“A feeling of beauty, of totality, of being one with everything else.” – The Silence of the Wave by Gianrico Carofiglio
In The Silence of the Wave, which is primarily set in Rome, we meet Roberto Marias, formerly of the Carabinieri, Italy’s national military police. I say ‘formerly’ because when this story commences, he is on extended leave and does not know if he will ever return to the force.
In the course of doing undercover work, Roberto has sustained a deeply traumatic psychic injury. As the novel opens, he is under the care of a psychiatrist. The bulk of the narrative consists of transcriptions of their therapeutic sessions. The result is that while the plot is rather inert, especially at the outset, the psychology is deep, and getting deeper all the time. There is a great deal of pain that must be suffered, anger that must be expressed, and self-disclosure that has to happen if the healing process is to be real and effective.
Meanwhile, the good doctor – I don’t recall whether his name is ever given – is a man of exceptional eloquence and wisdom. In this passage, he’s trying to explain to Roberto the erratic course one often travels while on the way to recovery:
“The backward steps derive from a fear of change. If we live with suffering for a long time, it ends up becoming somehow part of us. when we start to feel better, when we start to detach ourselves from the suffering, we experience contradictory states off mind. On the one hand we’re pleased, on the other we feel uneasy, because we’re missing something that was part of our identity and guaranteed us a kind of balance. That’s the reason for this fluctuation between euphoria and sadness.”
I am intrigued by this admixture of psychology and philosophy. It puts me in mind of the final lines of Byron’s poem “The Prisoner of Chillon:”
‘My very chains and I grew friends,So much a long communion tendsTo make us what we are:—even IRegain’d my freedom with a sigh.’
It takes a while to find out just what the precipitating events were that so incapacitated Roberto in heart and mind. As the novel progressed, I began to feel more and more invested in Roberto’s treatment, and to wish, with increasing fervor, for his recovery.
The Wave in the title refers to surfing. Roberto had grown up in California and had embraced the sport with enthusiasm. Even though he hasn’t done it in years, he can still recall what it felt like to ride the waves:
“You have a feeling of truth, I don’t know how to put this, the sense that everything is…brought into focus. A feeling of beauty, of totality, of being one with everything else. When the wave carries you, you feel you’re part of it, if you understand what I mean, you feel that everything finally has a meaning….And there’s a perfect harmony, in those seconds when you’re there, a balance between the sea and the sky, almost still, while you slide very fast between the water and the air, and the roar. You pass through the middle of the wave, exactly equidistant from those opposites.”
I love the way Giancarlo Carofiglio writes. Praise is also due to Howard Curtis, who translated this novel from the Italian.
As I’ve been sitting here working on this post, with The Silence of the Wave reposing beside the keyboard, it has occurred to me that as well as loving the contents of this book, I take delight in its physical presence as well. It measures eight and a half inches by five, and is about an inch thick. It seems downright elegant in its compactness. It’s a library book, and the mylar jacket cover enhances this effect. Finally the cover image seems appropriately muted and indistinct. I love handing this small volume and will be sorry to bid it farewell.
In this space I have also posted a brief review of Temporary Perfections. This was the first book I read by Carofiglio and the fourth in the Guido Guerrrieri series. (On Stop! You’re Killing Me, this character is described as “a jaded defense lawyer.” Don’t let that deter you; for the most part he’s a delight to spend time with.) I’ve also read Involuntary Witness, the first novel in this series. I found this one rather slow going at the outset, but I ended by liking it quite a bit. Guido Guerrrieri lives and practices in Bari, a regional capital in the south of Italy. Bari is also Gianrico Carofiglio’s birthplace.