Categorie

Articles with tag:

History

(11 results)

Philip Roth Interviews Primo Levi

One of Phillip Roth’s best books is not a novel, nor even a collection of short stories; rather it is a book of interviews, entitled Shop Talk (in Italian Chiacchiere di bottega). Published in English in 2001, the volume contains a series of conversations with fellow writers. The interviews are preceded by vivid portraits of the people that Roth met, from Aharon Appelfeld to Ivan Klima, from Isaac Bashevis Singer to Milan Kundera; then there is a visit with Edna O’Brien and an exchange of letters with Mary McCarthy, a portrait of Philip Guston and a series of quick reviews of the books of Saul Bellow. These are wonderful pieces in which Roth displays not only that he is an excellent reader – and how could it be otherwise given that he is a writer? – but also that he is capable of stepping into the role of critic, a role not familiar to all authors, particularly if they are celebrities. A critic is someone who enters the depths of the books he reads, to travel through the fine web of their substance and from this travel glean general observations about literature, the world and himself. Roth demonstrates in his ‘shop talk’ that he is possessed of extraordinary humility. He never...

Photography and life: an interview to Letizia Battaglia

I had wanted to meet Letizia Battaglia for some time, but I hadn’t found the guts to write her yet.  I had always considered that like one of those appointments you keep on postponing to keep your hope alive, the hope that it wouldn’t end in the very moment it happend. However, something suggested me that I couldn’t interview her without visiting her city first. So I went to Palermo with my sister and we stayed for a few days. I tried to catch the secrets of that place, to tune up with what surrounded me: the road sounds, the smells, the markets, the suburbs, the places of the dead portraied by Letizia. Palermo is weird. You find yourself shrouded in a grip of contradictions, it is both a cradle and a grave, sea and asphalt, beauty and death. The city gives something new to your eyes, a dump veil stuck on your skin, just like the voices heard down the streets. I absorb every single thing. I don’t wanna miss a thing, I do want to understand every sign passing by. I cannot let go. So I take my decision: I tear off the interview I prepared before my departure after reading books and watching pictures on catalogues. They do not make sense any longer. I rewrite all the questions at...

Jheronimus Bosch. Visions of Genius

’s-Hertoghenbosch, 9 August 1516. The funeral service for the painter Jheronimus Bosch is held in the church of St. John. The mourners gather in the new chapel of the Brotherhood of Our Lady (Lieve Vrouwe Broederschap), of which Bosch is a “sworn member”. The Requiem mass is organised by the brotherhood, who cover the costs, as was the custom. The perfectly preserved book of accounts is a precious artefact: from the expenses accrued we can deduce that this is the final tribute to an important and highly revered man. He would have been around 65 years old, although the date of his birth is unknown (1450-55).   Ten years ago, to mark the 500th anniversary of the death of the artist, Charles de Mooij, director of the Noordbrabants Museum, began work on an ambitious project: to bring the entire body of the surviving work of the most imaginative Netherlandish artist back to ‘s Hertoghenbosh, the city where Jheronimus Bosch was born, for the largest retrospective ever dedicated to him.   Bosch’s work is spread around the world: 25 museums, some giants like the Louvre, Metropolitan and Prado, in ten different countries. And Charles de Mooij, from the Noordbrabants Museum, doesn’t...

A Return to the Middle Ages?

In these days of decapitations, tragic exoduses, impaled effigies, and new epidemics, media forums and the gurus of geopolitics lament the fact that western civilization is on its way back to a period that could be defined as the ‘New Middle Ages’. The definition was created in the last century by the Russian Philosopher, Nikolay Berdyaev, in the context of the First World War, published in Russian in a book by the same name in 1924. (The English version was entitled, ‘The End of Our Time’, Sheed and Ward, 1933). The same label was also commonly applied to the period of the oil price shocks and energy crises of the 1970s. At that time, a fascinating debate developed in the art world along the same lines, claiming that there had been a marked return to the past in the visual arts.   Before embarking on our virtual tour of these art works, however, a premise is necessary. This can be summed up in the title of the piece by Maurizio Nannucci: “All Art Has Been Contemporary”. According to this thesis, any work of art from the past is also part of our present. At the same time it interacts with our view of what is contemporary. Philosophers, moreover, have cast doubt on the existence...

Guantánamo and the New Concentration Camps

After the terrorist attack on the Parisian satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, some commentators wondered what the consequences of a reaction calling for greater security would be for European legislation. The almost hysterical use of the inclusive “we” in the slogans following the attack (Nous sommes Charlie) provide a linguistic clue to the identity politics in play, just as the 9/11 attacks fueled the rhetoric of a “clash of civilizations”. The reaction to both has been a justification for police interventions on an international scale and so-called ‘surgical’ warfare.   The Italian philosopher, Giorgio Agamben, in an interview in La Repubblica (Jan 15, 2015), invited readers to “stay lucid” and not repeat the mistakes of the past. “The overlapping of the concepts of terrorism and warfare after 9/11 led Bush to wage a war […] that cost tens of thousands of lives. Without that war, the tragic attack France is now reeling from may never have taken place.” Agamben foresaw a slippery slope towards “what politologists call a ‘Security State’, that is a state where a true political presence simply cannot survive.”   The book Guantánamo Diary was published in January 2015 in the...

