The Indomitable Desire for Culture – L’

Luca Bocci

Ten in the evening it starts to get chilly, I have to squeeze my jacket. Every now and then, I wonder who’s making me stay there, standing in a parking lot, with two people I do not even know very well. These are not good manners that keep me from making excuses and running away. The reasons should not be lacking: In addition to the cold, I also have an animal hunger that is triggered more than by the aperitif’s canapés. I can not go away, because it does not happen every day to talk about non-trivial things with two storytellers, people who have made the art of combining words to get maximum effect. After two years spent closed within four walls, ruining your eyes in front of a screen, it is no longer to meet interesting people in person: it is an important event to be celebrated. One always has time to eat, who knows how much I am going to hear those kinds of stories again, pieces of life worth gold, slices of a bygone world that I was not so lucky to know.

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is to take nothing for granted. These moments are important, they make life worth living. When I left the house five hours earlier, I had never expected anything like it. Pushing myself out of my little office, one of the least welcome tasks for a journalist: to cover the presentation of a book. In my thirty-three years of profession, I have lost count of the evenings I have spent listening to speeches that are always the same, people who are only eager to show off their culture, deeply in love with their voice. To pressure me not to make excuses and pull me off the couch the fact that it was a colleague of Arno to present his book, Guido Martinelli whose chronicles from the world of culture and occasional “collections” have enriched our page for years. Not to mention the fact that part of the debate I moderated some time ago at Leopolda had been absorbed after the immense disappointment in the Garibaldi Arena. Good deeds should never be ignored. Karma is an ugly beast.

Entering Cascina’s Municipal Library, my expectations were very low. Are you on a Friday afternoon? Who do you want to go there? I present myself with the usual 15 minutes early and look for the author’s face among those present. Nothing. Is it possible that he is late for the presentation of his book? I send him a Whatsapp. An eerie doubt strikes me: the person on stage with the flamboyant vest and the wide parting in his hair is familiar to me, despite the fact that the mask covers his face. I wave my hand. He notices it and waves me to lower the “muzzle”. It really was him. Ritual apologies and yet another interesting story to be passed on to friends later. I did not know yet, but I would have put more of these stories in the farmhouse that night. The library space takes up as much space as the rules of distance allow; better or worse than I expected? And who can tell? There does not seem to be much desire to attend live events. The councilor for culture in Cascina municipality, Bice del Giudice, begins his presentation. I expect the usual mileage monologue, the classic violet about the junta’s efforts to promote culture. But no, exactly, measured intervention, right to the point, rare newspaper for modern politicians. The feeling I have is that she also has a great desire to hear her guests speak. The eyebrows rise when the commissioner asks the author a question and asks for explanations about his book. He read it really? This is something new. You are usually lucky if they browse the press kit five minutes earlier. If experience always tells me to expect the worst from a politician, she was a bad adviser in this case. A cultural advisor who is really passionate about books, think of you.

I quickly understand that the people on stage not only know each other but are truly friends. Together with Martinelli, another prominent author recently made headlines thanks to a novel “Ritmo Cabrio”, which tells about sought-after fatherhood, 80s music and youthful memories, Sergio Costanzo. To complete the parterre, Pierantonio Pardi by ETS, the historical publisher in Pisan, who published Martinelli’s novel in his “Incipit” series a few months ago. That the room is almost full despite this should have made me think, but I was too busy following the conversation. I lift my head after more than an hour and a half. What happened? What were they talking about? Everything and more, with ease, wit and elegance. We have moved on from considerations regarding Educational novel to the role of music in storytelling with unexpected detours on forgotten bombers from the 70s and 80s (I worked in sports for a lifetime, but it took me at least 30 seconds to realize that “Oleg” was Blokhin, superstar from Dynamo Kiev by Valery Lobanovs’kyj) and passages from Martinelli’s novel. All succeed with a seemingly impossible task: to intrigue the public without revealing almost anything about the good Guido Martinelli’s work. In the end, despite the fact that dinner time was too close, no one wanted to leave. It is thanks to the special atmosphere, the cozy tone and the ease of conversation, but above all the real hunger for culture that we all experience.

