Memoria Presente project: Literature and Film

The body of literature and film reflecting the cultural ties between Italy and Spain/Latin America is extremely vast and complex. This section covers works produced in different places and at different historical moments to try to capture this variety and illustrate the multifarious forms of contact and exchange across geographies and cultures.

LITERATURE (includes fiction, non fiction and journalism, as well as illustrated books)

  • Agosti, Paola. El Paraiso: Entrada Provisoria. FIAF Federazione Italiana Associazioni Fotografiche, 2011. 

This book gathers a selection of Paola Agosti‘s photographs taken during her late 1980s-early1990s stay in Argentina to document the presence of Italian immigrants in the Pampas gringas, where colonies of Piedmontese moved since the late 1880s. The black and white images depict moments of daily life in work, religious, domestic and entertainment spaces, as well as the streets and the countryside. The photographs are paired by perfectly pitched quotations coming from the most diverse sources (poems, novels, songs, etc.) that simultaneously function as minute illustrations and lyrical suggestions. One that captures the project as a whole is by Italian Ambassador to Argentina Ludovico Incisa di Camerana: “Argentina for Italians is not a foreign land: it is a destiny that has won over of the absence of a geographical connection.”

Influenced by a philosophy of historical preservation of “defeated” communities (as she called the rural villagers of Piedmont, the slum dwellers of Abruzzo, the women working in factories in Italy and in Cuba), Agosti’s look in the Argentinian project is one that subtly combines curiosity towards these individuals and the desire to register their transplanted lives in a place that is not Italy, and yet it is (the colònias were often named after Italian prominent figures like Silvio Pellico or Cavour, or cities like Torino in Nueva Torino). Her journey is one of recognition of familiar traits and traditions that nonetheless remains conscious of the displacement brought about by migration. Behind her project lies the belief that the exploration of the history of Italian emigration sheds light on the comprehension of contemporary flows into Italy.

The series of images can be used at any level of language and cultural acquisition for mere descriptive exercises with the goal of expanding vocabulary or for story telling inspired by the subjects of the photos. At a more advanced level, students can be required to develop projects about Italian emigration to Argentina as well as research the sources of the quotations to create a digital hypertext.

Note: The Beinecke Library at Yale University holds large prints of the photos included in the book.

  • Bravi, Adrián N. La gelosia delle lingue: Macerata: Edizioni Università di Macerata, 2017. Now available in English (Rutgers UP, 2023).

In this collection of essays, Adrián N. Bravi reflects not only on his personal experience in adopting another language but on other writers and thinkers who embarked on journeys into speaking, writing, and thinking in other languages. Bravi, the descendant of Italian immigrants, was born and grew up in Buenos Aires before moving to Italy in the late 1980s, where he still lives and works as a librarian at the Università di Macerata. A writer of novels and essays, since 2000 he was written exclusively in Italian. His essays cover a wide range of topics, from reflections on canonical writers who chose to write in other language, such as Elias Canetti, Samuel Beckett, Julia Kristeva, to those particular to the Argentine-Italian migratory and cultural exchange like Juan Rodolfo Wilcock and Bravi himself. In addition to considering and elaborating on various metaphors for language change, adoption, and rejection, the volume also includes essays on translation, self-translation, and the emotional implications of learning another language.

The essays vary in length and complexity but would be ideal for intermediate and advanced undergraduate classes, especially for students who are still in the process of learning another language. They can be used to promote metacognition about second language acquisition and bi- or multilingualism and have a high potential for promoting self-reflection and engaging classroom discussion. Also appropriate for Master’s and Doctorate level classes. The collection also serves as a useful bibliography for students who are interested in exploring authors who write about language, migration, and exile. (Summary and suggestions by Zachary Aguilar, graduate student, Yale University).

  • Campana, Dino. Canti Orfici e altre poesie: Turin: Einaudi ET Poesia, 2014.

