Since the first acts of creation the roots of civilization have been grounded in the human narrative as “storytelling” and its ability to evidence experience, implicit and explicit, to explain life’s emotive conditions. Such empathy pushed our belief systems to higher levels of consciousness. These insights of our earlier Palaeolithic uncertainties have influenced our imagination to give primal foundation as religion, language and art, which humanize cultural development. Such specialization helped evolve behavioural transitions then moulded (iconic) symbols and oral storytelling into aesthetic modes. This notion of collective awakening became the essence of who we are and as such is at the heart of the intrinsic art of Sudbury author Rosanna Micelotta Battigelli.
In Micelotta Battigelli’s latest book, Pigeon Soup & Other Stories (Inanna 2021), we discover the singular sensitivity of such social norms and universal truths. Her creative dexterity between diametrical emotion and semi-biographical narrative, guides her vision and wills subjects through a series of imaginative testaments that root her rustic Italian-Canadian essence. The author builds these perceptive fields with layers of allegorical intrigue and diametrical allusions of broken souls yearning for hopeful resolutions.
According to Roland Barthes, short stories are a form of “semiological postulation” – literary forms of artistic relationships between a signifier and signified. This interrelationship belongs to the interplay of the “communication process.” In other words, the artist is at liberty to formalize “qualities” of life and share their sense of “equivalence of existence.” Therefore the artist’s insight looks to a higher degree of awareness. This state elevates the existential proficiency of a reader’s cognitive ability to formalize a “story” and its meaning. In Micelotta Battigelli’s case, the creative experience becomes an act of “inter-relational discovery” that endears subjective notions to live beyond aesthetic meaning.
The Italian linguist Umberto Eco suggests in Serendipity, Language and Lunacy, when different cultures meet, the result becomes a “reciprocal diversity” with three possibilities. The first is Conquest or an inability to accept different cultures as “barbarian effect.” Second, Cultural Pillage, when members of one culture recognize, but subjugate into new cultures, much like the Greeks absorbed Egyptian culture. Lastly, Exchange, similar to the influence Jesuits had on Marco Polo’s adventures when they brought eco/cultural growth into Asian diametrics, fusing evocative characterization with diverse story lines.
History tells us, the migratory aesthetics of writers such as: T.S. Elliot, Joseph Conrad and Thomas Wolfe were imbedded within multi-layers of ethereal imaginative schisms that polarized the variance of light/shade as “fear and loathing.” This permeated primordial Neolithic imagination into Jungian notions of chiaroscuro instincts as temporal sfumato springboards used as primal “logos” of symbolic influence.
These ethereal notions are at the heart of Rosanna Micelotta Battigelli’s enchanted tales of Northern Ontario influence. At the age of three she became endeared to search for creative meaning, in diverse cultures. Then she discovered the love of writing as a principal “home base” which shaped her craft into a magical tapestry of wonder and inter-relational identity. Her journey from the village of Camini in Italy to Canada moulded her curiosity similar to the great 19th century ships that travelled to America, searching for the virtue of hopeful transitions as pivotal axis.
Micelotta Battigelli’s Pigeon Soup & Other Stories offers seemingly effusive subjugation in eight enchanting offerings. Her voice becomes a blended echo, mixed with the diverse uncertainty and grace of personal human struggles. The stories are measured accounts of rustic neo-Calabrian dissonance elevating the intense spiritual forces of subconscious open fields that colour their tempered harshness and burst into sparks like a rustic cavalleria of song and hopeful substance.
This transmutation of subjective text and storytelling, in eight erudite adventures, spices and folds colourful effect as atmospheric ethical affliction that tears the tipsy superstitions of Santo, a Calabrian taxi driver in Pigeon Soup. Micelotta Battigelli then introduces us to the laboured shame of youthful ridicule in “Alligator Shoes.” Here harsh conditions are ritualized through the empathetic Angie and her doting mother Francesca as they face the tedious task of making sausage (salsicce) in “Francesca’s Way” where mother and daughter struggle with indifference, heartbreak and adjustment to an altered set of cultural values. This sanctity of silence and indiscretions springs us into a sense of cynicism in “This Too Shall Pass,” where the protagonist Angelo struggles with the lurid silence of breached sanctity and parental misgivings ruptured by the conditions of predatory faith. This drifts us into the grandmotherly (nonna’s) Greco-Calabrian brooding with the idiomatic superstitions of a young child’s haunting fascination with death and absence in “The Hawk.” The primal phantoms of winged terror fascinate with (zingari) gypsies and (u babau) boogeymen.
This selfless contradiction and ritual shifts deeply into “Veiled Intentions” and its cruel dangling of ethereal lessons, followed by the racial inevitability and drunken coming of age of Frank and Vic during the FLQ murders in Quebec’s eclectic 1970s that leave both helpless in “Degrees of Separation.” Micelotta Battigelli closes her fascinating series with the re-setting of religious prejudice between families who, in “Black as Tar,” navigate the norms of selfless contradictions and diverse humility as a redeeming act of grace and acceptance. She writes, “The characters in this collection are embroiled in situations that test their limits …. They are navigating relationships and grappling with issues of translocation, language and identity, religion and culture, and food.”
Like our ancient Palaeolithic ancestors, Micelotta Battigelli understands the primal act of storytelling. She weaves her Ionian tapestry into a Jungian notion of harnessed light pushing its lurid obsessions of fluid mysteries that originally shaped her creative foresights. This harsh condition and localized “wants and fears” inevitably fascinate beyond selfless limitations and personal identity. For many Italian-Canadian writers, this also sets physical and spiritual bridges that nudge the need of transformative allegory to encapsulate the essence of personal knowledge as a serious act of art. Rosanna Micelotta Battigelli is a pivotal writer you must read.
Rosanna Micelotta Battigelli‘s 2018 historical novel La Brigantessa received an International Gold IPPY Award and was a finalist for the Canadian Authors Association Fred Kerner Book Award. To order Pigeon Soup & Other Stories, click here.
Angelo Sgabellone’s latest work is I Terroni, a metaphysical journey into the soul of Southern Italy. He has worked for Maclean’s, The Financial Post, Canadian House and Home and University of Toronto Magazine. He lives in Toronto.