause, football was always part of the poet and director. Perfectly trained and not a gram of fat on his body, he cultivated this passion throughout his life. And even as he grew more and more pessimistic in the years leading up to his 1975 assassination in Ostia, the game gave him moments of happiness. “Every goal is an inevitability, a flash of inspiration, amazement, irreversibility” is how Pasolini described his fascination and saw football as a form of knowledge and a metaphor for life.
“The top scorer has gone under the poets” is the somewhat unwieldy title of a book that is as enlightening as it is refreshing, which the sports-loving young literary scholar Valerio Curcio dedicates to Pier Paolo Pasolini’s football life. From the loyal fan of FC Bologna to the active player who even flies from Moscow to Italy to take part in a match of his team, to the observer who interprets games as a sacred act and for a newspaper at an AS game Rome once writing exclusively about the audience, Curcio places a different accent in each of his six chapters. A few redundancies and repetitions are easily forgiven, because he gives those who know the work a different approach to Pasolini, who was born a hundred years ago on March 5, 1922 in Bologna. Only when it comes to football does the militant poet, novelist and director seem to resolve all the contradictions, only when he is moving and when he is totally exhausted does he come to his senses.
In football, Pasolini was able to transform himself back into his child self without protection
His aunts even had their nephew’s bedroom in Casarsa, Friuli, where Pier Paolo spent the summer holidays with his mother and later took up his first job as a primary school teacher, with red and blue striped wallpaper, the colors of the FC jersey. Valerio Curcio describes how Pasolini devoutly interviewed the players of FC Bologna for his documentary film “Feast of Love” about the relationship between Italians and Eros. The fact that he only gets banal answers doesn’t bother him, the scenes are still inserted. A few years later he escaped from the Frankfurt Book Fair to buy new equipment for his team in a sports shop. Curcio’s sports portrait leads to an interview with the 86-year-old writer Dacia Maraini, then in a relationship with Pasolini’s brotherly friend Alberto Moravia and probably one of the last contemporary witnesses. She puts it in a nutshell: Pasolini lived with a backward-looking gaze, and in football he was able to transform back into his child self without protection. So, one could take the thought further, he has a strong urge towards regression. This, in turn, fits Pasolini’s idealization of the marginalized: first the humble peasants of Friuli, later the young men from the suburbs, the “splendid proprietors of the night”, and finally the destitute in Africa or India.
The volume “Pier Paolo Pasolini – A Youth in Fascism” by Monika Lustig and Florian Baranyi also contributes to differentiation. The starting point is an often rather secretive article that Pasolini published on the occasion of a visit to Weimar in June 1942 as a representative of the fascist youth organization GUF. The twenty-year-old expresses a vague feeling of uneasiness. He speaks of his pride in Italy, but calls for a new “anti-tradition”, emphasizing the freedom of the literature and refers surprisingly openly to the ideological blindness of young Germans. In contrast to the Italians and Spaniards, they hardly knew any current authors and instead contented themselves with propaganda. While Monika Lustig reconstructs the genesis of the article, recognizes the origin of Pasolini’s gradual politicization and defends the poet against the current right-wing appropriation, Baranyi explains the special character of Italian fascism and outlines Pasolini’s socialization.
It is worth reading the von Gaetano Biccari edited volume “Pier Paolo Pasolini in persona. Conversations and personal testimonies”. For the first time, numerous interviews and autobiographical sketches are available in context. In addition to a number of well-known details about his childhood, the close bond with his mother Susanna, the conflict-ridden relationship with his father and the traumatic experience of the death of his younger brother, who had gone into active resistance and was killed by another partisan group, Pasolini keeps coming back to speak out on certain beliefs. A leitmotif is his fundamental rejection of the bourgeoisie and the state as a whole. Above all, the cult of reason filled him with skepticism, he emphasized in 1967, because the unconscious was excluded. The protesting students are the children of this social class and are waging a civil war against their fathers, while Italy really needs a revolution. Unlike the Communist Party, Pasolini did not represent progressism. For him, only religion is life-giving. He does not just conclude these considerations with his own Movie “Medea” from 1969, but also in further discussions. Only prehistoric communities, such as those still alive in the peasant clans of the south or in the lumpen proletariat, offer an alternative. Medea, whom Maria Callas played for Pasolini, is the heroine of an archaic, religious sphere, while Jason stands for laic, rational modernity. Pier Paolo Pasolini thus takes sides with the “Barbarian” who was condemned in antiquity. With him, their mythical, self-contained world, including human sacrifice, comes off much better than the already secularized Corinth.
For Pasolini, power is something monstrous
It is fitting that his films and books repeatedly culminate in sacred killings: only contempt for death allows an advance to life. This figure of thought remains disturbing. On the other hand, and this should not be underestimated, Pasolini saw even then how much the instinctive and thus destructive is split off in our modern societies. And it is no coincidence that this has caught up with us massively since the turn of the millennium. The writer and director, who lives out his desire openly and understands sexual intercourse as an “extremely expressive and complete system of signs”, is concerned with the power of the irrational. Art, as he put it in a television program in 1970, is an attack on bourgeois rationality. And here you can see a quality of Pier Paolo Pasolini: precisely because of his longing for the prehistoric myth, precisely because he resists a general belief in progress and already experiences himself as an outsider because of his sexual orientation, he never loses his sense of exclusion. For him, power is something monstrous. And as the last mystery game he understands, how could it be otherwise, football.