ECHO Molise
  Emigration and Cultural Heritage of the Molise

Showcase: Author Antonio Grano

Author Antonio Grano

“For long years I have dedicated myself
 to the consideration of Southern issues,
and the Molise is a land that has given me
many cues for reflection.”

                                             Antonio Grano

Antonio Grano, Molise sociologist, historian and prolific author, speaks with ECHO Molise about Molise development,  his writings
immigration, and the effects of the Italian unification (links jump to interview sections).

Originally from Calabria, Grano is a long-time resident of Macchia d'Isernia and outspoken advocate for the Molise.  His books include Live Earth, dedicated to saving the nature and environment of the Molise; Partono ‘e bastimente, about the Molisani who died in the 1907 Monongah mine disaster; and five on the cleric Peter of Morrone, who became Pope Celestine V.


See his complete works at his website (opens new window) or Facebook.

[Opinions expressed are those of Antonio Grano, not necessarily those of ECHO Molise. This interview was conducted in Italian and translated into English by ECHO Molise. Therefore, any grammatical or contextual errors are the responsibility of ECHO Molise.]

 On Molise Development

Q.  You are clearly concerned about protecting the Molise and write passionately on political and environmental issues.  What do you see as the top three issues facing the region today?

A.  I am very pessimistic.  Namely, on behalf of so-called 'development," they are destroying the true riches of the Molise:  the air, the earth, the sea, the sun and the generous heart of the Molisani.  Everything is swept away by greed and power.  Everything is swept away by cement.  The three things the Molise needs, to assure a real future for the Molisani, are:
1) Environmental protection
2) Environmental protection
3) Environmental protection

Q.  You seem to be a supporter of technological advances and mass communication (you even have your own web- and Facebook- pages). Yet you have termed attempts to build new highways as the “cementification” of the Molise, and strongly opposed the return of nuclear power plants to Termoli.  How would you balance technological and economic development in the Molise with sheltering its pristine, rural environment?

A.  There are technologies, such as the Internet, that are not "invasive," and I am a great supporter. The Internet is the largest garrison of democracy worldwide. With the Internet, no tyrant can ever prevent the knowledge of the facts.

But technology is not always the friend of man. Nuclear power plants are the new monsters that only serve to fatten the coffers of manufacturers.  Thinking of a nuclear power plant in Termoli is like swearing on the altar of a church.  We should prevent this destruction with all our strength.

The economic development of Molise lies in what you call "pristine rural environment."  We are only 300,000, less than a quarter of Naples. To live happy and rich, just defend our nature. 

Tourism is a great wealth. The craft is wealth, the culture is rich.  Who said that wealth is only in industrial production?

 On His Writings:

Q.  American sociologist Philip Rieff proposed that social science in the liberal tradition was an “assortment of technologies for the overcoming of history.”  Is that why we (as a society) are so fascinated with biographies, as a means to “overcome” history?

A.  The biographies of great men and great women serve to help us in difficulty moments.  It is a little like going up on their shoulders in order to scrutinize the horizon of our life and to recognize the dangers of the same life.

Q.  You have written on diverse topics from Neapolitan folk songs to exorcisms to biographies of Karl Marx, Pope Celestine V and Saint Barbara.  Do these themes simply represent a wide range of your interests, or is there a common thread?

.  The common thread that ties all these titles is my insatiable, and as they say childlike, curiosity.  I like to "discover" the facts and events in order to transfer them to the readers.  A writer, basically, is none other than a "conveyor" of acquaintance.  And then I love characters with strong personalities.  It may seem strange, but there is a common thread that ties the vicissitudes of Marx, Celestine V and Saint Barbara: all had very clear ideas of what they wanted.  They were strongly determined and motivated in their choices.

As for the classic Neapolitan songs, it is a great love that I carried with me since I was child.  In my time, there was no television, not even radio.  My father had records and often he sang to them.  The classic Neapolitan songs are largely a culture inheritance.  They say that it is a “Patrimony of Humanity.”

Q.  One of your recent books, Good-Bye Marx!, uniquely presents Karl Marx as a biography of a person in a context other than the historical figure.  Was this in fact your goal?  Please tell us more about t
he book.

A.  Goodbye, Marx! is a novel written and imagined for cinematographic or theatrical presentation.  My dream is that it becomes a film.  It is along imaginary travel (a dream) in the 19th Century, in the time of the great industrial revolution that saw protagonists, great thinkers, philosophers, economists, like Proudhon, Fourier, Owen, Saint Simon, Marx and others.

