APT Basilicata

APT Basilicata

Basilicata turistica

Festa Campanile Pasquale

There’s no biography which resembles Horace’s as does Pasquale Festa Campanile’s. Like Horace, who was forced to move to Rome by his father, Pasquale Festa Campanile was forced to move to Rome to reach his father, a ministry official. He was born in 1927 in Melfi. There he spent the first part of his childhood with his grandmother, his mother being away. Perhaps, Horace was motherless, too, but he did not have a grandmother, but only a wet-nurse.

After the third year in primary school, Pasquale Festa Campanile turned his back on his town, to return every now and then. A page from Nonna Sabella, his first and most important novel, is very revealing in this regard: on a torrid day of July 1944 Michele, Pasquale Festa Campanile’s alter ego, makes return to Melfi on occasion of his aunt Carmelina’s death. A few days after his return to Rome, Nonna Sabella, typical Horacean name, joins him. She is shrew and strong-willed, willing, as much as her nephew, to reach the city at last. On her way to Rome, near Torre Annunziata, Nonna Sabella throws out of the train window her chamber-pot and the alpaca dress for her own funeral. It was a token gesture to signify she had finally severed all ties with the smothering provincial life, a gesture which echoed Pasquale Festa Campanile’s: In this regard he was quite different from Leonardo Sinisgalli: while for the latter, leaving his hometown had been a traumatic experience, a void to be filled or a knot to be tied again, leaving Melfi had been a real liberation for Pasquale Festa Campanile. He had desired a new world to open up for him, and that happened through the longed-for transfer to the city, which was to mark the lives of many youth from Lucania, searching for freedom and success.

No surprise, therefore, he only returned occasionally to his hometown (he served as a jury member for the Basilicata literary prize), and most of all in the last years of his life. Unlike Sinisgalli, he never sighed for his hometown. Even when he ‘returned’ there ideally, that is to say through his memories, he looked at his land with irony, with a stranger eye, as if surprised that such a world like the one he had escaped from could still exist. Arguably the only occasion he shared the attention towards the dramatic reality of the South was when he wrote, together with others, and especially with Vasco Pratolini, a much more committed writer, the script of Luchino Visconti’s Rocco and His Brothers (Rocco e i suoi fratelli, 1960). Those were the years of Neorealism, which inspired two other films of his, La viaccia (1961) and Le quattro giornate di Napoli (1962).

Festa Campanile’s departure from Neorealism began with the script of The Leopard (1963), from Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s cynical and sceptical novel, followed by a comedy, Rugantino, and by the movies L’ape regina and La costanza della ragione, from the homonymous novel, indeed a rather stale one, by Vasco Pratolini. Since then, Pasquale Festa Campanile, who had now become a film director, devoted his attention to city life and middle-class society, pervaded by consumerism and vanity, which he represented in a grotesque and expressionistic manner, and inevitable episodes of stale eroticism.

After his first novel, Pasquale Festa Campanile turned exclusively to movies and show business (including journalism), which absorbed him completely, also as a protagonist of high-society, vaguely resembling D’Annunzio‘s contribution to “Cronaca bizantina”. And like D’Annunzio, who was very clever at catching trends and tastes, Festa Campanile returned to literature in the mid-1970, as he sensed film industry was going to go through a critical period. Those were the years following the 1968 protest and social conflict, too: after the revolutionary thrill was gone, people turned in on themselves, to fully and nonchalantly enjoy the pleasures of life. This new phase suited Pasquale Festa Campanile’s irony and love for transgression perfectly well. He started publishing a best-seller every two year, with the aid of indulgent reviewers, television and gossip magazines, which knew how to properly promote them. Today they hardly enjoy the public approval, being dated and therefore devoid of interest.

Mention should be made, in addition to Nonna Sabella (1957), of Conviene far bene l’amore (1975), Il ladrone (1977), Il peccato (1980), La ragazza di Trieste (1982), For Love, Only For Love (Per amore, solo per amore, 1983, awarded with the Campiello Prize), La strega innamorata (1985, Bancarella Prize), Buon Natale, buon anno (1986). Nearly all of them were adapted for the screen, in confirmation of the constant contamination of literature, life and show business. His cheeky and desecrating irony, and his liking for the grotesque did not spare religion, even though his treatment of the subject was simplistic and sometimes questionable.

Pasquale Festa Campanile died in Rome on February 28, 1986.

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