Resisti, Cuore (Hold on Heart)
The Odyssey is the most well-known and loved epic poem of our civilization, but also the term used to describe a difficult experience, and sometimes life itself. Why do we allow this word to be a synonym for life? Ulysses is a brand-new hero: he could have become immortal if he chose to stay with the beautiful Calypso, but he endeavours to return to Ithaca, to Penelope and Telemachus – to fulfil his own mortal fate, one he considers joyous. Ulysses loses everything, even his own identity after transforming from a king to a beggar, before being reborn thanks to those who still recognize and love him.
Achilles is the hero who dominates the world, while Ulysses is dominated by it. His own multifaceted intellect derives from the need to protect himself from the events of history. His story shows endurance: he will spend ten years journeying home after spending ten years fighting a war that wasn’t his to fight. How many of us went through something similar in life? How much did we suffer, how many people have we lost, and how many times have we drowned before understanding that the only cure for the undefeatable nostalgia of the future is to go back to our Ithaca? Not the Ithaca from our past, but the one that we still need to explore while staying loyal to our fate.
Alessandro D’Avenia retraces the twenty-four books of The Odyssey through the art of living, and he does justice to it. The author accompanies us through the piece with the expertise of a classics scholar that made the Odyssey his main area of interest. As a teacher, he encouraged reading it entirely aloud for years, and as an intellectual he is very skilled in interpreting the essence of time. While narrating Ulysses’ adventures, D’Avenia rediscovers a personal experience and human path towards his own original and existential fulfilment.
If we have lost the joy of our odyssey, re-reading The Odyssey is the best way to come back. By doing so, resisting won’t mean staying still anymore, but rather re-existing: being born. This is the art of being mortal.