Of Liberty and Tolerance

Did I manage to go to all the five events I mentioned as worthy of attending in my last post? Well, not all. Four, in fact, and I still managed to snatch a pisolino in the Saharan heat that is gripping Italy!

The first event was the publication of the original version of Benedetto Croce’s speech delivered in Bari’s Teatro Piccinni  in January 1944

There were significant contributions by Michele Olivari professor of modern history at Pisa University and Giampietro Grosselle, legal forensic graphologist at Livorno’s Court of Justice. I discussed the issue of contemporary word processing with Grosselle afterwards suggesting how much more difficult it is now to be able to interpret the writer’s character and mood from a printed sheet. Yet there is still a lot to learn in a word-processed document; for example in its layout, choice of font and it’s possible to uncover crossings-out and insertions easily by using the appropriate options. So all is not lost.

(Prof.  Marcello Cherubini of the Fondazione Montaigne introducing proceedings)

Why should Croce’s notes be of any interest except to specialists? It’s because Croce’s broadcast laid the foundation of the Italian republic and its constitution as we know it today.  OK that’s fine but why should Bagni di Lucca be involved? It’s because in September 1943 the Cassibile armistice was signed which (unfortunately theoretically) ceased hostilities between the allies and the Italian government. The allies had invaded Sicily and the Italian government arrested Mussolini for misconduct of a disastrous war. The northward thrust of the allies was not quick enough for the Third Reich to prevent sending panzer divisions into Italy and capturing Rome. The royal family escaped to Bari and for the next two years Italy was involved in one of the cruellest civil wars Europe has ever seen, with a puppet Nazi-fascist government in the north and a provisional government in the south. Even Rome’s eventual deliverance in 1944 did not stop the bloodshed and the war for Italy did not finish until April 25th 1945 – a date which has become a national holiday – the ‘giornata Della Liberazione’. (For more information on the context see my post at https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2016/03/18/amazing-find-in-greenlees-archive-at-bagni-di-lucca/ )

(Exhibition in the library associated with Greenlees and Croce)

Ian Greenlees, (see my post on him at https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2014/09/13/an-aesthete-in-bagni-di-lucca/ ) was director of Bari radio between 1943 and 1944: critical years in which the King of Italy declared the armistice and in which Croce made his seminal speech.

(Portrait of Ian Greenlees in Bagni di Lucca’s Library)

Benedetto Croce was one of Italy’s greatest twentieth century philosophers and one who did not disdain to enter into politics. I suppose the nearest equivalent in the UK would be Bertrand Russell and in many respects their ideas had similarities. Like Russell Croce quit Christianity for a spiritual and moral philosophy of life. A pacifist, Croce quickly turned against Mussolini after political activist Matteotti’s murder by fascists in 1922. He invented a term which he applied to the Italian government and would be equally well-applied to the present UK government: ‘onagrocrazia’ or ‘government by asses’.

Amazingly, despite many threats and the ransacking of his library, Croce survived fascism and was appointed a minister without portfolio in Badoglio’s post-armistice government. Strangely, Croce voted for the retention of the monarchy in the constitutional referendum of 1946 which turned Italy into a republic, and regarded the peace treaty, which removed a large part of Venezia Giulia including Trieste (which only became part of Italy again in 1954), as humiliating.

Croce, who was the only survivor when, as a sixteen-year-old, his family was wiped out in an earthquake, remains to this day a somewhat complex and ambiguous figure. That’s why his friendship with Ian Greenlees and the documents exchanged between them, which were only re-discovered last year in Bagni di Lucca’s library Greenlees archive, are so telling.

In the ‘sketch’ there are some significant crossings out and word changes. For example, the Allied government must be ‘loyal’ rather than ‘generous’ to Italy. In another part fascism does not just ‘destroy’, it ‘corrupts and destroys’.

Croce was, above all a liberal philosopher, politician and historian who was greatly influenced by the Italian illuminist philosopher Giambattista Vico, so significantly revalued in recent times.

Above all Croce prized liberty and tolerance. It is, therefore, with some considerable preoccupation that I hear on the news today that a tit-for-tat attack by a white van driver has left one person dead and seriously injured ten others.

I think of the civil war in Italy, which came so close to Bagni di Lucca with its ever-present fortification remains  (there was also a visit on Sunday to the gothic line dividing axis and allied forces and whose anti-tank wall passes just south of local Penny supermarket. You can see my visit to this wall at https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2016/04/15/catching-the-train-at-borgo-a-mozzano/ ).

