Sebastiano Timpanaro 1985

“Leopardi and the Italian Left of the ’70s”

Source: Sebastiano Timpanaro, Antileopardini e neomoderati nella sinistra italiana. Parma, ETS, 1985;
Translated: for by Mitch Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) 2005.

... In order to understand our world we need ideas truly of the moment, not myths we've fabricated or “fragments” from the great authors of the past arbitrarily isolated and reinterpreted.

We should not think – and no serious Marxists could think – of an easy reconciliation between Marxism and the Leopardian Weltanschauung. Among the many errors I have committed in my so-called career as a scholar there is one I do not believe I ever committed: that of travestying as “pre-Marxist” authors of a completely different school or, – with an equal and contradictory fraudulence – that of forcing the interpretation of Marx in order to identify it, even somewhat, with other forms of thought. My passion for Leopardi (and not only Leopardi) is above all for that which isn’t in Marx and others, yet is true and alive. On the contrary I think – and this is quite different – it is necessary to continue the reflection and research on the contribution that the pessimistic materialism of Leopardi, precisely insofar as it is different from Marxism, can make to the development of Marxism so that the latter avoid, among other things, a regression to anthropocentric positions, to a too providencialist conception of the course of history (even if it is a providencialism entirely immanent to human history), or to the opposite dangers of flat sociologism and irrationalism. There is much work to be done in this direction. Naturally, since two visions of reality can act the one upon the other, cooperating in a new synthesis, it happens that despite the differences we have never been silent about there also exists a point in common. This is represented by the refutation of philosophy as a “consolation,” by the conviction that the ills from which humanity suffers should not be “justified,” and instead, whenever possible, suppressed. And when this is not possible, denounced without any kind of “foolish comfort.” And this is an important point because, coming as it does from such different cultural forms and practical experiences, it leads to a clean break with a millennial conception of philosophy that not even the 18th Century was able to accomplish in so coherent a fashion. But the politico-cultural climate of long-term “compromise” (not the momentary compromises that every political movement must know to make in case of necessity) have never been favorable either to the fortunes of Marx and Engels or to those of Leopardi.