From Anna Bandettini's interview on The friday, 9.06.2023
When I write I want freedom
There is no escaping from ancient Greece, because there our problems are in an auroral, therefore very clear form. to saying this is not just anyone, but Alessandro Baricco, a writer far from the definition
usual, "before being a writer I am a storyteller," he says, and that is why he opened a school, the Holden, and from affabulator has made more than fifteen novels, and then short stories, screenplays, essays to starting with the very famous The Barbarians, television, cinema and theater "where I am very well," as he confesses, and he has a good list of titles, from '96 Totem, Moby Dick, the Iiad, Palamedes... Precisely in a "theatrical" guise, Alessandro Baricco will be at the upcoming Festival dei Due Mondi in Spoleto with one of his texts, Tucidide. Atene contro Melo, a tribute, compelling and sprinkled with anecdotes and comments between the folds of the original story, to the great historian of the Peloponnesian War, and focused on the few but foundational pages of the dialogue between the ambassadors of Athens and Melo, a very high reflection on justice between the strong and the weak. It will be seen at piazza Duomo to Spoleto on June 29, and "for health reasons," Baricco explains, "I will not be able to be on stage. But I have desired and asked to Gabriele Vacis
to play it, it's a perfect text for him, so I focus on directing." And it won't be an indifferent thing, because with his friend Vacis, to himself an actor and director of many shows, as narrator, with Stefania Rocca and Valeria Solarino at the lectern giving voice to the Athenians and the melii, respectively, onstage will be the 100 Cellos, the extraordinary ensemble of one hundred cellists founded and directed from Giovanni Sollima, who also does the original music.
Baricco, you call it a'opera in concert form?
"Yes. from director I am convinced that when you bring classical texts to the stage you have to return the emotion. And the amazement of all those cellos that: they have crazy energy, I assure you it's a real wonder. I also use them as scenery, the bows are spears, the instruments shields.... My plan is to take this work around for three years, in the summer in stone theaters and in the winter in opera houses because they are rituals of memory from do with a lot of people."
Why is this dialogue between Athens and Melo important?
"Meanwhile, it is a theatrical play. It's all live, and it's strange because a historian cannot do fiction, yet 'Thucydides did it and in a compelling way. Regarding the theme, then, the point is: when there is one stronger and one weaker can we move on principles of justice, equality, humanity, morality? Crazy question. And, another important aspect if you think about current events, is that the Athenians tell the Melians you are weak, you will lose, to defend your honor, do you really want to jump into a war?"
Does it bring to mind Russia's invasion of Ukraine?
"Yes, but it is not mandatory. Just as, if you want, Athens plays the part of the U.S., commands a military alliance in every way similar to NATO, and is the great power it protects by creating its own economic and military empire. But let's be clear that this is not a show about current affairs, this is not a talk show."
If we play the game, Athens or Melo, do you stand with the reasons of the strong or the weak?
"Impossible to take sides. In that dialogue we find even contradictory thoughts. But we chose those fathers there, a model that marked the West."
to in this regard what do you think about cancel culture?
"I live it with respect in my children's culture but also with struggle. I admit that when I read Nineteen Hundred in public today instead of 'nigger' I say 'black,' I took out the joke about homosexuals, innocent, but not anymore. And yet I do not intend to be diverted by bigotry. If I write I must be free. My new novel will be a western, the most politically incorrect genre."
Real Western? With cowboys, guns, native...
"Yes yes, but being a metaphysical western it will have several surprises. It's called Abel, it's coming out to November from Feltrinelli."
Will it become a movie?
"I haven't thought about it. Meanwhile, this year sees the release of No Blood, starring Salma Hayek and Demian Bichir, the Angelina Jolie film from my 2002 novel."
Jolie had said she was fascinated from how she recounts the war and its traumas. How about you? Fascinated from Angelina?
"She invited me to the set, we met working together a little bit on the script. She is a special woman, with a sweetness, a gentleness that I don't find in simpler people. It was a beautiful human encounter. And the movie moved me. It is the one most like the book. It has that heart there."
Do you always write a lot?
"I wrote a lot from when I was in my 20s, every day. But from some time I also put myself to looking at the sky and the humans around to me."
Has the disease changed your perspective?
"They are diseases that have a stubborn, cumbersome presence in your body, in your thoughts. It's like if they put to you live in Antarctica, you come out different. But if you ask me, "Has the disease changed the way you write?" my answer is a definite no."
And it is beautiful.
"Yes, in difficult times one recoils into that space there. There are novels that were born while there were world wars around. And I also followed my own course with the storm, drought or earthquake, and illness is one of those. If you read Abel, it's not that one will think, this one has been in the hospital."
Was it hard?
"Yes. But I talk little about these things, not to hide anything, but because in the end I'm from Turin, having said two things, I live the rest."
What do you plan now?
"I want to accompany Abel's exit well, and my head is full of dreams that are not books or writing. Just as I opened a school, I have something else in my head. But I will talk about it as soon as I have clearer ideas."