We’re still alone
“Dear Signorina” begins Cover Letter, the first story in Giulio Mozzi’s captivating collection This is the Garden. It’s a story that’s not, as its name would suggest, about a hopeful candidate applying for a legitimate job, and instead goes on to explain the many reasons behind pulling a criminal one. For it seems that in Mozzi’s world, even the lowliest of thieves can get bored, lonely, and introspective, and even if it can only ever be one-way, they still need someone to connect with on an emotional level. It’s this story about a purse snatcher returning letters to his victim that he found while rifling through her bag, with his own running commentary attached about their possible meaning, that sets the stage for an all-out exploration of what it’s like to live a life in which you’ve become boxed in by your own personal rules of confinement. The thief must adhere to his own set of homegrown standards and practices for his personal safety and ongoing survival, but it’s these very things that prohibit him from forming any kind of lasting, meaningful attachment with another human being. Yet still he tries.
In The Apprentice we meet a young man who is all too eager to prove his worth and move up the ladder from delivery boy to machine operator. What is this company he works for called? What does it manufacture? These details are deemed unimportant and thus are left unexplored and unanswered, for what is most critical is the thought patterns of this young man and how sees himself in relation to the world around him. In heartbreaking detail, Mozzi captures the inner struggles of a person standing frozen in place. He’s unable to move beyond the job he currently possesses, but not for the reasons he originally attributes as the root causes behind his failure. Ultimately he learns that not achieving your dreams isn’t exactly the worst thing that can happen, for finally becoming cognizant of the realities surrounding your mundane existence can be far more damaging to the soul.
Themes of isolation and longing for connection continue to drive forward and tie together the remaining stories of the collection as well. In On the Publication of my First Book we’re introduced to a first-time author speaking plainly about, amongst other things, why he believes his work to be unpublishable. In Trains we meet Mario, a young man who decides to take a trip because he can’t quite figure out how to properly interpret the meaning of five words that were written to him in a letter from an ex-lover. And then of course there’s Tana.
In this story, a lonely young girl who spends the bulk of her time hiding in her room encounters an Angel. A single peek at his “smooth and clean” sex organ helps her work through a complicated experience from her past that’s been holding her hostage in the present day. It’s a magical, intoxicating piece that speaks directly to our universal ability to become trapped by certain moments, unable to escape the lasting impressions they’ve stamped upon us. What better way could there possibly be to conquer an accidentally acquired revulsion to the male anatomy then with a close up inspection of a divine being’s gloriously scent-free penis?
Candid and bursting with a raw affection for its subjects, each of the stories in Mozzi’s collection is as inviting as it is revealing. Through them, we’re reminded that even though our individual and collective existences may be filled with flaws, life still holds the promise of the unknown and presents us with an infinite number of chances to alter our course for the better.
Is it true that this world IS the garden, a fallen paradise as the cover so emphatically proclaims? All of Mozzi’s dynamic characters seem to believe so, and as they stumble through their personal explorations into the inner workings of life, love, work, and belief, it becomes harder and harder not to agree with their assessment.
This is the Garden
By Giulio Mozzi
Translated from the Italian by Elizabeth Harris
Open Letter Books