Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Spring Fund Drive: Keep CounterPunch Afloat
CounterPunch is a lifeboat of sanity in today’s turbulent political seas. Please make a tax-deductible donation and help us continue to fight Trump and his enablers on both sides of the aisle. Every dollar counts!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Father, Son—Falling in Love

Every few years without any fanfare, a book comes along and quietly announces itself to its fortunate readers: something sui generis, original, defying common precepts of what the reader believes he is reading. Lucky me, I’ve just read Diogo Mainardi’s The Fall, which fits into this category. The publisher refers to the book as a memoir; yet it reads more like fiction than fact (though I know that isn’t so) because the unique structuring of the narrative progresses as the narrator, Mainardi, who is Brazilian, relates the gorgeously loving story of his attachment to his son, born with cerebral palsy. If you have read Andrew Solomon’s Far from the Tree (his brilliant study of families adjusting to children who are born “different” than their parents), you already have a context for The Fall. It’s love, the extraordinary feeling that can develop between parent and child, once the initial shock of the birthing difficulties are understood.

Nor is/was it always this easy—far from it. Mainardi refers to Hitler’s euthanasia program, instigated in 1939, with Gerhard Kretschmar’s elimination after the child was born with several deformities. The boy’s father wrote that “the Führer was very, very interested in my son’s case. The Führer wanted to solve the problem of people who had no future, whose lives were worthless. That is why he had granted a merciful death to our son. Later on, we would be able to have other perfectly healthy children of whom the Reich would be proud.” Euthanasia for such children (and those with other difficulties, such as cerebral palsy) was the context that prevailed in many countries, not just Germany; it’s the on-going shock and re-education for many parents that Andrew Solomon writes about throughout his lengthy book.

Even before Mainardi and his wife went to the hospital—the beautiful Scuola Grande di San Marco, in Venice—for her delivery, he had worries about possible complications. The hospital was, in fact, notorious for its medical mistakes. Why then go to that hospital? He told himself, it’s a simple delivery. How difficult can that be? Well, just about everything that could go wrong did thefalland the child lost oxygen for just long enough that he was born with complications. Reproducing an image of the heart monitor for “the exact moment when asphyxia caused a dramatic fall” in his son’s heart rate, Mainardi describes this as “the first of his falls. The original fall.”

The fall or—more accurately the falls—is what Mainardi’s book is about, for this amazing parent was determined that his son, Tito, would walk, in spite of numerous clinicians telling the parents that there son never would. Mainardi had a series of walkers built for his son, increasing in size, as the boy grew larger. “Anna [his wife] and I learned to celebrate each step taken by Tito, however wobbly.” There were multiple mishaps, initially resulting in minor injuries. But, then, with his father walking behind him, slowly Tito not only increased his steps but he learned how to fall so that he wouldn’t hurt himself. He, also, learned how to talk after his younger brother was born. That was when he was four. And then, the initial steps by him began. First 16 steps; then 27; then 27 became 44; 71; 118. And finally, when he was about ten, 424 steps, unassisted. A minor miracle.

What is so marvelous about The Fall is the author’s daring juxtaposition of images (mostly photographs or paintings but also newspaper articles and charts) that accompany his story of his son’s 424 steps. There are images of the Scuola Grande di San Marco, designed by Pietro Lombardo, in 1489. Multiple photographs of Tito growing up, even one of an amnihook, the instrument that the doctor used during his son’s delivery, rupturing the amniotic sac. And there are so many references to historical figures who wrote about the Scuola Grande (such as John Ruskin), but also citations to Abbott and Costello and their multiple hijinks that led to numerous falls; even photos and references to Christy Brown and accounts of how he overcame his own birth defects. It’s a funny, sad complication of slapstick and tragedy, though the latter is never permitted to dominate the story. There’s never any pity, which is extraordinary.

