I do not think of myself as being a homebody type of person. Perhaps this is because I took my first flight before I was nine months old.
From Africa to Europe, from Libya to Italy, at the yoke of the plane was my father. However, my never revealed desire to travel exploded at the age of eighteen when, without any money, I decided to wander across Europe.However, I wandered for more than two years travelling throughout Europe with a friend of mine, hitchhiking and working in different places to scrape together the little money I needed to survive.
It was in Copenhagen that we found ourselves in serious difficulty, because we lost our job and, with a just few cents in our pocket, we were certain to be in a position of constraint. The humiliation of the travel warrant was in our hands but we had to think up a solution that could delay, at least temporarily, an inevitable surrender. Then a sudden brainwave gave me the solution. I could draw, we still had a few cents to buy a box of colored chalks and being in a situation which did not allow hesitation but which fostered enterprising action, I had an inspirational idea: we would work as pavement artists! From that moment everything changed. No more empty stomach, fears or hardships, but beautiful women, smart restaurants and nightclubs. Qualified begging but, above all, well-paid, during the day. It was during that long period of “dolce vita” that I met a Danish girl; I married her and took her to Italy, where I started a business. In the meantime I kept on writing and composing my first songs and I had the chance to share some musical experience with Fabrizio de Andrè. I took part in many literary and poetry competitions and got gratifying results. Then I began to collaborate with “Panorama”, a Yugoslav magazine written in Italian.
Some of my poems were published in the prestigious journal “Fenarete” and in other qualified periodicals. Then I met Eugenio Montale who, at that time, had not yet won the Nobel Prize. Luckily he liked me and understood me and I grew fond of him. In that period he lived in Milan at 11 Via Bigli and I used to visit him every Monday when I went to Milan for my job. Even if at first I had gone to him to ask his opinion, for a long time, a kind of fear kept me from showing any of my poems to him and submitting them to his judgment. But the day came when he asked me why I had not brought him one of my works yet, and he finished with a sentence I will never forget: “I have not yet figured out if you’re one of the most honest and fair man I have ever known or just a very smart guy.”
It was just this kind of straightforwardness which made me understand I was with the wittiest man I had ever happened to meet. Not only, my opinion never changed and was strengthened over time.
The following Monday I took him almost everything I had written until then.
For two weeks he told me nothing. During our conversations I was pleased with his encyclopaedic knowledge and with his intelligence. He was conversant or knowledgeable in so many things ranging from philosophy to politics, from art to science, from psychology to religion, and, of course, from literature to poetry. From our conversations I realised that I shared almost the same point of views with the person I had learnt to consider as being my teacher. The following week, for the second time, he approached the subject: “Don’t you want to know what my opinion of your work is?”
I felt like I was going to sink: “Sure! Of course!” I said eagerly.
“So why didn’t you ask me?”
“Because I’m afraid of your judgment. Moreover, simply because you haven’t spoken to me before now has convinced me that your opinion is that my work is useless. “
“I want to give you some advice. Don’t enter any more competitions. “
I felt like I was going to die. My doubts were changed into certainties. What I wrote was worthless or at least of very little value, and therefore, implicitly, his advice was to consider myself a writer no more.
“Got it”. - I said, mortified. - “I’ll stop writing.”
“You have understood nothing.”
He replied and, smiling, he added a sentence that satisfied me beyond all expectations. I will keep it forever in my heart, but my discretion has always prevented me from reporting it to someone else. However, encouraged by his exhortations then and his memory after his death, I have tried never to abandon my passion for Literature, Poetry, Philosophical Theory, Music and similar works.
In the mid-eighties I was elected President of a cultural association in my town. I accepted the post with enthusiasm because the organisation promoted new talents by publishing their literary works and offering them the chance to express their opinions through the medium of its magazine. It was a commitment which I could carry on for only a few years but which I give credit to for having made me find at least a few minutes to write every day.
I have always supported the idea that a life with no novelties is not worth living and maybe just because of this from time to time I have tried to create or take advantage of new situations. The last chance I had was when, going to the Russian consulate to get some information, I asked a young Russian tourist for some help. I soon found out that this same person was fond of literature. What could I do but marry her?
However, today, thanks to a chain of events, not least as a result my marriage, I am at last able to put Montale’s urgings into practice and I am able to write full time. Furthermore, I am sure that it is consequential that I often have the sensation that he himself is pleased because I’ve continued to follow his advice.
And now, roving the intricacies of my mind, I get inebriated by space, formulating theories that recklessly try to stretch out their hands to embrace those who desire to think, to know, to understand. Just as I try to do too.