Tag Archives: Italy

Chaos in Libya: Why Europe is Paralyzed

My latest article on Impakter Magazine announcing the birth of our sister publication IMPAKTER ITALIA and reproducing one of their articles on Libya:


Libya: A masked member of the internationally recognized pro-government forces in a military vehicle, 10 April 2019 Source: Reuters

When Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi was ousted by a blitzkrieg in 2011, three European countries played a key role, the UK, France and Italy. With America “leading from behind”, a polite way to say that America provided only military support while the Europeans called all the political shots.


This time, as Libya descends again in the chaos of war, the situation is different. With the UK in the grip of Brexit, only two European powers remain in play, France and Italy. But they are embroiled in a series of diplomatic spats, and their rivalry in Libya has deep roots, as Impakter Italia explains in a recent article reproduced here. Impakter Italia, launched with an editorial on April 13, 2019 is Impakter’s sister publication in Italy, sharing a common vision and mission.


First, a quick update on the current situation. Libya today is divided between two rival governments: one in the eastern city of Tobruk backed by strongman Khalifa Haftar and an internationally-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) based in Tripoli. Haftar has forged close ties with a branch of Salafists, called Madkhalists, using their fighters and incorporating their conservative ideology in the parts of eastern Libya he controls, including a ban on women travelling without a male guardian.


On 4 April, as UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres was in Tripoli to help organize a national reconciliation conference planned for mid-April, Haftar audaciously launched an assault on the Libyan capital with his self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA). The LNA was pushed back at Checkpoint 27 – also called “Gate 27”  – on the coastal road between Tripoli and Zawiya, some 45 kilometres west of the Libyan capital. 120 LNA fighters were taken prisoners.


But the setback was only temporary and the battles rage on, with the outcome still uncertain as Haftar is pushing forward:


Last week, while Notre Dame was burning in Paris, Italian Prime Minister Conte was sounding the alarm in Rome about an impending humanitarian crisis in Libya.


“We are very worried about the Libyan crisis”, he said, “we have always worked and will continue to work to avert a humanitarian crisis that can expose us to the risk of the arrival of foreign fighters in our country.” He was referring to the reported 400 ISIS prisoners in Libya that could now escape as war is spreading. And he concluded: “We absolutely must avoid escalation”.


Yet Italy cannot solve the problem alone. 


Populist leader and Interior Minister Salvini insists that his policy of keeping Italian ports closed to ships bringing in refugees is working. The Italian Minister of Transport and Infrastructure, Danilo Toninelli, disagrees:  “If thousands of asylum seekers arrive, the closed ports policy is not enough,” he said at Radio Anch’io, explaining that “other European ports will have to be opened” and “a redistribution of migrants will be needed “. Therefore, the minister underlined, “the approach must be international”. He meant: European.


How to avoid the threat to Europe – a new wave of migrants and possible terrorists among them – is going to require a concerted European action. But for now, that is not happening. Diplomatic tension between France and Italy has not abated and France has just announced that it will continue for another six months its policy of closed borders with Italy. Not exactly an example of European cooperation.


To help understand how two major EU member countries, like Italy and France, that should work closely together, yet do not do so, Eduardo Lubrano’s article on Impakter Italia throws much needed light:


Why France and Italy are competing in Libya

by Eduardo Lubrano

Eight years after Gaddafi’s death, Libya is still in the midst of a civil war. On the one hand the forces of Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, the leader of the Libyan national army (NLA). On the other hand, the legitimate government, supported by the UN, in Tripoli, led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj.


R
ead the rest on Impakter, click here

TO VISIT IMPAKTER ITALIA, CLICK THE FOLLOWING LINKhttps://www.impakter.it/

Comments Off on Chaos in Libya: Why Europe is Paralyzed

Filed under European Union, politics

Italy’s Love Affair with Populism: From Berlusconi to Salvini

My latest article on Impakter, updated 24 February 2019 with the news that Salvini is taking funds from Russia. Here is the opening:

Italy has a surprising weakness for populism à la Trump. It began over twenty-five years ago with Silvio Berlusconi and his Forza Italia party and is still going strong with the extreme-right populist Lega leader Matteo Salvini. Berlusconi and Salvini share the same worldview with Trump: a visceral attachment to national sovereignty (my country first!), a rejection of multilateralism and international cooperation in any form, and a determined anti-immigration and pro-business stance.

As to the Italian fascination with Trump, it is unique in the group of advanced, politically mature European countries that constitute the core of the European Union. Compared to fellow citizens in Spain, France and Germany, Italians are three to four times as likely to have “a lot or some confidence in the U.S. President”, as shown by a recent Pew Research Center survey (October 2018):

Trump does slightly better in the UK (28%), no doubt as a result of Brexit and Britain’s continuing “special friendship” with the United States. And, predictably, he does best in Europe’s most “illiberal democracies”: Poland (35%) and Hungary (31%).

Admittedly, Italy’s fatal attraction for strongmen is nothing new. Setting aside Mussolini and fascism and turning to modern times, we have Silvio Berlusconi, the TV mogul. Berlusconi has shaped Italian politics, opening the door to extreme right parties that were once banned because of their fascist roots. To understand how it happened and see where Salvini’s populism could lead Italy, it helps to look at his legacy.

Berlusconi’s Legacy: A Brilliant Start, Broken Promises and a Humiliating End

Much as Macron did with his party “La République En Marche”, Berlusconi created a party literally overnight, Forza Italia (“Go Italy” – note the nationalistic touch and the reference to Italy’s passion for football).

