"Don't Move" Discussion: Spoilers Allowed and Expected

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"Don't Move" Discussion: Spoilers Allowed and Expected

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Apr 13, 2015, 4:32pm

discussion of don't move by margaret mazzantini (translated from the italian by john cullen). i read this book last week and would love to know what people think about her message (as in what it is). i'll wait to post more questions and spoilers until we have someone else here.

Apr 13, 2015, 5:30pm

I picked up the book today at the library. I've only read 18 pages but the description of Timoteo's experience finding his daughter in the hospital is harrowing.

Apr 14, 2015, 2:42pm

i'm afraid to say too much too soon so i'm refraining, except the say that yes, the opening of this book was quite different from anything i've read before and also just so gripping.

thanks for reading this so we can talk about it! i hope that it (and i) am worthy of the ensuing conversation!

Apr 15, 2015, 8:37pm

For reference, I am reading the 2005 English translation, first edition, published by Anchor Books.

I'm on page 45.

Are we to understand that Timoteo raped Italia in their first encounter?

There's some ambivalence about this in the description of the encounter itself (page 37); I got bad vibes but I wasn't sure if the author was expressing to us that, yes, Timoteo raped her, or simply that he was "overcome with passion" in that literary way that authors like to try to convince me is OK.

But she is described as being afraid (and that he doesn't "yet know what she has to be afraid of"). There is no consent. She tries to bite him; she has "hard, frightened lips," and she seems to give up as the sex act continues. He "thrusts" and "ruins her."

Later, when he's reflecting on it, he recalls that she murmured the word "Help" twice.

To me, this is a rape; is it to the author? It's hard to tell in first person narratives, since what we may be dealing with is an unreliable narrator, but I can't tell what the author wants me to feel about this.

Apr 15, 2015, 9:18pm

i will let you know which edition i have when i get home to the book tonight. in the meantime:

but I can't tell what the author wants me to feel about this.

this is the main reason i want to talk about this book. i know exactly what i feel about it, but i'm unclear what her message is about it, and i'm less clear if she understands herself what she's written. (and then i have a question about the end.)

but yes, timoteo himself acknowledges that the first encounter was rape.

Apr 16, 2015, 9:46am

Ah, yes, this was a "Read on and ye shall find" situation.

And he rapes her again, too.

It's odd to talk about this book -- I can see why you wanted to -- because it is written so beautifully but the distance that the writing creates between the reader and the events provides this sort of shield against the horrible acts Timoteo is committing. I don't know how I feel about that.

Apr 16, 2015, 10:03am

ok, i read the first usa edition, printed july 2004 by doubleday/random house.

and yes, he does.

i'm ok with the beautiful writing about terrible things. i'm not sure how far along you are, but i think that the distance is created more by mazzantini's - timoteo's? - relating of it all. his vacillation between understanding what he's done and then taking no responsibility for it whatsoever. does the author believe this, too?

Apr 18, 2015, 5:40pm

I finished Don't Move this afternoon. It is certainly a thought-provoking novel -- I can see why you wanted to talk about it! I am not really sure what Mazzantini wanted me to take from this novel, and I'm slightly worried that the interpretation I have is colored by my feminism and my desire for it to be the right interpretation. (The alternative is pretty frightening to my feminist sensibilities.)

Since I think you and I are the only ones here, I'll go straight to the last paragraph:

I think he is going to rape and then "start an affair with" that waitress.

My interpretation is that he is a true misogynist, briefly taken with his daughter and distracted by her accident, but once it's clear that she will survive, he's back to being his true self. He does not truly love any women, even Angela; even her being on the brink of death merely prompts him to remember an important event in his life.

If my interpretation is correct -- showing the inner life of a narcissistic misogynist -- then I think Mazzantini did a masterful job of showing how widespread his hatred for women is. Even women we barely encounter or who are actually very competent (I'm thinking of the nurse; I believe her name is Ada) are viewed with disdain and disregard.

