Archive for the ‘italians’ Category

A secular saint?

13 agosto, 2006 6 commenti

There is a debate now going on in Italy: was Tiziano Terzani a secular saint, a Guru, or even “the lay Pope?” Terzani (see Wikipedia and The Guardian), before wearing a long white beard and robe and living in an Indian ashram, was a former war correspondent and an expert on China and Japan—he wrote for Der Spiegel, Corriere della Sera and La Repubblica—who covered wars from Vietnam to Afghanistan.
Terzani’s last book, La Fine è Il Mio Inizio (The End is My Beginning), has become this summer’s bestseller in Italy. The title speaks for itself: imbued with oriental mysticism raised to the level of keys to life, and in spite of any institutionalised forms of religion, the book is about the harmony of opposites, communion with nature, and other issues of Indian philosophy and spirituality. Is it—as argued by its mostvehement detractors—“a confused mixture of Oriental philosophy, Marxism and Christianity?” Are Terzani’s Catholic opponents right when they accuse him of “leading people astray?” Be that as it may, but Terzani’s website has been indundated with admiring e-mails …

'How can the British become more like the Italians?'

7 luglio, 2006 2 commenti

L'esultanza di Pirlo dopo l'assit a Grosso per il primo gol (Ap)After the winning match against Germany of our national team at the Tuesday’s semi-final of the Worldcup Soccer 2006 tournament, it seems that it is time for the Brits to update some of their clichés on Italy and Italians:
England may still love long balls and the commentators mention the war, but the Italians no longer play catenaccio. What kind of crazy tournament is this?
[Read the full story to learn more about the dilemma]
Not only more civilised, but more conducive to perfection. Take Italian footballers: they’ve proved themselves rather a superior breed to the English lot, this World Cup. Totti, Toni, et al have showed that the Italian way produces muscles, nerve and hair as well-conditioned as Ginola’s.
[…] Italians are healthier. An Italian man can expect to stay healthy 10 years longer than his British counterpart, according to a Leicester University study just published. The difference between an Italian woman and a British one is 14 years of health.
So how can the British become more like the Italians?
[Read the rest to learn the answer]


'We will turn the ground red with your blood'

5 maggio, 2006 2 commenti


Militari italiani a Kabul (foto d'archivio)Two Italian peacekeepers were killed and four wounded by a roadside bomb near the Afghan capital Kabul on Friday. […] The blast hit a two-vehicle Italian convoy about 20 km (12 miles) south of Kabul, on the main road to Logar province. The wounded were evacuated by helicopter. […] Italy handed over command of the force to Britain on Thursday. A Taliban spokesman, Mohammad Hanif, said by telephone from an undisclosed location that Taliban suicide bombers would increase attacks on British troops in the southern Helmand province, and would "turn the ground red" with their blood. [Read the rest]

Categorie:esteri, italians

To be young in Italy

5 aprile, 2006 3 commenti

Excerpts from Time’s special report on Italy, focused on The Fading Future Of Italy’s Young:
Growing up, Italian teenagers learn the tale of Giotto and the fly. As a young apprentice in 13th century Florence, the aspiring painter sketched a fly on the nose of a portrait his master-teacher Cimabue was finishing. So lifelike was the insect that when the elder painter returned to the studio, he repeatedly tried to swat it off the canvas. Realizing he’d been fooled by the bravura talent of his pupil, Cimabue told him: "You have surpassed your teacher." Thus encouraged by his master, Giotto went on to revolutionize Western painting, and posterity regards him as the man who launched the Italian Renaissance.
Fast-forward to Italy 2006, and the image of the precocious apprentice has been replaced by a humbler figure: the underemployed 30-something despondent about the present, let alone the future.
Developing the potential of a Giotto requires masters with the wisdom and magnanimity of Cimabue. Even if Italy’s under-40s were to push harder for responsible roles, Italy’s old guard — in virtually every field, from academia to entertainment — shows few signs of ceding space to them.
Frida Giannini, 33, has taken over as creative chief [at Gucci, the luxury-goods maker]. The Rome native says Italy must find new ways to do what it has always done best: brilliant design allied to fine workmanship. "You grow up in a place like Rome, every other meter there is a work of art, some kind of treasure. It’s not the same to see it in a postcard," she says. "It’s in our dna." But that native aesthetic sense needs an extra dose of ingenuity to add value in today’s competitive environment. "Quality must be wedded to creativity," Giannini says. "If you want to give luster to whatever you produce, you must focus your resources on the young. You have to always be in search of what’s new, what’s next."
Italy is now on course to become quite literally the oldest of countries. Beset by economic and social stagnation that makes it among the most ossified slices of Old Europe, it is stuck with a stubbornly low birth-rate that means Italians are not even replacing themselves. In a more fundamental way, the nation has not figured out how to make use of the energy and ingenuity of its young. Faced with bleak job prospects and a lack of young leaders to look to, Italians in their 20s and 30s risk falling into a nationwide generational rut. Many are afflicted with a pervading sense of hopelessness and malaise that contrasts with the youth-driven vigor boosting states like Sweden or Slovenia.
Though absent from the candidates’ slogans, Italy’s need to rejuvenate itself ought to be the nation’s No. 1 priority. Better educated and more connected with the outside world, young Italians are ready to step into full-fledged adulthood and reshape their country’s future. But far too few have had the chance.