The start was even more explosive than Macron’s. Founded in December 1993, the party quickly gained a relative majority and won general elections three months later. That was the result of a skillful use of media campaign techniques on Berlusconi’s Mediaset, a near monopoly in commercial TV. The party’s earliest officials were Publitalia executives, the advertising arm of his business empire.

Forza Italia always was – and still is – Berlusconi’s “personal party”. And he proceeded to lord it over Italy, both as the head of the center-right coalition and serving as Prime Minister for a total of nine years. Considered the most influential politician since Mussolini, there is no question that he has shaped Italy’s politics and economy over two decades – unfortunately leaving the economy in shambles.

Yet he had vowed he would make his compatriots rich. Many believed him, seeing how rich he was himself. But Italy’s economic growth rate remained abysmal throughout. In 2010, only Haiti and Zimbabwe fared worse than Italy. Likewise, he couldn’t deliver on his promise to reform the slow and inefficient justice system, as his efforts at reform turned out to be personal moves to defend himself and his assets from prosecution. As to immigration, he was the first politician to tighten immigration rules in Italy and establish a special relationship with Libya to discourage inflows of migrants across the Mediterranean.

The most damaging result of the Berlusconi years was the return in mainstream politics of extreme right anti-establishment political parties, brought in and rehabilitated as Forza Italia’s partners: Umberto Bossi’s Lega (then called Lega Nord as it was both anti-Rome and anti-Southern Italy) and Gianfranco Fini’s National Alliance with deep roots in fascism.

2011, the height of the Euro crisis, was a turning point. In April, Berlusconi was put on trial, accused of paying an underage prostitute. By November, he was forced out of office. He left Italy in financial disarray, with an estimated debt of €1.9 trillion. He always claimed it was a “EU plot” by Brussels bureaucrats.

On 1 August 2013, he was convicted of tax fraud, banned from office and condemned to four years in jail that were commuted to “community service” due to his age (he was 77). In November of that year, the Senate expelled him from Parliament and he vowed to follow the example of Beppe Grillo, the comedian and founder of the 5 Star Movement, who was able to lead his party in spite of not being a member of Parliament Grillo has made it a principle in his party that anyone with a criminal conviction cannot hold a public office – himself included, since he was convicted of manslaughter in a car accident in 1981.

Today, at 82, Berlusconi is still in politics. Forza Italia has lost its luster and the Lega, that used to be his junior partner, is well ahead in the polls.

In the photo: Salvini and Berlusconi. That day, 7 January 2018,  Berlusconi, Salvini and Meloni, the leader of Fratelli d’Italia, agreed on the distribution of electoral colleges  SourceLa  Stampa, photo LaPresse  

Is Salvini, Berlusconi’s heir, Italy’s Trump?

On 21 February, the Italian newspaper L’Espresso published shocking news:  That Salvini’s party the Lega is likely to be secretly financed by Putin, to the tune of €3 million, with the goal of giving it a boost in the upcoming European Parliament elections and more generally spread discontent in Europe. This is of course not the first time that news emerge of Russian funding extreme-right, anti-establishment populist parties with the purpose of destabilizing Europe – notably Marine Le Pen in France is said to have received some €11 million from her friend Putin.

Yet the last ten days had been a turning point for Salvini with several wins. On 10 February, his party, the Lega, came first in local elections in the Abruzzo region, with 27,4% – a number oddly close to the one in the above-mentioned Pew survey rating Trump, suggesting that this could be indicative of the core support for any populist in Italy.

The rest on Impakter, click here. 

Comments Off on Italy’s Love Affair with Populism: From Berlusconi to Salvini

Filed under European Union, politics

Dangerous Times for Democracy: Italy in the Eye of the Storm

Just published on Impakter the article of a friend of mine, currently visiting Italy. I think that what she says is important and I wanted to share it with you.

You’ll see that her reaction to the situation in Italy (and Europe) is very different from Thomas Friedman’s, the New York Times brilliant columnist who also happens to be visiting Italy these days. And from my standpoint – and I think it matters, after all, I live in Italy, I’ve been here over 40 years, I read the Italian papers every day, interacting with my Italian friends and overhearing people in the street and at the bar where I go for my daily espresso –  well, in the light of what I know of Italy, I honestly think my friend got it right and Friedman didn’t quite get it. Yes, his analysis is excellent, spot on, but his conclusion is a tad too negative…

Judge for yourself, here’s the beginning:

Writing from Italy, New York Times foreign affairs Op Ed columnist and Pulitzer winner Thomas L. Friedman claims in a new not-to-be-missed piece that he will “ruin your breakfast, lunch and dinner “ and he certainly does. He argues that if Putin, Trump and Bannon (presently roaming across Europe to raise trouble) succeed in breaking up our “community of democracies”, we are toast. There will be a power vacuum. Who will defend human rights and democracy? You certainly can’t count on China or Russia to save our Western values.

Italy seems to have inspired him, or perhaps helped clear his vision of what are the true challenges we are facing in Europe. And, as I too write from Italy, I can only agree with him. Up to a point. Let me clarify.

