Salute to the unknown dead in Giuseppe Santoliquido’s moving book
Ker Edition is republishing this book, which appeared a few years ago with another Belgian publisher, Genèse, and has been unavailable since then. But it is an important book, as are all the novels of this author, which you probably discovered with his last book, excellent last summer he announced, Gallimard announced.
Why important? Because from book to book Giuseppe Santoliquido tells us about ourselves. We, the observers, the spectators, we who pass by the street distractedly looking at anonymous faces. But who are these anonymous people? They have a name, a history, a journey that could, or should, hold our attention, because they resemble ours, have the same desires, the same hopes, the same rights, or because they are symptomatic of nature, even of our societies.
The unknown of the square cannot remain unknown. And as in all of Santoliquido’s novels including Hearing of Dr. Fernando Gasparri which was praised for the Rossel prize when it was published, and which was recently brilliantly adapted for the theater Le Public – the latter is outraged by what is called news: the death of a man. This is never a trivial fact.
Something drove the man to despair, to the extent that he pushed himself into the lobby of the city hall. Liège, Charleroi or La Louvière, in our daytime zone. And this tragic news, against all odds, will unknowingly upset the mechanic who is in no way related to this man, but who is shaken by the death of this stranger.
What drives him to this point, cOne can read in the newspaper that the body will be buried in the square of the poor, since no one has identified or claimed the body. This word, poverty, this cruelty of fate, brought the mechanic out of his stupor.
And it’s less of an investigation than a quest that he’s going to engage in to allow this stranger, apparently a stranger, to be present. Is it because the parents of this mechanic were also emigrants, who were expelled from Italy by poverty or fascism, that he is trying to restore the dignity of this worker in the shadows? Could be.
What grips us in Giuseppe Santoliquido’s books is exactly that unstoppable step to the side that the mechanic makes because he feels that something seems unacceptable to our fellow man. Whether it’s the homeless, families on the pavement or modern day slaves on construction sites in Qatar or in the courtyards of our buildings.
It is a dedicated book, in the sense that it confronts us with what is dearest to us, our values, our humanism, our democracies. And before the unbearable that our societies tolerate, however, successive changes. Giuseppe Santoliquido never raises his voice, he simply puts himself in the shoes of a man from the street, a family doctor, a priest, an ordinary citizen who suddenly says no, or who acts without saying it and without rebelling.
It is written in the same way, without too many words, without gaps, by an author who knows how to listen and lend his elegant and humble pen to humble beings. Giuseppe Santoliquido has this feeling for portraiture, for dialogue, for decor in which he always reveals a flash of beauty or tenderness, to capture ordinary people, who, being so small, are ordinary.