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This article is taken from PN Review 46, Volume 12 Number 2, November - December 1985.

Attillo Bertolucci Charles Tomlinson

More than once, in reading the poetry of Attilio Bertolucci, I have found cause to think of a passage from the Varykino episode of Doctor Zhivago. Yury Zhivago, thrown back on himself and his immediate surroundings in a country in chaos, begins to keep a diary. In this he writes: 'The words "bourgeois" and "middle class" have become terms of abuse nowadays, but Pushkin forestalled criticism in his "Family Tree": "A bourgeois, a bourgeois is what I am" . . . '. And then, later on, he says of Pushkin and of Chekhov: '. . . they live their lives, quietly, treating both their lives and their work as private, individual matters, of no concern to anyone else. And these individual things have since become of concern to all, their work has ripened of itself, like apples picked green from the trees, and has increasingly matured in sense and sweetness.' These reflections fit both Bertolucci's origins and his art. The circumstances that gave rise to Zhivago's words parallel those of Italy in chaos in 1943, and the flight of Attilio, Ninetta and their son Bernardo, setting out on foot for the mountain village of Casarola - an event celebrated in the splendid poem 'Verso Casarola'. That adventure of individuals now belongs to us all, along with poems nourished from deep family fidelities and tasting of the locality of Casarola and Parma. The poems tell the whole story in a personal manner far from the merely confessional. There is also ...


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