Suicido al Parco
By Dino Buzzatti
“SUICIDE IN PARK”: A Translation
Nine years ago, Stefano, my friend and colleague, thirty-four-years old, contracted automobile disease. He owned a 1960 model, but until that time he had never shown any symptoms of this terrible illness. Its course was rapid. Like great and fatal loves that overpower men, within a period of only a few days, Stefano became a slave to the idea of owning a luxury car, and he could talk of nothing else.
The automobile! Not the usual everyday vehicle that needs only to travel from one place to another, but the car of cars, the symbol of success, the statement of personality and command over the world, the extension of oneself, the instrument of adventure; in short, the modern symbol of encoded happiness.
The desire, therefore, the obsession, the craving for an automobile of the elite—extremely beautiful, strong, sleek, difficult, super human—to make the masses turn their heads as it drove past them down the street. Was it a fatuous sentiment? Childish? Idiotic? I don’t know. I didn’t experience it, and it is never wise to judge other people’s hearts.
In today’s world, thousands are infected with the illness. Their goal isn’t the happiness of their families, a profitable and satisfying career, the conquest of riches or power, the ideal of art, or the attainment of spirituality. No. For them the ultimate dream is a one-of-a-kind such-and-such car about which all the sun-tanned sons of successful industrialists make up stories in the fashionable cafés. However, Stefano earned very little, and the object of his daily raptures remained at a tremendous distance. Stefano tormented himself with this obsession, infected his friends, and distressed his wife Faustina, a kind and gracious creature too much in love with him. How many evenings she endured his long and painful discourse!
“Do you like it?” he would ask anxiously handing Faustina an advertisement for some incredible car.
She would just glance at it. In any case, she already knew the scenario. “Of course I like it,” she would answer.
“Do you really like it?”
“But, of course.”
“Do you really like it very much?”
“Please, Stefano,” and she would smile at him as one smiles at a sick person who can’t help himself.
And then after a long silence, he would say, “Do you know how much it costs?”
Faustina would try to joke, “I think it’s better not to know.”
“You know better than I do, sweetheart; because we could never afford to satisfy such a whim.”
Stefano would become angry. “Sure, you . . . just to oppose me . . . even before you know . . . .”
“Me? Oppose you?”
“Yes. You seem to do it on purpose. You know this is my passion, you know how important it is to me, you know it would be my greatest joy. And you . . . instead of giving me hope, all you can do is make fun of me.”
“Now, you’re not being fair, Stefano. I never make fun of you.”
“You . . . even before you know how much the car costs, right away, you’re against me.”
And so on, for hours.
I remember that one day when her husband wasn’t within earshot, Faustina said to me: “Believe me, this fuss about a luxury car has become a real cross for me to bear. From morning till night all he talks about is Ferrari, Maserati, Jaguar—may the devil take them—as if he had to have one tomorrow. And I don’t know what to think; I don’t recognize him anymore. Even you remember how wonderful Stefano was in the good old days. Sometimes I wonder if he’s lost a screw. Do you think it’s possible? We’re young. We love each other. We have something to live for. Stefano is doing very well at work, his co-workers like him very much. Why do we have to poison life? I swear, just to see this over with, just to see him happy with his damned ‘one-of-a-kind,’ I swear I’d even be willing to . . . don’t let me say any more.”
And she burst into tears.
Crazy? Deranged? Who knows? I liked Stefano very much. Perhaps his dream car was something that we couldn’t understand, something beyond the beauty and perfection of a vehicle, like a talisman, like a key opening the greedy doors of destiny.
I’ll never forget the day Stefano showed up at the wheel of a car that I had never seen before. It was blue, it was long, it was low, it was new, it was a flowing and sinuous two-seater, all stretched out in the front. At a rough guess, I would say it cost at least five million lire; who knows how Stefano had been able to dig up that kind of money.
“It’s yours?” I asked.
“Good Heavens. Congratulations. You finally did it.”
“You know, save, save, save . . . .”
I walked around the vehicle to look. I didn’t recognize the make. On the top of the hood there was a sort of coat of arms with a complicated interweaving of initials.
