Sometimes there are big events in Abruzzo… with big potential, big names, and lots of big ideas. Sometimes they’re good.. and sometimes they’re not so good. Take the recent Festival delle Letterature book show in Pescara for example.
Listen to this:
No, the Dongo gold.
Ron’s getting old??
No. D-O-N-G-O – G-O-L-D… are you deaf???
Oh, sorry, you can’t hear me because people are chatting and the crowds waiting outside for the next author’s presentation are making too much noise.
Sorry, I’ll speak up.
I see, it’s not just people talking amongst themselves during the readings. You’re finding it hard to hear what I was saying about Paolo Di Vincenzo’s historic thriller, Il Mistero dell’Oro di Dongo, and about what might’ve happened to Mussolini’s hidden treasure because the building is open plan (bizarre for a conference set-up) and you can hear everything.
Really, you can even hear what Mario Desiati is saying into the microphone on the ground floor about Il libro dell’amore proibito, his new book that mixes devotion with deviant behaviour in a compelling story about desire, forbidden love, and the kind of blind, ardent allegiance to a relationship that breaks all the rules?
(Hmm, interesting: devotion, deviant behaviour, blind allegiance, breaking the rules, almost sounds like Italy)
To queue… or not to queue
Don’t worry, I can speak a bit louder. Mussolini died and neither his papers, his money nor his diaries have ever been found and both Churchill and Pescara poet Gabriele D’Annunzio …
….what, you’ve got to go now? Where? Didn’t you want to hear about what really happened to Mussolini, what Winston Churchill had to do with it, and how this secret, if finally uncovered, could change European history as we know it?
A queue, what queue?
You’ve got to leave the festival, now, just when it’s all getting going. Didn’t you know that some of the country’s biggest news pundits are about to go head-to-head in a debate about the big picture in Italy?
I see, you haven’t got time to hear about the big picture because you’re in a big queue.
So, you have to miss the festival – to get tickets for the festival.
That’s crazy. Big time.
Making do… what Italians do best
Well, yes, that might work. You could listen through the open window to what the other writers are saying about the world.
Ah, you’ve heard Antonio Calabro’, vice president of Pirelli, news agency, newspaper and TV editor, journalist and author, is coming.
No, sorry you missed him. You were in the queue.
That’s what he said. Culture is the only way out of the black hole that Italy has fallen into. Culture is what the country needs to redraw itself an identity. Culture is the way forward.
Will it get you out of the queue? Eh, didn’t culture get you into the queue?
Karma, what goes around comes around
So what else did you miss? Well, there was talk show host and journalist Giovanni Floris tackling some other tricky questions. Like how long is Italy going to have to wait for the future to arrive?
Ha, ha, probably as long as you waited for your Fabio Volo ticket last night.
Wait a minute, you mean you missed all yesterday afternoon as well, waiting in another queue?
That’s too bad. Never mind, maybe tomorrow you can catch the new book Il Circo Errante dell’Equilibrio by local author Lorenzo Pierfelice. He weaves an intricate web of error, lies and dirty dealings, in a slightly schizophrenic, very nomadic tale that takes the three characters from the San Vito coast in Abruzzo, across Europe and back again. Errors and ill-fated decisions mix with inexplicable events in this reflection of real life in Italy. Until it all comes full circle. Cue grisly ending.
(I’m sure many Italians are wondering if history will ever come full circle, and let the country make a fresh start)
From culture capital.. to bottom of the class
Oh no, you can’t go because it’s on at the same time as the big event you’ve been looking forward to. And the venue’s been moved to the other side of town.
Never mind, you can always catch leading journalist Riccardo Luna just before Baricco. He’ll be talking about the stories, the ideas and the people that are changing the world.
What, you don’t think Italy could change a light bulb never mind change the world?
That’s a bit rude.
Ahh, some people in the queue had Roberto Ippolito’s book “Ignoranti. L’Italia che non sa. L’Italia che non va.
(The title translates fairly literally as “Ignoramuses. Italy doesn’t know anything and is going nowhere)
So, what’s that? Ippolito says Italy has gone from being a cradle of culture, art and education to being the black sheep of Europe. That can’t be right, Italy has always had some of the brightest, most creative and talented minds in the world.
Oh, that’s interesting. You think the problem is not a lack of artistic, cultural and literary inspiration. It’s because it’s all in the hands of a class of people who lack the necessary education, talent and passion to manage it properly.
Maybe that’s why Ippolito starts his book with the quote:
“Even though I own the biggest publishing house in Italy, I haven’t read a book in more than twenty years”.
Silvio Berlusconi, 4 August 2003.
The big problem in Italy
The man who has led Italy for the best part of 20 years never bothering to open a book is a fairly good metaphor for the big picture in Italy, not to mention an explanation of why I came away so frustrated from the potentially fantastic, but in practice disappointing, Pescara Festival of Literature.
Italy – and Abruzzo’s local lit fest – are both jam-packed full of fascinating things, of amazing art, amazing literature and amazing insights into big ideas and great things. If only they were in the hands of a government, or an organising committee, who loved Italy, who loved literature, and who had the culture that so many people in Italy, and in Abruzzo, obviously already have.
And that doesn’t include Luigi De Fanis, Abruzzo Berlusconi PdL party member and local councillor for culture, who has just been arrested arrested for alleged bribery, fraud and embezzlement
By Denise Muir
Denise Muir is a Scottish lass who ended up in Abruzzo through no fault of her own. “It was the wine that did it!”.
Nevertheless, she stayed and has been living on and off in Italy for 20 years, translating for the media, advertising and publishing industries and running marathons in her spare time.
She recently started a blog about (literary) life in Italy in order to explore in words what she thinks of as her on-off love affair with Il Bel Paese.