|Pier Vittorio Tondelli was born in Correggio, in the province of Reggio Emilia, on 14 September 1955. He passed his childhood with his parents Brenno and Marta and his brother Giulio, in an environment that he himself defined as " ... ordinary people, common people, people that walk the provincial and municipal streets, people far from the news and the rumours ... ". Tondelli's childhood memories go back to the pigeons of his grandfather Dembrao and his father Brenno ("My grandfather Dembrao had always wanted me to help look after his homing pigeons and so, when school was over, I would go by bicycle to visit him, in the house where he lived, just outside the town...") ; and to his grandmother who carried him to the little chapel with the Madonna altar and flower vases. But they also go back to the bow-and-arrow games, " ... those bows that our gang of early-adolescent friends made out of bamboo, in the fields and the meadows, with insidious arrows and war-like intents ; we hunted frogs along the ditches and canals, making trophies and decorations of them to put up in branch huts, in the shadows of which we parked our bicycles". |
|He began frequenting the town library when he was twelve years old, maintaining his on-going relationship throughout the years. This is how he remembers the library, in which he entered for the first time as a boy, " The old library was in the wing of a sixteenth century palace that now houses the Civic Museum. |
A decorated caisson ceiling and immense walls of old books, over which probably still hovered the spirits of those who had lived in that room : Veronica Gambara, the poet ; Nicol˛ Postumo, the writer of "Fabula de Cefalo" [ A Tale of Cefalo] ; and the custodian who, was constantly chomping on a cigar and, had a bad disposition towards us children that he always saw as troublemakers". Tondelli read adventure novels most of all, the first two that he borrowed were "Le tigri di Monpracem" [The Tigers of Monpracem] by Salgari and "The Scarlet Pimpernel" by the Baroness Orczy. Of his "childhood" readings he mentioned : " ... 'Voyage to the Centre of the Earth', luxuriously bound and published by Boschi of Milano in April 1963 ; 'Boris Gudonov' of Edizione Paoline ; 'The Children of Paal Street' published by Malipiero of Bologna in 1954. 'Treasure Island' from the series 'Mughetto' published by Carroccio. 'The Three Horsemen of the Alamo' from the series 'Sui sentieri del West' [On the Trails of the West] edited by Tullio Kezich and Roberto Leydi. Another Jules Verne, 'North against South' published by Principato. The format of these books is more or less like a news magazine. The typefaces are very legible, the covers are in colour, and there are the occasional illustrations of simple black and white sketches or full-page plates".
|He attended Liceo Classico Rinaldo Corso [secondary school] of Correggio and participated in the life of the young Catholic community. His first texts were written for the parish newsletter. He often remembered his summers in the mountains ; with a soundtrack of Lucio Battisti and 'Fiori rosa, fiori di pesco' [Pink Flowers, Peach Tree Flowers] " ... sung at the top of one's voice on the summer camp bus ... " ; or the choruses around the bonfire " ... with ten guitars at a time directing young, enamoured and melancholic throats, before the revolution ... ". Everyone called him Vicky and this is how he signed his first writings. Including the play version of "The Little Prince", by Antoine De Saint-Exupery, for a show staged in Correggio. This is how he explained the reason for his choice, "This book is not a type of fairy tale alienated from the other writings or the philosophy of the 'poet-aviator', instead, it is perhaps their synthesis. The yearning for childhood, for imagination, the lyrical humanitar|
ianism that predominates in "Land of Men", from which were taken the Pilot's monologues ; the irony towards any grandeur and lust for power ; the poetic speech on responsibility and love that is contained in the poignant episode of the taming of the fox ; the exhortation to a spiritual life, to meditation ('the essential is invisible to the eye' repeats the Little Prince chasing the fox) ; all of these motives are present and infuse the tale with more clarity than any other literary form could do. Therefore, these are the more rational motives for our choice - that emerged directly from the text - and that we tried to communicate in the show".
