I was 14 when I first listened to a vinyl record by Lluís Llach and it was immediately clear to me that the ancient and clandestine language in which the songwriter expressed himself would have accompanied me for a long time in the years to come. Llach is one of the main representatives of Nova cançó (New Song), a movement of musicians, and singers who defied Francisco Franco's dictatorship by singing political songs in Catalan during a time where the language, and all other cultural manifestations of Catalan identity were prohibited. His famous song L’Estaca, meaning "the stake", was composed in 1968 (a year that marked the European culture) and tells of a rotten stick about to fall (as an image of Franco's regime). In the early 1990s, some years after my first virtual meeting with Llach, the press office of the artist, knowing that I was working on the Italian translation of his lyrics, sent me all his records and CDs. That was one of the most welcomed unexpected gifts I've ever received!
Those were the years when, even though I was very young, I had made friends with the journalist from Paese Sera Berenice (pen name of Jolena Baldini), whose affectionate letters I still keep. Berenice was a force of nature and every time we met she urged me to write, write, write. And in fact, those were the years when I had my first novel published, consacrated to one of the few women who participated in all the phases of the Cuban revolution. The years of the most humanly enriching meetings, such the one with the Swiss writer Max Frisch (I was the last journalist to interview him), or with the Italian actor, director, and screenwriter Aldo Fabrizi, or with the film-director Sergio Leone, and with many intellectuals (Antonio Tabucchi, Vincenzo Consolo, Rosetta Loi, Gina Lagorio and her husband Livio Garzanti), that it would be long to name here. I think that one day, as Berenice did, I will talk of all of them in a sort of autobiography. In that same period I began to approach the Jewish culture and in particular (living in Switzerland) the Yiddish world. Incidentally, the famous song by Llach L’Estaca was covered in Yiddish (under the title "Der Yokh") by the American klezmer band, The Klezmatics, in their 2016 album Apikorism.
Those shattered memories resemble the years in which life is strewn with junctions, where we find ourselves before countless different pathways, as to have more than one doubt in choosing one. Today, stitching those torn threads, one by one, means recognizing that one inextricable strand from the coil is dangling, blemishing, knotting up and delineating the contours of my face. I remember a long hallway, immensely long in my eyes. I am six years old, my brother is three. An enormous apartment, nine rooms, in the Coppedè quarter (see the photos accompanying these memories of mine). A narrow carpet in red velvet covers the black and white mosaic floor. We spend endless afternoons repeating the same scene, where Anna Magnani runs towards the jeep in the neorealist film directed by Roberto “Rome, Open City”, with the same Aldo Fabrizi whom I met years later. My brother pedals in front of me on his tricycle and I shout to him “Francesco! Francesco!”. Then I’m riddled with bullets and deliberately fall down, maybe a hundred times in one afternoon, sometimes I even hurt myself and those are the times when the director is most impressed by the realism of my acting. My brother gets off his tricycle and comes towards me crying and calling “Mamma!”; he’s reciting the role of Pina’s son, who was killed by machine gun fire in Nazi occupied Rome.
If, when returning home, a child has to walk under an archway with a large wrought iron chandelier, in front of which there is a small basin full of huge gold fish, then it’s easy to think that you live in an enchanted world; where the buildings are called “Fairy Cottage” (Villino delle Fate), with its arches and medieval friezes or “Little Frog House” (Casina del Ragno), with a huge Assyrian-Babylonian Frog on its façade.
It's been years, almost all the people I mentioned are gone. I still, like at the age of 14, am as enthusiastic as a child about artists who believe in the saving role of music, poetry and literature. So far I have published about thirty books and hundreds of articles. The last two are dedicated to a poet and painter, Silvana Weiller and to a songwriter, Kobi Farhi, who has many points in common with Llach, although of a different generation and from a different (orphaned) land. (You can read it in the free version by clicking here).
I find myself walking in the wake in which I set out at the age of 14, since I am promoting a musical initiative that would like to be marked by the resistance of culture and by the beauty of art against the horrors of ignorance and barbarism.
To the Century Media Records FB post
To my initiative