I wrote this narrative article on environemntal diseases in 2017.
It has been published in Italian twice in 2020: here and here.
“From now on, you will barely eat, and your life will change,” said the doctor. He was wiry, and spread around irritation and weariness. His blue eyes, framed in orange glasses, didn’t suit a genius embittered by human stupidity. He escorted me out of the room. “You are not mad,” he said. He put his hands around his face, mimicking a horse with blinkers: “Doctors: they are all like this. Go to the mountains or the sea; move to a healthier place.” He shook my hand in his, and granted me the first smile, like a secret blossoming just for the two of us: “Well, what are you going to do with this life I saved?”
I called him “The Luminous”. After twenty years of physical and psychological pain, it was not difficult for me to follow his instructions, although they would be cruel even for extreme survival training. My meals turned into Zen paintings in a few colours: rice, chicken, salad, zucchinis, and apple. A few months later, the first setback appeared: my brain refused to let the spoon in the mouth. I invented childish tricks: I blended the apple to make a sorbet and carved the zucchinis to fill them with chicken. Then, the crisis ceased, and food became only this: food. I began wandering around like a panda in a supermarket. How could it be that everything was “toxic” to me? What had happened to my body; why was it no longer able to distinguish food from an aggressor? Why was I programmed to incite an army of allergic mediators towards the world? Continue reading →
This article has been orignally published on the Italian site Bookavenue on the 14th of February 2017.
we have decided to review in a different way Han Kang’s “The Vegetarian”, winner of the Man Booker International Prize 2016. Notwithstanding its conciseness, it’s a book that generates lacerating questions, emotions and thoughts. The text below is a dialogue between two of us: the director of Bookavenue Michele – between Rome and Padua – and Silvia, in Frankfurt.
Despite the distance, this exchange has made us feel close as if we were sitting in front of a coffee. Isn’t it what we feel when we share a good book? Thus, this article is the result of a conversation: a rare experiment both online (apart from interviews) and in printed magazines.
In Bookavenue, it has already happened that more than one member of the editorial staff gave an opinion on the same book, but this time is different. We have been prompted by the urgency of sharing an experience that has been important for both of us and by the necessity to understand it deeper. We have not written our opinions, but our emotions.
This article was originally published in Italian on Bookavenue
I remembered bees. I remembered seeing them in spring among the bloodroot, the yellow goat’s beard and the swamp buttercups in my grandparents’ back ditch – happy, industrious, slightly furry and oh-so doomed. Then they began to flee their hives, and before there was even time to figure out why, they were all gone.
The Book Club meeting takes place in the heart of Frankfurt, in the courtyard of a quiet pub. At last, I have managed to book a seat in this circle devoted to wine and books. Today I am interested in the topic, that is the problem of environment in a narrative text. It’s a beautiful evening and the city looks at itself in the river like a picture by Van Gogh. By my side walks the metaphor of a society that considers itself attentive to ecology: a tramp is collecting empty plastic bottles in order to gain the return money. A bee rests on my knee: is it a sign? Probably yes, since the novel we will speak about tonight is Generation Aby Douglas Coupland, a post-atomic Decameron on the end of the human species and the salvific power of narration. Continue reading →
This article was originally published in Italian on Bookavenue
Being the Adventures and Dreams of Mevlut Karataş, a Seller of Boza, and of His Friends, and Also a Portrait of Life in Istanbul Between 1969 and 2012 From Many Different Points of View.
On the 9th of November 2015, Turkish Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk launched his last novel at Politics and Prose Bookstore in Washington. The first question by writer and journalist Elliot Ackerman was: why such a subtitle? Pamuk told an anecdote. During a lesson at Columbia University, where he teaches Art of the Novel, he said something like this: “…and as you know, Anna Karenina commits suicide”. A student interrupted him: “Professor! Please! Don’t’ spoil the ending!”
I imagined the scene in a Hollywood “Dead Poets Society” style: Professor Pamuk-Keating stops for a moment, his eyes and body frozen on the last sentence. He needs some seconds to realize, then he turns his back on the class and walks to the chair. He puts Anna Karenina on the table. Well, in truth he slams it on the table, then looks at the students again and says:
Once upon a time there was a child who listened to a story. The story was The Little Mermaid and it was so sad that the child decided to rewrite it. She began going to school and the school was far away. Since she had a long walk every day, she started inventing stories to fill the time. Until 2013 – she was 82 years old at this point – when she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature with this motivation: “Master of the contemporary short story”.
In place of the traditional lecture in the presence of the Swedish Academy, Alice Munro gave an interview titled In Her Own Words. Wearing a grey cardigan in front of a white window, she introduced herself as one of her stories: pretending that she had nothing to show apart from an anonymous Canadian road. About those early days she says: “Generally, [it was] a very satisfying story from my point of view, with the general idea of the little mermaid’s bravery, that she was clever…”, because “she deserved more than death on the water”. “In those early days the important thing was the happy ending, I did not tolerate unhappy endings. […] And later on I began to read things like Wuthering Highs, and very unhappy endings would take place, so I changed my ideas completely and went for the tragic, which I enjoyed”. The interviewer also asks her how her writing has changed growing older: “Oh, well, in a very predictable way. You start out writing about young princesses and then you write about housewives and children and later on about old women, and this just goes on, without your necessarily trying to do anything to change that. Your vision changes”.
