M come muso

Il nuovo romanzo per ragazzi di Bruno Tognolini esplora la vita ultraterrena dei nostri amati amici animali.

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 L’interesse nei confronti del benessere e dei diritti degli animali è notevolmente cresciuto negli ultimi anni.

Per fortuna, anche se lentamente, stiamo abbandonando una visione limitata e antropocentrica per abbracciarne una di tipo olistico.

La sovranità che abbiamo ottenuto sugli animali – così come è scritto nel libro della Genesi – potrebbe verosimilmente lasciare spazio a un comportamento più compassionevole nei loro confronti.

Protezione, anziché sfruttamento, sembra essere la parola chiave per un futuro più sostenibile.

Un piccolo passo in questa direzione è stato fatto da Bruno Tognolini nel suo nuovo libro, Il giardino dei musi eterni.

Come il suggestivo titolo lascia immaginare, gli attori principali di questo brillante romanzo sono i nostri cari estinti a quattro zampe.

Questi ultimi sono stati sepolti in un verde giardino, pieno di pace e di silenzio, giusto a pochi chilometri dal centro città, dove gli ex padroni possono recarsi liberamente a visitare le tombe e a portare perfino qualche fiore.

Il cimitero in questione appare quieto e tranquillo, ben diverso da quello celeberrimo e spaventoso creato da Stephen King in Pet Sematary.

Ad ogni modo sono presenti alcune analogie, poiché, in entrambi i casi, l’attenzione del lettore si focalizza sulla vita degli animali post mortem.

Nel libro di Tognolini, gli animali sono ora vivi come spiriti liberi, chiamati animám.

Abbracciano l’eternità e vivono senza limiti tra la terra e il cielo. Amano passare il loro tempo, che non ha fine, correndo nel vento e cantando per notti intere con le rane sul bordo di un laghetto vicino al cimitero.

Ma la pace del luogo sembra progressivamente incrinarsi, fino ad andare in frantumi, per l’azione di fattori sia umani che soprannaturali. In effetti, gli animám cominciano a scomparire e il custode del cimitero, giorno dopo giorno, si fa sempre più inquietante.

Le cose sembrano volgere al peggio, ma l’atteso lieto fine non si fa attendere: tutti gli animám sono sani e salvi e lo stesso cimitero è al sicuro dal rischio di essere raso al suolo.

L’aldilà animale di Bruno Tognolini risulta straordinario e intrigante, proprio come quello umano creato da Alice Sebold nel suo capolavoro, Amabili resti.

Allo stesso tempo Tognolini – proprio come Helen Macdonald nel suo celebre e pluripremiato memoir, Io e Mabel– esplora in questo libro il confine tra umanità e animalità, mostrando quanto sia sottile, fragile ed evanescente ad uno sguardo più attento.

Sottilmente ispirato al pilastro buddhista dell’impermanenza del sé, il romanzo è libro dell’anno 2017 secondo gli ascoltatori di Fahrenheit, programma culturale di Radio3 Rai ed è caldamente raccomandato per tutti coloro che sono in cerca dell’eternità nel continuo e vorticoso fluire del mondo.

Elisa Lucchesi

 

A journey through Ego’s inconsistency

 

Lewis Carroll published his most famous work, Alice in Wonderland, in 1865. At that time David Hume’s Treatise on human nature (1738) had been in circulation for more than one hundred years. The analogies between the fairy tale – provided that Carroll’s masterpiece could be defined as such – and the philosophical inquiry by the Scottish thinker are remarkable.

 

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Alice is a continuously changing character. She is never the same. She grows up abruptly, shutting up like a telescope, and shortens in a blink of an eye, becoming only ten inches high. Then she asks herself: “Was I the same when I got up this morning?”.

 

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Hume said that we are merely the sum of our perceptions, which follow one another on the stage of our mind so fast that they give us the illusion of continuity of the self. There are no proofs of the existence of such a solid, substantial subject as we pretend to be. The white rabbit with a waist-coat and a pocket-watch, the speaking Dodo, the vanishing Cheshire cat are definitely much more real than that.

 

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When the wise hookah-smoking caterpillar asks Alice a question as embarrassing as it is simple: “Who are you?” her reply is pure philosophy: “I hardly know, Sir, just at present – at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then”.

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In the end, Alice got up. All her adventures were only a fabulous dream. However, how can I assure that I am awake rather than asleep? Is there an ‘I’? Who said an I? Chop off his head!

