22 Jun 2023

When a small town is invaded by books

Experiences at La Grande Invasione Festival in Ivrea, Italy - By Giulio Scremin, Translator PL - IT

Ivrea is a small town in the north of Piedmont region, just under an hour's train ride from Turin. A past as the stronghold of a belligerent state in the Middle Ages, a somewhat more recent past as an ante-litteram Italian Silicon Valley: Olivetti, a factory that made typewriters, calculators, and things that looked like the first ideas of something very similar to a personal computer, gathered here in the 1950s people from the four corners of the earth, attracted not only by the future-oriented genius of Adriano Olivetti and his scientists, but also by the extraordinary working conditions that this factory offered, unthinkable at the time. An example to be studied of 'Capitalism with a human face'. But since the factory left the town, as always in such cases, the city has become fairly depopulated, the international guests have left, the atmosphere that you perceive when you get off the train is somehow nostalgic, reminiscent of a shiny past that probably will never return. Or at least, these were the feelings I had before coming back here now.

When I was told that we would be bringing CELA here and not to the larger and more international Salone del Libro in Turin, I was somehow sceptical. As a native of Turin, I must confess that I have always looked at this province with a certain degree of mistrust and low-key snobbery, it seemed strange to me that it had been decided to bring the performances of the texts right here, what kind of audience would be able to appreciate them? But this scepticism and mistrust did not take long to disappear. I learned that this is a town of inveterate readers. The seventh independent bookshop recently opened here. Seven bookshops for twenty-five thousand inhabitants! I am impressed, considering what I have always been told about the state of the book market in Italy. Thousands of people from all over the world have invaded the town, some of them walk wearing around their necks a card with a drawing of a gramophone, a dog, and a typewriter. This periodic phenomenon, which has been going on year after year for ten years now, is not by chance called ‘La Grande Invasione’, or The Great Invasion. And all these people are here for the books.

It was my first time at this literary festival, which I only found out about when Scuola Holden told me about it. When I arrive at the train station, a car immediately takes me to sort out the formalities and I also receive the card with, the gramophone, the dog, and the typewriter, with my name on it. The next day, after meeting Aleksandra Lipczak for breakfast at the hotel, another car takes us to the place where we would later perform: a small Baroque church, dating from the 18th century, with finely frescoed walls and vaults. A magical place, one of those that put you in awe. Reading that text in that place, in two languages, and the thought of then also having to become Aleksandra's voice and translate her answers to the audience's questions into Italian, scared me but at the same time thrilled me. A worthy conclusion to this wonderful four-year experience.

1 / 2