If we had to identify a leitmotiv in the short story by Silvana Grasso, this would be the intensity of the narrative ductus, which, page after page, keeps the reader nailed to the succession of events that unfolds within narrow and labyrinthine spaces and in the narrative framework of lives, such as that of the main character Billonia, who yearns for redemption from the sheer dullness of the tempus fugit.
Up to the age of 40 Billonia has in fact spent her life in the lukewarm context of an all-female familiar life: she has lived with her aunts, the Corallo twins, whose only reason for living is the small shop they own. At first glance the reader is taken aback by Billonia’s aunts existential fulfilment, who elevate their small shop and their simple standard of living to a microcosm which becomes impenetrable by existential doubts, crisis or personal changes.
As the reading progresses, the psychological digging soon induces the reader to believe that the microcosm created by the Corallo sisters is nothing but the result of the extraordinary nature of a symbiotic sisterly relationship. Billonia, on the other hand, is strange to the self-sufficient perfection of this microcosm as she experiences the life tragedy that results from feeling incomplete: the gap between herself and the outside world, to the other from herself, hoping to find her twin of choice in Marìdda Mezzalingua. The topic of the double, whether from birth or because of elective affinity somehow represents the scarlet thread running through the whole story. There is a wealth of literature on the topic of the “double”: the most explicit reference is made to Bonaviri’s novel Il Dormiveglia, namely to the two young women Zaìd, from Addis Abeba, and Zaìd Margheron, from the Sicilian town of Mineo.
Knotted in various ways with the author’s entire production, The heart on the right is a highly evocative book which needs to be interpreted and connected to an immense symbolic matrix as well as to the most diverse metaliterary references. The topic of the double, on the symbolic side, and the Bonaviri’s suggestion, on the metaliterary side, are only two of the many possible tracks to follow in order to appreciate the intensity of this great story.
Translation by Barbara Pellegrini (edited by Sabrina Macchi)