Igor Tavilla, Teacher of Philophy – Liceo Artistico “P. Petrocchi”, Pistoia.

[Original illustrations by Sir John Tenniel]

For the greater good of God

The following text is part of the writing practice for the Cambridge CAE.

The review is freely inspired by the innovative version of the Greek tragedy Agamemnon, which was performed at the Florentine theatre La Pergola  from the 26th to the 31st of January 2016.

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Two years ago the glorious Florentine theatre La Pergola has hosted a completely renovated version of Agamemnon, the world-known Greek tragedy written by the poet Aeschylus in the 5th century B.C.

The story is well known: the war of the wars is finally over.

Troy has been burnt and destroyed, the betrayal of Helen has been punished, the king is coming home.

But in Argo some ancient wise men – the chorus – are asking themselves how a happy outcome is possible, for Agamemnon has killed his daughter Iphigenia before leaving for Troy.

He chose power instead of love, and he brutally sacrificed his beloved, stunning beautiful daughter in order to leave for Troy with his soldiers.

In fact, his wife Clytemnestra is waiting to kill him in the realm and to punish the old killing with new flowing blood.

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The strength of the representation lies in the moral reflections of the chorus, for the plot is skimpy.

The director chose to simplify the stage, which is empty, dusty and simply surrounded by black ink curtains. The lack of chronological references signifies the eternal fight between personal feelings and public duties, and the inevitable proceeding of punishment from guilt.

The performance is extraordinary well interpreted by the actors, especially Cassandra, Apollo’s priestess and Agamemnon’s lover, who sings on the scene her final threnos – a funeral hymn for the dead person she is just about to be – before being brutally murdered by the furious, betrayed wife Clytemnestra.

Elisa Lucchesi

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Photo by courtesy of the Press Office Teatro La Pergola, Firenze.

Title track by Iron Maiden, For the greater good of God

 

Coraline, or Psyche’s 2.0 adventures in the other world

 

Coraline is a classic for young readers by Neil Gaiman, published in 2002.


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It’s a captivating, dazzling, modern ghost story in which a young girl must face her darkest desires and learn to grow up in order to not be forced into a never ending childhood which definitely seems like a prison.

It all starts when Coraline moves into a new house with her parents – just three weeks before the beginning of a new school year.

Coraline’s mother and father are too busy to play with her so she spends lots of her free time exploring outside.

But one day while outside it is bucketing down rain, the young girl also goes to investigate the inside of her new apartment and she discovers an old door in the drawing room which apparently opens onto a brick wall.

Coraline is young – which means that she is curious and reckless – and she can’t resist unlocking the door again while nobody is home: so she sails past her own Pillars of Hercules to the open sea.

In fact, the door leads through a dark corridor to a different world, where – as in a sort of parallel universe – another mother and another father live.

They are identical to Coraline’s parents except for their gleaming black button-eyes and the fact that they want her to stay with them forever, swearing that they will take care of her if she decides to stay.

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At the beginning Coraline is spellbound by her other mother’s personal wonderland, which she has just created to make Coraline’s dreams come true. But soon the young girl realizes that she is trapped in an apparently perfect world which is just an illusion, and she has to find a way to save herself and bring back her parents, who are imprisoned in a snow globe on the mantelpiece of the other house. This way she will get back her own lovely old way of life.

The dilemma with the other mother, who step by step reveals herself to be a ghastly monster, is a fight to the death and Coraline, even though she is small for her age, soon becomes tricky, brave and wise.

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The expected happy-outcome finally arrives, but it is corrupted by the remote possibility that the other mother might return. In fact, a piece of her – the other mother’s right hand – dashes from the black musty corridor together with Coraline when she finally manages to escape from the misty, ghostly and flat other world to her own more certain reality.

So we can’t say if Coraline will have to struggle against her own darkest desires in the future.Does she want to be owned and loved as a knickknack on a mantelpiece, instead of growing up?

It could be a very dangerous desire for all of us, at any age.

For now, we leave her lying in her own bed on a sweet summer night while the mouses’ circus is playing, school is about to start in the morning and nothing seems to scare her anymore.

Coraline is an excellent book to be read at school, either in its original language or in a good translation: just like many others Bildungsroman – from Homer’s Odyssey to Alessandro Manzoni’s Betrothed – it teaches young adults some unavoidable moral values: self-confidence, bravery and wisdom. It also inspires them to be self-reliant. Being loved doesn’t mean to be just a possession, a “tolerated pet”.

Sometimes a tattered freedom it’s better than posh affective slavery.

