Pereira maintains – Antonio Tabucchi’s novel

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“Pereira maintains he met him one summer’s day. A fine fresh sunny summer’s day and Lisbon was sparkling. It would seem that Pereira was in his office biting his pen, the editor-in-chief was away on holiday while he himself was saddled with getting together the culture page, because the Lisboa was now to have a culture page and he had been given the job. But he, Pereira, was meditating on death. On that beauteous summer day, with the sun beaming away and the sea breeze off the Atlantic kissing the treetops, and a city glittering, literally glittering beneath his window, and a sky of such blue as never was seen, Pereira maintains, and of a clarity almost painful to the eyes, he started to think about death. Why so? Pereira cannot presume to say.”

“Sostiene Pereira”. English title: “Pereira maintains”. Written by Antonio Tabucchi in 1993, has been mentioned often as a symbol of the “resistence” against Berlusconi’s government in Italy. The plot is set in Portugal, in 1938, during Salazar’s dictatorship.

Antonio Tabucchi was considered for the Nobel’s prize and has been a professor at the university of Siena, a translater (especially he translated Fernando Pessoa), won several important prizes for literature such as the Premio Campiello, and was one of the major intellectuals in the second part of the nineteenth century. He died in 2012.

Pereira is a journalist. His story takes place slowly. The cover of the book in my hands says: “the lonelines, the dream, the conscience of living and making choices, inside history. A great civil novel.”

Every chapter starts, somehow, by saying “Pereira maintains”. The style is smooth and honest, essential and slow. Most of the pages are flowing with suggestions of what Pereira was thinking but he does not want to tell, because, he maintains, is not strictly pertinent with the story. Journalism flows through the pages as a reality, but mostly, as a way to defend culture and its essential meaning in people’s life. The defender is Pereira. Not a hero, not a young man struggling for adventure. A middle-age man, that has already lived a big part of his life and is now looking for a way to find himself and live with his memories.

Reading Pereira is something that most people do at hig-school in Italy. But it feels often that good books are coming to people when the time is right. So, I guess, is hard to fully understand Pereira being just a teenager.

Youth is full of ideas of what people will be, like seeds in the dirt. They will grow and along the way figure out what their shape has been since the beginning, maybe, or will change accordingly to external conditions. Pereira is in transition, but a hard one. He is sensitive and erudite, he has his routine and experienced grief. Is a man concerned with death while having a quiet life, that finds somehow again an enthusiasm for it, in hard times. Does he?

Is the novel a study of a character? Isn’t this character so similar to many of us?

In current times, often, I feel like Pereira. Many people of my age, or younger, do. Even though is easy to compare the professional effort of Pereira against a regime with what has happened and probably is still happening is a certain measure, in Italy, there are other ways to approach the novel. Pereira is not a sustainer of a political vision. He has his own ideas, as far as it is possible to have a clear mind on certain things, but he mostly is a practical person. He states facts. And in the end, those facts, are paying him a visit, pushing him forward, toward a new self, and somehow pulling him back to whom he was for a long time: a crime journalist.

What’s the point then? I don’t know, but it might reside in the sense of loneliness pervading the situation of many people between 20 and 30 years old, today, in Italy at least. Is hard to understand what’s happening in the world, even harder to understand what place is reserved to these people. What are they meant to be? The best thing to do, most of the times, seems to struggle in order to keep an ordinary safe life. But troubles are there: to find a job, to have a family, or just to rent a house may appear very hard. When did it happen? What is the cause? Are we all little Pereiras in transition? Is there something bigger and hard to be seen? Are we all not reading newpapers, not listening to reality? The ignorance of Pereira is surely a sign of how much he doesn’t belong to the world of Salazar’s Portugal, but also it seems a deeper state of mind. The state of mind of people who are used to think on their own and somehow lost their path in daily life? The difficulty of understanding history? The way history becomes a personal matter, a choice of life, even when we try to avoid it?

Even though there is no enemy such as a dictatorship in 1938, the feeling of having something to regret for, the feeling of being somehow linked more to the past than to the future can be strong. Isn’t this a reason good enough to flee, to go look for fortune elsewhere? Pereira appears to be looking for something, maybe not consciously, but he is. Aren’t many of us looking for our lost future? Our lost self?

