by Renzo Novatore
translated by Fergus Cullen
What happens when a very angry young communist reads Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, Baudelaire and Wilde? Something like the sententiae translated below. First, a little of their author.
Abele Ferrari was born to a peasant family in Arcola, five and a half miles from La Spezia in the southeasternmost reach of Liguria, on 12 May 1890. Already one of those ‘great rebels who do not know how to obey,’ he did not last more than a year in school. His father put him to work on the land; but Abele stole fruit from the trees and chickens from their coops, which he sold to buy books. He fell into the anarcho-communist scene in La Spezia around 1908 and was involved sporadically in ‘insurrectionary’ activities till the end of his life. He wrote constantly. In 1910, he was charged with burning a church. In 1911 he was wanted for robbery and arrested for vandalism. By 1914, Abele had become ‘Renzo Novatore’ and was writing for movement papers; but one who asserts that ‘if the weak man dreams of anarchy for a social purpose, the strong man practises anarchy as a mean of individuation’—or that ‘anarchism is the eternal struggle of a small minority of aristocratic outsiders against every society’—cannot remain long in any movement. In the pages of the paper in which these sententiae were published, the Kathederanarchist Camillo Berneri dismissed Novatore and his friends as ‘paranoid megalomaniacs’ and ‘feeble imitators of opium- and hashish-addled artists.’ Through all this chaos, Novatore lived in Arcola with his wife and son. His parents ‘wondered what they had done to deserve such a devil.’ Novatore was drafted in the Great War but deserted his regiment in April 1918 and returned to Arcola. In October, he was sentenced to death. He fled the village and lived outside the law in a shack in the vicinity of Sarzana (five miles from Arcola). When his friends wanted to see him, they had to rendezvous by night in the woods. For a few weeks in May 1919, La Spezia was under the control of a ‘Revolutionary Committee.’ Novatore emerged from the woods to play some part or other in this outburst. He emerged again in 1920 to attack a naval barracks in Fornola (two and a half miles from Arcola) and was arrested. He had freed himself within the year and was about to attack a frigate in the harbor of La Spezia when the police caught wind of the plot. In the summer of 1922, he fell in with the notorious robber Sante Pollastri. In the last days of November—so one month after the March on Rome—three carabinieri disguised as hunters tracked Abele and Sante to a tavern near Bolzaneto (seven miles northwest of Genova). Did the hunters fire first or the hares? Either way, Lempano the warrant-officer died and so did Abele. I doubt he would have held it against his killer. ‘Human brotherhood began with Cain and Abel,’ he had once written. ‘Ever since Cain, the stronger has always been in the right.’ Another carabiniere was injured. Sante escaped unharmed and spent the next five years robbing and killing his way to celebrity. Of Abele’s wife, Emma, we hear only that he loved her. His son, Renzo Ferrari, became a poet. Read his lines (‘Obedience is the mother of command. This degenerate has many children and gives her affection to the worst of them’) and doubt that nobility runs in the blood! (Reviewing this itinerary and its landscapes, I wonder: was his military service the only time Novatore left Liguria?)
Novatore first passed these sentences upon God and man in Iconoclasta, no. 12 (15 October 1920). They have already been translated into English three times, but twice incompletely and never, I think, without mistakes: so here they are again with some new mistakes of my own. They compare, in form, to Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary and, in the extravagance of their viciousness, to, perhaps, nothing.
God. Born of sick fantasies. Inhabitant of senile and impotent brains. Companion and comforter of rancid souls born into slavery. Cocaine for hysterics. Pill for constipated minds impervious to learning. Marxism for faint hearts.
Humanity. Abstract noun with a pejorative meaning, full of force but lacking truth. Obscene mask stuck over the ugly, grubby faces of common swindlers so that they can dominate the crassly sentimental multitude of idiots and imbeciles.
Motherland. Intellectual prison for the semiconscious, stable for imbeciles, Circe who transforms her paramours into dogs and pigs. Whore to her masters, pimp to strangers. Devours her sons, slanders her parents and ridicules her heroes.
Family. Renunciation of Love, Life and Liberty.
Socialism. Discipline, discipline; obedience, obedience; slavery and ignorance pregnant with Authority. Socialism is a bourgeois body containing a common Christian soul. It is a slurry of fetishism, sectarianism and cowardice.
Organizations, councils, unions. Churches for the impotent. Pawnshops for cheapskates and wrecks. Many sign up in order to live parasitically on the backs of their gullible fellow-members. Just as many to spy. Some, the most sincere and true-believing—poor innocents!—to go to prison and atone for the shameful cowardice of everyone else. The bulk of the crowd, to pay, yawn and wait.
Solidarity. The grisly altar which clowns of all kinds ascend in order to show off the priestly artfulness with which they intone the mass. Its recipients must pay in shameful humiliation, and never at a discount.
Friendship. Fortunate is he who can drink of this chalice without feeling his mind offended and his soul polluted. If such a gentleman exists, I warmly request he send me his photograph. I am fairly certain I shall look upon the face of an idiot.
Love. Fraud to the flesh and injury to the mind. Sickness of the soul, atrophy of the brain, slackening of the heart, corruption of the senses; poetic lies on which I get ferociously drunk two or three times a day in order to be able to stomach my stupid but still precious life. And yet, deep down, I would happily be killed for Love. He is the only rogue—since Judas—able to kill with a kiss.
Man. An unclean slurry of slavery and tyranny, of fetishism and fear, of vanity and ignorance. The worst insult you can deal an ass is to call him a man.
Woman. The most brutal of all enslaved beasts. The greatest victim that crawls upon earth. But—after man and dog—the guiltiest, deserving of all her woes. I am rather curious to know what she thinks of me when I kiss her…
O cynical prostitutes, O audacious expropriatresses, arise from the putridity that is drowning the world and see it turn pale in the light of your big, deep eyes. Of all stars you are the most beautiful; today, the sun will kiss you. You are of another race. And your souls are songs; your lives, a dream. You untether the world, O unchained prostitutes, O audacious expropriatresses. I will sing for you. The rest is dirt!
The best of the previous versions can be found in Renzo Novatore, Towards the Creative Nothing (Anarchist Library, n.d.), pp. 30–31; but it misses the closing apostrophe to the ‘audacious expropriatresses.’ A complete version can be found in The Collected Writings of Renzo Novatore, trans. Wolfi Landstreicher (Ardent Press, 2012), pp. 142–44. Most of our information on the author comes from Enzo Martucci’s memoir, ‘Renzo Novatore,’ ibid., pp. 254–58. A few aphorisms by Renzo Ferrari can be found in Enemies of Society: An Anthology of Individualist and Egoist Thought (Ardent Press: 2011), pp. 269–70.
— Fergus Cullen is an apprentice historian and dilettante of various arts.