Category Archives: Publications and reviews

Migrants and asylum seekers in Italy

Was Italy the desired destination in the minds of migrants and asylum seekers who are now settled there? What image, if any, of Europe did they have before they arrived? What picture do migrants from many different places have of the smugglers who help them move? Are Facebook and social media important channels of communication and decision-making for migrants? How should the false and incomplete information which migrants rely on be corrected? These and other issues are the topic of a recent report, based on interviews and fieldwork, prepared for the European Commission by Gabriella Sanchez and her co-authors, A study of the communication channels used by migrants and asylum seekers in Italy, with a particular focus on online and social media (2018).

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Conversazione con Donatella Di Pietrantonio

Patrizia Sambuco

I suoi romanzi in breve tempo hanno portato Donatella Di Pietrantonio al centro del panorama letterario italiano. Il primo, Mia madre è un fiume (2011), ha ricevuto diversi premi; il secondo, Bella mia, candidato al Premio Strega, ottiene il Premio Brancati 2014; e nel 2017 L’Arminuta ha vinto il Premio Campiello. Nonostante questa progressiva visibilità e l’evidente successo di pubblico, Di Pietrantonio ha spesso affermato di fare fatica a considerarsi una scrittrice. La sua abitudine alla scrittura si è sempre svolta parallelamente alla sua professione di dentista; infatti la scrittura è stata per lei un hobby coltivato sin da bambina piuttosto che l’attuazione di una professione ricercata. Nella primavera 2018 ho parlato con lei dei suoi tre romanzi e della sua scrittura….. Continue reading

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Iris Origo remembered

In the latest issue  (8 February 2018) of the London Review of Books there’s a long review of Iris Origo’s The Merchant of Prato. Daily Life in a Medieval Italian City, first published in English in 1957, translated into Italian with an introduction by Luigi Einaudi in 1958 and now republished in English as a Penguin Classic. Its republication accompanies the reappearance of several of Origo’s books in 2017 thanks to the Pushkin Press: her well-known War in Val d’Orcia (1947; translated into Italian in 1968 with a preface by Piero Calamandrei), the previously unpublished A Chill in the Air dealing with the years 1939-1940, and her autobiography Images and Shadows: Part of a Life (1970).  Those three books convey brilliantly not only her family ancestry in Ireland and the USA but also her life in Italy; she grew up in Fiesole and moved to La Foce in southern Tuscany when she married Antonio Origo in 1924. La Foce was an unpromising half-ruined estate in the Val d’Orcia, 3500 hectares cultivated by mezzadri in 57 poor farms, which she and her husband determined, successfully,  to revive. Her books on Bernardino da Siena, Byron and Leopardi may have slipped from sight; but the accounts she left of her wartime years in La Foce are a lasting testimony to survival and solidarity in conditions of capricious power, lawlessness and extreme danger.

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Il 9 maggio

Oggi è il giorno per ricordare due persone molto diverse uccise il 9 maggio del 1978: Aldo Moro, ucciso dalle BR; Peppino Impastato, dalla mafia. Sulla vita e sulla morte di Moro è stato scritto moltissimo; un utile riassunto del dibattito nazionale e internazionale sulla natura e sulle cause della violenza politica che l’ha ucciso è di Giovanni Mario Ceci, Il terrorismo italiano. Storia di un dibattito (Carocci, 2013).  Gli scritti sulla mafia, meglio sulle mafie, sono ovviamente molto più numerosi. Adesso, su La Repubblica, c’è un blog, Mafie, a cura di Attilio Bolzoni, che oggi apre con una lettera di Tina Montinaro al marito, caposcorta di Giovanni Falcone e ucciso con lui 25 anni fa nella strage di Capaci. In questi ultimi anni il dibattito sulle mafie si è ampliato in seguito all’inchiesta ‘Mafia Capitale’ a Roma, dove i problemi della definizione e dell’evoluzione del fenomeno sono diventati di nuovo centrali. Questi temi sono analizzati con dovizia di dettagli nei dieci contributi all’ultimo fascicolo della rivista Meridiana (87, 2016) intitolato ‘Mafia Capitale’.

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Terra nostra

terra_nostra_cover_web_1024x1024In Terra Nostra the Palermo-born photographer Mimi Mollica explores the effects of the mafia on Sicily, documenting the damage it has inflicted on the physical and social landscape of the island and painting a dark picture of extortion, corruption and claustrophobia. The view is bleak, seedy and haunting, the violence itself mostly off-stage but its consequences, direct and indirect, all too visible. Mollica’s photo-essay is introduced by one of the island’s most active anti-mafia magistrates, Roberto Scarpinato.

