it’s Sunday again, and that means it’s time for some more random ramblings. Here we go:
I’ve always been an avid reader. Books, magazines, blogs, leaflets, posters… you name it. I just can’t resist words. I must read them, wherever they are. The only exception? Italian books.
Maybe it’s because school teachers have a knack for selecting the most boring passages from the most bring books, and try their hardest to make you hate literature, but I always considered Italian authors extremely boring. At the library or bookshops, I always carefully avoided their books.
So, when a few weeks ago, my reader Ema asked me to recommend some Italian books, my mind went blank. After resolving to read more Italian authors in the future, I managed to recall three titles that have really impressed me. I hope you’ll enjoy them too.
Gomorra. Viaggio nell’impero economico e nel sogno di dominio della camorra (Gomorrah. Journey Into The Violent International Empire Of Naples’ Organized Crime System) by Roberto Saviano
This bestseller should be taught in schools all over Italy. It’s an account of what the Camorra, a powerful and violent criminal organization, has done to Naples, the south of Italy, and the rest of the world. Its tentacles reach as far away as Scotland, China, and Somalia. It tells of Naples and its surroundings, an area where there is no work, no money, and no hope. Crime is the only way of life for many people. And it’s killing us all. The Camorra doesn’t only kill those who stand in its way. It is polluting entire territories where rates of deadly illnesses have sky-rocketed. The organization is also involved in construction works, high fashion, illicit drugs, and pretty much everything you can think of. Camorra is literally everywhere. Saviano is now a hunted man who had to leave Italy not to get killed. In this book, he spills everything he knows. He’s not afraid to name names and tell it like it is. Its account is compelling, engaging, tragic, and disturbing. Reading it is like being punched in the face. It’s investigative journalist at its best. Available at Amazon.
Cuore (Heart) by Edmondo De Amicis
This is a classic for children and teens. It was written to encourage appreciation in the younger generations of the newfound Italian national unity (the author had fought in the war), so it is very patriotic and, reading it again now, quite preachy. But I still love it. It’s a fictional diary of an Italian schoolboy, and is full of sad, heroic, and moving stories that will make you cry your eyes out. But it also paints a vivid picture of the urban life in Italy in the second half of the nineteenth century, just after the country was unified. It’s available for free at Project Gutenberg.
Se Questo E’ Un Uomo (If This Is A Man) by Primo Levi
This is the most difficult book I have ever read. No, it is not because it is badly written (although it uses lots of archaic words). It’s because of the horrific (actually, that’s an euphemism) story it tells. Primo Levi was a 25 year old Italian Jew arrested by Italian fascists and deported to Auschwitz. In this book, he shares how he survived in the death camp for ten months. It’s an account of extreme and systematic cruelty, of survival of the fittest, but also of rare acts of friendship. It’s poignant, moving, and utterly heartbreaking. It’s probably the most important book ever written about the Holocaust and one everyone should read. Lest we forget. Available at Amazon.
Have you read any Italian books? If so, what are your favourites?
Warpaint: Alexander McQueen and Make-Up
Last Saturday I went to see the Warpaint exhibition at The London College of Fashion. Coinciding with the major retrospective of his work, Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty at the V&A, Warpaint focuses on the makeup looks created, by some of his favourite makeup artists such as Charlotte Tilbury, to showcase his collections on the catwalk. There are three recurring themes: Amplified, where facial features are obscured and exaggerated; Deviated, where make-up goes beyond the traditional areas and covers other parts of the body; and Stripped, where the look is so subtle it intensifies the meaning of the collection.
The exhibition is really small. Just one cozy room where masks featuring some amazing makeup looks are showcased. You can see one on the left. Sorry for the poor quality. I took it with my phone, and the room was quite dark. But it gives you a good idea of what you can expect. The look pictured here was my favourite. Each feather was carefully arranged to follow the contours of the face. It was a little artwork. At the entrance of the gallery, you can also see a video of how the masks were made. It was truly a labour of love.
If you love makeup and happen to be in London, go see it. It’s on till 7 August and free.
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