Reading “Formiche di Puglia” di Tommaso Fiore
I find in my hand the book “Formiche di Puglia” by Tommaso Fiore.
I waited to return to Puglia to look for it at the town’s municipal library.
I went to the library many times during my middle school years. Still, I never looked for this book. It decides, today, to be read by me, directly in Puglia by a woman from the South, a daughter from the South, now living abroad.
I hear about Tommaso Fiore only for the dedication of a literary centre in his name. Stop. The question of my territorial identity, of my becoming in my specific territory has never particularly struck me: fish don’t know the water they are in.
My culture is that of the South, my history, my grandparents, my origin: the history of farmers, labourers, woodcutters. My mother told me that my grandfather ate broad beans during the long days of work in the woods. Then memories of the war, so distant, so absent in the capitalist consciousness and in the meccas of current consumerism.
Tommasto Fiore writes “Formiche di Puglie”, epistolary stories to tell the local history of 1925–1926, in the years in which fascism was beginning to hatch.
The title Formiche di Puglia has always been dear to me, even if I had not read the book: the ants of Puglia are the peasants, the workers of the countryside, the starving, the peasants — i cafoni. My people, my family, me too. The part on which history is quick to throw a rag over it in order to understand the shame it arouses in others, the bourgeois. Instead, Tommaso Fiore describes the cleanliness, the dignity, the desire to keep clean the door, the streets, the balcony, the window, the walls of the house. These are the daily works of the so-called i rozzi rough people, who today attract tourists to the streets of Puglia.
A day in the countryside picking mushrooms with my father made me feel obligated to finish the book. Poetry, description, historical and anthropological testimony of a few years of transition, before fascism takes hold. The southern question is historical and complex: made up of misery and abuses that freeze the soul.
Some French people I meet, who “never went to the south but only to the north”, sometimes shyly tell me “the south is the poor part of Italy”. The South is above all dignity, capable of undertakings that would have frightened many: “I think it would have frightened a people of giants”.
Territorial identity is alive in the local generational, implicitly: we will be surprised to see for the first time a mountain, going out from the region. Here we are familiar with the Murgian rock (La Petraia Murgiana).
Tommaso Fiore also evokes the violence of the people, ready to kill, cutting heads, to attack in an unprecedented way as a reaction to the suppressed people suffered from generation to generation. Universal violence as evoked by Frantz Fanon.
.“The upheaval will take place in another way, with other men, through the action of other forces, under the impulse of other events” (T.F).
Tommaso Fiore’s warning reminds me of Donna Haraway's invitation to write other stories about stories. To interrogate thought and knowledge differently to reframe “what stories say stories, though think thought, world word words”.