Landscape and architecture affect the destiny of a child with a disability
The Fall: A Father’s Memoir in 424 Steps. By Diogo Mainardi. Translated by from the Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa. Other Press, 169 pp., $20.
By Janice Harayda
Diogo Mainardi had the good and bad luck to have a son who, though born with cerebral palsy caused by a doctor’s negligence, “infected me with his cosmic optimism.” A Brazilian author who lives in Venice, he tells Tito’s story with elegant restraint in this book-length lyric essay that shows through his child’s life how landscape and architecture shape destiny. His son was happy in Italy but gained confidence in Rio de Janeiro, where the family moved after a neurologist told them that children with cerebral palsy “needed to be in touch with the sand, the earth, the water.” The sand on the beach at Ipanema cushioned Tito’s falls: He could fall “without grazing his knees or smashing his teeth.” Mainardi offers no advice to parents of children with disabilities in this memoir, divided into 424 sections representing the number of steps his son can take without help, but the joy on Tito’s face in the photos speaks for itself.
You can follow Jan on Twitter at @janiceharayda. She is a novelist and award-winning journalist who was the book editor of the Plain Dealer in Cleveland.
Best line: “If, as John Ruskin argued, the architecture of a place really does have the power to shape the destiny of its inhabitants, then I could say that the façade of the Scuola Grande di San Marco shaped the birth of Tito.”
Worst line: “I never worshipped God,” Mainardi writes on page 57. “ I never worshipped Man. But I began to worship Tito.” That’s a bit coy — leaving as it does the impression that the author worshipped nothing before his son’s birth — when Mainardi writes later in the book: “[Tito’s] cerebral palsy obscured everything I had always worshipped. In particular, literature.”
Published: 2012 (first Portuguese edition, from Editora Record, in Brazil). 2014 (first English edition, from Harvill Secker, in England).
You may also want to read: Born Twice, Giuseppe Pontiggia’s novel about a father whose son who suffered brain damage at birth, which may have influenced The Fall.
Read more about book at the Complete Review, which has links to noteworthy reviews of The Fall.
© 2015 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.