Dopo la morte di Umberto Eco a febbraio, venerdì scorso, il 13 ottobre, è morto un altro mostro sacro della cultura italiana, il grande Dario Fo. Ecco come lo ricordano i giornali inglesi The Guardian e The Telegraph :
Ed ecco alcuni video dedicati a Dario Fo. Il primo è un servizio della RAI che ripercorre la carriera di Fo; il secondo è un documentario davvero bellissimo del 1984, prodotto da Arena per la BBC TV:
Per chi volesse saperne di più sulla vita e il percorso artistico di Dario Fo, e sulla società italiana del dopoguerra, c'è un bel libro in inglese, dedicato a Dario Fo, di Tony Mitchell, Dario Fo: People's Court Jester . Ecco, in basso, un brano tratto dal libro in cui Mitchell parla dell'assegnazione del premio Nobel a Fo nel 1997:
News of the Nobel Prize came while Fo was driving from Rome to Milan with the young television personality Ambra Angiolini, recording a mobile television chat show entitled Roma-Milano. A reporter for La Repubblica held up a placard informing him of the news, and the following day's issue of the newspaper devoted seven pages, including the front page, to Fo. Fo's response to the prize, in which he described himself as 'flabbergasted' (esterefatto), was thus also recorded on italian
television. The swedish Academy's press release stated:
For many years Fo has been performed all over the world, perhaps more than any other contemporary dramatist, and his influence has been considerable. He if anyone merits the epithet of jester in the true meaning of that word. With a blend of laughter he opens our eyes to abuses and injustices in society and also the wider historical perspective in which they can be placed. Fo is an extremely serious satirist with a multifaceted oeuvre. His independence and clear-sightedness have led him to take great risks, whose consequences he has been made to feel while at the same time experiencing enormous response from widely differing quarters...
Citing Accidental Death of an Anarchist, Can't Pay? Won't Pay!, Trumpets and Raspberries and The Devil in Drag, the press release emphasised Fo's debt to the jesters of the Middle Ages. [t also cited his and Rame's works about women's issues, and the difficulty translators have in rendering his use of topical references and grammelot, singling out Ed Emery's decision to remain close to the original version of Accidental Death of an Anarchist in his English version of the play. Italian reactions to the news of the Nobel Prize predictably polarised left- and right-wing factions, but were united by an overwhelming sense of surprise. The leader of the right-wing National Alliance party, Gianfranco Fini, described the award as 'shameful', while his colleague Marco Zacchera claimed it was 'a joke and an insult to ltalian culture'. The Vatican newspaper Osservatore Romano, a constant critic of Fo throughout his career, seized on the Swedish Academy's use of the word 'Jester', and observed: 'Fo is the sixth Italian Nobel Prize winner after Carducci, Deledda, Pirandello, Quasimodo and Montale; after all these wise choices we get a mere jester. . . Giving the prize to someone who is also the author of questionable works is beyond all imagination.
On the left, deputy prime minister and arts minister Walter Veltroni described Fo as 'one of the most incisive and disturbing authors since thewar', and the award as an acknowledgment of politically committed theatre 'of social condemnation of injustice and marginalisation'. Fo's publisher since 1966 Giulio Einaudi, compared Fo with Fellini, while Umberto Eco was pleased that the award had gone 'to an author who does not belong to the traditional academic world.' Eco, interviewed in La Repubblica, saw the award as proof of the 'enornlous popularity' of Fo's plays outside Italy, where they could not rely on Fo's presence as a perfbrmer. A rather tight-lipped Giorgio Strehler, also quoted in La Repubblica, stated that the award 'could only bring greater prestige to Italian literature and theatre. We feel honoured as Europeens and as theatre practirioners.'
