Lu Cafausu

2013-08-21A while ago, before the summer, in the courtyard at Careof in Milan, Efrem, a guy with a beard, told me he came from San Cesario: «I live on the edge of town, at lluca fausu», he said, with that sly Salento accent. I thought: «He lives in a false Luca, at Luca-the-fake… whatever.» Over the next few days, for no apparent reason, I kept thinking about this fake Luca. A couple of months later we were driving through San Cesario, Alessandra had a blue wig, it was three in the morning and we were on our way home from a party. We had ingested red wine, rum and chinotto, and I had chewed some mint leaves. «I want to show you something – she said. Have you ever heard of the lu cafausu?» I couldn’t believe my ears. Around two bends and down two one-way streets (the wrong way, she was driving) and there was the fake Luca. A dozen buildings surround what might almost be called a piazza. At its center stands a strange structure (more of an “object”) in crumbly masonry, a weird sort of pagoda with a Middle Eastern air (a crescent moon on the roof), fragile, almost an eyesore. Efrem’s neighborhood doesn’t take its name from some dishonest Luca, but from a “coffee house” (twisted by local dialect into “lu cafe-haus-u”) that has been many little things for many long decades: a gathering place for peasants, a gazebo that provided shade for noblemen and English officers as they sipped tea, a dwelling for a young orphan and his white horse, a henhouse, a toilet, a garage for a Lambretta, a sexual trysting place, a farmer’s tool shed, an illegal gambling joint, a dream object and, last but not least, the site of performances by four artists. It was and is an inadmissible spot, a territory of accumulation and absence of meaning. A metaphor, perhaps, of what we might become.
(Translation by Steve Piccolo)
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