First, of all, he is right, it’s not only Brexit. Or the rise of populism. Or Putin’s interferences with elections in Europe. Or immigrant waves driven by “the environmental and political disorder from the south”, the war in Syria, the political mess in Libya, the poverty across Africa. Or the lack of cooperation within the European Union, with East European members (the Visegrad Group) most at fault, preventing any solution to the immigration problem. Or, because of Trump, an isolationist U.S.  It’s all of them, a perfect storm. And the eye of the storm is in Italy.

Read the rest on Impakter, click here.

Comments Off on Dangerous Times for Democracy: Italy in the Eye of the Storm

Filed under politics

Italy: What the New Government Means for Europe

Yesterday was amazing, suddenly Italy had a new government! In this article, just published on Impakter, I explore what it really means:

On 31 May, Italian politics took an unexpected, spectacular turn. President Mattarella approved the very government he had vetoed – as was his constitutional right –  four days earlier. Now the two big winners of the March elections, Luigi Di Maio’s Five Star Movement (M5S with  33 percent of the votes), and Matteo Salvini’s The League (17 percent) finally got what they wanted.

It had taken 88 days of hard negotiations to get there. And the unlikely alliance between an extreme right party (The League) with a centrist party (M5S) that has socialist roots (in the Partito Democratico, or PD). Both are populists and anti-establishment, The League with its base in Northern Italy and support from business, M5S with support from young people and the South and a fluctuating political platform shaped by social-media.   Di Maio and Salvini had hammered a 56 page contract for a so-called “government of change” and selected as premier an unknown non-politician, the economist Paolo Conte.

What made Mattarella change his mind? Much of it appears to be the result of unexpectedly nimble political work on the part of Di Maio, who, despite his youth and lack of experience, is apparently endowed with unusual political instincts. Improbably, after insulting Mattarella and calling for his impeachment, he withdrew the accusations and instead met the President eye-to-eye. And was  able to change his mind. The idea of a “technical” stop-gap government to prepare a return to the polls was abandoned and Conte came back with a new list of ministers.

What is remarkable is that the new list had only one notable modification: Paolo Savona, the Euro-skeptic 81 year-old economist Mattarella had objected to, was moved from Treasury where he had been originally assigned at Salvini’s request, to Minister for Relations with Europe.

An apparently slight correction but a significant one: Savona’s new position is much weaker than at Treasury, he is a minister without portfolio (i.e. without the support of a full ministry). The new man in the Treasury post is Giovanni Tria, a well-known economist with a long career both nationally and internationally – in short, a more moderate figure.

HAVE POPULISTS TAKEN OVER THE ITALIAN GOVERNMENT?

On the next day, the international press, even staid and serious journals like Bloomberg, reacted with emotional headlines: the Populists have surged to power in Italy! They will take Italy out of the Euro and Europe!

Despite the scary headlines, investors took it in stride, and even welcomed the “stability” that a new government implied, as the Wall Street Journal was quick to note. In short, they have set aside the likelihood that Italy will exit the Euro.

Yet, the new man at Treasury, Giovanni Tria is really not very different from Paolo Savona. He agrees with Savona on Europe and that a reform of the Euro is essential. On the face of it,  pulling Savona from one key Ministry to another less powerful position seems like a gratuitous game.

How come markets are reassured by Tria and scared by Savona? What do investors know that the journalists don’t, what really happened?

THE REAL STORY BEHIND SAVONA’S REPUTATION

First, the scare over Savona was vastly exaggerated – almost a case fake news.

Read the rest on Impakter, click here.

Comments Off on Italy: What the New Government Means for Europe

Filed under politics, Uncategorized

Elizabeth Jennings, Romantic Suspense Author and Founder of the Women’s Fiction Festival – Interview

Another article of mine on Impakter magazine, an interview of best-selling author Elizabeth Jennings who also founded the Women’s Fiction Festival in Matera eleven years ago. I attended this year’s Festival and had a chance to interview her – she is married to an Italian and lives in Matera (see photo below, she is presiding one of the discussion panels, surrounded by writers, from left, self-pubbed American authors Debra Holland, Tina Folsom and Bella André).
 Elizabeth Jennings (in red) on the Festival’s podium presiding a panel

Creator of a Unique Writers’Conference in Italy

on 10 November, 2014 at 08:56

Elizabeth Jennings has many namesakes. If you search for her on Google, you’ll find a deceased English poet, an African-American activist and more, but there is only one Elizabeth Jennings, the bestselling romantic suspense writer who lives in Italy and created the most successful writers’ conference on the European continent, the Women’s Fiction Festival held every year in Matera, Italy, since 2004.

How come such a difficult-to-reach, small town like Matera hosts such a well-known cultural event?

Matera, with a baroque center like so many in Southern Italy, became known in 1993 when it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its “Sassi” district, one of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements on earth, a spectacular series of dwellings hewn in the rock forty thousand years ago.

large__13636940504
But the Sassi are not the answer, though they no doubt make the stay in Matera something to remember. And neither is the fact that Matera has just been nominated “Cultural Capital of Europe for 2019”, beating Lecce, Siena, Ravenna, Cagliari and Perugia to the honor. Indeed, one of the elements that moved the European Commission to choose Matera over its rivals was the Women’s Fiction Festival itself and its enduring success.

So the explanation for the Fiction Festival is to be found elsewhere – in Elizabeth Jennings herself, her dynamism and extraordinary entrepreneurship.

Read the interview here.

