20 Years of Mantua literature festival

Mantua Piazza SordelliIt was my 2nd year at the Mantua Literature Festival and the Festival’s 20th year Celebration. An onslaught of ideas and reflections on world issues and individual journeys in a fabulous Renaissance setting. Record Summer temperatures continued and the ancient buildings and garden locations provided welcome relief as brains ticked over at each presentation.

Carlo Petrini founder of Slow Food is convinced food is not just about calories but a Carlo Petrini, Pavan Sukhdevcultural activity that binds us together, involving billions of workers, creating climate change and affecting our biodiversity. He discussed this with economist Pavan Sukhdev who believes our Economic model needs to be broader to include human, natural and social capital not solely financial and to identify the links between immigration, climate change and terrorism.

howard jacobson, jeanete winterson

A panel of English writers – Jeanette Winterson, Howard Jacobson with Hay Festival organiser Peter Florence debated the English ‘malaise’ of Brexit with that touch of English humour  that made the argument seem less tragic than it is.

Francesco de Gregori

 

And our Italian Bob Dylan – singer songwriter Francesco de Gregori reflected on life’s journey, the characters behind the lyrics and his storytelling that continues to touch our hearts today. It was a delight to shake his hand and exchange a few words as he wrote my book dedication.

And there was more: an eclectic mix from – The life of Bees, the dangers of Internet data, a black Milanese comedy, the importance of bloggers for political resistance and social change, to e-italian and the speed language changes with technology. Bouncing from one queue to another and juggling the frustrations of coinciding events was challenging although it was not all work and no play!mantua clowns

flat-shoes

The city is delightful, as I had discovered last year, unique and captivating, glorious piazzas framed with fluted palaces and street porticoes shading elegant shops. A bikers paradise and a high heel nightmare of cobblestones!

mantua literature festival volunteers

 

Little kids splashed paint on wolf stencils after listening engrossed to the fable while the blue T shirted bigger kids were the team of  volunteers essential to the smooth organisation of the Festival.

Workshop areas were in tune with the ecological issues espoused – recycled cardboard benches and very cute egg cartons offered comfy seating in the book sharing area.

 

The local speciality of ‘sbrisolona’ cake was everywhere and hard to refuse when it was Mantua Hemingway cafeoffered in bite size takeaway cones – essential sugar for the brain as there was no time to doze off. A quick make-up refresh was on hand and the dog could get his fix just across the way. Book readings in the park, a special immigration info point with all the latest updates, and a mix of movies even one retracing Hemingway’s steps in Sardinia.

All inspiring and stimulating!

And as the sun set on each day, it was time to drift to a new location for a well deserved spritz before dinner exchanging workshop details with friends before parting ways again to the evening presentation. Newly dedicated books underarms, and another queue that offered new conversations with strangers who were keen to share their experiences.

Mantua nightlife A surprise  Tango lesson at our restaurant on the last night and we were ready to say goodbye to this magic city of Mantua…..until next year!Mantua doorknocker

 

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Being a bookworm at Mantua

 

Mantua

The Renaissance charm of Mantua  is the perfect setting for a 5 day literature festivalpalatial buildings, cobble stoned streets, elegant porticos and spacious piazzas. It becomes a abuzz during the festival with people attracted worldwide to listen to words of wisdom, heated discussions, poetic readings and relaxing music.

  Mantua residenceA mini Verona, where it would not be a surprise to find Romeo and Giulietta hand in hand gliding across the piazza or furtively meeting in a secluded garden declaring their long lost love.

Are you bored? Open twitter. Are you bored? Open facebook. Are you bored? Open the fridge. Are you bored? Open a book. You'll not be bored anymore

Are you bored? Open twitter. Are you bored? Open facebook. Are you bored? Open the fridge. Are you bored? Open a book. You’ll not be bored anymore

 

 

 

 

 

Mantua

 

 

 

 

There is something for everyone; bookworms meeting their favourite writers expounding the virtues of their latest book, to seminars discussing more current issues like immigration, the sharing economy, world hunger, and climate change to name just a few. Even something for the kids!Child's playRichard Flanagan

Joseph O'Connor

 

 

 

 

 

As my godfather said recently, “Curiosity is the Noblest form of Intellect, and the best way to keep the brain stimulated.” My 5 days at Mantua were a constant stimulation, a teasing out of ideas, a confrontation of opinions,  a dialogue between experts and the public and  a marvellous opportunity to meet one of my old time favourite writers – Richard Flanagan. The program was extensive, and interpreters  translated with artistic perfection, giving due emphasis even to the asides. Beautiful palazzi, churches and courtyards for the presentations, regular book readings in the garden and crooning music in the piazzas to relax to at the end of the day.

Ducal palace

Ducal Palace

Standing in the queue for the presentation on the ‘System of Corruption’ a fellow ticket holder politely asked me in English if I was in the ‘right’ queue as the presentation was very much an ‘in-house’ argument! When I responded in Italian and explained my years of stay in Italy, he added “Well then, you know we have some real experts here!”Mantua

Nonetheless I was not deterred nor disappointed. Each of the various socio – political – economic presentations that I had selected gave food for thought on a positive note, rather than wallowing and going nowhere with problems that seem unresolvable. And a varied international and well informed audience had their own questions and contributions to share at each workshop.

Mantua piazza

Wole Soyinka

 

 

 

 

 

The power of the African voice came from Okey Ndibe talking of the stories that must be told. Wole Soyinka Nigerian playwright, poet, and political activist spoke of the need for global policies which recognise the ‘Dignity of Existence’ to avoid the tragic deaths during immigration.

 

A revered Stefano Rodota`, University professor, jurist and politician with Luigi Zoja, psychoanalyst and writer, discussed ‘Solidariety’ which Europe appears to have put aside, and how the new social networks have anaesthetised our sensitivity to the current dramas in the world.

Acclaimed scientists and researchers on atmospheric changes, debated the increasing efficiency of renewable energy and the need for the decarbonisation of society. Naomi Klein and Jeremy Rifkin had been here in 2014 to present their new books (both of whom I follow with great interest) and some of their protégés were present, continuing their line of thought.

But it was not all intellectual stuff, although I crave that sort of intelligent debate, I was also very entertained by a sleazy crime book reading by author Massimo Carlotta accompanied by a blues guitarist/vocalist and jazz saxophonist/flautist. Massimo CarlottoCarlotta had made good use of his time in prison to write florid accounts of eccentric characters using ‘The Alligator’ private detective to delve into rather dodgy stories.Mantua theatre

 

 

 

And then there was Mantua to explore: a theatrical tour of the old and new theatres,  and a must do visit to the Ducal palace, the prestigious residence of the Gonzaga family.

And Prince Gonzaga’s ‘playhouse‘ ,Palazzo del Te, where he found ‘intellectual restoration’  offering lavish banquets and recreational activities! And last but not least, a personal tour by the Gallery Director of the Ligabue exhibition.

 

I came home from Mantua with a stack of  treasured books with personal dedications and a new yearly appointment to pursue so I never lose my curiosity.

Mantua bus

“Better crazy than boring!” Written on the side of the bus.

 

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