This article was originally published in Italian on Bookavenue
The world needs dialogue and coloring books…
Everything starts on the airplane. There’s a rustle of pages and catalogues, books being extracted from the trolleys, and pens making CLICK. My antennas intercept the presence of booksellers, journalists, writers, and publishers. By my side sits a man who’s reading literary articles. In a few minutes we start a conversation and after the flight I have the necessary telephone numbers and the tips to face the book fair. We say good-bye to each other without revealing our names, like two subversive readers in Farenheit 451, tacitly united in the project of saving books from fire
My task for Bookavenue is above all to understand the way the wind is blowing among the Italian stands concerning this topic: is there a future for books, reading, booksellers, and bookshops? The evening before I read some articles on the Italian press. The first one is a collection of numbers and percentages that serve to demonstrate that, since the beginning of the year, even in Italy the fall of paper books has stopped and the rise of digital books has slowed down. And above all, the independent bookshops are coming to life again. So… good news.
On the other hand, the second article I read covers an international and more delicate subject. 2015 is the year in which writers from all over the world have already split up about PEN Prize for Freedom of Expression to the survival staff of Charlie Hebdo. Thus the Book Fair’s Director has made a strong choice assigning the opening speech to Salman Rushdie, the voice that most thundered – in May – against an idea of freedom of expression limited by “political correctness”. Salman Rushdie, the author of those Satanic Verses that in 1989 earned him a fatwa – still pending – from Khomeini. And again Salman Rushdie, for the presence of whom Iran has withdrawn its participation to the Fair (I will see a bunch of empty stands with great sheets saying I love Mohammad). Continue reading →
My first Festivaletteratura (Mantua Literature Festival) was fifteen years ago. I took a train to Mantua after a feverish study on those Italian train route guides that disappeared with the advent of the Internet. I was barely eighteen and even if I had already booked a room, I told my mum that I would have come back home in the evening. And yeah, I called home that evening, but just to tell that I would stay out that night. However, the day after it became a matter of four nights… and on my old Notebook of Thoughts I still see the autograph by Fosco Maraini, a faded picture of Jhumpa Lahiri (the adhesive tape has penetrated the page), and an article about David Grossman. And then pages and pages of eighteen-years-old quotations and emotions among which I found some curious notes on the sound of Grossman’s voice when he speaks in Hebrew. In other words, many young people run away from home at least once in their lives, but I run away in order to go to Festivaletteratura… so I hope that this is a valuable credential for you today. Besides, even if this year the festival coincides with the days in which I unexpectedly lose my first, beloved literature professor, I decide to attend the conference about Christa Wolf that I had booked in advance. I have to distract myself waiting for the funeral, but the truth is also that, for those like me, literature is the filter, the lens, the explanation. It is that caress that gives us the essence and the dynamics of the human soul again. Continue reading →
Iranian writer Azar Nafisi has written her last book in 2014, titled The Republic of Imagination. I haven’t read it yet, but a couple of years ago I wrote a review about her previous works. It is a short essay about her two wonderful memoirs – Reading Lolita in TehranandThings I’ve been Silent About, but I also mentioned a lecture she gave in Rome in 2004. The main theme is the subversive power of imagination and the political, empathic role of literature. Besides, I was particularly stunned by Nafisi’s analysis of the role of family as the first model of tyranny and the liberating power of books. All the links are taken from Azar Nafisi’s website, where you can also read excerpts from the two works.
Article first published in Italian on Leggere Donna, 157/2012, Tufani Publishing
“What we search for in fiction”, writes Azar Nafisi at the beginning of the novel that has made her famous worldwide,“is not so much reality but the epiphany of truth”. The expression holds the essence of her entire work and is the advice she used to give her students, a group of Tehran girls who “had both a real history and a fabricated one”. From 1995 to 1997 they periodically met at her house, in a clandestine literary salon. The meetings – described in Reading Lolita in Tehran– went on with resolution in spite of the dictatorship and were all dedicated to the most “wanted” subversives of the Iranian Republic: Truth and Beauty. Writes Nafisi: “We were, to borrow from Nabokov, to experience how the ordinary pebble of ordinary life could be transformed into a jewel through the magic eye of fiction”.
No doubt, Azar Nafisi is the literature professor we would have liked to meet at school. Her presence is delicate and familiar, but she possesses the charm of those masters who build bridges between imagination and reality, literature and life. Through her words, the great works of literature shake the dust off in order to reveal their universal wisdom.
This is a poem – translated by Gray Sutherland – by my friend Chiara De Luca, who is a publisher, a writer, a translator, and a poet herself. Her publishing house is a treasure trove of young and old poets from all over the world. But if you click on The corolla of Memory and Animals before the Flood, you can read other poems from her own collections, that I really appreciated. All the poems are both in Italian and English.
Here the original post with the poem by Chiara De Luca.
Here you can read poetry from all over the world and buy some books on the online bookshop. Get lost among the poets from your native land or distant places… Continue reading →
It is a speech – just published in English – by the author of Harry Potter. It has winked at me from the window of a bookshop near an Asian restaurant guarded by a gigantic Buddha. I entered to have a look: it was a tiny hardcover book, an edition with poetic illustrations. Buddha was still smiling at me with indulgence, so after an exchange with the bookseller – Is it a present? Yes… for me!” – I went to sit near him. I ordered a dish of boiled rice in tamarind sauce and started reading.
“President Faust, members of the Harvard Corporation and the Board of Overseers, members of the faculty, proud parents, and, above all, graduates…”. The text opened this way, with the voice of J. K. Rowling Dumbledore filling the Great Hall at Hogwarts. It was the 2008 Harvard commencement speech, that still remains famous in the history of the prestigious university: “The first thing I would like to say is ‘thank you’. […] I am at the world’s largest Gryffindor reunion”. Continue reading →