Showing posts with label Corriere della Sera. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Corriere della Sera. Show all posts

16 October 2018

Dino Buzzati - author

Novelist likened to Camus whose short stories remain popular

Dino Buzzati was a journalist, author and painter in an extraordinary career
Dino Buzzati was a journalist, author and
painter in an extraordinary career
The multi-talented author Dino Buzzati, whose output included five novels, several theatre and radio plays, a children’s novel, five opera libretti, some poetry, a comic book in which he also drew the illustrations, and several books of short stories, was born on this day in 1906 in Belluno.

Buzzati’s most famous novel, Il deserto dei Tartari (1940), titled The Tartar Steppe in the English translation, saw Buzzati compared to Albert Camus and Franz Kafka as a work of existentialist style, but it is for his short stories that he still wins acclaim.

A new collection entitled Catastrophe and Other Stories, which showcases Buzzati’s talent for weaving nightmarish fantasy into ordinary situations, was published earlier this year.

Buzzati, who worked as journalist for the whole of his adult life and also painted prolifically, was the second of four children born to Giulio Cesare Buzzati, a distinguished professor of international law, and Alba Mantovani, a veterinarian born in Venice.

The family’s main home was in Milan but they had a summer villa in San Pellegrino, a village just outside Belluno in the foothills of the Dolomites, which was where Dino was born.

Dino Buzzati, pictured in his studio, was almost as prolific as a painter as he was a writer
Dino Buzzati, pictured in his studio, was almost as
prolific as a painter as he was a writer
After studying at high school in the Brera district of Milan, Buzzati enrolled in the law faculty at the University of Milan in respect for his father, who had died when he was only 14. After graduating, he joined the Milan newspaper Corriere della Sera, beginning a relationship that would be maintained until his death in 1972.

At different times he was a war correspondent, embedded with the Italian navy, editor, essayist, foreign correspondent, crime reporter and art critic.

He began to write fiction in the early 1930s with two novels set in the mountains, inspired by the landscapes around Belluno. Barnabò delle montagne (Barnabus of the Mountains, 1933) and Il segreto del bosco vecchio (The Secret of the Ancient Wood, 1935), both of which were made into films in the 1990s, introduced the Kafkaesque surrealism, symbolism, and absurdity that was a characteristic of all his writing.

Buzzati pictured near the offices of Corriere della Sera on Via Solferino in Milan
Buzzati pictured near the offices of Corriere
della Sera
on Via Solferino in Milan
The novel generally considered his finest, Il deserto dei Tartari, a tale of garrison troops at a frontier military post, poised in expectancy for an enemy who never comes and unable to go forward or retreat, drew comparisons with Camus’s philosophical essay The Myth of Sysyphus.

The novel was turned into a movie in 1976 under the direction of Valerio Zurlini and starring Vittorio Gassman and Giuliano Gemma, with a soundtrack by Ennio Morricone.

Buzzati’s collections of short stories include Sessanta racconti (Sixty Tales, 1958), while other novels include Il grande ritratto (Larger Than Life, 1960), a science fiction novel, and Un amore (A Love Affair, 1963). 

Of his plays, which were hugely popular, the most important is Un caso clinico (A Clinical Case, 1953), a Kafkaesque horror story in which medical specialists and machinery freakishly kill a perfectly healthy man. His children’s novel, La famosa invasione degli orsi in Sicilia (The Bears' Famous Invasion of Sicily, 1945) is still a favourite today.

Buzzati’s paintings ranged from his early landscapes, depicting his beloved mountains, to the Italian black comic art and the pop art that dominated his work in the 1960s.  His most famous painting is probably his Piazza del Duomo (1952), in which Milan cathedral’s distinctive grid of pinnacles and spires becomes a jagged Dolomite mountain, surrounded by green pastures.

He was also a devotee of the opera, writing the libretto for four operas for which the music was composed by his friend, Luciano Chailly.  Away from his extraordinary productivity in words and pictures, he would spend every September in the mountains around Belluno, climbing difficult routes in the company of mountain guides.