Apr 18, 2015, 5:59pm


i thought that's what those last 2 lines meant, too. but i really wasn't sure at all.

it felt so clear to me that he's just full of hate for all women (i totally agree about even angela, although had trouble figuring out how to frame this in my head, so thanks) but was unclear about whether or not mazzantini thought he was.

her husband is a movie director, and he made the movie of this book (same name), and i haven't seen it but looked it up when i was trying to figure out what her message might have been. the movie seems to be kind of a romance and is even billed as one (a drama/romance) with a passionate affair as the crux of it. she helped write the screenplay and her husband directed it. this makes me really (really, really) question her understanding of her own book. (because i, like you, can't really bear for her to have meant that this was actually a love affair and not the inner examination of a raging misogynist.)

it wasn't written in a way that made it clear to me that she understood how much timo hated women, or that what he "had" with italia wasn't a love relationship. but i can get past that if she did understand, even though that would mean that many, many people reading it wouldn't. but i'm not sure she did. this is what bothers me the most about the book...

my review here (i think), if you're interested: https://www.librarything.com/work/131193/reviews/117605905

Apr 18, 2015, 7:17pm

i mean, is it really possible to write a book like this, that gets so in the head of a woman-hating rapist, that doesn't know it's doing that?

Apr 18, 2015, 8:33pm

I don't think it's breaking new ground to say that he cares about Angela because he sees her as his possession, but he still hates her -- there are multiple passages about him resenting the closeness of Angela and Elsa's relationship.

I didn't realize there was a movie. I looked it up and I agree with you -- frightening to shop it as a romance. Does it also strike you as comical that Italia is played by Penelope Cruz? That's the same Italia described as skinny and ugly. I can't think of another actress more beautiful and curvy than Penelope Cruz.

I'd be interested to know if their first few encounters in the film are also clearly rape. That seems harder to justify in a film because the violence of it is so much more clear in an image than in Timoteo's self-serving first-person narrative.

I liked your review. Thanks. I should also review this.

Apr 18, 2015, 8:34pm

Did you make anything of the fact that Italia is named Italia? I was expecting there to be some symbolism around this later in the novel, or perhaps a long-term metaphor for patriotism, but I never came across anything.

Apr 19, 2015, 10:05am

it was less the daughter as possession and more what you said about even in this moment that should clearly be all about angela, all he can do is tell her something about himself.

i think that he would say that he doesn't resent his wife and daughter's relationship, that he likes how close they are. which is interesting because i do feel like throughout the book he's relatively honest with himself. he himself calls it rape before he reframes it and makes excuses for himself. but he does seem to delude himself from the beginning about not caring that angela and elsa are so close...

i was surprised that penelope cruz was cast as italia, yes, but anyone can be made to look less beautiful (more beautiful, too, i guess) and she's small at least. but no, not how i pictured italia at all. apparently she had to learn italian just for the movie. i, too, want to know if it's clear that it's rape in the movie, and how that's handled. mostly because i just can't figure out what mazzantini was doing. but you're right, in a movie, that's harder to "forgive" later on, which makes it harder to make this a romance. (argggh - i hate that people see this that way.) but i have no actual interest in watching the movie.

as to her being named italia, i'm sure that there's something to that, but i have no idea what it is. i don't know enough about italian current events (or history) to know if she's somehow referring to "the rape of the land" or something by calling her that. it might even be something like it's the kind of name that only people of a certain class would have, or something like that.

Apr 21, 2015, 6:22pm

thanks so much for reading this so i could parse it out some more, i appreciate it!

i'm still not sure i know what she was thinking as she wrote it, or even what her point is, but i'll just hope it's what both you and i got out of it. =)

Apr 22, 2015, 10:24am

Sorry I missed your post 13. I agree with you -- I'm curious about a few elements of the movie but I don't want to watch it. I'm also curious about the name choice of "Italia," but I don't know enough about it to be able to say.

And, you are very welcome! I am glad I read the book and even more glad we were able to talk about it during the reading. If I had read this alone, I would have been quite demoralized. Well, I'm still a little bit worried about what she "really" meant, but I'll hope too that you and I are right :)

Edited: Apr 22, 2015, 12:22pm

i think it's pretty unusual to finish a book and be so uncertain about what the author was doing or saying. or at least in a book that's well done.

i'm definitely not sure that our interpretation is what she was saying, but i just don't want to look at it any other way...