Just like a new Proserpina – the Greek goddess of the underworld – Coraline eschews the other world and comes back home safe and sound, and even eating food in the underworld does not seem to stop her: she is a brilliant new Psyche in search of her own adulthood.

The novel is charmingly illustrated in the Italian edition by Dave McKean, but personally I prefer the British one, enriched with Chris Riddell’s lovely illustrations.

Elisa Lucchesi

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Signora Bovary

Signora Bovary, coraggio pure

tra gli assassini e gli avventurieri,

in fondo a quest’oggi c’è ancora la notte,

in fondo alla notte c’è ancora, c’è ancora…

F. Guccini

In V AFM è tempo di Gustave Flaubert.

Qui L’intramontabile Emma di Dario Pontuale (Kogoi Edizioni) recensita due anni fa da  Stefano Martelli (V Liceo Scientifico) per www.stamptoscana.it

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A happier end

A face-to-face interview with Alain de Botton

 

Alain de Botton’s new novel, The Course of Love, came out on September 8, published by the Editor Guanda.

It is a clever and well written work in which the author humorously illustrates the paradoxes of the romantic love, points out how psychotherapy for couples represents an important way for loving each other and then proposes a series of touching thoughts regarding the regenerating power of mature love.

I had the chance to meet Alain de Botton in Milan recently.

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In your new novel, a young couple, Rabih and Kirsten, fall in love. They get married and they have children.Then, the couple is forced to face everyday marriage problems encountering a lot of frustration along the way. As a result they eventually drift away from each other. Is there any way to build a long lasting relationship that includes children and that somehow does not trap them in a cruel cage?

No, we can not have relationships without problems, because we are trying to do something very complicated, so a lot of problems is normal, but this doesn’t mean that everything is a potential disaster, it’s just that it is inevitably extremely difficult. In the same way, if you tried to build an aeroplane you wouldn’t expect to not encounter problems: it’s a very difficult enterprise.

So in a long term relationship with children you’re going to have a whole set of issues. The question is how you respond to those issues and I suppose my approach is based – broadly speaking – on psychotherapy which thinks that the solution is understanding the emotional dynamics that exist between mothers and fathers, children and lovers. These things can be understood. I’m not saying there’s always a happy ending, but we can perhaps create a happier ending.

The novel describes two people’s search for love and it sounds extremely strange because we don’t think we have to learn how to love because ultimately love is something that needs to be learned; it is a skill and our society doesn’t tell us this, but it is absolutely true.

 

Not many couples have partner relationships where there is a safe kind of attachment, so couple psychotherapy should be something that every couple should learn to do. Don’t you think? Yet still today there are misconceptions concerning this approach.

Yes, it is very sad how we live and we still don’t understand the importance of self knowledge and self understanding.

Take this hotel here. It thinks it is a luxury hotel so it wants to give you things that are truly special and wants to treat you. It doesn’t offer anything special to the brain or the mind. In fact it doesn’t believe that the client possesses a soul or a psyche. So if you go to the spa all they will offer you is treatment for your nails, your feet, maybe your muscles, but it doesn’t ask you about your feelings or your emotions: there is no help. And this is not just in this one hotel but around the world.

So if you go into psychotherapy for couples today, people will say that you’re crazy or you’re a bit spoilt – you are wasting your money – meanwhile the same people will buy a BMW and go on expensive holidays. So we are very strange.

And I think that everyone should have a safe space where they can explore their feelings and understand themselves better. Maybe you want to call it psychotherapy, maybe you want to call it something else, I don’t care, I’m not a psychotherapist myself, it’s just an area where you can understand yourself. Even today if you say: “I’m not going on holiday, I’m just going to sit at home and try to understand my childhood”, this would sound so weird, but it is probably much better than a week in the Alps because you will actually learn more.

 

How did you conceive the protagonists, Rabih and Kirsten?

Well, I wanted to find a couple that we could like –  I wanted the reader to like them – but also to see that they were very ordinary, not very mature, but not very immature. They were average people with an average selection of neurosis, misunderstandings, immaturities, but also strengths.

Rabih and Kirsten just came to me. I imagined Kirsten while I was travelling in Scotland. I was in a coffee shop once and I watched a woman and just imagined that she was Kirsten.

That was the story: you know, sometimes novelists just have these ideas.

 

Loneliness, is it a counterpart that can damage somebody who is looking for a safe kind of love? How can we be protected from this enemy? 