|The soundtrack and the generation references had changed, "Battisti was then abandoned towards 1977, not because his songs were disliked but perhaps because we had grown up and it was now the time of Francesco Guccini, of Francesco De Gregori, of Antonello Venditti and of Inti Illimani. And, for better or for worse, we had passed through that unique radio experience of Per voi giovani [For You Youngsters]". Tondelli enrolled at DAMS [Faculty of Art, Music and Performance] of Bologna ("He had wanted to have contact with his contemporaries ; he had searched for them after his enrolment at the University of Bologna ; he found them, only to realise that his life would be lived in solitude ; and that the only way he could have joined with others was through the solitary and distancing exercise of a practice as old as the world itself : writing. He had understood that he would never be a protagonist but an observer"). He joined the cinema club, briefly worked in a theatre co-operative and for cultural programs of a free radio. |
He became a member of the Management Committee of Correggio's Asioli Theatre. "I always needed artistic expression. Perhaps I was not thinking about writing at the beginning. I chose it, being the most direct means - maybe the simplest - through which I could sit myself down at night and create a story, needing nothing else. I was always very interested in cinema and shows, so much so, that I registered in these studies at DAMS of Bologna. I would have liked to work in this field. Don't misunderstand me, writing was not a last resort ; it has always been the background of my search for an artistic activity by which I could live a little better". At Bologna he attended the courses of Umberto Eco and Gianni Celati. He got into an argument with Professor Eco regarding his essay on wine culture. This is how Eco tells it, "Tondelli's essay was exactly the same as the way in which he described it. It was immediately clear from his summary that the essay was scintillating, rich with unexpected quotes and certainly, quite personal. It was a nice piece of non-fiction, and as I remember, very well written. I had realised that here before me was a brilliant young man and that is what kept the argument going". He wrote his first novel and took it to Aldo Tagliaferri at the publishing house Feltrinelli, the rewriting of it produced the stories for his first book. "I have always written, since I was sixteen ... For me the act of writing was always linked to dream and desire. On hindsight, that first text sent to Feltrinelli - the typewritten one that preceded 'Altri libertini' [Other Libertines] - with its many pages, refined language and notable structural demands had become too personal and therefore no longer publishable, perhaps for this very reason, it is an inventory of the desires of an eighteen-or-nineteen-year-old including everything that could be part of provincial life. In that type of life everything, in both the family and the society, was very controlled". His visits to Bologna and subsequently to Milano changed his outlook and his cultural references. Tondelli reconsidered his mysticism and his desire for the Absolute, " ... turning to, as he stated, the contemplation of Far Eastern religions and philosophies". In this period, he read the weekly 'Lotta Continua', the monthly 'Re Nudo' and sometimes 'Lambda'.
Also 'short novels', diaries and confessions - for the most part - published by small houses ; ' ... in order to be witness to the collective desire for participation...' ".
|He wrote the stories for his first book "Altri libertini", " ... in such a way that each of them - although being self-contained - comes together in a substantially whole novel which, according to the author, ' ... is that of my land and our generation myths ... ' ". Aldo Tagliaferri played an essential role along side Tondelli. "The first thing I learnt in my apprenticeship under the guide of Aldo Tagliaferri - publishing editor and literary critic - was to rewrite. When I presented myself in his office with that huge volume, fruit of a year's work, I expected an immediate publication. I swear, that it had never occurred to me that those four hundred sheets would have been reduced, mangled and in the end left behind to make room for that which would become my first book". He often went from Correggio to Milano : "the city of fantasy, liberty and desire" ; that lives the "sign of the times" ; losing itself in the " ... poetry of the urban ghettos and the outlying districts ... " ; and continuously living " its own dream". "Altri Libertini" was published by Feltrinelli in January of 1980 and immediately received a lot of attention from the public, especially young people, and the critics. It was confiscated by the authorities under charges of obscenity twenty days after it appeared in the bookstores, when the third edition had already been prepared. The trial was held in Mondový (Cuneo) in 1981. The defendant and the publisher were absolved of all charges. He received his university degree with the thesis "Epistolary Literature as a problem in the theory of the novel". In February, he began his work with the daily newspaper "Il Resto di Carlino" writing "Warriors a Correggio" [Warriors in Correggio] ; an article on an "improvised and self-financed" carnival by fifteen kids one Saturday afternoon. In April, he left to do his military service, first at the base in Orvieto and then in Rome. |
