Dario Fo

THE LAUREATE: Dario Fo was born in 1926 in Italy. His father was a socialist, and during World War 2, they helped bring refugees into Switzerland with the anti-Fascist resistance. He is kind of awesome generally; he managed to infuriate pretty much everyone in power in Italy. I approve. Here is Wikipedia and the Nobel site.

WHAT ARE YOU READING?: Mistero Buffo, which I will also be watching (soonish). I’m also reading Accidental Death of an Anarchist, which is a bit more traditional. Mistero Buffo is a work of performance art. You have to watch it and read it. Here’s the text and here’s a video in Italian. I suggest reading scene by scene before watching.

REVIEW: I read both works all the way through and then watched the Resurrection of Lazarus (I really wish I could have found Death and the Fool on its own, but I’ll try later.) Dario Fo is very much a champion of the common man and of comparing the narratives of those in power and the marginalized to show the formers’ venality and hypocrisy and the latters’ true understanding of things. The most obvious example of this is the entirety of Accidental Death of an Anarchist, where a script- and other-described madman hurls a police station into chaos by assuming false identities and, with clever questioning and the occasional punch to the nose, dredges up the truth of the case (spoiler: they totally pushed him and told the judge to cover up for them). The whole play is a combination of brilliant verbal maneuvering and expertly timed slapstick which reveals the ugly machine that lies behind the justice system

Mistero Buffo is a different animal. It is a recasting of Medieval jesters (called giullari) and their popular versions of important episodes in Christ’s life. The Resurrection of Lazarus, for instance, is based on the sketch of a frieze that Fo saw somewhere. In it, we see people marveling at the miracle of the resurrection (happening outside the frame, as it were), and while they’re watching Jesus, someone is picking a man’s pocket. The divine is present in the scene in reflection, but at the same time, sordid humanity fills the frame. And that is really the theme of the whole work: Christ may work miracles, but he is also filled to overflowing with the joys and pains of being alive. My personal favorite scene, if you can call it that, is Death and the Fool, where the fool, who always knows more than he lets on, happens to meet Death on Maundy Thursday in the inn where Jesus and the apostles are having the last supper. In order to buy some time, the Fool basically hooks up with Death. It is somehow both touching and hilarious.

RECOMMENDATION: Dario Fo is incredible. Read everything by him that you can get your hands on.

WHAT’S NEXT: Joseph Brodsky.

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