This is a strange antinomy indeed. To access the world of imagination and come out of it ready to change the real world. What exactly happens to absorbed readers?
What do we expect that they will emerge from their journey through fiction filled with truth? Or that the story will instil a new moral principle in them?
No, none of this happens. Ethics is not a static body of legal rules that we adhere to, and it is not established by god or men. Ethics is the view, the criterion, and the meaning of the world. As Italo Calvino, the famous 20th-century Italian writer, said: “An idea expressed poetically can never be meaningless. Meaning does not necessarily correspond to the truth. It identifies a crucial point, an issue, a warning.”
A problem, an alert signal, a crossroads: this is what readers are left with when they finish a good piece of narrative, and it broadens their perspectives and world view.
At times, writers are afraid to know what is inevitable: that “pure” art does not exist. None of us is pure or innocent: any word carrying imaginative power produces culture, and culture produces behaviour.
This is why, after all, aesthetics and ethics are part of the same whole.
And this is also why reality is nourished by imagination and produces new reality out of it. The opposite is also true, since imagination develops thanks to reality. The details of the ‘abuse of power’ and ‘inhuman and degrading treatment’ (as torture was defined in Italy, where this offence does not exist) perpetrated in 2001 in a Genoa police station, and the words of those who committed it, which you have read in the fictional ‘Sticko’, are taken from testimony provided during the trial. Just like the predominant and disturbing indifference that has surrounded these events, both on the level of public opinion and of the governments that were involved.
While the journalist is expected to remain at some distance from events, we must expect the writer to do the opposite: eliminate the distance and delve into these events, to undertake a journey from which both she and the reader return irreparably drenched in sorrow. Sticko, the boy who has learnt how to disappear from the surrounding environment in order to survive, just like some insects do, is the result of the rage, the bitterness, and the sense of shame that any human being feels when faced with these events, if only he pauses to feel them.
Gabriella Ambrosio, story Sticko deal with ‘freedom from torture’ (Article 5 in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights), and echoes what happened in Genoa (Italy) during G8 in 2001.
**Gabriella Ambrosio, is an Italian novelist, a journalist, essayist, academic, and senior advertising director. her first novel “Before We Say Goodbye” has been an international bestseller Published in many countries. In Italy it entered the Italian High Schools as a text book.