Wednesday, 28 May 2008

La Stampa’s Giovanna Zucconi is English-language expert on culture pages of the Turin-based national daily berliner. I translated several items from the website:

  • Zadie Smith’s fanship with Eminem (26 December 2006)
  • An interview with Haruki Murakami insulted by his country’s ‘radical nationalism’ (26 July 2006), and
  • An interview with Zadie Smith while she sojourned in Rome (25 June 2006)

The ‘Che libro fa…’ (“What book did…”) column offers regular antipodean items. Her 23 May 2008 column covers the Sydney Writers’ Festival.

‘Shoes for the aborigines’

We must still account for terrorism and fascism, caught up, as we are, with the dilemma: memory or reconciliation; but it isn’t as though they’re any better off in the other hemisphere. The opposite is true. Last Wednesday at the Sydney Writers’ Festival they showed a moving documentary about the aborigines or, rather, about the thirtieth anniversary of the push by a great poet in the yawuru language to obtain justice for his people, and at the same time to lay down the foundations of a peaceful settlement between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians.

And also we see, only now, the release of an anthology - the first - that collects letters, poems, novels, manifestoes, in sum the literature of the aborigines from the end of the 18th century to today. “You are very good, madam, thank you madam .. You give me two pairs of shoes madam …”: in 1796 Bennelong, who had been sent to England to be exhibited as a circus curiosity, writes humbly what is the first document in English addressed by black Australia to white Australia.

The first work of literature came out in 1929: Native Legends by David Unaipon, famous as the ‘Leonardo of Australia’. Only that it was filched by a white anthropologist, who republished it in England under his own name: a crime repaired only a few months ago, with a new edition. The first book by an aboriginal woman is from the second half of the 1960s, the most famous of these works are war songs.

While the country is just now, so late, facing up to itself and its misdeeds, Australians are still reading the usual international bestsellers, from Jodi Picoult to Paulo Coelho. Prescribed books, real-life crime and television spin-offs for essay writing. “In Italy culture is pride and status,” writes a literary blog. By comparison, is it true?

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