I also think of the UK as a divided country too: divided by that ghastly brexit nonsense whose negotiations are to start today. I also think of the division in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea where the average wage of the better–off is over five times greater than that of the less well-off and where the difference between the average life expectancy of the two wage-groups is twelve years. Indeed, I remember as an unbelieving six-year old being driven through the shabbier parts of Kensington by my parents and my mother mockingly reading aloud a street name sign with the inscription ‘The Royal Borough of Kensington’. (Chelsea was added in 1965).

I just hope liberal tolerance will win through. After all, Italy was in a political psychosis in 1945 and has managed to keep itself together despite continued political instability and discontinuity, so much so that Italians are now declaring to me: ‘we thought we had to put up with an impossible government ‘all’Italiana’ but we think your country’s government has beaten ours in being even more ‘all’Italiana’!

I wonder what broadcast Benedetto Croce might have made on RAI TV and radio today…

(Every important occasion in Italy, like this book presentation,  ends with a nice ‘rinfresco’)

 

 

 

 

Of Summer Love and Death

Our area’s summer season is warming up both in terms of activities and temperature. It’s difficult to enjoy late nights and manage to get up and take advantage of the morning freshness at 5 am. So forget ‘mad dogs and Englishmen going out in the noonday sun’ and enjoy your siesta or, as more correctly said in Italian, ‘schiacciate un pisolino’.

Today, for example, there are five events listed in my diary.

First, there’s the presentation of a book on the notes the great critic and champion of democracy, Benedetto Croce, made when opening the first post-fascist government in Bari in 1944 – notes, incidentally, recently rediscovered in Bagni di Lucca’s library. It’s at 10.30 in Bagni’s library.

Second, there’s an equally interesting book presentation at Gallicano’s Istituto Comprensivo (where I taught for some years.) The subject is the area’s resistance during WW II.

Third, at Shelley House in Bagni di Lucca the Shelley festival continues with a seminar at 5 pm on romanticism with Luca P. B. Guidi and Bartolomeo Puccetti

Fourth, there’s going to be a Midsummer Night’s Dream at Lucca’s Teatro San Girolamo with the English theatre company at 7 pm.

Fifth, at 9 pm there’s a choir festival at Gallicano’s beautiful church of San Iacopo.

Undoubtedly there will be many more things happening today in our area. What to do? Everywhere to go and everything to do! Walking for a start in this wonderful weather, like I did with friends around Vico Pancellorum yesterday.

I’m aware that life is not only short but also can be brutish. The high hopes, in all senses of the word, of an Italian couple escaping from this country’s work shortage  to a promising future in London only to die in what will turn out to be  the United Kingdom’s worst peacetime accident with (I so sadly regret to say) a number exceeding the up-to-now worst peacetime accident in the UK when, in 1952 at Harrow and Wealdstone station, an express train crashed into the back of a stationary passenger train only for the two to be struck by a third train causing a death toll of 112 people.

I can do nothing more than to quote an email sent to me last night by my wife, Alexandra who is still in London:

This evening on late news it was announced that two Italian were amongst that horror: Gloria Trevisan and Mario Gotardi. I heard the other day that there was an Italian couple with children. I wonder about them. The whole situation seems most suspicious. Do we still want Mrs May at the helm?

I feel quite ill over all this and our near fatal accident too (see https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2017/05/08/about-guardian-angels/). You seem to be coping a lot better than me in amongst all this. (p.s. I’m not…)

There is a reason for everything that happens in life; we are all part of a bigger plan – just pawns in a bigger game of fleeting life. All these horrors on UK shores have put compassion, love, faith, friendship in the forefront. I feel that we are all affected and changed by these horrors. Life is and will not be the same amongst all this. It’s an indescribable sadness and heartache – I cannot eradicate the suffering that must have been inflicted on these innocent people. It is really all too unbearable.

Coraggio Sandra!

Gloria’s facebook page now bears the added poignant phrase ‘in memoria di’. They were such a beautiful couple: the best of Italy whose people are now blaming the Italian government for not providing the opportunities for its young people who have to flee to other countries to find work.

