Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Iran Is the Most Important Country in World
Erri De Luca Interviewed by Kourosh Ziabari
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, November 29, 2010
Erri De Luca is an internationally-renowned Italian poet and
writer. "Corriere della Sera" literature critic Giorgio De Rienzo has
called him "the writer of the decade". He started writing since he was 20;
however, his first book was published in 1989, when he was 39 years old.
Upon graduating from high school in 1968, he joined the newly-established
far-left, extra-parliamentary organization of Lotta Continua.
The political activities of the organization were terminated early in
1976. Erri De Luca speaks several languages, including English, French,
Hebrew and Yiddish.
He is the author of several books including "Montedidio" which has won
him The Prix Femina award. Erri De Luca has translated several books of
Bible into Italian, including Exodus, Jonah, Ecclesiastes and Ruth. His
works have been translated and published in various countries such as
Spain, Iran, Portugal, Germany, Holland, USA, Brazil, Poland, Norway,
Danmark, Romania, Greece and Lithuania.
De Luca joined me in an exclusive interview and answered my questions
on his works and his views on literature, culture, politics and society.
Kourosh Ziabari: What made you interested in
literature for the first time? You published your first novel when you
were 39; however, you had experienced various professions and jobs before
that. You experienced carpentry, masonry and apprenticeship and then moved
to writing. What were the first motives which moved you towards
Erri De Luca: I owe my approach to my
father's library. I spent my childhood in a small room with books to the
ceiling, I slept surrounded by books. I've been reading and writing since
I was a kid, books have been the best company. I published my first book
late because I wasn't looking for a publisher. I wrote and write personal
stories, always with me telling the story and I thought these would never
interest anybody else.
KZ: Our world is filled with materialistic
approaches to life. Morality is losing its place in the interpersonal
relationships. People disregard the principles of honesty and decency very
easily. Is this world compatible with the ideal world which you have
portrayed for yourself?
EDL: I'm used to sit at table for lunch
where one eats the fruit of one's work. At these tables, which are the
majority on the planet, my principles are not ideals but daily practice.
KZ: Naples is the prominent setting of your novel. Its people speak a
variety of Italian language which is even unintelligible to a number of
Italians. What's the significance of Naples for you? How do you seek your
desires and ambitions in this ancient city?
EDL: Naples is my
place of origin and Napolitan my mother tongue. Italian came later, with
books and conversations with my father, who wanted to teach me perfect
Italian. In Naples, I had my sentimental education - not to love, but to
the sentiments of compassion, anger and shame which are the fundaments of
any human being. Naples is not a birth town, but it is a "cause town" and
I am one of its effects.
KZ: You speak several languages including
French, English, Hebrew and Yiddish. How is the sense of being a
multilingual writer? Jock London believes that every book is a gateway to
a new world. Do you agree that every language is also a gateway to a new
world? With several languages which you know, do you usually feel that you
live in different worlds?
EDL: I learnt languages to read them
rather than to speak them. My desire was to follow the authors of pages
which touched me in their vocabulary and their combination of syllables.
Thus I find a personal extract, a glass [of wine] and I go directly to the
source. The world which attracts me is that of an author rather than of a
people. That's why I'm not interested in geographically visiting countries
whose language I know. I can read in Russian out of love for its poets and
writers but I have no desire to find myself in Odessa or Moscow. With the
languages I have learnt I have no need to move from where I am.
KZ: Some people believe that the Iranians and Italians are very similar to
each other. They say that among the European citizens, Italians are the
most similar to Iranians. This similarity can be found in the appearance,
social interactions, character and dispositions. Have you ever noticed any
similarity between the people of Italy with the oriental nations?
EDL: I find common ground with all people with feet in the Mediterranean
Sea. I recognize all trees, goats, dry walls and wrinkled faces. For
thousands of years we have mixed, via invasions, immigration, epidemics,
wars. Iran and the East are a key premise of our civilization, the first
layer, the first seed of our bread.
