Showing posts with label Gianni Brera. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gianni Brera. Show all posts

27 January 2018

Giovanni Arpino – writer and novelist

Stories inspired classic Italian films

Giovanni Arpino had a distinguished career as both a sports writer and a novelist
Giovanni Arpino had a distinguished career as both
a sports writer and a novelist
The writer Giovanni Arpino, whose novels lay behind the Italian movie classics Divorce, Italian Style and Profumo di donna – later remade in the United States as Scent of a Woman – was born on this day in 1927 in the Croatian city of Pula, then part of Italy.

His parents did not originate from Pula, which is near the tip of the Istrian peninsula about 120km (75 miles) south of Trieste. His father, Tomaso, was a Neapolitan, while his mother, Maddalena, hailed from Piedmont, but his father’s career in the Italian Army meant the family were rarely settled for long in one place.

In fact, they remained in Pula only a couple of months. As Giovanni was growing up, they lived in Novi Ligure, near Alessandria, in Saluzzo, south of Turin, and in Piacenza in Emilia-Romagna. His father imposed a strict regime on Giovanni and his two brothers, who were required to spend a lot of their time studying.

In fact, Giovanni was separated from his family for a while during the Second World War, when his mother returned to the Piedmontese town of Bra, not far from Saluzzo in the province of Cuneo, to deal with the estate of her father, who passed away in 1940. He left the family a villa on the hill overlooking the Sanctuary of the Madonna dei Fiori, on the outskirts of the town.  Giovanni remained at school in Piacenza.

After the armistice of 1943, his father left the military and they settled in Bra, where he attended high school before enrolling in the faculty of law at the University of Turin.  He later switched to literature, completing a thesis on the Russian poet, Sergei Yesenin.

Arpino died prematurely in 1987 after a  year-long battle with cancer
Arpino died prematurely in 1987 after a
year-long battle with cancer
Arpino spent several periods of his life working in journalism, including a stint writing about football, for which he had a massive enthusiasm. Gianni Brera, the celebrated football writer, had brought his literary style to the sports pages a few years earlier and Arpino was encouraged to do the same.

His time working for La Stampa, the Turin daily newspaper, enabled him to travel to the 1978 World Cup finals in Argentina, from which his reports attracted a substantial following. 

It was as a novelist, however, that he truly made his mark. He wrote in a dry and sardonic style to which readers responded well.

His first novel, Sei stato felice, Giovanni (You’ve been happy, Giovanni), was published by Einaudi in 1952. At around the same time, having completed his own military service – compulsory rather than voluntary – he began courting his future wife, Caterina, whose parents owned the Caffe Garibaldi in Bra.

They married in 1953 and moved to Turin, where he began to work in the sales department of the Einaudi publishing house and at the same time wrote a column for the Rome newspaper Il Mondo about provincial life.

His first big break came when his fourth novel, Un delitto d’onore (An Honour Killing), published in 1962, formed the basis for the hit movie Divorzia all’Italiana – Divorce, Italian Style – a satirical comedy directed by Pietro Germi and starring Marcello Mastroianno.

Vittorio Gassman (left) and Alessandro Momo in a scene from Dino Risi's film Profumo di donna
Vittorio Gassman (left) and Alessandro Momo in a scene
from Dino Risi's film Profumo di donna
Two years later, his sixth novel, L’Ombra delle colline (The Shadow of the Hills), about the apprehensions and delusions of a young man who, as a child, had witnessed partisans fighting for their country towards the end of the Second World War, won the Strega Prize – the Premio Strega – which is Italy’s most prestigious literary award.

The film industry gave him another massive sales boost in 1969 when his novel Il buio e il miele – The Darkness and the Honey – was turned into the film Profumo di donna, directed by Dino Risi and starring Vittorio Gassman, both of whom received David di Donatello awards.

Another version of the film was made in 2012, when Martin Brest directed Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman, in which Pacino’s performance as Frank Slade, a retired Lieutenant Colonel who had lost his sight in an accident with a hand grenade, won him an academy award for best actor.

Arpino, whose enjoyment telling stories to his son, Tommaso, led him to write for children as well as for his established adult readership, developed cancer in his late 50s, which ultimately led to his early death in 1987 at the age of just 60.

Piazza dei Caduti in Bra with the Bernini church of Sant'Andrea Apostolo on the left
Piazza dei Caduti in Bra with the Bernini church of
Sant'Andrea Apostolo on the left
Travel tip:

The town of Bra in Piedmont, situated some 50km (31 miles) southeast of Turin, is renowned as the birthplace of the Slow Food movement, founded by Carlo Petrini in 1989 to prevent the disappearance of local food cultures and traditions. Every two years, Slow Food organizes the cheese festival in Bra, with artisanal cheese makers invited from across the world.  There are a number of attractive churches in the town, including the beautiful Chiesa di Sant’Andrea Apostolo, just off the main Piazza dei Caduti, which was built to a design by the sculptor and architect Gian Lorenzo Bernini, famous for the impact his designs made in the city of Rome in the 18th century.