The “narrator” is a German journalist who dies in a fire during a conflict and begins to travel in Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and England where he meets friends and enemies of Marx, his faithful friend Engels and above all the wonderful women who accompanied him on his pilgrimage--three daughters, wife Jenny and governess Helen.

The Marx described in the novel is a tired old man, disappointed because he has been misunderstood, but above all betrayed by his followers, beginning with Stalin who was a fierce tyrant, and who rejected Marx as a traitor of his ideas. 
At last, the novel concludes dramatically, with a spectacular apocalypse that sees the earth destroyed from the human evil. 

Q.  Do you have more books in the works?

A.  I am 73 years old and unfortunately, I do not have time to realize all my plans.  I am working on a book that faces the problem of war as it has been dealt with by the great poets of the classic Neapolitan songs, entitled “`O  surdato `nnammurato”; and a collection of poems I wrote in past.  
But my great dream is to complete a book on Jesus, entitled “Goodbye, Jesus,” a biography in modern key.  I have collected much material.  I hope to complete it in 2011, if the Good Lord allows me.

 On Immigration

Q.  Until recently, Italy retained an ethnically stable population.  Since the 1970s, however, Italy has experienced an ever-increasing influx of legal and illegal immigrants.  Coupled with a decreasing birth rate among native-born Italians, there is speculation that culturally diverse immigrants will soon outnumber ethnic Italians in Italy.

How would you contrast this Italian “melting pot” effect with that of American society?   

.  The phenomenon of immigration in Europe is still in its beginnings.  The desperate coming from Africa and Asia will be more and more numerous.  By now, globalization is unstoppable.  Add to that, in Italy the birth rate is continuously in decrease, for which the economic-sociological-political-cultural implications will be enormous. 
Personally, I am not in a position to predict the extent.  I am certain, however, that in 20-30 years, the face of Europe will be upset.  Europe and America talk of wanting to help the countries of the third world, but in truth, they only continue to take advantage of their natural wealth and, above all, the low cost labor.  The proletariation of the Third World will be of Biblical proportions. 

In America, I believe that the issue is different.  It had its “overdose” of immigrants in the 20th Century.  I don’t believe that for America immigration will be a problem.

 On Unification.

Q.  Next year will be the 150th anniversary of the Risorgimento.  Do you see a connection between the Italian unification of the 1860s and the emigration that began to flourish 30 years later?

A.  Emigration, before the unification of Italy, was an unknown phenomenon.  Southern Italy was certainly not Paradise, but there was earth and sea in abundance for a population of 10 million inhabitants.  A shrewd and sage government program could have very well assured the Meridionals a dignified life.  With the unification of Italy, all the economic resources were moved to the North.  All the Neapolitan industries, from shipyards to silk-factories and the steel mills were brought to Turin.  Naples had been the third capital of Europe, along with London and St. Petersburg.  It was stripped of everything.  They did not even leave eyes to cry with.  
The issue is much broader and I cannot deal with it in an interview. In my cited book, I have widely documented the facts.

Q.  You have written that “Italy is not a ‘normal’ country” and that the origins of the “disease that plagues Italy” go back to 1860. 
Please elaborate.  

A.  By now, all honest students recognize the connection between the unification and the emigration of the Meridional population.  Before 1860, in Southern Italy emigration was unknown. 

The Molise has been among the Regions hit hardest.  The best sons of this land were forced to abandon their families and their beloveds.  The same thing touched my Calabria.  Personally, I was child when I lost my beloved uncles, who went to search for fortune in Canada

The unification of Italy followed a devastating war of aggression by the Savoy dynasty, with the understanding of France and England.  It is a long and dramatic vicissitude that I narrated in my book La Chiamarono Unità D’Italia
… the invasion and the colonization of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.  In September, my new book on this argument will come out. We will talk of it some more. 

Q.  Last year, you published La Chiamarono Unità D’Italia, about the Risorgimento from the part of the “losers.”  How will you mark the anniversary of the Risorgimento next year?  

.  Personally, I will not celebrate the anniversary of the so-called Renaissance.

Q.  In summary, what should our readers understand about their Molise culture, today and yesterday?

They should do one thing: come often to visit, to rediscover their fine traditions, to breathe the fresh air ... until it is cut off.




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