Other responses were less generous. A previous ltalian Nobel Prize winner for science, Rita Levi Montalchini, stated she had never heard of Dario Fo and didn't know who he was: 'Is he ltalian?' The crime writers Fruttero and Lucentini described the award as 'laughable' and 'a farce', and accused Fo of making 'benevolent allusions to the Red Brigades'. The Italian poet Mario Luzi, who had also been nominated for the prize, reacted to the news of Fo's victory with 'great bitterness'. It was subsequently revealed that the Accademia dei Lincei, which is the only Italian organisation empowered to nominate Nobel Prize candidates to the Swedish Academy, had nominated Luzi in 1997 for the seventh year running. In protest against Luzi's failure yet again to win the prize, the Accademia dei Lincei refused to make any nomination for the prize in 1998. An article by Franca Zambonini entitled 'Sorry, Wrong Prize', appeared in the former Christian Democrat magazine Famiglia Cristiana arguing that the award was for literature, which had to be readable in schools, and that Fo's use of grammelot, clowning and improvisation, not to mention his political campaigning, disqualified him from this category. These sentiments were echoed by the prominent right-wing Peruvian author and former politician Mario Vargas Llosa, who expressed his doubts whether Fo was 'a first-rate author. Even the Nobel, like any other prize, can make mistakes.' Reactions such as these prompted Fo to describe himself ironically as, 'the Nobel thief', while pointing out that he had been congratulated by former Nobel Prize winner Gabriel García Márquez.
Reactions in the USA ranged from condemnation of the award in the Wall Street Journal, to amused approval from playwright Tony Kushner, author of the acclaimed play Angels in America, in The Nation. In an article entitled 'Fo's Last Laugh', Kushner summed up the controversy surrounding the award, maintaining that Fo
deserves to win the Nobel prize for his life of theatrical activism [and] his dedication to progressive politics . . because he's made the wicked old men of the Vatican angry enough to denounce him in terms that recall the church's anathematising of actors in the Middle Ages . . .because his winning forced the [New York] Times to translate the title of his new play as The Devil with Boobs...because he writes debatable texts. He has dedicated his genius to making everything he touches debatable. Awarding him this Solemn Honour is brave and perhaps even reckless because it subjects Literature, and prizes, and Newspapers of Record, to the Fo effect. . . . with Fo winning, the debate becomes fun because it's forced out of the big-yawn area of 'literary merit' (for which we should read long-terrn rnarket value). The prize augments and amplifies Fo's dangerous silliness. Fo in return graciously augments and amplifies the prize's essential silliness. Both in the process are ennobled. ...there's an absolute need to blow a big juicy wet raspberry in the direction of the Clubhouse of Greatness, and I like to think that's what the Nobel board, perhaps guided by 'a tragic sense of life', has done, wittingly or unwittingly, this year. They couldn't have found a raspberry-blower more mighty, more worthy, than Dario Fo.
Dario Fo: People's Court Jester - Tony Mitchell (Methuen Drama; 1999; pp.229 - 232)
Ed ecco un bel saggio di Lino Pertile dedicato a Dario Fo, incluso in un bel libro del lontano 1984, Writers and Society in Contemporary Italy: A Collection of Essays, edito da Michael Caesar e Peter Hainsworth:
Dario Fo is hardly a writer and is not at all literary. His work is not amenable to the critical methods usually brought to bear on literary texts. Indeed, over the years, he has developed in a distinctly anti-literary direction. In part, this corresponds to his aspiration to be author-cum-actor-cum-director-cum-political militant, but it is also a response to a public thoroughly at ease with the mass media and indifferent, skeptical, even hostile to literary activity. So Dario Fo has broken with the venerable Italian tradition of the theatre as high culture. Instead, he has applied his unequalled artistic ability and critical awareness to evolving a kind of theatre where the act of writing has been demoted to being just one of several elements in the complex process of communication.
At least two further factors discourage a literary-critical approach to Dario Fo. First, his texts are extremely fluid and undergo continuous modification in performance. No printed version can even begin to convey their extra-literary character, Second, before being a writer-actor-director, Fo is a 'theatrical animal'. That is, his very teeth, his nose, eyes and voice, his arms and legs speak in the biological code of the born actor. No written language, and no amount of training can master it. The first functions of this primordial language are to establish, and nourish, a non-verbal contact between stage and auditorium. The verbal function is constantly modified by a phatic counterpoint - an astonishing range of gestures, nods, winks and grimaces - which creates, from the outset, an atmosphere of magical complicity with the public. To put it briefly, Fo does not 'recite' his texts, he uses them to create shows, and for that reason, we may not pin him to these texts.
