Gagarin. (Charlie D. Nan)

By Charlie d Nan

Translation: Silvia Lumaca

Yuri Gagarin was the grandson of Yuri Gagarin. In truth, he didn’t directly inherit his surname from his grandfather, but from uncle Gagarin who adopted him at the death of his mother, the daughter of Yuri Gagarin, the first man who went into space, together with the death of his father, which occurred in a bicycle crash: to dodge a big fat black cat, they finished off a wooden bridge, the cat was named Nicolaij. Yuri anyhow, was named Yuri since he was born and until that moment, he had never believed that black cats bring bad luck.

When the Berlin Wall fell, Yuri was 23, he couldn’t say that he remembered those instants, as the word spread uncertain through the university of Saint Petersburg and he was able to see the images that would stick into history only when he arrived in Berlin, out of curiosity, after over a month of train travel. Despite the celebrations, he moved on, it was not so great to be Russian, nephew of a Russian hero, in those days. He continued in direction of France because the first train available was going to Lyon, but he would have preferred to travel more and more towards the Mediterranean coast since it is well known, or at least the conductor explained him, that people from the coast are crusty but basically in a democratic way, therefore they’re crusty with everybody with no distinction based on where you come from or what you do, and so in the end it was okay to end up over there. Therefore, from Lyon he took a train to Nice, where a woman stole his wallet with all his papers inside and he lost his identity for more than a year, then by accident, while playing Seven and a half, his only source of income and game at which he was very able, he won back his identity card that was traded as a relic once belonged to his grandfather, the famous cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the first man who went into space.

So he explained his loss to a fortune teller, he was not superstitious and the fortune teller was his landlady but he couldn’t register a house contract since he had no papers, therefore he didn’t ask for a prevision of future but a consideration based on her activity, and so the fortune teller, going on with her speech, told him that in a town on the seaside there exist many human aggregations, which aggregations occur in a centric or in a fractional way: some in particular, are those who base their existence on a simple but functional technology, the fisherman is the emblem of this community and the knot the emblem of this technology. Precisely our personal identity is formed in a manner which is not formal but substantial in numerically smaller and minimally articulated groups called communities. Identity’s formation then, is based on the relationship between the members of these aggregations and in some cases also with nature, in a manner which is not so different from what happens with big white-tip tunafish whom the more they grow bigger inside a shoal of fish and the more they seem to mature a spiritualist nature that can be felt looking into their pupils when their heads are displayed in markets, and in fact when you reel a tuna in, the very man who does it, gains strength from the fight with the tuna and absorbs his spiritualist entity. Thus among some fishing communities, after a big fishing trip to the tuna they extract hearts, brains, livers from the tuna and they cook them in wine and serve them to the youngsters for becoming members of the clan and to weddings, thus are born a relation of kinship between the members of a community and a spiritual bond with an animal species.

A few days after the recovery of his papers and thus of his identity’ chastity, he attempted suicide, it was march 17th, 1991, on the tv at the first floor in Rue Cassini, a pretty coward street at night, they were broadcasting the presentation of Sonic, a hedgehog in 264 blue megapixels running at a supersonic speed so forth his name, he had a pair of big red and white long shoes, cursing the Japanese he pulled the trigger of a Beretta pistol that he won to an Italian gambler whom he didn’t get why he didn’t shoot him instead of betting the Beretta at cards.

Yuri Gagarin didn’t die for this bullet, and he understood why the Italian, that Ernesto, had put the gun on the gaming table and didn’t leave a hole in his head. The barrel was faulty so that the bullet exploded just immediately after being shot out, he remained two hours lying on the couch and then he felt a strong heat in the face it was the discomfort that rose for not having succeeded in killing himself.

