with Geoffrey Nowell-Smith and Nina Power

[Note: this dialogue took place in 2012-13. It was due to be published by a film magazine, but fell through for reasons beyond the control of the authors. Thank you to Geoffrey Nowell-Smith for permission to publish it here in 2017]

Geoffrey Nowell-Smith: Pasolini has often been described as a Catholic Marxist but his Marxism was always unorthodox and he was never a Catholic although brought up in an environment permeated by the imagery and values of Italian Catholicism. Like most people on the left in Italy in the 1950s he was strongly anti-clerical (not surprising given the profoundly reactionary role played by the Catholic Church in Italy in the period) and it is only in his poetry that another side of him appears—an identification with suffering as experienced by the oppressed and potentially embodied in the figure of Christ. Then in 1958 the election of Pope John XXIII was a massive force for change—in Italian society, in the Church, and in Pasolini himself. Catholicism became something to engage with—as myth (in the noble sense of the word), as culture, as ideology, as a political force that was not necessarily quite so reactionary as it had been or seemed to be throughout most of preceding Italian history. Continue reading