Above the Arch by Renzo Novatore
A small booklet of Mr Novatore's work originally titled Al disopra dell'arco
A small booklet of Mr Novatore's work originally titled Al disopra dell'arco
Poetry by Novatore newly translated by Wolfi Landstreicher, recently found and so not included in the collection Novatore carried by LBC.
Above the Arch is in the style of Thus Spoke Zarathustra, which Novatore would have read and which--in voice, tone, and use of parable--almost certainly inspired this set.
Designed and produced by the same folks who bring you Baedan journal.
Novatore: a biography (new corrected version, thanks to Penwan)
To document Renzo Novatore's history is difficult due to the lack of in-depth information about his life. He wrote mainly on various anarchist magazines so the works today are spread on the archives of about ten issues – often being incomplete. Furthermore during the Fascist regime led by Benito Mussolini in Italy (1922-1943), most of his papers were sadly destroyed or lost.
Many of the facts reported below came from Italian criminal archives, the testimonies of his friend Tintino Rasi and abstracts from the precious book "Cavalieri del Nulla" by Massimo Novelli.
Renzo Novatore is the pen-name of Abele Ricieri Ferrari who was born in Arcola, Italy (a village near La Spezia, Liguria) on May 12 1890 to a poor peasant family.
Unwilling to adapt to scholarly discipline he only attended a few months of the first grade of grammar school and then quit forever.
Though his father forced him to work on the farm, his strong will and thirst for knowledge led him to become a self-taught poet and philosopher. As a youth Renzo explored literature outside the limits imposed by the educational system, reading Pisacane, Salgari, Cattaneo, Barilli, Tolstoj e Cavallotti and many others with a critical mind.
His region, Liguria, was in those days full of anarchist militants and circles. Rebel for a vocation, he plunged into such a milieu that he quickly came into contact with the anarchism and its theorists.
He discovered Malatesta and Kropotkin but also Ibsen and above all; Nietzsche, who Novatore often quoted. But the philosopher who mainly influenced Novatore's way of life and his personal view on anarchism was surely Max Stirner.
He was dazzled by the theories described by Stirner, especially his conception of individualism as an elevation of the Ego; the supreme destination for a personal who selfishly defines them self as the "Individual One".
So, from 1908 onward, he considered himself an individualist-anarchist, with a strong nihilist influence.
Some typical quotes of Novatore's thought are:
“I'm an individualist-anarchist, so I don't want and I can't espouse the cause of the atheistic communism, because I don't believe in the supreme elevation of the crowds and so I deny the realization of Anarchy, intended as a form of social living for the human beings.”
“Anarchy is for me a mean to gain the realization of the individual man.
The individual man is not the mean for the realization of the Anarchy. If this were true, even the anarchy would be a spook. If the weak man dreams of anarchy for a social purpose, the strong man practises the anarchy as a mean of individualization.”
One of his believes was that man, as a citizen and a member of the society, was always threatened by two social "spooks": the Rights of Man, that is the State and Christ, that is the religion.
He asserted that:
“The Christ's cross symbolizes your POSSIBILITY to become a MAN, while the ‘rights of man’ symbolize the very same thing.
To Reach the perfection you need to deify yourself for the first, become human for the second.
But they both agree in proclaiming the imperfection of the individual-man, the real Ego, affirming that only across the realization of the ideal, the man can rise to
magic peaks of the perfection.
Christ tells you: if you will climb patiently the desolate Calvary and then leave them to nail you on the cross, becoming like me, the god-man, you will be the perfect human creature worthy to sit on the right-hand side of my Father, who is in the Kingdom of Heaven.
And the French Revolution tells you: I proclaimed the rights of man. If you will enter devoutly into the symbolic cloister of the social justice to exalt you and to humanize you to the standards of the moral and social life, you will be a citizen and I will give you your rights, proclaiming you a man. But the person who dare to throw to the flames the cross on which the god-man is hanging and the tables where they have cynically engraved the rights of man, and then to put the centre axis of his life on the virgin granitic boulder of the free strength, he would be an impious and a wicked man who should be thrown into the bloody jaws of the two spooks: the divine and the human.
To the right side the sulphuric and sempiternal flames of the hell that punishes the SIN and to the left side the dull crunching of the guillotine that sentences the CRIME.”
So, for the religion and the State the man is always incomplete, unless you decide to kneel in front of the two social spooks.
In 1910, he was charged with the burning of a local church and spent three months in prison, but his participation in the fire was never proved. A year later, he went on the lam for several months because the police wanted him for theft and robbery. On September 30, 1911, the police arrested him for vandalism. In 1914, he began to write for anarchist papers.
His writing style, very aggressive and without any romanticism or moralism, could be referred to the Futurism; a literary style which appeared in the early XX century, whose purpose was to break with the past century and to create a new style suitable to the great changes of the new world.
Novatore considered wage-earning work only a more refined form of slavery, and he used to say, seeing a labourer worn-out covered of sweat and dust: "Is he a man?!". So he thought, in his personal philosophy of life, that he has the right to expropriate from the rich people what he needed for his daily survival, and using force wasn't a problem for him.