Comments Off on Elizabeth Jennings, Romantic Suspense Author and Founder of the Women’s Fiction Festival – Interview

Filed under genre fiction, Literature

Self-Publishing and Women’s Fiction, Hot Topics in International Writer’s Conference in Italy

As my friends in Rome know, I left town on September 24 to attend a very special writer’s conference held in the South of Italy, in beautiful Matera – now just nominated European Culture Capital for 2019. Self-publishing was amply discussed and we had several self-published stars, including Bella André and Tina Folsom, major editors from big US and Italian publishing houses, publishing gurus like Jane Friedman and David Gaughran, and literary agents from the US, UK and Italy. Here’s the article I wrote about it for Publishing Perspectives, just published today:

Italian Writing Festival Takes Women, Self-Publishing Seriously


Women's Fiction Festival
By Claude Nougat

After eleven years of uninterrupted success, the Women’s Fiction Festival in Matera – four days at the end of September, it closed on the 28th – has proven once again that it is unique in Europe.  It combines the best of American writers’ conferences and Italian literary events, drawing together the business side of publishing —literary agents, editors, translators and publishing gurus — with the creative side, both established writers and newbies, coming from Europe and America. And it manages to do this without turning into a mega, unmanageable event.
This year it was sold out. But it meant that only about one hundred lucky few made it, and for aspiring writers, it was a perfect occasion to pitch their work at agents and editors coming from the US, the UK and of course Italy.Small size is just one of the keys of the Festival’s success. The other is Matera itself, a UNESCO World Heritage site in Southern Italy, famous for its “sassi,” hundreds of cave dwellings. Some have even been turned into charming hotels though the “modern” town with its baroque churches and palaces may prove more comfortable to the less adventurous. The Festival is held in a highly suggestive environment, “Le Monacelle”, an ex-convent dating to the 16th century and restored in 2000. And that is surely yet another reason for success. The convent’s numerous reception rooms are all open to Festival participants, including a cloistered patio and a vast terrace with a fantastic view over the old town. A magic place! So much so that it has just been named by the European Commission to be “Europe’s Cultural Capital” in 2019, beating all sorts of other rival Italian towns, including Lecce and Perugia.

From left, David Gaughran, Ann Colette, Jane Friedman, Monique Patterson of St Martin's Press, Elizabeth Jennings

From left, David Gaughran, Ann Colette, Jane Friedman, Monique Patterson of St Martin’s Press, Elizabeth Jennings

A Festival Born out of Friendship

What however makes the difference is the original “business model” followed by the Festival. First conceived as a writers’ retreat, it quickly morphed into a sui generis conference. It all began with a “telephonic friendship” between author Elizabeth Jennings who lived in Matera and Maria Paola Romeo who was then editorial director at Harlequin Mondadori in Milan. As Elizabeth Jennings explains it, they were “chatting and talking about establishing a writer’s retreat in Matera, which is quite beautiful and quite conducive to writing.” But in so doing, they both brought their experience and contacts to bear with the result that Matera turned into a special meeting place for the literati on both sides of the Atlantic, something truly unique.

Elizabeth Jennings is a successful romantic suspense author who constantly travels to the US, attending major writers’ conferences. Maria Paola Romeo has moved on from Mondadori and has become one of the most successful literary agents in Italy and now founder of a fast-growing digital publishing house Emma Books focused on women’s literature in both English and Italian.

The rest on Publishing Perspectives, click here.

Comments Off on Self-Publishing and Women’s Fiction, Hot Topics in International Writer’s Conference in Italy

Filed under Uncategorized

A Perfect Summer Breakfast

What a way to start a perfect summer day! A foamy cappuccino, a crisp croissant (or cornetto if you are in Italy), fresh fruit and a good book:

 

 Am I plugging my latest book? Yes, shamelessly, ha ha! I just got it in the mail, brand new, fresh from Create Space’s printing presses (you can see it here on Amazon – for some mysterious reason, the blue in reality is several shades darker than on the website, looks much better in reality. I confess that I love a printed book. It looks more real than the digital version, it’s got pages you can turn, a shiny cover you can slide your fingers on, and you can write in the margin. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t feel I’ve published a book until I hold it in my hands…

And I’m not afraid to say it’s a damn good book…Though I must also confess that I find it hard to self-promote, it goes against the grain. I’ve been brought up by old-fashioned parents who felt children should be seen and not heard.

…Well, not quite like that (though it pretty much sums up the influence of my mother and father, Mom was always the one who showed affection and Dad the one who discussed ideas). And it’s hard to shake off a lifetime of acting reserved and demure.

So what is this book Forever Young about? A near-future thriller (yes, scary!), it is set 200 years from now. Last week it got a Nevil Award for climate fiction and has already garnered 5-star reviews on Amazon. Actually, last year, when I published the opening, it got a lot of attention on Goodreads (23 ratings) – and more recently on Wattpad (400 reads) and Readwave (1685 reads, 13 likes, my most successful short, a 3 minute read, see here).

Here are some excerpts, and I treasure them, there is nothing that makes a writer happier than a good review that shows the reader enjoyed the book:

  • “Futuristic and yet spot on” (Beate Boeker, here) 
  • “A highly plausible future. Scarily plausible” (Bob Rector, here)
  • “A prophetic view of our future” (Lit Amri) 
  •  “a roller coaster ride” (Marsha Roberts, here
  • “A growing tension among the main characters as the fatal end approaches” (C.E. Rodriguez)
  • A fascinating concept, Nougat provides beautifully-written science fiction, with enough reality to scare the hell out of us” (Vikki Patis, see article here)

So why not make your summer perfect and get Forever Young?