    The Italian poète maudit Dino Campana (1885-1932) traveled widely throughout Italy, Europe, and South America, spending two years in the continent (primarily Argentina) from 1907-1909 (some sources question the reliability of this information, and claim the trip is not documented). There exist no records or direct testimonials of his travels, except for the few poems in the Canti Orfici that describe his time in South America. The first of these prose poems, “Viaggio a Montevideo,” elaborates on the departure from Genova, the journey by boat across the equator and along the South American coast, and the arrival in the Uruguayan city. In “Dualismo (Lettera aperta a Manuelita Etchegarray)” Campana exalts the virtue of wandering as his memories of the wide open American spaces mix and merge with memories of Parisian boulevards. In “Pampa,” he describes traveling by train at night through the vast Argentine pampa as he contemplates the moon and the stars and the cosmos, loosing himself in infinite space and infinite time while racing through the darkness on the rails. In “Passeggiata in tram in America e ritorno” Campana focuses primarily on the moments of departure and return in Genova, highlighting the double disorientation of travel and migration.

    Differently than the more patriotic writing of De Amicis and other early chroniclers of voyages to South America, Campana’s poems are more internally focused and express feelings of existential loss. Other themes that can offer rich analysis are the presence of Genova as a port of departure and return, the encounters with indigenous peoples and histories, and the use of poetics of color and music. These poems could be used for advanced undergraduate courses but can be lexically and syntactically challenging. Appropriate for use in Master’s and Doctorate level courses. (Summary by Zachary Aguilar, graduate student, Yale University).
  • De Amicis, Edmondo. “Dagli Appennini alle Andes.” Short Story included in Cuore. Milan: Treves, 1886.

Appearing in the collection of children’s stories Cuore, “Dagli Appennini alle Andes” depicts the odyssey of Marco, a young Genovese, as he travels to Argentina to rescue his sick mother. We accompany Marco through the trials and tribulations he faces in his journey: the infinite expanse of the Atlantic Ocean; the endless streets of Buenos Aires; the voyage by train through the pampa all the way to Córdoba; traveling with gauchos to Tucumán. As Marco travels to further and further into the interior, he is aided by fellow Italians who not only provide him shelter and safe passage in this strange new land, but also create a sense of diffused italianità even outside of the peninsula. The story allows for reflections on themes of transnational identity building, mainly the affirmation and consolidation of Italian identity through post-Unification emigration at the turn of the 19th century, as well as the role of Italians in the creation of Argentine national identity.

Special attention can be devoted to the formulation of a migration narrative via the mother-child bond, and a melodramatic register. Because of the story’s immense popularity in Argentina, it also makes it an appropriate text to introduce the concept of reception studies to undergraduate students. Due to its accessible prose and linear narrative, it can be adopted in intermediate-advanced undergraduate classes for Spanish speakers, as well as courses at the Master’s and Doctorate level. (Summary by Zachary Aguilar, graduate student, Yale University).

De los Apeninos a los Andes
  • De Robertis, Carolina.The Gods of Tango. New York: Knopf Doubleday, 2015. Novel.
    Winner of the Stonewall Book Award, this novel interweaves migration and sexuality in bold ways. It follows the story of a young woman who travels by herself from a small village in Italy to Buenos Aires in 1913: bound to meet her husband-to-be as part of an arranged marriage, she finds herself alone with a closet full of men’s suits. And she starts wearing them, after cutting her hair, in order to follow her passion – playing the violin – and secure an income for herself at a time when women are relegated to domestic work. In the process, she discovers the intense world of tango and her own gay sexuality. The novel is available in Italian (La città degli incontri proibiti, Garzanti edition, 2016), which allows for the design of interesting units based on translation and trans-linguistic/trans-cultural exchanges.

    The author is originally from Uruguay with roots in Argentina. Her novels are often set in Argentina and Uruguay since she identifies as being from the Rio del Plata region. She has also lived in England and the U.S. Author’s webpage and Interview about migration, tango, slavery, and sexuality.

  • Giardinelli, Mempo. Santo Oficio de la Memoria. 1993. Madrid: Ediciones B, 2004. Novel.