|In February, he began to publish a series of articles entitled "Il diario del soldato Acci" [Diary of Acci the Soldier] in both "Il Resto di Carlino" and "La Nazione" ; in which he recounts the ambience and episodes of the military service he was doing. There were ten "reports" - written "between impediments and constrictions of every type" - and they foreshadow the theme of the novel PAO PAO which he would soon begin to write. Tondelli was also thinking of a television version ; " ... a television mini-series, the protagonist being this Acci, along with his friends and the Italian army. The stories, being delineated in short time frames, allow for an effective and almost natural transition to television". |
|He concluded his work with "Il Resto di Carlino" in a March publication of his report on a trip to : " ... the post-modern London that our immense and active young province continues to dream of ..." ; the 'London calling' ; "cross roads and short circuits" of behaviour, malaise and musical trends. A few months later he began to work with "Linus". His first article was "Trip savanico" [Savana Trip] on the new trends of "post-modern" Bologna. From galleries to discotheques with the kids : of the " ... creative Bologna that dance to the tribal interference of electronic music ... " and a glance at the " ... local twenty-year-olds, extroverted and creative, that hang out around the theatre district ; of figurative art ; of performance ; of music ... ". Tondelli even moved to Bologna and among his acquaintances were Andrea Pazienza and Francesca Alinovi. In June, the second novel PAO PAO was published by Feltrinelli, it plays on the acronym PAO - which means Picchetto Armato Ordinario [armed guard of the day] -|
and by doing so, indicates the subject matter ; a description of the "rite of passage" that is life on a military base.
|He began thinking about a novel on the early Eighties that would have been entitled "Un weekend postmoderno" [A Post-modern Weekend]. He wrote the first three chapters and then abandoned the project. "For me it was an attempt to do a novel by translating, transcribing the typical party talk of those years but it remained on paper. Basically, there should have been five, six or seven parties - one in Firenze, one in Bologna, one in Milano, one in London - described with a song-like language, almost poem-like, very mixed, with no quotation marks on the dialogue, with a fairly strange language, ... even its readability was very heavy, perhaps too much so ... ". There are other reasons that explain the abandonment of the project ; the discovery of the excesses linked to that "euphoria" and the murder of Francesca Alinovi. "For me, the Eighties finished right there, in 1983, during that weekend that - under the guise of a "mobile party" of "wild and crazy guys" - revealed the madness of relationships, the excess o|
f certain rites and even fear. After that, there was only the moment of observation and reflection, of work on material that was more or less autobiographical". He began to project the novel "Rimini" which would keep him occupied until 1985.
|Early in the year he wrote the first draft of the play "Dinner Party" while living in Via Fondazza in Bologna. "It is a story of thirty-year-olds, of a generation difficult to attach labels to ; a slightly violent and slightly sophisticated drama. I finished it a week ago (12 April). I should work on it for another month but I am satisfied. Until now, the play has been an unexplored genre for me and it does enthuse me. I am planning to stage it in Firenze next season ... I had writer's block on my novel ("Rimini"), I could not go on, could not find the right ending. Strangely enough, my release came by thinking about theatre. I just threw "Dinner Party" down on the page. Two weeks work, night and day. The plot came from an old story of mine, that should have become a novel, and instead was transformed into an original, fast paced play". He was in Firenze quite often. Where the youth scene was exuberant with exhibitions, avant-garde theatre, fashion shows and parties, "I seem to find myself in the right place at the right time. A bit like when I attended DAMS, in Bologna, in the hot years between 1975 and 1979 ... This is how my years in Firenze went by. In a lot of houses and apartments, at many all-night parties that gave me the feeling, tangible and concrete, of living in a city - where I did not have much time left for reflecting on my personal troubles - or if this should happen, where I felt the protection, the understanding and the embrace of the city itself that magically agreed with those reflections". He