Novelist, Tim Parks will consider the “very particular existential state” bequeathed to modern Italians by the country’s complex history in the fourth annual Lucrezia Zaina Lecture, on Thursday October 9.
Born in Manchester, Tim moved to Verona in 1981 after meeting his Italian wife while in the USA. He has lived in the country ever since and now writes novels and non-fiction books covering the spectrum of Italian life.
Tim said: “I didn’t love the country when I came. I didn’t know it at all, nor did I speak the language.
“The first years were extremely difficult. But then as one beds down into the country and the culture one has a greater and greater vested interest in it, to the point that it begins to be home and one grows to love it.
“Very slowly I extended my knowledge of the place; its culture, language, books, people, customs. To the point that I am now almost part of it.”
Tim will discuss Italian poet, essayist and philosopher, Giacomo Leopardi and, in particular, his work ‘Discorso sopra lo stato presente dei costumi degl’italiani (A Discourse on the Present State of the Customs of the Italians). In this, Leopardi put forward an elaborate explanation for the unique nature of Italian life and society, suggesting that though apparently backward in many regards Italians were in fact the most modern of peoples in terms of their collective cynicism.
Tim, whose father was born in Liverpool, said: “It’s generally recognised that the dynamic of public life in Italy is rather different from that in any other European country, and extremely complex. There are all kinds of unique factors involved.
“What Leopardi did was argue that for many reasons the Italians were condemned to a very particular existential state that made successful social relations almost impossible.
“I’ll be looking at his arguments and seeing whether they hold good today, and how useful they are for describing a phenomenon like Berlusconi, for example.”
Tim follows journalist, Beppe Severgnini OBE; broadcaster and art critic, Andrew Graham-Dixon; and architect and historian Francesco da Mosto in presenting the annual Lucrezia Zaina Lecture.
Now in its fourth year, the lecture is funded by a generous legacy bequest from Professor Lucrezia Zaina, who was a lecturer in French and Italian at the University from 1964 until 1988.
The event will mark Tim’s first return to the city of his father’s birth in 30 years.
Asked how Leopardi would judge today’s Italians, Tim said: “Honestly, I suspect he would say little has changed..”
The Lucrezia Zaina Lecture with Tim Parks, entitled: Leopardi’s Italians, then and now takes place on Thursday October 9 at the Victoria Gallery & Museum. Tickets are free but must be booked. Please visit http://www.liv.ac.uk/events/zaina/ for more.