How many “Emilios” have there been, Emilio? There was the one who at the age of twenty was already publishing in the “Politecnico” of Elio Vittorini, the one who danced boogie-woogie at Santa Tecla with Rosellina Archinto, the one who advised or reassured Giorgio Armani about his creations, the one who sang Neapolitan songs with Dario Fo while playing the guitar, the one who did the covers for the recordings of Ricky Gianco, or the source of inspiration for Mariuccia Mandelli. The one who wrote for the Corriere della Sera or talked about art on television. The poet, the painter, the storyteller. How many lives did you live, Emilio?
No matter how many, you lived them all in your father’s house. Something more than a house: an entire world. A building from the start of the century, one of the first built with reinforced concrete in Milan, on Via Jommelli. A street, when you were a kid, practically outside the city, though not yet in the country. In the heart of a neighborhood of workshops and factories. Milan, in its explicit, productive essence. You lived on the first floor, and your studio was downstairs, by way of a spiral staircase. Going up and down those steps you could hear the noise of the presses, the machinery of the print shop where your father Giuseppe worked. “Marucelli tipografia” is still written on the facade, imprinted in the decorative cement over the entrance.
Maybe this is why you were so many things, Emilio. You were fascinated by writing, attracted by composition. As a typographer, an artisan who put things in order, gave form to words. Lambrate was your neighborhood, Via Porpora your kingdom. There, near the house, on the corner with Via Ampère, you went to the movies, as you recall in your novel, La lunga notte: “I entered the cavern of the giants, as a child,” you wrote. “At the corner of Via Porpora and Via Ampère the planet gave birth to heroes, giants.”
Your painting was also this: imaginative, childlike, visual and dreamy magic. Painting done well, we should point out. As a painter you knew how to use your hands. Like the printers who set the type and pulled the levers behind the wall of your studio. Like the tanners and makers of leather goods across from your house. Stefano Serapian was the name of the best of that lot. He had opened a workshop right across the street. The first in Milan to craft leather items of such refinement. He was of Armenian origin and all he had to do was cross the road, right next to your place, to attend mass in the church of the diasporic community. The first Serapian shop is still there, facing the print shop that continued for years to impress ink on paper, even after the death of your father, thanks to your brother Gianni.
You went around the neighborhood by bicycle. Sometimes the topography of Milan makes History. Lucio Fontana lived on Via Porpora, behind your house. It was inevitable that you would meet, and spend time together. Once, in Fontana’s studio, you admired a large oval canvas he had just finished. One of his very famous spatial concepts. “Te piàs?” Lucio asked. “Ciàpel sü!” [Do you like it? Take it home!] And you replied: “I can’t… I’ve got my bike…”