    A classic immigrant saga with autobiographical elements, the novel relates the story of the Domeniconelles moving from Italy to Argentina at the end of the 1800s. Divided in hundreds of short chapters, the book employs roughly thirty voices, for the most female ones, to relay the vicissitudes of five generations (the genealogical tree is included in the Spanish edition!). Winner of the prestigious Rómulo Gallegos Prize in Venezuela, the novel represents a true accomplishment for the author, who sees in it the story of an entire country, and its social mores. Giardinelli considers himself a former machista, the same way one considers oneself a former alcoholic: as he puts it, “I am not writing as a man looking at women, but as a woman. I write from the feminine part of myself.” The novel is available in Italian as well in Spanish (Sant’Uffizio della memoria. Rome: Elliot, 2017), thus allowing for trans-linguistic exercises in the classroom.

  • Guccione, Fausto. Macondo, il mondo di Gabriel García Márquez. Roma: Postcart, 1987. Photography book.

    Fausto Giaccone (1943-), a photographer born in Tuscany, raised in Sicily, educated in Rome, and based in Milan, has focused his work on social and political issues from the late 1960s on, including as a reporter in Latin America. This book is one of his most personal as it reflects a targeted trip through places in Colombia that Gabriel Garcìa Màrquez depicted in his novels by transcending their reality and distilling it into a magic space.
    Giaccone, who fell in love with One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967) during his military service and found in it an anchor for life, traveled through Colombia several times for journalistic reportages, but went back specifically after decades to literally “locate” that epic novel in Mompox, Aracataca, Barranquilla, Santa Marta, as well as the Rìo Magdalena, the swamps on the Caribbean side of the country, and Sucre, the town where an Italian descendant , Cayetano Gentile Chimento, was killed for reasons of honor, to then become Santiago Nasar in Chronicle of a Death Foretold. With a gentle and penetrating eye, Giaccone’s black and white photos capture objects, buildings, streets, people (including the writer’s family members) closely linked to Màrquez and his literature. According to Giovanni Chiaramonte, author of the book’s introduction, Giaccone worked with technique and affect at once: he used “the Rolleflex binocular 6×6 which, with its twin lens reflex finder, means that to take a photograph the camera musta be held close to the heart.” Accompanied by quotations from the novel or simple descriptions of the subject, the photos are a veritable homage to a writer like Gabo whose work affected Guccione as a person and artists as much as it affected an entire historical moment in Italy.
    See Fausto Giaccone’s official website and a slideshow of a selection of the photos from the book.

    The visual material in the book is ideal for descriptive activities in introductory courses (especially those inviting a comparative study of vocabulary between Italian and Spanish) as well as for more advanced work into Màrquez’ novel (or just excerpts) which can be read in both languages to explore more complex expressions, grammar, and syntax.

    Note: The Beinecke Library at Yale University holds large prints of the photos included in the book.

  • Márquez, Gabriel García. “Roma en verano.” El País. June 8, 1982. Newspaper article (in Spanish).
    In the mid-50s, Márquez spent several months in Rome as European correspondent of El Espectador writing about the Pope, cinema, a mysterious murder case, etc.: see list of articles about Italy published in 1955. He was already a lover of neo-realist films, a passion that prompted his desire to cover news from Rome, as the seat of Cinecittà (Italy’s Hollywood), and once there he pursued the study of cinema (editing, in particular) and met several directors and actors. His admiration for neorealism’s ability to sublimate the quotidian is considered to be the root of his signature style, magic realism.
    The piece is a recollection of Márquez’s arrival in Rome in August of 1955. His encounter with Rome is filled with curiosity and lyrical indulgence towards a place that is as new to him as it is reminiscent of his birthplace in Colombia. His impression of the decadence of the ruins, the soporific nature of scorching hot afternoons, and the frivolous exchanges with prostitutes are rendered in a magical language that creates timeless aphorisms about Italy and Italians with unparalleled fluidity, such as:
    “La pasta: esa comida prodigiosa que cambia de sabor con sólo cambiar de forma”
    “Los italianos, en efecto, descubrieron desde hace mucho tiempo que no hay más que una vida, y esa certidumbre los ha vuelto refractarios a la crueldad.”García Márquez en Roma, a comienzos de los años 90, donde había ido a estudiar cine en los 50. / AFP
  • Pagano, Tullio. Italy to Argentina: Travel Writing and Emigrant Colonialism. Amherst College Press, 2023.
    Open access:

    In Italy to Argentina: Travel Writing and Emigrant Colonialism, Tullio Pagano examines Italian emigration to Argentina and the Rio de la Plata region through the writings of Italian economists, poets, anthropologists, and political activists from the 1860s to the beginning of World War I. He shows that Italians played an important role in the so-called conquest of the desert, which led to Argentina’s economic expansion and the suppression and killing of the remaining indigenous population. Many of the texts he discusses have hardly been studied before: from Paolo Mantegazza’s real and imaginary travel narratives at the time of Italian unification to Gina Lombroso’s descriptions of Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina in early 1900s. Pagano questions the apparent opposition between diaspora and empire and argues that there was a continuity between the “peaceful conquest” through spontaneous emigration envisioned by Italian liberal intellectuals at the turn of the century and the military colonialism of Italian Nationalists and Fascists.
    He shows that racist assumptions about Native American and “creole” cultures were present in the work of progressive authors like Edmondo de Amicis, whose writings became enormously popular in Argentina, and anarchist militants and legal scholars like Pietro Gori, who founded the first revolutionary unions in Buenos Aires while remaining dangerously attached to Cesare Lombroso’s theories of atavism and primitivism. The “growl” of Italian emigrants about to land in Argentina, found in Dino Campana’s poem Buenos Aires (1907), echoes throughout Pagano’s book, and encourages the reader to explore the apparent oxymoron of “emigration colonialism” and the role of literature and public media in the formation of our social imaginary.
  • Pariani, Laura. Dio non ama i bambini. Turin: Einaudi, 2007. Novel.
    Pariani’s Dio non ama i bambini is a choral detective novel that interlaces three main themes: the macrohistory of Argentina at the time of mass immigration with particular reference to the era of anarchist movements and the related anti-Italian sentiment they both produced; the microhistory of the conventillos (tenement houses), a paradigmatic space for the immigrant urban experience; and the micro-microhistory of the children living in/around these conventillos. The three thematic threads are knitted together by the primary plot: a series of horrific killings targeting Italian children in a poor neighborhood between San Cristobal and Boedo, informally known (in the novel) as Villa Basura, the “trash villa,” for being made up of poor conventillos located next to the city’s slaughterhouses and garbage. The novel presents a mosaic structure composed of approximately sixty sections focusing on individual characters and offering their points of view through a clever blend of first-and third-person narration modes coexisting elbow to elbow. Characterized by graphic violence as well as poetic passages, the novel stands out for its linguistic inventiveness: the idiom of her characters is a patois generated by their cultural hybridity, a unique cocoliche in which the Italian language is influenced by Spanish syntax and phraseology.

    Pariani is an Italian writer of Argentinian origin, who spends time in the country of her ancestors on a regular basis. Her novels have been translated into Spanish, a language that she herself knows. See Interview about Dio non ama i bambini. Another novel of interest for its migration theme is Quando dio ballava il tango (2002). See general webpage devoted to Pariani’s works.

