Face to face with the written word

Published on Friday, 22 February 2019

Literary culture does not just mean ancient and dusty tomes, it is a living thing that is of great relevance to the here and now. And this is why Enel is offering its staff the opportunity to meet some of the most famous contemporary writers and engage in dialogue with them. The initiative is called “Face to face with the written word and was launched in Rome on 7 December.

Opening the series of encounters was American writer Joe Richard Lansdale, one of the most popular, genre-busting authors who delights in blurring the line between high and low culture. The conversation was very informal – the audience had the feeling they were talking to an amusing, friendly neighbour rather than one of America’s best-selling authors.

Born in Texas to an illiterate father, Lansdale soon became a voracious reader of comics, then science fantasy and narrative fiction, especially works by American authors. These texts were his only literature lessons, together with films and spoken stories. Lansdale developed from an omnivorous reader into an equally versatile writer. He made a name for himself with novels, stories and comics, TV and film scripts, ranging from crime to horror, pulp to social satire, noir to Westerns, mixing the genres within one novel but above all always retaining his characteristic ironic stance. His subversion of the hierarchies has also led Lansdale to have an explosive impact on Italian culture, especially at the turn of the new millennium.

For those seeking to acquaint themselves with his work for the first time the writer recommends starting with his novels “The Bottoms” and “Edge of Dark Water,” although he admits he prefers “Paradise Sky.” On the occasion of his encounter with our colleagues, Lansdale presented his biography “Joe Lansdale. In fondo è una palude,” written by his friend, the writer Seba Pezzani, who was also taking part in the event. Another Italian writer, Luca Briasco, chaired the conversation with the audience. Many people from our Group attended, from fans of the writer to those curious to meet this interesting figure, inspiring a lively debate confirming that his success in combining his work with his passion – which makes Lansdale a happy man – is exactly what we seek to achieve every day at Enel. 

We are all “on life”

The second encounter featured linguist Vera Gheno and philosopher Bruno Mastroianni, the co-writers of “Tienilo acceso” (“Keep It On”), a short guide on how to learn and use words well online and enjoy a better internet experience. In discussion with the debate’s moderator Luca Briasco and colleagues from Enel, the two authors began with a rejection of the distinction between online and offline life. They believe that today we can speak only of “on life” because we are connected, and our behaviour – both online and in real life – is a key part of our way of being.

But how exactly should we handle “on life” discussions? Their advice is not to use an arrogant tone, which will persuade nobody to change their mind. Not only that, it puts you at risk of joining the “legion of imbeciles” which, according to the great late Umberto Eco at least, has been given a voice by the web. For Gheno and Mastroianni, the challenge is learning how to present your case patiently and more persuasively. We should also pay close attention to what we write, because everything can and will be published.

One special concern of increasing worry to parents is how to educate their children to use the Internet correctly. It’s a difficult objective and the authors believe that schools should play a role: instead of prohibiting mobile phones in class, they should teach students to adopt a critical approach to their use. The sources of information – and this also applies to adults – should be examined and assessed with the same care and discrimination we use when booking a holiday online.

Last but not least, Gheno and Mastroianni spoke of the beauty of the Italian language and invited us to take on responsibility for its wellbeing - each of us is a guardian of the language, even if it’s just a message on WhatsApp.

"Face to face" with Sandro Veronesi

The defence of the Italian language, together with that of the rules of democracy, was the subject of the third encounter in this series. Eclectic writer Sandro Veronesi – who, as Luca Briasco observed, it would be reductive to define a novelist – is the author of stories, novels (including the 2006 winner of the Strega Prize, "Caos Calmo" - "Quiet Chaos"), essays and reportages. Veronesi talked about his new book "Cani d’estate" (literally "Summer Dogs"), a pamphlet which looks at the odyssey of the migrant boats. 

“I felt like the dogs in a valley that during the summer begin to bark all together: there is a reason for this, even though we don’t know what it is,” explained Veronesi, who intends, on one hand, to defend the Italian language from “scrambled story-telling” and, on the other, to promote respect for human rights and international maritime law.

The author also remarked on the dangers of climate change: desertification risks becoming a third cause for migration, in addition to war and poverty. Expanding on the topic, he explained that animals only migrate due to climatic factors.

The next encounters will be with three other Italian authors, namely Alessandro Piperno, Paolo Giordano and Adriano Favole.

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