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Ernesto Assante has died, he was full of life

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Ernesto Assante has died, he was full of life

Ernesto Assante is dead, you simply can’t say. You can say “it’s life, Ernesto Assante” because he was made of the same substance that life is made of. He was made of projects, intuitions, dreams. Sometimes I thought that inside his big fragile heart he kept a continuous generator of dreams. He looked at you with those sweet eyes of his, he welcomed you with that endless smile and began to tell the story. He saw everywhere and in everything the opportunity, if not also the urgency, to tell a story: by writing it, or on a stage, behind a microphone or in front of a camera, it doesn’t matter. Ernesto was full of life.

We had only been friends for a few years, but I had known him long before he knew I existed. I had just been hired at Repubblica and for us very young people he and Gino Castaldo were already two legends. The couple of Repubblica’s music, the best of all (but also the coolest, let’s face it, healthy bearers of joy, competence and lightness, as Italo Calvino defined it). I don’t remember if I ever spoke to him, I think not, but I remember very well that I called him many years later: it was 2008 and I had gone to Milan where they had tasked me with launching the Italian edition of Wired, the Bible of Silicon Valley. I called him and said: come and be co-director, please. I wasn’t crazy, Ernesto wasn’t just a super music journalist but he had been one of the very first in Italy to understand the scope of the digital revolution (and in fact he had been in the small group of founders of the Repubblica website). He had his eyes turned to the future. That day for the first time we spoke to each other for a long time and then he said to me: “No”, but not for me, nor for Wired; he told me no because Ernesto was really “a journalist from Repubblica”, he totally identified with that newspaper, and he never stopped doing so, not even when he retired and the newspaper was objectively no longer the one he had worked for all his life. life.

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Since 2013, when “Repubblica delle Idee” arrived, we have met more often: I brought “the innovators” to the stage, trying to fill small theaters with unknown stories of startups and makers, while he and Gino gathered the crowd in the main squares of the cities where the Beatles and the Rolling Stones went with their “rock lessons”. In 2018 for another publisher, curating a photographic exhibition on 1968, I discovered a side of him that I didn’t know: generosity, the ability to make himself available to others without asking for anything in return. He helped me with the robust musical section of the “Dreamers” show. “How can I thank you?” “You did it,” he told me. He reiterated this beautiful trait of his two years later: Covid had just arrived and with a group of friends we had decided to organize a web marathon to unite the homes of Italians in lockdown: “Italy called”. It was madness, in those days it had become impossible to circulate and all the other conductors I had involved had rightly backed out. He said to me, “Don’t worry, little brother, I’ll get there somehow.” We had set up the studio in a remote warehouse in the Idrovore della Magliana, far from everyone, especially from the checkpoints surrounding Rome. It felt like being on Mars. Yet just before 8pm Ernesto actually arrived: I had been live for fourteen hours when I gave way to him and from that moment on he went in and out of the homes of so many of those singers that it felt like being in Sanremo. Everyone opened their doors to him by giving us a song, Ernesto was family for them. It wasn’t just the respect for a great musical signature, it’s that they really loved him.

I had sensational confirmation of this for the launch of Italian Tech: we had decided to have a Next Gen evening, with guests under 30. He proposed several young and very strong artists and I relaunched: and Måneskin? They had just won Sanremo, they were about to win Eurovision and take off forever. In short, it was impossible but he convinced them to play three songs in front of a hundred people at the India theatre. It was a miracle of him. It was June 1, 2021, we called it “young people’s Republic Day” and that evening we went on stage together for the first time. It was easy with him: because he was welcoming, because he was generous, because he made you feel true affection. We became friends on that stage.

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We haven’t been apart since then. Every week or so we met to plan something. We’ve done a lot of things but the most beautiful dreams have remained in the drawer: a large exhibition on the 60s, a podcast – but cheerful – about technology, an ecological television program and a concert for the Earth. They won’t happen, I know, and not only because Ernesto is irreplaceable but because to do an impossible feat you need someone who doesn’t tell you that “it’s impossible”, because you already know that; you need someone who tells you “I’m in, let’s try”.

The protagonist of one of Baricco’s novels says that life isn’t really over as long as you have a story to tell and someone to tell it to. Ernesto was good for two: he had stories and knew how to listen. A lot of people will miss him dearly because he listened to so many, making them feel important and understood. He consoles me with only one thing: sometimes when I think about death, and in this period I think about it often, I tell myself that the only true desire is that I find myself alive, that I don’t find myself dull, withdrawn, defeated, disappointed. But still full of life and dreams, while trying to do beautiful things.

Death thus found Ernesto Assante, full of dreams and life.

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