Italian author Francesca Melandri writes a letter from the future


This may have been written for the French however it applies to all of us in Canada today.

On the 18th of March, Italian author Francesca Melandri wrote a letter to the French titled, ‘Letter to the French from the future.’

She wrote the letter while under lockdown in Rome, where she has been confined since March 9th due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

While it is addressed to the French, being in quarantine because of the outbreak is something we are all experiencing.  

The letter was first published by Liberation, then on Melandri’s Facebook page. The complete letter translated to English by Robert Maggiori reads as follows:

 

Francesca Melandri- Source Francesca Melandri Facebook page

“I am writing to you from Italy, which means I am writing to you from your future. We are now where you will be in a few days. The epidemic charts show us all entwined in a parallel dance. We are but a few steps ahead of you in the path of time, just like Wuhan was a few weeks ahead of us. We watch as you behave just as we did. You hold the same arguments we did until a short time ago, between those who still say “it’s only the flu, why all the fuss?” and those who already understood.

As we watch you from here, from your future, we know that many of you, as you were told to lock yourselves in your homes, quoted Orwell, some even Hobbes. But soon you’ll be too busy for that.

First of all, you will eat. Not just because it will be one of the few last things that you can still do.

You’ll find dozens of social network groups with tutorials on how to spend your free time in fruitful ways. You will join them, then you will ignore them completely after a few days.

You will pull apocalyptic literature from your bookshelves, but you will find that you have no desire to read it.

You will eat again. You will sleep badly. You will ask yourself what is happening to democracy.

You will have an unrivalled social life- Zoom appointments and Skype dinners.

You will miss your adult children more than ever and the realisation that you have no idea when you will see them again will hit you like a punch in the chest.

Old resentments and old hatreds will cease to matter. You will call people you had sworn never to talk to again, to ask “how are you doing?”

Many women will be mistreated at home.

You will wonder what is happening to those who can’t stay at home because they don’t have one.

You will feel vulnerable when you go shopping in empty streets, especially if you are a woman. You will block out these thoughts and then you will go home and eat again. You will get fat.

You will be looking for fitness videos on the Internet.

You will laugh, you will laugh a lot. You will flaunt gallows of humour you never had before. Even those who have always taken things very seriously will realise the absurdity of human existence.

You will make appointments in supermarket queues with your friends, so as to briefly see them in person, while abiding by the social distancing rules.

You will count all the things you don’t need.

The true nature of the people around you will be revealed with total clarity. You will have confirmations and surprises.

The great intellectuals who have talked about everything to date disappear from the media, others resort to intelligent generalisations that lack empathy and you will quickly stop listening to them. People whom you had overlooked, instead will be generous, reliable and pragmatic.

Those who invite you to see all the mess as an opportunity for planetary renewal will help you to place things in a larger perspective. You will also find them terribly annoying: nice, the planet is breathing better because of the halved CO2 emissions, but how will you pay your bills next month?

You will not understand if witnessing the new world is more a grandiose or a miserable affair.

You will play music from your windows and lawns. When you saw us singing opera from our balconies, you thought “ah those Italians”. But we know you will sing uplifting songs to each other too. And when you blast, “I will survive” from your windows, we’ll watch you and nod just like the people from Wuhan, who sung from their windows in February, nodded while watching us.

Many will fall asleep vowing that the first thing they will do when this is over, is divorce.

Many children will be conceived.

Your children will participate in online lessons. They will be a horrible nuisance and they will give you joy.

The elderly will disobey you like rowdy teenagers: you’ll have to fight with them in order to forbid them from going out, to get infected and die.

You will try not to think about those who die alone in hospitals. You will want to to throw rose petals at the steps of all medical staff.

They will tell you how united society is in the common cause and that you are in the same boat. It will be true. This experience will change how you perceive yourself as an individual part of a larger whole.

Class, however, will make all the differences. Being locked up in a house with a pretty garden is not the same as living in a overcrowded housing project. Nor is being able to work from home or seeing your job disappear. The boat boat in which you’ll be sailing in order to defeat the epidemic will not look the same to everyone nor is it actually the same for everyone: it never was.

At some point you will realise it’s tough. You will be afraid. You will share your fear with your dear ones, or you will keep it to yourselves so as not to burden them with it too.

You will eat again.

We’re in Italy, and this is what we know about the future. But it’s just small-scale fortune-telling. We are very low-key seers.

If we turn our gaze to the more distance future, the future which is unknown both to you and to us too, we can only tell you this: when all this is over, the world won’t be the same.

For the Liberation