Serena Dandini: «The childhood home, the lost money. Irony saved me

from Jennifer Guerra

Dialogue on nostalgia and desire between two women of different generations. Starting from a certain idea of ​​a garden. The comparison with the past develops into a story in which several female personalities do not live on memories and have had plants as allies

Serena Dandini opens her new book, Chronicles from Paradise, with a quote from Emily Dickinson: Heaven depends on us. If hell is the others, heaven nestles above all in the personal dimension of memory. a family dimension, which we are able to control. a secret garden of which only we possess the keys, to which we can access whenever we want. But what happens when the door closes behind us? Dandini tries to answer in a book that is halfway between autobiography and hagiography, where the past that cannot return mixes with the stories of those who have tried to rebuild the garden. Personalities, especially females, who have never been satisfied with basking in memories. With a precious tool: plants. And for those who feel denied and excluded from the possibility of returning to Eden, he assures him, the black thumb does not exist.

In Chronicles from Paradise you alternate childhood memories with stories that in one way or another refer to the theme of Eden. In the very first pages you write: Not that desire guides us. I really liked this sentence, because as a feminist the word “desire” is a key word for me, which actually guides my every step.

nice that you caught it. I wish for a talisman word. For women it has always been something to fight for. You have to fight just to want to do what you want, to be the person you want to become, to get out of the cage that society has placed around you. Going back in time, I think of the story of Jeanne Baret that in the eighteenth century she disguised herself as a man and sailed on Bougainville to become a recognized botanist. But maybe even just to travel. For my generation, traveling was an urgent and forbidden desire. But even now, I think of the desire of Iranian girls to be themselves, to show themselves. Regardless of any ideology, it should be the first thing to teach girls: you can wish.

The figures you cite, such as Jeanne Baret, are disruptive, desiring. The first Eve, who we all think ate the apple of sin, when most likely it was a fig, Linnaeus says a banana tree. The image of Eve picking the fig reminded me of a metaphor from Sylvia Plath in The Bell Jar: she sees a fig tree in front of her and knows that if she picks one fruit all the others will wither. A man, on the other hand, can choose all the figs he wants, for him they will all always be ripe. Eva’s choice was perhaps then an obligatory choice. Per wanted to do it, and this is the most important thing. It was she who started it all, who changed things. If you look at the iconography, Adam was desperate and would have gladly stayed where he was. And so today we women still have the guilt of original sin on our shoulders, which keeps coming back: refusing marriage, interrupting a pregnancy, deciding anything for ourselves.

Naomi Wolf also says it in Myth of Beauty, which I edited with Maura Gancitano. You mention original sin because the myth feeds on a mechanism of guilt and redemption. As a woman, you always have to atone for something wrong you’ve done, like getting cellulite or growing old, and only a miracle can save you.

Imagine, being old is a capital crime.

Indeed for Wolf the myth of beauty serves not only to divide men from women, but also women from each other. Powerful people are all men of a certain age, and the young ones want to be like them, regardless of appearance. A young woman doesn’t look at an older woman as a model, but as something to be avoided. You tell us a lot about the key figures in your family, especially the female ones. You say that the daughters perceive the discomfort of their mothers, somehow they know what sacrifices they have had to make for them.

something that makes you suffer as a child, even if you don’t fully understand it. Perhaps also what pushes you not to be like your mother, to seek your own identity. I wonder if this is also the case for the new generations, with more emancipated mothers who work and dress as they please. Perhaps my generation is the last in which there is this dynamic. It happens that women who could be my mother come to my public meetings and tell me that they discovered feminism at the age of fifty, thanks to their daughters. There is almost an exchange of roles. mutual enrichment. It also happens to me that my daughter makes me understand or discover things, despite my path of emancipation. Inside me, many things remain suspended, which I have also told in the book. Certain frailties that I hid to move forward, showing myself as a superhero.

In my opinion, liberation also means accepting one’s weaknesses. Certain aspects of my character are at odds with the image of the strong and confident feminist. Feminism has led me to understand that I am not wrong and that conforming to a model, even that of the “emancipated woman”, would be a mistake.

To overcome this dualism between strength and weakness, irony and self-irony helped me a lot. a fundamental tool for accepting fragility, because you can look in the mirror and accept by triggering the mechanism of laughter. Girls’ TV, a program that is your age (laughs), born from this very desire: you are a woman and you enjoy yourself, you are a feminist and you enjoy yourself. Without any moralizing.

Lately I’ve noticed a sort of “backward moralism”, even in feminism: you have to be perfect, always take yourself seriously. If you try to be ironic, out of line, you often get misunderstood.

It is rather important. Virginia Woolf also said it in an essay on irony: women are serious but take themselves less seriously, while men must always be in one piece. Virginia is always right, always. In the book the ironic lens is not lacking, even when I tell very personal things. stronger than me, a matter of survival.

Chronicles from Paradise indeed full of melancholy and nostalgia, but every now and then these ironic moments arrive to ease the tension.

I had to rediscover nostalgia a bit. You have to surrender: nostalgia is the engine of all films, books, paintings. You have to surrender, yes, but you can’t bask. The book opens with the discovery of the announcement of the sale of my childhood home. If my father hadn’t lost everything, I probably wouldn’t have been the same person, I wouldn’t have had the drive to differentiate myself from this cumbersome family. Now I look at her tenderly, while in the past it made me think more: what kind of family was it? (laughs). For me, starting from scratch was wonderful.

Being different from others is a plus, it helps to have a different look, to get out of cultural uniformity. A few years ago, not having had certain privileges made me angry, but then I realized that it was a resource.

an extra eye, which allows you to look at things with disenchantment. I was never afraid of having no money again, I was only interested in doing what I liked. What I wanted.

November 24, 2022 (change November 24, 2022 | 09:20)

Serena Dandini: «The childhood home, the lost money. Irony saved me