Guido Mieth via Getty Images
A couple of weeks ago I accompanied my brother to look for a car seat for the little girl he will have in a few weeks. As often happens on certain occasions, we took advantage of this to make the irony stale on the conditions, very different from the current ones, with which we grew up and survived. Travel in the arms of mothers, first, and then later in the wild in the back seat, often piled up in cars without ABS and air conditioning. Non-compliant electrical outlets and full days without adult supervision.
In front of the row of seats and bouncers for all ages and sizes, it was almost impossible not to think about how our relationship with childhood has changed, with the space around us and with safety. Between super-padded belts and devices to report any dramatic forgetfulness, it came natural to me to think that, net of an evident improvement, we are obsessed with safety.
Or, to be more precise, from safety in all those areas in which the intervention to obtain it can be delegated to the choices of individuals. In an increasingly liquid society, who – like my brother – can cling to car seats as buoys, lifebuoys.
But what if our own obsession with the physical well-being of our children turns upside down? What if what should defend them turns into a threat? Wouldn’t that be a kind of nightmare, and some of the worst? And if the previous one seems to be a narrative premise worthy of King, don’t be surprised, because it is. And in fact Enrico Macioci, who explores it in Thomas and the algebra of fate (SEM), he is the most Kinghian Italian writer I know.
It is Kinghian in voice – from the beginning, memorable, that certainly King has much more than an echo and which, not surprisingly, plunges the reader into the whirlpool of the res stockings with a prolessi – and he is Kinghian in investigating, through the tools of the story, the paradoxes of our lives.
And the role that fate plays – evoked here from the title – in them. Because, in the end, all our devices, seats, monitors to hear them from one room to another, the anti-suffocation cushions, are only attempts to try to stop fate. At least a little, at least for a little while. But in Macioci’s novel – built in turn as a precision mechanical device – fate makes fun of all efforts. And it does it through a child. It is clear that it is above all our children that our anxiety of control pours out.
We make fetishes out of it. And therefore it takes courage, on the part of an author, to build a novel on this basis: a child in danger, a child prisoner of that same bubble that should protect him. And not just any child, but a child the more neglected the more he is the object of attention.
From here, from the chain of a series of random events that lead to a car forgotten in a sunny road just soiled by the shadow of an oleander, a black fairy tale begins which ends with a tragedy that tastes of ritual sacrifice. Along the way, the voltage only increases like the temperature in the passenger compartment. So when we reach climax, we welcome it with the same relief with which we welcome a storm on a sultry July day.
And if the basic morality is a bit too much exhibited, at least for my taste, it doesn’t matter: Macioci has written an inexorable novel, at times of ferocious tension, which is not afraid of going beyond horror, and above all gives body, blood and sweat to a hidden discomfort, to a fear that otherwise would have remained under the skin, widespread and neurotic, to suppure: that due to our fragility.