Tag: Italy

Primo Levi remembers the horror of Auschwitz

Tuesday, 27 January, 2015 0 Comments

Primo Levi described his return to Italy from the Auschwitz concentration camp in La tregua (The Truce). The Truce In this Paris Review interview, Levi reminisces about one of the book’s characters: “You remember Mordo Nahum? I had mixed feelings toward him. I admired him as a man fit for every situation. But of course he was very cruel to me. He despised me because I was not able to manage. I had no shoes. He told me, Remember, when there is war, the first thing is shoes, and second is eating. Because if you have shoes, then you can run and steal. But you must have shoes. Yes, I told him, well you are right, but there is not war any more. And he told me, Guerra es siempre. There is always war.”

Today, as the world commemorates the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, we should strive to understand the revulsion that Primo Levi felt towards those who took part in the Nazi extermination campaign and also towards those who could have but did not speak out against it. In memory of the murdered millions, here’s an excerpt from The Truce:

“There is no rationality in the Nazi hatred: it is hate that is not in us, it is outside of man. We cannot understand it, but we must understand from where it springs, and we must be on our guard. If understanding is impossible, knowing is imperative, because what happened could happen again. Consciences can be seduced and obscured again — even our consciences. For this reason, it is everyone duty to reflect on what happened. Everybody must know, or remember, that when Hitler and Mussolini spoke in public, they were believed, applauded, admired, adored like gods. They were ‘charismatic leaders’; they possessed a secret power of seduction that did not proceed from the soundness of things they said but from the suggestive way in which they said them, from their eloquence, from their histrionic art, perhaps instinctive, perhaps patiently learned and practised. The ideas they proclaimed were not always the same and were, in general, aberrant or silly or cruel. And yet they were acclaimed with hosannas and followed to the death by millions of the faithful.”


Watch out for the currency traps

Tuesday, 2 December, 2014 1 Comment

“We cannot go on with this euro. We must improve the European monetary policy and achieve equality of the dollar and euro interchange,” said former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi at the Forza Italia party’s ‘No Tax Day’ rally in Milan on Saturday. “We must bring back our right to print money and establish monetary market exchange.”

Meanwhile, Tehran’s economy minister, Ali Tayyebnia, warned yesterday against “frenzied behavior” as Iranians dumped their rials. And in Venezuela, the dollar is now worth 1,700 percent more on the black market than the price the government charges those lucky enough to obtain it legally. Then, there’s the collapse of the ruble. This entire currency business is treacherous so it’s not surprising that when the Financial Times listed its Best books of 2014 at the weekend, the “trap” metaphor appeared prominently in the top titles reviewed.

Traps


Italy 2 : England 1

Sunday, 15 June, 2014 0 Comments

For commentary on the after-match inquest, let’s turn to Britain’s poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy.

The Shirt

Afterwards, I found him alone at the bar
and asked him what went wrong. It’s the shirt,
he said. When I pull it on it hangs on my back

like a shroud, or a poisoned jerkin from Grimm
seeping its curse onto my skin, the worst tattoo.

I shower and shave before I shrug on the shirt,
smell like a dream; but the shirt sours my scent

with the sweat and stink of fear. It’s got my number.
I poured him another shot. Speak on, my son. He did.
I’ve wanted to sport the shirt since I was a kid,

but now when I do it makes me sick, weak, paranoid.

All night above the team hotel, the moon is the ball

in a penalty kick. Tens of thousands of fierce stars

are booing me. A screech owl is the referee.

The wind’s a crowd, forty years long, bawling a filthy song

about my Wag. It’s the bloody shirt! He started to blub
like a big girl’s blouse and I felt a fleeting pity.
Don’t cry, I said, at the end of the day you’ll be back

on 100K a week and playing for City.


Gli Azzurri and Il Canto degli Italiani

Wednesday, 11 June, 2014 0 Comments

Marco Verratti, Andrea Pirlo, Mario Balotelli, Gigi Buffon, Lorenzo Insigne… Italy fans work the national squad into the lyrics of the country’s national anthem: Il Canto degli Italiani. Next stop: The Arena da Amazonia in Manaus.


