For Bookforum, Ara H. Merjian, professor of Italian studies at NYU, writes about Pier Paolo Pasolini's recently translated travelogue documenting his 1959 road trip along the entirety of the Italian coastline, The Long Road of Sand. Written at a time when Italy was transitioning brutally from a traditional, agrarian country to a modern capitalist one, The Long Road of Sand displays Pasolini's ire for so-called "development" and his love for proletarian cultures that resist capitalist homogenization. Here's an excerpt from Merjian piece:
A notoriously heretical Marxist and sworn enemy of modernity, Pasolini calls to mind anything but the bourgeois trappings of “success.” His verse, cinema, journalism, and theater waged, in fact, tireless opposition against Italy’s neo-capitalist transformation, in nearly every medium imaginable. Yet here, just as the country’s post-war “economic miracle” picks up steam, we find Pasolini waxing enthusiastic about its future, reveling in those countless pockets of dialect and regional culture that still marked the peninsula’s coast, from sprawling resort towns to tiny fishing villages. Unique in Pasolini’s body of work, this hybrid genre—journalistic, diaristic, conversational, impressionistic—offers a window on to numerous facets of his prodigious oeuvre. The volume also includes the integral version of Pasolini’s chronicle, restoring—thanks to the manuscript provided by his cousin Graziela Chiarcossi—numerous passages cut from the magazine feature ...
Yet the chronicle’s keenest reflections—like those out of which Pasolini forged an entire worldview—emerge in his discussions of provincial life: Ligurian curses and Neapolitan slang, class mores and rituals, local superstitions and aromas. On the road from Naples to Vallo Lucano in the province of Salerno, he notes the scent of wet straw, liquorice, sewage, and citrus—“surviving smells of a civilization that, for us, has vanished.” The threatened extinction of Italy’s varied, millennial regional cultures—by virtue of neo-capitalist “homologation”—formed Pasolini’s most consistent and urgent admonition. As Italy’s economic boom gathered momentum, turning the country almost overnight from a largely agrarian country to an industrial powerhouse, his warnings began to take on substance.
Chatting with the prominent abstract painters Giulio Turcato and Giuseppe Santomaso in Venice, Pasolini notes their complaints regarding the lagoon’s stifling waves of sightseers—a mass tourism increasingly aped by Italians themselves on the new “American-style” beaches which Pasolini finds all along the coast. The country’s famed “Autostrada del sole” (“Motorway of the sun”) would open just a few years later, shuttling northern Italians to sun-drenched beaches in the cars that definitively transformed Italian culture, linking regions long isolated from each other. What the automobile could not link and level, the television did. And it was against the latter that Pasolini aimed countless penetrating invectives in the years that followed. On the cusp of those transformations, however, The Long Road of Sand reveals a still sanguine Pasolini, who remarks with a certain detached amusement upon radios and jukeboxes, Lambrettas and green suede shoes spotted on the Ligurian Riviera. He draws reassurance, in any case, from phenomena that remain unchanged. Driving between the cities of Catania and Siracusa in Sicily, he travels for forty kilometers without seeing another car or kitchen light. He likewise finds the island of Ischia “as it was two thousand years ago.”
Image of Pasolini via quotesgram.com.