held a conference - presented by Anna Maria Papi with a set composed of works by Monica Sarsini - at Teatro di Rifredi in Firenze. It was mainly a reading of brief quotes, in fragmented form, on the theme of abandonment (" ... abandonment of love, abandonment of a beloved one, abandonment of things and perhaps even of reality ... "). He began the first draft of "Biglietti agli amici" [Letters to my Friends]. "This is the last letter that I will write. The first goes back to April of Eighty-four, one night in Firenze. Since then a lot of things in my life have changed and perhaps the most important ones are those concerning these pages ; they are no longer called 'Appunti per una fenomenologia dell'Abbandono' [Notes on the Phenomenon of Abandonment] but simply 'Biglietti agli amici' ". He met Franšois Wahl from Seuil of Paris, the editor who would publish the French edition of "PAO PAO". A rapport of mutual admiration was established. Throughout the years Wahl became an important confidant. "Calvino was important for some writers and Celati for others. In my case, I must name Aldo Tagliaferri and Franšois Wahl in France. Not that I had any other confidants. I would have liked to have had them as it would have helped me to discover what I do not know". |
|In May, the novel "Rimini" was released and marked the passage of Pier Vittorio Tondelli from the publishing house of Feltrinelli to Bompiani. The book was labelled as a commercial novel by the critics. This did not please the writer ; who saw in "Rimini" an attempt to describe the Riviera Adriatica " ... as a 'container' of different stories ... a fresco, perhaps a symphony, of the Italian scene in those years, and the various ways - emotional, dramatic and existential - of describing it". It was the best-selling book of the summer and became a cultural phenomenon. It was launched by Roberto D'Agostino - along with the successful record of the same name by Lu Colombo - on a July evening, at the Grand Hotel, with a buffet in the garden and a ball in the Fellinian salons, "inspired by the perceived image of Rimini". The organiser also presented the exhibition "Anniottanta" [The Eighties] in Bologna at the same time. There was also a controversy ; the cancellation of the book presentation in the salon of Baudo on "Domenica In", even though it had already been announced in "Sorrisi e Canzoni TV". The cancellation smelt of a real "political" censure, whereas the official reason stated was, "Just as restricted films and videos are not accepted, so it is the same for literary works that contain episodes of sex". The disappointment was felt by others, who had nothing to do with the book but had collaborated on the show. The designer Enrico Coveri, who had prepared a bathing suit fashion show ; and a group of photographers from Rimini, who had prepared a video - by the express request of the show - to be aired along with Tondelli's interview. The "Progetto Under 25" [Under 25 Project] was launched on the pages of "Linus" with an article entitled "Gli scarti" [The Discards] about the new youth scene . A few months later the project sought the collaboration of the small publishing house Il Lavoro Editoriale of Ancona. Tondelli wrote, "The 'Progetto Under 25' has taken off and we hope that - year after year, by lowering the age of the participants - it will become a fun and pleasant appointment with the ways-of-telling of the newer generations. A type of game in which, as readers, we will never tire of participating". By December 31st, the deadline for participating in the first volume, four hundred texts had arrived at the publishing house, and another hundred arrived in early 1986. He began working with "L'Espresso" and "Corriere della Sera" but his relationship with the milanese daily was interrupted after an interview with the magazine "I Magazzini" ("Dialoghi in strada con i Magazzini non pi¨ criminali" [Dialogues in the street with I Magazzini, who are no longer criminals]) published in December. The new version of the two-act play entitled "La notte della vittoria (Dinner Party)" [Victory Night (Dinner Party)] - that had been sent to the 38th edition of the Ater-Riccione Theatre Awards in 1985 - received the special Paolo Bignami Memorial Prize with the following comments, "A work that - with its apparently traditional framework of a bourgeois environment - expresses, in dry and ironic dialogue, the moods and restlessness of the Eighties generation ; and marks the entrance into theatre of an up-and-coming narrator". He also began to work on a few film projects stemming from his literary works. "My interest in cinema - made from dramatic stories and not only boorish plays in dialect - will be made concrete in a film taken from my previous book "Altri Libertini", that Daniele Segre is trying to "put together" with other young directors from the milanese area, such as Giancarlo Soldi. It will be a film in episodes, each one with a young director and a different cinematographic style. The film will not disguise its ambition of becoming the possible