Read All Our Yesterdays Online

Authors: Natalia Ginzburg

All Our Yesterdays (37 page)

BOOK: All Our Yesterdays
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Anna asked Giustino if he had really blown up trains and Giustino said yes. Meanwhile Concettina arrived and said that really Danilo had been very unattractive when he made that grand speech from the platform, and besides, he had not even thought of mentioning Ippolito who had died rather than join in the war. Then Giustino said that Ippolito had nothing to do with Danilo's speech and Concettina said that, on the contrary, he had. Ippolito had died in order to show that no one ought to make war. Besides, they had all of them together kept those newspapers in the house, had Danilo forgotten the time of the pamphlets and the newspapers, why not say what they had done against Fascism, the whole lot of them together ? And Giustino said they had done nothing in the least extraordinary with those newspapers, and he and Concettina started quarrelling, for they were always quarrelling now. And Concettina ended by saying that Danilo was a disgusting person because he had deserted his wife and had had a child by a younger girl.

When Concettina had gone, Anna asked Giustino why he did not go and live with Danilo's wife now that she was left alone. But Giustino said that he had no desire to take up with any woman and the only desire he had was a stupid one, the only desire he had was to be Balestra again and to hide in the mountains and have the Germans all round and blow up trains. However there were no more trains to blow up and he must finish his course at the University and then look for a job to keep himself going. He still went to see Danilo's wife occasionally and they talked together about Danilo and she was a very fine person and when she came out of the foundry she knitted clothes for the child Danilo had had by the other girl. She no longer lived with Danilo's relations because they were too unkind, she lived alone in a little room and all that was left to her of her marriage with Danilo was the set of bottles and glasses on the chest-of-drawers.

Mammina sent for Anna to come to her drawing-room and she and Amalia wanted to know everything about Franz's death. So Anna started telling the whole story, from the day when Franz had landed in the village square at San Costanzo with his suitcase. Right up to the day when he and Cenzo Rena had died in that same village square. Amalia sobbed loudly into her handkerchief and in the end Mammina said it would be better if Anna stopped because Amalia was too much upset. She sent Amalia off to her room to rest and told Anna she would like to go to San Costanzo some time and find La Maschiona and slap her face hard, for having told the German the way to the cellar.

They went out into the garden and Giuma came out with his wife. Giuma's wife was very, very tall with a dress covered with little buttons and she had black spectacles which she wore over her eyes like a mask. There was a tray with glasses of lemonade on the ping-pong table. Giuma's wife started sucking the lemonade through a straw, looking all round the garden with an ironical, severe expression on her face. Evidently Mammina did not like her much because Mammina kept moving restlessly in her chair and touching her necklace and her hair and in the end she said she must go to Amalia because Amalia needed a great deal of looking after, and so she made her escape.

Giuma talked and talked so as to make up for his wife's silence. He was very elegant in a dark knitted shirt, closed at the neck, and a knotted handkerchief, and his lock of hair shook and danced on his flushed forehead. You could see that he was not yet at all accustomed to having a wife and from time to time he turned in her direction to see if she was still there. He turned in her direction with a look which was a little frightened and shy, yet at the same time proud of this long wife of his with her dark glasses and all her little buttons.

It was only a few days since they had come back from Switzerland, he said, and in a short time he would be starting work at the soap factory. And his wife would help him and together they were going into the question of children's crèches and workmen's canteens. For the one thing that had to be done in Italy was to set up model creches in every factory. He pulled out some American and Swiss magazines in which there were photographs of crèches with big coloured balls and linoleum floors and lovely toy animals. He had had many silly ideas in his life, he said, and had read many silly things and there had been a moment when he very nearly went over to the side of Karl Marx. He was in Switzerland and he was very unhappy and he had a guilt complex because he was living safely in Switzerland instead of fighting with the Partisans in Italy. He had such a guilt complex that he wanted to die. But he had met this girl whom he later married, and she had taken him to a doctor and had him psychoanalysed and so in a few days he had been cured of his guilt complex because the doctor had explained to him that it was not for everyone to be a Partisan in Italy and risk his life and that he himself should stay quietly where he was and then go back to Italy after the war and make the soap factory into something fine. He turned towards his wife and his wife nodded her head in agreement. She had taken off her glasses now and you could see a pair of little Chinese eyes and a large, ironical, curving mouth with two or three drops of lemonade on a barely visible fair moustache. And did she still remember Montale, Giuma asked Anna. And he raised his hands and said: “Quando udii sugli scogli crepitare—la bomba ballerina.” But now there had been real bombs and the
bomba ballerina
seemed very, very small, very small and very far away, dancing and crackling happily over those distant days.