“Do you still believe i public opinion? Well let me tell you public opinion is a gimmick thought up by the English and Americans, it’s them who are shitting us up with this public opinion rot, of you’ll excuse my language, we’ve never had their political system, we don’t have their traditions, we don’t even know what trade unions are, we’re a southern people and we obey whoever shouts the loudest and gives the orders.”

Marta Pellegrini

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Empathy: a very interesting speech hold by Nathalie Nahai

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Designing for communication is for sure something that goes beyond the pure and simple deliver of a message. In this speech, encompassing lots of theories and suggestions, is appears clear how the complexity of human beings is constantly involved in all our activities and how deeply and interestingly the way we communicate is connected to our way of understanding ourselves and explore human potential.

On meritocracy: what’s the matter in Italy?

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“A snob is anybody who takes a small part of you and uses that to come to a complete vision of who you are.” (Alain De Bottom)

Si parla spesso di “Meritocrazia” in Italia, soprattutto negli ultimi anni, in cui si sono visti avvicendarsi diversi governi non eletti e politici e politicanti senza arte né parte.

La parola “meritocrazia”, e dietro la parola tutto quello che viene definito come il concetto, è diventata una sorta di oggetto retorico del discorso politico. Un termine variamente interpretato, che tra i diversi passaggi ha perso e acquisito significato, finendo inevitabilmente – come succede sempre con le parole – per cambiare. Si tratta di un termine importante per capire almeno in parte su cosa si gioca la partita di alcuni messaggi elettorali e per racchiudere al di sotto di un “ombrello” diversi temi.

Durante il periodo berlusconiano il concetto non solo di meritocrazia, ma di merito in sé, ha assunto le fosche tinte della corruzione, degli “amici di…”, del principio per il quale chi si trova nella posizione di occupare un seggio acquisisce automaticamente il diritto di tenerselo stretto nonostante la propria comprovata incompetenza o corruzione. Oggi, spesso, per battersi contro un sistema del genere si usa la parola “meritocrazia” allo scopo di sottolineare la distanza che si vuole porre tra un “noi” e un “loro”. Questo uso della parola è presente in molti discorsi, tra cui alcuni trasversali e piuttosto interessanti, che qui rappresentiamo con il video del discorso di Pif alla Leopolda.

It happens often, in Italy, specially in the past few years, in which different technical governments alternated and politicians and politicants as well, to encounter the term “meritocracy” in the italian political speech.

The word “meritocracy” and behind it everything that is defined as a concept, has become a sort of rhetorical object of poitical speech. An ambiguously interpreted term, that in time, through different uses, has lost and acquired many gradients of signification, ending up inevitably – as it always happens with words – to change. It is an important term, useful to understand some parts of the communicational game played by the electoral campaigns and political messages in Italy, and to understand how different themes might sometimes be linked together, put under the same “umbrella”.

During the berlusconian period the concept not only of meritocracy, but of merit, has coloured itself of the dark shades of corruption, of the idea of being “a friend of…”, of the principle by which who finds himself/herself in the position of holding a political role of power automatically acquires the right to keep it despite his/her proved incompetency or corruption. Today, in order to fight such system, the word “meritocracy” is often used to underline the distance put between a defined “us” and “them”. This use of the word can be found in many speeches, some of which are cutting transversally different topics with interesting insights, that hereby we represent through the talk of Pif at the Leopolda meeting:

Ovviamente l’argomento della meritocrazia è stato sfruttato da diverse parti politiche in molti modi, in particolare dal Pd e dal Movimento 5 stelle.

Tuttavia il significato di “meritocrazia” non si esaurisce nelle opposizioni contestuale elaborate dalle fazioni politiche italiane. Si tratta di un concetto che comprende diverse riflessioni che vanno al di là di una semplice opposizione; un esempio è già contenuto nel discorso di Pif, che intelligentemente fa notare come anche la mafia possa essere meritocratica. Come molti concetti, la “meritocrazia” non è di per sé buona o cattiva, costruttiva o distruttiva, democratica o meno. E’ dunque interessante prendere il termine e osservarlo al di fuori del discorso politico contemporaneo e interrogarsi sul suo significato in un’accezione più ampia. In questo senso, è interessante la riflessione offerta da Alain De Botton che cita Sant’Agostino dicendo “it’s a sin to judge any man by his post”.

