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The perfections is the new novel by the writer Vincenzo Latronico, just published by Bompiani. It is a short text, which in just over a hundred pages describes the parable of a generation, the one that was between 20 and 30 years old in the 1910s, who did creative and digital works and which grew together with the spread of the world of images and of social networks.
Anna and Tom are a couple of digital creatives who moved to Berlin where, thanks to the new globalization of experiences and ideas offered by the internet, they share the same life, the same passions and the same passions of an international community united by the network: work from home or in shared spaces without schedules and constraints, the passion for plants, for food, for furniture, the moderate foray into the world of drugs, the assiduous frequentation of art galleries, reassuring, repetitive and poor, the omnipresence of social networks and in particular of Instagram, which allows you to share images of a perfect life that, touched by hand, always turns out to be a bit disappointing. They are the new conformists, a couple without qualities that drag themselves into a pleasant and reassuring existence towards an always the same future: “They could not imagine it substantially different from their everyday life – so smooth and well-kept – and this gave it an abstract and not very tempting “.
At a certain point in this “calm as far as the eye can see” something cracks, Anna and Tom look for a new meaning: first in an empty activism during the refugee crisis from Syria in 2015, then in a frustrated work project, finally in short tiring journeys, while Berlin becomes an increasingly gentrified city and they find themselves adults.
Vincenzo Latronico was born in Rome in 1984, he has published three novels always for Bompiani (Gymnastics and revolution, The conspiracy of doves And The hive mentality), an essay on colonial Ethiopia (Narcissus in the colonies, together with photographer Armin Linke) and translated many books. He teaches at the Holden school in Turin and among other things he has also collaborated with Post. You have lived in Berlin for a long time.
Below is a chapter of The perfections.
They lived two lives. There was tangible reality surrounding them; there were the pictures. Those too surrounded them.
They were on the smartphone screen that woke them up. An astronaut singing from space. A girl astride a wrecking ball. They illuminated his pillow beyond the curtain of sleep, accompanied them to the bathroom by slipping under their fingertips. They continued on the tablet in the kitchen waiting for the coffee and seamlessly extended to the monitor in the studio. The threats of a jealous husband graffitied on the facade of a house. Goats in impossible balance on a cliff or on a motorway parapet. If they decided to go out for lunch, the images narrowed to the rectangle of the telephone and hovered in midair a foot above the plate. A whirlwind of sharks in the sky. While they waited for the U8 or the M29, while they pissed. A famous woman who sprays a bow of champagne back over her head into a glass hovering on her tailbone. She lit his face in the dark room when it was time to set the alarm for the next day. Faces of strangers. Faces of handsome criminals. Slices of avocado.
As they worked, the images came in like a storm through the windows left open in the background. They sent a quote and checked the Instagram feed. The predictions about the last election at home claimed their attention with a notification in the browser tab. The key combination to jump from one to the other was imprinted in their muscle memory as command-c command-v. They were looking for the parameters of a particularly nasty CSS class on stackexchange and seized the opportunity to take a look at a discussion started earlier on Facebook. Immediately below they intercepted the announcement of a Steuerberater who spoke English and Spanish. In the comments an acquaintance claimed that it was a scam. Interested in her profile of her they asked for her friendship and discovered that she might be going to a night at Kit-Kat the following week. Scrolling through the list of RSVPs they found an old friend of Neukölln’s. Wasn’t he back in Madrid? They checked on LinkedIn, it seemed so. A soggy kitten. An essay in pictures on the contempt of the president of the United States. A selfie.
The interruptions could last a few seconds or a few minutes. Sometimes they absorbed a full half hour, when the work was particularly repetitive or if an argument touched them personally. Overall they would not have been able to quantify the time they spent there. They suspected it was a lot.
It hadn’t always been like this. Something must have changed at some point. They couldn’t have said exactly what.
They remembered a time when they used Facebook only to find out what happened to high school crushes, and Instagram was a vacation photo archive. Since then they had followed its every evolution, with the dual gaze of the user and the interface designer. They could identify one by one the updates that had followed one another – the introduction of likes and notifications, the possibility of sharing videos, replying by images, tagging. But any attempt to draw a correlation between those minutiae and the way in which social networks were rampant in their daily life was so simplistic as to be misleading, a bit like wondering if it is the first twig or the third tree that the forest can be said in flames.
They would have liked to be able to do something to stem it, but unsubscribing from social networks, even by just one, did not seem possible. Giving up on Facebook would have resulted in a significant loss in their sociability. It had been indispensable in finding and consolidating their Berlin network, and was the main source of practical information they might need. It was also the only channel still open with their previous lives. They didn’t hear old friends very often – perhaps the constant ghostly presence of that stream of images made it redundant? – but reading about their hires and scrolling through the photos of class dinners had the feeling that they were still in their life.
Twitter didn’t thrill them as much, although it made them laugh at times, but it was their main source of news about their country. That interest had survived the move, and to it had never been added a curiosity for the German news, which was in German. If they stopped using it they would go back to reload the homepages of newspapers and monthlies every hour, obtaining less relevant information than their interests and wasting even more time. Instagram was in effect the showcase of their work and a constant source of new ideas and inspiration. Leaving him wasn’t even in question.
Attempts to confine its use to specific moments, or to limit its daily duration, also led to little. This was not due to boredom or an inability to concentrate. Indeed, it was often during the more creative parts of their work – brainstorming a pitch or inventing a new cage – that they joyfully plunged into the stream of images for a few minutes. They came out recharged, focused.
Yet they were ashamed of spending too much time there. Tom had turned the screen sideways to keep it from reflecting in the studio windows they shared. When he got up to go to the bathroom or kitchen she Anna she switched desktops before she walked past her. They loved the apartment, the kale salad, or the kitten of a person who might live two blocks or two continents from there. They were fond of unreasonable bickering between strangers. They kindled with interest in the stories of people they would never meet.
It was like walking through the most chaotic street market in the world under cocaine. It was like zapping a whole wall of televisions tuned to different channels. It was like entering into telepathic communion with the thoughts of a crowded stadium. It wasn’t like anything else, really, because it was something new.