Buzzati, who did not marry until he was almost 60 years old, died in 1972 after developing pancreatic cancer. His ashes were scattered on Croda di Lago, a mountain in the Dolomites near Cortina d’Ampezzo.

Piazza dei Martiri is one of the central squares in the beautiful town of Belluno in northern Veneto
Piazza dei Martiri is one of the central squares in the
beautiful town of Belluno in northern Veneto
Travel tip:

Belluno, in the Veneto region, is a beautiful town in the Dolomites, situated just over 100km (62 miles) north of Venice, more than 325km (200 miles) from Milan. It occupies an elevated position above the Piave river surrounded by rocky slopes and dense woods that make for an outstanding scenic background. The architecture of the historic centre has echoes of the town's Roman and medieval past. Around the picturesque Piazza Duomo can be found several fine buildings, such as the Palazzo dei Rettori, the Cathedral of Belluno and Palazzo dei Giuristi, which contains the Civic Museum.

The Villa Buzzati is now available for guests to stay in  bed and breakfast accommodation
The Villa Buzzati is now available for guests to stay in
bed and breakfast accommodation
Travel tip:

Visitors to Belluno can stay at Buzzati’s family villa in Via Visome, about 4km (2.5 miles) from the centre of the town. It is managed by Valentina Morassutti, whose grandmother was Dino Buzzati’s sister.  The Villa Buzzati has two rooms that are available all year round for guests wishing to stay on a bed and breakfast basis. On the first Sunday of each month from April to October, Morassutti can arrange small-group visits to the Villa and the places that were dear to Buzzati.

More reading:

Why Alberto Moravia is remembered as a major literary figure

The brilliance of Strega Prize winning novelist Corrado Alvaro

What made Vittorio Gassman one of Italy's finest actors

Also on this day:

1885: The birth of athlete Dorando Pietri, famous for being disqualified

1978: The election of Pope John Paul II


4 August 2017

Giovanni Spadolini - politician

The first non-Christian Democrat to lead Italian Republic

Giovanni Spadolini in 1987
Giovanni Spadolini in 1987
Giovanni Spadolini, who was the Italian Republic’s first prime minister not to be drawn from the Christian Democrats and was one of Italy's most respected politicians, died on this day in 1994.

In a country where leading politicians and businessman rarely survive a whole career without becoming embroiled in one corruption scandal or another, he went to the grave with his reputation for honesty intact.

Although he was an expert on Italian unification and became a professor of contemporary history at the University of Florence when he was only 25, a background that gave him a deep knowledge of Italian politics, he first built a career as a journalist.

He became a political columnist for several magazines and newspapers, including Il Borghese, Il Mondo and Il Messaggero, and was appointed editor of the Bologna daily II Resto del Carlino in 1955, at the age of 30.

In 1968, having doubled Il Resto’s circulation, he left Bologna to become the editor at Corriere della Sera, in Milan, where he remained until 1972.  It was while editing the Corriere that he became known for his anti-extremist stance, condemning violent student activists on the left and terrorists on the right in equal measure.

Under his stewardship, the Corriere took a strong anti-Communist stance, provoking attacks on its offices by angry demonstrators. Once, a stone thrown by a demonstrator smashed through Spadolini’s office window. He picked it up and placed it on his desk, where it remained throughout his time as editor, as a reminder of the turmoil brought about by political extremism.

Prime Minister Spadolini with the Italian president, Sandro Pertini
Prime Minister Spadolini (right) with the
Italian president, Sandro Pertini
During his time in Milan, Spadolini was persuaded to enter politics. In 1972, after leaving the Corriere, he was elected senator as an independent with the Republican Party. He was appointed Minister of Cultural Affairs in Aldo Moro’s cabinet in 1974.

He became leader of the Italian Republican Party in 1979, a position he held until 1987, and in 1981 he was chosen to be Italy's first non-Christian-Democrat prime minister by the Socialist President, Sandro Pertini.

