Jesus, a dark light

i am jesus

by Giosue Calaciura

Translated from Italian by Lise Chapuis

Notabilia, 352 pages, €21

But how does he do it? How does he manage to captivate us, capture us in this way, leaving us panting, with a taste of ashes and light in our mouths? After the dazzling Borgo Vecchio then an already very Christlike Christmas tram, Giosuè Calaciura captures the character of characters, Jesus himself. But a Jesus in his own way, over-incarnated if one dares to say, crossed by contrary and violent emotions, unexplained pain, depressive flashes and endless questions.

The novelist opts for the first person. At 30, Jesus remembers. Of his childhood between mismatched parents who protect him and wrap him in a strange cloak of mystery; of his adolescence then, when, fleeing the house in the early morning, he goes in search of his father. Joseph, without saying a word, went away: “One morning, my father was no longer there. Empty, his place on his pallet. Gone are his sewn saddlebags, his planing glasses, his goblet. » The son in turn deserts, leaving Mary alone to open the door of the house, as she does every day, and « sweep away the dust of the night ».

Begins a wandering life, magnificent or disturbing encounters, the discovery of the love and cruelty of men, a quiet but founding stopover in Jerusalem with another Joseph, also a carpenter by trade. Jesus discovers with astonishment, on the trestles of a troop of acrobats, how much his word seduces, how much his word acts. Jostled, he cannot tame a disturbing capacity to make himself suffer, drawn from this “dark and impenetrable zone whose latent presence I feel”. It is neither the exalted passion of his cousin Jean, ready to do battle with the authorities, nor the quiet renunciation of a lackluster comfort. But a melancholy and a “deep and silent darkness” when he wonders about God.

Back in Nazareth, Jesus found neither his father nor peace. He experienced ruthless Roman domination, the limited and profiteering authority of the priests, the fatuity of the wealthy, the despair of the poor, the resignation of sacrificed animals. And he sinks into a physical and spiritual loss of self-love that only the presence of Mary manages to ward off.

Interspersed with biblical figures like Barabbas or Judas, Giosuè Calaciura’s story seems as coherent and obvious as it appears free and fierce. The novelist abandons Jesus where everything is about to begin, under the farewell gaze of his mother, “a new light in the eyes, of satisfied weariness”.


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