Notes on Il Ballo (The Ball)

The words of one poet decipher the words of another. The secretive, misanthropic Portuguese artist sheds light – obliquely and unintentionally – on a stunning piece of work by a Parisian writer of Russian origins. It is the intuition of Fernando Pessoa that leads the dance and runs the game. There is no parallelism, no analogy between the stories by the two writers. Simply put, it is his incandescent gaze that captures and recounts better than any discourse the staged event that animates The Ball. As Pessoa said: to pretend is to know oneself – the game of acting, the game of staging. And sincerity is a big obstacle that the artist has to surmount (Irčne Némirovsky seems to have inscribed this statement in her secret diary when she recounted, in a labyrinth of variations and intrigues, always the same saga, the same story of failed love, the same agony). But then Irčne noted in the margins: An unhappy childhood is like an unburied body, groaning forevermore.

I am like a room with innumerable fantastic mirrors that distort by false reflections one single pre-existing reality which is not there in any of them and is there in them all.
Fernando Pessoa


Within the haunted room – in the game of glances and spell of the fairytale – there is also, especially for me, the desire to share a story – i.e. theater – and even before that, the love of reading, that silent treasure trove full of voices, the origin and driving force of Eros. With Il Ballo, Irčne Némirovsky bursts onto the writing scene with the force of a grenade. In this tale of her youth, she makes an explosive inventory of all the most personal voices of her anger, hatred and disenchantment. She does so, for her part, without skimping on plot twists and without denying herself spectacle. Behind the image reflected in the mirror, the poignant echo of that unforgiving little girl. And once again, Pessoa says it better than anyone else:
The poet is a pretender,
he pretends so completely
that he comes to pretend the pain
he really feels is pain.


Sonia Bergamasco