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Alberto Bevilacqua: “Farmers are the heroic soul of a people”

The rurality – according to the author of the famous novel “La Califfa” (The Caliph’s wife) – is the secret garden where people seek refuge to find defense from chaos

Alberto Bevilacqua was born in Parma in 1934 but has lived in Rome since a long time ago. Writer, poet, director, he wrote La Califfa, Questa specie d'amore, L'occhio del gatto, Il curioso delle donne, I sensi incantati, Lettera alla madre sulla felicità, Viaggio al principio del giorno and Attraverso il tuo corpo. Fra le raccolte di poesia: La crudeltà, Vita mia and Messaggi segreti.

Alberto Bevilacqua

The town of Parma is still a central element, a support to your work, to the point of being an essential reference…
It’s a city split in two by a torrent, in the region of Po, mysterious and fascinating, where Heaven and Hell coexist. The vital and expressive soul which moves everything resides here. Parma is the equivalent of a supporting soul, of an edge over other places.

Your early steps were tutored by Attilio Bertolucci. How influent was his example for you?
I was lucky to be a teenager in the Fifties, when all intellectuals, from Gadda to Pasolini, came to Parma. Bertolucci was one of my high school professors. He discovered my poems and was the first to talk of them. He had a great influence on me, because he introduced me in a literary sphere which considered me a child prodigy. My poetry is actually far from his, there are no connections between the two. Bertolucci expressed a vision of nature and of life very sweet and crepuscular.

How do you envision nature?
My idea of nature reflects my city. The nature of Parma and of the Po river is a strong nature. Not by accident, our river is very weird and it alternates extremely dry periods, like during last Summer, with floods that I remember as a nightmare. So, my nature is not very crepuscular, it is strong, like the nature of Parma. We had extraordinary people not by chance. The city has every counted on solid characters. In the riot of 1922 between Balbo’s fascists and Parma, the fascists had their only loss before ascending to power. You can judge it as you want, but Parma always expresses a union between flesh and work, senses and creative intelligence. Parma is a female city. Yes, I classify towns in males and females. Parma is feminine.

Can we speak of “rurality” nowadays, in a world where the relationship with the earth is fragile and without perspectives on the future?
In the Po region, the rurality has always been heroic. Think of the constant effort of farmers for the defense of their farms from the water of the river in extreme conditions. Rurality was the object of obscurantistic views in the last twenty years, but it has been recovering lately, with a nostalgic push. Rurality is the secret garden where people, at least my people, seeks refuge and defense from chaos and contemporary stress. It is becoming extremely active, again. I think it is the dimension where you can rediscover yourself, like in the famous arias from Rossini. The theme of rurality is very important, but it should be divulged in its full expression. There is an artistic, musical, historical and ideological tradition of rurality which should be rediscovered and re-evaluated. I realized a rural version of Falstaff with Strehler, for instance, and that was a lovely job. We have to rethink of the strong influence that rurality had on arts in time. Today we forget and neglect this aspect. The Romanic baptistery of Parma does not have representations of saints or virgins, but of farmers. The Romanic style has a great rural soul. Parma definitely has a primary position in this sense.

What book would you recommend to the readers of “Teatro Naturale International”?
My novel, published in 2001, Viaggio al principio del giorno.

by Luigi Caricato
01 june 2009, Food Notes > Miscellanea

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