"As through a glass..." : The Dark Heart of Italy

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"As through a glass..." : The Dark Heart of Italy

Post by Robert Frazer on Fri 17 Apr 2009 - 9:01

One of the watchwords of Gunslinger Girl is authenticity - not just in the fidelity of its real-world weapons but also in the thoroughness with which it realises the setting. Of course, there's more to Italy than backdrops of the Tuscan countryside or gunning down your opponents on the steps of the Pantheon - there needsto be a character, a mood, an ethos and an atmosphere to the characters and their interactions.

Of course, it's difficult to become fully fluent in not just a language but an entire alien culture, but with the right reference to synthesise all the myriad observations of life for you you can make a decent fist of it. I think that I've found a good one in The Dark Heart of Italy by Tobias Jones, published by Faber & Faber in 2003 with a revised edition in 2007. I'm only a couple of dozen pages in and it's already revealing some fascinating aspects to life there which I only had the vaguest notion of before.

For instance, here's a few snippets about the negativism with which the Italians perceive their own country, a perception of being the plaything of external influences:

"There was an obvious,inexplicable inferiority complex about being Italian. The first time I went to browse through a bookshop, there were a host of indignant titleson display: Italy, the Country We Don't Like; The Italian Disaster; The Abnormal Country...
...
...There was one metaphor that was always used to describe Italy: 'whore', 'harlot', 'brothel'. For Dante, Italy was an 'inn of woe, slavish and base... a brothel's space'. For Boccaccio it was 'the woman of the world', once regal but now fallen. Italy was, for Machiavelli, a woman disfigured and nude, 'without head, without order, beaten, undressed, lacerated, coarse...'...
...
...Another reason the metaphor is used is that the world for brothel (
casino) also means 'mess' or 'confusion'. The very modus operandi of Italy is confusion. That's how Italy's power and secrecy works. Any investigator simply gets tangled up in all the facts and words and documents; witht he convictions and contradictions... the resultis that their investigations end up with such an unbelievable story that, even if it's true, people are already bewildered beyond the point of no return. By far the most common expression heard to describe Italy is 'bel casino', which is rather like Laurel and Hardy's 'fine mess'. It means a 'beautiful confusiuon' or (originally) a 'beautiful brothel'"

Padania's lack of patriotism seems more understandable in this context! sweat

While this book may be that of an outsider looking in, it's presented convincingly and Jones himself is an Oxford graduate and former writer for the London Review of Books so I hope he's a step above the usual hack. In any case, I'm finding it an engrossing cultural treasure trove and I'm definitely using it as a sourcebook to inform my future fanfics - I'd reccomend everyone to have a thumb through it.

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Re: "As through a glass..." : The Dark Heart of Italy

Post by ElfenMagix on Fri 17 Apr 2009 - 9:48

One must remember that Italy, like Germany, were the last countries in Europe to finally unify into nations and before then only extisted as Nation-States- up to about around 1860 - 1890. Because of this, people went about in and out as they damn well pleased and the nation-states often went each other with territorial squirmishes and economic embargoes. Even after unification, people were prejudice about what part of Italy (and Germany) you came from.

I touch on this on my stories, with the every-day Joe being from Apathetic to Hostile against certain elements. Some claim that my stories (Solution's Resolution and UN Resolution) are dark; for they are, but they are because Italy itself is a dark place to be in. Despite the smiling faces and the helping hand of many of its citizens, Italy is a closed culture and closed society, who think that they are above all overs. Then again, most cultures and societies are above others.

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Re: "As through a glass..." : The Dark Heart of Italy

Post by Nachtsider on Fri 17 Apr 2009 - 10:23

I'm admittedly not all that well-versed in Italy's cultural and social nuances. All my GSG fics I have therefore penned in such a way that I do not really need to outline little more than is known by a fairly well-read layperson. To date, no-one's raised any complaints about this, although I'm certainly not taking this dearth of criticism as an excuse to not improve my knowledge in these departments. I'll check this book out when I have the time.

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Re: "As through a glass..." : The Dark Heart of Italy

Post by ElfenMagix on Fri 17 Apr 2009 - 10:36

Nacht, the secret is simple. Take the dark elements of any society and give it an Italian Accent and place it somewhere/anywhere within Italy!

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Re: "As through a glass..." : The Dark Heart of Italy

Post by Kiskaloo on Fri 17 Apr 2009 - 11:07

I do tend to perform a good bit of research for my multi-chapter pieces, and Italy's strife and the rise of Padania were major points in Public Relations. That being said, this book does look interesting and I will see if my local library carries it.

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