Lorenzo & his humble friends

The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool

Tag: torino

Books I have read, 2017

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.

All the pretty horses.jpg

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 HelvètesAstérix 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.

… but in case you are still looking for something good, pore over my ‘books I have read‘ posts from 2016, 2015, 2014., 2013.

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.

Un abbraccio

Daniele

Les veins.,

Marco, che i lettori più fedeli hanno avuto modo di incontrare ripetutamente su questo blog (uno, due, tre, quattro, cinque, sei, sette, otto), ha appena avviato un nuovo progetto cartografico nel suo tempo libero. Potete vedere alcuni suoi lavori nello spazio su Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/lesveins/) e, se vi piacciono, potete farvi spedire le mappe direttamente a casa tramite Etsy (https://www.etsy.com/it/shop/Lesveins).

One of them

Good news. In October I sent out my Ph.D. thesis and a few days ago – the moment I landed in London to see Marco, Francesca, Camilla and Isabella – I received the approval of my four jury members. I will, therefore, defend in early 2018, slightly late on my initial schedule.

When I told Jean Thomas, he said this would finally make me ‘one of us‘.

 

In the meanwhile, I have one important announcement to make. I have bought not one, but two pipes when I was in Torino with Marco: the first and more expensive one is a Chacom, billiard, Canadian-style, made in French-Jura; the other is a Piemontese Brebbia ‘da battaglia‘, small-billiard almost Price of Wales in style. It has been a fruitful season.

The most precious secret

(in Niels’ life)

THE COOL-COUS

1) Fry unions and mushrooms in a pot with olive oil. Don’t overdo it, just give them a tiny bit of color.
2) Add chickpeas and pepper (red) and let steam for a few minutes.
3) Add crushed tomatoes. Let cook for a few minutes.
4) Add a cube of vegetable stock and cream (quite a bit).
5) Maybe add some chili powder and pepper if you want.
6) Pour boiling water over cous cous and add some olive oil to it.
7) Serve it to someone and see that person immediately fall in love with you.

Measurements I leave up to you. I’m not gonna reveal everything in one go.

Niels et Martijn.JPG

Etta mi fa gli auguri

Two seasons

The sun creeping into our apartment at the last flood of via Belfiore 82, in San Salvario. The neighbours smoking cigarettes on their balconies. The podcasts on the long bus ride to Moncalieri – Axefiles, Economist, the FT world weekly, Francesco Costa, RFI le journal en francais facile. The main square rising up in the fog, the Collegio right behind the corner. Its empty corridors full of animals stuck in the nineteenth century. Ludo with Niels. Blah Blah nights. Fencing in the Parco del Valentino, the sense of defeat when I gave it up. The evenings out with Marco and Leila, how they are wonderful dancing together. The canavese. The Greek restaurant. Miriam and Pietro, Sharewood. The Teatro Piccolo and Franco Cardini. The night shifts in Massaua: we all come and go, but some of us have a tougher ride in between. Tabletennis with Teresa, Mancio, Matteo and Niels down in the basement of Collegio. That sunset run along the Po and then up Monte dei Cappuccini. The Cineforum Baretti on a late Saturday afternoon. The desperate shopping at Abu’s four hours to new year’s eve. Dinner out at Silos. Those early January nights with Etta leaning under my blankets when I felt too sick and exhausted to push her away; after all, I might not be allergic to dogs. The new house at the corner between via Bogino and via Po, warm and compact. The smell of clean linen and the heating system full blast when I was still too sick to take care of myself. Chess with Niels. Porta Palazzo every Saturday, toma and oranges. All those comic novels. The brunch at the Circolo dei Lettori. The readings at Ospedale Mauriziano. Bar Dotto. The fifteen-minute sandwiches at the grocery shop in Moncalieri. Tamango and Quesar: I kept the card until yesterday when I finally threw it away. The museums, all those museums and the public support behind them, the creative installations sometimes a bit superficial, but hei this is a city where every day people que to enter in places where they discover more about history, photography, painting, even criminal anthropology. That one reading at univoc with Flavio, who has a big voice and sings pianobar, and Gianni, who has a British sense of humour and never published the novel he wrote. Strolling through the parks on an early Spring Sunday, the streets closed to the cars, fountains are buzzing, kids run round with pink balloons, there is a charity race for women. On the train this night I look back at the last five months one more time. Now I am ready to go.

The world of today

This post was written on Thursday evening

It is the last time I am going back to Torino by train.

Since I moved there in October I have gone back so many times – on top of my mind I can recall four from Florence, three from Trento, one from Milan… I have discovered new train stations, like la Mediopadana. I have listened to bands I did not know before, like Snarky Puppy and Hiromi Uehara. I have also went back to some other bands I knew already, like The Cat Empire, Passenger, and Bon Iver. I have changed two apartments, but kept my mate Niels with whom I spent countless hours in the night playing ludo, chess, and that bizarre historical game of dates. It was always good to go back.

In Torino I found an elegant, bright, lofty city and I would have wanted to stay. But next Sunday I will have to move out again. Time always passes, seasons come and go, and so do I.