So far we have distinguished Fo from other writers, but not from other performers equally able to generate this pre-verbal, pre- rational flow of empathy in the theatre. Fo stands out from the latter, for his earnest attempt to give this flow an ideologically directed rational charge, so that the performance refers beyond itself and encourages the spectators to become aware of themselves and their roles in society. Thus Fo's work unfolds between two poles: on the one hand, it is drawn to a preconscious but reductionist enchantment which naturally appeals to all classes, and on the other hand, there is an increasing determination as years go by to render that enchantment rational, to channel it into didactic ends and - after 1968 into political propaganda. I think that all Fo's theatrical effectiveness hinges on the resolution of this difficult polarity and accordingly I shall discuss his artistic career in terms of it.
Whatever his antagonism towards intellectuals and littérateurs, there is no doubt that Fo too is an intellectual - though one who, perhaps, has come to reflect more clearly than many the painful changes Italy has experienced in the last thirty years. Indeed, it is only a slight over-generalization to say that while literature since the mid-5Os has tended, in a variety of ways, to distance itself from social realities, Fo has gone in the opposite direction. Whether as the frivolous satirist of social behaviour, or the ardent political provocateur, he is an eye-witness to the cultural, social and political vicissitudes of his country. While writers and thinkers were increasingly coming to concern themselves with the human condition in general, irrespective of specific historical factors, Fo anchors his dramatic strategy to the contingent issues of the moment. Fo proposes on the one hand to unmask the 'cultural colonialism' of the ruling class, and on the other, to contribute to the contemporary Italian political and social struggles by disinterring the fertile and irrepressible identity of the working class. Rather than merely a dramatist, Fo intends to be what Gramsci calls an 'organic' intellectual a sobriquet frequently adopted by Fo himself - an intellectual of the people whose work questions the value to modern Italy of the traditional type of writing which is largely the subject matter of this book. This particular essay will be largely concerned with examining how successful Fo is in realizing his intentions.
Ecco tre grandi spettacoli di Dario Fo: il primo è la straordinaria messa in scena inglese di Morte Accidentale di un anarchico (Accidental Death of an Anarchist) del 1984, diretto da Gavin Richards; il secondo è la registrazione di Mistero Buffo, interpretato da Dario Fo, alla Palazzina Liberty di Milano nel 1977; e il terzo è la ripresa televisiva del 1984 di Lezioni di Teatro al Teatro Argentina di Roma.
Per finire, ecco in basso due video che ricordano il ruolo da intellettuale di Dario Fo. Ma cosa significava essere un intellettuale nell'Italia del dopoguerra ed esiste ancora la figura dell'intellettuale? Dopo i due video abbiamo incluso la voce dedicata a questa figura tratta dall'Encyclopedia of Contemporary Italian Culture, edito da Gino Moliterno.
The social and political role of Italian intellectuals, and in particular the related ethics and obligations of such a role, came into dramatic crisis in the 1990s due to new factors such as globalization, information technology and the influence of the media. Such factors diminished the position of intellectuals in the 1990s, whereas for most of the postwar period they had been accorded a central role in Italian society. This privileged position was fostered above all by Benedetto Croce in 1902-45, then expressed most of all in the works of Antonio Gramsci and only gradually challenged after the 1970s by the views of Norberto Bobbio and more particularly by Umberto Eco.
In the nineteenth century only a tiny proportion of the Italian middle class had either secondary or tertiary education. Moreover, the self-appointed intellectual and idealist middle-class leaders of the Risorgimento, men like Mazztni, the fratelli Bandiera and others belonging to the movement of the Giovane Italia (Young ltaly) all failed disastrously to achieve their aims. In the end it was practical men, politicians and administrators, who succeeded in creating a united Italy and even a figure like Garibaldi 'obeyed'. This resulted in a particular conception of the intellectual becoming dominant between 1902 and 1945. It was promoted above all by the influential Neapolitan historian, literary critic and philosopher Benedetto Croce, the 'lay pope' of Italy, in the pages of the journal Critica and through the activity of the Laterza publishing house in Bari. Despite his open opposition to fascism, expressed in his Appeal to the Intellectuals of 1925, Croce's idealist notion of intellectuals distanced from life and politics strongly influenced Italian thinkers throughout the interwar period and continued to be promoted after 1945 by the journal Belfagor, edited by Luigi Russo. In the 1960s and 1970s many ltalians, even those on the Left like Giovanni Saragat, President of Italy, acknowledged that Croce's ideas dominated their sense of themselves.