  • Pariani, Laura. “Di corno o d’oro” in Di corno o d’oro (Palermo: Sellerio, 1993). Short story.
In this short story we follow in reverse the life of Carlén, an Italian immigrant from Lombardy as he contemplates the choices made and paths taken that led him to Tilcara, a small town on the altiplano between Argentina and Bolivia. This cascading tale, which depicts a typical saga of Italian immigrants to Argentina at the end of the 19th century, subverts the conventions of the migration narrative by starting at the end and traveling back in time, following the major points in the protagonist’s journey: the arrival in the Argentine Andes, the backbreaking work on the sugar plantation in Tucumán, transporting grain in steamboats on the Paraná River, working as a merchant in Buenos Aires, the departure from Genova, the miserable life as a peasant in Lombardy, the small joys of his childhood, and the tragic circumstances of his birth.
The short story effectively depicts the messy transition from one language to another; as we travel backwards, the castellano Spanish that Carlén speaks devolves into a translingual pastiche of Spanish and Italian, which is further supplanted by the Lombard dialect. Linguistic shifts accompany his shifts in his identity. Carlén references events in his past before the reader has come across them in the narrative, creating a strange reverberation that is disorienting and destabilizing even though we are traveling to the point of origin. This unique structure complicates the idea of a linear narrative, as the story can be read both backwards and forwards in a sort of infinite loop and challenges the conventions of the “migrant narrative” more generally. The lack of a true beginning or ending problematizes the idea that migration is a linear journey that necessitates an abandonment of one homeland or language or identity for another, as Carlén has never truly felt like he belonged anywhere.

Because of the linguistic difficulty, particularly the prominence of Lombard dialect, this short story is recommended for classes at the Master’s or Doctorate level. (Summary and suggestions by Zachary Aguilar, graduate student, Yale University).

See translation into English here (coming soon).

  • Pariani, Laura. “Lo spazio, il vento, la radio” in Il pettine (Palermo: Sellerio, 1995). Short story.

This autobiographical short story recounts Pariani’s trip to Argentina with her mother in 1963 to meet her grandfather, an anarchist who had fled Italy during the rise of fascism. In this modern retelling of the immigrant voyage to the Americas, Pariani confronts the mythology that surrounds the history of Italian immigration to Argentina. Like many immigrant tales from the late 19th and early 20th century, the story begins with a voyage by boat, yet the modern setting situates the story within a narrative of political awakening. Arriving in Buenos Aires three days after the coup d’etat of General Onganía, Pariani depicts the typical places of Italian immigration in Argentina, from the port city of Buenos Aires to the vast expanse of the pampa and Patagonia and the vertiginous peaks of the Andes. She accompanies her grandfather to his home at the base of the Andes where he lives a marginal existence.

Having abandoned his Italian language and identity, her time with her maternal grandfather only accentuates Pariani’s spatial and linguistic disorientation. It is there that Pariani’s racial consciousness is awakened as she witnesses first-hand the poverty and the hardship suffered by the Indigenous peoples pushed to the edges of the frontier. The short story elaborates on lesser talked about aspects of Italian migration: political refugees feeling fascism, and Italian’s role in emigration settler colonialism. This makes it a wonderful companion piece to read along with “Dagli Appennini alle Ande” by Edmondo De Amicis. With less Lombard dialect than “Di corno o d’oro” (see above) yet still with translingual elements of Spanish and Italian, the short story is ideal for advanced undergraduate classes as well as courses at the Master’s and Doctorate level. (Summary by Zachary Aguilar, graduate student, Yale University).

  • Pariani, Laura. Pariani, “Ballata del sognatore” in La perfezione degli elastici (e del cinema). Milan: Rizzoli, 1997.

Appearing in a collection of short stories centered on film and cinema, “Ballata del sognatore” depicts an atypical representation of migration. The story moves away from the epic tales of traveling through the grand South American spaces that are so common in stories of Italian migration, and instead follows ruminations of the protagonist Teresio, an older Italian who emigrated to Argentina in his youth. There is no Atlantic voyage, no arrival in chaotic Southern cities, no stupor at the enormity of the plains and mountains. What is portrayed instead is the banality of migration, one that is neither a success nor a failure in its fulfillment. Teresio reflects on the stories told by his uncle about his time in South America, which had inspired a desire for adventure in the young narrator.