KZ: Iran and Italy are home to
two of the most important ancient civilizations in the world; Persian
Empire and Roman Empire. Although the political developments have
separated the two countries, how can the cultural ties serve to bring the
two nations together and benefit them mutually?
EDL: Iran is the
most important country in world politics today. Iranians must know that
their decisions with respect to pacific development will be decisive for
the next decade. Iran is today, even more than in the past, on the front
lines of history. Everything that happens in your country will affect the
four corners of the horizon [the rest of the world]
KZ: An Iranian
critic of your novel has said that the bitter comedy of your novel "Montedidio"
is inspired by Italo Calvino. What do you think about it? Has Calvino ever
inspired you in your writings?
EDL: I am not a reader fascinated
by Calvino or by 20th century Italian literature in general. I know I owe
much to Napolitan literature, its theater, its songs, and to other foreign
litteratures which educated me in my youth thanks to my father's choices
KZ: In your short story "The Trench", you've tried to
show the difficulty of earning a living and portrayed the complexities a
low-ranking laborer faces in dealing with a low-rate job. In one part of
your story, the protagonist states: "why in the world should a human being
have to earn bread for his children with a noose around his neck? For me
it was a question of pride, but for him it was only bread, and still he
had to soak it in that salty water of ours, which tasted so much like
tears." I think it's the essence of your story. What's your own idea? Why
is our life intertwined with difficulties and complexities so
EDL: I write stories of my life and the one you
bring up is simply a tale of a slice of experience on a construction site
in France. Nothing to add, maybe something to take out. My life shares
with the majority of other lifes, anonymous and normal. The fact that I am
able to write stories does not change that biographic fact. I am someone
from the ground floor and my stories are the same.
KZ: Have you
ever had the ambition of winning the Nobel Prize in Literature? What do
you think about this award? Has it been always awarded to those who
EDL: Often, the Academy has rewarded names unknown to
me and I was able to discover them thanks to these choices. So I enjoy
their literary tastes, most of the time. For my part, I don't think that I
am under consideration for the Academy.
KZ: Dario Fo was the last
Italian writer to win a Nobel Prize in Literature. What do you think of
him and his works?
EDL: Dario Fo is an international personality,
one of the few Italian personas appreciated worldwide, and he deserves the
honor conferred by the prize.
KZ: How much time do you dedicate to
studying the world's literature? How many books do you read in a year? Do
you have a special criterion for the geographical distribution of the
writers of whom you read novels and literary works? How much time do you
spend on reading Italian literature?
EDL: During the day, the time
to read and write is squeezed in a small space. I read old works, poetry
from all over the world and I don't follow Italian literature.
Are you among those thinkers who believe that artistic work is solely
produced for the sake of pleasure, or the art itself? What's the ultimate
objective of art? Is it aimed at entertaining the addressee? Is it aimed
at creating cosmetic beauty? Which sort of literature do you prefer; a
literary work which is created for pleasure or a literary work which is
admired for its moral points?
EDL: Literature is for me the best
dialogue. I prefer it to any other art form. It should keep its reader
company, save him time, be worth the time spent with a book. Literature's
sole responsibility is to create desire to reopen the book. In difficult
circumstances, under dictatorships, it can also have the responsibility to
save speech. In jail, a book is a fortune and a huger capital for
KZ: And my final question. What's your recommendation
for those who want to become professional readers of literature? What are
the best ways for comprehending the essence of a literary work, whether
it's in the form of poetry or prose? How can a good reader relate to the
core of what the writer intends to convey?
EDL: A book is always
half of the trip from a writer and a reader, who must complete the work by
mixing it with his/her life, moods and needs. A book is a meeting, with no
utilization guide, and thus always different, failure or success. Every
book is ultimately led by its reader, linked to his/her experience,
friendly to his/her human adventure to enrich it. No formula and no advice
- "have a nice ride reader" is what I tell myself when I open a page and
begin to read.