I would have liked to start my blog with something less controversial, and definitely less worrying.
But I felt compelled to write about something that is happening in Italy and that hasn’t yet had enough national and international coverage: the decision of some libraries in the Veneto region, after a suggestion by members of the PdL (Berlusconi’s party) Roberto Bovo and Paride Costa, supported by the councillor for Education Elena Donazzan, to boycott (i.e. remove from the shelves) books by a number of “banned” authors.
These Italian writers, among which are Roberto Saviano (author of Gomorrah), Valerio Evangelisti, Massimo Carlotto, Sandrone Dazieri and many others, signed in February 2004 an open letter asking for the release of Cesare Battisti, arrested in France after a number of years in hiding.
Cesare Battisti was a member of a far-left militant group in the Seventies, which supported violent revolution in Italy during the Anni di Piombo (a period which saw extremist groups fighting each other in episodes like the Piazza Fontana massacre and the kidnapping of Aldo Moro). Battisti had indeed been convicted in absentia of killing two policemen, a butcher, and of helping to plan the killing of of a jeweller, although he has always denied these charges.
He fled to France where he claims to have renounced violence and wrote a number of books, including fiction and non-fiction. After his arrest in France in 2004 he fled to Brazil, where he has been ever since. Recently his extradition was refused, creating a diplomatic incident, by the outgoing president Ignacio Lula da Silva.
The matter of whether the trial was fair, and of whether Battisti is guilty or not, is something for the law courts and for Battisti’s conscience, although if the trial was indeed unfair he has the right to a retrial. What is most worrying is that books are removed from the shelves because they happen to have different views from ours. What shall we do with Mein Kampf?
For those who would like to follow the topic on twitter, the hashtag is #rogodilibri