In addition to these family tales, Pariani depicts film and cinema as another important source of fantasy and imagination related to migration. Teresio himself eventually emigrates to South America in search of the adventure and fortune he had been introduced to by those stories and films. In the end though, his journey brings only disillusionment. He doesn’t find adventure, but rather loneliness and regret. The story also grapples with the racist and colonialist tropes in early films and how those stereotypes influenced Italian migrants’ encounters with racially and ethnically diverse communities. This is a complex text with modernist elements and would be useful both in a unit on film as well as on migration. The prose can be somewhat difficult, so it is recommended for intermediate and advanced undergraduate classes, as well for the Master’s and Doctorate level. (Summary and suggestions by Zachary Aguilar, graduate student, Yale University).

Resource: The book is available in audio version at:

Patat, Alejandro. “El país de los sueños perdidos” (Entrevista con Laura Pariani). La Nación May 1, 2022.  Link.
The interview focuses on Laura Pariani’s strong relationship with Argentina based on a painful and yet both foundational and transformative wound in her family: his maternal grandfather’s decision to move to Argentina to escape Fascism, and his eventual choice to stay and create a new family there. Pariani’s trip to Argentina to visit him, along with her resentful and curious mother, designs an inner journey that marks the young woman then and forever (Pariani’s trip and stay in Patagonia is recounted in the above-mentioned story “Lo spazio, il vento, la radio”). The interview (in Spanish) weaves actually statements from the writer Laura Pariani, descriptions of her home in Italy on the border with Switzerland, and references to those works of hers that address migration.
1. Beginning level: Reading of the piece and reproduction of it in Italian in a condensed redesigned format: series of pointed questions and short answers (emphasis on the use of interrogative adverbs)
2. Intermediate level: Reading of the section on the trip to Argentina. Production of a short composition in Italian in the first person (10-12 sentences using the passato prossimo tense) about a transformative trip.
3. Advanced level: Translation of the interview into Italian (and English).

Juan Rodolfo Wilcock

Juan Rodolfo Wilcock (Buenos Aires 17 April 1919- Lubriano 16 March 1978) graduated as a civil engineer, a career he was not interested in pursuing and became a writer, poet, critic, and translator. His first poetry collection Libro de poemas y canciones was published in Argentina in 1940. In those years, he became close with some of the most important Argentine intellectuals: Jorge Luis Borges, Adolfo Bioy Casares, and Silvina Ocampo. During this first part of his literary career, Wilcock began translating for the magazine Sur, founded by Victoria Ocampo in 1931. In 1957, he moved to Italy and abandoned Spanish to write in Italian. Therefore, we can consider him both an Argentinian and an Italian writer.

Once in Italy, he was in contact with intellectuals such as Pier Paolo Pasolini, Elsa Morante, and Ennio Flaiano. He started translating his previous poetic works and began writing novels, short stories, poems, and theatrical texts in the Italian language. His narrative production includes Il caos (1960), Fatti inquietanti (1961), La sinagoga degli iconoclasti (1972),L’ingegnere (1975), Il libro dei mostri (1978), Le nozze di Hitler e Maria Antonietta all’Inferno (1985). Characterized by his unique takes on the bizarre and the grotesque, these works escape categorization. As a writer accustomed to moving between languages and drawn to Ludwig Wittgenstein’s philosophy, Wilcock developed deep attention toward the power of language. So far, his works have been translated into English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, German, Check, and Albanese.

La sinagoga degli iconoclasti – the only book of his available in English translation – is representative of the genre of imaginary biographies. Several studies highlight the continuity of this text with Marcel Schwob’s Vies imaginaires (1896) and Jorge Luis Borges’s Historia universal de la infamia (1935), and Alfonso Reyes’s Espanoles de tres mundos. Viejo Mundo, Nuevo Mundo, Otro Mundo (Caricatura lirica) (1942). In addition, Wilcock modeled his text on Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science (1957) by Martin Gardner, an American mathematics and science writer with interests also encompassing scientific skepticism, philosophy, religion, and literature. In reading these biographies one should keep in mind that Wilcock’s aim is to present the absurdity of the characters’ theories. To obtain this effect, he adopts a specific narrative tool consisting of the quasi-abolishment of the narrator’s voice. In doing so, he uses black humor to offer a peculiar perspective to show the ease of spreading an idea if it is supported through manipulation of the language.

