Italy Grand Tour: Miracle in Salerno Literature

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This article is published in number 23 of Vanity Fair on newsstands until June 8, 2021

When the chairs in the atrium of the Duomo started flying last summer, I feared a start on the wrong foot. At least on the meteorological level. But then the sky of Salerno opened suddenly, just a few minutes before the inauguration. But the idea of ​​flying chairs, like the brooms in Miracle in Milan, wasn’t bad. I was about to write «Miracle in Salerno» – and I must add that the chairs, in any case, fly even when standing still: when a community finds itself, and finds its spaces.

And if it is a reading community, it means that it is also an “imaginative” community.

How is the imagination held in training? TOhe SalernoLetteratura festival (ninth edition from 18 to 26 June, first guest the Nobel Prize Olga Tokarczuk) writers in the flesh, as in all festivals, but also invisible presences. There is a crowd of ghosts: the “classic” authors who are evoked, told, called into question. Here is that to the list of participants of the ninth edition – over 130 – we should add a series of illustrious shadows of artists. Which, if you pay attention, you can meet in the wonderful alleys of Salerno. Where you can also find eccentric signs and posters. On one, in front of a boutique, it was written: “Forbidden to enter the sad”. On another: “Show me your pentadimensional reality.”

What reality is it?
Passionate people, very concentrated, impeccable girls and boys, festival volunteers in their orange T-shirts. The anxieties, the late night laughter, the moments of panic, the encounters. This is what a festival does: it brings people together. A group of girls who want a photo with a scholar of classical literature, Eva Cantarella: “As if she were a pop singer!”. And then the little girl who bragged to her mother about the autograph she got from a writer, with joy in her eyes. The glimpse of the atrium of the Cathedral full of people gathered there to hear about Giordano Bruno, a few meters from what was once the classroom of Thomas Aquinas (the devil and holy water). And then the feeling: the city “feels” the festival.

As a tribute to the poet Eugenio Montale, who died exactly forty years ago, the new edition will be called The occasions. His collection contains some of his most extraordinary poems, and refers to an idea of ​​writing as a happening, an event. On the other hand, a festival like this is all about what words make exist: stories, ideas, emotions. But more can be said: a festival creates opportunities. It works as a trigger, activates relationships, opportunities for dialogue, meeting, collaboration, work. It creates opportunities. The intention is to make a festival that is not just a container of events, but tries to take on the profile of a laboratory of creations. To leave a tangible sign, beyond the noble ephemeral nature of what happens day by day on the stages, in the squares, in the historic buildings, in the streets, in the alleys.

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