While I was staying in Anghiari at Christmas time, 2016-17, I began conducting interviews with people who live in the town. Some were conducted in Italian, some in English. They will all be posted in both languages. Here is the first of these.
Il senso di appartenenza ad Anghiari: Carlo Rossi
Carlo, 54 anni, è un artista. L’ho intervistato nel suo studio nel centro medievale di Anghiari, in una gelida giornata di gennaio. L’intervista, condotta in italiano, è stata poi trascritta e tradotta in inglese da Mirella Alessio e questa ne è una versione editata.
Praticamente…vivo nella casa dove sono nato, ancora vivo lì, dormo nel letto dove sono nato. Praticamente, dopo aver viaggiato tanto, sono tornato a casa ad abitare con i miei e quindi sono rimasto sempre con loro e ora ci sono io in quella casa e ci vivrò fino a quando non morirò.
‘They ran in that resonance which is the world itself and which cannot be spoken but only praised’ (Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses).
I rode home last night through a bracing wind. It was coming up from the harbour when I crossed the bridge. The sun had just set behind the city buildings and the water was dark. Deep and blue, but only just.
The road leading up to Observatory Hill was dark too and the lights on passing bikes were bright in that darkness. It was hard to see and I was frightened, a little. Or tentative. The coming night held an animal grace that I did not. Elemental. And yet, there I was, riding in that alien beauty.
I found that things became a lot easier when I no longer expected to win. You abandon your masterpiece and sink into the real masterpiece (Leonard Cohen)
In her book, The Writing Life, Annie Dillard talks about an American writer who has written a dozen major books over six decades. A book, she says, can take years to write. But this writer wrote one of his books, ‘a perfect novel, in three months. He still speaks of it, with awe, almost whispering. Who wants to offend the spirit that hands out such books’? (Dillard, The Writing Life, 13).
She describes the heroism it takes to write a book. The impossibility of the task and the humility required to meet it. ‘Courage utterly opposes the bold hope that this is such fine stuff that the work needs it, or the world. Courage, exhausted, stands on bare reality: this writing weakens the work. You must demolish the work and start over’ (Dillard, The Writing Life, 4).
The book, finally completed, conceived in your mind and constructed through your efforts doesn’t belong you. It never has. It came to you through an act of grace, unmerited. That it came to you at all is still a mystery. All you remember is the struggle, the awful daily struggle to find the words, the unease which remained with you from beginning to end: Can I do it? Can it be done? It was horrible. It almost killed you. It did, in fact, kill you and what was left in the wake of that devastation was the work, for which you are grateful. Continue reading The Writing Life – Homage to Annie Dillard→
This morning I visited Mastro Santi (Santi del Sere), a maestro in cabinet making and woodwork – in wood carving, inlaying, gilding, and restoring antique furniture. As one of only a handful of remaining artisans in this field, Mastro Santi is keeping alive a centuries’ old Anghiari tradition. (In future blogs, I hope to talk about other people who are keeping alive local traditions.) He also works in ceramics, and he is a member of a local group of musicians and singers who perform traditional songs, and he writes. (He has written a book about his own story in woodwork which gives a detailed account of his materials, tools and techniques. Other autobiographical writings are held in the national diary archive located in the nearby town of Pieve Santo Stefano.) Continue reading Master woodworker→
Yesterday, after days of very bleak weather, there was sun. Everyone I ran into, in shops, in the piazza, in the bar, said, ‘oggi c’è il sole!’ People were out and about, even if not pausing for long in the piazza, as the temperature was still well below zero. It was very likely to be the last day of sun before I left Anghiari, so I decided to go for a walk. (The weather has precluded the possibility of walking for some days now.) Continue reading Sun, and fire→
Towards the end of my teaching session last year I experimented with a dialogue in one of my classes. We had read Bohm earlier in the session and although most of the students expressed disagreement with him, they seemed really interested in the ideas. When it came time to discuss their relationship to their research projects (how they were feeling about their research practices and work habits, their topics, the ethics involved in doing their research) I decided to run the class like a dialogue group. I explained what we were going to do. They would each have a turn offering something about their current relationship to their projects; together we would draw out connections and extensions between everyone’s comments and write them up on the board; then the dialogue would begin. Continue reading Dialogue in class→
The Talozzi family run a restaurant here in Anghiari. Although relatively recent arrivals (having moved here from Siena in the 1960s), they are passionate about this place. They are also passionate about offering a welcome to all, a welcome to ‘i stranieri’ (foreigners, strangers). Continue reading The Talozzi family→
More and more I am appreciating the importance of ‘buongiorno’ (which becomes ‘buonasera’ after lunch). From the moment I set foot in the street, I share this greeting with others. And it feels like stepping into life. Continue reading Buongiorno→
This is going to be a short blog, about an ordinary everyday encounter. One morning last week I went down to the pharmacy to buy some band aids. I’d cut my thumb the night before in an absent-minded moment. With great care, the pharmacist, in a white jacket, took me around to a seat behind the counter and asked me to put my thumb on a bed of cottonwool so that she could look it. When I was going on about how stupid I’d been, she said, with understanding, ‘it happens’. We laughed about the state of ‘being in a hurry’. Continue reading The Pharmacist in Anghiari→
Santo Stefano, the day after Christmas day, is a big day for visiting presepi. If there is a lot in these blogs about presepi, it’s because they are a very important part of Christmas festivities here. This will be my last blog on presepi, I promise! But, I do find myself drawn to them.