If you are of strong heart do remember the life of Gloria (and so many others who travelled over the rainbow bridge of life in that terrible night) by visiting her facebook page at

https://www.facebook.com/trevisan.gloria

 

‘Dear mamma thank you for helping me so much

Dear papa I wish I could hug you now for the last time

I had my whole life ahead of me. It’s not fair. I don’t want to die. I wanted to help you, to thank you for all you did for me.

I am about to go to heaven, I will help you from there.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Mayor for Bagni di Lucca

As a result of the local council elections yesterday there is a new mayor for Bagni di Lucca. His name is Paolo Michelini and he beat the former Mayor Massimo Betti by 80 votes. Third was Claudio Geminiani and last by a long way was Quinto Bernardini.

More details at

http://www.luccaindiretta.it/politica/item/95822-candidati-e-liste-bagni-di-lucca.html

Twelve councillors were also elected and these can be regardless of the mayor’s party in power. The twelve councillors are

Maria Barsellotti, Carlo Giambastiani, Francesca Lenzarini, Monica Melani, Sebastiano Pacini, Marco Pelagalli, Silvano Iacopo Salotti, Antonio Bianchi (Uniti per cambiare), Massimo Betti, Giulia Mariani (Progetto Rinascimento), Laura Lucchesi, Claudio Gemignani (Un futuro per Bagni di Lucca).

I wonder what the future holds for Bagni di Lucca. At least it won’t have to contend with the highly confused picture now thrust upon the inhabitants of the uk.

Pawsitive political attitude at Longoio

In Bagni di Lucca it’s the political season too. Four candidates are standing for mayor of the comune. A mayor in Italy gets elected for a mandate of 5 years. The post is not ceremonial and is rather like being a UK council leader.

One of the candidates is Claudio Gemignani, an old friend of mine. I was glad when he turned up with his crew outside the chiesina at Longoio the other day.

 

I am not going to bore you with what each candidate’s policies are, especially if you are not a resident here. All I’ll say is that Claudio is honest, approachable, experienced and devoted. He’s served under two previous administrations as events assessor and when he was out of office Claudio dedicated himself to his local community of Gombereto in organizing the last big mediaeval festa in Val di Lima and also in arranging other events such as those associated with the patron saint. Moreover, he’s been industrious in restoring the upper chapel in Gombereto and the church on the hill at Guzzano after extensive earthquake damage there years ago. He’s always been careful with how the comune spends its money and, in respect of this, brought a councillor friend of his who has ensured that Pescia’s mayor is now behind bars for embezzlement of tax-payers funds.

I always keep my cards close to my chest when it comes to local election time but I have time for Claudio and wish his campaign well. After all, Italy’s biggest enemy is corruption and anyone who stands strongly against it is worth our fullest consideration.

Our cats agreed too and took an active part in the canvassing proceedings. Carlotta particularly appreciated the councillor who discovered Pescia’s mayor’s embezzlement.

And two of my cats improvised a dramatic version of that mayor’s imprisonment.

Whatever the outcome (and the elections are on June 11th) we must avoid a cat-astrophe to the comune at all costs….

 

 

 

 

 

Acquatica is Back

Acquatica. Don’t miss out on the second and last day of this event. It’s superb! I was there yesterday. Learn how to use your goldfish tank to fertilize your plants. Learn how to grow hemp for the right reasons. (It’s legal now in Italy with an agricultural permit). Getting your white-water sport together. Hear the band play. Take part in discussions. At least enjoy the rain. (It hasn’t rained here for weeks, it seems).

Here is the program for Sunday.

 

Looking for …….?

Bagni di Lucca’s amateur dramatic society put on their summer show last Saturday and achieved considerable success. The play ‘AAA Cercasi’ (‘looking for’) was an amusing ‘commedia brillante’ set in the context of interviews for selecting a suitable cast for a musical. Each of the characters had to deliver a performance which demonstrated their capacity to indulge in quick repartee dialogue, recite monologues, deal with chaplinesque mime and to be able to sing and dance.

The performer on the night were:

  • Erica Stringari
  • Daniela Orsi
  • Maria Pia Pasquini
  • Maria Rita Barbagli
  • Nina D’Amice
  • Elisa Franceschini

The increasing professionality of the company (of which I was a member in their Christmas show – see my post at https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2016/12/22/luci-di-natale-christmas-lights-at-bagni-di-luccas-teatro-accademico/ –  but which for personal reasons I had to decline to participate in this year ) was also evident in the fact that at the last movement one of the cast member had to be absent for family reasons.

