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‘Grand’, back cover. Noelle McCarthy (2022) Penguin Random House New Zealand.



It is a knowledge the admission, no more retracted, of one’s birth, which a young lady tells in the shape of a novel : then is not a narration, easy easy, without any imputation.

Noelle is the name chosen by mom Carol for her daughter and then, by mom herself, a thousand times that name withdrawn, every time that Noelle approaches her, looking at her closely, reminding her the choice of the name. Noelle was born, but she has not been born yet.

Noelle is always a little girl, always a step behind her mother but, if she remains a little girl without partner, her mother’s melancholy is finally removed. Because is precisely the matter of a partner that is not allowed between the two of them, a partner would bring himself - or herself - in trial.

A protection no more vital for the daughter, on the contrary it protects mother’s thoughts from an hypothesis of non-performance : it only asks to stay ‘Grand’.

However the more used word in the novel can also be referred to ‘growing up, becoming grand’ : all of a sudden Noelle uses it like this and without fuss, but now she is already an adult and is about to leave for Auckland, New Zealand from Cork, in Ireland where ‘grand’ is the ‘beforehand’, the very simple and indisputable, what was what is and what will always be. The easiness of a claim which is a unreal – the one that ‘no one but me’ – Noelle collects it to put again in the right place all the ‘others’, who came into her life too and hurriedly were retracted by her and sterilized because the logic couldn’t be admitted : the real life tastes quite different from what you imagine in the absence of partners.

The taste makes grand.


Marina Bilotta Membretti / Cernusco sul Naviglio – April 10, 2023



[1] I owe my comment to the conversation with a young woman who offered me the book : then this opportunity is also to thank her.

Where are they going to ?  


The project for a ‘History of Fortune’ was commissioned in 1505 to the already famous Pinturicchio, and busy at the time into more than one works for the Cathedral in Siena : the Umbrian artist soonest supplied them with the drawing on cardboard for the floor mosaic to be placed just after entering the church. In 1859, also after remakings and restorations, the woman representing the final ‘Quiet’, and goal of the route here painted, was given name ‘Wisdom’ so that the title of the work changed into ‘Allegory of the mount of Wisdom’.



A Fortune as lighthearted as she, is troubling enough – the pregnant belly, the gnarled and virile legs - however Fortune made them landing : but they don’t stop now.

Being about to leave are a few well-known men of that time and at their back, almost hidden, a young man and a woman too. Nothing is didactic in the drawing scratched in the marble more than five hundred of years ago, nor is pedagogical : rather there’s something dreamlike – and therefore experiential – about that casual landing, and about the affection that accompanied it, indispensable then to catch their following decision.

However their affection isn’t clearing the fog of anguish, and – ingenuously indeed – it is not said at all, because their steps are already directed on a new path which even is punctuated by envy lazyness and deceit, evidently present when they were accompanied by Fortune too.

Absent indeed is the judgement of each one who imputes the offer which, according to logic, cannot be after the undertaking, so that a goal can be qualified.

Well indeed says that separate space on the marble, between the wayfarers and a desired ‘Quietness’ - or ‘Wisdom’ as the clients then did request - about the emptiness of thought when any illusion can fill that, and which the artist here was honestly be able to describe.


Marina Bilotta Membretti / Cernusco sul Naviglio - January 28, 2023

Human imbalances[1].

The long work of John F. Nash, Jr.


Original painting by Stefano Frassetto.[2]





Is there anything more daily than the human imbalance ?

The contribution of the other one doesn’t coincide with what we expected – it is a common experience – but, since childhood, that does put us to work : an obscure word because it obeys the prospect of composing a better solution.

What we know is that the reality principle couldn’t be established without our specific pleasure principle that precedes, and cannot be generalized as it is absolutely individual.

Something therefore has happened to the very human pleasure principle when it doesn’t pick up the reality, that immediately – to the newborn-baby indeed – comes as an offer.

Usually - and maybe thoughtlessly – they give the early childhood the credit to finish one’s own thinking, while that can require years, decades, maybe the whole life to effectively conjugate both pleasure principle and reality principle.

Our body is the first sanctioning interlocutor : to sanction is equivalent to thinking, but the equivalence is too easily rejected with that logic error that progressively sterilizes the sanction up to make the body just a not essential support to thinking, a claiming troublesome ‘object’ into which the humans risk even stumbling.

