Postmodern Alice 3 – Alice, The Barbarian

     “What is the use of a book without pictures or conversation?” wonders Alice in Carroll’s masterpiece, which for decades  has been closely  associated in the popular imagination  with the 42 wonderful illustrations by Tenniel,  realized in 1864 and replaced nearly a century later by Walt Disney’s animation movie and, in more recent years, was superimposed  by Burton 3D.

     Very tired, like Barricco’s ‘I Barbari’, she effects a mental escape into an alternative world in which images and conversations are central, far from the static, bookish world inhabited by her sister.

      As Barricco has it: “Barbarians do not really take history into account (in the Disney version, Alice’s sister is reading a history book!). Undoubtedly the instinctive move with which distances them from the redemptive potential of their soul resembles that of a burnt child who avoids the fire. T^Rationality is not in question: the move is nervous, spontaneous like that of an animal…(she is following a White Rabbit down the hole to its den in a kind of mental surfing…”

     And what a wonderful surfer Alice is, not just because she rides the waves of her thoughts!

     She plunges down into the White Rabbit’s den exactly the way real surfers “tube” when they ride in the tube formed by a wave only to be covered by the lip it forms when it curls and crashes. They slow down, lose speed, squat, and lower their heads to prolong the brief space of time they pass in this “green room” while the ceiling of the wave hangs above their heads before leaving it when it collapses. “It is so cool!” writes a neofite surfer, when he comes to describe his first experience in a fan chat room. “It is even relaxing because you have no fear of falling, and even if you were to fall nothing woul really happen!”. This also applies to Alice. Either the well was very deep, or she fell very slowly, for she had plenty of time as she went down to look about her and to wonder what was going to happen next. First, she tried to look down and make out what she was coming to, but it was too dark to see anything; then she looked at the sides of the well… And here Alice began to get rather sleepy, and went on saying to herself, in a dreamy sort of way…. when suddenly, thump! thump! down she came upon a heap of sticks and dry leaves, and the fall was over. Alice was not a bit hurt, and she jumped up on to her feet in a moment”. After which she will find herself out of the well, afloat in a welter of waves… created by her own tears: “she soon made out that she was in the pool of tears which she had wept when she was nine feet high”.

     Not anticipate, we will once again have recourse to Barricco’s sea-ocean of words: “If you think of mental surfing, of horizontal man, of the meaning that is lost on the surface, of mistrust of depth, then you will be able to percieve the sensations of an animal in search of a habitat that will protect it from its atavic disaster.”

     Alice is a barbarian; this is beyond question. As she dives down into the Rabbit’s den, she is in search of a world in which depth coincides with the surface of a mirror (down down down, obsessively repeats Reverend C.L. Dodgson, alias  Lewis Carroll, while describing her angelic fall – falling down- in the well; it is a very deep well, the Ipo-uranium antechamber of Wonderland).

     A topsy-turvy world of imagination and of the wonderous in the age of Carroll has in many respects become the real world of our own times. It is a brand new, wild world, “a brave new world” to say it with Shakespeare: it provides images mobile and bizarre and is made up of conversations, with others and with ourselves…Like that of Hamlet, in“ an insane time”, lost in the labyrinths of Elsinore, who, after invading Yorick’s grave, debates, in his inner forum, with in his hand the jester’s skull, which is a symbol of Time passing and in which he foresees his own death . This image, although similar, is the opposite, in some ways, from that of the White Rabbit as he runs and mutters, out of breath because late, consulting the pocket watch hanging from his vest, but on the point of diving  into the den that will initiate those who follow him into the topsy-turvy mirror of Wonderland. It is a  brand new world that reminds us of the primordial cocktail from our western culture originates: Plato’s philosophy, in short, is again with us; we are dealing with images or rather with ideas in the etymological sense of the Greek verb ὁράω[orao],- to see-) but also with conversations ( dialogues).

Translation from Marco Minghetti’s Alice Annotata – 3 (Alice Postmoderna):

 by Sabrina Fiorella Larson & John Meddemmmen

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