From Parini to Totò: A 'Livella and the anti-real estate controversy.

by Roberta Ibello

From Parini to Totò: A 'Livella and the anti-real estate controversy.

We are in a grotesque Neapolitan cemetery, two characters walk among the now silent tombs housed there. A nobleman and a garbage man. Both strictly dead. What an unusual couple!

The two unfortunates had the misfortune (especially for the proud noble) to become neighbors.

This is the general context in which the wonderful poem develops "A 'level"  by Antonio De Curtis, aka (obviouslyTotò .

A simple Neapolitan poem whose main phrase 'A morte' or ssaje ched "and? ... it's a level ' has now established itself as a maxim or a proverb.

Yet the deliberate lightness (accentuated by the use of the dialect) and the spontaneity of the text seem to hide its deep roots. In fact, A 'Livella is in continuity with a series of works in which the anti-real estate controversy is strong.


In this sea magnum of texts, Totò refers in particular to the work of Giuseppe Parini il "Dialogue on the nobility" . After two hundred years, the question is not all that different. The protagonists of the dialogue are also in this case two corpses: that of a haughty Noble and that of a Poet. As in Totò's text, roommates of the same tomb are forced. After having contested all the antiplebe's claims of the noble, the poet manages to steal all his certainty from him.


      Noble Fatt'in there rascal!

      Poet     You are wrong, Excellency. Is she afraid that her worms will not leave her to come to me? Oh! I know how to tell you that they would like to make a lavish banquet on the bare bones of a Poet.


In Neapolitan poetry, the protagonist takes off his poet's clothes and, taking a sweeper's broom, he too prepares to confront a noble, perhaps even more angry.

Here, however, the conclusion is more bitter. For the garbage man, the misunderstandings that have always divided the nobles and the poor are antics' of the living and in reality no real solution is reached except through death. Death levels, brings on the same level what social conventions separate. He brings on the same floor a noble full of surnames (useful only to fill the mouth) and a simple garbage man who is simply called Gennaro Esposito.

In short, this is an open question of the nobility of which Totò even became the spokesman. However far in time it may appear to us, this is actually a very topical problem!


Illustration Lisa Nagisa

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1 Comment

Claudio Saltarelli 20 October 2016 - 22:53

in today's world, the child of prevailing nihilism, there is an enormous deficit of aristocracy. Totò had a region but he was a marquis and he knew what it meant to have blue blood


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