“Da qui all’eternità” il romanzo che James Jones scrisse nel 1951 e da cui nel 1953 fu tratto il film omonimo diretto da Fred Zinnemann, vincitore di 8 Oscar (tra i quali anche miglior film), ha ora una nuova edizione reintegrata delle pagine che contenevano espliciti riferimenti all’omosessualità, allora censurate dall’editore Scribner, contro la volontà dell’autore. E’ stata la figlia di Jones, la scrittrice Kaylie Jones, a volere che queste pagine riprendano il loro posto nel premiato romanzo del padre. Oggi, 30 anni dopo la morte dell’autore, l’editore Open Road rende disponibile il romanzo, in formato e-book, nella sua versione integrale .
Il romanzo, il primo di Jones, trae spunto dall’esperienza di guerra dell’autore che fu soldato dal 1939 fino al 1945 e fu presente sia all’attacco di Pearl Harbor che alla battaglia di Guadlcanal, dove fu ferito e decorato al valor militare. Fortemente antimilitarista, racconta le storie intrecciate di cinque militari statunitensi alla vigilia dell’attacco di Pearl Harbor. Il nucleo portante del romanzo (e del film) è la storia dell’amicizia tra il soldato Robert E. Lee Prewitt (interpretato nel film dall’attore gay Montgomery Clift) e il soldato Angelo Maggio (interpretato nel film da Frank Sinatra).
Insieme ad altre pagine sono principalmente due i brani reintegrati che parlano di omosessualità. Nel primo il soldato Angelo Maggio confessa di avere fatto sesso orale a pagamento con un uomo anziano (comes in handy the middle of the month). Nel secondo abbiamo una discussione sull’omosessualità nell’esercito.
Le motivazioni della censura risiedono soprattutto nel fatto che in quegli anni il servizio postale USA non permetteva la consegna di materiale considerato osceno, mettendo così a rischio la diffusione, a quel tempo gestita principalmente dal Book-of-the-Month Club, e il conseguente successo di libri che venissero definiti ‘offensivi’ della morale. Molti autori in quegli anni, compreso Ernest Hemingway, furono costretti a censurare le loro opere.
Sarah Churchwel, professore incaricato alla University of East Anglia, ha salutato questa pubblicazione come un giusto risarcimento all’autore: “Jones aspirava al realismo e alla verosimiglianza e si oppose invano alla ‘purificazione’ del suo romanzo. Voleva dire la verità sulla guerra. Nel 1950 gli USA volevano raccontare la guerra come un’impresa mitica, grandiosa, eroica, presentandosi come i salvatori del mondo. Jones disse invece che ‘quella non era la guerra che io ho visto, io voglio dire qualcosa di più onesto e realistico. Nonostante i miti dell’America perbenista, una delle cose che gli uomini facevano più spesso per denaro era proprio il sesso orale‘”
Churchwel ha aggiunto che sarebbe bene che il romanzo, e il film, diventato famoso per la celebre scena d’amore sulla spiaggia tra Lancaster e Kerr, sia anche ricordato come uno dei primi romanzi americani che riconosce e accetta l’omosessualità, senza pregiudizi o patologismi: “Le persone non considerano Jones come uno scrittore d’avanguardia, mentre invece, in questo senso, lo fu, e merita di essere valutato come Hemingway e Allen Ginsberg.” James Jones ha inserito riferimenti gay anche in un altro suo famoso romanzo di guerra, “La sottile linea rossa” anch’esso diventato film.
Montgomery Clift come Prewitt, e Frank Sinatra come Maggio, nel superpremiato film del 1953.
Riportiamo, in lingua originale, il brano reintegrato nel capitolo 26 del romanzo “From Here to Eternity: The Restored Edition”:
“Lissen,” he said. He stabbed his finger at the big white bulk of Tommy. “You’re queer as a three dollar bill. How did you get to be queer? What made you queer, anyway?”
Tommy’s dark eyes that behind the deep purple circles never seemed to focus on anything at all, were on him now and focused, and they became brighter and brighter as he watched them.
“I’ve always been that way,” Tommy said. “I was born that way.”
“Like to talk about it, don’t you?” Prew grinned. He felt the silence of both Hal and Maggio behind him and knew that they were watching him.
