The taste of neighbor, by Luigi Santucci



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by Luigi Santucci

Translated from the Italian by Christophe Carraud, Éditions Conférence, 172 p., € 19

Coming from the other side of the Alps, this little book took a long time to reach us. Since its first publication in Italy in 1963, time has passed, snows and thaws have followed one another on the summits, and its author, the Italian writer Luigi Santucci, died in 1999. But, by the magic of translation, here is may his voice wake up and carry to us …

As if welcoming a pilgrim who would have taken a long time, it would be good to open your door to this delicate work, both in substance and in form. With a lightness weighted with depth, Luigi Santucci speaks to us, in the tone of confidence, of one of the most precious mysteries of the Gospel, the love of neighbor.

Getting back to basics: Carlo Ossola’s final lesson

Is there anything new to say, nearly 2,000 years after the man from Nazareth told the parable of the Good Samaritan? Yes, thanks to the talent of the Catholic writer, crowned with the Campiello Prize, the most prestigious literary prize in Italy for Orpheus in Paradise (1967). In fourteen short chapters, his work covers each of the faces that the neighbor can take: parents, lovers, poor, sick, enemy, stranger …

Affection and suffocation

“Next is what all those who titillate our egoism are, in a more or less amiable or unpleasant way: because the neighbor is not content, generally, to be” next “, that is to say close of us, precisely, in a respectful and agreed neighborhood; sooner or later, or rather very early, it crushes us, pushes us aside, even shakes us, when it does not send us – let’s say involuntarily – to kick in the stretchers ”.

Through this gallery of portraits, the writer kneads human dough, recounting a thousand picaresque details, personal memories, reminiscences of readings. He points to our formidable duplicities, hardships and wickedness towards others, be they friend, wife or husband.

“The most ardent affection and the most inveterate desire for suffocation can coexist the whole of life under the same you”, he notes. “The difficulty of loving one’s parents as“ neighbors ”is not so much that, undeniably costly, of the daily sacrifice on the little unpleasant things; it is the other: that of respecting their inviolable and profound freedom, of considering their secret essence which is in perpetual evolution; never to get used to their presence (…) “.

In the human soul

Through his twists and turns in the human soul, Luigi Santucci signs a text with strong moral and spiritual density, without needing to use reproach. With an entirely Italian sweetness, he prefers to make love – in the diversity of its nuances – desirable and to indicate some remedies for our congenital egoism. The main one being the imagination and the “Strange ploy”, but obviously very effective, consisting of “Imagine the childhood of our enemy to deliver us from the curse of hatred”.

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Imagination, the first quality of the saints? This is the credo of Luigi Santucci. “Holiness is (…) an imagination of the relationship with one’s neighbor in love, an ability to invent ways and means to say yes, to give as much as necessary, to guess, very often, what the other needs and ignores. ” Thus spurred on by love for neighbor, there is nothing left of thought, of a sad duty or of a pious chore. It is the adventure of a lifetime, as evidenced by the author’s poignant testament, reproduced at the end of this remarkable work.

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