The Tuscan Paradox

Italy and India share a lot in common and this has nothing to do with Sonia Gandhi,” says Beppe Severgnini,one of Italy’s well-known authors and journalists,without an iota of doubt in this otherwise exaggerated statement.

Written by Suanshu Khurana | Published:February 10, 2012 3:21 am

Italy and India share a lot in common and this has nothing to do with Sonia Gandhi,” says Beppe Severgnini,one of Italy’s well-known authors and journalists,without an iota of doubt in this otherwise exaggerated statement. Severgnini,in the Capital,opened the Kolkata Book Fair (KBF) and could not help but find humour there. “While at the festival,one of the organisers was about to have a nervous breakdown as,just two hours before the opening,people were busy putting up the pavilions and painting. It was quite a sight,something close to the chaos on Italian roads. And like Italians,Indians stare too much,” explains Severgnini,whose latest book La Bella Figura (A Good Figure) is a methodical examination of the paradoxes of Italians and their idiosyncrasies — an idea he finds fascinating. The book,published in 2006,has now been translated into Bengali. In the book,he breaks the “poster Italy” version of Italy and talks about traffic chaos,tax evasion and “general anarchy in offices”.

“The more you travel,the more you realise that life is a paradox. Things are often unexpected and life needs a sense of humour,” says Severgnini,who is also a columnist with The Economist.

Talking about the recent controversy surrounding Salman Rushdie’s absence from the Jaipur Literature Festival,Severgnini says,“I heard what happened to Salman Rushdie and Tasleema Nasreen (who wasn’t allowed to launch her book at KBF). This is a problem that is wider than just India. This is not good for the writers themselves,not only because it is sad but also because it makes the authors prisoners of the situation,captive of this strange fame.” While writing his columns on India,Orientalism is something that does not scare Severgnini. In fact,he believes that Italians are careful with exoticism. “When Americans leave America,they see pretty children,women in colourful dresses and a palm tree and are fascinated with exoticism multiplied by four. Italians have been spared the temptation of the colonial times that fascinate others. Before we see the postcard,we see the people in the postcard,” says Severgnini.

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