The little girl went past across the lawn trailing a rope behind her, and Giuma's wife asked Anna if it was
her
little girl. And Anna said yes and Giuma had gone very red and his eyes beat a retreat, but soon they returned to the little girl, as she came slowly forward across the lawn, with her long thin legs and her sharp, Imperious face between the locks of dry-looking hair. For an instant they looked at each other in silence, the little girl and Giuma, they looked at each other with intensity and distrust, and they laughed with their wolf-like teeth. An instant, and then the little girl went away again, trailing the long rope across the lawn. Emanuele had now come downstairs, and he was all red and sweaty because he had been asleep, they had no idea of the life that he led in Rome, he said, he spent his nights at the newspaper and during the day he had all kinds of meetings and never could he spend an afternoon sleeping, In order to sleep he had to come home. But in a short time he would be giving up the newspaper and leaving Rome for good, because he did not know how to produce newspapers. He could produce secret newspapers but not newspapers that were not secret, producing secret newspapers was easy, oh, how easy and how splendid it was. But newspapers that had to come out every day with the rising of the sun, without any danger or fear, that was another story. You had to sit and grind away at a desk, without either danger or fear, and out came a lot of ignoble words and you knew perfectly well that they were ignoble and you hated yourself like hell for having written them but you didn't cross them out because there was a hurry to get out the newspaper for which people were waiting. But it was incredible how fear and danger never produced ignoble words but always true ones, words that were torn from your very heart. Giuma said how pleased Mammina would be when Emanuele gave up the newspaper and came home for good. Emanuele gulped down a big glass of lemonade with a heap of sugar in it and Giuma asked him if he had forgotten that sugar was rationed, and anyhow it would make him even fatter than he was. He told Anna to look what a double chin Emanuele had, surely his newspaper and his politics might at least have served to take away his double chin. Emanuele still went into those fits of laughter that sounded like the cooing of a pigeon, but they were rather shorter and rather less shrill, and he had large dark circles under his eyes and no longer went limping backwards and forwards, he remained quietly seated and from time to time stared at the ground and his eyes filled with tears. And the dog, asked Giuma, what had become of the dog ? But surely he knew, said Emanuele, surely he knew that the waiter had killed the dog and that it was buried at San Costanzo in the pine wood. He was angry that Giuma did not know about the dog. And Giuma told him it was his fault for never having explained to him exactly how things had gone with Cenzo Rena and Franz. And he said he wanted to go to San Costanzo to see the village square where Cenzo Rena and Franz had died. And they were all silent together as they thought of the ones who were dead, it was only Giuma's wife who had not known any of those who were dead, and she remained outside the thoughts of the others and sat smoking and looking round the garden. Emanuele called to Giustino over the hedge and Giustino sprang over the hedge with one bound and came and sat down and lounged about and smoked with them. And Giuma said he wanted to show his wife the whole of Southern Italy, and his wife might be able to do a great deal for Southern Italy, for instance if she went to San Costanzo she might have all sorts ofideas of things that ought to be done. And Emanuele puffed and snorted and said all right, let them go to the South and psychoanalyse the
contadini.
And Giuma's wife was offended and went away and Giuma ran after his wife. Evening was coming on and the sirens were sounding at the soap factory. Filthy soap factory, said Emanuele, utterly filthy soap factory, now he would have to go back and work in it again, and watch Giuma and his wife messing about with children's creches that they would never be capable of making work. What a catafalque of a wife Giuma had married, said Giustino, a real catafalque she was, and look at her dress with all those little buttons on it, he had counted the little buttons and there were fifty-six of them. And they laughed a little and were very friendly together, the three of them, Anna, Emanuele and Giustino; and they were pleased to be together, the three of them, thinking of all those who were dead, and of the long war and the sorrow and noise and confusion, and of the long, difficult life which they saw in front of them now, full of all the things they did not know how to do.

BOOK: All Our Yesterdays
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