Recensione 079 – A Complicated Kindness di Miriam Toews

giugno 16, 2011 § Lascia un commento

Autore: Miriam Toews
Titolo: A Complicated Kindness
(Titolo italiano: Un complicato atto d’amore)
Edizione: Gardners Books, 2005
(Edizione italiana: Adelphi, 2005)
Pag.: 248
ISBN: 9780571224005

Il libro è ambientato in una cittadina mennonita canadese, ironicamente chiamata East Village, proprio come il quartiere di New York. Ironicamente, perchè la East Village canadese è una comunità religiosa fondamentalista.

We’re Mennonites. As far as I know, we are the most embarassing sub-sect of people to belong to if you’re a teenager. […] We are supposed to be cheerfully yearning for death and in the meantime, until that blessed day, our lives are meant to be facsimiles of death or at least the dying process. (5)

Quando Nomi Nickel, la protagonista e voce narrante di questo romanzo, era una bambina, amava la religione mennonita e la certezza che la sua famiglia avrebbe vissuto per sempre insieme in paradiso. Se solo si fossero ricordati di comportarsi bene.

The only thing I needed to know was that we were all going to live forever, together, happily, in heaven with God, and without pain and sadness and sin. And in my town that is the deal. It’s taken for granted. We’ve been hand-picked. We’re on a fast track, singled out, and saved. It was the one thing I counted on and I couldn’t understand why my own immediate family would make little feints and jabs in directions other than up, up, up to God. (17)

Il problema di vivere in una simile comunità è che le scelte individuali  non sono permesse e, quando qualcuno mette in discussione l’autorità religiosa abbastanza a lungo o con abbastanza fervore, viene scomunicato, bandito. Vuol dire essere morti per la comunità ma anche per la propria famiglia, che deve comportarsi come se tu non esistessi più, anche se vivi ancora insieme a loro. Nonostante i suoi difetti, Nomi crede che nella sua comunità ci sia qualcosa di buono:

But there is kindness here, a complicated kindness. You can see it sometimes in the eyes of people when they look at you and don’t know what to say. When they ask me how my dad is, for instance, and mean how am I managing without my mother. Even Mr. Quiring, the teacher I am disappointing on a regular basis, periodically gives me a break. Says he knows things must be a little difficult at home. Offers to give me extensions, says he’s praying for us. I don’t mind. (46)

Ma ora Nomi non solo è un’adolescente ma è un’adolescente che vive sola con il padre nella loro casa. La madre Trudie e la sorella Tash – “the better-looking half” della sua famiglia – se ne sono andate. Nomi cerca di affrontare la situazione e di capire cosa è successo. Inoltre cerca di crescere, di capire cosa fare con la sua vita, e sperimenta il primo amore.
Questo è un romanzo meraviglioso: in parte autobiografico, triste ma anche ironico e divertente. Il mondo di Nomi è centrato sulla religione ma le sue esperienze hanno davvero un significato universale.
Assolutamente raccomandato.

Giudizio: 5/5

This book is set in a Canadian Mennonite town called – oh, irony! – East Village, just like the New York district. I say this is ironic because the Canadian East Village is a fundamentalist religious community.

We’re Mennonites. As far as I know, we are the most embarassing sub-sect of people to belong to if you’re a teenager. […] We are supposed to be cheerfully yearning for death and in the meantime, until that blessed day, our lives are meant to be facsimiles of death or at least the dying process. (5)

When Nomi Nickel, the main character and narrator of this novel, was a little girl, she loved the Mennonite religion and the certainty her family was going to be together forever in heaven. If only all of them could behave.

The only thing I needed to know was that we were all going to live forever, together, happily, in heaven with God, and without pain and sadness and sin. And in my town that is the deal. It’s taken for granted. We’ve been hand-picked. We’re on a fast track, singled out, and saved. It was the one thing I counted on and I couldn’t understand why my own immediate family would make little feints and jabs in directions other than up, up, up to God. (17)

The problem of living within such a community is that individual choices are not permitted and, when someone calls into question religious authority long enough or with enough eagerness, he or she is shunned – that is excommunicated. Once you are shunned, you are dead for the community and for your family too. They must behave just like you do not exist anymore, even if you are still living in the same house.
Notwithstanding its flaws, Nomi feels there is something good in her community:

But there is kindness here, a complicated kindness. You can see it sometimes in the eyes of people when they look at you and don’t know what to say. When they ask me how my dad is, for instance, and mean how am I managing without my mother. Even Mr. Quiring, the teacher I am disappointing on a regular basis, periodically gives me a break. Says he knows things must be a little difficult at home. Offers to give me extensions, says he’s praying for us. I don’t mind. (46)

Anyway now Nomi is not only an adolescent, but also an adolescent living alone with her father in their house. Her mother Trudie and her sister Tash – “the better-looking half” of her family – are gone. Nomi tries to cope with the situation and to understand what happened. She is also trying to grow up, to understand what to do with her life, and she is experiencing first love too.
This is a wonderful novel: autobiographic to some extent, sad but also ironic and funny. Nomi’s world is centered on religion but her experiences have a really universal meaning.
Absolutely recommended.

Rating: 5/5

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