The book L’ingegnere – set in Argentina and written in Italian – represents an example of transnational novel. Published in Italy in 1975, it is considered a minor work by Wilcock, and has not been the focus of scholarly work so far. It is an epistolary novel that includes some autobiographical aspects. The protagonist is an engineer (like Wilcock) who works for a railroad construction project in Mendoza. Being away from Buenos Aires, he begins to send letters to his grandmother, who lives in the Argentinian capital. One should note that these letters contain several disturbing elements related to the protagonist’s cannibalism, such as descriptions of his teeth. However, cannibalism is never openly declared. Therefore, the text requires the reader’s intervention to fill the “gaps”.

Moreover, the protagonist uses erotic language directed at the figure of the grandmother. With regard to the erotic sphere of this text, scholar Adriana Mancini proposes an interpretation based on Roland Barthes’s reading of Sade, where the theorist affirms that the transgression of family taboo is expressed through the transgression of language (Mancini, 2004: 87-97). In addition, the cannibal moves from place to place to cover his real nature, and there is no limit to this movement. The book itself is deterritorialized for it is written in Italian within an Argentinian context: the engineer escaping as a consequence of his violations mirrors the author, who travels and establishes himself in Italy, by maintaining the impossibility of defining his authorial figure. His real provocation lies in the use of language. Thus, there is no real incestuous relationship with the grandmother, who seems to take on the role of language (translation and adaptation of an excerpt from Natascia Cappa’s article on Wilcock and Beckett. “Samuel Beckett y Juan Rodolfo Wilcock: entre traducción y literatura menor.” Beckettiana15 (2016): 7-19).

Poems in Italian taken from the collections “I tre stati” and “Luoghi comuni” included in Poesie by Juan Rodolfo Wilcock (Adelphi, 1993, 1st ed. 1980

(From I tre stati)

Noi siamo i mentitori
solerti ammiratori
dei ricchi e dei potenti.
Abbiamo rosi i denti
a furia di mentire […]

[…] Da sola la parola
non sta ferma ma vola
e i suoi significati
sono spesso variati.

Perciò tentiamo pure
le verbali avventure […]
purché senza verifica
la menzogna è munifica […]
Ci aiuta la certezza
che lo schiaffo è carezza. (p.57-58)

(Da Luoghi comuni)

Ripudiamo la facilità
come si allontana un serpente;
la facilità dissolvente,
l’affascinante quasi verità.

Del pensiero troppo ordinato
scoraggiamo la seduzione;
negli eccessi dell’argomentazione
non sperperiamo il nostro legato.

Cerchiamo soltanto di essere
del tessuto di ogni ora
ciò che ci nutre, ciò che c’incuora,
l’universalità dell’essere. (p.38)


The texts would be ideal for advanced undergraduate classes, as well as Master’s and Doctorate level students who are interested in multilingual writers. Therefore, Wilcock’s books can be proposed alongside Adrián Bravi’s essays (see entry about “La gelosia delle lingue” above), which help to frame this authorial figure. The study of this author can be helpful for those who want to explore the role of language in literature and its metaliterary function. Teaching activities can include reflections on literary genres and the intersection of prose and poetry.

(Summaries of bio of and texts by Wilcock, as well as teaching suggestions, are by Natascia Cappa, graduate student, Rutgers University)



Films about the relationships between Italian and Spanish/Latin-American cultures span different genres and cover a wide variety of topics. Documentaries are an ideal source to connect students to historical moments and the people involved, as well as being exposed to real-life locations, and in some cases archival footage.

