Landscape Stories: The River


From the purity of the sources to the slow flow of the estuary. After a long journey the river widens until it was lost in the immensity of the sea. There where it seems to be dying, a new life begins.

As river we intend a freshwater stream of considerable length that usually flows into the sea at a constant speed. The name comes from the latin fluvius. The corresponding terms are fleuve in French, river in English, rio in Spanish (from latin rivus), der Fluss in German (connected with the verb fliessen: scroll) and der Strom (from an Indo-European root, see English stream: current). Rivers receive on its way the source, the banks, the bed, the rapids, the waterfalls and the river mouth. In modern times, human societies are heavily intervened to regulate rivers, diverting paths and constructing dikes, dams, canals.

Endless tales and stories are born from the relationship between man and rivers. News at all latitudes are characterized by drownings, rescues, suicides and adventurous source queries against the current. Metaphors born by the flow of water are numerous and generate images of time, life, consciousness, memory, oblivion, death … Other metaphors are suggested by the amount of water transported and their perennial flow: river of crowd, flood of blood, flood of tears, flash flood, flood of life, river of pleasure, stream of words, stream-novel (saga) …

World literature is full of novels on this theme: the ancient mythology grew up around the Mediterranean and the Middle East, Greek and Roman ones, the Metamorphoses by Ovid, the Inferno by Dante, Der Ister by Holderlin, the Recherche by Proust, Finnegan’s Wake by James Joyce, The Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann, Heart of Darkness (1899) by Joseph Conrad, The Waste Land (1922) by T. S. Eliot, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885) by Mark Twain, The Sound and the Fury (1929) and Red Leaves (1931) by William Faulkner, The Descent (1882) by Jules Verne, Danubio (1986) by Claudio Magris, Il Mulino del Po (1938-40) by Bacchelli, Verso la Foce (1989) by Gianni Celati and all those who do not come to mind. There are many rivers that fill the inspired and passionate pages of literature: the Po, the Tagus, the Seine, the Loire, the Thames, the Elbe, the Don, the Volga, the Danube, the Nile, the Ganges, the Rio de la Plata, the Rhine, the Mincio, the Tiber, the San Lawrence, the Mississippi, the Amazon, the Missouri, Ohio, the Delaware, the Ganges, to the establishment of “river-nations”: Congo, Niger, Senegal, Gambia.

From birth to death. In the middle the river flows.

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