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You're All Alone · Original Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
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8 PM
“Does anything strike you right away?”

“No,” I said. We were in a lighted room looking at a painting which ran nearly seven feet up the wall. I wished that something really did strike me about it, so I would have something to say to Leopold, who shuffled behind me as he talked and observed my expressions in a stout leather jacket.

I was visiting Italy looking for adventure—my mother is Italian, or part Italian. I told my friends I was traveling to find my roots, to touch base with what I had forgotten. Leopold and I met outside the airport. He owned a taxi business, but was stranded for a day, due to a flight complication. He took an interest in me.

“What do you think, eh?” he asked; the sense was the same but the question hit differently. I hunched my shoulders and squinted a little, and he laughed at my effort. “You know,” he said, as though I were suddenly an expert, “Tornelli underwent frequent psychoanalysis in the thirties. He thought it was a new thing in humanity, the study of the soul in all its movements. It was not a religion for him, but a cosmology, shall we say.”

“Did he stay in Italy?” I asked. I could hear Leopold breathing next to me.

He didn’t answer, but put his hands in the pockets of his big, stiff jacket, and smiled under his moustache. “What do you think?” he asked again. He had a new angle this time. “Was this done before or after his psychoanalysis?”

I thought about Kant, in response to him, and particles, and the Bhagavat Gita. I squinted some more—harder this time. The painting had a lustrous and imposing frame. I tried, but couldn’t resist it. All of Italy’s history might have been folded into its curlicues, I thought. Leopold was side-eyeing me, and I nearly answered him.

“What is it,” he said, though, it wasn’t a question anymore.

“It was made before his psychoanalysis,” I asserted. “You can tell because you can see that the whole thing is a mirror of his dream. Italy was his great, big dream, like Michelangelo’s empyrean. When a man psychoanalyzes he no longer has dreams. He only has himself.”

The canvas was black, as dark as the door of a coffin. On it had been put a radiant blue cube, the color of nickel candy, which decanted down the surface into smaller cubes. Here, the artist had removed the gradient. What was left melted away into pools of monochrome, the sun on the Adriatic Sea, which fell through the bottom of the canvas space like a switch river passing into the still trench of a froggy braid.

The museum was cold. I felt myself shiver in the polyester throw-over I took from Maryland. I looked at Leopold. The smile had gone back into his moustache, and he looked up at the painting with a new expression, like a bushman fathoming the moon. It would be time to leave soon. I thought it would be best to leave him alone, though I wouldn’t—nor couldn’t—go without him. Would he leave without me? His distance shocked me. I nearly forgot what I was doing, and turned to the wall again.
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#1 · 2
A lot of this discussion goes over my head. I realize you don't have space to explain a lot of context in a minific, but then that also limits how esoteric you can get without really limiting your audience. For example, I have only a very basic idea of Kant, and I have no idea what Bhagavat Gita is. If they were just stray things to communicate "this guy is a scholar of philosophy," then fine, but in this case, I do feel like I'm missing something by not knowing.

I liked the discussion and Leopold's repeated invitations to interpret the painting, but I'm a little lost on the relationships described. Does Leopold live there? The fact that he owns a taxi business suggests that's why he's the narrator's ride, yet Leopold's reason for having time to kill makes it sound more like he's a traveler, since delayed flights shouldn't affect his taxi business much, unless it just means there's going to be a lack of fares for a while.

Maybe I'm just missing something. The last paragraph feels completely disconnected from the rest. The narrator's been trying to figure out this art, and I don't know what that has to to with the prompt (and personally I don't care much about obvious prompt relevance), leaving that last paragraph feeling like something tacked on to make it fit the theme. There'd been nothing about being alone before that, and it doesn't feel like a natural extension of their conversation. I like the way the rest of it flows, but that ending feels like a speed bump.
#2 · 1
· · >>Heavy_Mole
Per questa storia, mi chiedo veramente se devo scrivere il mio commento in inglese oppure se sono autorizzato a scriverlo in italiano. Ma visto che probabilmente nessuno qui parla italiano, proseguirò in inglese.

I agree with Pasco this fic feels somewhat disjointed. We don’t know much about the narrators, and why they end up in a museum. Frankly, there are so many other more exciting things to do in Italy than to look at massive paintings. I've lived there, so it’s from the horse's mouth :p

As I’m not a bumpkin like Pasco (:p) I know what the Bhagavad-Gîtâ is. I even have the book here on the table, bought at the time I'd decided to learn Sanskrit, something I finally ended up to renege on, given the lack of interest I developed for the ancient Hindu myths. I don’t care much about Krishna, karmas and the whole shebang. I feel more at ease with Plato, really.

That being said, the text is difficult to analyse because we don’t really know who the protagonist are, and what is at stake the behind the watching of the painting. Why are they where they are? What will happen next? Missing these fundamental points, the story lacks tension and we’re just watching the two guys from an outside point of view, as if we were just another visitor of the museum happening to stand just aside.

'The door of a coffin' is a strange metaphor. I'd rather use 'lid' here, but door has funny overtones, admittedly (like, I see a skeleton opening and shutting it every Saturday at midnight :p). But why would it have to be black?
#3 · 1
To be fair, the guy/gal is not really Italian--they are from Maryland, a place not known for having an illustrious cultural heritage. It is a very "American" habit to claim ancestry in remote places, on scant evidence. It's not surprising they don't know what to do!

That's the background of this character. I just re-read this story after a week or so of having not looked at it. Leopold, it is true, could use a little more clarification. The point of Kant/the Gita/the Standard Model is that they are cosmological reference points, "outside" of the speaker, as it were. He/she is just trying to paste them over their experience, which is right in front of them.

I am disappointed you did not continue with Sanskrit, but I understand. One can only have so many branches growing, and learning a literary language is a big branch. It is interesting that you should contrast it with Plato, though, who, in my mind, reflects a definite deviation from the common source of the Vedic and 'Western' intellectual traditions. And, at the risk of sounding cheeky, that is just the kind of range I was aiming for, in the speaker's pastiche of thoughts.

It is a psychological play. The characters "need" each other--one is confident in the world, but can't make sense of what he sees when he steps back; the other squints, in a throw-over, and has no idea who they are. One asks, and asks; the other answers, but somehow they don't communicate.