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A handful of words on a sheet


Highlights: A new project in Spain is encouraging people of a certain age to write about their lives. More than 300 biographies have already been published in Madrid, Valencia, Galicia and the Basque Country. The members of Libera consider that "autobiographical writing represents a means and an irreplaceable method for self-esteem" They have been giving talks and seminars around the world for years to teach their "pedagogy of memory" The project is planned to release 100 more books this year.

There is the whole life of that woman, the extreme poverty, the violent abuses of the landowners, the epidemics...

I have a 73-year-old friend who is participating in a nice project of the Lo que de Verdad Importa Foundation. It consists of putting people of a certain age in contact with young volunteers to tell them about their lives. There are 48 hours of interview in total, distributed over three months at the rate of a weekly meeting. With this material, the volunteer will write a book of which 10 copies will be printed and delivered to the biographer. This precious initiative has been going on since 2016; more than 300 biographies have already been published in Madrid, Valencia, Galicia and the Basque Country, and this year it is planned to release 100 more books. It is a project that fosters the transmission of experience and knowledge between generations and creates lasting bonds of affection.

I understand that the participants are enthusiastic: it is a wonderful idea. Although it is not the case of my friend, for many older more or less isolated to be able to tell their life to someone, and that story is listened to carefully, valued and collected in a book, must provide a crucial sense of meaning and achievement. Of continuity and peace. Writing can save us in many ways, and in particular biographical writing and, even better, autobiographical writing, seems to have powerful healing and consoling effects. So says the Italian pedagogue and philosopher Duccio Demetrio, who, together with the writer Saverio Tutino, now deceased, founded in 1998 in Anghiari (Italy) the Free University of Autobiography, a non-profit cultural association to promote the writing of memoirs by those who, without their help, would never have approached such a literary exercise. The members of Libera (which is how this organization is colloquially known in Italy) consider that "autobiographical writing represents a means and an irreplaceable method for self-esteem" and that is why they have been giving talks and seminars around the world for years to teach their "pedagogy of memory".

I thank the editor Max Lacruz, who participated in one of these seminars in Luxembourg, for telling me about Libera and also about the amazing story of Clelia Marchi (1912-2006), a peasant woman from a small village in the Po Valley (Italy) who barely attended primary school for two years and also partially: she only went to class when it was cold. Because in good weather I had to work the land. Clelia endured a life of misery and suffering; Of the eight children she had, four died in infancy. In 1972, her beloved husband, whom she had met at the age of 14, also died. For the first time, with 60 years and children already independent, Clelia was left alone. Then, in the darkness of emptiness and mourning, he had the luminous, extraordinary idea of taking the sheet of his wedding night out of the closet and writing down the story of his life on the canvas. I imagine that almost illiterate woman going to find that sheet she had so lovingly kept for decades, undoubtedly one of her most expensive and precious possessions, and daring to sink the ink of her words on it. Since she could no longer use it with her husband, she later testified, she thought of using it to write. I can't think of a greater tribute to the lost beloved.

Clelia's sheet, photos of which can be seen online, is a wonderful work of art. On its surface, tightly handwritten, is the entire life of this woman, which is also a portrait of the rural society in which she lived, of extreme poverty, the violent abuses of landowners, the epidemics of typhus and polio. Critics say that while the language is understandably limited, the text is intelligent, poignant and profound. In the end, Clelia added a few poems. I wonder what works that well-endowed woman could have done if she had had more opportunities.

In 1985 the mayor of his village saw the sheet and, astonished, spoke with the aforementioned Saverio Tutino, who had already created in Pieve Santo Stefano a foundation to safeguard the intimate diaries. In that archive is deposited since then the powerful, eloquent and beautiful wedding sheet. From the most stripped domesticity, Clelia presented battle to pain and death with a handful of modest true words.

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Source: elparis

All news articles on 2023-05-30

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