Veronica Frigeni’s Reflects on Franchini’s Talk

Meet the Author: A Talk With Antonio Franchini.
A short account.
By Veronica Frigeni

Designed as an opportunity to encounter some of the most prominent protagonists of the current Italian literary scenario, on the 24th of March the series ‘Meet the Author’ has had as its guest the Italian novelist and editor Antonio Franchini.

Working at the crossroad between editorial process and pure writing, Franchini has engaged the audience in a critical survey of what are some of the distinguishing feature of the present literary situation –for instance, the prevalent phenomenon of the so-called ‘nuovo realismo’. For the author this definition pertains mostly to a matter of style, a linguistic trait, rather than to a question of themes. And, in his writings, the realistic signature goes back surprisingly to the Latins and, specifically, to the historian Tacitus.

Yet, the refined reasoning of Franchini has succeeded in revealing how this scenario, in which we currently dwell, actually enhances and doubles a deeper dichotomy that has characterised the entire Italian literary tradition: that between novelists, or ‘romanzieri/narratori’, and writers, or ‘scrittori’ tout court. A contraposition that has been exacerbated by the fact that, in the case of the last generations of writers, a predominant literary education has left room to several, different backgrounds and hybrid experiences.
In a sense, is the novelist capable to engage more directly with the real, with the past, with the reader? Tellingly, what Franchini suggests is that any possible answer is far from conclusive and exhaustive. However some hints seem to gesture towards a positive answer, such as the fact that, for instance, in both L’abusivo and Saviano’s Gomorra, the narrator creates a bridge between the empirical author and the story that is recounted.

Still, the talk has given also the opportunity to scrutinise more broadly the role of literary production. Or, better, of what Derrida used to call ‘a strange institution’, in which ‘the space of literature is not only that of an instituted fiction but also a fictive institution which in principle allows one to say everything.’
This is the more pertinent in the case of Franchini. As he himself admits, there is, in fact, a hidden, suggestive appeal, which goes mostly unnoticed.
If a work begins to exist only at the moment of its publication, what is then the destiny occurring to all those manuscripts that have been rejected. There is, indeed, a story demanding to be told, that of a potential, never actualised literature. A parallel narrative illuminating social and historical traumas of Italian recent history, such as the terroristic experience of the 70’s, and one of its more endemic criticality, which is the reality of the mafia.

In this perspective, recalling also the birth of Roberto Saviano’s Gomorra, bound up, at least initially, only with a literary perspective, and stressing the fact of it being intertwined with Franchini’s own novel L’abusivo, what emerges is the fundamental role of the literary institution qua subject and mediator of individual and collective memory.
A role that Franchini embraces twice and that leads him to a climax, to a sort of short circuit between the two moments of his work, such as in the book Cronaca dalla fine.

In conclusion therefore, the peculiarity and the significance of the talk with Franchini lie in the fact that what has been discussed at once depends on and transcends both his writings and his editorial figure. In a sense, Franchini’s discourse has allowed the audience to question not only some specific works, but the condition of possibility and the modality of existence of literature itself.

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