Agrippa Postumus

“Agrippa Postumus” by Eugenio Baroncelli
Translated by Chenxin Jiang

Island of Planasia, 16 September 14. At sunset, when the sun rinsed its bloodstained rags in the sea, his Destiny knocked on the door. He, of all people, did not recognize it. Ten years earlier, when his grandfather adopted him as his own son to humour his mother Giulia, he hadn’t been presented to the army or even promised a wife. Then, on the pretext of punishing him for certain adolescent pranks, they had sent him to this place where other strange men lamented their misfortunes. He languished here for eight years without realising his own misfortune. He lived in a prison without bars, in a desert surrounded by the sea. He saw many identical sunrises. He suffered the fire of summer and the ice of winter. He watched as the poet Ovid was consumed with nostalgia, unaware that he himself would die of nostalgia on different shores. Three and a half months earlier, the lord of the whole world had knocked on his door, wrapped in a modest cloak to avoid being spotted. My grandson, he had called him, stroking his cheeks with hands curled by arthritis. And now? A centurion with an armed escort was here to pay a visit. He would unsheathe a sword and run it through his chest.

Livia, mother to the new emperor, would claim that they were acting on an order left by Augustus, who had died a month earlier, but few would believe her. Someone said that with a name like his, Postumus, he might have expected as much. Someone else said that these were only ‘rumores’ – no need to take them too seriously. Someone said: the gods’ ways are capricious because humans are not meant to understand them. And what did he say? He said nothing because he knew nothing of all this. He was the last grandchild of Caesar Augustus, but he would be buried in an unmarked pit. He was twenty-six.

 

“Agrippa Postumo” by Eugenio Baroncelli

Isola di Pianosa, 16 settembre 14. Al tramonto, quando il sole sciacque in mare i suoi stracci sanguinanti, bussa alla porta il suo Destino. Se c’è qualcuno che non lo capisce, è lui. Dieci anni prima, quando il nonno lo ha voluto come figlio adottivo per compiacere le pretese di sua madre Giulia, non l’hanno presentato all’esercito e nemmeno gli hanno promesso una moglie. E più tardi, con il pretesto di punire certe sue stravaganze di adolescente, l’hanno addirittura spedito quaggiù, dove altri rari uomini piangono la loro disgrazia. Qui langue da otto anni, senza sapere quale sia la sua. Sta in una prigione senza le sbarre. Sta in un deserto circondato dal mare. Ha visto albe tutte uguali. Ha patito il fuoco dell’estate e il gelo dell’inverno. Ha visto il poeta Ovidio consumarsi di nostalgia, ignaro che di nostalgia sarebbe morto davanti a un altro mare. Tre mesi e mezzo prima, avvolto in un mantello da niente per non farsi riconoscere, ha bussato alla sua porta il signore del mondo. Nipote mio, lo ha chiamato, e gli ha accarezzato le guance con quelle mani curvate dall’artrite. E oggi? Oggi viene a trovarlo un centurione con la scorta armata, che senza una parola sguaina la spada e gli trafigge il petto.

Livia, madre del nuovo imperatore, farà credere che si eseguiva un ordine di Augusto, che è morto da meno di un mese, ma a crederci non sono in molti. Qualcuno dice che con un nome come il suo, Postumo, c’era da aspettarselo. Qualcuno dice che sono solo “rumores”, a cui non bisogna dare troppo peso. Qualcuno dice: i disegni degli dèi sono così capricciosi perchégli uomini non possano intenderli. E lui cosa dice? Lui non dice niente, perché non sa nemmeno questo. È l’ultimo nipote di Cesare Augusto, ma lo seppelliscono in una povera fossa senza nome. Aveva ventisei anni.

© 2010 Sellerio Editore, Palermo

 

Eugenio Baroncelli was born in Rimini and lives in Ravenna. He was previously an Italian and Latin teacher and is also interested in film theory and criticism. His books include Mosche d’inverno. 271 morti in due o tre pose (Flies in Winter: 271 deaths posed two or three ways, 2010), which won the Premio Supermondello and Premio Piero Chiara, Falene. 237 vite quasi perfette (Moths: 237 almost perfect lives, 2012), and Pagine Bianche. 55 libri che non ho scritto (Blank Pages: 55 books I didn’t write, 2013).

Chenxin Jiang

Chenxin Jiang is a writer and translator who grew up in Hong Kong and lives in Berlin. She most recently translated The Cowshed: Memories of the Chinese Cultural Revolution for New York Review Books.

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Author: Chenxin Jiang

Chenxin Jiang is a writer and translator who grew up in Hong Kong and lives in Berlin. She most recently translated The Cowshed: Memories of the Chinese Cultural Revolution for New York Review Books.