The King of Spain says farewell

Tuesday, 3 June, 2014 0 Comments

The news of the abdication of King Juan Carlos sparked a memory of royalty in motion as described by by Ernest Hemingway in A Farewell to Arms:

“There were small gray motor-cars that passed going very fast; usually there was an officer on the seat with the driver and more officers in the back seat. They splashed more mud than the camions even and if one of the officers in the back was very small and sitting between two generals, he himself so small that you could not see his face but only the top of his cap and his narrow back, and if the car went especially fast it was probably the King. He lived in Udine and came out in this way nearly every day to see how things were going, and things went very badly.”

Hemingway is unbeatable.


Cacti with Alps

Sunday, 23 March, 2014 0 Comments

“It was a fairy-tale world, child-like and funny. Boughs of trees adorned with thick pillows, so fluffy someone must have plumped them up; the ground a series of humps and mounds, beneath which slinking underbrush or outcrops of rock lay hidden; a landscape of crouching, cowering gnomes in droll disguises — it was comic to […]

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What if Britain had stayed out?

Friday, 24 January, 2014 0 Comments

That’s the question posed by R.J.W. Evans in “The Greatest Catastrophe the World Has Seen.” His engaging tour d’horizon of the latest World War I books includes belated recognition for Le origini della guerra del 1914 (“The Origins of the War of 1914”) by the Italian politician and journalist Luigi Albertini, which was published in 1942–1943. As Evans notes: “Silenced by the Fascist regime, Albertini immersed himself in all the sources, and added more of his own by arranging interviews with survivors. That lent an immediacy to his wonderfully nuanced presentation of the individuals who actually made (or ducked) the fateful decisions.”

The fateful decisions taken in London were “entrusted to the tentative grasp of the country squire Sir Edward Grey”, who “wobbled both before and after Berlin’s foolhardy démarche, and was determined at least as much by parliamentary frictions and civil disturbance at home.” This “disturbance” included “the ferocious clashes over Ireland’s home-rule legislation.” Grey, does not emerge well from the books reviewed by Evans, but like many of the other players in this drama he was unprepared for what was coming in July 1914. “Communing with nature on his country estate, for he passionately preferred live birds (he was an acknowledged expert in their observation) to the feathers on an archduke’s hat, he had already reached the conclusion that ‘if war breaks out, it will be the greatest catastrophe the world has ever seen.'” And it was.

The Survivors

No doubt they’ll soon get well; the shock and strain
Have caused their stammering, disconnected talk.
Of course they’re ‘longing to go out again,’ —
These boys with old, scared faces, learning to walk.
They’ll soon forget their haunted nights; their cowed
Subjection to the ghosts of friends who died, —
Their dreams that drip with murder; and they’ll be proud
Of glorious war that shatter’d all their pride…
Men who went out to battle, grim and glad;
Children, with eyes that hate you, broken and mad.

Siegfried Sassoon

1914 — 2014: Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, the Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, compared the leadership of China to the German monarchy of Wilhelm II ahead of the First World War. Beijing Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang responded by calling the Japanese World War II criminals commemorated at the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo “Nazis in the East.”


Pope Francis: “È una battuta uscita non so da dove”

Monday, 16 December, 2013 1 Comment

“May I ask you if the Church will have women cardinals in the future?” That was the question posed by Vatican writer Andrea Tornielli in a lengthy interview with Pope Francis that appeared in La Stampa on Saturday. “Posso chiederle se avremo donne cardinale?” is how it went in the original Italian. Francis gave the idea a good knock on the head, calling it una battuta — a sound-bite. His complete, translated, answer: “It’s a sound-bite and I don’t know where it came from. Women in the church must be valued, not ‘clericalized’. Whoever is thinking about women cardinals suffers a little bit from clericalism.”

