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video 2014-08-17 11:55
Alberto Sordi. L'Italia in bianco e nero - Goffredo Fofi

Reading progress update: I've read 68 out of 275 pages.

Italian pills: 


Alberto Sordi is a well-known Italian actor from the "movies era" of the great Italian comedy (1950-70 approximately). When it was still good, not cheap, vulgar and spent like now. He was also in the first works of Federico Fellini (one of my favorite directors), "The White Sheik" and "I Vitelloni".

What a coincidence: the author has quoted a  little television performance which I saw some days ago in a program, Techetecheté. It is a sort of brief recycling themed playlist of the Italian television. Because yes, our main channel is always remembering the Golden Era instead of modernizing itself and inventing something new. 

I have not found a brief extract from the performance but the entire song (Carcerato), which clearly is useless to post here. He makes a lot of Italian references and it's a bit difficult to translate in English because the song is rhymed. But in the performance he hugs at the beginning Mina. Maybe you already know her. Truth to be told, I don't know if she is well-known out of Italy. Here she's an immortal singer. She has an amazing voice, if some of you are interested in foreign music you should definitely search some of her songs on Youtube. I love this one, Città vuota means Empty City.

Here the translation:


The streets are overcrowded, the crowd is around me,

It is talking to me and laughing
And nothing knows about you...
I see passersby around me
But I know, the city will seem to me empty
If you don't come back.

There is that one who wants to be next to me every evening
But I don't care if he gives me his kisses,
I always think about you, only about you
And I know, the city will seem to me empty
If you don't come back.

How do you want to live alone, without me?
Don't you feel that our love is not over yet?

Come back to me, my love,
And the city will not be empty any more.

The streets are overcrowded, the crowd is around me,
It is talking to me and laughing
And nothing knows about you...
I see passersby around me
But I know, the city will seem to me empty
If you don't come back.

How do you want to live alone, without me?
Don't you feel that our love is not over yet?

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quote 2014-05-22 21:00
The Rivers
(Cotici, 16 august 1916)

I hold on this mutilated tree
left in this sinkhole
which has the melancholy
of a circus
before the show or after
and watch
the quiet passage
of clouds over the moon

This morning I stretched
myself in an urn of water
and like a relic

The flowing Isonzo*
scoured me
like one of its stones

I pulled my four
limbs together
and went
like an acrobat
over the water

by my clothes
fouled with war
I bent
like a bedouin
to receive the sun.

This is the Isonzo
and it is here
I most see myself
as a compliant thread
in the universe

My pain
is when
I do not believe
myself in harmony

But those hidden
as they knead me
a rare

I have relived
the stages
of my life

These are
my rivers

This is the Serchio*
from which have drawn
perhaps for two thousand years
my country people
and my father
and my mother

This is the Nile*
that has seen me
be born and grow
and burn in unawareness
over the wide plains

This is the Seine*
and in that muddiness
I mingled
and I knew myself

These are my rivers
melted with the Isonzo.

This is my nostalgia
that in each one
shines through me
now that it is night
and my life seems
a blossoming
of darkness

- "The Rivers", a poem that Giuseppe Ungaretti wrote during his experience in the First World War (translated from Italian, here the original version and some notes in english, "I fiumi"). 

I just studied it for the Italian literature test of tomorrow and..ahh, I like it so much! 

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text 2014-04-11 19:22
Italian pills in the middle of aprilian reads: Capuana, Verga and "Life in the Country"
Vita dei campi - Giovanni Verga

I don't know how much you know about the author of my last finished book, Giovanni Verga. He is a master of Italian literature: you will never meet an Italian person who didn't had to read Rosso Malpelo or La roba (The Stuff..?) at school and maybe had to read I Malavoglia during the holidays. I don't know how many of those students have read it for real. 

All begins from an other figure:


In the middle of the several readers of Mr. Emile Zola, there was a distinct

italian intellectual intent on turning avidly the pages of his books, a certain Luigi Capuana. He was surely amazed. You know that sensation: this author has proposed such an incredible way of writing that I have to tell it to the highest number of people, especially when this kind of people are us, poor Italians who surely have some problem in keeping in step with global literature and its progress. Madame De Stael had the courage of saying it in the 1813: something like, "hey, you, stop hugging the grave of your ancestors and move on! Don't be so proud of yourselves and reactionary, open yourselves to the other literatures! While you were bound to phraise the dead, we have built something new. You could learn something from us." Obviously that hurts and  many italian intellectuals had a...proud and reactionary response for her. 

Well, we are in the second half of 1800, Capuan begun to write in 1860. The message arrived in some way, this is already something. And you can see how Capuana, reading those foreign literatures, helped a lot his country by broadcasting the naturalist current here in Italy with moving enthusiasm. Finally!

We could see Verga and Capuana, for this occasion, like a successful duo: Capuana is the mind (he's the most famous theoric of italian naturalism, Verismo), Verga is the hand, or, better, the pen. Capuana didn't write novels enough interesting to become as fundamental as the ones of Verga. But we owe the theoric background of Verismo to him. 

