Il desiderio di potere e il potere del desiderio: La “catastrofe del colonialismo” in Wanting di Richard Flanagan


Wanting (2008), a moving novel by the Tasmanian writer Richard Flanagan, is a stern and provocative condemnation of what the author defines as “the catastrophe of colonialism”. The antipodean imperial adventure has, on the one hand, permanently affected the aboriginal people destroying their civilization and culture, while, on the other, has influenced the process of identity construction of a country which is still struggling to free itself from the national legend and its founding myths. The article examines the innovative features of this ‘neo-Victorian’ text (inadequate definition to represent its complexity and originality) which subverts the traditional genre of the historical novel in order to explore, through postmodern writing strategies, reworked to serve the writer’s postcolonial project, the “overlapping territories, intertwined histories” (Said 1993) generated by colonial expansion. Connecting stories which embrace the new and the old world, Flanagan questions the official version of the peaceful white settlement in Van Diemen’s Land and the myth of the “magnificent and progressive destiny” of Victorian society, reflecting on the power of words and on the responsibility of creative writing. Thanks to his delicate and participated work of rediscovery and rewriting of the past, which takes shape throughout the novel, Flanagan leads the reader towards a form of understanding and “empathic knowledge” (LaCapra 2014) aimed at urging the assumption of a shared responsibility.


Abstract –  Wanting (2008), toccante romanzo dello scrittore tasmaniano Richard Flanagan, è una severa e provocatoria denuncia di quella che, nell’opera, l’autore definisce “la catastrofe del colonialismo”. L’avventura imperiale agli antipodi da una parte ha segnato in maniera indelebile il popolo aborigeno, dall’altra ha condizionato il processo di costruzione dell’identità del paese che, ancora oggi, fatica ad affrancarsi dalla leggenda nazionale e dai suoi miti fondanti. L’articolo prende in esame i tratti innovativi del testo “neo-vittoriano” (definizione insufficiente a rappresentarne la complessità e l’originalità) che sovverte le forme del genere tradizionale del romanzo storico per esplorare, attraverso strategie di scrittura postmoderne rielaborate attraverso una sensibilità dalla marcata impronta postcoloniale, gli “overlapping territories, intertwined histories” (Said 1993) generati dall’espansione coloniale. Tessendo un intreccio sapiente di storie che abbracciano nuovo e vecchio mondo, lo scrittore contesta la versione ufficiale del pacifico insediamento dei bianchi nella Terra di Van Diemen e il mito delle “magnifiche sorti e progressive” della società vittoriana, mentre, a un tempo, interroga le narrazioni del paese moderno e democratico, riflettendo sul potere della parola e sulla responsabilità della scrittura creativa. Grazie al delicato lavoro di ricostruzione, testimonianza e sostanziale ‘restituzione’, che prende forma nelle pagine del romanzo, Flanagan conduce il lettore a una modalità di comprensione e conoscenza “empatica” (LaCapra 2014) intesa a sollecitare l’assunzione di una responsabilità condivisa.

DOI Code: 10.1285/i22390359v59p175

Keywords: Flanagan; Wanting; New historical novel; Colonialism; Dickens


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