‘There are no alternatives’ – Franco Fortini (1960)

‘1960’[1]

There are no alternatives. This is the truth that each day is repeated to us. There are no alternatives to reality. The world is one. There is no other world. As far as it concerns us, the time-to-come resembles the past. In any case, not even the time-to-come exists: you do not have one. Without being old you already know the whole repetition. There are no alternatives. You must simply submit. Submit to society. Marxism’s arguments are turned against you. It is useless to look beyond: socialism and capitalism are absurd distinctions. The only thing that is real is the annual growth rate of the USSR and the USA, the relationship between investment and consumption in the European Economic Community, capital [investment] in Africa or India. Do they want to scare you with war? But not even war is an alternative, they explain to you that it is simply death.

They explain to you that no other alternative exists, outside the one that is too common to be true which is the end of all alternatives. You must not say that you are desperate. You are not even desperate. You are in non-hope. It is entirely different.  

The Cave of Despair c.1835 J. M. W. Turner

‘Intraworldly refusal of the world’[2]

By now we speak only for those who can no longer endure. Now, the misunderstanding on this point can be extremely dangerous. One must ask oneself what no longer being able to endure means.

First, it means something other than absolute desperation and from the refusal of the world. Clearly the most obvious lesson of these years is that of the refusal of the world accompanied by a presence in the world. Only the foolish are disappointed. We need to know whether we accept the religious conversion of those who have given everything up in the hope that all will be given in addition[3] – the highest temptation of alienated man – or whether we remain firmly persuaded by the Romantic and Marxist and Existentialist [idea] that life is unique and unrecoverable. ‘Taking away hope and leaving us certainty.’


[1] From L’Ospite ingrate primo (1967), now in Saggi ed epigrammi, Mondadori, Milan: 926.

[2] From L’Ospite ingrate primo (1967): 926.

[3] ‘In addition’ translates soprammercato, a curious expression that goes back to the fifteen-hundreds and today simply means an extra, something in addition. It is composed of two terms, sopra, ‘above’, and mercato, ‘market’, or something over and above to what is given in exchange. I would suggest that Fortini had Marx’s concept of surplus value very much in mind. 

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