In Memoriam of Fr. Andrea Santoro

7 febbraio, 2006 Lascia un commento

Fr. Andrea SantoroThe life and martyrdom of Fr. Andrea Santoro, a Roman priest on mission in Turkey, by Sandro Magister, and a testimony—previously published by Asia News—of an Italian volunteer who knew him well.
[…] I saw him two months ago in Iskenderun, at the see of the apostolic vicariate of Anatolia. It was our monthly retreat and we talked about the cross. He told us: “Often I ask myself: What am I doing here? And the words of John the Baptist would come to mind. ‘And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us’. I live among these people so that Jesus can live among them through me. In the Middle East, Satan continues to destroy, remembering and loyal to the past. As it was at the time of Jesus, silence, humility, the simple life, acts of faith, miracles of charity, clear and defenceless witness, and the conscious offering of one’s life can rehabilitate the Middle East.”

After a long pause, he took off his glasses letting them hang around his neck and spoke again, calmly, as if talking to himself: “I am convinced that in the end there are no two ways, only one way that leads to light through darkness, to life through the bitterness of death. Only by offering one’s flesh is salvation possible. The evil that stalks the world must be borne and pain must be shared till the end in one’s own flesh as Jesus did.” Not one word more, not one less.

After he spoke silence fell on the room. Then he looked at his watch and got up quickly, apologised, picked up his small suitcase and left the room almost running. He didn’t want to miss the plane that would take him back to his Trabzon.

There he was kneeling yesterday, praying in his church. There a bullet pierced his heart.

Categorie:italians, religion

Sri Lanka one year later

28 dicembre, 2005 Lascia un commento

AGIItaly On Line report on Italian aid to Sri Lanka:
(AGI) – Rome, Dec. 26 – More than 50 million euro have already been invested in 42 projects, half a million euro put on one side for new initiatives or possible economic necessities for finishing works already under way. These are the figures for Italian aid to Sri Lanka, a country that lost 38 thousand people in the tsunami of 26 December last year. One year on a delegation from Civil Protection has returned to look over what is being done. The delegation is led by chief of Civil Protection, Guido Bertolaso, his deputy Vincenzo Spaziante. There are also Emma Bonino, Giuliano Amato and Andrea Monorchio, of the watchdog committee. Italians have raised 47 million euro (46,819,254 euro) to which have been added six million allocated by the Civil Protection department. There remain 535,117 euro still to be allocated. A total of 53.410 million euro is being used in 42 projects of which 25 are managed by NGO’s (who have a little under 20 million euro at their disposal), seven have been carried out by international and national bodies such as Fao and Banca Etica (which have been allocated eight million euro)) and ten are led by Civil Protection (which is managing 25 million euro). Of the 42 projects, 11 (14 pct) have already been concluded and concern, besides the equipping of camps and emergency centres and the supply of goods and basic necessities, the creation of permanent housing, the reconstruction of a hospital and the supply of equipment to resume fishing (the main activity of people hit by the tsunami). Particular attention has been given to education, which has been allocated almost 10 million euro that will help in the construction of 15 schools. "What’s important to underline – observed Bonino – is that we have already managed to create and conclude 11 projects very quickly and if one considers that it took around five months to get through the bureaucratic and administrative actions necessary in the countries where we are carrying out these projects." "The Italian people – he concluded – can consider themselves satisfied with the results achieved and above all of how their money has been spent. We hope that this successful operation can serve as an example in other future occasions of necessity."


Italo Calvino for beginners

19 novembre, 2005 1 commento

Jonathan Lethem in The New York Times (registration required):