Being #matteorenzi

Claudio Giunta’s new book, Essere #Matteo Renzi (Il Mulino, 2015) is the most recent of a long list of scholarly books about the young Italian Prime Minister–after the earlier pamphlets which were lighter and generally celebratory in tone–which fill the shelves of Italian bookshops and contribute to what could almost be called a new genre. The title of this book hints at the main issue, which each of the eleven chapters deals with to different degrees of depth and explicitness. The title, in fact, paraphrases Negroponte’s Being Digital (Knopf, 1995), a bible for Internet researchers, while parroting ‘Being John Malkovich’, a film which critiques the idea that ordinary people can wrap themselves in a cloak of fame. Giunta analyzes two essential ontological aspects of the Renzi phenomenon. The first is the idea that “things” and “facts” become increasingly evanescent, or evaporate altogether, under the spell of Renzi’s communicative skills  (like Negroponte’s atoms transformed into bytes). The second  is the plastic nature of the political leader’s identity, its ability to mold itself to the identities demanded by those whom some have called the ‘look at me generation’.   The...

Why Africa? Changing the Narrative of the World

Why Africa?  For many years lettera27 has been dedicated to exploring various issues and debates around the African continent and with this new editorial column we would like to open a dialogue with cultural protagonists who deal with Africa. This will be the place to express opinions, tell their stories, stimulate the critical debate and suggest ideas to subvert multiple stereotypes surrounding this immense continent. With this new column we would like to open new perspectives: geographical, cultural, sociological. We would like the column to be a stimulus to learn, re-think, be inspired and share knowledge. For the opening piece we asked our partners, intellectuals and like-minded cultural protagonists from all over the world to answer one key question, which also happens to be the name of the column: "Why Africa?". We left the question deliberately open, inviting each of the contributors to give us their perspective on this topic from their own context. This first piece is a collection of some of the answers we received, which aims to open the conversation, pose more questions and hopefully find new answers.   Elena Korzhenevich, lettera27   Here the column's introduction...

The mother of all dances

When I discovered the question, I felt tempted to parody this American actor in this ad for some coffee and to answer: what else? I am the son of Lydia and Simon, two bassa heroes. I am the result of those two beings from a people who fought forcefully for their freedom; two children of Africa. So, what else? What else than that land of shadows and ghosts waiting to be revealed? What else than those millions of stories waiting to be told? Those stories I would read for my grandfather without really understanding, but captured by the mystery of books that could contain a whole world within their pages. Wars, marvels, people, love, hatred, all translated in the subtle magic of words. Conrad did not know to which extend he was right when he called this continent the heart of darkness. He did not know what darkness was in reality and found the right words out of a misunderstanding.   What do we say when we say Europe or Africa? People are always convinced to say something when they say “Africa”, which I admire, because I personally still don’t know what is Africa. I say Africa knowing that if we were looking for a definition that would perfectly define the complexity of the...

Zingonia: Utopia and Reality

In 1964, Renzo Zingone decided to found and build a new town on farmland in the province of Bergamo. Zingone was a wealthy businessman from Rome who owned the Banca Generale di Credito and had made his fortune mining gold and copper in Venezuela. He had already built the Zingone quarter in Trezzano sul Naviglio just outside Milan. In both cases the choice of name – Zingonia – had been dictated by Zingone senior who, in a letter dated 1930, had advised his two sons, Renzo and Corrado, to “always strive to valorize the family name”.   Zingonia, Missile   Both the Zingone quarter and the new town Zingonia, were designed by the architect Franco Negri, born in 1923, who graduated from the Milan Polytechnic in 1956. The foundation of both projects was the prefabricated industrial depots produced by the family company, Zingone Structures, which in Renzo Zingone’s mind were to become the productive heart of the new settlement. There was an essential difference between the two designs, however. The Zingone quarter was to assimilate the already existing industrial and productive businesses in the Milanese hinterland. In the new town, Zingonia, by contrast, the industrial warehouses...

Putin and the Russian Spirit: An Interview with Gian Piero Piretto

The house is filled with books and paintings, but what strikes the eye is the accumulation of objects on the shelves and surfaces: postcards, souvenirs, figurines, gadgets, all from Russia, the country Gian Piero Piretto has studied all his life. Piretto is strictly speaking neither a historian nor a literary critic. His field of inquiry is visual culture, a discipline which has established itself in Italy only very recently.   Throughout the years he has written extensively, and his books are all unusually original. In 2001, Einaudi published Radioso avvenire: Mitologie culturali sovietiche (Radiant Future: Soviet Cultural Myths), which plots the course from the utopian visions of October 1917 to the 1980s. Piretto analyzes images and everyday objects to illustrate Stalin’s famous claim in 1935:“ Life has improved, comrades. Life has become more joyous.” In short, the books provides us with a visual history of the USSR and its accompanying myths. Piretto’s most recent books are published by Sironi: in 2010, Gli occhi di Stalin (Stalin’s Eyes) and in 2012, La vita privata degli oggetti sovietici (The Private Life of Soviet Objects).   Vasilii Efanov, Famous People of the...

Twin H. A new Novel by Giorgio Falco

Three slightly rotten looking apples on a leaning shelf, indefinite shadows  like pools beneath them. The black and white photo on the cover of the Italian edition of the book, by Sabina Ragucci, evokes the idea of time passing.     Apples come into the first sentence, and become part of a discreet but insistent refrain in the book. The protagonist, and narrative voice for much of Giorgio Falco’s new book, La Gemella H ("Twin H", Einaudi 2014) sings the refrain to herself repeatedly: “we only ate apples in strudel in the beginning.” After Pausa caffè ("Coffee Break", Sironi 2004) and the magnificent short stories collected under the title L’ubicazione del bene, ("The Location of Good", Einaudi 2009), Falco tells the story of Hilde Hinner, endowed with the almost magical ability to describe both her own and her sister Helga’s life since their birth in 1933 – her sister the elder by a few minutes.   Hilde tries to become independent by taking up a job as a shop assistant at the Rinascente department store, horribly rebuilt after the ravages of war, but she soon returns to the fold. The twin sisters lives follow a parallel path almost to the bitter end. Identical in appearance...