I remember reading Annie Ernaux’s Memoria di ragazza on the train during a long, romantic night ride between Stockholm and Kiruna. Outside it was snowing. I felt like I was part of a Swedish noir movie. Next to me, Giallu, and Nicco were muttering indistinct phrases while Jasper was listening to Bubble Butt. We had decided to split two beds and two seats. It all went smoothly until Giallu was locked out of his cabin. The thought of that still makes me smile. The book, which I had bought together with Anna in a little library of Rovereto that we had previously discovered thanks to Martina, is honestly not great. I like its reflexivity and the way in which you can reconsider your own past. It is a bit too depressing for my taste, though.
Between January and February I read one book that had been given to me as a present by Martina during 2016: Jimmy Nelson’s Before they pass away. I remember seeing it in Iris and Erik’s apartment in Rotterdam when I was there six months earlier. Big book. Around the same time I also devoured Tim Marshall’s Prisoners of Geography. I am going to read more books on geopolitics in the next few years.
Between February and March I listened to Emmanuel Carrére’s Limonov through Radio Rai’s podcast Ad Alta Voce. Boy, what a good experience this was. Credit goes to Martina, who had recommended me the podcast – and the book: I remember I first saw it in her house, when she gave it to Fabio. I spent two weeks listening to it. Most vivid in my memory is the four hour non-stop session on my way to Zinal with Jean-Thomas and Elie. I also remember I stopped going to the office by bike around that time so that I could walk down slowly and listen to Limonov. This book left a trace.
Definitely less impactful was Jack London’s Martin Eden. I wanted to read a big, classic book again after my entertaining experience with Il Conte di Montecristo. This has not matched my expectations, though. My second weekend in Zinal, this time with Annique and Eva, I read William Boyd’s Sweet Caress. I had previously bought the book in Zurich. Another book by William Body, Any human heart, is definitely one of the best reads I have ever had. Not this one, though. I should have seen it coming: the name of the author is written in way bigger characters than the title of the book on the cover page.
Back in Neuchatel I started a new audiobook, courtesy of Radio Rai: Umberto Eco’s Il nome della rosa. I had read this great piece of art as a kid but I had forgotten everything. When Pedro hosted me for the second time in Madrid in 2017, I remember buying a Spanish copy of the book for him that I found in a second-hand market in El Retiro. It was a beautiful sunny day. This is an extraordinary book that everybody should read twice in their life.
I like to think of my spring in Paris together with Robert Doisneau’s Paris. When the first sun started to kick in in Neuchatel, I followed Francesca’s advice and I read Primo Levi’s, Il sistema periodico. My image of this book is that of the little cabins in Neuchatel’s harbor.
On my way to Cuba I decided to bring two books only: Eduardo Galeano’s Bocas del tiempo (strongly suggested by Jean-Thomas, who had loved the book when he read it in Argentina) and Alessandro Raveggi’s Panamericana (I had read about it somewhere and got curious). When I ran out of books, because we spent too much time reading due to the rain, Thomoose passed me his copy of Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast. Oh what a pleasure to read it under the sun in El Varadero like a capitalist tourist.
In June I read Daniele del Giudice’s Staccando l’ombra da terra. This was a present by Giulia. Yes, yes, yes – a very good book.
In July I celebrated the Tour de France by reading two books by Bidon: Il Centogiro and Se qualcuno viene mi fa piacere. Leonardo Piccione’s career as a writer is quickly taking off and I will forever pride myself with the discovery of his talent before he became known to the big public.
In August I read Emmanuel Carrére’s Il Regno. I remember going through it on the Lake of Molveno, together with my dad who had read it a few months earlier. Two other books I read in July: Paolo Soglia’s Hanno deciso gli episodi, and Augusto Pieroni’s Leggere la fotografia. Not quintessential.
In Croatia I read Emmanuel Carrére, D’Autres vies que la mienne. This is the second book in French I completed after Albert Camus’ L’Etranger, which I read last year. I was proud. This book is way too long though and I would only recommend the first one hundred pages of it. I also read a comic book by Vladimir Grigorieff and Abdel de Bruxelles, Le conflit insraeélo-palestinien, which I had bought in Brussels with Anna.
In early October I read Robert Capa’s Slightly Out of Focus. It was good to read it on the boat with Giallu, Nicco, and Jonas. I told Thomoose to read it. It is entertaining. You read Capa and you can never tell whether he is for real. He just goes like – hei, let’s have a good time. In late October, on my way to Kenya, I read Desmond Morris’ La scimmia nuda. This was a present by Eliana. Nailed it. It was a good coincidence to read it in the country that really is the cradle of humanity.
Between November and December I read Giuseppe Sciortino’s Rebus immigrazione. He was my professor at the bachelor’s in sociology. This is a small and lean book that I read during one train ride from Trento to Neuchatel. Finally, in December I read Mary Ellen Mark’s On the Portrait and the Moment. This was my graduation present by Iris and Erik. They know how to make their pick. The most charming part of photography, for me, is portraits – of humans, rhinos and elephants. Landscapes are boring.
And this is the end. Reading back the post I realise that my book choices are closely tied to the people I know and the place I visit. I do not do this on purpose. But it feels right.
Okay, time to confess: between May and June I went to Cuba with Thomas. It was the first time we spent time together since our Tuscan farewell in 2015. Apart from the rain that escorted us for the first seventeen days, these are the words that I will remember from this experience: Casa particular, tabacco con miel, Malecón, Capitolio, El Nacional, arroz con frijoles, ron collins, mojito, daiquiri, cubanito, Floridita, finca la vigìa, coco, bucanero, montecristo, robusto, cochiba, Rom de Santiago. Comisión, yuma, jinetero, hustlers, scam, campesinos, todo está fresa, 26 julio, 1958, José Marti, Camilo Cienfuegos, René Portocarrero, realismo sucio, bloqueo, yoruba.