The second time he attempted suicide was always on the second floor in Rue Cassini, it was October 31st 1992, Radio Marseille was announcing that the Church had cleared Galileo Galilei after the trial in 1663, the radios on the seaside often talk about religion and cursing the Catholic Church he turned on the gas in the house, this time it would be death and even spectacular, fire in Rue Cassini, the road that leads to the port, and the smell of kebab, vegetables, concrete, would mix with gas and fire. This attempt also failed, Yuri Gagarin fainted inhaling methane but as the tank was almost empty it wasn’t enough not even to kill him by poisoning him. He thought a little to bad luck and the cheapness of his attempts, he thought that the big mistake was that the first time when he decided to commit suicide he was cursing the Japanese and so basically he had to do harakiri and the second time he was cursing the Church and so he had to make a pyre and burn himself even if it looked like a pretty tough plan to carry out. And so for his third attempt he decided he would be cursing the Americans who were Russians’ biggest enemy and he would have hanged himself like they were doing in the Far West with bandits. Actually the third attempt never reached a conclusion and in a way it was like loosing the Cold War some more. Yuri Gagarin the day before carrying out his plan fell in love with Ariana Lefebvre it was February 28th the tv was showing a live recording from a factory in Waco, Texas, where a hundred Davidians, followers of David Koresh who proclaimed to be Jesus, oppose to the Fbi search request. 4 agents die and it starts a siege that will end on April 19th with a violent fire, where 82 Davidians will loose their lives. Ariana Lefebvre was selling shell-fish at the corner of the street mostly to tourists who often had indigestion from mollusks. For her it was a kind of indirect revenge for what the town was suffering on summer months for the invasion of tourists deformed by the smog of the northern valleys. Not surprisingly Ariana Lefevbre belonged to the Ligue pour la Restauration des Libertés Niçoises, a group of separatists who believed in the necessity and the ability of the city of Nice to self- govern independently from the state authority. Yuri Gagarin met her because before going to play Seven and a half at the Cin Cin Bar he would eat a marinated oyster, on the evening of February 28th he met her in the basement of the bar: she was talking about politics with a group of kids at the table next to the one where he was playing anyhow as they entered the gendarmerie arrested everybody for one reason or another, they met again going out from the police station and drank a glass of Pastis. Yuri Gagarin only understood out of love the political ideas of Ariane Lefevbre. He could not accept the reason why a seaside town could have a higher natural right to govern itself autonomously, to be independent from other cities that could not even hear the sea screaming despite in truth you can hear the sea screaming at thousands of miles away but only who’ve heard him whisper before can hear the rest later. According to him moreover ports were legalized frauds, someone smarter than others had seen that that was a protected spot on the coast and decided you could dock there in exchange of money, and he got even more convinced when a scandal exploded about bribes dockers were taking in exchange for contracts for repairing the ships. So forth Yuri Gagarin believed that there can be no right for anyone to be privileged only because he finds himself in a position of advantage. Ariane Lefevbre explained him that ports are the demonstration of the deal that the antiques had made with the ancestral marine forces in exchange of the lives they would take over the millennia or they would not have sailed anymore but the marine forces told them that they were an animal too curious and the sea was too deep for not making them want to know what is underneath so they made an equal deal and the inhabitants of the port bear the brunt of the blood oath that they comprehended after a while, anyone who decides to live there sooner or later will realize it and maybe will choose to run away. And so Yuri Gagarin only understood out of love the political ideas of Ariane Lefevbre. One day Yuri Gagarin went fishing with Ariane Lefevbre. It was right before dawn on May 2 1994 at the radio on the fishing boat La Giovanna they were talking about Ayrton Senna died at the San Marino Grand Prix. It was right before dawn on May 2 1994 on the fishing boat La Giovanna and Yuri Gagarin was watching the other boats going out from the port of Nice, sleepy and swinging at the hour when the sea welcomes his sailors, not a wave, not an air burr,  from the east the sun catalyzes all looks and made you think to a long summer day. Yuri Gagarin only understood out of love the political ideas of Ariane Lefevbre. Distant from one another the vessels took their routes and lost their names on the horizon so that the Argo and the Marseillaise became cardboard cutouts on the horizon in pursuit of their destinies.

So again Yuri Gagarin realized he had lost his individual identity but also that he had bartered it for all those of the other members of La Giovanna’s crew that were calling themselves by nicknames, Cosmonaut told him one of them and that became his name, so the sea had rebaptized him and they were casting the nets all together knowing that somewhere someone was casting other nets, some full some empty. Yuri Gagarin called the cosmonaut died happy in the storm embraced to Ariane Lefevbre and said “Here there is someone”.

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