Born in Genoa in ’76, even if the heart is from Belluno. Riccardo Gazzaniga he is a policeman by trade, but also a writer. A sort of two-headed hybrid, one could say, who listens to hair metal in headphones, reads Stephen King and cheers for Juve. Then he drops everything and wears the uniform, that of an inspector.
His great passion for telling stories – he started writing short stories at the age of eighteen – led him to write two “big bits”: his first novel “A versocovered” (Einaudi, 2013) with which he won the Calvino Award and the Massarosa Award, and “You mustn’t tell anyone” (Rizzoli, 2021) as well as a long series of stories scattered in many collections of stories shared around the web.
One of his pieces on the 1968 Olympics and the athlete Peter Norman has been translated into a dozen languages and read by millions of people. From that piece the embryo of the collection “We touched the stars” (Rizzoli, 2018) was born, winner of the Memo Geremia and Bruno Roghi awards as the best work for children with a sports theme.
After the tragedy of the collapse of the Morandi bridge in Genoa he participates, together with other authors, in the collective charity anthology “The bridge: an anthology” (Il Canneto, 2018) with the unpublished text “The story that I have not” written together with Daniela Quartu. And on the same theme in 2019 he released his third novel, “Colpo su più”, published again by Rizzoli, set in the Ligurian capital following the tragic event, starring a teenager who practices savate and has to deal with family conflicts and the violent school bullying due to his homosexuality.
In September 2020 the path started with “We touched the stars” continues by publishing “Like flowers that break the asphalt – Twenty stories of courage”, collection dedicated to men and women who have opposed dictatorial regimes, discrimination, injustices, often paying with their lives.
Last September his fourth novel “In the form of a human being” was released for the Nero Rizzoli series, which he presented on the evening of Wednesday 2 November at the Fondazione di Sardegna, in Cagliari, on the occasion of the popular literary festival Éntula.
In your latest novel, you tell the incredible story of the Nazi fugitive Adolf Eichmann. You speak of it as a real “obsession”. Where did it come from?
It started mainly by connecting it to the fact that I wanted to know the details of this story which is told as that of a gray extermination bureaucrat putting signatures. In reality it is that of a ruthless hierarch unable to make exceptions, a terrible man from many points of view, also capable of reinventing himself by fleeing to Argentina. Narratively speaking, it is a very daring story in which there is a manhunt worthy of a spy story. All these parts have often been crushed by the concept of the ‘banality of evil’. With the passage of the novel I was trying to restore vitality to a very strong story that allows us to reflect on how it is possible for ‘normal’ men to accomplish monstrous things.
You anticipated my question. You said you disagree with Hannah Arendt’s definition of “banality of evil”. Because?
Let’s say that Hannah Arendt coined this beautiful definition also to give structure to her philosophical setting, but her judgment lacked the knowledge of some facts that emerged later. In particular, the testimonies that depict Eichmann as an absolutely unredeemed man, unable to admit large guilt and question his own actions. Not to mention that there was probably a single murder attributable directly to him. The figure can be trivial understood as a normal man: not a sadist, a monster or a psychopath. But what he did was very often the result of calculation and a precise will. He wasn’t just a gray performer, he put a lot of of him into it.
Speaking of this, Israeli secret agent Zvi Aharoni, hero of the novel, will say: “You don’t need vampires, men are enough to do monstrous things.” Yet the media narrative of the “monster” is still the dominant one today.
Many sages have wondered about this topic. I believe that painting evil as monstrous helps us to make it alien to us, that is, if I think that certain acts are performed by monstrous people, in fact, or sick, inclined to that nature, then I put myself and the people close to me safe. . On the other hand, if I say that we too, therefore also the common man, in a totalitarian system, can become a monster, I have to ask myself questions about myself: how would I behave in certain situations? And this is difficult.
Eichmann’s story seems very distant, but in reality the fascination for Nazism, and fascism, would seem to persist even today. I am thinking of the Predappio case and the appointment as Deputy Minister of Infrastructure of Galeazzo Bignami, who for his bachelor party wore a black uniform with a swastika.
In general, I seem to see a fascination for the strong man, for totalitarianism. We also think of the fascination for Putin who is a figure who in Italy has been transversely and for a long time much loved and much defended, praised, even by political representatives, despite being an anti-democratic figure who was already within a regime. We are not talking about all that is fascism and Nazism, which are dictatorships that have killed themselves with millions of deaths. It almost seems like there is a blame removal operation, to keep only a few single elements that can help keep together a castle of appearances that actually hides terrible crimes. We think of the great unspoken of the African wars waged by Italy in the Fascist era. We have carried out terrible crimes against humanity, and this is a part of our history that is not told, there is almost a form of censorship as if it could not belong to us. And instead, unfortunately, it belonged to us because of fascism.
You are a policeman by trade, with a great responsibility in dealing with violence. A topic that is more relevant than ever if we think of the clashes with students outside the Sapienza in Rome or with the ultras following Inter-Sampdoria. How is violence handled?
Violence is something that cannot be hinged in a management, because in itself it is a breaking of the natural order of things, therefore it has no predictability and can explode in absolutely unpredictable ways and outcomes. Any idea of a contained or purely aesthetic or representative violence of an instance risks exploding in the hands of those who practice it. Violent cheering comes to mind, which has this component of using almost ritual violence with a display of the same violence and force. But it is an exhibition that then very often degenerates into phenomena that have really terrible consequences, not just external ones.
To close, returning to the novel, can it be said that violence is inherent in the human being?
Yes, violence is an inherent component in the human being, so it is not always avoidable. Sometimes we are dealing with exploding violence. Violence can never be an instrument of representation of the idea, because in the face of violence any idea is then canceled by the violent act.
Read the other news on www.cagliaripad.it