Right now, if you live in the UK, the digital version is under promotion (at a 70% discount) – until 22 July, so hurry! If you don’t live in the UK, don’t despair, the digital price is low and the printed book can be had with a free digital version. I made sure to make the digital version free; in my opinion, this is something  that should be standard: if you buy the printed book, you should always get a free digital version, it makes sense.

Now, as to why Amazon doesn’t run “countdown deals” in markets other than the US and UK, I have no idea. Not fair. I can only presume that in the near future, they will do so.

Wondering about where I took the image with my book and cappuccino? On this terrace:

That’s our house in Umbria, an old stone farm near Lake Trasimeno, one of the main settings of my previous book, Crimson Clouds. Yes, under that umbrella, a perfect place to read a book!
Cheers and have a happy summer!

Comments Off on A Perfect Summer Breakfast

Filed under Cli Fi

Masterpiece, Italy’s Reality TV Show for Writers: Last Act and a Small Miracle

 Publishing Perspectives just published my most recent article about the Italian Reality TV show for writers (see here) and I’m happy to share it with you:

 

Italy’s TV Reality Show Ignored Psychology of Authors

Italy’s “Masterpiece” TV reality show for writers failed to attract viewers, in part, because it didn’t account for the way writers empathize with others.

By Claude Nougat

On March 30, the RAI 3 reality TV show Masterpiece promoted by the publisher Bompiani to find the “Next Big Italian Writer” ended with an unlikely winner, a Serb who lives in Venice: 36 year-old Nikola Savic.

Last week, on April 16, his winning book, Vita Migliore, was published in 100,000 copies and distributed to the libraries across Italy.

Two weeks to produce and distribute a printed book must be something of a Guinness record for a traditional publisher – as we all know, publishers usually require a minimum of six months to properly edit and produce a printed book.

A veritable miracle? Perhaps.

I reported on Masterpiece when the show started in the fall. By December 2013, it was suspended (presumably due to low ratings), but by then Nikola Savic, a tall, hefty Serb with a quick smile, was already very much in the public eye. He must have been in Bompiani’s eye as well.

The show resumed for four weekly sessions in March, and churned through some 12 candidates at a fast clip – a rate twice as fast as in the fall. For the final episode, on March 30, five candidates were still in competition.

That evening, the winner was selected by a deciding vote from Ms. Elisabetta Sgarbi, the Bompiani Senior Editor. In explaining her vote, she noted that Mr. Savic’s book needed some additional editing, that this was “important” because of grammatical errors and awkwardness in the language (she delicately called it “aritmie”). This is probably to be expected from someone for whom Italian is not the mother tongue.  “It was an uphill choice,” she said, discarding the other candidate, a woman, Raffaella Silvestri, whose book still sounded quite attractive.

Certainly an uphill choice and possibly a brave one.

On the other hand, we may have been given a preview of how Bompiani worked its minor miracle of such a quick turn around on Savic’s book publication, for when Ms. Sgarbi walked up to Savic on the podium to congratulate him, she brought to him… a printed copy of his book:
Nikola Savic, the winner of Masterpiece, with Elisabetta Sgarbi, Bompiani's Senior Editor

Yes, that’s his book. It seems it was already in print on March 30th. Or maybe not? Perhaps that was just the cover and the inside pages were blank…An alternative (and more probable) explanation is that the whole show was probably shot in a few weeks back in the fall (this is normally done for Reality TV shows to save money) and that Bompiani knew by November who the winner was. So they had in fact some five months to produce the book. Minor miracle explained!

With respect to the show’s declared objectives—to raise public awareness of writing and writers—one can only regret the way it went. As reported in the local press, it attracted few viewers and fell well below the average for Italian reality TV talent shows.

It certainly once again raises the question of whether writers can be fodder for TV shows. Aren’t they better off left in their ivory towers?

Looking back on this show, several mistakes were made at the outset, chief among them not allowing the winner of one session to carry over to the next, thus losing a chance to get viewers more involved in the fate of contenders. Efforts were made to get contenders to “fight” among themselves, for example, in the last session, a couple of contenders were asked to give the most negative opinion they could think up about each other’s book. It was not a pretty sight. Such efforts however seemed to have backfired and whenever one lost, the other rushed to embrace and console the loser. As was done here:
The loser Vargas is consoled by the contenders Nikola Savic and Raffaela Silvestri.

The savagery of classical talent shows didn’t appear to carry over to the writers. It would seem that the kind of uncivilized behavior exhibited in other reality show was difficult, if not impossible, to extract from the writers. Writers are by trade intellectuals who tend to empathize with others, itself an asset in dreaming up their characters and constructing their plots. There is no question that a reality show for writers should take into account the particular mental predisposition of writers who are, when all is said and done, very different people…or they wouldn’t write at all.

In short, no one has yet come up with a successful TV show featuring writers and Masterpiece certainly failed in this respect. If such a show is ever to succeed, more attention will need to be given in future to the way writers think and react.

On the other hand, if the objective of the show was to unearth the Next Big Writer, then more importance should have been given to the opinion of the audience. In the last session, an interesting effort was made to put together an audience in the studio and inform them in advance of the books competing as finalists (through synopsis and excerpts) and get the finalists to pitch their books directly to them, as was done here, with each contender supported by a well-known Italian author:
Last challenge in front of the jury and a crowd of invited onlookers; the contenders are supported by major writers, on the right, Savic by Susanna Tamaro and Raffaella Silvestri by Donato Carrisi.

