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Amber Paulen

Cruise Ship Down, Giglio

16 January 2012


It’s difficult for me not to see the tragicomedy in the cruise ship crash off the coast of beautiful Isola del Giglio. I suppose I see the horrible event this way because this is Italy and I have become accustomed to the tendency of viewing tragedy with the humorous melodramatics of the country. And because I’m not Italian. If I were Italian I suppose I would find the crash quite embarrassing.

The accident is blamed on “human error” which is a gentler way of blaming the captain, who may or may not have been responsible but who has now been arrested for manslaughter and for leaving the ship before his passengers. “Human error,” like dropping a crystal vase or misjudging a left hand turn, happens every day, but usually it is our own selves who suffer our own punishment. “Human error” in the case of a gigantic boat capsized, of death and the potential spoliation of the natural beauty of the Mediterranean of that area, is another story.

And it would make good fiction even without a Leonardo di Caprio/Kate Winslet romance that couldn’t have unfolded anyway in the cruise ship’s single afternoon, from Civitavecchia to crashing. It is the brevity of the passengers’ holiday that fascinates me, the sitting down for the first night’s dinner in fancy dress, hearing the bottom of the boat scrape rock, ripped metal underwater, then the confusion and scramble that inspired some to jump into the freezing water and swim to shore instead of waiting for impossible organization in such a time. Because Italy, even when it is not sinking, is impossibly unorganized. And the kicker would come by way of pitting a single benevolent gesture, like the captain choosing to turn the ship nearer to shore to sound a salute, against the heaviness of the tragedy.

Now there’s a massive boat marring the pristine waters off the coast of Isola del Giglio. And what does one do about that?

Cruise Ship Concordia

Photo from Corriere della Sera.



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