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Bianca Garavelli: too many youngsters abandoning the country

According to the famous writer, a scholar of Dante Alighieri and author of intense novels, the mirage of an easier life pushes youth away from rural life

The last decades have marked a return to nature, and in particular and to the country, which has often been just apparent, in the way of spending the weekend there. From one point of view, the figure of rural tourist appears, together with the promoter of typical products; on the other hand, the direct involvement in the agricultural activities is avoided, since it requires continuity and a full commitment to it. The youth tends to escape the agricultural work, even today, when it is much less fatiguing. Why this? We ask this to Bianca Garavelli (, writer and essay writer with a direct experience in the rural world.
She published the novels L'amico di Arianna (Guida, 1990), Guerriero del sogno (La Vita Felice, 1997), Il mistero di Gatta Bianca (Laterza, 1999), Beatrice (Moretti & Vitali, 2002), Il passo della dea (Passigli, 2005), Amore a Cape Town (Avagliano, 2006).

Why this flight from the country? Only because the young farmer does not feel accepted by the society?
Unfortunately, I have direct experience of this phenomenon: my mother’s family was a farmers family. I say “was” because my mother’s father and his siblings passed away and their descendants did not follow in their steps, although being farmer was a centuries old tradition. The youth left the village, Quingentole, in Mantua province, on the banks of the river Po, or those who remained abandoned a life exclusively dedicated to farming. Two cousins of mine worked at the Chiuse del Po, the complex irrigation system of this land, but they abandoned this extremely hard work and its grueling shifts, too. The reason is the anxious quest for a social improvement, an easier and more comfortable life, away from the hardness of the rural world. Now it is sad, because the already small village emptied, a very common destiny in that area, the lower Po valley. Nobody of the newer generations is there now, and nobody would recover the old traditions, which was tied to the cultivation of white and red grapes, and of corn (my vague memories from my childhood...). Maybe I am starting thinking of this...

The intellectual world is responsible as well for attributing a marginal role to the rural society. A lot of talk about the industrial workers’ world, much less, even nothing, about the rural society. Why so little interest in this world, either from the standpoint of politics, economics, social studies and even intellectuals?
Maybe the reason is that the literature, the “new” Italian narrative, was born around 1945, right as an expression of the industrial workers’ protest, as a description of a social reality, mostly urban, which was changing fast. Novels such as Bacchelli’s Il mulino del Po, have gone forgotten, and not incidentally. The city was shown as opposed to the country, as well seen in Calvino’s Marcovaldo tales; this has taken oxygen away from the farming world. This, in turn, has been probably seen as a memory during the second part of the XXth century, as a relic of a past that Italy was leaving behind. Maybe, we still have an ace: Manzoni’s Promessi sposi show a great example of farmers’ saga, which could be followed by the narrators of tomorrow, if they will repent from abandoning the reality of the country, and if they will be willing to deeply recover our more authentic tradition.

by Luigi Caricato
02 november 2009, Food Notes > Miscellanea