Actresses: Tanya Asturi as Interviewer, Matilde Zarini as Caterina Arpino
Director: Francesca Bertolio
Camera Director: Francesca Fedeli
Camera Assistant: Giulia Fanchini
Location: Caterina Arpino’s house library, Caterina Arpino’s garden
A picture with music to introduce the TV program appears, then it dissolves into an video where only the interviewer is on screen
Int.: Good morning my dear friends, we are here with the wife of one of the most creative Italian writers of the literary landscape after the Second World War: Giovanni Arpino.
Caterina Arpino walks in and greets everyone
Int: Since it’s the 30-Year Anniversary of Arpino’s death we wanted to honour him in the best way possible by talking to his wife Caterina, that decided to take us back to 1972 with the book “Randagio è l’eroe”, literal translation being “Stray is a hero”.
Location change, they go outside in Mrs. Arpino’s garden, they walk together until they seat on two chairs
Int: Welcome Mrs. Arpino!
Caterina: Hi everyone and thanks for inviting me here to commemorate my husband, and I love being able to talk about him since I consider him still one of the best minds of his and our time.
Int.: And we agree! Can you please introduce us to the book and to why you decided to talk about it in particular?
Caterina: Of course! I start with saying that this story talks about a troubled soul, Giuan, an old painter, revolutionary for his mind-set about the church, and her wife Olona, a trustworthy companion, connected by a strong, unbreakable bond. (Picture of the two together) The story starts with them riding a bike to complete one of their last missions together, because I didn’t say it before, but Giuan to spread his Christian and peaceful message, changes the offensive graffitis he finds on the streets to make them positive. (Graffiti’s photo) The main event of the novel is the downfall of the main character, that falls in a spiritual crisis and starts distancing himself from his wife, becoming stray for a few days to look for different opinions on religion and the role of the church in the society in that moment, so after the last Council. Understanding that religion is getting always less important he doesn’t want to give up on his mission and understands that the only thing the world needs right now is a miracle, but due to his fragile mental status he ends up in a hospice. There he prays often in the courtyard and one day by kissing the ground an enormous tree grows (Tree photo) and buries him, causing his death and as Giuan dies the tree doesn’t survive too.
Int.: Now if we wanted to analyze the character of Giuan, do you think he is connected to your husband’s personality too?
Caterina: Giovanni has always inserted some autobiographical elements in his works and in this book it happens too. Giuan is a modern hero that after the last Vatican Council believes in a new progressive, modern, open-minded, dynamic and “stray” version of the church and even though my husband didn’t believe in God he has always been interested in the reflection of the role of the church in the society and how it affected the world. So it’s like Giuan’s character is a catholic mask of my husband.
Int.: Sorry for interrupting, but talking about Catholicism, what’s the centre of the story, religion or heroism?
Caterina: I personally think my husband wanted to represent the society in those years, the years of lead (photo of the years of lead), that in Italy were a moment of violence, social and political crisis that is maybe too similar to the situation today, where Mafia, drugs and terrorism have become normal. That’s why a lot of critics still consider this novel up to date. Giovanni describes all this with surrealistic and fantasy-like vocabulary, that recalls the picaresque literature. What Giovanni wanted to create was a new Hero figure but concentrated on Catholicism, the main element for the novel. Giuan being a catholic and changing the graffitis on the walls to be Christian messages… and also when he asks people from different social conditions what they think about religion… he just wants to change the world. He was a dreamer like my dear Giovanni but he realizes that the only way to do so is a miracle and also when he will be in the hospice he won’t stop believing in a possibility of a better future. And he actually succeeds in doing his miracle. Also when it looked impossible.
I:Since Giuan is a hero why does Arpino define him as stray so something negative?
C.A: “The title shows a clear example of oxymoron where the hero has a negative connotation despite his positive purpose. But Giovanni doesn’t think that it is negative because he believes that being stray is something completely right for a current hero. Being stray means being dynamic, going around the city to share messages of peace and making comparisons with other people’ opinions about church and religion.”
I:”Her husband is a writer that needs to be read deeply to understand him completely. And who is your favorite character?”
C.A: “Surely Olona is the character that best suits me! She has a deep and complex personality. I think that she is crazy in love with Giuan even though sometimes she seems to favorite their friend Frank, but Frank is only a very close friend and she demonstrates it when she goes to his house when her husband goes away. Olona is Giuan’s companion and she always supports him in good and bad situations like a wife should do. Olona always trusts him and she is loyal to him. I really like this loyality despite his tormented personality, she is his complement.”
I: “Perfect! A lot of critics discuss about Frank’s role, has her husband ever explained his role?”
C.A: “I admit that initially I had not understood his role in the story but just because I read the novel from a romantic point of view and not from a polemic one. As Giuan represents the post-counciliar church, Frank represents the idea of a pre-counciliar church, so he expresses a close, static and traditional church. It doesn’t want a dialogue among the believers and it doesn’t succeed in sharing a new Cristian message. He shows a church that has lost every value it was created on. Frank expresses the critic against the church where the principal book topic is based on, so he isn’t a secondary character as he appears.
I: “ The last question about the end of the novel, what is the meaning of the final miracle?”
C.A: “Well, this is a difficult question to answer… What we understand from the book is that the miracle that Giuan wants to do is to make a social change in order to have more balance in the society and only a miracle would make known God’s word and his generosity. At the end Giuan makes tree grow in the hospice’s garden, the tree represents the resurrection of good on evil, the tree gives joy to Olona and Frank and the others, but Giuan’s death is the tree’s death too. This is a clear interpretation of Giuan’s work that tries to recreate an idea of a new church but he actually doen’t do anything real, so he has not left his own mark for a change of the society.”
I:”This is how Giuan’s story finishes, a story that the public has loved, but it shouldn’t be read passively because thanks to this interview we have understood that we have to read it carefully because it is a polemic and current novel even though it doesn’t appears as it. Thank you very much Mrs Arpino for your collaboration and availability.”
C.A :”Thank you very much for getting in touch with me, is always a pleasure to remember my husband’s work, goodbye!”
The interviewer starts introducing another topic and it all dissolves with music and a black backdrop. Credits.