No problem. I’ve never seen the house so packed for the company; Bagni di Lucca’s own actors received a loud ovation at the end of their captivating performance which showed no sign of hesitation or awkwardness.

Well done. I think they’re now too good for me to ever re-join them!

Thanks are clearly due to the combined efforts of actors and singers Guendalina Tambellini, Michela Innocenti and Claudio Sassetti who trained the cast and put the show together.

We look forwards to the company’s next stage appearance during the Christmas season. perhaps you’d care to join them? Contact Daniela at

https://www.facebook.com/daniela.orsi.507

PS In case you were wondering what the AAA before the ‘cercasi’ means it has no meaning. It’s just a sure tactic many people use so they can have their newspaper announcement at the top of the alphabetical list!

 

 

Vico Pancellorum’s Secret Language

Once you’re reasonably fluent in Italian it’s just the start of your learning process! I’ve already mentioned in a recent post that there are at least twenty-six regional languages which could be said to be rather more than dialects because they have their own literature and literary societies. Most obviously, the great eighteenth Venetian playwright, Carlo Goldoni wrote both in Venetian and Italian. (There’s a good Venetian on-line machine translator at https://glosbe.com/it/vec/) .Even composers like Pergolesi did not disdain to accept opera libretti written in the Neapolitan language such as his ‘Lo frate ‘innamorato. (See https://glosbe.com/nap/it for Neapolitan if you need it, especially when listening to ‘Lo frate ‘nnamorato’).

We are lucky in Tuscany because the region’s language is the basis of current Italian. Dante saw to that when he wrote his ‘Divine Comedy’ in the ‘vulgar tongue’ (i.e. not in Latin). Having said that, there are many local variants in Tuscan Italian, not least phonetically, as anyone who’s lived in Florence knows where any ‘k’ sound is turned into ‘h’ aspirate (I.e., instead of ‘casa’ Florentines say ‘hasa’).

Lucchese is meant to be a very polished form of Tuscan Italian (indeed families of the Italian nobility used to send their daughters to schools in Lucca to pick up a ‘refined speech’.)  Yet even in the walled city it’s worth investing in a dictionary of Lucchese, such as Ippolito Nieri’s (Ponte a Moriano’s great philologist) work which can be found at https://books.google.it/books/about/Il_vocabolario_lucchese.html?id=z4w0AQAAIAAJ&redir_esc=y

Luckily, Tuscan variants are largely lexical rather than syntactical. I.e., the deep grammatical structure usually remains the same with subject-verb-object being the basic pattern with only the vocabulary changing.

Just to give you some very simple examples of Lucchese as it spoken around Lucca:

ENGLISH ITALIAN LUCCHESE
We/us Noi Noialtri (cf. Spanish ‘Nosotros’)
You come too Vieni anche tu Vieni anco te
Show him/her who you are Fargli vedere chi sei Fanni vedé chi sei

 

‘Ni’ is used in the Lucchese even more frequently than the ‘ne’ in standard Italian, replacing many different forms of ‘gli’, ‘lo’ etc.

I could go on for miles but if, as a forestiere living in this part of the world, you start to cut off the last syllable ‘re’ from infinitives and indulge in other elisions then it’s clear proof that you are turning into a Lucchese. (E.g. ‘me va fà na bella cena’ = ’I’m going to have a nice supper’.)

Going up into the mountains of the Lucchesia, especially if you’re venturing into the remoter reaches of the Garfagnana and even if you are Italian-perfect, more problems are likely to be encountered. For example, people from Bagni di Lucca have to have things said to them at least twice over in the bars of Vagli di Sotto and di Sopra at the upper end of the Serchio valley before they get the gist of what is being uttered. (And that’s before they start on the drink…).

Which reminds me, I have now come to the stage, living here for over twelve years, where, especially in the summer tourist season starting now in Bagni di Lucca, I hear people talking what seems to be an unknown foreign language, only to realise that it is English that is spoken, but in a weird part of the Islands!

Happily, Italians everywhere are glad to know you are making efforts to learn and speak their beautiful language so they will (unlike the French) slow down and try to speak a more standard Italian.

