Somehow our own relation to specific events and images in time appears to be focused upon certain haunting disparate fragments of our experience, we are both observer and participator as in a game of billiards; we hover over a fixed field lit by a circular lamp; contemplating; establishing angles; then poise; calculate; hit; then hope. The fact that we come out of a darkness, knowing that the field is rather a given, and that there are three spheres (two white; one red); at first silent; waiting; dense compact atoms of past histories; and future histories too; set into motion by our will; our willingness to act upon those spheres; playing off the rigid-angle cushions; hitting the edges; hitting the multi-points of ends of the primary diameters; bouncing a few images and even fewer ideas into the stage and arena of a seemingly perpetual moment; caught in the stop-frame of a generation; anticipating some kind of illumination.
I remember one evening back in the late nineteen forties (when there were still trolley cars moving through snow on frozen tracks in New York) that I first came upon two images, both being in Italy outside of Rome; of a place begun but not finished called "Terza Roma". Two photographic images which even today haunt; give one a chill; yet fascinate as certain strange unfamiliar landscapes do; which we sense to be mysterious and foreboding; seductive; and dangerous. It is the seemingly bucolic which disturbs. One photograph was of a pastoral landscape with sheep grazing within a field; in the distance a tall white building officiated, made up of floor upon floor of arches in series. The scene at once enticing and softly menacing. Only much later did I understand its surreality; its de Chiricoesque genealogy. The other photo image was shot from a low angle focusing up upon the white arch structure as detail; heralding the rising of a marble horse; hoofs raised; fixed to a pedestal; the morning light increasing the depth of shaded volumetric muted concavities enclosing one or two stone figures within the empty central building; perhaps surrounded by dense clouds; separating it from the night; all subjects having a luminosity; an iridiscence; filtering through a sepia mist; at once releasing a nostalgia and a leaden dread.
Since the initial inspection of the two photographs it was not more than five years later on a Sunday morning in 1953 that my wife and I approached the actual "Terza Roma" by bus; it still had the sense of a place waiting; of an irresolution. We walked towards the central monument, the building of vacant arches. We felt that the early photographs were more essential; more impacted; they had tolerated no interception. A scale had changed; the three-dimensionality exuded a vacancy. The materiality bleached the light. There were echoes of a construction going on to the West. A church was being built. A dull hammering impregnated the air. "Terza Roma" was waiting for an adjustment. Our eyes caught another structure, a large white horizontal with a cube perched on the roof capped by a shell. It appeared like a stationary ship. We were drawn to its silent presence. There were no people about. The doors of this immense edifice were closed but unlocked. We entered into its inner silences and were confronted by an empty hall many stories high; clamped by criss-crossing stairways ascending to a roof-terrace-promenade which overlooked a melancholic countryside; the roof supporting an outdoor cascade of stone horizontal step-seating which held imaginary audiences, backs to the campagna; and imaginary contoured faces forward towards a voided stage; it was in shadow.
Libera's Malaparte house is private. It is a house of paradoxes. It is an object which consumes. It is filled with unrequited histories. It is a relic left upon the pinnacle after the seas have subsided. It is a sarcophagus of soft cries. It whispers of inevitable fates