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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Watery Graves

  • Author(s): Dal Lago, Alessandro
  • et al.

Written in the style of a seventeenth-century Jesuit sermon, “Watery Graves” (“Fluidi Feretri” in the original Italian) takes its title from a sonnet by Giacomo Lubrone, a distinguished Jesuit orator and poet of the period. The piece was inspired by the death of a group of young Senegalese who left Dakar or a nearby port for the Spanish Canary Islands on Christmas Eve in 2005. After drifting thousands of miles off course, the boat eventually ran aground off the Caribbean Island of Barbados. “Watery Graves” is an invective against the blindness of the wealthy and “developed” Western world that allows thousands to die in the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, and the African deserts while claiming to safeguard the “European Fortress” against immigrants. As is typical of Baroque sermons, the text is also a pastiche, drawing on the Western literary tradition of maritime meditations from Coleridge to T.S. Eliot and Paul Valèry. The sermon was performed on stage at the Naples Theatre Festival in June 2008 with Massimo Popolizio in the role of narrator.

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