Mateo Falcone is a story that was written to make people from the mainland understand the soul of Corsica.
Corsica is not France. It is not Italy, nor Sardinia, nor Sicily.
Corsica is Corsica.
Bonaparte was Corsican.
This is an almost true story – it dates from the end of the 19th century and was written by Mérimée.
Obviously, it is a quite atrocious story.
Corsica is an island and it seems that you can see it from the heights of Nice – I have apparently seen it.
The island of Beauty.
The most beautiful island in the world.
Nestled in the Mediterranean, surrounded by turquoise waters, white sands, it has a few towns on the coast – but its heart is inland, where the maquis is.
Imagine steep hills, paths where even donkeys have difficulty passing, small holm oaks covered with cork that protects them from fire, brush, from far away figs, chestnuts that fall on your head, goats and villages where you can only reach by one road, these villages of southern Europe, huddled together to escape the heat and dust. Behind the villages, the wilderness is so vast that everyone gets lost: this is the maquis.
It is said that going into the maquis allows one to escape the police for good – and the stories of family honor.
The police of France and Corsica, it is still a whole story – basically, to speak to the police is to betray.
Do you have the spirit?
Here is the story.
It was a beautiful day, in a simple house on the edge of the maquis. The parents of little Fortunato Falcone, the only son, had left, leaving the child to play alone.
He was playing, by the way.
Not far from him, his cat was nursing the kittens.
And then … shots, not far away.
The child sat up on his elbow – he didn’t wait very long.
A wounded man emerged from the brush.
He didn’t look very good – he was more or less a cousin of little Fortunato.
He asked the child to hide him, the police were following him closely.
Hide him? but where? and why?
To escape from the police. And to take a coin. Fortunato took the coin.
With bad grace, he helped the fugitive – he hid him under a bale of hay – to make it credible, he put the cat and the little ones on top – that would surely explain the somewhat bloody traces.
Soon the police arrived. The brigadier was a distant cousin of the family – one who had betrayed the spirit of Corsica.
He questioned the child.
Fortunato was the son of Matéo Falcone. He knew that a Corsican does not talk to the police.
But the gendarme had a beautiful watch.
Such a beautiful watch.
He handed it to Fortunato. The child took the watch and pointed to the pile of hay.
It didn’t take long.
Seeing the look on the fugitive’s face, he was a little ashamed and gave him back his coin.
Nevertheless, he had won a beautiful watch.
From a moral point of view, he had not spoken. He had just pointed to the pile of hay. So it was okay. Honor was saved.
When his parents came home, Fortunato didn’t tell the story – not really.
But his father did.
So he asked the child to come with him, a little further into the bush.
When they reached a ravine, Matéo ordered his son to say his prayers.
The child understood and begged his father.
Matéo ordered his son to say his prayers – checked that he had said them correctly, the Pater Noster and the Ave Maria, then he shouldered his rifle and fired.
He returned to his wife, who simply asked him what he had done. “Justice,” replied the father.
He sent for a cousin, a good boy, and sure – he needed another son.
The story ends there.
No frills, no comments – nothing more.
It is enough in its atrocity.
Matéo is like the cat that eliminates from its litter the young that it judges unfit to survive.
We have changed times, haven’t we?
Now you too can understand the Corsican soul.
At least, the one of the 19th century.
And that of the 21° too – but less than before, the harshness has softened a little.
Which will not prevent me from advising you to go and visit Corsica, it is still the Isle of Beauty and Matéo Falcone died a long time ago.
Featured Image : Bonifacio – Corsica