  • Moretti, Nanni, dir. “Santiago, Italia.” Sacher, 2018. Film (available for streaming on major platforms).
    Nanni Moretti’s award-winning 2019 documentary, Santiago, Italia highlights the political and cultural ties between Chile and Italy at a very delicate time in 20th-century history. In the early 1970s, Italy opened its Embassy first and then its borders to Chileans fleeing the Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship, which overturned with a coup d’état the democratically elected leader Salvador Allende and his Socialist agenda of free universal education and land re-distribution. The little known story of the efforts of the Italian Embassy to save and relocate citizens targeted by the fascist regime is told through the testimonies of those who were there, from refugees to diplomats. “Santiago, Italia is a chilling depiction of living under junta rule and an ultimately inspiring expression of hope amidst dire circumstances” (Distrib Films website), which lends itself to a reflection on the fate of today’s refugees whose protection is much more fragile in a world of tightening borders.


    • Information about the film on IMDB page
    • Video: Nanni Moretti receives the David di Donatello Award (Best Documentary, 2019)
    • Reviews in several languages
    • Virtual conversation (Montclair State University, Nov. 2020) about “Santiago, Italia” with cinematographer Maura Morales Bergmann (webpage with links to the event’s video)
    • Activities for an introductory language class available upon request (
  • Ciudad de los Niños. 2005. A 1-hr documentary written and directed by Flavio Rizzo, Gabriele Scardino, Elena Bellina, Veruska Cantelli. Produced by: Fondazione Patronato San Vincenzo, Bergamo (Italy).
    The documentary tells the extraordinary story of Padre Antonio Berta (1927-2007), a visionary man from Bergamo, Italy, who arrived in Bolivia, in 1966 and devoted his entire life to abandoned children. In Cochabamba, he built La Ciudad del Niño, one of the largest foster homes and schools in the country. The film documents the lives of Padre Berta, his religious community, and the lay volunteers who have helped shape Bolivian society during four decades of educational reform, social engagement, and political activism.
    The Fondazione Patronato San Vincenzo has given permission to post the video in this open repository.

BACKGROUND RESOURCES (history, literary overviews, critical readings):

  • Blengino, Vanni. “Nella letteratura argentina” in Bevilacqua, Piero, Andreina De Clementi, and Emilio Franzina, eds. Storia dell’emigrazione italiana: Arrivi. Rome: Donzelli, 2002. 641–60. Print.
  • Devoto, Fernando. “In Argentina.” in Bevilacqua, Piero, Andreina De Clementi, and Emilio Franzina, eds. Storia dell’emigrazione italiana: Arrivi. Rome: Donzelli, 2002. 25–54. Print.
  • Fiore, Teresa. “Displaced Italies and Immigrant ‘Delinquent’ Spaces in Pariani’s Argentinian Conventillos and Lakhous’s Roman Palazzo.” Pre-Occupied Spaces: Remapping Italy’s Transnational Migrations and Colonial Legacies. New York: Fordham UP, 2017. 83-103. Print.
    The first part of the essay analyzes Laura Pariani’s innovative detective novel Dio non ama i bambini (2007, see details in the specific entry in this bibliography), set early 1900s Buenos Aires, Argentina. Set in the tenement houses the immigrants inhabited (conventillos), and written in a unique hybrid language blending Italian, dialect, and Spanish, the novel is an ideal text to learn about Italian immigration in Argentina at the time of anarchism and anti-immigrant sentiment via the analysis of urban space and gender/class/generational conflict.
  • Villalobos, Mary. “Tras el rastro de Gabo en Roma.” El Espectador. April 19, 2014. Online article (in Spanish).
    A detailed recap of Marques’s adventures in Romes between Vesta rides and major cases, such Maria Montesi’s.
  • Further resources on Juan Rodolfo Wilcock (see also bibliographies inside the individual essays):
    1. Special Quodlibet volume on his works (collection of essays in Italian): L’eternità immutabile. Studi su Juan Rodolfo Wilcock. Ed. by Roberto Deidier e Giorgio Nisini. Macerata, Italy: 2020.
    2. Natascia Cappa’s article on Wilcock and Beckett. “Samuel Beckett y Juan Rodolfo Wilcock: entre traducción y literatura menor.” Beckettiana15 (2016): 7-19.


This page was created as part of an NEH (National Endowment for the Humanities) grant, and with the logistical support of Montclair State University. For information about the NEH Faculty Award linked to the Memoria Presente project, see link.