April 13 th 1972
Sliding the collection of songs and Sicilian proverbs, seems unbelievable that the sea, for an island that has 1.039 kilometers of coasts, is an almost ignored element or tenaciously removed, made exception for the comparisons to the female beauty (when it is serene, when it makes mirror), to the passions (when it is churned); and for the vision of the vessels that bring wheat to the hungry cities; to the cities of the barn of Italy. For the rest, the sea is bitter, who has stuff on the sea it has nothing, who can go for earth doesn’t go for sea, the hire is more expensive than the merchandise, who sails for sea can tell only dangers; and so on. Some warning or prescription: large sea, small fishes; who fishes deep brings big fishes; crooked reed brings fishes; and an only praise: the sea is rich. This aversion to the sea is perhaps one of the principal reasons for which Sicily is as it is. The sea is rich but who can must be far of it. And also the countries and the cities that were born on the sea try to turn their back and to get further of it.
The urbanistic history of Palermo is in effects the history of a frantic and confused escape from the sea. And of so many other centers. Only Agrigento, that has leans to the shoulders, has horribly gone toward the sea: but always creating, between itself and the sea, a succession of curtains.
Catalano Maurilio, which was born and lives to the Sperone, a sea quarter of Palermo, does not derogate from this popular feeling. In his familiarity with the sea, also as a keen fisherman, there is some terror.
Its sea is populated of enormous whales (white, but incidentally: any reference to that of Melville) that swallow fishing‾boats and cruiseliners, of monstrous polyps, of forests of sensitive and voracious corals as cried carnivorous. It also happens the eternal and proverbial play of the small fish eaten by the great one; but it is nothing to comparison of what happens on board of a ship when a polyp chains it or the corals embrace it or a whale crunch it like a biscuit.
The cry that raises from the sailors who are about to go, as Pinocchio in the abdomen of the whale, is "Alive Maria": but it is not the cry of the devotion, the apex of a party but the maximum of the confusion, the point in which the world capsizes.
Maria’s name rises in praise and glory not for the escaped danger, the grazed death, the miracle, the salvation of the body and the soul, but because the danger is imminent, death is inevitable, the salvation impossible; and, in other words, the miracle consists of perishing. And they died happy or happy they went crazy: as in every fable and also in this one, that is maybe an ecological fable that Maurilio Catalano tells us, parodying means, ways and forms of the popular art: the painting on glass, the ex.votos, the figurations between mysticisms and superstitious. Everything is like an ironic transcription, sometime direct, sometime inverted, of the popular culture of lowest degree: and it turns out a curious repertoire of “songes drolatiques”, so much reflex and introvert as for the appearance is immediate, vivid, happy.