On 14 May 2013, in Naples, Dr. Fulvio Marone suddenly passed away. A very well-known public service psychiatrist in Naples and in the region, he was also a Lacanian psychoanalyst and for many years directed the ICLES psychotherapeutic training school in Naples, which he had created.
Fulvio Marone contributed to our Journal (then called JEP). He reviewed the book “Lacan avec les philosophes” in JEP n. 1, 1995, pp. 185-187 and wrote a clinical essay for a monographic issue devoted to Lacan, JEP n. 2, “Lacan Today I”, 1995, which can be read at http://www.psychomedia.it/jep/number2/marone.htm.
A Personal Memory
Some said Fulvio was a cold person. But, having been his friend for over 25 years, I knew his apparent severity was a sober mask for his fundamental, shy sweetness.
And it is above all of his sweetness – more than his scientific and civil merits – that I would like to talk about here.
A sense of shame, as if you were committing an abuse, always seizes you when – as in this case – you praise a friend who died at a younger age than yourself and was better than you.
Better than me and better than many others, because Fulvio had the gift of combining three qualities that rarely go together. He was the learned and sharp intellectual. The doctor who never ceases to confront himself with human misery. The friendly, sweet man. How many can display all these features at once and in such an accomplished way? Fulvio, being a Lacanian, would have called it a Borromean Knot. Not easy to link.
Fulvio was one of the very few intellectuals I thought it worthwhile to discuss things with.
Of slender build, his bulimic mind devoured and digested philosophy, psychiatry, cinema history, mathematics, psychoanalysis. Even soccer. He felt at home among the hieroglyphics of Heidegger and Lacan, and practically every day also among human beings in the outskirts of Naples whose lot it is to suffer both their own degradation and that of the world around them. He could spend an evening discoursing about philosophy with me and then early the next morning go out, after a small cup of Kimbo coffee, to go to the Neapolitan suburb of Scampia and to the villages beyond the Garigliano river, where Christ stopped. Scampia, one of the head-quarters of the Italian Camorra, made famous by the Alberto Saviano’s book and movie Gomorra. He was à sa place both on Parnassus and in Hell. In Saint-Germain-dès-Près in Paris – Parnassus – and in housing projects like “the sails of Scampia” – Hell. A cosmopolite and a genuine Neapolitan.
His formation was with the psychiatrist Sergio Piro, a friend we lost not too long ago, and who was considered the “Basaglia of the South”. (Basaglia is the famous Italian reformer of the asylums system, who inspired the law outlawing psychiatric hospitals.) But, in contrast to many “Northern Basaglians”, so to speak, he did not conceive the reforming mission in psychiatry as a form of dense social welfare, without crevices. He was authentically interested in “lunatics”, and not only to “fix them up”. As a man with the broadest cultural horizons, Piro was always magnetized by a visceral passion for language and linguistics. And I have always wondered whether this special place Piro assigned to language – his best-known book is “The Schizophrenic Language” – wasn’t crucial for Fulvio in directing him towards his lay devotion for Lacan. But, undoubtedly, of both Piro and the “Democratic Psychiatry” Movement, Fulvio has always maintained the will to take care of the damned of the earth.
Some have called him: “a refined Lacanian who never neglected civic engagement”. But the expression “civic engagement” sounds to me like a qualification on a Vita, which hides something much warmer: a certain compassionate zeal he had towards human fragility. He never boasted of having “worked miracles”, neither as an analyst nor as a psychiatrist. Referring to his many patients, he would say to me: “The structure of each person remains always the same, even after the cure. But in any case, in the end they don’t leave the room in the same way as they entered it”. It was an understatement, because that difference, which was actually enormous, was enough for him. He did not want to “save the world”, he really wanted to be in the world to help it.
I doubt Fulvio would have appreciated – being the disenchanted layman he was – a comparison between himself and Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Some time ago, I was struck, however, by an exchange between the Albanian nun and I can’t remember which Western reformer. The latter asked her: “Why spend all your energy, day in day out, to cure single individuals who live in misery? Would it not be more worthwhile to put forward political and economic reforms, put pressure on the decision-makers to improve the conditions of the dispossessed?” Mother Teresa replied something like: “My task is to take care of every Tom, Dick and Harry, day in day out. I have no time to think about Great Reforms.” I don’t think Fulvio ever developed any grand reform projects on paper. In this I thought he was closer to Mother Teresa than to Basaglia. Except that Mother Teresa said, “I see the face of Christ in every poor person”, while in his patients in the Hospital Frullone or Scampia, Fulvio only saw the face of the poor person.
This is probably why one film he adored was The Silence of the Lambs, by Jonathan Demme, about which he also wrote an article. Lambs are indeed the silent victims of violence. I think his passion for psychoanalysis was also a way to give a voice, the right voice, to lambs.
The sweetness doesn’t cancel out the toughness of his intellectual honesty. In 2006 he gladly accepted to present a book I had written – Perversions – at the Philosophical Studies Institute in Naples. Though we had already been friends for decades, he did not hesitate to criticize my book’s basic thesis with brilliant arguments and cutting remarks. Later he must have regretted it a little; indeed, a few months later, introducing me at his course for psychotherapists in Naples, he publicly said: “I criticized Sergio’s book, but it was implicit for me that it was a very good book.” I bore him no grudge, however, for doing what very few people do: presenting a book not to flatter the author, but to challenge him to a critical discussion. I appreciated the fact that Fulvio had said what he really thought about his friend’s book. A book, one that did not completely adhere to the Lacanian concepts he subscribed to. He did what I would have done for him too: relinquish the plat empoisonné of flattery and make a gift to a friend of a poor, plain bowl of frankness.