Croce made Liberty into a sort of religion to rival that of the Roman Catholic church. Taking stock of the failures of his romantic predecessors and the success in politics of practical men of positivist persuasion, Croce stated that the task of intellectuals was to remain 'above the struggle' and to engage in a serene search for the truth through a free exchange of ideas. Despite his own neo-Hegelian historicism, and his admiration for nationalistic figures such as Spaventa and de Sanctis, Croce was not himself a strong nationalist and he identified Liberty with the development of Europe as a whole, a view he expressed most forcefully in his Storia d'Europa, published in 1932 in the heyday of fascism. Croce's ivory tower notion of intellectual work, his contempt for politics and for democracy, his disdain for folklore and for the common man and in particular his sharp separation of art and philosophy all made his ideas increasingly unpalatable to the postwar anti-fascist generation that had been educated in the Crocean mould during the fascist period.
After 1950 the pre-eminence of this notion oi the intellectual was replaced by one based on the prison notebooks of Antonio Gramsci (published posthumously 1946-52). Gramsci described the intellectual class as all those who gave theoretical and practical organization to the different practices of social reproduction, like technicians, economists. trade union and party leaders. This view expanded the role accorded to the intellectual in polemical contrast to the Crocean view. As its publication corresponded with an explosion in education and the transformation of Italy from a peasant to an industrial economy, it became enormously popular.
Gramsci's view stressed the necessary involvement of the intellectuals in politics and in everyday life, suggesting that, through their organizational work, intellectuals could construct a more human and progressive national culture. Gramsci believed that Croce's focus on the universal and the cosmopolitan had led Italian intellectuals to ignore the sufferings of the Italian people and so Gramsci denied the cosmopolitan aspect of the intellectual in favour of the national. He stressed that only when the views of the populace ('those who feel') complemented those of the intellectuals ('those who know') could a national popular culture emerge. Where Croce's intellectual stayed at home in the study and read the great works of European culture, the Gramscian intellectual entered politics to defeat the hegemony of such bourgeois ideas using the national cultural icons as a starting point.
This Gramscian conception was strongly promulgated by the communist journal Rinascita (1944-) and through the publishing houses of Einaudi and Riuniti. Huge numbers of intellectuals' became communists after 1945 as young Croceans defected and rival parties of intellectuals collapsed. Other major points of reference for Gramscian intellectuals were the journals Società (1945) and Il Politecnico (1945-7) which attracted figures as different as Ranuccio Bianchi Bandinelli, the musician Igor Markevitch, and the writer Elio Vittorini. An entire neo-realist generation of the cinema including Luchino Visconti, Roberto Rossellini and Vittorio de Sica adopted the communist/Gramscian intellectual role as their own) as did painters like Renato Guttuso, writers like Carlo Levi and the later writer; poet and film-maker Pier Paolo Pasolini.
Communist insistence that the intellectuals 'go to school' with the working classes and learn from them provoked continuing tension in the 1950s and 1960s. Led by its national general secretary, Palmiro Togliatti, the Communist Party insisted that all its new intellectual members and supporters accept its understanding of what was artistically and intellectually progressive. This developed into a struggle for the patrimony of Gramsci's ideas which was only resolved in the late 1960s by which time he had become the 'Gramsci di tutti' (Gramsci belonging to all).
Where Croce had demanded a position of 'au dessus de la mêlée' (above the fray) and Gramsci one of actively building a counter-hegemony of ideas to those which justified an unjust social order built on class exploitation, a third view now started to win ground. This had grown out of ideas developed in the Resistance against fascism by Giustizia e Libertà, (Justice and Freedom) but which went back to the nineteenth-century traditions of liberal socialism whose first leaders were Piero Gobetti and Carlo Rosselli. This view suggested that the intellectual should oppose received truths with an activism which, while political, was not party political. The leading spokesman for this was Norberto Bobbio, whose opinions remained marginal until the 1980s when Italian communism went into crisis.