After the performance, the audience was asked to vote and they favored Raffaella Silvestri over Nikola Savic. Nevertheless, the Masterpiece judges (Andrea De Carlo, Giancarlo De Cataldo and Taiye Selasi) voted for Savic and so did Bompiani’s editor, thus disregarding the opinion of the public. This was a lost opportunity  to take into account what  people think and like.

No doubt, Bompiani and the TV producers will carefully review the results of this show and draw some lessons. We can only hope for a better show the next time around.

A closing comment: I’d like to add that, overall, I feel this is a promising formula for attracting the general public’s attention to books and I’m sure that in future we’ll see smashing shows that will generate interest in writers and the world of publishing.

Your opinion? 

Enhanced by Zemanta

2 Comments

Filed under book marketing, Reality TV Shows

MIGRANTS FROM AFRICA: THE BATTLE FOR FRANCE!

1.440

Image by .mat via Flickr

You can check out this post on my original site: click HERE
Of the 20,000 illegal immigrants that have invaded Italy since January, most are Tunisians and most want to go to France: they speak French, they have family there and they are (mostly) young men who want to work. In Italy, for them there’s no work (the recession is still on-going). And of course they don’t feel at home, they don’t speak Italian.

But France won’t have it. Unbelievable! What has happened to the country of “freedom” and “equality”? Where has the French cultural heritage and revolutionary motto of “liberté, égalité, fraternité” gone to? Not to mention the deep-seated cultural linkage with Tunisia, a one-time colony of France that has had its values shaped by France’s liberal heritage…

True, the French were slow to respond to Tunisia’s “Jasmine Revolution“. Does anyone still call it that? Since popular uprisings, starting from Tunisia and spreading to Egypt, have eventually overwhelmed the whole of the Middle East, the tendency now is to talk of the “Arab Spring”.

Well, the calendar says it’s springtime but the French will have none of it. They are determined to stay in winter and they’ve tightly shut their doors against what Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi likes to call the “immigrant tsunami”. They’ve already sent back to Italy some 1700 illegal immigrants that had managed to cross into France since the beginning of the year, presumably from the Ventimiglia bordertown. At this point, I’m pretty sure that if the immigrants are smart,  they’re flooding into France from other places because French border police patrols have turned the whole area between Nice and Ventimiglia into a well-guarded military zone.

And now other European countries are following France in this bunker mentality: Germany and Belgium! Expect more countries soon as everyone takes the stance that the illegal immigrant emergency is Italy’s problem, and Italy’s alone…Actually not quite. Today Germany declared that they are more willing than the Italians – “ten times more willing!” – to receive immigrants and they have taken in…100 Africans who had taken refuge in Malta. One hundred as compared to the 20,000 (more likely 22,000) now milling about in Italy? And they pretend they are “more willing”? I can’t believe this: what is Europe and the European spirit of cooperation coming to? Actually, it is clear that there never was any, and Ms. Merkel who is one tough lady couldn’t care less about Europe (as she’s amply shown when Greece got into deficit). All she thinks of is Germany first – without realizing that by weakening Europe she is in the end weakening Germany too. But I’m getting carried away: that would be the subject matter of another post…

As of now, the fact is that Fortress Europe has been breached on its southern border. 20,000 immigrants in 3 months is clearly more than any single European country can handle, even a big one like Italy.  But it seems that the rest of Europe prefers to jettison Italy rather than try to help it solve the problem. Do you think I’m exaggerating? I’m not. The Italians have justifiably complained now for months that they are alone in bearing the brunt of the invasion. And so they are. Europe won’t hear about it and in Brussels the European Commission has gone mum on the subject. The Commission has yet to develop a common policy to address the issue of immigration, and that’s a policy that should have been developed BEFORE we ever got into the mess we are now in.

What can Italy do? Not much. So far, it’s done everything it can to wiggle out of this uncomfortable situation. First it has had to solve its own internal problems (I’ve blogged about this before, see here). Nobody in Italy wanted refugee holding camps near their own hometown, and some still don’t. Such as Alemanno, the Mayor of Rome who claims Rome has had its “fill of problems” and can’t take anymore – not a very Christian position, and certainly not in line with the Catholic Church.

Second, Italy turned to Tunisia, the major source of the problem, to see what could be done.The first politicians to go there were the Foreign Affairs Minister Frattini and the Interior Minister Maroni. Remarkably, the latter belongs to the anti-immigrant Lega Nord or Northern League but he is a very practical individual – not someone given to wearing ideological goggles. While most of the work was likely done by Maroni, Prime Minister Berlusconi took a last trip early this week to try and gather the laurels for himself. Regardless of who managed it, some positive results were in fact achieved.

In exchange for Italian investment support to Tunisia (the exact terms of the agreement are not available as I write, but possibly some €150 million were offered) and an agreement not to expel the first 20,000 immigrants that have landed, Maroni obtained from Tunisia that all additional immigrants that might be coming in Italy would be returned home and that new migrant sailings would be stopped. In return, Maroni issued temporary travel permits (up to 3 months) that in principle allow the immigrants to travel within the visa-free Shengen Area that covers 25 countries in continental Europe – including France and Switzerland, thus opening a wide swath of frontier between the three countries. As of today and keeping to its side of the agreement, Tunisia has started again to patrol its borders and is said to have stopped a boat from sailing off to Italy.