“No,” Tommy said. “I hate to talk about it. It was a tragedy, being born that way.” He was smiling now and breathing fast, smiling painfully the way a broken dog does when you pat him.
“Balls,” Prew said. “Nobody’s born that way. When was the first time you went down on anybody?”
“When I was ten,” Tommy said, talking swiftly now, almost joyously. “I was going to a military school in New York, my parents were divorced and my mother sent me there, a bunch of upperclassmen got,—oh a whole bunch of them, there must have been twelve at least,” Tommy’s eyes were brighter and his voice was going faster, hardly space between the words to breathe, “—they got me out and tied me up, and beat me, they made me go down on all twelve of them, one right after another, and they beat me till I did it.”
Prew watched him talking, his big body jerking nervously in the chair, as if under a whip.
“I don’t believe that,” Prew snarled. “I bet that wasn’t the first time. Because lissen, they could of killed me and I wouldn’t of ever done it. If they did it, they did it because you wanted them to do it. No matter how much you tried to fight. You wanted to be beaten, and you wanted to be evil.”
Hal moved from beside Maggio and stepped toward the other two. “That’s a lie,” he said.
“It’s true,” Tommy whispered. “It wasn’t the first time. But it was the first important time. I did want it. Do you hate me?”
“No,” Prew said, contemptuously. “Why should I hate you?”
“But you do. You’re contemptuous of me. Aren’t you? Aren’t you? You think I’m evil.”
“No. You’re the one that thinks you’re evil. That’s what I think. I don’t think you’re evil. I think you like to do anything you think is evil, the eviller the better, and the better you will like it. Maybe it’s because you can show how much you hate the church.”
“That’s a lie.” Tommy was sitting pushed way back in the chair. “I am evil, and I know it. You don’t have to make it easy for me. You don’t have to protect me.”
“Hell, buddy, I wouldn’t make it easy for you. You don’t mean nothing to me.” “I know I’m evil,” Tommy said. “I know I’m evil.” “Who made you believe that?” Prew said.
“Who taught you that? Your mother?” “No,” Tommy said. “No, no, no. My mother was a saint. ‘You don’t understand. My mother was a saint.’”
“Shut up, Tommy,” Hal said narrowly. Prew swung on him. “If you guys like being queer, why don’t you be queer with each other? Instead of all a time trying to cut each other’s throat? If you believed that crap about true love you been putting out, why do you get your feelings hurt so easy? Somebody’s always hurtin’ your feelings. Why do you always pick up somebody who ain’t queer? Because if you’re with another queer, you don’t feel evil enough, that’s why.”
“Stop!” Hal said. “This quivering hulk of jelly can say whatever he wants to say. But I am none of these things. I stand as a rebel against society. I hate its falseness and I’ll never knuckle down to it. It takes courage to stand by what you believe.”
“I don’t like it very much myself,” Prew grinned. He could feel the warmness and the fumes, rising in his head, the urge, urge, urge, the smash, smash, smash, six o’clock, six o’clock, six o’clock. “It’s never done much for me, society. What has it given me? It ain’t done near as much for me as it has done for you. Look at this place, look at it.
“But I don’t hate it like you hate it. You hate it because you hate yourself. You ain’t rebelling against society, you’re rebelling against yourself. You ain’t rebelling against anything, you’re just rebelling.”
He stabbed at the tall man with his finger.
“And that’s why you’re like a priest. You got a gospel to preach. The true gospel. The only gospel. That’s all you got, a gospel. Don’t you know life don’t fit no gospels? Life makes gospels—afterwards. Gospels don’t make life. But you, you and all the fucking priests, you gunna make life fit your gospel. And nobody else’s. You wont even admit anything exists but what you say.”
He paused. The brightly lighted revelation was surging up now again, in his mind. He could see it. But how to say it? How to express? How to mold it and make it plain? Life was enough, in itself. All men should see life in itself was enough, was all, because it was there. Why did you climb the mountain, Mr Mallory? Because it was there. Life was there, it had been put there, for a purpose. That was enough. That was everything.
“If that’s courage,” he concluded lamely, subduedly, “maybe you got it, buddy. If that’s courage.”