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Alessandro Baricco1


Alessandro Baricco1

Alessandro Baricco

Alessandro Baricco was born in Turin in 1958 and is one of the best known Italian writers, a performer and film director. He has worked for some time in advertising, as a critic of music and has enjoyed success in television with a literary arts programme ‘Pickwick, del leggere e dello scrivere’. In 1993 he co-founded a creative writing school in Turin, the ‘Scuola Holden’ (after Holden Caulfield in Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye), which has hosted several eminent speakers and conducts courses on narrative techniques with regard to screenwriting, journalism and fiction. A number of film versions of Baricco’s works have been made and in recent years his reputation has grown enormously, especially in Europe. His books have won several important awards including the French ‘Prix Médicis étranger’ and the Italian ‘Premio Viareggio’, ‘Premio Selezione Campiello’ and the ‘Palazzo al Bosco’.

Baricco has always had a deep interest in music. He has not only published essays on music but has also collaborated with musicians on different occasions: with the French band ‘Air’ on ‘City Reading’, a project that involved narrating passages from his 1999 novel City with musical accompaniment that was released in album form, and with the musician Daniele Sepe on Totem, a theatrical event staged in different Italian cities.

His first novel, Castelli di rabbia (Lands of Glass), published in 1991, combines many of the subjects and narrative patterns that would come to characterize Baricco’s writing and relates the story of Rail, a glass-factory owner, who keeps leaving on mysterious journeys and comes back each time with the same gift for his beloved wife. Perhaps Baricco’s best known work is Seta (Silk) in which Hervé Joncour, a nineteenth-century French merchant, travels to Japan in search of silkworms and falls in love with an enigmatic and beautiful woman. This lyrical and compact story of East and West, published in 1996, brings together a number of themes: the novelist’s interest in folk tales and parables, Eastern philosophy, journeys, both physical and imaginary, love, sexual enthrallment, imagination and language. Omero, Iliade (An Iliad) was published in 2004 and consists of a series of monologues by several of Homer’s characters. Some of Baricco’s other works include the novels Oceano Mare (Ocean Sea), Senza Sangue (Without Blood), Emmaus and Mr Gwyn; Totem and Novecento (The Legend of 1900) written for the theatre; and Partita Spagnola for cinema. Baricco has also written and directed a British-Italian film in 2008 called Lezione 21 (Lecture 21) which recounts the tale of a student who takes a trip through the Italian Alps after being inspired by a professor's lecture on Beethoven's ‘Ode to Joy’ from the Ninth Symphony.