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Articles by: Mario Fratti

  • Art & Culture

    My L’Aquila

    I loved Theatre but I had chance to see only three or four performances a year. I was always at the Library (Sotto i Portici) , reading hundreds of books, thousands of plays. My two brothers ( Gustavo and Fernando) were often there. My father Leone had no time for the Biblioteca Tommasi but he bought papers everyday.

    He gave them to us. He suggested we should read newspapers every morning to know what is happening in the world and in our Abruzzo. What can I say about the qualities and shortcomings of the Abruzzesi? There is a ritual description of the inhabitants of our Region. “ Forti e Gentili” ( strong and gentle) .

    I never gave importance to that Motto. Only lately I realized it is true. All my teachers and friends have those qualities. I realized that those qualities are in me too.

    It is very easy for me to be kind and cordial with everyone. An enjoyable pleasant way of communicating warmth and friendship. Strong? Like many of my friends I do not smoke, I do not drink, I never used drugs. Healthy mind in healthy body.

    Another quality of strong people?
    Persistence. We have that. In my lectures I tell young people that they will all probably be rejected nine times out of ten when trying to achieve they aspirations. I tell them “ Don’t be discouraged. Persist”. Many contact me years later and tell me they have succeeded.

    Shortcomings of the Abruzzesi who are still living in Italy and the Abruzzesi who live in NYC?
    They love to enjoy a good dinner with families and relatives. They seldom find the time to go to the Theatre. They do not know what they miss.

    They miss discovery and knowledge. 

  • Op-Eds

    Language. How to Reach Everybody

    Dean Anthony Julian Tamburri, Excellent director of the "John D. Calandra Italian American Institute" has organized a well-prepared celebration of the life of Giose Rimanelli who started his career in Italy with his novel "Tiro al Piccione" and has been active in the United States for sixty years. He is now ninety.

    His first book was honest and direct. The confession of a young man, torn between loyalty to Fascism and incipient discovery of the values of democracy. Clear and precise. We all understood it and admired it. He moved then, first to Canada and then to the US. He had to learn and write in a new language. It was not easy. Now and then, he went back to poetry in his Molisan dialect. He was sure at least a few people would understand his love, his deep desire to communicate. 

    Many speakers gave lectures about his life and activity. Among the most interesting: Luigi Bonaffini, Peter Carravetta, Fred Gardaphe, Sante Matteo, Mark Pietralunga, Antonio Vitti, Maria Rosaria Vitti-Alexander. They discussed also his poetry in dialect. We heard interesting conclusions. That kind of poetry is a personal desire to reach the few people around you; family and friends. 

    My father Leone knew how to be obeyed. No dialect in my family. I remember him saying:

    "Mario, you have many good ideas and opinions. They will be lost if only a few people will understand you in L'Aquila". I listened and was very careful in using a clear, direct language: my best Italian. I was lucky, winning 33 literary awards. I sent my best Italian plays to England, Russia, Japan; everywhere I knew they had good theaters. I was ignored or rejected.

    I knew some French, German, Russian, and a great deal of English. I love this language. It is concise and clear. I translated my best plays into English. They were accepted and performed. The lesson was clear. If you want to communicate your ideas, opinions, and feelings to millions you must translate them into English. I write now only in Italian and English. 

    How do I choose my language? There is a fascinating force that leads me to Italian or to English. It depends on the characters and ambiance. Some I must write in English, some in Italian. I want to reach everybody. If the ones in Italian fail, I translate them into English later, when I find the time. 

    I intervened in the Rimanelli celebration. I said clearly what I thought. And now I write it in this article to reach also the other ones: the ones who read.

    MARIO FRATTI, professor emeritus of Italian literature at Hunter College, is an internationally acclaimed playwright and drama critic.