Italo Calvino in 1981Calvino […] had managed effortlessly what no author in English could quite claim: his novels and stories and fables were both classically modernist and giddily postmodern, embracing both experiment and tradition, at once conceptual and humane, intimate and mythic. Calvino, with his frequent references to comics and folktales and film, and his droll probing of contemporary scientific and philosophical theories, had encompassed motifs associated with brows both high and low in an internationally lucid style, one wholly his own. As comfortable mingling with the Oulipo group in Paris (Georges Perec, Harry Mathews, Raymond Queneau and others, who spliced the DNA of literature with overt surrealist games) as he was explicating his love for and debt to Hemingway, Stevenson and the Brothers Grimm, Calvino seemed never to have compromised in his elegant explorations of whatever made him curious in nature, art or his own sensory or intellectual life. His prose was ambassadorial, his work a living bridge between Pliny the Elder, Franz Kafka and Italian neorealist cinema. And – I intuited then, I’ve heard since – he was a kind and generous person to meet, as colleague or student or friend.
I worry a little about the state of Calvino’s shelf, 20 years later. Not that any of his books are out of print; precisely the opposite. Calvino’s two primary publishers have been reverential in presenting nearly all of his many titles in elegant trade paperback editions, the bulk in an appealing uniform sequence from Harcourt Brace.
I speak as both a lifelong completist and a former bookstore clerk, one who watched and sometimes guided readers as they attempted to choose a book. Ennoble an author’s shelf with too many uniformly enticing editions, and the problem becomes one of luck in the reader’s selection.

Italo Calvino never wrote a bad book. Yet an author of such diffusion, without a single, encompassing magnum opus to embrace (some readers will argue for "Invisible Cities," but that ineffably lovely book shows too narrow a range of Calvino’s effects, too little of his omnivorous exuberance) needs a beginner’s entry point, as well, perhaps, as a compendium to point toward posterity.

Categorie:anglosphere, italians

Signs of the times?

15 novembre, 2005 Lascia un commento

The challenge for the Left—as it has been often said—is to wake up and shake off some of its most “conservative” attitudes of mind, such as, for instance, its die-hard anti-Americanism, which sometimes prevents it from perceiving reality. Well, perhaps that is what is happening to the Italian Left, or at least that is what an optimist could dare to think in the light of some recent attitudes. The case of the mayor of Bologna is the last, in chronological order.  
Once dubbed "The Messiah of the Left"—in the days when he was leading Italy’s largest trade union—, in his new role as mayor of the prosperous and traditionally left-oriented city of Bologna, Sergio Cofferati is fighting to uphold the rule of law. Once the orchestrator of huge protests against Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on behalf of workers’ rights (in 2002 he brought more than one million people onto the streets of Rome), now Cofferati is being accused by some Communist Party allies of playing populist politics, acting more like a hard-knuckled sheriff from one of the comic books he loves than a leftist mayor.
"What we are doing doesn’t seem so very radical to me,” said Cofferati in an interview.
“We have to get away from the mindset—he added—that the left takes care of social solidarity and the right deals with law and order. The two issues are totally entwined and when the left governs it has to tackle both."
According to one opinion poll, in his campaign Cofferati is backed by 85 percent of his fellow citizens. Which is not meaningless in the most Leftist city in Italy. Another sign of the times?

Renzo Piano's light in the Piazza

9 novembre, 2005 5 commenti

Thirty-five years ago, Renzo Piano and his British colleague Richard Rogers teamed up to build the Pompidou Center. Though they were both unknown, they beat out 681 architects for the job
and their brash factory for culture, with its pop-colored industrial tubes, ducts and pipes, landed in a sedate Paris neighborhood like an alien spaceship. "We were young, quite impolite bad boys," Piano recalled with a smile not long ago. Now the Pompidou is a landmark, […]
The son of a builder in Genoa, Piano, 68, sees architecture as more than the romance of the sketch. "Of course it is an art," he says, "but it is also a science—very much the process of research, discovery, exploring materials." Even the name of his firm—Renzo Piano Building Workshop—suggests his devotion to craft and invention, the marriage of the mind and the hand. It’s an architecture that reveals the touch of a maker, but also the heart of a humanist.
Once an “outrageous architect,” Renzo Piano is now showing a quiet elegance. “Did he lose his edge—or find his soul?” Cathleen McGuigan tries to investigate. In November 7 issue of Newsweek  magazine. An interesting portrait of a very interesting Italian architect.


Father Giussani’s Death (updated)

23 febbraio, 2005 1 commento

‘He was an extraordinary man of faith and culture who dedicated his existence to the education of new generations, working above all in the Communion and Liberation Movement that he founded more than 50 years ago. He contributed via his generous action to the promotion of the social and human maturation of many young people who saw him as their spiritual guide. ‘Be ever more passionate about the mystery of man’: this was his exhortation, his communication of the idea. A lesson of life that needs to continue to inspire the common commitment of the institutions and citizens in facing the challenges of the future.’
President of the Republic, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, thus recalled the figure of Father Giussani. (Italy On Line)
Read also a biography of Luigi Giussani (in Communion and Liberation’s official website) and Tony Barber’s article  in the Financial Times.


Update (February 27, 2:20 pm)
At Sandro Magister’s website (in English) a memorable interview with Fr. Luigi Giussani, published in the weekly newspaper "Il Sabato" on August 9, 1988. The founder of Communion and Liberation recounted how, according to him, popes Montini and John Paul II saved the Church from disaster.