Roberto Malfagia, Visual Storytelling Teacher
In Giulio Mozzi’s novel “Vetri”, included in the collection “Here is the Garden”, the protagonist watches a hammered glass wall broken into pieces. Hundreds of fragments are lying on the ground. Each of them have their appearance: some are irregular, uneven, sharp-cornered, some are well-defined, sharp-cut, regular and recognizable. In silence the protagonist watches them, trying to isolate one fragment from the other, so as to see them in their uniqueness. But at the same time he also puzzles over their order, and he tries to find matching edges by seeking, in the hundreds of figures, that one image, that wide, general picture that was on the glass before being shattered.
To watch means to collect the pieces in order to give a sense to the events. The job of observing and putting together, made by the protagonist of “Vetri”, clearly explains the storyteller’s effort: in the story being told, frames of reality are collected, re-edited, and ordered again in a fiction, by trying to glean a meaning. In this “Ballad of a Slow Train”, something similar happens. Buttitta acts like a real storyteller, by performing the action of ordering photographic symbols and images belonging to the realm of literature, coming from his mental process, with the aim of making sense.
Moreover, the protagonist of the ballad seems to be in the same situation. While the story is progressing, he has to face new, unexpected and unclear events, while he meets looming and shifty characters. A film rips out, a mask hits his arm, a train is departing, and this is how he is going to meet an admonishing bluesman, a warning child, a provoking actress. Any time this is going on, any time a new character bursts on the scene and the plot changes, a new fragment has been collected. We can perceive the protagonist’s hand movement in spinning the fragment between his fingers, holding it in front of his eyes in order to understand its edges and shape. We can feel his disenchantment when he is disoriented and astonished, but at the same time determined in his will to settle in a wider frame the experience gained. The protagonist is confused, because he cannot understand what is going on, at least not immediately. He takes his time, and he goes on, with the pace of the slow train. A motion seeming functional to the recovery of time: the time that is necessary to comprehension. Fragments of reality proceeding towards the protagonist do not have a precise order. Maybe they do, but it is such an internal, elaborated order, that detection becomes too difficult without an external help. In that moment, with the intervention of magical familiar forces, prayers, dreams and ancient rhymes, the protagonist will be able to get off the train of the experience, and to understand its meaning through an unconscious recovery of an archaic faith. And to find, in the end, his way back home.
Buttitta suggests, with this ballad, that the the process of comprehension of reality is not always straight. In the muddle of information, feelings, thoughts composing our daily life, all of us need to create another form of time into our own time. In this time, becoming the self-narrating time, we have the chance to put the pieces together and to recover the glass in its entirety, so as to find that missing sense we all need to not to sink into the blow of uncertainty and worry.