“What sort of car is this?”
“English,” he said. “A limited edition. An almost secret make of car; it must be from a branch of Daimler Corporation.”
It was completely marvelous, even for me, who doesn’t make a big fuss about cars. The line, the compactness of the body, the arrogant spring of the tires, the precision of the instrument panel, the dashboard that looked like an altar, the thick black leather seats, soft as an April wind.
“Come on, get in so I can show you,” he said.
It didn’t roar, it didn’t make a lot of noise; it only took some breaths, some athletic breaths, delicious to hear, and with every breath, the houses on each side of the road flashed wildly backwards.
“What’d you say?”
“Stupendous!” I answered, not finding a better word. “And, tell me, what does Faustina think of it?”
His face darkened for a second. He was silent.
“Why? Faustina doesn’t approve?”
“No,” he answered.
She left. She said she couldn’t live with me anymore.”
“For what reason?”
“You go figure out these women.” He lit a cigarette. “And I thought that she loved me.”
“The hell she didn’t.”
“Well, she left all the same.”
“Where? Back to her family?”
“Her family doesn’t know anything. She’s gone. I haven’t heard a word.”
I looked at him. He was a little pale. But he gripped the steering wheel sensually, caressing the swollen skin of the gear shift. His foot pumped the accelerator up and down with the tenderness of a man pressing against his lover’s flesh. And, with each touch, the car palpitated, quivering like a young girl.
We left the city and Stefano turned on to the Autostrada for
Some time after this, I had to leave the area for a long absence. When I returned, as happens, my life took another road. I saw Stefano, yes, but not often as I had before. In the meantime, he had found a new job, he was doing very well, and traveled about in his formidable machine. And he was happy.
The years passed, Stefano and I would see each other on occasion and I always asked after Faustina, and he would say that Faustina had really disappeared for good. I would ask about the car and he would say that the car, yes, was still a great vehicle of course, but it was beginning to show its age, it was in the machine shop every minute, and few mechanics were capable of handling it, a difficult and foreign motor that almost no one understood.
Then I read that news item in the paper:
STRANGE ESCAPE OF AUTOMOBILE
Yesterday, at 5 PM, a blue coupe, which had been left unattended for a moment in front of a cafe on
It is difficult to explain how the car, left by itself, was able to zigzag along the stretch of road without encountering any obstacles, despite the heavy traffic, and how it was able gradually to accelerate its speed.
Few of those present paid attention to the car traveling by itself. They imagined that the driver was playing a joke, scrunching down under the steering wheel and watching the road with a mirror. In fact, their statements concur: it didn’t seem to be a driverless car, but a car driven with great ability and decision. What’s more, when a motorbike turned into the traffic from
We report these details purely for the record. Many episodes of this sort have already occurred, even in our city. And there is no need to resort to supernatural hypotheses.
The owner of the car was identified by the license plate. He is a 43-year-old advertising executive named Stefano Ingrassia, of
As soon as I finished the article, I hurried to find Stefano and found him at home, very upset.
“Was it her?” I asked.
He nodded yes.
“It was Faustina?
“Yes, Faustina. My poor little star. You knew?”
“I wasn’t sure. Sometimes I had my doubts, but it seemed so absurd.”
“Absurd, yes,” he said covering his face with his hands. “But these miracles of love do happen in this world. One night, nine years ago; one night as I held her in my arms. A terrible thing. And wonderful. She began to cry, to tremble, and then her body became rigid and began to swell. And she did it just in time to make it out into the street; otherwise she never would have made it through the door. Luckily, no one was outside. It was a matter of two or three minutes. Then, there she was, waiting for me at the curb, new and gleaming. The paint smelled like Hélas, her favorite perfume. Remember how beautiful she was?
“And then, I’m a skunk, a scoundrel. And then she got old and the engine didn’t work anymore, and every day there was another ailment. And no one looked at her anymore when we drove down the street. And so I began to think maybe it was time to trade her in. I really couldn’t go on forever with that broken down old wreck. Do you know what a bastard, what a pig, I am? Do you know where I was going when I stopped on