Obviously the topic of meritocracy has been used by different political parts, in particular by the Partito Democratico and the Movimento 5 Stelle.

Nevetheless the meaning of “meritocracy” does not get exhausted in the context of the italian political oppositions. It is a concept encompassing diverse reflections beyond the singular local opposition; an example is already presented in Pif’s discourse that intelligently underlines how also mafia can be meritocratic in its own way. As many other concepts “meritocracy” is not good or bad, constructive or destructive, democratic or totalitarian. It is therefore interesting to observe the term out of the political discourse and interrogate about its meaning in a broader context. Thus it is interesting the reflection offered by Alain De Botton who’s quoting Saint Augustine: “it’s a sin to judge a man by his post”.

Data la vasta possibilità di interpretazione di qualcosa come il termine “meritocrazia”, appare utile chiedersi cosa voglia dire scegliere un sistema “meritocratico” e in che cosa effettivamente consista.

Alain De Botton suggerisce come sia utopistico e piramidale pensare di poter giudicare un essere umano e attribuirgli un valore in una scala selettiva. La parola “snob” da lui usata in questo caso rende l’esempio leggermente più chiaro, ancorandolo a qualcosa che ognuno ha forse esperito nella propria vita: essere giudicati in toto, sulla base di un unico fattore.

Ecco allora che il termine “meritocratico” viene a costituire un esempio di come la semantica sia importante e di come parole che si pensano semplici cambino in contesto e perdano quella iniziale chiarezza di significato che si presumevano avere inizialmente. Cos’è la meritocrazia, cos’è il merito? Perchè se ne parla e da quali riflessioni nasce la parola? Come deve essere riconosciuto e interpretato il merito? Da chi? Qual è l’etimologia e in quale contesto è stato utilizzato il concetto di meritocrazia storicamente?

Un termine può portare con sé delle conseguenze inaspettate. Se il termine è un ombrello, è bene sapere che cosa vi si ripara sotto e che cosa no.

Considering the vast possibility of interpretation of something like  the term “meritocracy”, it appears useful to wonder what does exactly mean to choose a “meritocratic system” and in what it exactly consists.

Alain De Botton suggests how it would be utopistic and very pyramidal to judge a human being and associate to him/her a value in a selective scale. The word “snob” he uses in this case makes the example more realistic and slightly clearer, anchoring it to something that anyone maybe experienced in life: to be judged as whole, on the basis of a single factor.

Then the term “meritocratic”, at this point, happens to be an example of how semantic is important and how words thought to be simple may change context and loose that initial clarity in meaning they were thought to bare initially. What is meritocracy? What is merit? Why do people talk about it and what reflections are rising? How does the merit have to be recognized or interpreted, by whom? What is the etimology and in what context the term “meritocracy” has been hystorically used?

A term appearently simple could bare unexpected consequences. If the term is an “umbrella” it might be good to know what’s finding a shelter under it and what is not.

 Marta Pellegrini

Erotismo arte e… fumetto


Only yesterday, I found this article about the cover for the Marvel’s Spider Woman commissioned to Milo Manara, but not yet published.

Is quite surprising that a cover as this one could scandalize. Beside comments and answers to the critics moved to the picture, is quite interesting to observe the evolution of something that, till a few years ago, would have bared no interest at all, at such level. If on one side the segment of Marvel’s target is largely growing, becoming definitely massive, on the other hand some stereotypes typical of the comic books tradition are being put under discussion. Even though I personally agree, most of the times, with whom sustains that women’s body shouldn’t be objectified and used instrumentally for commercial purposes – affecting the dignity of the human being portrayed by suggesting submissive behaviours or worse, intrinsic nature – I cannot as well deny that one of the things I have always been charmed by is the capability of comic books to represent the sensuality of human bodies, of the poses, their being far from vulgarity and contemporarily extremely sensual.

Does anyone remember the scandal aroused by Diabolik in Italy at the beginning? A sensual woman, an outlaw man, skinny suits where is hard to distinguish where the clothes are ending and the skin starts and… scenes suggesting sexual intercourses without a marriage. Scandalous! Nevertheless it was created by no other than Angela and Luciana Giussani in 1962: two women.