Mainardi stopped writing fiction, but wrote about his son’s progress frequently in the articles he wrote weekly for a Brazilian newspaper and—finally—in this glorious celebration of care and his affection for his son, composed of 424 brief, numbered sections of the story of his son’s rebirth and, one might say, flight.

Father and son never gave up and if that isn’t an example of faith (without the religion) I don’t know what is.

Once again, Margaret Jull Costa, the translator, shows her stuff.

Diogo Mainardi: The Fall: A Father’s Memoir in 424 Steps

Trans. By Margaret Jull Costa

Other Press, 169 pp., $20.00

Charles R. Larson is Emeritus Professor of Literature at American University in Washington, D.C. Email: clarson@american.edu.

 

More articles by:

Charles R. Larson is Emeritus Professor of Literature at American University, in Washington, D.C. Email = clarson@american.edu. Twitter @LarsonChuck.

Weekend Edition
May 25, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
Could Anything Cause the GOP to Dump Trump?
Pete Tucker
Is the Washington Post Soft on Amazon?
Conn Hallinan
Iran: Sanctions & War
Jeffrey St. Clair
Out of Space: John McCain, Telescopes and the Desecration of Mount Graham
John Laforge
Senate Puts CIA Back on Torture Track
David Rosen
Santa Fe High School Shooting: an Incel Killing?
Gary Leupp
Pompeo’s Iran Speech and the 21 Demands
Jonathan Power
Bang, Bang to Trump
Robert Fisk
You Can’t Commit Genocide Without the Help of Local People
Brian Cloughley
Washington’s Provocations in the South China Sea
Louis Proyect
Requiem for a Mountain Lion
Robert Fantina
The U.S. and Israel: a Match Made in Hell
Kevin Martin
The Libya Model: It’s Not Always All About Trump
Susie Day
Trump, the NYPD and the People We Call “Animals”
Pepe Escobar
How Iran Will Respond to Trump
Sarah Anderson
When CEO’s Earn 5,000 Times as Much as a Company’s Workers
Ralph Nader
Audit the Outlaw Military Budget Draining America’s Necessities
Chris Wright
The Significance of Karl Marx
David Schultz
Indict or Not: the Choice Mueller May Have to Make and Which is Worse for Trump
George Payne
The NFL Moves to Silence Voices of Dissent
Razan Azzarkani
America’s Treatment of Palestinians Has Grown Horrendously Cruel
Katalina Khoury
The Need to Evaluate the Human Constructs Enabling Palestinian Genocide
George Ochenski
Tillerson, the Truth and Ryan Zinke’s Interior Department
Jill Richardson
Our Immigration Debate Needs a Lot More Humanity
George Payne
The Direction of No Return: a Meditation on America’s Decent into Tyranny
Judith Deutsch
Pension Systems and the Deadly Hand of the Market
Shamus Cooke
Oregon’s Poor People’s Campaign and DSA Partner Against State Democrats
Thomas Barker
Only a Mass Struggle From Below Can End the Bloodshed in Palestine
Binoy Kampmark
Australia’s China Syndrome
Missy Comley Beattie
Say “I Love You”
Ron Jacobs
A Photographic Revenge
Saurav Sarkar
War and Moral Injury
Clark T. Scott
The Shell Game and “The Bank Dick”
Seth Sandronsky
The State of Worker Safety in America
Thomas Knapp
Making Gridlock Great Again
Manuel E. Yepe
The US Will Have to Ask for Forgive
Laura Finley
Stop Blaming Women and Girls for Men’s Violence Against Them
Rob Okun
Raising Boys to Love and Care, Not to Kill
Kevin Martin
It’s Not Always All About Trump
Christopher Brauchli
What Conflicts of Interest?
Winslow Myers
Real Security
George Wuerthner
Happy Talk About Weeds
Abel Cohen
Give the People What They Want: Shame
Douglas Valentine
Memorial Day
May 24, 2018
Gary Leupp
Art of the Dealbreaker: Trump’s Cancellation of the Summit with Kim
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail