Bologna, September 19th 1977: left-wing group students of the university collettivo are in a meeting to prepare the Convention “against repression”, called for the next three days. London, September 19th 2007: Enrico Franceschini, one of collettivo‘s ex militants, meets a handful of listeners to tell what the 1977 movement has actually meant to him.
Avevo vent’anni. Storia di un collettivo studentesco 1977-2007 is the title of the book written by the Italian journalist and correspondent from London of the Italian newspaper La Repubblica. Introduced by Stefano Tura, Franceschini’s fellow citizen and RAI journalist (Italian equivalent of the BBC) , the reading took place yesterday at the Italian Bookshop.
Thirty years later from one of the most fascinating as well as difficult age of Italian contemporary history, Franceschini decides to go back to his twenties when he was a student in Bologna, the city symbol of the movement. “The curiosity to revisit a season of my life, to know what happened to the mates I shared my passions, my ideals, my illusions with, sharing the same feelings of being part of something” represents the starting idea the book comes from, the author explained.
The journalist and ex activist of the 1977 has thus gathered some of his former fellows who were protagonists, as himself, during that historical period. He manages to contact forty of them coming from different Italian regions and they all meet in Bologna, thirty years later, trying to put together the pieces of their memories. The result is a testimony-book made of more voices, where memories, nostalgia as well as personal’s and general’s experiences amalgamate on the common historical background.
The 1977 movement and all the consequences derived from it represent still now a bleeding wound in the recent history of Italy. They were years of exacerbated politicisation and hard, bloody clashes that achieved their climax with the death of Francesco Lorusso, a student shot during an agitated fight between left militants and the police. Since the thirtieth anniversary is coming closer, the discussion about this important period has developed and tends to highlight the gloomiest side of the movement, focusing above all on what later were called the years of terrorism.
Franceschini chooses, anyhow, to leave hanging all the issues regarding the harsh political opposition of that time, issues still not solved yet. “What I actually wanted to show up is a personal memory that is different from the most common image most people have of that age. It is basically a book about being twenty years old. That’s an amazing time for everyone, but particularly amazing if you live it by sharing everything with others, sharing the youth and the desire of building up all together something better.”
Far from any sort of blind attachment to the past, the journalist draws a representation of the lightest, joyful, positive and utopian aspect of the 1977 movement. Cheerful and mocking demonstrations, learning together, nest-like homes open to everyone who wanted to stay for eating or sleeping, never-ending meetings and discussions until late at nights, cigarettes, fliers and cyclostyles. These are indelible frames for whom who lived those days like a “collective love”, when each kind of individualism was stigmatized like “bourgeois” and sinister.
Violence put an end to all of this. The following years were dark and terrorism overshadowed the merit of the social and cultural renewal that an entire generation had disclosed. Yet, the memory of that flame of vitality has not vanished and it is still burning in the mind of those ex young students who – thirties years later – in turning their glance to that period still exclaim: “Fuckin’ hell, what a fun we had!”.
By Maria Teresa Sette
From START- Italian Art and Culture in London