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«I’m interested in margins, which nobody talks about. That’s where shocking things happen. The world can be understood better if you look at it from the borders, from the frontiers. The center hides contradictions» says the writer, poet, academic of Albanian origin Gazmend Kapllani, author, among other things, of Brief diary of the border and The wrong land (Del Vecchio editore) at Festivaletteratura in Mantua. “You can tell the whole story of 20th-century Europe across borders: the first and second world wars, the cold war, when they became waterproof.” He was part of «the third wave of migrations that affected Europe, the one that followed the fall of the Berlin Wall. following the one that took place between 1850 and 1930, which also affected many Italians, and the one between the two world wars». «My generation of Albanians, but also more generally of Eastern Europeans, grew up obsessed with crossing borders. If our grandparents emigrated for economic reasons, our emigration was profoundly political: we wanted to reaffirm freedom of movement, we wanted to show that the world had returned to normal. Those who lived in the West did not understand our obsession or even our naivety: we thought we were going to our sisters and brothers in the West!» The Wrong Land speaks of returns: “as for Ulysses who was trying to reach Ithaca, the return is an adventure, it is another journey”. The protagonists are two brothers, one who returns, the other who has never left and who does not forgive his brother for “not having been faithful to his homeland”. In the book «I wanted to do justice to both voices, I didn’t want to make a caricature of the nationalist. I didn’t want to wage war between the pages, but to start a dialogue».
What if a civil war made Americans migrate to inhospitable countries that don’t even speak their language?
Borders and migration were talked about continuously on the second day of Festivaletteratura. With the writer and translator of Serbian origin Elvira Mujčić, who in her latest book Good Conduct (Crocetti), a novel full of irony set in the aftermath of Kosovo’s independence, starts from the true story of a small town on the border where they hold elections for mayor. The Albanians are 1362, the Serbs 1177. To be elected is a Serb who wants to get along with the Albanians, but Belgrade is not doing well at all, and they send a new mayor who continues to fan the flames of ethnic rivalry. Or with the American author Ken Kalfus, who in his latest novel Two in the morning in Little America (Fandango) enjoys (a lot) imagining a future in which a civil war has forced young Americans to flee their borders and push themselves towards inhospitable countries, or «towards a world that had learned to live without the United States, where they no longer had the same importance. Where English wasn’t spoken, where people didn’t recognize American music, but in their own way they were happy, even if with their problems », he says slyly.
The trip to Europe? A rite of passage
Many of the stories that the Africanist emeritus Sandro Triulzi collected in the first anthologies, published by Terre Di Mezzo, of the DIMMi project (Migrant Multimedia Diaries), dealt with the journey that takes migrants to Europe, which has become almost a sort of rite of passage. a competition conceived and promoted by the National Diary Archive of Pieve Santo Stefano which, among other things, has become a precious aid in countering the stereotypes on migration through the testimony of those who have experienced it firsthand. Narratives of the violence suffered in Libyan detention camps, or of waiting for the evening with crying children without knowing if you’ll still be alive at the end of the day. The last two anthologies – for example the fifth, recently published: Like trees on the way – instead focus more on what it means to be a foreigner in Italy if you don’t have characteristics such as whiteness, knowledge of the language: «brands of diversity that make so that you will never belong to a country that still has a “colonial eye”, which also means patriarchal, a country that has hidden colonial experiences where it has committed crimes against humanity, such as for example the fascist military conquest of Ethiopia » affirms Triulzi. A country where “there is a hegemonic narrative of migration, which only speaks of certain aspects such as the detentions in Libya or the journey across the sea, but which overlooks all the other complexities of the phenomenon. Where we find ourselves being the perennial subject of conversation without being able to define the terms with which we speak of ourselves. It’s a great violence!” says Paule Yao, one of the authors, Cameroonian by birth, French for more than 25 years.