In bold characters the things I liked about my three-week vacations in Cuba. All the rest, we highly disliked. I do not feel like explaining why right now right here.
If only I could read the signs: I should have known better.
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.
And in my puttering
I’ve let some relationships die
for I did not water them
But I don’t think i’d have known
relationships need watering at all
had I not been away to see them wilt or die.
The plant lives to give us life,
this is simple.
But we must also do our part.
Some of my best friends are like cactus
others wilted much faster-
I blame no one.
In life I have been torrential
other times a drought
Life, for all its seeming complexity,
is an experiment in precipitation.
and the flower in a badlands
growing through a buffalo’s skull, whispering:
“I let some relationships die
for I did not water them.
I blame no one.”
An occasional update on my murky links with Premier League’s team Aston Villa. I must admit things are not going well on that respect. Last May I lost this bet as the Villans were slaughtered four nil; and I still have to send my dues – one bottle of grappa – to the old moose Thomas. But things got even worse this season, with Aston Villa loosing virtually every single match they played and occupying the rock bottom of the ranking. I had some hope things might improve with the window of transfers in January. But they did not: Aston Villa signed no one. How a team in such deep trouble can do no business whatsoever in a transfer window almost beggars belief.
No team with 13 points or fewer from 24 games has ever avoided relegation. Or, as it has been kindly put by some pundits, the Villans are now staring relegation right between the eyes. Once again, someone on the other shore of the Ocean is making fun of me.
One important discovery I made this year is that moments come back, sometimes in a more mature and tangible way than how you remembered them. Your read about my bromance with Thomas already; now in Montreal I had the luck to share the apartment with Marco and Leila, who made my life a little bit funnier between 2009 and 2012. We have been in touch ever since, on and off, and we also met each other quite a few times; but of course it was never as good as spending one whole week together in the same house. Much time has passed since we first met and of course now we have changed, our lives have changed. And yet, living together just for a little while was so good, and so important to me.
I might not be very good at it, but one thing I know now is that the capacity to cultivate friendships over time is one of the best qualities a man should have.
You might remember my previous posts about Aston Villa. It is now time for you to know that Thomas is a loyal Arsenal supporter – which, living in Canada is not easy: you on game day have to go to the pub at 11 in the morning.
Both our teams had a miserable season – more Villa than Arsenal, to be fair. But they had an amazing run in the F.A. Cup. They are playing the final now and we are both watching.
Post scriptum: now that he is gone, this song keeps Thomas alive in my mind. At first I thought it would have been lame to put it on the blog, not least because quite a few people assume we are a covert homosexual couple – for the records, we are not. But then I realized the song was originally dedicated to a dog. There is no better match, Thomas the sundog shall forever be pleased.
It’s already April but the wind smells like we are still in January. As you folks know, I am living in Florence and yesterday the local football team was due to play the second leg of the semifinal of Coppa Italia against Juventus, which happens to be the most hated team in the whole country, in Florence, and in my personal records too. Boy, this had the potential to be a great day.
Surely the teenager version of Lorenzo would have gone mad for such a match. Until turning fifteen, a good 70% of my life revolved around football – the remaining 30% was evenly divided between girls, videogames, and masturbation. Unfortunately, a sardonic fate has changed the priorities of my life, putting masturbation on top… well, not quite. But the truth is football is no longer a raging characteristic of my life. Is no priority whatsoever, really. Gone are the times when I caused serious damages to the car of my dad because we were late for the Sunday evening match and I could not tolerate missing the first half an hour of it so I obliged him to pump in the wrong kind of fuel. Gone are the times when I obliged my cousin to record the televised replica of Milan-Monza, a pre-seasonal friendly match played at 3AM on the 15th of August watched by less than 100 people in the whole world. Gone are the times when I painted my hair blue hours before Italy played France in the final of the European Championship, probably unaware that blue is the national color of France too so it did not make much sense altogether – anyways, you got the message.
And so it is. Yesterday, while Fiorentina was being hammered by Juventus, I was happy go lucky with Thomas family, as the kids were jumping on me and the dad was telling stories, and I was just happy to be there with them rather than at the stadium or in a bar. We did, in all truth, end up in a bar for the final minutes of the match. But at that point I realized how football has faded away from my life and does not mean much, while other things still do. Spending time with Thomas family is one of these things and it will suffice to say that being with them makes me feel peaceful. Sometimes this kind of kindness is all what you need to feel. Simple, natural, and probably easier to explain that a pre-seasonal friendly match played at 3 in the night. Or a 3-0 home defeat against the most hated team of the entire country.
Post-scriptum: I thought I had already written something about this post, which is beautiful. Turns out I haven’t. So let me tell you now that football for me still makes some sense as a mechanism to mock my friends. Alvise is Parma, Stefano is Milan, Max and Tommaso are Juventus, Thomas is Arsenal, and so on. Obviously I am not immune from this system, so yesterday night I received quite a few messages from these friends. Here I will report only some, those pointing at my vile attitude to switch team depending on the circumstances and always side with the winner. I initially titled this blogpost “Frankly, my dear, I couldn’t care less“. I then realized how wrong that was. In fact, I would have cared very much about being able to send some ill mannered messages around. Instead, I will have to keep my mouth shut for quite some time now.