All three positions outlined above shared a common Eurocentrism and a strong sense of national and coherent intellectual history. Gramsci, whose preferred interlocutors were Vico, Machiavelli and Labriola, merely enlarged upon the Crocean pantheon. Bobbio added Cattaneo and Salvemini. AII three shared an affection for Gobetti, and all their sources of inspiration consequently also became inspirations for the Italian intellectual. Clearly, however all three focused much more on where Italians had come from than on where they were going, regardless of their differing assessments of that national history. They looked back to an Italy where most people were peasants, where the educated lived in small regional towns and where the tiny class of educated to which they belonged were known familiarly as intellectuals and did provide leadership. If Croce had snarled that he could not 'take his ways from proverbs', Gramsci had thought good sense could be found in the common sense of the masses and Bobbio had believed that a sparrow's view was more useful than that of an eagle, all were nevertheless concerned about the middle class from which they came since in fact, until 1945, it had been the only 'national class'.
All three knew little about the USA and the non-European world, or what industrialization and post-industrial society might mean. The Gramscian view was still dominant when Time magazine wrote that California started in Milan. The communists resisted bitterly any such suggestion, and opposed those who suggested American literature should be studied as a way of throwing light on Italy's future . Intellectuals like Vittorini and Pavese (and by the 1960s, the big-screen epic cineastes), were decried for their openness to the new world.
Umberto Eco and the Gruppo 63, although once communist in orientation, replied by insisting on the reality that Italy was an industrial society and that US sociology and literature were signposts to what that would mean. As the 1960s passed, their view that the intellectual's role was much more limited than that ascribed by Gramsci gained support. After 1968, large numbers of young communist intellectuals left the party and joined small parties like Potere operaio and Giovane critica (Negri, Tronti) and a very much less unified notion of the intellectual became current in Italy.
The 1970s were a watershed, as the sons and daughters of the intellectuals turned on their fathers in the student, and then the terrorist, movements. While the Communist Party made common cause with others in defence of liberal democracy, the failure to return to the direct democratic tradition of Italy's medieval and Renaissance past, which was tried in the 1970s, led to widespread disillusionment with politics. The resort to terrorisrn and the denial of the role of reason and ideas in changing society for the better greatly discredited the Gramscian position, which privileged intellectuals as the leaders of social change. Bobbio's famous condemnation of the relevance of deeply held beliefs in direct democracy which went back via Gramsci to communal traditions, marked a reorientation in Italian politics in favour of liberal democracy.
The 1980s were a period when even the originally vital women's movement came to a halt before the obdurate and uncontrollable nature of economics and capitalist society. An ever more unpopular Communist Party sought solutions in Eurocommunism, Ieaving behind the notion that enlightened masses could remake the world in a gigantic effort of will. For the first time, the humanist Italian philosophies started to give way to structuralist views, mainly of French origin. Their pessimism of the will contrasted totally with the celebrated Gramscian dictum: 'Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will'. The world as a prison of language started to win over even the women's movement.
In the 1990s, the notion of a Lay pope or of a leading intellectual as ethical spokesman lingered on only in octogenarians like Bobbio. The Italian intellectual of the decade was much more a person who played with ideas on the one hand and acted as a technician in a limited realm on the other without laying any claim to interpret the way the world works.
The literary/legal middle-class intellectual about whom the great theorists wrote has been replaced by a new technical, service specialist, frequently a computer specialist. Italy, where the state once controlled all audio-visual media, has become a place of myriad private conflicting voices in radio, television and even the press, complemented by a few private monopolies like those of Berlusconi which manipulate political images. To this proliferation of voices from below correspond new intellectual concerns with neglected subjects like psychoanalysis, feminism, semiotics and cybernetics.
Encyclopedia of Contemporary Italian Culture - Edited by Gino Moliterno [Routledge; 2002; pp. 208-290]
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