The Castiglia, historic residence of the Marchesi di Saluzzo
The Castiglia, historic residence of the Marchesi di Saluzzo
Travel tip:

The Piedmontese town of Saluzzo, about 30km (19 miles) west of Bra on the edge of the southern part of the Alpine arc, is notable for a beautifully preserved 15th century historic centre characterised by a network of cobbled streets and steep passages by which to explore a number of fine palaces and churches, including the 15th century cathedral built in the Lombard-Gothic style.  At the summit of the town is the Castiglia, built in the 13th century by the Marquis Tommaso I and renovated in 1492 by Ludovico II of Saluzzo, at the time when the town was a powerful city-state.

19 December 2016

Gianni Brera - football journalist

Outspoken writer who embellished Italian language

Football journalist Gianni Brera
Football journalist Gianni Brera
Italy's football world lost one of its most influential personalities on this day in 1992 when a car crash near the town of Codogno in Lombardy claimed the life of the journalist Gianni Brera.

Brera, who was 73, had enjoyed a long and often controversial career in which his writing was famous not only for its literary quality but for his outspoken views.

He could be savage in his criticisms of players and allowed reputations to count for nothing.  His long-running feud with Gianni Rivera, the AC Milan midfielder regarded by many as one of Italian football's all-time greats, in some ways defined his career.

Yet the positions he occupied in Italian football journalism gained him enormous respect.  He rose to be editor-in-chief of La Gazzetta dello Sport, Italy's biggest sports newspaper, before he was 30 and went on to write for Il Giorno, Il Giornale and La Repubblica among the country's heavyweight news dailies.

The intellectual La Repubblica for many years considered sport to be too trivial to be worthy of coverage, an attitude that persisted even through the 1970s. But the style and innovative brilliance of Brera's writing was a major factor in persuading them to drop their stance.

Famously, Brera introduced new words to the Italian language in his efforts to convey to his readers the things that he saw on the field in front of him and pass on his own interpretation of the game.

AC Milan star Gianni Rivera had a long-running feud with Brera
AC Milan star Gianni Rivera had a
long-running feud with Brera
For example, it was Brera who coined the term libero for the player designated as "sweeper" in the catenaccio defensive formation that dominated Italian football in the 1950s and 60s, and deemed that the players who could no longer be described as half-backs or inside forwards as the game moved away from the traditional 2-3-5 formation would be known in future as centrocampisti - midfielders.

Brera would also invent nicknames for players to amuse his readers.  He dubbed Rivera Abatino - the "little abbot" - and hailed the old-fashioned centre forward Luigi 'Gigi' Riva as Rombo di tuono - the "rumble of thunder".

He was a lifelong advocate of the ultra-defensive tactics characterised by the catenaccio system, and part of his antipathy towards Rivera stemmed from his belief that creative talents such as his were luxuries the game could do without.

Most of Brera's heroes were defenders and where many writers would enthuse about goals scored as moments of beauty in a match, Brera tended to see them as aberrations, the unwanted consequence of flawed defending.  His idea of perfection was a match in which the forwards were players of a manly vigour that constantly tested the defenders but which ultimately ended 0-0.

His spats with other journalists were also legend, most notably with the Neapolitan writer Gino Palumbo, a proponent of attacking play and therefore philosophically at odds with Brera.  The two once engaged in a punch-up in the press box before a match in Brescia.

The Arena Civica in Milan was renamed Arena Gianni Brera
The Arena Civica in Milan was renamed Arena Gianni Brera
At the same time, though, he enjoyed playing host to fellow journalists, players and coaches at his 'Thursday club' at a restaurant in central Milan, where he lived for much of his working life.

To avoid accusations of bias in debates about Milan's rival clubs, Brera always claimed he was a supporter of Genoa, Italy's oldest football club.

Born in 1919 in the village of San Zenone al Po, which sits on the banks of the River Po around 25km south-east of Pavia, Brera was the son of a tailor and barber, but his humble stock belied a considerable intellect, which he demonstrated in obtaining a degree in political sciences from the University of Pavia while simultaneously serving with a parachute division of the Italian army.

He regarded himself as Padanian rather than Italian and was vehemently anti-Fascist, fighting on the side of the Italian resistance towards the end of the Second World War, although proudly proclaiming later that he never fired a shot at a fellow human being.

After his death, Milan's monumental Arena Civica, the stadium conceived as the city's Colosseum by Napoleon I in the early 19th century, was renamed Arena Gianni Brera.

The Castello Visconteo is an attraction for visitors to Pavia
The Castello Visconteo is an attraction for visitors to Pavia
Travel tip:

The elegant Lombardy city of Pavia is renowned for its university, which is regarded as one of the best in Italy and numbers among its alumni the explorer Christopher Columbus and the poet and revolutionary Ugo Foscolo.  Among its important historic buildings are the well preserved 14th century Castello Visconteo, a Duomo dating back to the 15th century and the impressive Lombard-Romanesque church of San Michele Maggiore, which was completed in 1155.

Travel tip:

The Arena Gianni Brera in Milan, formerly known as the Arena Civica, can be found in the Parco Sempione behind the Castello Sforzesco. It is one of Milan's main examples of neoclassical architecture, an elliptical amphitheatre commissioned by Napoleon soon after he became King of Italy in 1805. At one time the home of the Milan football club Internazionale, it is nowadays a venue for international athletics and rugby union as well as being the home of Milan's third football team, Brera Calcio FC.

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