Category Archives: Paul Auster

Dedica Festival, Episode One


Sorry for this belated post, but a teacher’s life is not so "calm" (or should I write "relaxed") as most people seem to think here in Italy.  It is a sort of rollercoaster (at least for those who work!).  Let’s try to catch up with some of the most salient points I tried to take note of during Paul Auster’s stay in Pordenone.  As I pointed out on different occasions in this blog, all the points I raise are highly subjective thus I am open to debate and constructive exchange of opinions. 

Since some of you did not attend all the meetings and/or performances, I will jot down some food for thought and you are kindly requested to develop at least one of the points I am going to put forward.

The following will be our last posts on Paul Auster, but if you wish you can suggest ways of keeping this blog going.  I will post your critical review and creative writing pieces, since I really think you did a wonderful job.  Some of you asked me not to share them and this is the reason why you won’t find all your classmates’ critical reviews.

So, let’s start with the first food for thought input.  The notes you will find may appear chaotic to you.  Bear in mind they are the result of me scribbling down during the events I attended.  

Please write your considerations on one of the quotations in italics.

What do Paul Auster’s words make you think of?


21st March 16.30 Dedica a Paul Auster, conversazione con Paul Auster e Antonio Monda, con video-Dedica di Wim Wenders.


It was worth queuing outside the theatre for two hours and a half!  I saw some of you and I met some interesting people, as it always happens on such “uplifting” occasions as Dedica or Pordenonelegge.  It is nice getting to talk to people you saw the year before. You end up opening up with people you barely know, you share values and interests you may not share with people you meet every day.  Bearing in mind Paul Auster’s creed (our lives are ruled by chance and coincidence) during the literary festival I savoured even more the pleasure of talking to people, exchanging glances and smiles.  As Auster would put it: what a pleasure bumping into people you don’t know, but are part of the texture of your life and enhance your existence.  I must say that Dedica offered me the ground for both professional and personal growth.  For this reason I want to thank Claudio Cattaruzza: without him we would not have Dedica, without him I would not have had the chance to meet Anita Desai, Amos Oz, Nadine Gordimer and Paul Auster (just to mention the festivals I have been inolved in).


I was so moved when I saw Paul Auster enter the stage.  I could associate all the books I had read with a real person, not just a photo or video.  What an opportunity, what a great and mesmerizing opportunity.  Students in Pordenone are used to seeing writers in the flesh, but the idea of working with one made my head swirl with emotion (a sort of swoon, so to say).  How would I have responded to such great opportunities at my students’ age?  Guys, you are lucky!

chi ti legge ti ama 

foto (chi ti legge ti ama)  di Valerio Fiandra:


To cut it short, when I saw him I felt the urge of reading the other books by him I had bought and not yet had the time to read.  The love for reading was surging inside me. 


Do you think the language of media is destroying or negatively affecting the language of literature?

Paul Auster disagrees with this.  He thinks people need stories, not just TV.  Bedtime stories are important.  It’s a fundamental element in the growth of a human being.  There is hunger for stories, they help make sense of the world. Books can’t hurt you, they won’t blow up in your hands.  You can live through anger, fears, in the protected environment of narration.  The reader knows this.  One person reading a book written by another person: two people meeting in absolute intimacy.


I loved Paul Auster when he uttered these (approximately!) words.  I do believe that children love listening to stories, but I do not agree that only those children who were lucky enough to be told stories by their parents become good readers.  The kind of intimacy that is created between reader and writer through a book is total and at the same time so mysterious.  This explains why it is difficult to put it into words.  If it were not for books I think my life would be half pleasant.  Should I use a metaphor, to describe my passion for reading (a passion that unfortunately I cannot always foster as much as I would love to), I would say that a life without books is like a barren field, a mind without books is like a minefield, a body without books is bound in a dark damp cell, a soul without books has not say, it has not voice.  Reading empowers you with greater sensitivity and sensibility, it endows your mind and your body with the wings of understanding. 

If you were asked to write a slogan for reading, what would you write? 

Visit the bus slogan generator website, create your slogan and paste it if you can.  If you can’t, send it to me via e-mail and I will post it.


Mine is:


Paul Auster says that writing is not an act of free choice, it is an act of survival.  You don’t choose to become a writer, you are chosen.  This is true for any artist.  You have a passionate need to do.  You are cursed with this illness.  Those for whom the world is not enough are philosophers, poets, readers of books.

If you want to listen to his words, watch the short video clip posted on


Paul Auster expressed some worries about the American reading public.  They are isolated.  Only 3% of the books published in the USA are translations.  There’s a lack of curiosity and he finds this upsetting.  Culture has closed too much and this worries him.  People are not curious to learn things about the rest of the world.  Unfortunately this is also caused by the fact that the learning of foreign languages is not promoted by the American educational system.  He mentions a survey carried out in his country and the fact that a man (who epitomises somehow the typical American) when asked about the issue of not teaching foreign languages in American schools candidly stated: “If English was good enough for Jesus, that’s good enough for me”.  (Of course the audience at Teatro Verdi all laughed.  Mine was more a sort of sneer).

Paul Auster concludes by saying that the reading public seems to be less interested in what happens overseas or abroad because the USA are so big and so isolated geographically. 

I thought about Auster’s observation about Americans not learning foreign languages and I wondered: how far foreign languages are promoted in our country.  A dear friend of mine (she is Greek and she teaches English) told me that at the age of 17 all her students sit and pass the Proficiency exam.  How is it possible that in Italy most students at a Liceo do not go beyond the First Certificate level (B2)? Language is culture, culture is literature.  So in literature we find language and culture.  We should then be able to achieve higher levels, but we don’t, why?  Help, help.  Do you have any explanations? 



For those who are interested in American literature and love reading, I want to let you have the list of American authors Paul Auster suggested reading:

Philip Roth

Rick Moody

David Foster Wallace (unfortunately he committed suicide a short time ago)

Richard Powers

Siri Hustvedt (Auster’s wife)

Raymond Carter


Paul Auster pointed out that as a writer he wants people to have emotions, otherwise they wouldn’t be alive.  Indifference is the most hurtful thing, it is humiliating for a writer (I would add it is humiliating for any human being!).  He wants to confront human beings in an original way, that is why he uses different levels of narration.  If the writer is gripped, the reader is too.


Last but not least:

Invisible (2009) is Auster’s latest novel.  Looking forward to its publication!

Posted in Paul Auster | 15 Comments