Here’s the story of a man. But not a man like all the others. Alessandro Baricco’s “Novecento” is a brilliant theatrical monologue which narrates the unique story of Danny Boodman T.D. Lemon Novecento, with the accompaniment of some fine jazz music. Novecento (which means “nine hundred” in Italian, and indicates the twentieth century) was abandoned on the transatlantic Virginian soon after his birth. A sailor found him and named him Novecento in honor of the 20th century, which had just begun.
At that time many people were emigrating from Europe in search of a better life, getting on board ships headed to America. But Novecento never got off that ship. He lived on it, traveling hundreds of times from Europe to America, and from America to Europe. The ocean was his only home.
At night the passengers of the ship could hear a piano playing. Novecento, with his inexplicable talent, charmed all the men and all the women with his music. He was a great pianist. Maybe the best.
But music was the only thing that made him happy. He never traveled to see the world. But the world passed on that ship, with all its hopes and failures, and he watched it pass, never trying to follow it. Was it just fear? Novecento wasn’t born on dry land, he was different from everyone else, so he felt he would’ve lost something important if he had left. The ocean was part of him, Novecento belonged only to it and to nowhere else.
People are afraid of the ocean, so the pianist relieves them by playing his terrific music. But who will help him fight the fear of what’s outside, of having to leave the ship and settle down? Is there a solution? Or is it just better to let everything flow like the water of the impassive ocean?