Publications

21-01-2010

Pinocchio: the universal parable of man's destiny

Benigni’s movie (Pinocchio) has missed an important point in Pinocchio’s fable: the dark and pitiless parable of man’s adventure. Behind its ironic and easy-going tones and its didacticisms, the puppet is actually the ferociously ironic caricature of an untruthful mankind, tyrannically moved by strings of casualness, negative emotions and the unhappiness of an inescapable fate. Hidden under the surface of this fable, there lies the biggest and boldest mystical text of all world literature: man’s initiatory trip from puppet, prey to its instincts, to a real man endowed with will. As a matter of fact, Pinocchio is the most widely read book after the Bible and the Koran.

A mystical text disguised as a fable
Although universal literature, from Aristofane to Beckett, is full of great novelists, perhaps there has never been one as intelligent, ironic or secluded as Carlo Lorenzini, alias Collodi.
It is true. We are a touchy and violent species. Over the centuries, whoever had to reveal some unpleasant truths or break some deeply-rooted prejudices, had to take some timely precautions. When Copernicus, for instance, wrote the “De Revolutionibus” in which he exposed his revolutionary discovery he took two precautions: a) he dedicated his work to the Pope, b) as a security measure, he published his book after his death!
Lorenzini also had to disguise the most terrible secret as a fable and pass for an author of nursery stories rather than one of the most scholarly anthropologists of our nature and human ethnology. One day a wiser, more aware mankind will recognize him as the man who knew how to pleasantly show us the cruel and terrible truth: humanity is made up of millions of puppets; we are bio-chemical marionettes, driven by invisible threads; we are incurable liars. Above all, he will be appreciated because he told us the truth and made us laugh at the misfortunes of the poor puppet, without having his book condemned at the stake. We are incapable of seeing how Pinocchio’s toughness and untruthful nature, along with his irresponsibility are the psychological stigmata of the sapiens species and the very roots of all our misfortunes.
The abandonment of his puppet dress and his transformation into a child is not a melancholic passage to normality or a cruel flight from the spell of childhood with its unbounded vitality. This is also Benigni’s interpretation. In fact, in the final scene we see Pinocchio followed by the puppet’s shadow that almost seems to be the spirit of his fantasy and original longing for life.
What a misunderstanding! In actual fact, Collodi presents us with the horror of a puppet-like sub-human moon-man who is influenced by everyone and everything. They are zombies who, through misadventure, sorrow, antagonism and disappointment, will one day enter a real humanity, sun-men who are proactive, responsible and shine in their own light.
By paraphrasing some words said by Caligula to his ministers, we could say: if Pinocchio is a puppet then we are men. However if Pinocchio is a man, then we are still men with a primitive conscious, larvae still encased in their pods waiting to break out and evolve.

A riddle to solve
There is an air of mystery about Pinocchio’s story, a riddle we would like to solve. Why did a writer such as Carlo Lorenzini, who throughout his carrier never rose above a Thouar or a Dazzi, suddenly produce an immortal story, an objective tale and a world-class masterpiece that had the unfathomable depth of an evangelical parable. How is it possible that a fable hastily cobbled together, perhaps reluctantly, with no clear plan, by a man who was probably defeated by personal and political disappointments could be considered an echo of a universal message and the mirror of all mankind? It’s a worrying thought. Why didn’t he sign it with his real name, like his other works, instead of choosing to use a “nom de plume”?

Wood shavings of our soul
These two questions can be made into one, in that there’s an explanation or better still an hypothesis that answers both of them. The hypothesis is that the text is both inspired and the result of a brainwave. The adventures of Pinocchio, the most widely read children’s book which has been translated throughout the world, in the guise of a children’s tale, conceals the greatest and most daring mystical text of all world literature.
In actual fact what we see in Pinocchio are the wood shavings of our lost soul. This explains why when we read Pinocchio the text appears to be real while the author remains an unnecessary hypothesis. His existence is superfluous like in the Old Testament and the Gospels. There’re holy books, but not holy authors. Carlo Lorenzini didn’t feel like signing a universal story, that was written in Heaven, it only had to be written down.