In partnership, these two men did much to restore the credibility of Italy's political institutions after years of terrorist violence and the scandal of the secret P2 Masonic lodge, a secret society that included politicians, businessmen, some high-ranking military officers and policemen, that attempted to create a ‘state within a state.’  Spadolini introduced laws suppressing secret organisations.

It was during Spadolini’s time in office that the anti-terrorist unit of the Italian police freed the United States general James Lee Dozier, who had been kidnapped by the Red Brigades.  He also achieved a drop in inflation from 22 per cent to 16 per cent during his 18 months in office.

Spadolini, born into a bourgeois Florentine family, was known as a connoisseur of good food and drink and his wide girth became the target of Italy's political cartoonists.

Yet, in the 1983 national election, the Republican Party capitalised on Spadolini's popularity, realising 5.1 per cent of the vote, the highest they had achieved.

The Spadolini villa outside Florence is now the home of a cultural foundation
The Spadolini villa outside Florence is
now the home of a cultural foundation
He became dismayed at a new class of politician emerging at that time, whom he felt were preoccupied with grabbing the spoils of power rather than healing the ills of the country. As the speaker of the Senate from 1987, Spadolini regularly underlined his concern for Italy's institutions.

From 1987 to April 1994, he was president of the Italian Senate and, for a month in 1992, acting president of Italy, following the resignation of Francesco Cossiga. 

After the electoral success of Silvio Berlusconi's House of Freedoms party, he lost the presidency of the Senate to Carlo Scognamiglio Pasini by a single vote. He died four months later in Rome.

In his villa at Pian dei Giulliari, in the countryside near Florence, Spadolini left a library containing some 70,000 volumes on contemporary history and the 19th century. The villa became home to a cultural foundation dedicated to the study of Italian unity.

Casa Spadolini at 28 Via Cavour in Florence
Casa Spadolini at 28 Via Cavour in Florence
Travel tip:

Spadolini’s home until 1978 was at 28 Via Cavour, one of the principal streets in the northern part of the historic centre of Florence, a four-storey palazzo that had been acquired by his grandfather.  Spadolini kept the house as his main residence even while he was editing in Bologna and Milan and serving the country in Rome. He left for the family villa in Pian dei Giullari after the death of his mother.

Travel tip:

Pian dei Giullari is a picturesque village in the hills some 5km (3 miles) south of Florence.  Many villas line the Via Pian dei Giullari that runs through the village. The Spadolini Foundation is at number 139. On the same street can be found Il Gioiello, where the physicist, mathematician and astronomer Galileo Galilei spent his last years.

22 July 2017

Indro Montanelli – journalist

Veteran writer who cast a critical eye on Italian politics and society

Indro Montanelli, in the offices of Corriere della Sera, working
from an improvised chair made from a pile of books
A writer and journalist regarded as one of the greatest of 20th century Italy, Indro Montanelli, died on this day in 2001 in Milan.

The previous year he had been named as one of 50 World Press Freedom Heroes by the International Press Institute.

Montanelli had been a witness to many of the major events of the 20th century. He was in Danzig when Hitler rejected the ultimatum from Britain and France in September 1939. He was in the streets of Budapest in 1956 when Soviet tanks rolled in and he was shot in the legs by Red Brigades terrorists on an Italian street in 1977.

Montanelli was born Indro Alessandro Raffaello Scizogene Montanelli in 1909 at Fucecchio near Florence.

He studied for a law degree at the University of Florence in the early 1920s and began his journalistic career by writing for the Fascist newspaper, Il Selvaggio.

Montanelli in Ethiopia in 1936
Montanelli in Ethiopia in 1936
He then worked as a crime reporter for Paris Soir before serving as a volunteer with Italian troops in the Eritrean Battalion in Ethiopia - Abyssinia as it was then - where he wrote war reports which later formed the basis for the first of his 40 books. 

