Saverio Strati, a torch that sheds light: homage to the Calabrian writer


By John

«In 1950-51 I began to write like a madman… for me reading and writing were like living» so Calabrian writer Saverio Strati (Sant’Agata del Bianco 1924 – Scandicci 2014), in the letter sent in March 2009 to the editorial staff of the “Quotidiano della Calabria” in which he recounted his life and works and appealed to the Bacchelli law (later recognized to him) to receive the help necessary to mitigate his difficult economic condition. Many intellectuals, scholars and teachers, including the late Nuccio Ordine, intervened in favor of the writer who, after having been published by Mondadori since the volume of short stories “La Marchesina” (1956) and for the subsequent novels, “La Teda” (1957), “Tibi e Tàscia” (1959), “Empty Hands” (1960), “The Coward” (1970), “Noi lazzaroni” (1972), “The Savage of Santa Venere” (1977, Campiello Prize) , “Il diavolaro” (1979), “La conca degli Aranci” (1986), “The man at the bottom of the well” (1989), although translated abroad (in French, German, English, Slovak, Spanish and even in Chinese) and appreciated by literary critics, had become invisible as it was no longer reprinted. Therefore the operation of the Calabrian publisher Rubbettino is truly meritorious – a commitment in the field that has grown over the years with its series and its essays of international scope to create and spread culture from the Calabria observatory – which with the acquisition of the rights of all the texts, published and unpublished (thanks to the availability of Strati’s son, Giampaolo, and the intermediation of his niece Palma Comandè), has in its editorial plan the publication of the entire corpus of Strati’s works (including the unpublished “Tutta una vita “, his last novel rejected by Mondadori and whose preface is signed by Vito Teti, who already as a professor at the University of Calabria had started a work of rediscovery of Strati and other forgotten Calabrian writers): a series, “Opere Di Saverio Strati” dedicated to him (the graphic appearance of the covers with an essential white background and a stylized punctum image is beautiful) to revive that thought, written, printed word-memory, which was vital for Strati as a fixed, obligatory and salvific point of its existence.
Staying within literature as a tool for understanding reality was a longed-for necessity for Strati since he, a child born to a peasant family and forced after primary school to learn the trade of a bricklayer like his father in order to provide for the needs of the family, perceived a strong need to read and learn. His turning point came in 1945 at the age of 21, when he decided to turn to his uncle in America, his mother’s brother, for financial help that would ensure the studies necessary to take charge of his destiny. Thus, experimenting with reading books, and then with high school and university studies and then with writing became a moral duty. After graduating as an external student at the “Galluppi” classical high school in Catanzaro, his studies at the Faculty of Letters and Philosophy at the University of Messina, in the airy and light-filled city (as he describes it in “The Knot”) opened up his future to him. , thanks to the meeting with one of the scholars who gave prestige to the fervent cultural life of Peloritana: it was Giacomo Debenedetti and his lessons on Verga and Svevo that were the “teda”, the literary torch that would shed light on him in the time of thought that it speaks and in the search for the right word to root within the territories of the human.
Debenedetti recognized him, and Strati timidly had him read one of the stories later collected under the title “La marchesina”, his literary debut for Mondadori in 1956. Strati would become a singer of Calabria, in the representation of that world of the South (but also of all the South of the world), mysterious and magical, dark and sunny, proud and earthly, desolate and wonderful, ancestral and eager to progress, to shed light, despite the darkness, with the high torch, the tent, precisely, of writing . The epic of the last has been present ever since, and the direct experience of the most difficult human undertaking: surviving, as the characters of all his novels do, in this similar to those of the great European and American novels, servants and masters, shepherds and bricklayers, hardworking men and women, parents and children, adults and children (“Tibi and Tàscia”, preface by Goffredo Fofi), those who stay and those who leave, resigned and at the same time bold to carry on the burdensome daily life, between injustices and abuses and self-punishments.
Without emigrating (“Noi lazzaroni”, preface by Carmine Abate) but paying the price of having left one’s homeland for an elsewhere in which one feels incomplete, hanging in the balance (“The knot”, preface by Andrea Di Consoli) in the cracks of the present between old and new, between rootedness and the urge for freedom, between a sense of inadequacy and the desire for the possible.
All written with a language that is the same flesh of the Stratian ego, a language that even when it becomes plural, when it opens up to lexical exploration, always retains an aspect of honesty and strength. Stories where the two hearts of Strati beat, of the farmer-bricklayer and of the writer who, even far away, from Florence to Switzerland, roots most of the characters in a beautiful and cruel Calabria, between bright and infinite skies and others black with clouds, in the shadows of its woods and mountains: a single epic novel of lineages marked by destiny (often recited, as in a Greek tragedy, by sorrowful choruses of women as in “La teda”, preface by Gioacchino Criaco) yet hopeful of a new world , determined to resist (“Il diavolaro”, preface by Luigi Tascone) because there is always the sun-teda to burn after the storm.