Other times, other problems, other way of thinking? Anyway, even though I am convinced that the problem in this case is mostly about marketing, I cannot avoid to somehow connect it with a serie of complex changings in the current way of interpreting sexuality and its representations.

If it is asked to an author, very famous for his production of erotical art, to represent a superheroine undeniably already very sexy… it would be unwise to expect a “virgin with child”. Manara’s operas are notorious also for their dreamlike dimension, for the lightness that accompanies fantasies more easily matching to subconscious dimensions than realistic aspirations – in that the drawings are beyond any doubt the best medium to express it.

It is about erotic fairytales getting their plot into a dimension that has more of dreams, representing a kind of beauty not related to reality, other than pornified fantasies to which it is tried to give a concrete “body” in the real world. For sure, is possible that people will not appreciate them, but it remains a subjective opinion about a name – that of Manara – that precedes the “erotic” categorization. All things considered, it was clear what had to be expected. Also, the result looks ok.

If it might be correct to prevent all those social mechanisms leading toward discrimination between genders (all genders), to get upset about a representation which is expected to be at least a little bit erotical feels more likely to be a “witch hunt”: a superficial way not to really take care of the problem that is supposed to be the object under discussion.


Proprio ieri mi è capitato sotto gli occhi questo articolo a proposito della copertina disegnata (e non ancora pubblicata) da Milo Manara per la Marvel.

E’ piuttosto sorprendente che una copertina del genere possa suscitare tanto scandalo. Al di là dei commenti e delle risposte alle critiche che sono state mosse, è piuttosto interessante osservare l’evoluzione di qualcosa che fino a pochi anni fa avrebbe destato un ben più scarso interesse. Se da un lato il segmento di pubblico a cui la Marvel si rivolge è in continua crescita, dall’altro si stanno mettendo in discussione gli stereotipi chiamati in causa dalla tradizione fumettistica. Sebbene mi trovi d’accordo, alcune volte, con chi ritiene che il corpo delle donne non debba essere sfruttato come un oggetto in modo tale da inficiarne la dignità e suggerendo un ruolo sottomesso, non posso negare che una delle cose che mi hanno sempre affascinata dei fumetti sia proprio la sensualità dei corpi, delle pose, il loro essere lontani dalla volgarità e contemporaneamente sensuali.

Qualcuno si ricorda lo scandalo che destò Diabolik in Italia in un primo momento? Una donna sensuale, un uomo al di fuori dalla legge, tutine attillate che non lasciano distinguere il punto dove finisce il corpo e inizia l’indumento e… scene che suggerivano rapporti sessuali fuori dal matrimonio. Scandaloso! Eppure fu creato da niente popò di meno che Angela e Luciana Giussani nel 1962: due donne.

Altra epoca, altri problemi, altri pensieri? Però, nonostante sia convinta che il problema legato alla copertina di Spider Woman sia di natura commerciale, non posso fare a meno di pensare che si colleghi a una serie di movimenti complessi e confusi nel modo corrente di intendere la sessualità e le sue rappresentazioni.

Se si chiede a un autore noto per la sua produzione di opere erotiche, di rappresentare una super-eroina innegabilmente sexy… non ci si potrà certo aspettare una vergine con bambino. Le opere di Manara sono note anche per la loro dimensione onirica, per la serenità di fantasie che si accompagnano più facilmente alle dimensioni dell’inconscio che non a quelle legate ad aspirazioni realistiche – in questo il disegno è senz’altro il medium più adatto a dar loro consistenza.

Si tratta di favole erotiche che compongono il loro intreccio in una dimensione del tutto onirica, piuttosto che fantasie pornificate a cui si cerca di dare “corpo” nella realtà. Certo, possono non piacere, ma si tratta pur sempre di un parere soggettivo relativamente a un nome – quello di Manara – che precede la categoria. Insomma, è chiaro cosa ci si dovrebbe aspettare.

Se da un lato è corretto prevenire quei meccanismi sociali che portano alla discriminazione tra i generi (tutti i generi), prendersela con una rappresentazione dichiaramente erotica sa molto più di una facile “caccia alle streghe”, un modo superficiale per poi non occuparsi, realmente, del problema che si suppone essere oggetto di discussione.

Marta Pellegrini