Kinder Tiere Greise als Sammler

Be quiet, rather talk!

Diario di una femminista, by Carla Lonzi

Excerpt translated from Italian by Ariane Müller, into English by Sebastian Lütgert

August 14

I’m on a wall with some Japanese girls. I want to jump, but they are afraid and they are refusing. So I ask a woman, a sort of overseer, if we can climb over the barbed wire, given our good behaviour. She consents. Later I’m in the car with Simone: the overseer is driving and I’m happy to have converted her to feminism in which I have assigned this important function to her. When we brake, I’m afraid we are crashing into a wall, but they calm me down.

I’m flirting with a sick doctor to whom I make fairly cautious advances. The doctor is blond, a type of tropical adventurer.

Ester has always had many friends depending on her needs, but I did never conceive of comforting situations. They would have brought only humiliation. But it also humbled me that she integrated our friendship, something that would have seemed right to give up. There appeared to me an unconscious wisdom of not depriving herself of help from others for every circumstance, and this doubt troubled me. I wrote it in a poem: “willing to do anything but not to seek help from anyone / yet a voice would be enough to break / the process of insignificance but all / the voices I have are mine.”

I would like to clarify two terms of the poems: one is that of “inertia,” which includes both “the greatest torment” and a form of resistance to emancipation: “a great thought / on strike waiting until it unfolds / the neccessary fruit of inertia / of the non-belligerent.” It is clear that I wanted to get rid of it, but not in a predictable way: I was horrified about competitiveness. On the other hand, I suffered from the “aborted thoughts”, to which the theme of the “non-born” is related, which until now has remained obscure and which I realize is one and the same. The call to authenticity of which “I’m proud” is another constant to start from, that “heart with such throbbing veins” that I expected I would have aroused in others, not competitively, in “acts of modesty,”—but my whole life felt marked by “fragrances,” even though I was overwhelmed by the doubt if I was really part of of it.

Later I understood that it is precisely my claim of authenticity that left me in the world unrealized: “the innocent gait / of those who keep themselves / equidistant from nothing.”

I still don’t know what fundamental aspect for me I may have forgotten in the poems, this explains why at a certain point I stopped writing them. The circumnavigation was accomplished in its essential stages, I was moving on to something else, to a knowledge of man in his creative moment, to the artist. Somy most intense period as an art critic started, ten years in total, from ‘60 to ‘70 (the poems are from ‘58 to ‘63). I would never have been able to become a feminist if I hadn’t been aware of the highest moment reached by mankind (in art, religion, philosophy, exactly in the Hegelian sense), because for mefeminism must compare itself with these moment sto see the deficiencies of the patriarchal male subject. Feminism that engages on the political level is like a needle that oscillates between the underestimation and the overvaluation of men. Rivolta Femminile was born precisely from two people, Ester [Carla Accardi] and me, who had questioned male subjectivity precisely because we found ourselves as individuals in the middle of it: Ester as an artist, I as a consciousness in a “different” identity. Vanda instead contributed to the formation of Rivolta the pain of a confused anger, and she mobilized my energies to follow paths that I would have instinctively avoided. They were paths of ostentative rebellion against the canon of vaginality. What made me angry was her claim to use me as a brain, without understanding me as a person. I felt instrumentalized under the label “for feminism.”

The admittance to enter the male world and to pass all the tests of fitness in the cultural milieu for me was dialectics. This is the side where I can tell I’ve been colonized, unlike Sara who has been more silent than me with men, and certainly I had a certain euphoria in taking possession of dialectics, but I think it was especially useful for not being defeated by the guard dogs of the patriarchal world that surround creative situations and make them unattainable to the excluded. As far as I am concerned, I submitted to the required exercises, but the experience that had culminated in the poems, although known to me alone, gave me the only compass I could refer to. In Autoritratto I continued to record some stammering, which was all I have had to say in that context, even though there are a few signs of my competence here and there. As soon as I started feminism I wrote “Let’s spit on Hegel” for many reasons, but also to free a space where I felt that we all could grow in.

In the early days I was accused of feeble dialectics, but by those who wanted to reduce thoughts to a lower level: I used dialectics to dismantle the danger of subculture and of carelessness. I defended my intuitions with a reasoning that did not add anything to them, but protected me from the typical refutations of the masculine world.

June 23

This has helped to rid the feminists of the suspicion that the absence of men at the meetings shows that man, with his arguments, could silence them. Thus,Rivolta Femminile has created a basis to be able to start from scratch, from self-knowledge (autocoscienza). I understood that when self-knowledge began to form in others, especially in those who expressed themselves in the whole novelty of a hitherto unexpressed person. I sensed that Rivolta no longer needed my defense on a dialectical level. Dialectic became an anachronism. Above all, we had a new reality. I was able to actively focus on myself and on the scars that my past lives in the midst of a male world had inevitably left on me.

Self-knowledge is a fundamental experience for a human being that enables us to give meaning to previously institutionalized and worn-out gestures. For example, writing has become an autonomous, necessary instrument, in its capacity to complete thinking, to give it the possibility of clarification, to consolidate it and to communicate it to others on their way. It is no longer a form of writing weighed down by desire for extravagance or talent; everyone needed it and everyone realized its significance. I have to tell Piera so she understands that she does not forbid herself to write as an extroverted gesture; but to keep writing, so that she can defend herself in an emergency. So far, she connects it with entering a cultural sphere.

August 15

The language of my poems moves me no less than the content of the poems themselves. The birth of a “different” woman is not the birth of Venus, it is not a triumph. I have not mastered anything and the impression of difficulty and meticulousness, the conditions in which I have been, remains. If there is something pedantical, it is due to the fact that I was learning while I was living and I was trying to translate it. I recorded what little I could get, my ears were pricked up. All of this didn’t help, and I understood that it would well be all I would get: the beginning of a self consciousness.

Today, the third day in Erice ...

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