 

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A tale of two journeys: the composition and publication of the Codice Rustici

codice-rustici-facsimile-olschki-itinerario-di-fede-firenze-gerusalemmeIn 1450 or thereabouts a Florentine goldsmith, Matteo di Bartolomeo Rustici, began to write down the story of a perhaps imaginary journey to the Holy Land a decade earlier. He relied heavily on his favourite readings, copying and abridging them, illustrating his accounts of places and events with detailed watercolours, frequently digressing from his main storyline to include instructions on Christian doctrine for pilgrims, potted biographies of saints, tales associated with the places visited, recommendations of cures for tarantula bites …. the result, in the words of Kathleen Olive and Nerida Newbigin, editors of the critical edition of the Codice Rustici, recently published (Olschki 2016) with a facsimile of the original and collection of essays, ‘resembling the worst kind of research uncritically cobbled together from internet sources’. The beautifully illustrated story of the text’s survival and its own journey towards publication is told by the editors here.

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Sustainable Lina: the architecture of adaptive reuse

Lina Bo Bardi220px-masp_at_paulista_av_in_sa%cc%83o_paulo (1914-1992) was an Italian-born designer of buildings, furniture and jewelry. She trained in Milan with Carlo Pagani and Giò Ponti, working also for Domus and Milano Sera directed by Elio Vittorini. In 1946 she moved to Brazil where she became well-known for her modernist buildings, notably the São Paulo Museum of Art and the Glass House where she lived in the remains of the rainforest surrounding São Paulo. An analysis and appreciation of her work has recently been published under the title Sustainable Lina (Springer, 2016) edited by Annette Condello and Steffen Lehmann. It concentrates on the social dimensions of her adaptive reuse projects from the 1960s to the early 1990s, interpreting her themes, technical sources and design strategies for the creation of luxury as sustainability and pointing to the Italian influences on her approach.

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Topographies of Identity

51dimkclgel-_sx331_bo1204203200_In her contribution to the recent volume edited by Patrizia Sambuco Italian Women Writers 1800-2000: Boundaries, Borders and Transgression (2015) Rita Wilson explores topographies of identity along frontiers (borders mark clear divisions; frontiers, the unstable meeting-place of differences). She considers the novels (I cristalli di Vienna (1978), Caffè specchi (1983), Angelo a Berlino (1987)) by Giuliana Morandini, in particular how and why her protagonists feel themselves to be outsiders present in but distanced from the Central European capitals where they live. She pursues the theme of partly alienated observers, disenchanted flâneuses in their city’s streets, in the novel Amiche per la pelle (2007) by Laila Waida, born in India but living in Trieste.  In the same volume Patrizia Sambuco examines how in Nel paese di Gesù. Ricordi di un viaggio in Palestina (1899) and Lettere di una viaggiatrice (1908)  Matilde Serao handles two further kinds of boundary-crossings: journeys into unfamiliar societies and the then unconventional role of women as travellers.

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Spaghetti/Knödel in the South Tyrol

280px-Language_distribution_in_South_Tyrol,_Italy_2011,_enSouth Tyrol, situated on the border between Austria and Italy, has been considered a ‘peace model’ by many nation-states since the creation of the province’s autonomy statutes. The aim of those statutes was to allow for minority protection of the German- and Ladin-speaking communities while also permitting Austria to be the ‘protector’ of South Tyrol even though the province is situated in Italy. A by-product of the statutes was the creation of the ‘separate but equal’ education system, which allowed the German-, Italian- and Ladin-speaking communities to have individual schools in order to protect their culture and language identity. In recent years marriages between members of different language groups have increased and a requirement for applicants for certain civil service positions to have an adequate comprehension of the L2 or in some cases L3 has been imposed. In ‘Half spaghetti-half Knödel: cultural division through the lens of language learning‘ Anne Wand has examined how the South Tyrolean school system has coped with the changing circumstances and with the pressures to move to an increasingly bilingual society. 

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Catholicism and politics after the DC

rmis20.v018.i02.coverThe latest issue of the Journal of Modern Italian Studies (vol.21, 3, 2016) has a set of articles on the nature of contemporary Catholicism and its relations to politics in Italy today. Did the election of Pope Francis mark a decisive shift in Catholic policy and practice, especially in the social field? How much and among whom does the call to preserve ‘Catholic values’, however understood, have force today?  To what extent has the Church developed a politically serviceable stance on the religious pluralism which comes with immigration and on the personal spirituality which follows institutional disaffection? Has the disappearance of Christian Democracy and the dispersal of its inheritance and inheritors across many parties destroyed any chance of the resurrection of political Catholicism?

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