Thursday, October 13, 2016


As a young Italian graduate, one of the voices that I felt spoke to my generation was that of Dario Fo - dramatist, theatre and film director, actor, writer, painter, political activist, Nobel Laureate [1997] and so much more - who died today at the age of 90.  I continued to read the work of Dario Fo and his wife, Franca Rame and it never failed to surprise me and make me think. As I've said before, the literature of the 20th century asked the questions but did not, usually, provide the answers and Dario Fo asked the questions that politicians, in particular, did not wish to hear.

A stationmaster's son from Sangiano [Varese, Lombardy], Dario Fo joined Mussolini's Repubblica Sociale Italiana army at 17, a fact that would haunt him in later life. When he did talk about it, he said that he had joined the only Italian army in which he could enlist so as not to be deported to Germany to work. There was also a theory that he joined to deflect suspicion from falling upon his family, who were partisans.

After studying at the Brera Academy in Milan, Dario Fo joined Rai as an actor and satirical scriptwriter. He and Franca Rame wrote sketches together but their material was so often criticised by the Italian equivalent of the British "establishment" that the couple abandoned television for the theatre, founding their own company. Fo's theatrical solo piece Mistero Buffo was famously declared blasphemous by the Vatican and became all the more renowned for that. Other internationally well-known pieces by Fo include Morte accidentale di un anarchico [Accidental Death of an Anarchist] and Non si paga! Non si paga! [Can't Pay, Won't Pay].

Two books by Dario Fo which I have enjoyed recently are La figlia del papa [a biography of Lucrezia Borgia] which I reviewed here and Dario e Dio, a long interview in which he expounds his ideas about God - or the lack of such a being.  I especially like a passage in which Fo says that the God of the Old Testament "demands tests of love that not even a Sicilian ... [would expect]."

To a man who never stopped fighting, questioning, campaigning, surprising and making us laugh, I would like to say, "Thank you".

Dario Fo died on the day it was announced that Bob Dylan is to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature. I think he would have approved.

In this Apple advertisement from 1997, Dario Fo narrates and Bob Dylan makes an appearance among the innovative thinkers of the last century:  

Video courtesy of La Stampa

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