Àlen Loreti

The nothing that is really missing

Interview with Àlen Loreti, promoter and coordinator of the Tiziano Terzani Fund, on this challenging period, COVID-19.
Published on 14 May 2020
Interview Àlen Loreti
Panorama from Monte Catone towards the hills of Monte del Re and Monte Calderaro | ©Àlen Loreti

This post is also available in: Italiano

We asked our authors and our network to answer three questions on how they are coping with this challenging moment in history. Here are the answers of ÀLEN LORETI, promoter and coordinator of the Tiziano Terzani Fund.

Is there any beauty in the world, even banal, that you have rediscovered in this period?

In this period of isolation, I rediscovered a certain essentiality, the ability to do without certain things. I am reminded of that passage from ‘Adventures in Africa‘ (1998) by Gianni Celati when he writes: ‘But then you know that when one is left behind a glass, one tends to feel that one lacks something, even if one has everything and lacks nothing, this lack of nothing perhaps counts for something, because one might also realise that one needs nothing, except the nothing that one lacks,, of the nothing that cannot be bought, of the nothing that corresponds to nothing, the nothing of the sky and the universe, or the nothing that others have who have nothing.” Here, it would be nice if this kind of attention to the nothing, or necessary, that we have learnt This long period of restrictions could be preserved over time: it would be an excellent answer to any future waste.

How do you think your profession has changed or will change?

I am moving precisely because I no longer have stability. Talking about smart working in Italy in 2020 as if it were a revolution or a solution is depressing; it reveals all our provincialism. Italy lacks fundamental reforms: freeing women from domestic blackmail by building nurseries for children and shelters for older people, giving jobs and guaranteeing fair wages (who remembers Article 37 of the Constitution? ), restoring meritocracy and resources to university and research (of which, after years of shameful no-vax campaigns, we have rediscovered the absolute public importance), zeroing in on precariousness and exploitation (especially of immigrants, on which criminality and neo-fascist parties speculate), mercilessly striking at the links between the state and crime (which celebrate in these emergencies), renew the P.A. system that is as backwards as its infrastructure rethink the credit system by subjecting it to real supervision and support honest businesses so that small ones can grow and become stronger, reactivate a conscience community in the increasingly frayed union structures, connect physically and socially the suburbs – urban and rural – to the rest of the country… I’ll stop here.

But I’ll give you a practical example: in 2010, I was writing Terzani’s Meridiani with an ADSL that was constantly blowing up, I lived in the country, and the telephone network, despite living only 5 km from the city, was a sieve. We are talking about Imola, where companies and cooperatives have recorded outstanding exports for decades. Today, after ten years, if you go back to that house, there is still no fibre or ADSL: I had to connect the place with ultra-wideband via radio. Ten years. I wonder: how a farmer obliged to have the PEC for his business, a person who now needs the self-certification he has to download from the government website, or my niece who has to attend school lessons from home explain to me how he does it? How can legal obligations be demanded if rights that translate into services are not guaranteed?

This country has been on an inclined plane for decades. As Sereni said: ‘Italy, an endless Sunday’. Only then comes Monday, and we are always in an emergency. How can we discuss the future if no one plans and builds it responsibly? Villages depopulate, hillsides collapse, rivers flood, flyovers collapse, cities age, bookshops close, tax evaders go unpunished, factories pollute… is this the best we can do? Or ‘Might as well live’ as Dorothy Parker wrote?

A picture, a book and a song that represent this period for you.

Let’s start with the song: as a good Romagnolo, to cheer up morale, I might suggest a nice ‘naughty’ polkas of yesteryear that I saw my parents dance for years, perhaps played by the legendary Wolmer Beltrami. But since I like electronic music and grew up with the Eurodance of the 1990s, I am currently listening to Robert Miles again. His ‘Children‘ is a song that, in 100 years – if the human consortium does not die out – will explain our age, too, better than many words.

A book: Raffaello Baldini and Tonino Guerra will forgive me, but Nino Pedretti was one of the greatest poets of the 20th century. “Al Vousì” (Einaudi) is a collection that celebrates his poetics grafted onto everyday life and remembrances. A poem, ‘The Names of the Streets, ‘ is suitable for this period. But I would also like to mention an Emilian because there is no Romagna without Emilia: Gian Carlo Conti, an unfortunately forgotten giant. In ‘Inediti dal quaderno delle poesie‘ (Diabasis), there are descriptions of sensuality, desire and tenderness that we have all experienced and that, in this time of distance and separation, make us realise how important it is to cultivate authentic bonds.

One image: in recent weeks, seeing the line of lorries heading for the crematorium in Ferrara was disturbing and painful. This is contrasted by the detachment and vitality of nature, which returns to occupy the spaces left vacant by man: grass sprouting in Piazza del Campo in Siena, jellyfish and fish darting in the canals Venice, deer strolling in mountain villages. Terzani understood this well: ‘If mankind has any hope of survival, it is in regaining a balance with nature’.

There, it was inevitable to ask the question: what if it happened to me? What if you were no longer here tomorrow? Someone said, ‘You know who you are when you know where you want to be buried’. I have thought about it, and even if it is not technically possible, I would like to rest where I grew up, among the vineyards and gullies of Monte Catone. The moment when the sun plummets over the line of the Apennines when that glow remains makes one think of sure Turner sunsets are of such beauty that only poets can describe them. Jean Giono once wrote: ‘I saw the light of Venice in the far north of Scotland, on the Atlantic coast, towards Mallaig’, and poets are incapable of lying! Had he been at Monte Catone, perhaps on a day in late September, I am sure he would have felt the same yearning and awe.

Text: Àlen Loreti 
Original text in Italian - In house translation
Ferrara, Italy
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Àlen Loreti
Fondo Tiziano Terzani

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