We could start with the trace left by a “book born disorderly” as Chandra Candiani, who put it together at the time of a fall and a rise, and not least in the middle of a pandemic, puts it. “Exercising wonder cures sick hearts that have only been able to exercise fear,” claims the author on the cover of her paperback for Einaudi, Questo Immenso Non Sapere [This Huge Not Knowing], subtitled Conversazioni con Alberi, Animali e il Cuore Umano [Conversations with Trees, Animals and the Human Heart]. “We are soldiers of survival: homes, heaters, air conditioning, fridges, cars, planes, clothes, spectacles, dentures, drinking water, hot water, prosthesis upon prosthesis for carrying on,” the poet reflects, along with stories of cats, dogs and various other species (more at risk than ourselves of real extinction, the same also applies to plants). As in Leopardi, Novalis, Buddha, other poets and authors and monks given to meditation … reflections and impressions unfurl across the pages, which should be read in the manner of a fairytale, or even of a life, in which good and less good things happen, and the sense lies in allowing them to please precisely for what they are. It’s an extensive good wish, which doesn’t mean that the narrow gateway of our own unhappiness and that of others has to be avoided. The ever-open door of harm/evil. Quite the reverse. “This acceptance prepares us for action, it means not acting in the run-up to attuned action.” Starting with her own story, there are suggestions for taking a peripheral view of the world and those who live in it – “I say beings and not people, because animals and trees are included. Hearts belong to everybody, there isn’t just my heart or your heart or his: there’s a heart that belongs to nobody and resonates, it’s impersonal and fluid, devoid of owners.” A lesson that’s often forgotten and which causes us to take a step back and return to the preface and to build relations: “A disorderly book is an invitation to subversion.” The kind of subversion that rhymes with action. It also prompts a quote from Confucius, that Candiani claims to have read on a placard at the foot of an ancient tree of which only the roots and the battered bark remain. “The best time to plant a tree was ten years ago. The other best time is now.” It seems to be saying that knowledge is without time, or religion, suggesting that any time is the right time to start taking action, if we’re really not happy with where we’ve got to. Right now, while we are fretting about ourselves, about everyone and everything. For the most disparate of reasons ranging from us humans to the planet, we seem to be, we are, in need of help. This is something books can dispense. Refocusing on ancient concepts and new ideas, on topical matters.
Title: Questo Immenso non Sapere. Conversazioni con Alberi, Animali e il Cuore Umano
Author: Chandra Candiani
Published by: Einaudi