Later he would write -- “I'm not a beggar [...] I take only what I am authorized to take with my strength ability.”
He was drafted in 1912 but quickly discharged for unknown causes.
Italy came into the First World War in 1915 and in 1918, the last year of the conflict, even the previously discharged soldiers were recalled on duty due to the suffer of heavy losses.
While many anarchists decided to give their contribution to the collective slaughter, he deserted his regiment on April 26, 1918 and was sentenced to death by a military tribunal for desertion and high treason on October 31. He left his village and fled, propagating the desertion from the Army and the armed uprising against the state.
When he heard of the sentence and that the police had authorization to shoot him at sight, he wrote a letter to his friend Tintino Rasi:
“Brother, my existence has gained in these days the supreme and joyful region of being. The society that I hate has judged me with the death sentence. I live now with yearning intensity all the minutes, all the moments in my life; and this overbearing shout bursts me in my chest: I want to live, I must live, I will live, now that I'm damned. I will firmly wait for that blood-stained hyena; I will be a fierceness monster...”
Novatore was married with two children at the time. When, in the last months of 1918, his younger son died, Novatore came back to his home, risking the arrest only to give the last goodbye to the small corpse. Then he disappeared again.
During the summer of 1919, Italy was jolted by a large number of popular protests, strikes and local uprisings against the government's disastrous policies, the heavy police repression, the high cost of living and the miserable conditions of the workers.
On May 1919, the city of La Spezia felt under control of a self-proclaimed Revolutionary Committee, which kept away police and bourgeois forces for some weeks. Although being an individualist, Novatore (still fugitive) was in the front line of that Committee because he believed that the most important thing was to light the revolutionary fire amongst the people and start the radical rebellion against the so-called status quo.
He used to say – “You wait for the revolution! Very well then! Mine has been begun in a long time! When you will be ready - God, what a waiting! - I will be glad to join you on the way! But when you will stop I will continue my crazy and triumphal march towards the great and sublime conquest of the Nothingness!
On June 30 1919, Novatore was hidden in a hut in the countries near the city of Sarzana. A farmer sold him to the police. He was sentenced to ten years in prison, but was released in a general amnesty a few months later.
The times were still turbulent as the low classes backed by the extremist wing of the Socialist Party still believed in a Soviet-style revolution in Italy.
Novatore rejoined the anarchist movement and its struggles, taking part in various insurrectionary endeavours. In 1920, the police arrested him again for a failed armed assault with other rebellious on an arms depository at the naval barracks in Val di Fornola. Several months later, he was free, and participated in another insurrectionary endeavour, which failed because of a snitch. That plan, the legend says personally developed by Novatore, was meant to take over some military fortification round La Spezia and the Navy frigates anchored in the port.
The Italian instable political and social situation, plus the worries of the middle class, the industrials and the large landowners lead to the rising of the Mussolini's Fascist movement: initially gangs of beaters with antisocialist and antistrike functions, then a true political force. A rapid success was achieved by the use of a strong conservative policy and the promise of a stable and bright future for the Nation.
In the summer of 1922, three trucks full of local fascists (some sources report they were off-duty policemen) stopped in front of his home, where he lived with his wife and his son. The fascists surrounded the house, but Novatore used hand grenades against them and was able to escape. He went underground again and, this time, forever.
Novatore, after the clear message that there was no longer a place for him in society, had two choices: join the Fascist movement and became a quiet citizen, another sheep among the sheeps -or- escape in France like many of his other comrades did.
Novatore choose a third choice: became a bandit and a renegade, fighting only for himself at the edge of every human society. Of course leaving his beloved wife, his son and his comrades was a hard choice for him, but he was a true coherent anarchist.
In the summer of 1922 he joined the gang of the famous robber of anarchist inspiration: Sante Pollastro, whom was wanted by the police as a public enemy despite his young age.
On November 29, 1922, Novatore and Sante Pollastro went into a tavern in Teglia, near Genoa. Three Carabinieri (Italian military police) followed them inside. When the two anarchists tried to leave, the Carabinieri began shooting.
At the end of the fast shoot-out Novatore and the warrant officer were dead on the floor. Another Carabiniere was wounded while Sante Pollastro, unhurt, made a successful escape from the tavern.
On Novatore's body the detectives found some false documents, a Browning gun with two full magazines, one hand grenade and a ring with a secret container filled with a lethal dose of cyanide. Better dead than life imprisonment, or a fascist firing squad.
Renzo Novatore wrote for many anarchist papers (Cronaca Libertaria, Il Libertario, Iconoclastal, Gli Scamiciati, Nichilismo, Pagine Libere) where he debated with other anarchists (among them Camillo Berneri). He published a magazine, Vertice, which has unfortunately been lost apart from few articles. In 1924 an individualist anarchist group published two pamphlets of his writings: Al Disopra dell'Arco and Verso il Nulla Creatore