La Bella Figura has ratings and reviews. Michael Goldman said: While I learned that as an overthinker who flies by the seat of his pants when t. The journalist Beppe Severgnini offers a witty, insightful view of Italy, where red lights and tax laws are viewed as advisory only. La Bella Figura: A Field Guide to the Italian Mind. Beppe Severgnini, Author, Giles Watson, Translator. Broadway $ (p) ISBN.
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Your purchase helps support NPR programming. An offbeat odyssey into the heart of Italy and the Italian people captures the colorful character of the nation in a ten-day journey to thirty destinations that reveal Italy’s best, worst, and most authentic aspects. Now, he is turning his wisdom and wit toward his homeland, exploring the nuances of life in modern Italy. For instance, Severgnini says, traffic laws are interpreted a bit different in Italy.
A Beautiful Figure and ‘The Italian Mind’ : NPR
Book excerpts are provided by the publisher and may contain language some find offensive. Being Italian is a full-time job. We never forget who we are, and we figuda fun confusing anyone who is looking on. Don’t trust the quick smiles, bright eyes, and elegance of many Italians.
A Beautiful Figure and ‘The Italian Mind’
Be wary seevrgnini everyone’s poise. It offers instant attention and solace. But don’t take Italy at face value. Or, rather, take it at face value if you want to, but don’t complain later.
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One American traveler wrote, “Italy is the land of human nature. You’re going to need a map. So you’ll be staying for ten days? We’ll take a look at three locations on each day of your trip.
They’ll be classics, the sort of places that get talked about a lot, perhaps because they are so little known. We’ll start with an airport, since we’re here. Then I’ll try to explain the rules of the road, the anarchy of the office, why people talk on trains, and the theatrical nature of hotel life. We’ll sit in judgment at a restaurant and feel the sensory reassurance of a church. We’ll visit Italy’s televisual zoo and appreciate how important the beach hella.
We’ll experience the solitude of the soccer stadium, and realize how crowded the bedroom feels. We’ll note the vertical fixations of the apartment building, and the transverse democracy of the living room–or, rather, the eat-in kitchen. Ten days, thirty places.
We’ve got to start somewhere if we want to find our way into the Italian mind. First of all, let’s get one thing straight.
Your Italy and our Italia are not beella same thing. Italy is a soft drug peddled in predictable packages, such as hills in the sunset, olive groves, lemon trees, white wine, and raven-haired girls.
Italia, on the other hand, is a maze. It’s beppee, but complicated. In Italia, you can go round and round in circles for years. Which of course is great lla. As they struggle to find a way out, many newcomers fall back on the views of past visitors.
People like Goethe, Stendhal, Byron, and Twain always had an opinion about Italians, and couldn’t wait to get home and write it down. Those authors are still quoted today, as if nothing had changed. This is not true. Some things have changed in our Italy. The problem is bbeppe out what.
Almost all modern accounts of the country fall into one of two categories: The former have an inferiority severgnihi toward Italian home life, and usually feature one chapter on the importance of the family, and another on the excellence of Italian cooking.
The diaries take a supercilious attitude toward Italian public life. Inevitably, there is censure of Italian corruption, and a section on the Mafia. By and large, the chronicles of love affairs are penned by American women, who display love without interest in their descriptions of a heppe Eden, where the weather is good and the locals are charming. The diaries of disappointment tend to be produced by British men, who show interest without love.
They describe a bbeppe country populated by unreliable individuals and governed by a public administration from hell. Yet Italy is far from hellish. It’s got too much style. Neither is it heaven, of course, because it’s too unruly. Let’s just say that Italy is an offbeat purgatory, full of proud, tormented souls each of whom is convinced he or she has a hotline to the boss.
It’s the kind of place that can have you fuming and then purring in the space of a hundred meters, seergnini the course of ten minutes. Italy is the only workshop in the world that can turn out both Botticellis and Berlusconis. People who live in Italy say they want to get out, but those who do escape all want to come back.
As you seveegnini understand, this is not the sort of country that is easy to explain. Particularly when you pack a ssevergnini fantasies in your baggage, and Customs lets them through. Take this airport, for example. Whoever wrote that airports are nonplaces never visited Milan’s Malpensa or Linate, or Rome’s Fiumicino. Or, if they did pay a call, they must have been too busy avoiding people shouting into cell phones and not looking where they were going.
An airport in Italy figur violently Italian. It’s a zoo with air conditioning, where the animals don’t bite and only the odd comment is likely to be poisonous. You have to know how to interpret the seevergnini and signals. Italy is a place where things are always about to happen. Generally, those things are unpredictable.
For us, normality is an exception. Do you remember The Terminal? He’d have founded a political party, promoted a referendum, opened a restaurant, and organized a farmers’ market. Look at the childlike joy on the faces of the people as they stroll into the shops. Note how inventive they are at thinking up ways to pass the time.
Observe the deference to uniforms any uniform, from passing pilots to cleaning staff. Authority has been making Italians uneasy for centuries, so we have developed an arsenal of countermeasures, from flattery to indifference, familiarity, complicity, apparent hostility, and feigned admiration. Study the emerging faces as the automatic doors of international arrivals open. They reveal an almost imperceptible hint of relief at getting past Customs.
Obviously, almost all the arriving passengers have nothing to hide. There was a uniform, and now it’s gone. Note the relief giving way to affection as they retrieve their suitcases from the carousel. At the check-in desk, they weren’t sure they would ever see their suitcases again, and did all they could to pass them off as hand luggage. Listen to the couples quarreling, their accusations lent extra ferocity by the embarrassment of performing in public “Mario!
You said you had the passports! Admire the rituals of the families coming back from holiday. These spoken exchanges–Mom wants to know where their son is; Dad shouts to the son; the son answers Dad; Dad tells Mom, who has disappeared in the meantime–are the same ones that echo in a New York hotel or a street market in London.
Malpensa encapsulates the nation. Only a naive observer would mistake this for confusion. Actually, it’s performance art.
It’s improvisation by gifted actors. No one believes for one minute he or she is an extra. Everyone’s a star, no matter how modest the part. Federico Fellini would have made a good prime minister, if he’d wanted the job. It takes an outstanding director to govern the Italians. What else can you find out at an Italian airport? Well, Italians’ signature quality–our passion for beauty–is in danger of becoming our number-one defect. All too figurz, it prevents us from choosing what seevrgnini good.
Look at the cell-phone displays and the saleswomen perched on their stools. Many of them can’t tell a cell phone from a remote control, but all are indisputably attractive. Do you know why the phone companies hire them instead of using skilled staff? Because that’s what the public wants. People prefer good looks to good answers. There is a lesson to be learned.
We are prepared to give up a lot for the sake of beauty, even when it doesn’t come in a miniskirt. We judge books by their covers, politicians by their smiles, professionals by their offices, secretaries by their posture, table lamps by their design, cars by their styling, and people by their title. It’s no coincidence that one Italian in four is president of something.