first of a new Italian cinematography". This film will never be made. The same goes for "Rimini", of which Tondelli began to write a potential screenplay with the director Luciano Manuzzi in this period. "Substantially, I imagined that an end-of-the-world scenario might grip the summer Babylon of vacations in such a way that stories and plots could be told ; that by being inserted in such a receptacle, they would become more intense. More representative. And therefore the telling of insensitivity, of futility, of frivolity, of stupidity but also of emotion, of life's exciting moments, of beach sex encounters, would all seem much stronger if seen under the glass bell of a real nuclear danger that no one appears to or wants to recognise. Due to internal incoherence, this project was abandoned and substituted, even though the general atmosphere remained and a reworking was imminent ". November 30th sees the national debut, at Correggio's Asioli Theatre, of a Gianfranco Zanetti play based on two stories from "Altri Libertini", "Postoristoro" [Rest Stop] and "Autobahn" [Highway]. In December, he began working with the monthly "Rockstar" which he continued to do until 1989. He wrote a popular column "Culture Club" (obviously Boy George's group had influenced the title), that with its reading advice, musical news and feelings became a sort of "diary in public" and a very direct conversation with the young readers of the magazine. |
|He moved into an apartment at 52 Via Abbadesse in Milano. "I bought a Tibetan Tanka, my first one, it is a piece from the eighteenth century. It represents the Paradise of Amithaba, the Buddha of Infinite Light. I should restore it a bit but I hope it protects my new home". He travelled frequently in Europe, between Paris and Berlin - cities he had visited often in the previous years - and Amsterdam. The theme of travelling also became the "background" for several stories : "Raggazi a Natale" [Children at Christmas time] and "Questa specie di patto" [This Type of Pact]) published in "Per lui" ; and "Pier a Gennaio" [Pier in January] in "Nuovi Argomenti". He edited the first volume of "Progetto Under 25", "Giovani Blues" [Young Blues], which came out in May of 1986 and presented the stories of Andrea Canobbio, Andrea Lassandri, Roberto Pezzuto, Giuliana Caso, Paola Sansone, Rory Cappelli, Alessandra Bruschi, Giancarlo Visconvich, Claudio Camarca, Vittorio Cozzolino and Gabriele Romagnoli. The underlying theme was " ... a juvenile condition competing between mediocrity and adventure, a lightweight condition or at the most sweet-and-sour, never desperate or tragic ... ". He published "Biglietti agli amici" with Baskerville of Bologna, a small house that made their debut with this very book; a "personal" book for very few people, " ... a precious book, well-crafted and put together with care". Initially, " ... it was supposed to be a 'livre d'art' ; fifty copies in all with the astrological and angelic charts hand-drawn by an artist". Instead, the edition that was printed had a structure similar to the hours of the day that make up the astrological and angelic charts taken from Barrett. About a hundred copies of the book were printed. The edition for the people to whom the letters were written bears their full names in the dedications, as if to personalise the book. This printing was private in nature and not for sale. The bookstore edition - entirely autographed by the author - although being identical to the private one, has only the friends' initials in the dedications. At first, to maintain the private nature of the publication, Tondelli had asked those journalists to whom he had sent the book, not to discuss it. |
|In March, he participated in the conference "Il racconto : attualitÓ della letturatura" [The Story : Reality of Literature], with an important lecture entitled "Un momemto della scrittura" [A Moment of Writing]. He edited the second volume of "Progetto Under 25", "Belli & perversi" [Beautiful & Perverse], which was published in December of 1987 and presented the stories of Andrea Mancinelli, Francesco Silbano, Romolo Bulgaro, Giuseppe Borgia, Renato Menegat, Andrea Demarchi and Tonino Sennis. There was no precise theme but certainly there was more attention paid to "the literary aspects of the proposal". He worked on "Mouse to Mouse" - an "editorial series" - for the publisher Mondadori, that " ... wants to explore those cultural territories not immediately ascribed to literature and its practices, those non-marginal and non-emergent places in society. Therefore it looks for narration in the worlds of fashion, publicity, figurative art, show business, rock music ... ". |
|In the spring, with a cover logo drawn by Luis Frangella, the first two titles of "Mouse to Mouse" - chosen by Tondelli - were published ; "Fotomodella" [Fashion Model] by Elisabetta Valentini and "Hotel Oasis" by Gianni De Martino. At Columbia University with Alain Elkann, Enzo Siciliano, Manfredi Piccolomino and David Leavitt he presented the American issue of the magazine "Nuovi Argomenti" that contained his story "Pier's January". He held a series of conferences in various Italian cities on the "Progetto Under 25". He began working on the novel "Camere Seperate" [Seperate Rooms]. |
