How to Be Less Human by Edith Grossman

How to be Less Human

How to Be Less Human by Edith Grossman

“How to be Less Human” by Mutante Il Corpo Mio Sabissa, is a short book written in an elegantly casual style. Like most of the other works by this Italian poet, it begins and ends with quote byline, which beautifully captures the essence of the matter, while at the same time beautifully summing up its message. It begins and closes as it always does, with the quote from lines, “Non ho chiamato, non sienna, come sora in pace, ma Che soprano chiami.”

The first few stanzas deal mainly with an argument between two lovers: First, a woman complains that her husband has been ignoring her; second, the husband counters that it was she who was ignoring him, since she was busy looking after their son. Their argument takes a rather violent turn, with the husband smacking the woman on the side of the face and then raising his arm in a sign of violence. The woman begs her husband not to do such things, but he ignores her, so she goes out and finds somebody else. In the subsequent stanza she is pregnant. And this is where the book starts to take off, in a rather remarkable direction, for the entire poem is about how the birth of their child changes the couple; as it gives them new strength, freedom and purpose in life.

The second stanza starts off rather innocently enough, with the lines, “La suprema e non sa chi suprema” (It’s neither sleep nor food that avails you of life). However, as the couple get further into their new lives, the tone becomes slightly more ominous, for example, in the following stanza, where the lines are taken from a famous Biblical passage: “Behold, thou art consecrated to me with this ring, according to the law of Moses and Israel.” This shows that the act of procreation has permanently sanctified them both. On the other hand, in the eleventh stanza, where the lines are taken from a French work entitled Les Baux deux, the words, “Il faut seul le ventreux aventure” (I will have a child once) seems almost to have replaced the previous sentiment. But despite this, the newlywed couple still believe in their marital relationship and the idea of having children, as they are already “conceding” to each other’s version of what marriage means and what a family is.