Although we were rightly concerned about the turmoil that was unleashing around us, we did not realize how we had become accustomed to talking about things that are good for the soul that really make us alive. There are those who say that books, culture, art are superfluous things, luxuries that should be put aside in a crisis situation. I completely disagree. On August 9, 1942, with the Wehrmacht at the gate, the population was on Leningrad gathered around the alarm system’s few radios or speakers to listen to Store Orchestra perform for the first time Symphony No. 7 by Dmitry Shostakovič, one of the greatest composers of the time. Tens of thousands of inhabitants of what was and would return to be St. Petersburg had already died of starvation, many others would have followed in the following weeks, but to suffer the battle was unbelievably the German soldiers who had pressed sig in. a load for months, the former capital is hell. “That day we understood that we would lose the war”, they said some years later. Culture is not a whim, it is food for the soul, and no technology will ever be able to replace the pleasure of a personal conversation.

Maybe for this reason that many have stayed there, to have a talk, even after the official breaks the lines. While talking to different people, I realized something surprising: Almost all of those present were writers, perhaps not by profession, but deeply passionate about the difficult art of weaving with heavenly crooked words. As I last but not least went out into the evening air as it was getting dark, I realized that there were not only traces of envy but also of self-referral, a real disaster for the culture of our latitudes. Guido and the others then invited me to have something to drink, an aperitif, just to continue a moment that we perceived as special. Eventually I came along and perhaps realized for the first time how much I had missed the healthy, honest, never banal conversations without having to show off your lessons. Over the next two hours, there was a lot of talk about grabbing the canapés and sipping a mediocre non-alcoholic fruit cocktail. From the women of our past to the travel accidents in countries that no longer exist today, from the traps of editorial contracts to the embarrassing moments that are etched forever in our memories, nothing transcendental, but at the same time things we want to keep to ourselves . Almost without realizing it, I began to tell stories I had not thought of for years, if not decades.

Usually it does not happen, I often stay alone, but the great togetherness had infected me, as if I had also been their friend for a lifetime. I had never noticed it, but the open, free exchange of ideas, with a strictly low guard, missed me to death. Finally, after a long modern history that smells of antiquity, incantations, popular magic, and that certainly deserves to find a home on the pages of a book, we went back to our lives, to everyday problems, to worries. near and far . For a few hours we were somewhere else, in a place made of the rare and exotic fabric that dreams are made of. Among blacksmiths of the Italian language, it is much easier to trigger feuds rather than “correspondences of loving senses”. That night it went differently.

When I was first at home, trying to fill the gap in my stomach that had haunted me for a few hours, I wondered if such events might be extraordinary. Why should it not be normal? Why should not every cultural event be so engaging and interesting? Of course, it requires the right ingredients. It takes oneinformed organization, leaving room for writers to do what’s best without having to bring water to their mill. We need confident speakers who are not interested in looking good, but in exchanging opinions on interesting topics, without exaggerating in promoting their works. Of course, the right audience is also needed, but judging by the enthusiasm of those present, it is certainly not lacking. It is not every day that everyone stands still, in religious silence during a book presentation, without anyone having to answer a call or even go to the toilet.

If I have learned anything from this evening, it is that there is a real hunger for culture, for books, for honest conversations, where no one feels “in the chair”, where we all consider ourselves equal, where there is no need to make the peacocks. Judging by the number of books left after submission, it also serves as a business strategy. If you have the opportunity, buy “BIS“By Guido Martinelli and”Pace Cabrio“By Sergio Costanzo. In general, support the brave local editorial initiatives: it takes courage to create culture today where we all risk being immersed in a sea of ​​dark thoughts.

I hope that initiatives like Cascina Municipality do not remain white flies, that many learn from them and emulate them. Talking about books and culture will not change the world, but we all improve as human beings. And every revolution, big and small, always starts with who you see in the mirror every morning. Great things can only happen when we put the ego aside and open up to others. I really hope that something good can come out of these random encounters, something that distracts us from hell that risks engulfing us without turning us into obedient vending machines, laboratory experiments by Dark Doctor Strangelove. If, on the other hand, it remains an isolated event, it will still have been useful. If you do not even know what you are missing out on, how do you find a solution? It will only be a first step, but these days we can not afford to throw anything out.

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