A paper on toilet paper

Date of publication: September 1, 1996

Author: Marco Vecchia


The history of the search for the quality of life, just like the history of civilization - although unfortunately the two histories rarely coincide - can be written from two different points of view. Looking at things on a grand scale, considering the major events, following the successions of great ideologies, or, on the contrary, using the microscope, focusing on the most inconspicuous phenomena, investigating thoroughly- the way the nouveaux historians do - particular occurrences which often allow a keener observation and a deeper understanding. In this spirit, I hope you will forgive me if I entertain you on a subject worse than inconspicuous: one of the subjects my aunts would not dare to touch even within the family. I do also hope that from Up There they won’t see me speaking about it in public! As a matter of fact, one cannot mention toilet paper without immediately associating it with a physiological function and an organic product which are both considered unpleasant in our culture. In my language, to keep a child away from something, we say "Non toccare, e' cacca" (cacca means 'shit' in baby-talk, but the sense is: "Don't touch it, it's yucky!"). Later in life comes the real lesson: never talk about it to any one except to your doctor, and, even with him, only using scientific euphemisms.

Marco Vecchia


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