CULTURE Fall, a Season for Literature

mantovaBy Ada Treves

At the end of the Summer, in Italy many are the culture festivals that take place everywhere and year after year the presence of Jewish culture and of Israeli authors is growing in their programmes. From the Festivaletteratura in Mantua to Pordenonelegge and Torinospiritualità, September is truly a month for books and literature. And Pagine Ebraiche and its journalists are there with a constantly growing integration with the organization committees. The distribution of the newspaper is one of the first steps, and thousands of people get in contact with the only national monthly of Italian Jewry, reading “Lingue e linguaggi”, the special pages that every year Pagine Ebraiche devotes to the culture festivals. In those places where people interested in culture and the arts spontaneously converge, the Union of the Italian Jewish Communities is present with its newspaper, constantly widening the number of those who are interested in the culture and the traditions of one of the Jewish minority.
One of the most famous, Festivaletteratura, takes place in Mantua at the end of the first week of September. The first edition took place in 1997, its idea stemming from a survey carried out in 1995 by the British agency Comoedia, on behalf of Lombardy Region. The request was to understand the potential for a touristic and cultural development of some of the cities in Lombardy. The research concluded that Mantua could be turned into a city of books and reading. So eight private citizens with different working backgrounds formed an Organizing Committee and tried to develop a literary festival, drawing inspiration especially on Hay-on-Wye, in Wales. Since then Festivaletteratura has become a truly unique model, with the historical and urban peculiarity of Mantua perfectly blend with the idea of bringing the audience nearer to literature, in an innovative way.
Five days of readings, meetings with the authors, public interviews, concerts of artists coming from all over the world: every year famous narrators and poet, the most interesting voices of emerging literature and of the younger generations of writers, essayists, musicians, artists will take part in the festival.
Since its very beginning, Festivaletteratura has tried to build a direct connection between readers and writers, and special attention is devoted to children and teenagers, with big writers encouraged to meet their younger fans.
Opening this coming Wednesday the eighteens edition of Festivaletteratura will see in Mantua many appointments centred on Jewish culture: from the British historian Simon Shama, to the French artist David B and his graphic novels, from the Israeli writer, painter, puppeteer and playwright Miki Bencnaan to the writer Andrè Aciman – only to mention the most famous – the five days in Mantua will be a perfect demonstration of the truth behind Amos Luzzatto words: “Culture is the strongest weapon of democracy”.