The story of the mathematician John F. Nash, Jr. maybe recalls that progressive tangle all around the logic of the pleasure principle which any even serious pathology attracts like a magnet : but, astonishingly and without any predictability due to his many and hard therapeutic hospitalizations to which he underwent and which very little can – we see – about the truth asserted by someone, John Nash evidently begun to consider picking up what, for decades, he had neglected instead.

He did so with absolute freedom, then with genuine intelligence.

Twenty years were already almost passed in 1994 when Nobel Prize for Economics was confered upon Professor John Nash, due to his Game Theory[3] so valid that it could be effectively applied in different yet specific fields. Is then from 2011 the recording video of an ‘Open Dialogue’[4] which intrigued me : here, infact, Professor John F. Nash, Jr. was invited from ‘The Hong Kong Polytechnic University’, the welcome from teachers and students still sounds festive, the questions simply and respectfully formulated, John Nash enjoys handshakes.

“Have been music means of your studies ?”

“Is Economics a science ?”

“Is mathematics an abstraction ? Is it a passion ?”

“What are your projects now ?”

He keeps cautious, each word is chosen with care : Economics is “a social science, …the proofs of a mathematical model don’t fit Economics…”, but only through Econometrics. Music was “psychologically important to me…” but “ …no one connection with my studies”. Mathematics itself wasn’t a passion, but without it “…we would be in the Babel Tower, …because it allows us to understand, …there is no more confusion” : and here, yes, the scientist gets excited as well as, in order to reply to a question he explains his present interest in cosmology and to those asymmetries already pointed out by Einstein, but still to be taken again as a whole.

And then is in a very short interview from 2013[5] where the Italian mathematician Piergiorgio Odifreddi was asking, having read ‘Il Principe’ by Niccolò Machiavelli  how John Nash would have linked it to his Game Theory that the scientist does drop any abstract, even academic, competence and instead reports something which he himself had experienced, in his previous pathologically loneliness : the crossroads at which you neglect the appointment with the other one, when any goal shifts to paranoic and becomes devastating.

“Machiavelli’s advices are dis-connected by ethics - John Nash acknowledges, with a topicality that scares us today even more. “But it is difficult to make ethics scientific, especially when you want to derive it from religion. And as science requires scientificity, maybe Machiavelli well did in leaving out ethics of the topics about decisions”.

The good mathematician did choose with care the word ‘religion’, which is not ‘faith’[6] and ‘trust’. 



Marina Bilotta Membretti / Cernusco sul Naviglio, May 3 - 2022     




[1] ”The current use of the word ‘imbalance’ seems to be too much self-seeking. In the law of nature we place and propose, the normal man/woman is, literally, who unbalances himself, or herself, (i.e. work) on someone else, so getting a further imbalance (i.e. still work) in view of a profit (and still work ) : if he, or she, is not ‘so’ unbalanced, then is… insane indeed”, ‘Il pensiero di natura. Dalla psicoanalisi al pensiero giuridico’ di Giacomo B. Contri SIC Edizioni – seconda edizione 1998. Parte II, ‘La Carta, o Enciclopedia del pensiero di natura’, Par.13 ‘Economia, ricchezza, scarsità’ cit.: p.114 

[2] Stefano Frassetto is born in Turin in 1968. After his degree in Architecture at ‘Politecnico’ he begun as graphic novelist for local magazines. In the ‘90s he edited in France too, on ‘Le Réverbère’ and on ‘Libération’ : then he created ‘Ippo’ for ‘Il Giornalino’ and then the stripe ‘35MQ’ for the swiss magazine ‘20 Minuti’. In 2000 he came into ‘La Stampa’ as portraitist for cultural page and the insert ‘Tuttolibri’, then for the weekly ‘Origami’. Today he works also for the swiss magazine ‘Le Temps’.

[3] Since his graduation thesis, John Nash specialty was the mathematical study of a solution to achieve the balance, starting from a conflict of interest and a beginning non-cooperation of the participants : that is the players don’t enter into binding agreements, but they would adopt in any case the decision resulting from the maximum possible profit and up to a hypothetical equilibrium point, at which the maximum public profit corresponds to the maximum individual profit, therefore focusing to the predictability of a hypothetical social and rational behaviour, to be also conveniently set up in the politics of one, or more Nations. 