Problem solved? Not at all. Paris is furious and sent yesterday its Interior Minister Claude Guéant to Rome. Germany and Belgium are equally furious and several officials have said so publicly. The day before coming to Italy, Guéant issued an order to his prefects that no one was allowed in France without a proper passport (something illegal immigrants don’t have) and demonstrated income for self-support (at least €62/day – something immigrants dream of having !). On top of that, they can be expelled if they “disturb the public peace” – something very easy to provoke and a perfect basis for expulsion. To make matters even more complicated, there is a 1997 Italo-French treaty, the so-called “Chambéry agreement” signed a few weeks before Schengen and thus effectively putting a lid on Schengen. This agreement enables France to return to Italy any and all immigrants as it sees fit provided it can prove they came from Italy – thereby negating the very spirit of the Schengen treaty which was supposed to provide European citizens with the kind of freedom across state borders that Americans enjoy without even noticing it.

Indeed, the Italian Interior Minister Maroni was quick to point out that France’s move is equivalent to a suspension of Schengen. To his accusation, the Belgians and Germans were equally quick to point out that it is Italy who has “broken” Schengen – because it wasn’t able to “defend” its frontiers and “manage” the wave of illegal immigration (remember: 22,000 in 3 months – that’s 7,000/month. Who can “manage” such numbers when these are people without papers or money?) I really believe that France has turned anti-European, and with it, so has Germany and Belgium.

Everybody would like to see the Italians resolve the immigration problem for them. And if they don’t, that’s because the Italians are hopeless, and Berlusconi is a buffoon, right? Wrong! I’m really angry because what’s behind all this anti-European stance is nothing but self-interest and parochial politics. President Sarkozy is worrying about getting re-elected in 2012: he is playing to the extreme right, trying to win back votes from Marine Le Pen‘s party (she went to Lampedusa a few weeks ago and has created a storm over the immigrant issue). Ditto for Ms. Merkel who’s just lost regional elections and is in a very precarious position. If they can get votes at the expense of Europe, what do they care?

Oh my Europe, where have you gone?

Okay, today France and Italy have supposedly resolved their “diplomatic disagreement”. Maroni and Guéant have agreed to jointly patrol the waters to stop migrants from Africa. But how France will deal with the temporary permits issued by Italy to immigrants is a bit befuddled in the news. Both countries said they would “deal” with this problem. But how?

I have a suspicion – and I only hope I’m wrong. Would you believe that what is facing illegal immigrants, rather than liberté, égalité and fraternité,  is  “la mort” – death? If you don’t believe me, look at the French Revolution motto I put up at the top of my post. It very clearly says: “la mort“! All right, I’m kidding: it’s not actual death. But it is the social equivalent: people won’t be allowed to stay on, full stop. And that’s what Sarkozy’s France means – regardless of the stance he has taken on Lybia and the kudos gained for being the first to protect civilian lives in Benghazi with air strikes and the first to recognize the Lybian opposition’s government. In other words, the doors are shut!

And of course, Germany is not far behind. Just watch their anger against Italy unfold and expand!

Of the 20,000 illegal immigrants that have invaded Italy since January, most are Tunisians and most want to go to France: they speak French, they have family there and they are (mostly) young men who want to work. In Italy, for them there’s no work (the recession is still on-going). And of course they don’t feel at home, they don’t speak Italian.

But France won’t have it. Unbelievable! What has happened to the country of “freedom” and “equality”? Where has the French cultural heritage and revolutionary motto of “liberté, égalité, fraternité” gone to? Not to mention the deep-seated cultural linkage with Tunisia, a one-time colony of France that has had its values shaped by France’s liberal heritage…

True, the French were slow to respond to Tunisia’s “Jasmine Revolution“. Does anyone still call it that? Since popular uprisings, starting from Tunisia and spreading to Egypt, have eventually overwhelmed the whole of the Middle East, the tendency now is to talk of the “Arab Spring”.

Well, the calendar says it’s springtime but the French will have none of it. They are determined to stay in winter and they’ve tightly shut their doors against what Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi likes to call the “immigrant tsunami”. They’ve already sent back to Italy some 1700 illegal immigrants that had managed to cross into France since the beginning of the year, presumably from the Ventimiglia bordertown. At this point, I’m pretty sure that if the immigrants are smart,  they’re flooding into France from other places because French border police patrols have turned the whole area between Nice and Ventimiglia into a well-guarded military zone.

And now other European countries are following France in this bunker mentality: Germany and Belgium! Expect more countries soon as everyone takes the stance that the illegal immigrant emergency is Italy’s problem, and Italy’s alone…Actually not quite. Today Germany declared that they are more willing than the Italians – “ten times more willing!” – to receive immigrants and they have taken in…100 Africans who had taken refuge in Malta. One hundred as compared to the 20,000 (more likely 22,000) now milling about in Italy? And they pretend they are “more willing”? I can’t believe this: what is Europe and the European spirit of cooperation coming to? Actually, it is clear that there never was any, and Ms. Merkel who is one tough lady couldn’t care less about Europe (as she’s amply shown when Greece got into deficit). All she thinks of is Germany first – without realizing that by weakening Europe she is in the end weakening Germany too. But I’m getting carried away: that would be the subject matter of another post…

As of now, the fact is that Fortress Europe has been breached on its southern border. 20,000 immigrants in 3 months is clearly more than any single European country can handle, even a big one like Italy.  But it seems that the rest of Europe prefers to jettison Italy rather than try to help it solve the problem. Do you think I’m exaggerating? I’m not. The Italians have justifiably complained now for months that they are alone in bearing the brunt of the invasion. And so they are. Europe won’t hear about it and in Brussels the European Commission has gone mum on the subject. The Commission has yet to develop a common policy to address the issue of immigration, and that’s a policy that should have been developed BEFORE we ever got into the mess we are now in.

