19 ROME SILENT BEAUTY Guido Morselli had told a story like this in Dissipatio H.G. (The Vanishing), where H.G. stands for humani generis. A visionary novel that begins with the protagonist’s decision to commit suicide by jumping into a lake lost in the middle of nowhere. But at the last minute he desists. When he returns to the city he notices, to his amazement, the almost complete disappearance of human beings. Everything is suddenly turned upside down: while his initial idea was the “anthrophobic” one of vanishing from the world, abandoning his fellow humans, he must now face the fact that it is the life of others that has disappeared, and consequently it is he who feels abandoned. The absence of others becomes his constant companion. Piazzas, avenues, restaurants, swimming pools, shopping malls, offices, stores, stadiums, theaters, cinemas: there is no human presence. The days of the lockdown were those of a temporary but no less alienating dissipatio humani generis like the one experienced by the main character in Morselli ’s novel. We are very familiar with the sense of emptiness that can arise caused by the sense of things being too full. Contemporary or postmodern loneliness is no longer triggered by the absence of the other, but rather by their cumbersome presence. It is no longer loneliness as the detachment from worldliness, from gossip, from the vanity of the world; rather, it is a loneliness that appears when we are next to others, submerged, packed, crowded, pressed up one against the other. It is the loneliness you can feel in the big city, in the subway, or in a shopping mall, in the ordinary traffic of any day while you are on your way to work during rush hour. It is the loneliness felt by the person who is engulfed in an anonymous mob. But in the days of the lockdown we experienced a new kind of emptiness and absence because the life of the masses had disintegrated into lots of monads. It was not the experience of the emptiness that we had been accustomed to, that arose from the crowds, from the clogged up spaces and the anonymous dimension of the masses. Another emptiness had appeared along with the sudden disappearance of the human species forced into the cloistered living of isolation. That disappearance revealed another facet of our landscapes. In particular, cities reappeared after the ebbing of the tide that had submerged them. For many art cities, normally invaded by crowds of tourists, it was a paradoxical liberation that coincided with the necessary imprisonment of humans. Created by the work of humans, the place of life together, communitas, polis, layers of historical memories, during the lockdown days the city was given back the mineral purity of its simple presence. What happened is the same as what takes place in every artistic creation: the artist can understand that his work is truly finished only when he can observe it as an extraneous presence. It may seem paradoxical but that’s the way it is: the artist’s hand had subtracted it from nothing and made it exist, but now that his hand withdraws, now that his job is done, before the author’s Ego the work appears as an irreducible power, it is other than itself, infinitely far from the person who generated it, independent. Only then can its beauty be fully appreciated.