No fried food in my gas station
8 9 2022
No fried food in my gas station

Alessandro Baricco recounts Beppe Fenoglio

Piazza Castello is one of the inner courtyards of the Palazzo Ducale in Mantova. Sitting in the shade of the surrounding towers, one really feels embedded in Gonzaga’s renaissance.

And yet Alessandro Baricco, one of Italy’s most appreciated contemporary authors, used this very location as a trampoline to project the audience into the 1950s, on Piedmont’s Alps. He did this through the remembrance of Beppe Fenoglio - Italian partisan and author - on the one-hundred years anniversary of his birth.

During the event, Baricco talked about Fenoglio with love and admiration, almost a close relative and a literary parent. Above all, the two authors share a common Piedmontese heritage, and Baricco emphasised how Fenoglio manages, through his description of Piemonte, its atmospheres, and its people, to capture a local personality that is unique in the Italian cultural landscape. Piedmontese people combine many opposites: pride and shyness, will to dream and attachment to traditions, simplicity and intensity.

Fenoglio told tales of this region from the inside using a distinctive writing style reminiscent of a movie script. Using dramatic readings from the author’s La Paga del Sabato, Baricco showed how the reader is led through wide-angle shots and close ups, how the story is made up of bodies acting through space, and how all emotion and thought are conveyed through a pioneering use of the “show, don’t tell” cinematic principle.

This combination of connection to local atmospheres and usage of “narrative that beats faster than Hemingway’s” makes for a moving and gritty representation of humanity in all its complexity.

Baricco left the audience with a short quote from Fenoglio, one he feels perfectly synthesises and embodies Piedmont, the author’s work, and his influence on contemporary literature. The quote is from a character dreaming of venturing into a new business and explaining the details of his final goal to a friend: “You won’t smell fried food in my gas station”.