Silvia Vari
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October 28, 2020

Auditory Fragments from the Multitude

reframing the narrative around italian youth emigration (1/3)

In this series, Silvia Vari explores and reframes narratives about the emigration of Italian youth through the use of auditory fragments. Her “audiobiography” creates a network of different people, individual narratives, homes, feelings and voices, whose intersections and ramifications uncover a “heterogenous multitude”. She argues against the oversimplification of the experience of the young Italian emigrant and pleads for the embracement of diversity, fragmentation and multiplicity.


    “Ah slavish Italy! thou inn of grief,

Vessel without a pilot in loud storm,

Lady no longer of fair provinces,

But brothel-house impure!” [1]

Odi et amo. Quare id faciam, fortasse requiris.

Nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior [2]

What people have always told me is that i should appreciate silence more. I admit that in most contexts i find myself baffled by silence, uncomfortable with it, and i end up blabbering something to avoid “awkward silences”.

(Maybe that’s why this came out as a relatively noisy project.)

In those hot days of end-June, there was one thing that really dazzled me about my Dutch surroundings: noises and sounds were so different to what i’ve been used to. It obviously depends on where you are, soundscapes differ tremendously depending on your location. The sudden consequence was that with more than thirty degrees and full sunshine flooding these rooms with light, nostalgia and memory hit me hard.

These sounds were all wrong to my ears. i felt disoriented – i needed that noise.

I was born in Summer, on a tremendously hot day of a roman August. I love being born in Summer. There must have been some genetic imprinting on the day of my birth, but i just love everything about it: the sun caressing your skin, the smell of Mediterranean pines, the bright colours of cherries and apricots, peaches’ drops dripping from my mouth after biting into their juicy pulps, the warm sirocco breeze playing with my hair and tickling my skin.

Most of all, i miss the cicadas. You never really see them, you know. They keep you company with their humdrum chirruping; but most importantly, they are the sudden, inevitable announcement that Summer has come. One day there’s silence, the next day you are absorbed into their chorus.

It’s possibly for this reason that Summer makes me nostalgic, something i do not of consider myself to be. But when the end of spring arrives and temperatures are (supposedly) getting warmer, my body inevitably ends up longing for the Summer it has been accustomed to for the past twenty-six years: 30°, sirocco and the sweet humdrum of cicadas.

I hear my body calling for mediterranean reterritorialization.
Where are you, cicadas? I hear no cicadas, and the silence is deafening. Do i belong here?

For those young people it was difficult to exchange the sunny coast of southern Italy, the laziness, the sensuousness of life in the Mediterranean villages, with the smoky, foggy, stressful life of the industrial city. [3]

At this point, you might wonder why this long foreword about Summer. Well, let me tell you: this is less a Summer story than a story about affective belonging. Summer functions as the annual trigger of my memories, as the seasonal reminder of my condition. These words aim to hopefully be a heterogenous, trans-medial testimony of those who, like me, have not always felt “at home” where their home was commonly supposed to be: italia, italy, italië (rigorously in lower case, hopefully by the end of this reading it will be clear why).

You will hear my voice, her/his voice, our voice.

We are the “expats” of your uni courses, those who serve you that delicious pizza at the nice restaurant around the corner and, usually, those who invite you over for dinner although we barely met.

These is what we sound, with our accents, our breaths, our insecurities and our courage.

These are the individual life fragments of a collective audiobiography.

We, brains without bodies

We’ve been given multiple names. Italian mainstream narratives mostly call the phenomenon of Italian youth’s emigration “Fuga di Cervelli, where Fuga means ‘escape’ and Cervelli means ‘brains’. That’s what our actions are reduced to: fleeing brains.

Why define it as an escape? And why reduce our complex bodies and experiences to their mental component, namely, the brain?

What i am – we are – trying to do here is challenge this depersonalizing narrative and provide it with some life; to (quite literally) give it a collective voice. From now on, the two first persons will be used interchangeably, in the attempt of blurring the polarized duality that separates the single from the collective, because we believe that individuated life narratives have the power of discovering beneath apparent persons the power of an impersonal – which is not a generality but a singularity at the highest point. [4]

We are a heterogeneous Multitude. I am a researcher, adventurer, professional, student, dishwasher, lover, you name it. And yet, multitudes are made by a network of individuals, making the hubbub of many into a singularity of voices.

Noi, la Moltitudine – We, the Multitude: it occupies a middle region between “individual and collective”. A mode of being, the prevalent mode of being today: the many, inasmuch as they are many, are those who share the feeling of “not feeling” at home and who, in fact, place this experience at the center of their own social and political praxis. [5]

  1. Alighieri, Dante. “The vision of Purgatory, Complete.” The Divine Comedy Complete. Translated by The Rev. H. F. Cary, Project Gutenberg, 2005.
  2. “I hate and I love. Why I do this, perhaps you ask. I know not, but I feel it happening and I am tortured.” Catullus. The Carmina of Gaius Valerius Catullus. Translated by Leonard C. Smithers, Smithers, 1894.
  3. Berardi, Franco. Precarious Rhapsody. Semiocapitalism and the pathologies of the post-alpha generation, Minor Compositions, London, 2009, p. 17.
  4. Deleuze, Gilles. “Literature and Life”. Critical Inquiry, vol. 23, n. 2, 1997, p. 225-230.
  5. Virno, Paolo. A Grammar of the Multitude: For an Analysis of Contemporary Forms of Life, Semiotext(e), 2004, p. 26.

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