Beppe Severgnini


Beppe Severgnini

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

Ah, another month and another post. When I’m writing about Italian stuff it’s hard to maintain as much enthusiasm about posting items as when I’m in Italy. Not that I don’t think about Italy, the Italian language and (especially) Italian food it’s just that it seems like I’ve been over a lot of that before. In any case, I do continue to cook Italian food. In fact I rarely cook anything else. Probably because I’m lazy, like it so much and at this point it’s often almost second nature. Likewise I continue to study Italian. Here of course I can’t go around speaking Italian all day except to myself – which I do a lot. I do have the occasional meeting of Italian speakers and I read. So today’s post is about the latter and particularly about the title guy, Beppe Severgnini.

Beppe

Beppe

Beppe is a columnist for the Milanese newspaper Corriere della Sera which I think is comparable to the New York Times of Italy. He has contributed often to newspapers in  England and the aforementioned New York Times.

I first read one of his books last year when in Bologna. The title is “La Testa degli Italiani” – the Head of the Italians. I had joined a gym while in BO and since my habit is to read while doing relatively boring cardiovascular exercise I read most of this book during half hour sessions on an exercise bike. testa coverWhile my vocabulary is not what I’d like it to be I found out to my delight that I could read pretty much all of the book without TOO much trouble, filling in my vocabulary gaps through context, just as I would when reading a book in English. Of course in English I have a lot fewer gaps! In any case it’s a fascinating book and so I was looking for an English translation and having absolutely no luck until I found a site that said that for the English version they changed the title to “La Bella Figura” (why do they do these things anyway). In any case it really gives a lot of insight into the differences between the cultures. bella figura coverOne probably well known example is how a traffic light is considered. In America a red light is considered as only one thing – stop! In Italy it is an invitation to consider what is really meant and what one should do? Is there little traffic and good visibility? Then there is really no reason to stop. He goes on from there. You get the idea. It was a very enjoyable read and Beppe has a well developed sense of humor.

 

On the last trip I picked up another of his books, “Un Italiano in America”. I don’t think that I need to provide a translation of that one but for some inexplicable reason the title was changed to “Ciao America”.Italiano cover Now why would they possibly do that!? The setting for this book is 1995 (I think) when he and his wife lived in Washington D.C. for a year. Many of his observations about the American way of life and how strange it sometimes seems for an Italian is still just as valid. I would say that some of this observations about American ways are a bit off just as mine surely are about Italians. Still it is very entertaining. I am reading this book more slowly since I don’t read it at the gym. That means that I am highlighting words and looking them up in an attempt to improve my vocabulary. It is undoubtedly improving my “reading” vocabulary but less so my “writing” vocabulary. ciao coverThat is, I can recognize a word that I’ve read before and then recall the meaning in English. However I’m often not familiar enough with that word to do it the other way around – search for the Italian way of saying something that I know how to say in English. Still I know that it is having some positive impact on my spoken vocabulary and I’m doggedly continuing. Probably I will want to reread it at some point to help absorb some additional words adequately to use them in writing or speaking.

Beppe does presentation and speeches  occasionally in English. So I found a speech that he made on YouTube. A note on this. It is the third part of a speech that he made to an association of travel executives. You can look for the first two parts which are also quite entertaining. I went with this one because of a great story about turning a difficult situation into a party (aboard an airplane) which starts about 2/3 to 3/4 of the way through this segment. I hope that you enjoy it and perhaps feel compelled to sample one of his books.

 

 

 

 

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