• May 28, 2023

Federica De Paolis: “Distractions” that change life – iO Woman

D.fatal instructions. A two-year-old, blond and chubby, plays at the little park near the Olympic village, in Rome. Her mother Viola has a yoga class, she waits for her husband Paolo to take over to go. She sees him coming, I agree that in order not to upset the little one, they take turns silently, without saying goodbye. But Paolo receives an urgent call and, convinced that his wife has not yet seen him, returns to the office. And little Elia remains alone. Thus begins a breathtaking story, the spasmodic search for a child from which the lens widens on a broken couple relationship.

Federica De Paolis ph credits Alessandro Rossellini

Federica De Paolis. Photo: Alessandro Rossellini

Fears and suspicions overlap: Paolo is embroiled in a scam on the disposal of garbage for which the mafia might want to hit him, Viola has suffered an accident that causes her memory lapses and in the care of little Elia she relied heavily on her friend Dora, a midwife who, however, Paolo does not approve of.

Federica De Paolis constructs a concentric novel, a descent into the dark sides of family relationshipswhere reality overturns while the clock ticks inexorably, marking a six-hour day.

For writers there is always a “there”: which was yours?
The initial movement, the two people who “miss” the delivery of the child to the park. I really saw it when my children were small: a couple had to take over the management of the child but due to a misunderstanding they both left, leaving the little one alone. Obviously we called them back immediately …

In the book, however, the parents go away and little Elia disappears. And the research becomes the starting point to work on the couple, on a stranded love.
Elia was born after several attempts at assisted fertilization, a desired but also complicated and very stressful motherhood. For a job in Rai I have collected many stories of people who have entrusted themselves to assisted reproduction. Many have managed to have a child but the path has tried them, sometimes distanced them. This happened to Viola, the protagonist, her hormone load and tension convinced her that the responsibility lay entirely on her shoulders, there was an almost obsessive goal to reach. I do not make any judgments about IVF, I am happy if people are helped to have children. I was interested in the aspect of psychological fatigue, central to the story: the failure to deliver the child is a symbolic moment of a distance that has been created in the couple.

The distractions by Federica De Paolis HarperCollins pages 285, € 17.50

The distractions by Federica De Paolis, Harper Collins, pages 285, € 17.50

In the book there are many distractions, the loss of the child, Paolo’s father who had an affair, Viola’s fallacious memory. What does distraction really mean?
In our vocabulary it has a light meaning, perhaps a friend in crisis is suggested to “get a little distracted”. In reality in psychoanalysis it is treated as a real absence of the self, it means going away from a situation, it has a very complex explanation. He writes that the term comes from separation … Separation from memories. It means that there is something in your circumstance that for some reason you cannot tolerate, you do not want to see, you cannot stay in contact with. In Viola’s case, I built a macroscopic motif around her mental confusion.

The characters at the end of the story appear transformed, rotated on themselves 360 degrees.
They go on a kind of trip, the time span is only one day, six hours in all. But the Viola you see at the beginning on the bench is different from the one that appears at the end.

There is a mixture of genres: the search for the child has thriller traits. But there is a couple that has been lost for some time, between silences, omissions, lies. An excavation from a bourgeois novel.
I have nothing against genres, but this cannot be said to be a thriller, let’s say there is a gun but it doesn’t shoot. I started the story with an event that draws you in but that gives me the opportunity to understand what happens inside a love relationship, especially when there are children involved.

Viola lives a kind of unconscious motherhood, as if she were looking after her child out of inertia, with many doubts, for which she entrusts herself to her friend Dora. Which Paolo doesn’t want to hear about.
Viola is exhausted by her motherhood and by the accident she has had. She and Paolo are totally missing. At the beginning Paolo is an ambiguous man, he is embroiled in a dangerous circle, perhaps he has an affair with the secretary. Instead he is a good character, sentimentally heroic. He parried all the shots to help Viola.

The clip of

The clip of

Viola doesn’t remember how Elijah dressed in the morning: are a mother’s distractions heavier than her father’s?
There is more social reprobation, mothers even if overloaded with tasks are more blamed. Even by themselves.

Viola provides Paolo with “the way to suffer by reflex, to give him mourning and sadness at breakfast and dinner”. It’s a slightly convoluted female mode, does it always hit the mark?
Viola needs to keep him always on the tightrope, instead he is nourished by a granite love. Anyway, I come back to the question: it is a very feminine modality, a bit bizarre, as women are: some men slip on, others suffer heavily.

Viola has suffered a traumatic event: does the fact that the psychiatrist say not to inform her of what happened to her have a scientific value?
Yes. After a powerful trauma many people go into repression, do not succeed, risk an emotional short circuit and therefore take a step back to eliminate the event from memory. The therapeutic indication is to wait for them to come to the truth by themselves.

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Viola, Paolo and Paolo’s family who helps them in their research do not call the police: why?
It is a ploy. On the advice of a friend, they fear the accusation of abandonment of a minor, Viola has had an accident and is not thinking about it, they could take the child away from her. Elements that I needed to support the six hours of storytelling. And then, if they had called the carabinieri it would have become another book.


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