The dukes of Savoy and Sicilian ice-cream

The House of Savoy is one of the oldest royal families in the world, being founded in year 1003. The dukes of Savoy used to rule the historical Savoy region around Nice, but that changed in 1563, when they decided to shift their capital from Chambéry to Turin. By then it had become abundantly clear that the Po Valley offered more room for expansion.

In fact, military expansion was the dynasty’s principal ambition. This can be easily noticed today by any person who wonders around Turin. Across the city’s squares there is a magnificent abundance of statues of kings, princes, generals, and soldiers. My favourite is in Piazza Carlo Alberto, with the bronze figure of the king waving his sword mounted on his horse and and four bersaglieri with their bayonets underneath.

Historically, not many people are aware of the fact that the first significant expansion of the Savoy was the annexation of Sicily to their Kingdom in 1713. In all truth, the way in which Sicily became part of the new Kingdom of Piedmont was twisted, to say the least. After centuries of Spanish rule, armies of both French and Austrian emperors had both occupied the island. In 1707 the Peace of Utrecht gave precedence to the Austrians. They, in turn, decided to hand Sicily over to their newly acquired friend, Victor Amadeus of Savoy. This was a rather bizarre decision, as no part of Italy is so unlike Piedmont as it is Sicily. Victor Amadeus sailed to Palermo in 1713, probably indifferent to these nuisances.

His enthusiasm, however, proved to be short-lived. In his masterpiece on The pursuit of Italy, David Gilmour explained that ‘coming from a place where nobility had a tradition of military and state service, Victor Amadeus could not understand why Sicilian aristocrats were so unwilling to be soldiers or administrators. He called their assembly in Palermo an ice-cream parliament, because eating ice-cream seemed to be its members’ most conspicuous activity. The nobles were equally contemptuous of this rustic-looking northerners and regretted the disappearance of Spain’s elegant and elaborate viceregal court. Victor Amedeus soon tired of trying to rule an ungrateful island offered it back to Austria provided he was compensated by somewhere else where he could be called a king; eventually he managed to get himself made King of Sardinia’.

At the time he could not know that more than a century later, in 1861, the Dukes of Savoy would regain possess of Sicily and thus become the first monarchs of the nascent Kingdom of Italy.

Piove, ed è subito autunno

Torino, one week into

A guy playing the piano upon my arrival at the station. Coffee on the terrace. A warm October light. Wicked Man’s Rest. Sunny parks. Wide roads and surprisingly few churches. Maps. Marco. Moncalieri and its magnificent square. Il Collegio and Carlo Alberto. Il Caffé Città. Long walks in the Valentino park. Marco, Leila, and Etta. Fencing, spada, Carlos. Late nights reading. Jón Kalman Stefánsson. Niels. Caponata. Il Balon. Ardberg. Agriturismo del Canavese. Museo del Risorgimento. Rain.

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Leggere le notizie

E’ in giorni come questi che vengono fuori tutte le ragioni per cui, anche volendo, sarebbe davvero un pessima idea mettersi in gioco per una carica elettiva. Prendiamo questa intervista al sindaco uscente di Torino.

C’è, anzitutto, un giudizio irrazionale da parte degli elettori. Negli ultimi cinque anni Piero Fassino ha amministrato Torino splendidamente. La città oggi è vivibile, ha servizi efficienti, sicurezza, attività culturali, locali per giovani, finanziamenti alla ricerca e allo sport. Eppure Fassino perde, e per me questo è inspiegabile.

C’è l’irrazionalità degli elettori, sempre alla ricerca di cambiamento (ma cambiamento per cosa? di cosa? perché?) e poi c’è la pochezza dei mezzi d’informazione, sempre alla ricerca spasmodica di una narrativa forzata. Mi piacerebbe un contesto nel quale prendessimo ogni voto per quello che è: si elegge il sindaco di Roma? Allora diamo un giudizio su Roma. Eleggiamo i nostri parlamentari Europei? Allora votiamo chi ha maggior competenze per farlo. Invece – e i mezzi di informazione ne sono i principali responsabili – viviamo un clima da perenne giudizio sul governo, succubi della patologia italiana dell’uomo forte al comando e dell’idea che i nostri destini dipendano esclusivamente da quell’uomo. E’ una mentalità debole, oltre che sciocca. E allora anche un’intervista in cui Fassino parla di come ha amministrato la città finisce per avere un titolo estrapolato fuori contesto (Matteo ascolti di più chi fatica e affidi il partito a un suo vice) e che, peraltro, fraintende completamente quello che l’intervistato dice per davvero (In Europa la guida del governo coincide quasi sempre con quella del partito. Poi, se uno guarda al modello più sperimentato, quello tedesco, vede che c’è un leader – il cancelliere – e poi c’è una figura forte, il numero due del partito a cui è affidata la gestione. Mi sembra un modello ragionevole, è quello dell’Spd. Detto questo, non è il modello organizzativo che risolve i problemi). In questo clima avvelenato finiamo per parlare ossessivamente delle persone anziché discutere in quale tipo di politiche pubbliche vorremmo nel nostro comune, nella nostra regione, nel nostro stato, nella nostra Europa.