Well, we have to expect that loneliness will happen to us and I think it is a dream that we have that somebody else we meet will understand everything about us and that person will always be on our side. I think this is a dangerous myth: no one can be expected to understand everything about us; if somebody understands sixty percent of who we are, this is already a extremely good level. To expect that another person understands everything about us is just not possible. It’s like wanting to go back to early childhood, when it seemed like maybe our mothers or fathers could understand everything about us, but even they couldn’t. We had that illusion.

We must all die alone and in many ways there is just a permanently lonely side of life. Again it has to do with expectations: don’t be angry with your lover for not understanding everything about who you are, you don’t understand everything about who they are and that’s ok.

At the end of his life, the great poet and writer Goethe said: “No one has ever understood me” and he said this as an exclamation, so it shows that understanding is extremely difficult.

We should be brave, and stoic, and heroic about the fact that we are all alone on this earth.

 

Towards the end of the novel, Rabih learns that beauty is often trapped in small things. For example, there are some significant remarks about the beauty of flowers. Can married love teach us some kink of wisdom through personal suffering?

Yes, I think sometimes we expect – especially young people expect – that happiness will come in a year or in decade-long blocks; that there will be almost a permanent happiness.

I think with time you realize that really this is extremely difficult, because everyone is so complicated and our emotions are so complicated and then we become more modest.

You utilize your time well when you think: “I really like this flower”. Now the flower will die quite soon, it’s not a big thing, it’s not going to change my life, but it’s really significant. So, you become in a way more capable of a certain kind of happiness, especially about small things. It’s something we often notice in elderly people; they say things like “I spent a really nice evening, I watered the flowers and there was a lovely sunset”. And you think: “What? Do you like the flowers and the sunset? It is depressing. I want to be Napoleon, I want to invent a new piece of technology or start a business, etc.”.

With time you realize that sometimes we have to just accept the really small things. And, particularly with love, after you’ve been through many relationships, maybe you discover somebody and you think: “Well, he’s not the most exciting person in the world, but we get on well, sometimes we are happy – not everyday – and this is great”. We didn’t think this at the age of seventeen, but now we have a different vision, a more modest vision, but still intense. And I should say that sometimes, if you have suffered and been hurt and known real pain you will gain more satisfaction from a flower than someone who has never known suffering at all.

A background of suffering in love and in life is a wonderful catalyst for coming to a more intense appreciation of the little things when they go well.

 

One of the objectives of your project The school of life teaches things that are neglected in everyday education: love, for example. How can I try to teach my students the ability to love? 

There are definitely things that you can teach people about love. For example, a very obvious thing to start people thinking is: “What did you learn about love inside your family? What was love when you were small? What was love in your family?” And then, ask somebody: “Well, what is love for you now? By contrasting the past with the present you can lead into a very interesting group conversation, even with a group of students. Another thing to say is: “How did your mother and father love you? What is your dream of a lover now? How do you imagine that someone you love would be like?”

It’s not really psychotherapy but it’s just trying to show teenagers the way they are now is really connected up to things that happened in their childhood. Just start to encourage them to examine the relationships between past and present. I think this can be quite useful. It could also be useful to say: “What do you do when someone frustrates you? What is your response when something you care about does not happen?”. And to show people how different reactions can be. For example, some people shout, some people say nothing – go quiet, others explain, etc.

At The school of life, we offer a lot of material: we have a blog, we have the books of life, with a lot of essays, we have a Youtube channel with many many films. Please show your students some of the materials!

 

Can literature teach us something about love or is it misleading?

I think we have to use it carefully.

I’ve read enough of the great philosophers and the great thinkers to know that very often they don’t write very clearly.

I don’t think you can say to somebody: “Look! Go and read those books and your life will be fine”. I think a book is defined by the relationship that one has with the book and you need to have good relationships. There are some people who should read less and some people who should read more; there are some people who should read more of the book inside themselves rather then the books in the outside world.

So, like Proust, I’m a little bit suspicious: Proust loved literature – of course – he devoted his life to literature, but he was also intelligent enough to realize that sometimes there were dangers to always think what other people would think. We need to be creative ourselves – whether we are writers or not – to understand ourselves and not to always follow what Plato said, what Aristotle said.

We need to be creative ourselves.

 

Which book is the most honest and true when we talk about love?

I don’t know. I think that if we read a lot we would find passages, sections which can speak to us. I don’t think there is one book that is like our ideal lover and that will tell us everything and finding a book that speaks to us is as hard as finding friends. Maybe it will happen four times in a life. So we need to be modest about how many books will really be the one.

