January. Cold, grey, busy Torino. After celebrating NYE with my dear Canadian friends, I fall sick. Marco, Leila and Etta come to my rescue. On Sunday January 6 I move into my new apartment where I will soon be rejoined by Niels. The place is full of books and I profit from it. I read The elegance of the hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, To the heart of the storm by Will Eisner, The hundred-year-old man who climbed out the window and disappeared by Jonas Jonasson, and Novecento by Alessandro Baricco. The first is the subtly humorous story of concierge Renée Michel and her strategies to conceal her intelligence. I am not really fond of it; and I am not hooked by Jonasson’s book either. In the end, I drag along with the former and I leave the latter unfinished. Of these four, I would therefore highly recommend only Will Eisner’s comic novel on 1920s Germany and Alessandro Baricco’s short piece on Danny Boodman T.D. Lemon Novecento. Good stuff.
In February I am often on the move. There are two books, in particular, whose memory remains inescapably linked to the rail-tracks. The Cosmopolites: The Coming of the Global Citizen by Atossa Araxia Abrahamian tells the story of the individuals behind the commercialisation of citizenship by a global business elite. I spend most of my time writing about citizenship as part of my research, so it is not a surprise that I find this story a compelling read. However, it is probably the other book I read while train-spotting that I would recommend to you, my friends: The Courtier and the Heretic: Leibniz, Spinoza, and the Fate of God in the Modern World by Matthew Stewart. What an amazing story this is! When I read a manuscript, I have the habit of underlining the sentences that strike a chord with me; but with this book it does not make sense, for I find myself underlining everything. It is a bit of a heavy story to read, but it talks about philosophy through the virtues, vices and ideas of two opposite characters.
In the rare moments I am in Torino with some spare time away from my monstrous Ph.D. thesis, I volunteer to read at the Mauriziano Public Hospital. This is possible thanks to a fantastic association. Initially I am a bit lost: I stopped reading short novels when I was a child. So in the first week I only include in my repertoire two books by Stefano Benni: Baol and La Grammatica di Dio. The following week I add a series of books that I collect through life’s best strategy for survival: asking around. Our coordinator Sara puts me on the right track with Francesco Piccolo’s Momenti di trascurabile felicità; the unconventional librarian of the café where I go to write together with Teresa sells me Andrej Longo’s Dieci; and the infallible librarians of my favourite place in the city give me Julio Cortazar’s Historias de cronopios y de famas and Daniil Kharms’s I am a Phenomenon Quite out of the Ordinary. All these books are extraordinary, in their own way.
Already quite a bit of reading, eh? Keep in mind that I am finishing my Ph.D. thesis and I am lonely. Reading is a way to keep my brain going.
In March I leave the apartment. I am officially homeless. In the mountains of Trento I read Martina’s present: Le otto montagne by Paolo Cognetti. This is a simple, fetching book about silence, loneliness, and wilderness. In the same period I read another book that was given to me as a present from Dani, although it had arrived to me through the outlandish hands of Giallu: Tim Krabbé’s The rider. Here again, my friends, what an amazing book this is! If you want to understand how I felt when I was racing my bike back in 2016 you have to read this story. Let me transcribe the incipit here.
Meyrueis, Lozère, June 26, 1977. Hot and overcast. I take my gear out of the car and put my bike together. Tourists and locals are watching from sidewalk cafés. Non-racers. The emptiness of those lives shocks me.
In April I hail to Spain for a series of interviews that are part of my Ph.D. thesis in Madrid and Andalusia. In those pre-depression day I read another book courtesy of Martina: Joshua Foer’s L’arte di ricordare tutto. I finish it, but, for once, I would rather have not.
In May I fall into a depressive anxiety. June, too, is a ghastly month. Giallu, who sacrifices much of his well-being to stay close to me, lends me Cormac McCarthy’s All the pretty horses. I dig into it. I read the book sitting on Ponte Santa Trinita unbothered by the gallivant tourists wandering around me. If you do not care about getting this book, try at least to listen Calexico’s homonymous song.
