«Future participle»: when anthropology contemplates the halo of the future

Book Review
Massimo Angelini
Participio futuro: Dalla terra alla bellezza, per tornare al simbolo
[Future Participle: From Land to Beauty, Returning to the Symbol]

236 pp. – €12.00
ISBN: 978-88-98187-28-7
Pentàgora, 2015

While the book has only been published in Italian, a selection of its chapters
is available in English on the author’s website.


Participio futuro (future participle) is a verb tense or – to take some poetic licence – a verbal «tension», towards that which is not yet, but the shape of which can already be sensed in incipient form. While future participle no longer exists in contemporary English, there are certain words that bear its Latin traces. Think of «venture», meaning «that which is to come»; «future», as «that which is to be» or again «nature», as «that which is to be born» (which we could perhaps reword as: the inception of life, disposition to aliveness, coming-into-being). Future participle, in other words, denotes that which is not yet, but the presence of which is already felt – so much so as to find discernible linguistic shape in a verb tense. In Angelini’s poetic wording:

Future participle refers not to that which will [at some point] be, but to that which is coming into being [as we speak], which is imminent, which isn’t yet but already participates in being: the word gestures to that which is proximate and of which one can already discern the sketch, the trace or the outline. «Nascituro» [the future participle of the Latin verb nasci, to be born] is not one who will be born, but one who is poised for birth and whose birth is therefore already inscribed in the present: it is he who is already present with us today. The tree that hasn’t sprung up yet is the future participle of the sprouted seed, out of which it is about to draw its life and form. The home prefigured in the [architectural] project is the future participle of the foundations just laid. Anything of which we incipiently discern the accomplishment is the future participle of that which announces it today and already prepares the ground for it (p. 67).

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