The awful secret
Benedetto once wrote that “the wood which Pinocchio is carved in is that of mankind”.
Out of all the fables ever written, Pinocchio is perhaps the most comprehensive and the most painfully truthful. It comfortably belongs to the “black fable” genre of Orwell and its ruthlessness is only be equalled by “Animal Farm”. It’s the transparent filter of a humanity cast adrift, that lives in fear and ignorance of its own identity.
The tale of Pinocchio’s adventures belongs to the art of mysteries: the art of revealing by concealing. The secret which has been under the noses of millions throughout the world for more than a century is awful. Pinocchio is the mirror image of a bio-chemical puppet which has become man as we know him to be. We are reluctant to recognise ourselves in the grotesque image of Collodi’s character, we loathe the idea of identifying ourselves with a speaking piece of wood, apparently alive, but in actual fact driven by external forces and terrible invisible strings. In the mirror we can see Pinocchio’s image, the embarrassing appendix of an informant, but just like Narcissus we refuse to recognise ourselves in that imagined reflection - we cannot see the woodenness of his being, his chronic and incurable deceit or his disloyalty.

The snare
Who knows if Collodi, wherever he may be, is laughing or crying at the millions of readers, the countless generations of children around the world who are rocked to sleep by the enchanted words and images of his fable, without even knowing its real nature: a dark and pitiless parable of the human condition. However from the very beginning, the storyteller Collodi, warns us that a snare awaits us and that we will uncover the deception only when it is too late - once we have crossed the threshold of the promised fairy-tale world that opens with the fateful words: “once upon a time…”
It is as if Lorenzini was compelled to warn us against his own deception, bound to an unlikely deontology, that takes us back to Cat and the Fox.
Once we’ve crossed the threshold of the nursery tale, the tacit agreement with the reader is immediately upset and we find ourselves in the presence of a gruesome fable, with its ruthless and sublime irony. Reading it, the book opens up a threatening, splendid and ephemeral world that begins with a disturbing absence. There is not a King. The place of the King figure has been taken by the mass which is a joyfully plebeian crowd. The eternal dialectics between mass and individual, between destination and destiny, emerge and this tears our world apart.

The victim is always guilty
Pinocchio is any piece of wood that belongs to the pile. It is stuff that is destined to be destroyed and burnt, but it also longs to live. In this transformation the antagonists, represented by the Cat and the Fox have a providential, religious, ideological and theological nature.
The world is a mirror. Through its events and in its symbolic language that are made up of circumstances and meetings, it constantly gives out signals, clues and indications. If Pinocchio ( the ordinary human being ) could read them , he would not be so busy sabotaging his own being, he would not make the wrong choice at the crossroads of life and neither would he reject experience, in specious collaboration with error and misunderstanding.
The Cat, cruel and simple and the Fox, ironic and savage are two poetic criminal figures.
The characters in Pinocchio’s world are nothing other than projections of our imagination, figures that thanks to our strong belief in them, have ended up by haunting our world. The Cat and the Fox stand out more than all the others, with their physical deformities, a symbol of a putrid conscience that is disguised with cunning.
A strict deontology compels them to warn the victim with a thousand signals, contradictions and slips. In short they can rob someone who is determined to be robbed. This is why, one day, in all the law courts of an advanced humanity, we shall read in very large letters: “the victim is always guilty”.

The gospel according to Pinocchio
The initial idea, the suspicion that this story conceals a parable of human destiny, a gospel, a timeless Bible is reinforced and gains ground bit by bit as we continue to read. Mastro Ciliegia, a carpenter, is the first character to appear. The father figure is called Geppetto, a nickname for Giuseppe. Geppetto is not a carpenter but he has tools to cut wood. It is more than a coincidence. As we continue we discover the story has an inexhaustible number of symbols, riddles and allegories, and that under the wrinkled and tough exterior, the most famous puppet conceals the man in search of himself.
What a conjurer and an illusionist Lorenzini-Collodi is to conceal the truth under everyone’s nose. Pinocchio is born from a carpenter called Giuseppe or Geppetto. On top of this, he has a yellow wig on his head, that looks like a poor and hot “polenta”, it is true, but it is also similar to the golden colour of an aureole. Therefore… why did we not understand that… Pinocchio is… is…
Any piece of wood, a man of the crowd, the real KING-individual, becomes real. The magical project of our advancement is encapsulated in that fable like a gospel about the transformation of a puppet into a real man, of a being without will driven by strings of fortuity and mechanisation, into a free man who is the master of his destiny.


