Sunday, October 07, 2007

Ostia (the death of Pasolini)

Would anyone dare to describe Jhonn Balance's death as a tragedy in the literal sense of the word - as an organized expression which forms the logical end point of Coil's oeuvre?


In an article in the September 27, 2007 issue of The New York Review Of Books , called "The Passion Of Pasolini" Nathaniel Rich reviews several books on the Italian filmmaker and author. Among the books reviewed is a catalog for a 2005 exhibition at the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich, called "P.P.P.: Pier Paolo Pasolini And Death". One of the authors of the catalog, Giuseppe Zigaina, proposes the theory that Pasolini organized his own death as an artwork that would be the crown upon his entire oeuvre. Zagaina in fact proposes that Pasolini's death was an suicidal artwork.

Nathaniel Rich writes: "Zigaina is not the first writer to examine Pasolini's work for clues to his death. Just after it happened, Alberto Moravia, who had been Pasolini's close friend for more than thirty years and who wrote a book about his murder in 1977, said that he recognized the murder scene in Ostia from Pasolini's descriptions of several landscapes in his two novels, Ragazzi di vita (The Ragazzi) and Una Vita Violenta (A Violent Life), and in an image from his first film, Accatone. (Pasolini had actually shot footage of the site a year earlier, for use in his film Il fiore delle mille e una notte [A Thousand And One Nights]). But Zigaina is the first to interpret these connections as anything more than poetic irony".

I think Alberto Moravia's book that Rich is referring to is the 1977 book "Pasolini: cronaca giudiziaria, persecuzione, morte" by Fernando Bandini and Laura Betti. The book has a preface by Moravia.

Moravia's account of an unnatural death announcing itself in an artist's work long before that death occurs, reminded me strongly of Coil muscian Jhonn Balance and his death. Like Pasolini, Balance's lyrics give the impression that he foresaw the circumstances of his own death - enough to make one fleetingly believe superstitious, irrational things. The Treshold House website states correctly that "...much of the work of Coil, Jhonn's Life's Work in fact, described or addressed that Very Moment" (meaning the moment of his death). What makes this parallel all the more uncanny, is that Coil wrote a song about Pasolini's death, "Ostia (the death of Pasolini)". The song is part of Coil's seminal 1987 album Horse Rotorvator; the lyrics are reproduced below. In the song, Balance identifies with Pasolini; and Balance seems to forecast his own death once more when he sings "Throw his bones over / The White Cliffs / of Dover": he died at home after drunkenly losing his balance and tipping over the banisters, falling down as one might fall from cliffs.

Would anyone dare to write an essay on Balance, which describes him as "the 'organizer' of his own death, which, conceived as a form of expression, was indented to give meaning to his entire oeuvre" - that is, the same way Zigaina describes Pasolini?




Ostia (the death of Pasolini)

There's honey in the
hollows
And the countours
of the body
A sluggish
golden river
A sickly golden trickle
A golden, sticky trickle
You can hear
the bones humming
And the car
reverses over
The body in the basin
In the shallow
sea-plane basin.
And the car
reverses over
And his body rolls over
Crushed
from the shoulder
You can hear the
Bones humming
Singing like
a puncture
Killed to keep
the world turning
Throw his bones over
The White Cliffs
of Dover
Into the sea
The Sea of Rome
And the bloodstained
coast
Of Ostia
Leon like a lion
Sleeping in
the sunshine.
Lion lies down.
"Out of the strong
Came forth sweetness."
Throw his bones over
The White Cliffs
of Dover
And murder me
In Ostia.
The Sea of Rome.
You can hear his
bones humming.
Throw his bones over
The White Cliffs
of Dover
And into the sea
The Sea of Rome
Then murder me,
In Ostia.


Post scriptum

Here is a link to a Guardian review of the exhibition on Pasolini.

You can purchase Rich's article here.

Below you'll see Moravia's eulogy at Pasolini's funeral.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

it's my favourite son by coil.

Philip Matthews said...

One might dare to describe Balance's death that way in time -- perhaps two decades away. Is that how long it might take for the death to pass into something "mythic"? I imagine that there are many who would upset by the suggestions of suicide in the Balance death -- Peter Christopherson has been adamant it was an accident -- but there is something not quite comforting but definitely preferable, at least to those who didn't know him, in the idea that there was some arrangement or plan to it, and the idea that the "Going Up" track on Ape of Naples, with its death references, somehow anticipated or described the death.

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