Andrea Maggi: “I’ll explain why Alessandro Manzoni is our Kurt Cobain”

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Even before you finish asking the question, Andrea Maggi he interrupts us instantly, as if he had immediately understood where we were going: «I’m not a boomer. Boomer is my father. I am simply a professor who loves literature and who wants to show the Zeta and Alpha Generation that Alessandro Manzoni speaks their language exactly ”. In his latest book, The unruly heart. How to love Alessandro Manzoni at the time of the trap, published by Piemme, Maggi, teacher, social star, famous for sitting behind the chair of de The college in fact, since the first edition, he tries to do the impossible: to make the reading of an author captivating that the school has often portrayed as boring, pedantic, unbearably wordy.

«At school Manzoni is always a deadly ball: both the lyrics and the novel are read with great difficulty. And it’s a shame, because Manzoni has a lot to teach us, and I’m not just referring to the pandemic, ”he explains on the phone while on board a train bound for Milan.

His lessons at school continue between distance learning and occasional face-to-face meetings; the first dose of the vaccine will be given to him in mid-March and this new adventure at the (re) discovery of Manzoni, an author who is much closer to characters like Fedez, Ghali, Frankie hi-nrg mc and Fabri Fibra than it seems at first glance, is ready to breach the hearts of young and old: “In this book I try to bring the world of trap, pop and rock closer to this great pillar of Italian literature in order to give it to children, but also to adults who would like to start reading it again in a way freer from the stereotypes that have it always wrapped up, making him somewhat hostile to everyone ».

Was he hostile to you too when you were a student?
«Studying it was very tiring, I only began to appreciate it when I started reading it on my own: there I discovered the irony, the beauty and fullness of the character, his deep sense of justice. In the book I try to represent him as a champion of the least against the injustices of the powerful. He was an integral Catholic but, beyond the intense adherence to religion, Manzoni is also the bearer of the absolute sense of justice of today’s young people, the same ones that before the lockdown we saw protest against pollution and the destruction of environment which then led to the pandemic ».

This is why he compares the dissatisfaction and denunciation of Manzoni’s system to In Italy by Fabri Fibra and Fight the Faida by Frankie hi-nrg mc?
«The rage of Fabri Fibra and, before him, the political commitment of Frankie hi-nrg mc have marked a new path in the world of rap. When Manzoni wrote The Betrothed he has retired all his contemporaries and even those previous to him. The same thing happened with trap and rap authors and the great grunge and metal bands like Nirvana ».

How is Manzoni similar to Kurt Cobain?
«First of all because they both suffered from neurosis, and secondly because the revolutionary act of Nevermind is almost the same as that of Betrothed, since up to that moment there was no Italian novel: from then on, everyone had to compete with him ».

But Manzoni, reading his book, is also a bit of Fedez because of his relationship with Enrichetta Blondel.
«The marriage between Enrichetta and Manzoni would have been a social event like that of the Ferragnez, in fact. Think of this woman, a fervent Calvinist, then an ultra-believing Catholic, who marked Manzoni’s intellectual and religious path in a decisive way exactly as Chiara did with Fedez’s career ».

With the awareness of Providence, however, we move to the parts of Daredevil. Why?
«He is the character that I immediately approached to Manzoni because in him a very strong dualism coexists: during the day he is a lawyer who crosses the gates of the court and at night he is a private executioner. This bipolarism creates in him great frustrations that unite him to Manzoni, since he too was torn between faith and his artistic genius: Manzoni has always been dissatisfied with his work, even when others, including Goethe, said that his they were masterpieces ».

Going inside the Betrothed gives her best: why do you think Gertrude is like the Joker?
“Because the Nun of Monza falls into the category of victims: she is evil because she had a life ruined by her father exactly as told by Todd Phillips in Joker. The monster is born from the mistreatment he suffers as a comedian and from the removal of the father figure. They are very similar from this point of view ».

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Nor does he spare criticism of Federico Borromeo, whom he describes as the personification of the so-called “politically correct”.
“Borromeo represents virtue, the perfect, heroic man, the champion of faith and of the last: a very powerful man who, at a certain point, lectures to Don Abbondio who, it is true that he is a coward, but also that he is not he had weapons against bullies like the Bravi and Don Rodrigo. I wanted to imagine a boxing match, with the heavyweight champion Borromeo and Don Abbondio as a beginner to the beginners who, however, at one point deal him a deadly blow saying “I would have liked to see you, it’s easy to speak as a powerful”. If I think back to the deaths of Falcone and Borsellino in 1992, the praise after death comes to mind, but also that no one had protected them when they needed it. If Borromeo had been Minister of the Interior that year, how would he have reacted? Would he have recited mea culpa? And, after speaking with Don Abbondio, did he realize that he could have done something to make it safer? I hope with all my heart that he went to his confessor ».

It remains that the reason that awakened interest in Manzoni in 2020 is essentially linked to the parallelism between the plague that struck Milan in 1629 and Covid-19.
“The chapters on the plague perfectly tell us the attitude we had with the spread of the pandemic: at first it is not thought that it is a plague, then it is thought that it was brought by an infector who wanted to poison the city for unclear reasons, then the hunt for the greasers begins and, despite the evidence, people still don’t believe. Everything resembles in an impressive way what we are going through today making us understand that, despite this novel is very old, Manzoni tells about our present ».

Why do you think we fail to take the lessons of the past and make them our own?
«Because man has the aptitude to remove pain and all that hurts. It is always hoped that the bad does not happen again, but it does not: we must learn to use past experiences to deal with those that happen to us in the present. In the Betrothed the disbelief of the institutions and the population have, in some way, led to the explosion of the disease which, if it had been treated differently, could have been contained just as in our case ».

After this book, your students will have to expect to hear Nirvana in the classroom, then?
“Sure, at full blast. I will buy special crates to tear down walls, windows and release energy, since literature is in great need of it. We turned it off through a bad broadcast and now we have to try to bring it back to life: if trap and rap can help us do it, they are welcome ».

(Opening photo by Angela Caterisano)

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