Between Depth and Surface. Anatomy, Vision and Writing in Valerio Magrelli and Michel Tournier

Elena Cappellini


At the outer limit of the body, the skin is a threshold between inside and outside, depth and surface, visible and invisible. In his project of integrating psychology and body growth, Didier Anzieu considers the epidermis to be a double-envelope surface, impermeable and porous at the same time, provided with an inner side which encloses the content of the body and records any slight change which occurs in it, and an outer side, a boundary between the body and the world which accumulates the traces left by experience, by the passing of time and by forces acting outside the body. Anatomy becomes a metaphor for writing both in Valerio Magrelli and Michel Tournier. In Magrelli’s Nel condominio di carne, both the image of an eye looking inwards and the X-ray vision become synonyms for introspection and starting point for the development of writing. Tournier’s artistic path, on the contrary, seems to develop along two parallel lines: the refusal of an epistemology of the deep associating interior, secret, truth, and the celebration of surface. The sense of horror aroused by the dissection of interior anatomy, as well as the image of an open window which widens the view onto the external world, overturn the self-perceptive point of view by reversing the direction of sight along which writing unfolds. As Tournier’s sensibility for photography might therefore correspond with the exaltation of externality as well as with his choice of a centrifugal writing, so Magrelli’s radiological interest corresponds with the celebration of depth and with the autobiographical inclination of his poetics.


Anatomy; Photography; Radiology; Michel Tournier; Valerio Magrelli

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