As Freddy Gray pointed out in The Spectator: “It can only be a matter of time before the journalists who now laud Francis turn on him. They will say he has disappointed them when he does not embrace all gay rights, condoms, and women popes.”


Self reflection with Cesare Pavese

Wednesday, 6 November, 2013 0 Comments

On 27 August 1950, Cesare Pavese committed suicide in the hotel Roma in Turin by swallowing barbiturates. His book, Dialoghi con Leucò, lay on the bedside table with the following annotation on the first page: “I forgive all and ask everyone’s forgiveness. OK? Don’t gossip too much.” He was just 42 years old. Given the number of beautiful women who attended his funeral, there was lots of gossip.

Born in the village of Santo Stefano in the Piedmont, Cesare Pavese is considered one of Italy’s most important 20th-century writers, and one of the saddest. The protagonists in his novels are loners, managing only superficial relationships. Unrequited love was also the hallmark of his own life. Pavese’s diaries were published in English under the title, The Burning Brand: Diaries 1935-1950.

6 November 1939: “I spent the whole evening sitting before a mirror to keep myself company.” Cesare Pavese

Tomorrow, here, Maurice Collis notes down George Bernard Shaw’s last words as recalled by Lady Astor, who once scolded Stalin, “Your regime is no different from the Czars.”


Sorrow and bliss in Italy

Wednesday, 16 October, 2013 0 Comments

The recent spate of migrant deaths in the waters off the coast of Italy has highlighted the tragedy of Africa and its failed states. But the heartrending fate of Africans in Italy is not new, as Iris Origo noted in her diary 70 years ago:

16 October 1943: “Antonia goes down to Chianciano and returns with the news that at Magione a German captain, as he was driving through a wood, was shot and killed; he was buried yesterday at Chianciano.

In the evening a Moroccan soldier turns up here, an escaped prisoner from Laterina. He can speak only a few words of English and Italian and is very completely lost — travelling north, although he says he wants to get to Rome. We give him food and shelter for the night and point out the road to the south. ‘Me ship,’ he says, ‘Me not swim’. Very slight are his chances of getting home again.” Iris Origo

Iris Origo was an Anglo-Irish writer best known for works such as War in Val d’Orcia, The Merchant of Prato and The Vagabond Path. Following her birth in 1902, her parents travelled widely, particularly in Italy, where her father contracted tuberculosis and died in 1910. Her mother, Lady Sybil Cutting, then bought one of Florence’s most spectacular residences, the Villa Medici in Fiesole, which was built between 1451 and 1457. Iris Cutting married Antonio Origo, the illegitimate son of Marchese Clemente Origo, in 1924 and the couple devoted much of their lives to the improvement of their estate at La Foce, near Montepulciano. The Marchesa of Val d’Orcia, as Iris Origo was titled, died in her beloved Tuscany, with its cultivated hills, picturesque towns and magnificent Brunello di Montalcino in June 1988, aged 85.

Tuscany


There’s gold in them there Alps of apps

Friday, 27 September, 2013 0 Comments

“Mountain, Society, Technology” is the theme of this year’s Innovation Festival in Bolzano-Bozen. The South Tyrol region has prospered mightily from its combination of tourism, agriculture, industry and services but as Jeff Bezos once remarked, “If your customer base ages with you, you’re Woolworths,” and the danger is that a place which is profiting from affluent German, Italian and Austrian pensioners in search of hiking, skiing and dining holidays may miss out on the information revolution, with all its apps and its opportunities.

This morning’s discussion, then, “Open Data — Digital gold” is designed to get regional innovators and planners thinking about how digital access to public databases can improve daily life for the citizenry. The panelists include Ulrich Atz, Mark Madsen, Ivan Moroder, Brunella Franchini, Alex Meister and Sandy Kirchlechner. According to the organizers, “Even the layperson will realise that Open Data could turn out to be a digital gold mine.” Time to stock up on shovels, eh?

Innovation Festival