Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Eveline again

A few years ago, La Repubblica, one of the major Italian newspapers, launched an on-line forum on its website: “What is the book that changed your life?”. The participants to this forum were given 500 words to indicate the book they considered it changed their life, and to explain why.

In just a few days, several thousands of people participated to the forum, inducing a couple of journalists to write an article about it (, and Answers ranged from ‘no book changes your life’ to ‘every book changes a bit your life’. And within these two opposite positions, the forum offered an interesting portrait of the titles and the authors that most influenced the Italians in the past 20-30 years.

But besides the light entertainment produced by reading others’ answers and finding back titles of books I loved (or of books I wish I had read but I didn’t), this forum deeply provoked me with its fundamental question: what was the book that changed ‘my’ life? I had never thought about it…

It’s not an easy answer. The book that changed your life is not necessarily the book that you liked the most. You need to find out whether there is a book that produced a change in your life (could be anything: a choice, the revelation or the understanding of something, etc.) - and consider that change ‘the’ change in your life. Or, on the other way round, you need to identify the big changes in your life, and find out whether they have been somehow inspired by the reading of a book…

It took me about two days, but I finally found it out: “Eveline”, one of the tales of ‘The Dubliners’, by James Joyce (

Eveline is the story of a young woman in the Dublin of the beginning of 1900. She leads a dreary and gloomy life: not wealthy, working hard to take care of the two young brothers, dominated by her violent father. She suddenly has the opportunity to change her life when Frank, the man she is courted with, proposes her to follow him in Argentina, where he is about to emigrate. However, though initially kindled by the perspective of escaping from her present life, Eveline is finally unable to leave, stuck by the fear of leaving the known - even if miserable - for the unknown…

From the first time I read this tale, Eveline became the model of how I didn’t want to be. I didn’t want the fear for the new and the unknown (which everyone feels) could prevent me from the opportunities that the new and the unknown bring along. And every time I had to take a decision in which I had to weight the two - the uncertainty full of risks (but also opportunities) of the new vs the sense of comfort and security of the known - I thought of Eveline, hold my breath, and jumped into the unknown…

1 comment:

  1. A volte bisognerebbe chiedersi perchè Eveline ha avuto paura di cambiare...
    Il viaggio verso l'Argentina non sarebbe stato nient'altro che una fuga. Eveline non era innamorata di Frank, voleva solo modificare il suo triste presente.
    Probabilmente una persona come Eveline non sarebbe riuscita ad essere felice neanche in Argentina con il suo Frank.

    Prima di poter affrontare qualunque cambiamento bisognerebbe prima di tutto cambiare l'atteggiamento con cui si affrontano non solo le novità, ma anche il proprio presente.
    E' questa la sfida più difficile... Cambiare una casa è solo faticoso, mentre decidere di cambiare la propria testa e affrontare i propri demoni a volte è (o appare) un'impresa praticamente impossibile.
    Ma non credo che tu abbia mai rischiato di fare la fine di Eveline... e se anche fossi rimasto a Washington, non sarebbe stato semplicemente una "rinuncia" ad esplorare "the unknown"...
    Bon voyage!
    Buon viaggio!
    Subh Yatra!