EL

Click here to read the Italian version: www.stamptoscana.it

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Giovani flâneurs crescono

A Pistoia il libro di Louis Huart

Errare è umano, flâner è parigino
Victor Hugo, I miserabili

Se amate “vagare oziosamente senza alcun fine, senza un preciso progetto di conoscenza, in maniera distaccata e con una punta di cinismo”, insomma se vi sentire flâneurs dall’animo errabondo e dai piedi ben piantati a terra, Pistoia può riservare gradite sorprese.

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Venerdì 9 settembre, alle ore 18, presso la raffinata libreria indipendente Les Bouquistines, Antonio Castronuovo ha presentato, insieme a Luca Lupori, la Fisiologia del flâneur di Louis Huart, piccolo gioiello cartaceo di cui ha recentemente curato l’edizione italiana per Stampa Alternativa.

La recensione su www.stamptoscana.it

EL

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Essai – B1.1

A votre avis, quels ont été le ou les changements les plus importants des vingt dernières  années dans votre pays? Quels sont ceux qui ont été positifs ou ceux qui ont été négatifs selon vous? Vous ecritez un texte construit et cohérent sur ce sujet (160 à 180 mots).

Attestato francese

 

Dans les vingt dernières années, notre pays – l’Italie – a connu d’importants changements, qui ont été positifs. Par exemple, la famille traditionnelle (la famille nucléaire) n’est plus l’unique forme d’union qui est acceptable pour la société italienne, qui – comme vous savez bien – est très très traditionnelle. Il y a aussi des familles monoparentales et le concubinage aussi est bien accepté surtout par les garçons et les filles. Par contre, nous n’avons pas le mariage homosexuel, bien que le Premier Ministre Renzi ait bien travaillé pour garantir le pacs.

Donc, la famille en Italie a fait un bon chemin.

En revanche, travailler dan notre Pays est toujours plus difficile et beaucoup de personnes sont au chômage.

Beaucoup de jeunes, quand ils ont terminé leurs études vont à l’étranger afin de chercher un travail meilleur qu’en Italie.

Même si la situation du travail est tragique, je crois que la possibilité de voyager sera une chance pour le prochaines générations.

Bien que l’on soit à l’étranger, les réseaux sociaux et la toile qui sont très populaires dans notre pays, nous donnent la possibilité de partager la vie avec amis, ou parents lointains, en un clic!

EL

Metti un’estate in compagnia di Baudelaire

Madre dei ricordi, amante delle amanti,

o tu che assommi tutti i miei piaceri, tutti i miei doveri.

Ricorderai la bellezza delle carezze,

la dolcezza del focolare, l’incanto delle sere,

madre dei ricordi, amante delle amanti?

C. Baudelaire, Il balcone

 

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Nell’Agosto 2006, mentre a San Lorenzo grondavano stelle, aggiungevo il mio pianto a quello del cielo impacchettando con ordine gli ultimi brandelli di un matrimonio.

Mia madre mi aiutava a disfare quello che ancora restava in piedi di un vecchio noi fuori moda, spettatrice solitaria della triste nudità del fallimento.

Non tolleravo nessun altro accanto a me, ma la sua presenza mi dava conforto.

Mi faceva sperare che in qualche modo sarei sopravvissuta: ai piedi di ogni croce c’è sempre una madre.

In quei giorni colmi di spleen, soffocata dall’afa di una Roma deserta, provavo a esorcizzare il dolore conferendo al lutto una colonna sonora: Recueillement di Charles Baudelaire, cantata da Léo Ferré. Ogni singolo verso di quel nero sonetto calzava come un guanto sull’anima ferita: il dolore così vivo da tramutarsi fisicamente in silenzioso compagno, gli anni trascorsi e ormai sbiaditi, di nuovo vividi nel momento dell’addio. E che dire del rimpianto sorridente, della dolcezza mortuaria della notte?

Da quel momento, Baudelaire è stato per me il poeta dell’estate, seppur di un’estate morente.

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Ho accolto dunque con piacere Un’estate con Baudelaire, di Antoine Compagnon.

Il libello, recentemente pubblicato in Italia da Garzanti nella traduzione di Camilla Panichi, prosegue la fortunata esperienza di Un’estate con Montaigne: in entrambi i casi i contenuti, tratti da un programma radiofonico di successo, sono stati poi pubblicati in forma di saggio.

La recensione su www.stamptoscana.it

EL