However, there are still certain areas of the world where people don’t really encourage you to speak their language (I’m thinking of the more inaccessible valleys of Wales where many people don’t like you to understand everything they are talking about). This is especially the case with particular specialist trades. Language for them is indeed like a closed shop. You’ve got to understand the language before you can practise the craft. Nowhere is this more apparent in those communities of the lucchese Mediavalle and Garfagnana where there are (or have been) metallurgical workers. In Fornovolasco, for example, the Lucchese lexical structure is mixed up with words coming from the Brescian dialect since in mediaeval times families of iron-founders from that part of Italy settled in these parts to mine and exploit the excellent ores they discovered lay in the Apuan alps.

This is also the case with ‘l’arivaro’, the ‘secret’ language of metal workers in Vico Pancellorum of which, unfortunately, there is only one fluent speaker left.

(A View of Vico Pancellorum)

On Saturday evening at Luca and Rebecca’s bookshop there was a fascinating conference given by three inhabitants from this beautiful and sequestered borgo of our comune. The speakers were Claudio Stefanini, president of ‘Il Risveglio’ local association which does a lot to give life to the village, especially with its summer exhibition, Manuel the grandson of the last speaker of the language and Lisa, a linguistics student, who is writing a thesis on the language.

(From left to right: Lisa, Manuel and Claudio.)

The main points I gathered were as follows:

  1. The language is strictly tied to the trade of tin-lining the interior of copper pots which would otherwise be poisonous to cook in.
  2. The language is syntactically the same but lexically is quite different from standard Italian.
  3. The full language is reduced to two speakers since everyone else speaking it has either died or emigrated or forgotten it.
  4. The language takes its vocabulary from an area of Calabria which, in turn took words from Albanian and Spanish. (e.g. ‘window’ is Italian ‘finestra’ but in vicoan ‘arivaro’ it is ‘ventana’.)
  5. Basic parts of the language are still in use today in Vico Pancellorum For example, a common greeting up there is ‘ere’ (pronounced as it is written). This is a variant of ‘muori’, ‘die’. If that greeting sounds morbid then there are so many Italian phrases which are used to mean the opposite. I.e. ‘ere’ actually means ‘top of the morning to you!’ Another more widespread Italian expression is ‘in Bocca al Lupo’ which means ‘may you land up in the wolf’s mouth’ which actually means ‘good luck.’ The point here is that if you wished good luck to an Italian they wouldn’t believe you! (Never, ever say ‘buona fortuna’ to anyone in this country!!!). It’s a bit like the English ‘break a leg’!
  6. The language is used by speakers for confidential matters which they want to keep secret and not let out to ‘forestieri’. i.e. anyone who wasn’t born in Vico Pancellorum.

The talk in ‘Shelley House’ was immensely well-attended with standing room only for many people, including the mayor. The best part was hearing Claudio and Manuel having an amusing conversation in ‘arivaro’.  We are promised a dictionary of the language and it will surely be fascinating to read Lisa’s completed thesis.

My own theory about forms of languages is as follows:

ENGLISH TERM ITALIAN TERM MEANING
Standard world language Lingua Nazionale The language as it is presented in standard grammars and spoken by the educated class
Allowed regional  languages Lingue regionali Often quite different and with opposed roots from the standard world language e.g. Welsh in the UK and Friulian in Italy. These languages will be distinguished easily by having locations with two separate names and separate road signs.
Dialect Dialetto Lexical and often syntactical variants of the standard language
Slang Gergo Typical ‘street’ or ‘country’ language. Examples includes cockney rhyming slang and rap.
Metalanguage Metalinguaggio Without getting into deep water because there are so many issues in discussing this term, this means any specialised language used in particular defined areas. These could go from scientific experiments to linguistic analysis to tin-lining copper pots in Vico Pancellorum. This type of language is essentially linked to a particular physical or mental activity.

 

It’s my theory that ‘l’arivaro’ is, in fact, a meta-language of a very particular kind with input from local ‘gergo’ (which it is usually referred to by the inhabitants)  and dialectical forms connected with other areas of Italy or even Europe. It’s just so sad that so many languages of whatever category are in danger of disappearing for ever in the world. For example, in Tierra del Fuego there’s only one native speaker of Yaghan the local language left. So if you meet up with Abuela on Navarrino Island in Chile and hear her talking to herself don’t imagine she’s going nutty; it’s just that she has no-one else to talk to in her language.

Now let me tell my cat Napoleon to get off my keyboard. How does one say that in Felinian?

PS Do check on the very interesting future events at ‘Shelley House’ on their facebook page at

https://www.facebook.com/events/1725797921046868/