Zama or the distance between two points, Antonio di Benedetto

How we can call the distance between two points? Absence-distance-waiting. In this period Zama lives, passing from the historical to the eternal time, passing from the void to the existence, passing from the loss of egoism to death and to the rebirth of the self.

While waiting to be relocated from the forgotten Paraguay of 1790 to his native Spain, he goes through ten years, forgetting who he is, to rebuild himself from the beginning. At first the goal is clear and specific: to return to Spain, where he will be reunited with his family and regain his lost prestige. Creole himself, he is neither American nor Spanish. It is the period of the regency of Rio de la Plata, when the Spaniards replace in high positions the Creole, that is, the purebred descendants of the Spaniards who grew up in America. Zama is one of them.

Living the paradox of Zeno, Zama tries to bridge the gap between his unfavorable transfer and his restoration in Spain. In this infinitely divisible space, time expands more and more magically, without being divided into minutes and seconds. Sometimes it lasts forever, sometimes for a moment and sometimes it is lost in a mysterious gap between illusion and reality.

In Antonio di Benedetto’s “Zama” we could see the inverted image of the Odyssey. Zama is the only one who stands still when everyone else is traveling. As long as he stands at the same point, the same challenges pass before him as those of Odysseus: Kirki-Luciana and the Sirens of social conventions, to which he must close his ears if he is to continue. A key person is Viconia Porto, who attracts us as a counterweight to motionless Zama.

Porto is a traitor in the eyes of Zama, who is constantly seeking the mediation of the regime in order to achieve his goal. As long as Zama goes through this period, he transcends the predetermined boundaries. Gradually, logic and interest, competition and machinations cease to have power and value. He penetrates more and more into the foggy space of consciousness, where nothing ordinary from everyday life matters. He lives in a house that is ultimately two joined houses, where one seems to be inhabited, while the other is uninhabited, where he meets two women who may be the same woman. Thus, he enters into a world, which is reflected in himself. In this magic mirror, the opposites become the same, the same become the opposites, causing reflections.

Everything that used to have clear moral and social boundaries is now becoming fluid. The love, the forbidden, the right, his childhood, his fatherhood, the very ultimate goal. He wants to return to a homeland he never met. The symbols around him shout for the passage to the Underworld. Where the hunting for Viconia Porto leads him. He abandons the old ways and plunges deep into the jungle, until he finds and kills the fleeing Porto as booty and a return ticket to Spain. Only Zama can recognize his face. The others have not seen Porto. Zama begins to see the shadows on the cave walls. The immovable Porto tells him straightforwardly: “I bear my sins, but not those attributed to Vikounia Porto. Vicunia Porto does not exist, he is not me or anyone else. It’s a name. And mine is Gaspar Toledo. I am Gaspar Toledo; I have been him for an endless year and I do not want to be anything else “(p. 257 in Greek version).

He is looking for him together with an army. The end brings great overturne and redemption. Who is Zama after all? An immoral, cruel official or a bold seeker of his destiny, from whom the poetry secretly springs from his thoughts? Don Diego de Zama is the space between two points, like each of us.

Anastasia Karavasileiou

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