In July, again, I am unable to read. But August is the month when I rebound. During some of the most beautiful days of my life high on the mountains I read Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell. Back home, I read another book from Martina (La casa, written by an old acquaintance of this blog: Paco Roca). She, and he, nail it. Then, on the shores of the lake of Caldonazzo I read a book that will have important consequences my way of living. Magnum: Fifty Years at the Front Line of History. The reason why I read this book is that during the last few months I have visited two Magnum exhibitions: one in Torino, together with Guillaume, upon my very last day before moving out (a sunny day, dawn of Spring time, an yet a feeling of twilight as I bid farewell to the place); and another in Cremona, alone, after interviewing a doctor in the historical city centre. These were remarkable exhibitions that made me think of how photography can be an extraordinary tool to decipher certain customs and conducts that we take for granted. So I read this book and now I just cannot stop. (Note: since August 2017 I visited more than ten photo exhibitions and read countless photography works).
September. I move to Neuchâtel. Fall is coming and I find it fitting to read another book from Martina (You & a Bike & a Road, a comic book by Eleanor Davis), one from J.H.H. Weiler (Un’Europa cristiana), and, as I said, many classics of photography. In my trips to Paris I read Astérix chez les Helvètes, Astérix en Hispanie, and Concita de Gregorio’s Cosa pensano le ragazze. I also read Albert Camus’ L’Etranger – in French! I am rushing through now: I realise this post is already too long. Mercifully the best books of the year are already behind us.
In December I spend a few days in London with Francesca, Marco, Camilla and Isabella. In the occasional breaks from baby-sitting I read Darina al Joundi’s Le Jour où Nina Simone a cessé de chanter. Wonderful present from Giulia. If you want to read about undaunted women in Lebanon, this story would make. I also read 101 Things to Learn in Art School, finally succumbing to a book I have seen in all the bookshops of the exhibitions I visited during the year. (This was The Photography Gallery‘s one: I spent three hours reading in their cafeteria). Not amazing.
My year comes to an end with an eclectic dab, combining Banksy’s Wall and Piece and Hergé’s Tintin in Tibet. Okay, this is really it. You might have expected a grand finale for this post, but I have used all my creativity and spare time to write it. Let us wrap it up and go.
Update, March 2 2018.
Grazie Lore, un gustoso viaggio nel passato recente.
Ecco qui un simpatico aneddoto:
Il libro del Krabbé non era inteso al principio come un regalo, ma come un prestito.
Tuttavia, io sono ancora in possesso del “cavalli selvaggi” di gianlu che considero ormai come un ostaggio.
Si tratta quindi di un chiaro caso di stallo alla messicana letterario.
Go ski touring in Switzerland. Finish the Ph.D. in style. Improve my French. Memorise twelve poems: one per month. Cook. Read one, big classic of Russian literature. Reunite Dani, Jonas and Tosan. Collect whiskey and photography books. Go sailing. Avoid developing an addiction for the pipe. Continue fencing and playing tennis. Race with the bike. Drink alcohol with Anna, visit Tirana. Hike with my parents, with Giallu, with Nicco. Travel outside Europe, meet Thomas. Spend some days with the Canadians, possibly in Istanbul. Get married. Nervous laugh: I was kidding on that last one.
Some lessons I learnt after living for two months without a home and spending all my time on trains, planes, and friends’ houses (thanks!). A note for the random visitor: these are just scattered notes I write for myself, not a coherent post.
People seem to waste too much of their time communicating with digital devices. This is an old refrain, I know, but it is scary how people use their phones nowadays – and for what? I have been on trains where all the persons of a family of four never spoke to each other for the whole ride, because they were all incessantly looking at their devices. Whatsapp, Facebook messenger, emails, sms, Twitter, emails, Telegram: even me, I am inundated by applications to chat. I often think of a line of a certain Passenger’s song, we pretend to be friends on the internet when in real life we have nothing to say. As a reaction I have grown increasingly more inept at communicating with my phone. Forget long messages. Rather, I have elected four simple ways of communicating with you: (1) this blog; (2) a short sarcastic message, picture, or video to laugh about; (2) a handwritten letter, for those of you who really matter; (4) a flight/train ticket to come and see each other in person.
