2020 Witch Award, Sandro Veronesi wins

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With 200 votes Sandro Veronesi flies on the night of the Witch. All off his Hummingbird (The ship of Teso), also what was considered his most direct opponent, Gianrico Carofiglio that with The measure of time (Einaudi Stile libero) collects 132 preferences. Valeria Parrella follows with 86 votes for Almerina (Einaudi), Gian Arturo Ferrari with 70 votes forItalian boy (Feltrinelli); Daniele Mencarelli with Everything asks for salvation(Mondadori) and 67 votes, Jonathan Bazzi with Temperature(Fandango) and 50 votes. “The hummingbird is the symbol of warriors, of all those who never give up, who never give up,” he says hotly as he receives the bottle of liquor.

In the history of the Strega Prize it has not often happened that an author, already a winner in the past, win again. Until now it had only happened to Paolo Volponi. It was raining heavily the first time he won in 2006 with Calm chaos. This time the evening was celebrated in coronavirus times. «Apparently I always win in extreme conditions», the writer resolves with a joke, who wins the title with The hummingbird (The ship of Theseus).

«I retried the race – he continues – because at the exit of this book, unlike other times, in which, despite receiving certificates of esteem from friends and acquaintances, who said they were beautiful, beautiful, in this case many people, some of whom did not even know each other, told me: con The Hummingbird you should apply to the Witch. I knew it was not banned by the regulation, but I never thought about trying such a road again. I said to myself: if few have done it, there will be a reason. I inquired to find out if there was an unwritten custom, if by applying again I violated a protocol … And then something a bit excessive could appear, like: what do you want to win twice? But one who participates is not that he wants to win at all costs … ».

But he decided to do it. «Yes, because the book came out in October, and a book as well as it goes, is not that it can last in the attention of the reading public and in the media that many months. So the publisher and I thought that retrying the Witch was a way to bring the novel to life, making it last until July. It was a lucky book from the beginning, but in the meantime, the coronavirus has arrived and, with the bookstores closed, sales have plummeted. But now that the bookstores have reopened. And it is curious that, about Covid, in my book there is a chapter entitled just masks, it made an impression on me! But mine was not a prediction, I was referring to those to be used on airplanes ».

In the dozen and then also in the sestinaautobiographies have emerged this year. «Mine is not autobiography. Autobiography is a recurring thing in literary history, it is a tradition: it is like saying, it is not fiction, it is not bales, what I tell you, but real life, things that have happened. In the twentieth century great authors wrote not novels, but autobiographies “.

Speaking of autobiographies, let’s retrace that of the winner. «I graduated in architecture with a thesis on Victor Hugo. It was the professor with whom I then graduated who advised me to make these texts. I was oriented towards conservative restoration and, already having a passion for literature, obviously the suggestion seemed perfect. Hugo had contributed to building the consciousness of modern restoration, a great novelist and poet but tireless defender of monuments from vandalism, which were made to erase, during the Enlightenment, the traces of previous historical periods, such as the Middle Ages considered a dark period. Hugo could not tolerate it, they were innocent testimonies of the past, important finds. Gothic churches were also destroyed. Hugo taught the West to take care of all the artifacts, because we are not the owners of those works, and we must keep them for those who will come after us … he also wrote it in his novels ».

Speaking of vandalism, Veronesi was a firefighter. Why? «Since childhood I wanted to be a fireman. When I had to do military service, I even got recommended to join the fire department. And the reason is simple: usually the firefighters are chosen for certain areas they know well, because when you have to intervene immediately in a burning place, if you know the place, the operation is easier. So I could do military service in my town of residence. Being a fireman is much more interesting than doing military service by marching or guarding somewhere. ” Many fires? «There were often in Prato in the factories that burned in the summer. Then I remember a big hellfire in a forest and our operation to defend a campsite that was inside. It was a hellish vision, it burned the whole hill ».

He wrote his first novel on the Letter 22 used by Pasolini. «In Rome I was hosted for months at the home of Vincenzo Cerami and his wife Graziella Chiarcossi, Pasolini’s cousin and his heir, so their home was full of books, manuscripts, records … objects belonging to the writer: it was a museum and I slept there. Cerami was also my great mentor, I was a boy, even ready for forms of extreme survival, a continuous battle, I had to sweat all the first years and it was not guaranteed that my choice would work, that it was right. Instead they adopted me, made me feel like a family around. But that’s not enough: I also did an important apprenticeship as the editorial secretary of the magazine New topics, a formidable gym, made me know important authors for someone like me who is a beginner ».

Because, having studied architecture, did you then turn to literature? «I had the dream of writing when I was 16 years old. Before then I have always read a lot, children read more than adults, on the other hand when I was a kid, if you didn’t read you were bored, there were not all the distractions that exist today. I had a professor then at the scientific high school who made us study mainly the Russian classics and then asked us, if you weren’t prepared, you got a good 3. So I was shocked to read stories like the Karamazov Brothers, the Coat … they shocked me : I wanted to do the same thing. Then I chose Architecture at university, because my father was an engineer, and he wanted me to take a career path where, one day, he could help me, be useful to me. He thought I was a designer. This did not happen. ” What about his father? “At first he was worried, but when he saw that my determination was strong, he gave up and didn’t hinder me. And I was a writer. But I never dreamed of success, it was not expected, I never pursued it as an objective, it was enough for me to write. In fact, I was fascinated by the stories of losers. ”

Among the many published novels, the most loved is Calm chaos? «No, it is Come come B-52, published in 1995. An ambitious book that came out at a wrong time, was not successful and, for this reason, I like it more ». Missed opportunities? «When I left Mondadori, I was 35 and Berlusconi had just sworn in as prime minister. And so I said to myself: I can’t stay in a publishing house where there is a clear conflict of interest. I phoned Gian Arturo Ferrari, then my boss. He tried to convince me, assuring me that I would always be free to write absolutely. But I was convinced that other writers would have made this move, but it wasn’t. Very few of us left. I was a little boy. Ferrari as a gentleman said to me: if you want to leave, go ahead and let me go. I wasn’t looking for publicity in taking this step: for me it was a moral issue. I left and had to start over. In some cases, you don’t have to be modest. ”

The role of awards in its rise? “I do not need anything. The prizes are in parentheses, in which the readers you seldom meet personally are judged directly. The judgments, positive or negative, are very useful, we must be judged. Some tell you that you are good, others that you have not been good enough, if you have forgotten so many times ».

July 3, 2020 (change July 3, 2020 | 01:17)

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