[4] ‘Open Dialogue with Nobel Laureate : Professor John F. Nash, Jr’, ‘The Hong Kong Polytechnic University’ – November 4, 2011/        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PxqDi2lugo0 

[5] ‘la Repubblica’, ‘Archivio’ 6 ottobre 2013 - Piergiorgio Odifreddi, ‘Il Nobel Nash, Machiavelli, i leader coreani e il presidente Assad’. 

[6] By ‘ religion’ we mean the rules of a cult : while ‘trust’ and then ‘faith’ is the firm belief in someone’s truth and rightness, who was done his, or her own.


One day to talk about[1].

Alexander Solzenitsin, Nobel Prize 1970.

Original painting by Stefano Frassetto.[2]



“He (Suchòv, ie) looked up at the sky and gasped; it had cleared and the sun was nearly high enough for dinner-time. Amazing how time flew when you are working. He’d often noticed that days in the camp rolled by before you knew it. Yet your sentence stood still, the time you had to serve never got any less…

Half the day was gone and they’d done nothing. They wouldn’t be paid for rigging up a stove and making themselves a warm shelter : that was work for themselves not for the site. Something would have be entered on the worksheet.”[3]

‘Una giornata di Ivan Denìsovic’ is still the first detailed written description about the life in a Stalinist lagerr also if in the poetic way of a tale, that is a short story : till then, only silent and occasionali hints in literature, due to a formal prohibition to any ex deported people when released, to speak about their experience. Solzenitsin got his freedom in 1953, so that to serve the confinement  for life in a far region of central Asia : in 1959 he will write ‘Una giornata di Ivan Denìsovic’, which was read and diffused underground.

But in 1961, during the XXII Convention of Communist Party of Sovietic Union, the First Secretary Nikita Chruscëv, as formal successor of Iosip Stalin and one of his closest collaborator, does attack Stalin and what he did, while appreciating what Solzenitsin wrote just during Chruscëv debate with ‘conservative’ wing of the Party as contrary to a de-stalinization politics, other than with communist leaders in other countries as they didn’t accept Chruscëv revisionism.

That character - Ivan Denìsovic Sùchov – unfairly imprisoned, as a number of citizens, moved away from his own family and wife he will not see any more as many in the lager did realize, was then so different and also special in some way, nothing to do with that ‘collectivist’ culture which planned to reject the individuals, is still a man so near to anyone read him due to his own lucidity and gentleness : so that it happened the First Secretary did like the diary and decreeded its publishing, infact on November 17, 1962 the manuscript was published on the magazine ‘Novyj Mir’ like an earthquake, because the ‘conservative’ wing pretended to confirm a main proof of system vitality, notwithstanding the evident mistakes by Stalin.

However, a no adherency by Solzenitsin to the ‘socialist realism’[4] as required from government leaders was soon evident, and the ‘not professional’ writer, even if degreed in Mathematics at Rostov University, was considered an incurable antagonist and his further books were rejected up to a compelled exile from his own country.

In 1970 Alexander Solzenitsin had already received the Nobel prize for Literature, he will take back only in 1974, when he was no more URSS citizen, as he well knew that four years before he could be arrested.

What else can we say ? ‘One day in the life of Ivan Denìsovic’ just describes, with the good pleasure of many beloved details, an entire well gone day in the Siberian lager, a few well played chances and other ones just casually happy which tomorrow there wouldn’t be - but today yes! They’ve happened indeed – and mainly with a strong careful calculated awareness that no one illusion can be admitted.


                                                   Marina Bilotta Membretti, Cernusco sul Naviglio – November 13, 2021



[1] ‘One day in the life of Ivan Denisovic’, Alexander Solzenitsin - ‘Penguin Random House UK’ 1991. 

[2]Stefano Frassetto is born in Turin in 1968. After his degree in Architecture at ‘Politecnico’ he begun as graphic novelist for local magazines. In the ‘90s he edited in France too, on ‘Le Réverbère’ and on ‘Libération’ : then he created ‘Ippo’ for ‘Il Giornalino’ and then the stripe ‘35MQ’ for the swiss magazine ‘20 Minuti’. In 2000 he came into ‘La Stampa’ as portraitist for cultural page and the insert ‘Tuttolibri’, then for the weekly ‘Origami’. Today he works also for the swiss magazine ‘Le Temps’.

[3] ‘One day in the life of Ivan Denisovic’, Alexander Solzenitsin - ‘Penguin Random House UK’ 1991. p.54; p.71.

[4] ‘Socialist realism’ was a cultural movement in Thirties, in Sovietic Union, just to favour a large diffusion of socialist progress.