Smartphone apps, more generally
There was a moment of my trip when I was craving for a map of Berlin. Until that point I had been getting around anywhere just fine using googlemaps. Sure, the app was working well; but I realised it was my fourth time in Berlin and I still had no idea of how the city was structured and I could not even remember the name of the neighbourhood where I was staying. The way I use googlemaps is just to get to A to B and, as a consequence, I never memorise the information. I made a resolution for myself to start using old paper maps again – like these. It is not for a case that when I was still in Trento I had the ambitious project of creating one. (I failed, but not for lack of trying).
Being a guest
I received precious hospitality by Giallu, Martina, Pietro, Giulia, Jonas. I learnt to wake up in the sun, listen to classical music, treat wooden objects with respect, prepare a smoothie, separate clothes in the laundry machine. But – hei – I am just not made for being a long-term guest. I feel like I am invading someone else’s space. So this experience confirms that I am a bourgeois deep down in my bones. The word bourgeois, as you know, denotes a person that takes for granted the sanctity of property. This brings me to point 4 of my diary.
Niels, who is going to live with me in Torino in a couple of days, says that he wants to have his belongs packed in one simple bag. A-ha: nonsense. Living in Florence for three years I have accumulated an incredible amount of stuff: books, clothes, games, bikes, paintings, a scooter, laptops, tables, all sorts of technology. This stuff -material stuff, really- reflects my personality; in some ways, it is even an extension of it. This is why I feel so strange knowing that it is now scattered around six different houses (err – and I take the opportunity to thank again my friends for their patience).
Material stuff reflects my personality, sure. There is another reason, though, why it is so important to me: it also captures a particularly happy period of my life. So now when I take up Bruti I remember the late evenings playing it with Dani; when I take that one glass of whiskey I remember the night when I was with Thomas and he knew he got into law school; when I look at the little school bus I remember of my improvised journey all the way to Denmark with Iris; and so on: you got the gist. Now – of course you realise I have been bloody sentimental about leaving my home in Florence, but I think that is for a reason. At the moment I doubt I will ever find a place so welcoming, so radiant, so relaxed as that. But then, who knows? When I got there in 2013 I had just experienced Brussels with Mindo, a truly marvellous flatmate and friend. So I was convinced I could not find anything better than that. In fact, half an hour after my arrival in the house Ada and I were fighting -literally fighting- over the consequences of Spanish colonisation in South America, leaving short of words both Jonas, who had rented the cheapest room but was forcefully assigned the most expensive one upon his arrival ‘because you are the last one who arrived and since we have already put our luggages in the other room it be a bit of a hassle to move them now, no?‘; and Dani, who had been accepted in the house at the last minute just because the girl who had been favoured over him turned out to be pregnant. It ended up going swimmingly: they are my closest friends now. So let us be surprised again.
It took us six months longer than initially announced, but we are now moving out from our house and we are leaving Florence.
It is a huge change for me: this has been my life for the last three years. I cannot imagine a better place and a better routine than this. But as I have written previously, I am a bit like a bike: balance only comes when I am in motion. So off again.
Before moving to the future, I wanted to take a second to recollect some thoughts on the past. Daniele and Anna have been my point of reference since I moved here. I am not going to bore you with the usual sentimental rants: Daniele is a brother to me, full stop. Rationally, however, I can identify those things that brought us together: we shared the same silly irony, the cultural references (boris, stories about panache, impressions, suicidal bunnies), the desire to take up little nerdish things and get passionate about them (poker, bruti), the striving for new projects (gingerello, cineforum, hostels, dinners and presents) and plans for the future (morocco, dolomites, maremma, poggio la noce, pelago – am I the only one to see a pattern here?). With him, just like with Matteo, it was a constant sdrammatizzare. (It is term that I won’t bother translating in English). Looking back at these experience I realize we always involved other people. It is going to be a lot harder without him, and Ada, Jonas, Meha, Nele, and Markus.