|In March, he held a series of meetings with High School students intended as " ... a seminary on writers, the Po and Emilia, inviting them to read and discover the writers of their land, to compare the places and the descriptions". In the spring, he published the novel "Camere Seperate" with Bompiani, that represented a turning point. It is " ... the story of a journey divided into three concentric and contiguous movements/chapters, like an operetta of environmental music. The themes of death, grief for a lost friend, religion, mother, country, travel and friendship make up the narrative texture of a complex search for inwardness and deepening". He worked with Luciano Mannuzzi, writing several versions of the subject that would be the basis of the film "Sabato Italiano" [Italian Saturday] which was released in the cinemas in 1992. He worked with Alain Elkann and Elisabetta Rasy on "Panta", a literary magazine with a monographic theme. The first issue, published by Bompiani, came out in January of 1990. For the magazine, he had planned a trip to Grasse on the C˘te d'Azur, in search of the writer Frederic Prokosch whom he had wanted to interview. He then received the unexpected news that the writer had died. Tondelli took the trip anyway and brought back a selection of interesting photographs that he had shot to accompany the text. He met the critic Fulvio Panzeri for a long conversation on the "new Italian narrative", to be published in a single volume by Transeuropa - Il Lavoro Editoriale of Ancona. He met Giorgio Bertelli, from the publishers L'obliquo of Brescia, for a projected new book - in a limited edition - of one of these three possibilities : an essay on Arbasino ; the reworking of the story "Pier a Gennaio"; or a book version of "Viaggio a Grasse" [Journey to Grasse] with text and photographs. |
|He published a long story on "his" soundtracks, "Quarantacinque giri per dieci anni" [Forty-five rpm's in Ten Years] in "Canzoni" [Songs], an anthology (with stories by Palandri, Manfredi, Lodoli and Van Straten) for the publishing house Leonardo. He actively participated in the organisation of the exhibition Ricodando fascinosa Riccione [Remembering Fascinating Riccione] for the 40th Ater-Riccione Theatre Awards. He carried out accurate archival and bibliographical research on the relationship between 20th century writers and the Riviera Adriatica. He also wrote a long essay for the catalogue "Cabine! Cabine!", in which he re-evaluated writers like Guareschi, Scerbanenco and Arfelli. He edited a choice anthology on the literary image of Riccione and the Riviera Adriatica. He began working on the project "Un weekend postmoderno" with Fulvio Panzeri. It began as an idea to collect into one large and complete "critical novel", all of Tondelli's journalistic, literary and non-fiction works done throughout the Eighties. After a classificatory and critical scrutiny of the available material, the project was planned in two volumes ; one dedicated to "chronicles of the Eighties" and the other to "stories of the Eighties". The first volume was organised during the summer and published by Bompiani that autumn. Tondelli edited the third volume of "Progetto Under 25", "Papergang", which was published by Transeuropa in November and presented the stories of Silvia Ballestra, Guido Conti, Raffaella Venarucci, Giuseppe Culicchia, Alessandro Comoglio, Frediano Tavano, Ageliki Riganatou and Andrea Zanardo ; that gave rise "to a different volume than the preceding ones, certainly more reflexive ... ". Seuil put out the French edition of the novel "Rimini" on which Tondelli, with the translator Nicole Sels, had done a substantial revision of the text. |
|In April, he moved from Milano to Bologna. At the end of the summer, after a trip to Tunisia, he was admitted to the hospital of Reggio Emilia. He chose to remain silent about his illness (AIDS). He saw very few friends. While in hospital he wrote only short notes regarding a literary project that was close to his heart but which he never got to do, "Sante messe" [The Holy Masses] ; "Structure of the 'Masses' ... 1) Twelve like the zodiac signs and the respective guardian angels. 2) Twenty-three like the letters of the angelic alphabet 'writing of the angels'. Perhaps ten texts". He also went over several previously published books trying to rewrite final versions. For "Altri libertini", he had readied a partial revision of the text in order to point out errors and modify linguistic situations (particularly, the swear words) within the stories. For "Biglietti agli amici", he had planned new addressees and new letters. This work, too, was never completed. He re-embraced the Catholic religion. He died on 16 December 1991 and was buried in the small cemetery of Canolo, a tiny hamlet of Correggio. |
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