A Complete Life

Italo Calvino: Invisible Cities, page 63:

'The city of Sophronia is made up of two half-cities. In one there is the great roller coaster with its steep humps, the carousel with its chain spokes, the Ferris wheel of spinning cages, the death-ride with crouching motorcyclists, the big top with the clump of trapezes hanging in the middle. The other half-city is of stone and marble and cement, with the bank, the factories, the palaces, the slaughterhouse, the school, and all the rest. One of the half-cities is permanent, the other temporary, and when the period of sojourn i s over, they uproot it, dismantle it, and take it off, transplanting it to the vacant lots of another half-city.

And so every year the day comes when the workmen remove the marble pediments, lower the stone walls, the cement pylons, take down the Ministry, the monument, the docks, the petroleum refinery, the hospital, load them on trailers, to follow from stand to stand their annual itinerary. Here remains the half-Sophronia of the shooting-galleries and the carousels, the shout suspended from the cart of the headlong roller coaster, and it begins to count the months, the days it must wait before the caravan returns and a complete life can begin again.'

(Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities, transl. William Weaver, San Diego etc.: Harcourt Brace, 1974)

Photos made at the mulid (Muslim saints-day festival) of as-Sayyid Ahmad al-Badawi in Tanta, Egypt, IX November MMVI and XIV October MMX

Thanks to Jennifer Peterson, Ashraf Faysal, Bassem Abu Gweili.

Copyright of the photos MMVI & MMX by Samuli Schielke / back to the photo index