Maybe you have understood that here in Italy Naturalism is a bit different and that's why we have found a specific name for it. First of all, the scientific approach is not as in the content as in the style. If you have read Zola, you'll know that he's not a totally impartial narrator, his opinion is visible. His scientific approach is due to the scientific laws applied to society and humans, very rigorous and severe laws. Capuana is more modest in this aspect, he - like Verga- refused to apply a rigorous scientific method to his novels. "His loyalty to the concept of "real" was more like a simple, disinterested love for the truth". [Alberto Asor Rosa] And the same Verga introduces his masterpiece, I Malavoglia with: "This story is the honest and dispassionate study of the way in which the first strivings after well-being might possibly be born, and develop, among the humblest people in society.."

So, for Capuana and Verga too, the first aim the "coscientious" and "honest" observation of the reality. 

Verismo gives more importance to the esthetic aspect of realism, unlike Naturalism. We'll see it very well in Verga's style. And we can't forget the social context: Naturalism was immersed into a promising social progress and deals whit those classes involved in it, while Verga for example preferred to talk about that social class, italian peasants, who were surely into a static situation. 


In fact, Verga, this bewhiskered man, was very far from believing a in social progress for his peasants of Sicily. Talking about laws again, we could say that if there is a law, it is the one of an hopeless paralysis. If we imagine a peasant fighting for his right with his pitchfork, we could place an action figure of Verga near him who says with dramatic tone "what are you doing? why are you even trying, man?". That peasant might respond with "You, hateful aristocrat, shut up and find someone else to smother with your depressing ideas!". 

Because we are agreeing on this: his idea is depressing. In fact, he compares the inhabitants of Acitrezza, a fictional village full of this poor peasants, as an anthill in which every ant trying to exit in search of better conditions will fail. You can't escape: this is your home and you are destined to grow and die here. Don't try, really, it's useless.

Well, the opposite of Zola without doubt.

I've talked about his style and the scientific aspect of it. Well, in my "aprilian" read, Vita dei campi (Life in the Country) there is a short story, Fantasticheria, that explains well some of the points of Verga's literary thought. Before talking about literary methods, let's say that in his opinion human laws are two: the one of necessity, like surviving in extremely difficult economic conditions, and the one of chance, that with unpredictable circumstances can reverse an entire human life. Let's say again that this not means absolutely a progress: the law of repetition reigns in his literary world. 

His way of showing this reality is supported by the principle of distance (looking at the subject with a physical distance that allows an emotional detachment), the principle of reshaping: "in order to understand [..] we have to make ourselves as small as possible, close the entire horizon in two clumps and look under a microscope the little causes that make their little hearts beat". 

You won't find Verga's specific voice in his stories. Another aim is the one of making himself invisible in the story: "when the honesty of its reality [of the book] will be so clear, its way of being so necessary that the author's hand will remain invisible, then it will have the sign of reality, the work of art will seem to build itself". He reproduces the way in which a peasant would think and talk. An example is the famous opening of Rosso Malpelo. 


Little hearts beat in Life in the Country, which contains little perfect jewels like Rosso Malpelo (a possible equivalent in english is "Evil Hair", "Sicilians believed people with red hair were malicious and had an evil disposition") and La Lupa (She-Wolf). You should really read Rosso Malpelo, it's my favorite of his short stories and it is painfully wonderful. You can read it here in english: ( http://socialiststories.net/liberate/Nasty%20Foxfur%20-%20Giovanni%20Verga.pdf ) like "She-Wolf" (http://socialiststories.net/liberate/She-Wolf%20-%20Giovanni%20Verga.pdf). 

I've liked this quote about his short stories:

" His novels of life outside Sicily are generally of slight value ; but when he touches his native heath, he is transformed — it is to him what Scotland is to Barrie or India to Kipling. He is a realist of the most uncompromising sort, grim, keen, merciless ; hardly a story of Sicilian life that is not a tragedy, and the burning landscape, the naked lava, the native character,— now fiercely impulsive, now of ass-like patience and unresentiveness, and the grinding hardness of the industrial conditions are all persons in the drama. Yet somehow the stories do not leave a bad taste in the mouth : there is deep sympathy and humanity underlying his dark pigments, he is never gross and

never brutal, and the method is that of Turgenev rather than that of the French school or his rival Annunzio."

This is true: you can feel an empathic hand on his characters, that somehow is even worse and more painful if we think that he doesn't give hopes to them. A sort of double-faced sword. 

I love his style: he's a craftman with words in my opinion. I don't want to be misunderstood: he's surely not my favorite italian author, but I really like the most famous stories by him. I don't think that in Life in the Country every short story is relevant, some like Pentolaccia and Guerra di Santi (War of Saints) are pretty forgettable, even if they are nice. But the so-called giants of this collection deserve absolutely its fame. 

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