Malatesta on Applause and Aging

I’ve been reading Davide Turcato’s The Method of Freedom: An Errico Malatesta Reader, and found a short piece by Malatesta called “Thank You, But Enough Already.” It was written in 1920 when he was in his late 60s, and, as Turcato notes, he’d just returned to Italy. Apparently, he was being praised much more than he thought necessary or appropriate. And he was also a little pissed about being reminded that he was getting old:

“I am back in Italy thanks to the efforts of comrades and friends and I thank them for having afforded me the means to make my contribution to our common cause. It grieves me that my modest faculties do not allow me to do as much as I should like or as, perhaps, is expected of me; be that as it may, I shall strive with all my belief and all the enthusiasm that burns within my heart.

“Permit me now to make one observation critical of comrades’ actions towards me.

“During the agitation that took place for my return, and during these first days since my return to Italy, things have been done and said which offend my modesty and sense of proportion.

“The comrades should remember that the hyperbole is a rhetorical figure of speech which should not be abused. They should above all remember that the exhaltation of man is politically a dangerous thing and morally unhealthy as much for him who is exhalted as for those who do the exhalting.

“And then I am so made that I find handclapping and cheering unpleasant, tending to paralyze me rather than encourage me to work.

“I want to be a comrade among comrades, and if I have the misfortune of being older than others it cannot please me to be continually reminded of this by the deference and attentions which the comrades inflict on me.

“Do we understand one another?”

I love the last part. I’ve read a good amount of Malatesta, and I find his writing to be very accessible and down-to-earth, but this really brings the person off the paper. “Stop acting like I’m old, fuckers!” And good points about excessive admiration. I wonder if Chomsky ever thinks this.

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