The house, of course, was special also because it came with a certain magic of itself. The last few days we were packing everything and cleaning up the storage room and the mezzanine. It was a bit like public works in Rome: any time we were moving something some strange memories from the past would emerge. I will write more on this in the next few days, as I will officially move out next week and I will spend some days in Ponte alle Riffe 39 alone with all my demons.
Before that, I am off to Switzerland for the hardest bike race I have ever done, with the worst preparation I could possibly have, and with a very messy road trip ahead. The red team is on the move again. I am very happy I am going to go.
Si pone all’attenzione del grande pubblico di questo blog la commovente vicenda di Biraghi, Zuppa e Pressburger. Il sorteggio della nascita li volle fratelli: prole dell’unione di un duca toscano con una bella marchesa i sornioni Biraghi e Pressburger, figlio illegittimo di una relazione del duca di cui sopra con una contadina lo scapestrato Zuppa. Fu un’infanzia esuberante la loro, trascorsa tra le imponenti mura del casale paterno e i pini secolari del parco circostante, situato ad alcune miglia dalla luminosa Firenze. A dispetto di quanto si possa pensare, la vita nell’isolamento delle campagne può infatti risultare assai piacevole. E tuttavia un destino acerbo incombeva sui tre fratelli. Il duca padre, infatti, sparì improvvisamente dopo aver dissipato l’intero patrimonio di famiglia in una serie di sciagurate scommesse sulle corse clandestine di levrieri uzbeki. I tre fratelli dovettero rifugiarsi all’estero per evitare di cadere vittima dei ripugnanti creditori pisani. Si divisero così tra Spagna (Zuppa), Repubblica Ceca (Biraghi) e Canada (Pressburger). In quegli anni bui la proprietà di famiglia fu saccheggiata e lasciata andare in rovina. Pare, tuttavia, che da alcuni mesi i tre fratelli siano tornati sotto falso nome nella regione natia dove hanno avviato dati alla produzione di un innovativo liquore artigianale, escamotage pericoloso ma necessario a racimolare il denaro per ricomprare la magione di famiglia e vendicare le ingiustizie subite.
Giulia, Dani, Ada, Vivian, Anna, Fabio, Giallu, Martina, Mariana, mamma, babbo, Johannes, Mariam, Fatima, two random kids, Nele, Chloé, another random kid driving a yellow car in front of an elderly guy with funny socks. Santo Spirito, Livorno (and cacciucco), Lucca (and the Comics), San Miniato, Fiesole. 2015: join me for a very Tuscan Fall.
Premessa. Avevo scritto queste righe una settimana fa: stavo per metterle online quando eventi più importanti hanno preso il sopravvento e ho posticipato la pubblicazione. Posso ora confermare che ho effettivamente bucato anche questo appuntamento.
Dani mi ha inviato questa brillante recensione di un film in programma al cinema Stensen facendo riferimento a “capre che trombano“.
Il mio amico E. mi ha raccontato una storiella edificante che dice così. Ci sono due montoni in cima a una collina, uno vecchio e uno giovane. Quello giovane guarda a valle e vede un gregge che pascola. “Corriamo giù e facciamoci una pecora!” – dice al vecchio. E quell’altro risponde: “No, scendiamo con calma e facciamocele tutte”. Fino a prova contraria, i montoni sono bestie che hanno piuttosto chiaro come si sta al mondo. Fare le cose con calma è importante.
E’ una recensione intrigante: potete leggerne il resto qui. Il senso trovatecelo pure voi. Intanto tutto sembra indicare che aggiungeremo la serata allo Stensen alla nostra saga di eventi virtuali, o la lista di attività che nonostante le nostre migliori intenzioni finiamo sempre per bucare – le precedenti: Bob Dylan’s week, Serata su calcio globale e capitalismo finanziario, Uno di noi: documentario su Socrates, corso di restauro e manutenzione della bicicletta, Sagra del buco unto.