It was a book that honestly conveyed what Montanelli had seen, some of which caused him to change his mind about Benito Mussolini, the Fascist leader. It was a little too honest for the Fascist oligarchy, however, and, after his similarly objective reporting on the Spanish civil war did not meet with Fascist approval, his press accreditation was withdrawn.

Despite this, he continued to write, the Corriere della Sera getting around the ban on his working as a journalist by hiring him as a ‘collaborator’, in which capacity he sent back reports from Scandinavia and the Baltic States, the Balkans and Greece.

After witnessing the disastrous Italian invasion of Greece, Montanelli decided to join the partisan movement against the Fascist regime.

During the Nazi occupation of Italy he was arrested and narrowly avoided being executed. His reprieve was thanks to the intervention of some influential admirers who put pressure on the Germans.

His prison experiences inspired him to write a novel, Il Generale della Rovere, based on his meeting in prison with a German spy posing as an Allied military commander, which was later filmed by Roberto Rossellini and won the Venice Golden Lion in 1959.

Montanelli pictred in Milan in 1992
Montanelli pictred in Milan in 1992
After the war, Montanelli co-edited a magazine called Il Borghese, which tried to cater for what remained of right-wing cultural tastes in a country divided between the Communists and Christian Democrats.

His increasing anger at the Communists was to eventually win the approval of media magnate Silvio Berlusconi, who backed the right-leaning newspaper, Il Giornale, which Montanelli had founded in 1973 after breaking away from Corriere following a change in the paper's political direction.

Montanelli remained as the editor until 1994 when he fell out with Berlusconi after criticising his entry into politics.

The journalist was made a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic in 1995.

It was Gianni Agnelli, then proprietor, who persuaded Montanelli to return to Corriere, where he commented on prominent Italians in editorials and on a letter’s page entitled Montanelli’s Room.

He spent his last years vigorously opposing Silvio Berlusconi’s politics.

Montanelli also wrote a series of successful history books, including one about Rome, which became a regular textbook used in schools.

Towards the end of his life, Montanelli lived in an apartment overlooking Piazza Navona in Rome.

He died at the age of 92 after a prostate cancer operation at a clinic in Milan.

The day after his death, Corriere della Sera published a letter he had written on its front page, ‘Indro Montanelli’s farewell to his readers’.

The journalist had also left instructions for his ashes be placed in an urn above his mother’s tomb at Fucecchio.

Montanelli's reputation was tarnished by his admission that he bought a 12-year-old Ethiopian girl to be his wife during Mussolini’s campaign in Ethiopia, in common with other Italian soldiers, who took advantage of local laws that made such marriages legal. Asked about the marriage on a television interview in 1969, Montanelli refused to apologise. 

The house in Piazza Garibaldi in Fucecchio, near Florence, where Montanelli was born
The house in Piazza Garibaldi in Fucecchio, near
Florence, where Montanelli was born
Travel tip:

Fucecchio, where Indro Montanelli was born, is a municipality  of Florence. One of the major sights in the town is the Abbey of San Salvatore which was built in the upper part of Fucecchio in the 11th century. The town is mentioned frequently in the 1917 opera Gianni Schicchi by Giacomo Puccini.

Travel tip:

Indro Montanelli was among many distinguished Italian writers who worked for Corriere della Sera, a daily newspaper founded in 1876 in Milan. The newspaper’s headquarters have been in the same building in Via Solferino in the centre of Milan since the beginning of the 20th century.

26 December 2016

Beppe Severgnini - journalist and author

Books observing national mores have been best sellers

Journalist Beppe Severgnini: respected commentator and witty observer of his fellow human beings
Journalist Beppe Severgnini: respected commentator
and witty observer of his fellow human beings

The author and journalist Giuseppe Severgnini was born on this day in 1956 in Crema in northern Italy.

Better known as Beppe Severgnini, he is a respected commentator on politics and social affairs, about which he has written for some of the most influential journals and newspapers in Italy and the wider world.

