“I consider bombing an act of terrorism. To better express my condemnation against such acts, perpetrated in the former Yugoslavia by NATO in the ’90s, I decided to cross over and live in Belgrade. There, I experienced first hand the fear induced by the sound of air-raid sirens, that eerie sound my mother often told me when, during WWII, our Naples, then occupied by the Nazis, was regularly bombed by the Allied Forces planes”.
On November 1st the Italian writer Erri De Luca, for the first time in New York, presented his latest works at the Casa Zerilli Marimò – New York University. The occasion was the release of the English version of “The Day Before Happiness” in the US (by Other Press) and the US premiere of “Beyond the Glass”, a short produced by Pasta Garofalo, the enlightened Italian pasta manufacturer which is financing several film projects (“Armandino e il MADRE”, directed by Valeria Golino; “The Wholly Family” by Terry Gillian, and more) all with a focus on Neapolitan culture.
The “chiacchiera” (chat), as Erri De Luca calls his talks, continued in the following days at Harvard and UMass, giving Erri’s aficionados, old and new, the opportunity to listen to him talk about his works, his interests, his inspirations, his ideas about the meaning of “Resistance” in the 20thcentury and the research for a new “Resistance” in the 21st.
This was not a traditional book tour: as soon as the short video “Beyond the Glass” was shown, and the “chiacchiera” begins, it becomes obvious that the release of “The Day Before Happiness” is just a minor subject, an excuse – for us, his audience, mostly welcome.
Erri is 25% American (from his paternal grandmother), and as he puts it “my American part is all concentrated in my external features, in the way I look. Inside, I am all Neapolitan”.
He spends time talking about being born in Naples and growing up there, about how the city shapes its inhabitants and their language with its sounds, energy, cruelty at times. With its mixed culture and different streams of blood coming from the Turks, the Normans, the French, the Spaniards, the Phoenicians, the Greeks, any combination in each individual is possible and “I cannot exclude being anything, given the story of my city and all the invasions, rapes, and crossings it has seen”.
Erri De Luca is not a believer, so his interest and deep knowledge for the Hebrew and the Yiddish languages are even more surprising. But he wanted to understand first hand what the Book says, what the true meaning of its sentences is, and discovered that many manipulations have occurred in translating and transmitting the scriptures. In fact, there is much less revenge, condemnation and wrath than commonly accepted. The woman will give birth with “struggle” and not with “pain”. And the divinity “says” much more than he (or she, or it) “does”.
Yiddish is the proof that even if a people is persecuted, destroyed or dispersed its language can survive – it is the vitality that does not yield to events.
Too bad these conversation are usually confined to 1 hour, which can stretch into 1 and ½ due to the enthusiasm of the public and thanks to the generosity of the hosts. Questions keep flowing, the dialogue wants to continue, Erri charms the audience as only he can do.
“Naples is a female being for its geographically concave body. It’s a male for the sea that surges and penetrates it. Two sexes in one body: Naples is Adam before he lost his rib. Not a hermaphrodite, rather the invasion of one sex into other.”
Posted by Paola Bellusci