The sweetness of the friend, I was saying. Fulvio was one of the sweetest males I have ever met. We disagreed on some things, but it was impossible to quarrel with him. Events outside and beyond us unfortunately had separated us in the most recent years, but we never actually quarreled.
I was impressed by his sober, almost monastic, lifestyle: he ate as much as sufficed, he did not indulge in the lust of gluttony or luxury. He lived in a house which had the clear, clean, frugal look of someone who feels no need to exhibit his qualities. Only one “vice”: a passion for the most advanced Apple technology.
One day, discussing I no longer remember what, he told me a strange apologue. He told me about three “sages”: Melanchthon; an expert on keys; and the gossipiest woman in the neighborhood. Melanchthon, he reminded me, was considered at his time the most learned man in Europe. The key expert could distinguish between all types of keys, an encyclopedist of the art of opening locks. And then the woman who knows everything about the affairs, loves, torments, greatnesses and miseries of the neighborhood, because this is her ‘profession’. In the end he asked me: “Who out of the three is the wisest?”
Why – I wonder – do I still remember this very strange combination after so many years? Was it a parable to do with relativism and nihilism? I think he wanted to ironically distance himself from a ‘passion’ we both had: a sort of hubris of wanting to know, if not everything, everything that seems important to us. The aspiration of asymptotically incarnating a kind of Wikipedia. He wanted to self-relativize our – his and mine – unrestrained need to com-prehend, to “take-all-with-me”, to control with the mind and from our armchairs the chaotic drift of the world.
Years ago he invited me to spend New Year’s with him in Naples at the Frullone psychiatric hospital. He was on duty there that night. I couldn’t go as I had already arranged to go to a midnight dinner at a friend’s house. However, I went there earlier that evening with my partner. I’d never been to the Frullone at the time and I saw what I expected: a grim dilapidated storehouse of human beings. He had prepared with nurses and patients a small, humble but warm party. A nurse prepared some pasta on a rudimentary stove, while Fulvio’s then girlfriend prepared the sauce. He seemed very happy about mine and my partner’s visit. But then, before midnight, I told him I had to go to this other friend’s house. He looked sad and disappointed. Not only because the presence of friends would have brightened up the little party, but also – I think – because he thought that essentially spending New Year’s with the sick was the finest way someone like me could spend it. I understood that he approached his direct contact with social and psychic pain not as a dutiful and exacting sacrifice, but as part of his own home, his hearth, and for this very reason he found it welcoming and protective.
The death of a friend who had become your brother, who passed away while still in top physical form, is a scandal you feel responsible for. You feel guilty about surviving him, you feel guilty that it is you mourning his death and not the other way round. The injustice of death’s roulette confirms what Fulvio always thought: life in itself makes no sense. I have never heard of him indulging in any sugary concession to spiritualism, or licking the wounds received from life with the unctuous saliva of Meaning. Mental suffering itself has no recondite sense, but is an infiltration of non-sense into the finely-weaved, smooth as plastic, but illusory fabric of sense. And when you cannot benefit from the rosy consolation of Sense, the tears you shed for the people you miss are bitterer and truer.
A Tribute to Fulvio
Fulvio was supposed to be here this morning to introduce the CCPSO teachers’ seminar. Fulvio is here in our thoughts, in our hearts. He is here, finally as Other, but we will not hear him. Nevermore, Nevermore, Nevermore, Edgar Allan Poe’s raven repeats, not finding any other word to reply to he who has suffered the loss of his loved one. Ah, how we liked it, how I liked, his way of speaking, the way he heated up, with his accent, his unique manner of speech, so alive, so physical.
Fulvio, my friend, has been struck down. Like the tree by Giuseppe Penone, recently rooted in the gardens of Versailles. He died suddenly, on a sidewalk in Naples, one morning, alone, his partner Francesca Tarallo told me, on his way to the medical practice in the poorer suburbs of the city where he saw his patients every day. Fulvio was a great man, a real psychiatrist, of the kind that no longer exists, a very subtle clinician. He proved it to us magnificently at the Montauban clinical college with his account of the Maurizio case. We were amazed by the unique way Fulvio had put into action in his meeting with this psychotic the management of transference, the indispensable condition for every possible treatment of psychosis.
Yes, Fulvio Marone was a psychoanalyst who did not draw back before psychosis.
Francesca, who is deeply affected by the loss, writes to me that he was working on the real unconscious and that in the last year he had developed a true passion for topology. He had given himself heart and soul to the analytic cause. His contribution to ICLES, the Clinical Institute of Social Relations in Naples, as well as to the Lacanian Psychoanalytical Forum in Italy, has been remarkable. All those who have met him in Forums all around the world, where he was invited to speak and was always appreciated, bear witness to this. The list of his contributions to psychoanalytic knowledge is also long. We cannot forget his Toulouse Conferences on necrophilia and on clinical practice from Hippocrates to Lacan.
I was due to see him again in July in Naples for two conferences closing a cycle on Joyce to which he had invited me. Every time I intervened I heard his voice accompanying me, his intonations and his gestural expressiveness, evoking the tarantella, as he translated my every sentence into Italian. I remember the hot summer nights at the old harbor, where you spoke to us, Fulvio, about Masaniello – the mad fisherman, the insurgent who was master of Naples for one week in the XVIIth century – about Neapolitan song, about the nenia, the funeral lament, and where with Francesca and Nicole you would sing Maruzzella maruzzé…
Teaching College Day at the CCPSO, Bordeaux, 8 June 2013