Severgnini is equally well known for his humorous writing, in particular his gently satirical observations of the English and the Americans as well as Italians, about whom he has written many books.

His biggest selling titles include An Italian in America, which has also been published as Hello America. He has also enjoyed success with La Bella Figura: An Insider's Guide to the Italian Mind, Mamma Mia! Berlusconi's Italy Explained for Posterity and Friends Abroad, and An Italian in Britain.

Severgnini is currently a columnist for Corriere della Sera in Italy and the International New York Times in the United States.  A former correspondent for the British journal The Economist, he writes in both Italian and English, having spent a number of years living in London, Washington and New York.

The son of a notary in Crema, Severgnini graduated in law at the University of Pavia.  For a brief period he worked at the European Community headquarters in Brussels before beginning his career in journalism at the age of 27, when he joined the Milan daily newspaper Il Giornale, headed by veteran Italian journalist Indro Montanelli.

It was soon evident he was a talented writer and he became the paper's London correspondent.  Subsequently, during the years of the fall of communism, he became a special correspondent in Eastern Europe, Russia and China.

Beppe Severgnini's books have been bestsellers in Italy, Great Britain and the United States
Beppe Severgnini's books have been bestsellers in
Italy, Great Britain and the United States
When Montanelli set up a new venture, La Voce, Severgnini became its Washington correspondent in 1994 before returning to Italy the following year and beginning his long association with Corriere della Sera, for whom as well as writing opinion pieces he moderates a popular forum, simply called 'Italians', originally aimed at Italian expatriates, which has become one of the most read regular features of the newspaper's website.

Severgnini was Italian correspondent for The Economist between 1996 and 2003 and still writes for the magazine from time to time.  He has also contributed to the Sunday Times and The Financial Times in the UK and occasionally writes about football for Gazzetta dello Sport.

Away from newspapers and books, he has taught at the Walter Tobagi graduate School of Journalism at the University of Milan, been writer in residence at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a visiting fellow at Ca’ Foscari Venezia. 

One of his books, Signori, si cambia: In viaggio sui treni della vita (All Change: Travelling on the Train of Life), has been turned into a play, Life is a Journey, in which he also stars.

The Piazza del Duomo in Severgnini's home town of Crema in Lombardy
The Piazza del Duomo in Severgnini's home
town of Crema in Lombardy
He presents a television show on RAI TRE entitled The Grass is Greener, which compares Italy with other European countries and America.

He was made an Officer of the British Empire (OBE) in 2001 and a Commendatore of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic in 2011.

A keen supporter of Internazionale and the owner of a 1954 Vespa motor scooter, Severgnini lives near Milan with his wife and their son Antonio.

Travel tip:

The small city of Crema, which sits on the banks of the Serio river about 50km east of Milan, has an attractive historic centre built around the Piazza del Duomo.  Apart from the cathedral itself, which has a tall bell tower completed in 1604, the area includes the Santa Maria della Croce basilica, built around a 35km high circular central structure, the Palazzo Pretorio and the Palazzo Comunale.

The covered bridge over the Ticino river in Pavia was rebuilt after being destroyed in the Second World War
The covered bridge over the Ticino river in Pavia was
rebuilt after being destroyed in the Second World War
Travel tip:

Pavia was once the most important town in northern Italy, the legacy of which is evident in its many fine buildings. These include a cathedral boasting one of the largest domes in Italy, a beautiful Romanesque Basilica, San Michele, and the well preserved Visconti Castle, surrounded by a large moat, which is home to the Civic Museum. The covered bridge across the Ticino River is a faithful reproduction of a 13th-century bridge destroyed during Allied bombing raids in the Second World War.

More reading:


Buy Beppe Severgnini's books from Amazon

(picture credits: main Beppe Severgnini by Davide Schenette; second Beppe Severgnini by Alessio Jacona; Piazza del Duomo by MarkusMark; Bridge at Pavia by Konki; all via Wikimedia Commons)