What can Italy do? Not much. So far, it’s done everything it can to wiggle out of this uncomfortable situation. First it has had to solve its own internal problems (I’ve blogged about this before, see here). Nobody in Italy wanted refugee holding camps near their own hometown, and some still don’t. Such as Alemanno, the Mayor of Rome who claims Rome has had its “fill of problems” and can’t take anymore – not a very Christian position, and certainly not in line with the Catholic Church.

Second, Italy turned to Tunisia, the major source of the problem, to see what could be done.The first politicians to go there were the Foreign Affairs Minister Frattini and the Interior Minister Maroni. Remarkably, the latter belongs to the anti-immigrant Lega Nord or Northern League but he is a very practical individual – not someone given to wearing ideological goggles. While most of the work was likely done by Maroni, Prime Minister Berlusconi took a last trip early this week to try and gather the laurels for himself. Regardless of who managed it, some positive results were in fact achieved.

In exchange for Italian investment support to Tunisia (the exact terms of the agreement are not available as I write, but possibly some €150 million were offered) and an agreement not to expel the first 20,000 immigrants that have landed, Maroni obtained from Tunisia that all additional immigrants that might be coming in Italy would be returned home and that new migrant sailings would be stopped. In return, Maroni issued temporary travel permits (up to 3 months) that in principle allow the immigrants to travel within the visa-free Shengen Area that covers 25 countries in continental Europe – including France and Switzerland, thus opening a wide swath of frontier between the three countries. As of today and keeping to its side of the agreement, Tunisia has started again to patrol its borders and is said to have stopped a boat from sailing off to Italy.

Problem solved? Not at all. Paris is furious and sent yesterday its Interior Minister Claude Guéant to Rome. Germany and Belgium are equally furious and several officials have said so publicly. The day before coming to Italy, Guéant issued an order to his prefects that no one was allowed in France without a proper passport (something illegal immigrants don’t have) and demonstrated income for self-support (at least €62/day – something immigrants dream of having !). On top of that, they can be expelled if they “disturb the public peace” – something very easy to provoke and a perfect basis for expulsion. To make matters even more complicated, there is a 1997 Italo-French treaty, the so-called “Chambéry agreement” signed a few weeks before Schengen and thus effectively putting a lid on Schengen. This agreement enables France to return to Italy any and all immigrants as it sees fit provided it can prove they came from Italy – thereby negating the very spirit of the Schengen treaty which was supposed to provide European citizens with the kind of freedom across state borders that Americans enjoy without even noticing it.

Indeed, the Italian Interior Minister Maroni was quick to point out that France’s move is equivalent to a suspension of Schengen. To his accusation, the Belgians and Germans were equally quick to point out that it is Italy who has “broken” Schengen – because it wasn’t able to “defend” its frontiers and “manage” the wave of illegal immigration (remember: 22,000 in 3 months – that’s 7,000/month. Who can “manage” such numbers when these are people without papers or money?) I really believe that France has turned anti-European, and with it, so has Germany and Belgium.

Everybody would like to see the Italians resolve the immigration problem for them. And if they don’t, that’s because the Italians are hopeless, and Berlusconi is a buffoon, right? Wrong! I’m really angry because what’s behind all this anti-European stance is nothing but self-interest and parochial politics. President Sarkozy is worrying about getting re-elected in 2012: he is playing to the extreme right, trying to win back votes from Marine Le Pen‘s party (she went to Lampedusa a few weeks ago and has created a storm over the immigrant issue). Ditto for Ms. Merkel who’s just lost regional elections and is in a very precarious position. If they can get votes at the expense of Europe, what do they care?

Oh my Europe, where have you gone?

Okay, today France and Italy have supposedly resolved their “diplomatic disagreement”. Maroni and Guéant have agreed to jointly patrol the waters to stop migrants from Africa. But how France will deal with the temporary permits issued by Italy to immigrants is a bit befuddled in the news. Both countries said they would “deal” with this problem. But how?

I have a suspicion – and I only hope I’m wrong. Would you believe that what is facing illegal immigrants, rather than liberté, égalité and fraternité,  is  “la mort” – death? If you don’t believe me, look at the French Revolution motto I put up at the top of my post. It very clearly says: “la mort“! All right, I’m kidding: it’s not actual death. But it is the social equivalent: people won’t be allowed to stay on, full stop. And that’s what Sarkozy’s France means – regardless of the stance he has taken on Lybia and the kudos gained for being the first to protect civilian lives in Benghazi with air strikes and the first to recognize the Lybian opposition’s government. In other words, the doors are shut!

And of course, Germany is not far behind. Just watch their anger against Italy unfold and expand!

Enhanced by Zemanta

Comments Off on MIGRANTS FROM AFRICA: THE BATTLE FOR FRANCE!

Filed under Uncategorized