The birth of Pinocchio
Pinocchio is a fairy-tale character, like other magical figures, he comes into the world in one of those dark periods, into one of those infernal circles. Like Jesus Christ, who comes into the world in a shed looked after by animal warmth, Pinocchio is born into misery, surrounded by misfortune, “on a bad night in winter” ( my old book of Pinocchio, an edition of 1958, says: “a hellishly bad night”) amid thunder and lightening.
So we have another clue that shows that the fable, in the guise of a popular picaresque story, is actually an initiatory journey, that begins with our coming into the world, into this “valley of tears”. The symbolism is just too obvious.
In our societies, so-called civil societies, life begins according to one of the most brutal rituals.

Welcome to hell
Childbirth is painful, we are welcomed by the operating theatre’s blinding lights, by the doctors’ excited voices and by our mother’s screams, then we are spanked and put down on a cold surface, so we can say that from the very beginning everything appears as though we were truly “welcomed to hell”. It does not take much for the child to accept the discipline of the masters of misfortune or the instructions that will convince him that he has arrived on a dark planet where you are born to die and you live to suffer. In a world that is a “valley of tears”. In fact, our first sensation on being born is that of a terrible fear of suffocating, of being overwhelmed and dying. From then on everything that appears familiar to us has this sweetish taste of fear.

The imprinting of pain
This is how we - who for nine months of growth ( but in actual fact for an age) have been aquatic creatures, kings of a universe that is lukewarm, dimly-lighted, silent and liquid - meet fear as our first feeling and from that moment on, like the imprinting of a goose, we follow her as if she were our real procreator. Fear and pain soon limit the possibilities in a man’s life; an unreal hypnotic space, in which a man feels safe as if between the huge walls of a bunker that is half refuge and half prison.
The whole life of an ordinary man seems to be controlled by this first moment, by the experience of that liquid fire that he has felt enter his lungs in that terrifying passage from aquatic being to an air-breathing creature.
Like the salmon that goes against the river’s current to return to where it was it was born, we have a long journey to make to overcome the trauma created at our birth and make our way home again in search of a lost paradise.

The Pinocchios of Johannesburg
There are other elements in the story that constantly draw a parallel, there is an analogical connection between Pinocchio’s adventures and our life. Pinocchio always has a thousand good intentions, he sets out with a kind of touching naivety, but then, he always diverts from his course so as to follow the easiest route, namely to lie whilst hoping to get off scot-free.
He gets so used to lying that he is no longer able to see the difference between true and false, right and wrong.
We’re like this. Official reports and media news are full of good intentions and are as unreal as Pinocchio’s. We’ve heard world leaders say these things, decade after decade, from Rio to Johannesburg. They are like the puppet on his first day at school, making false plans/promises about brotherhood and voicing concerns for the unfortunate, poor, starving and oppressed of the world.

The animal that lies
Pinocchio’s story reveals our weaknesses and our hypocrisy, which are still hidden even from ourselves, so used are we to the dynamics of falsehood. We tell lies to everyone around us because we think about our own personal interest. However, even worse than that, we lie to ourselves, every minute of every hour of every day of our life, climbing up castles of prejudices and illusions. Collodi’s invention of Pinocchio’s nose, brings an embarrassing discovery to our notice, he reveals our most disturbing psychological feature: the tendency to lie, first to ourselves, and then to others.
This is the point: we can get away scot-free with others, but we shall never be able to escape unscathed when confronted with our own conscience; this is a part of us that reads our inner self, and we are aware of it, so for us, there is no peace, no rest, just endless torment.

The cornerstone of research carried out by The European School of Economics, of which the Department of Sociology is a part, is the study of the individual and the discipline of self-observation or the study of ourselves.
The central element of this work is the study of lying.
Falsehood is a permanent state of the being, in which man has been “educated” throughout his life.
Man is a liar and only lies to himself. Poverty, war and sickness, which are part of the world’s events, are only the consequence of an inner struggle created by our lying that has enveloped us since birth, and the execution of a precise and monotonous script that we’ve brilliantly interpreted. The lie has become flesh. To leave the lie means to observe it and consequently to eradicate it.

Alumni voices

Claudia Chiari

I began my professional career in a Accounting firm in Tuscany, where I am still on the Board of Directors. Later I decided to change my road and moved my career toward the marketing and communication sector from which I felt attracted. Changing direction often requires a lot of time and with no doubts a lot of determination. When I finally decided to look for what I really desired to do in my...

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