by Maria Teresa De Donato
As a Psychologist and Criminologist, we imagine him continually examining the psyche’s abysses and exploring the human mind’s labyrinths to identify everything that the interlocutor on duty might have repressed and relegated to his own “shadow.”
Andrea Giostra is this and much more. Equipped with an eclectic personality and a managerial and entrepreneurial attitude, Andrea tries his hand at the most varied activities and in just as many sectors, which he will tell us about.
However, through this interview today, I would like to highlight his all-around commitment to the “Culture” sector.
Having said this, before leaving the floor to my friend and colleague Author Andrea Giostra, I invite you all, dear readers, to follow us on mobmagazine.it.
In the meantime, I wish you a good read!
(Picture: Mapi Rizzo, 2017)
MTDD: Hi, Andrea, and thank you for agreeing to participate in this interview of mine. It is a pleasure and an honor to have you as my guest.
AG: Thanks to you, Maria Teresa, for the invitation and the chat.
MTDD: Andrea, there is so much to say about you, your activities, and your countless commitments that, after my very brief introduction, I prefer you to do it yourself.
Would you like to tell us about yourself by starting to explain, to those who don’t yet know you, who Andrea Giostra is?
AG: This is a question that I always have great difficulty answering. It is then necessary to narrow the field, to narrow it down to that of writing and Culture in a broad sense, for example. Within this framework, in some ways arbitrary, I define myself as an “ignorant Sicilian plebeian” who loves reading, learning, and being interested in Art and Culture and enjoys writing as a true “cultural editorialist.” Ignorant, I want to point out because I am aware that after having read thousands of books, having studied for the degree, for all the post-university master’s degrees that I have done, and the many in-depth studies on the various disciplines that I dealt with professionally or for the pleasure of knowing and reading that I have and have always had, I realize, day after day, since I was a kid, that the more things I learn and know, the more I realize that I don’t know many other things that I will never be able to understand and that they will always remain unknown to me. For everything I know and learn, from reading or from the life experience I have in my daily life, thousands of other things emerge that I am aware will remain unknown to me and which I will never have the opportunity to know in this life. Many things belong to this earthly world, to knowledge, to Culture, to Art, to sciences, to everything that is part of our everyday life and the planet that hosts us. Suppose I had to use a metaphor to explain better what I want to say than this. If we start from the assumption that knowledge is an axiom made up of as many grains of sand as there are in the Sahara, then I am aware of possessing knowledge of just one of those grains of sand. The more I move in that ocean of knowledge composed of billions of grains of sand, the more I climb the infinite dunes of this immensity of sand, the more infinite horizons open up that my eye cannot contain, a horizon of knowledge made up of endless expanses of dunes that include knowledge and knowledge, increasingly distant and unattainable. Well, if this metaphor gives the idea of the vastness of knowledge and Culture, then I, who think I possess a single grain of sand, cannot help but be aware of my ignorance, and this awareness makes me live in constant doubt. Doubt is my most faithful and restless traveling companion, always. I infinitely admire those people who have granite certainties and try to convince others of their indisputable and absolute truths. But at the same time, even though I admire their naive conviction, they horrify and scare me because they are very dangerous.
I am a genuine Sicilian guy from a small village a few kilometers from Palermo, Montelepre. I live and have lived the street, first in my town, then in my adopted city where I have lived since I was eighteen and started university, and therefore, for this plebeian, where being plebeian has the value of the deep, robust roots of the history that has crossed this land for millennia, of the millenary Culture of which we Sicilians are unaware bearers, in some ways privileged for the just the fact of being born and raised on this wonderful island, on the most beautiful island, rich in history and traditions, and most interesting on planet Earth; but at the same time, on the island inhabited mainly through rulers who have made it irredeemable and very mediocre in its ruling class which does not allow the Sicilian people to emerge in their incredible intelligence and noble creativity.
MTDD: As already mentioned, your eclectic nature pushes you to have many interests, and among these, everything relating to Art in particular and Culture in general.
How did you get to these interests? Have you always had them, or did you start growing them as an adult?
AG: Curiosity and interest in knowledge and knowledge; either you have had them since birth, or you don’t have them. It is an ancestral component of our personality, genetic, I would say, you can already see it in some children compared to others, who, as soon as they are born, look around and try to fix all the things around them to understand what they are and how to manage them. Here, this aspect of the personality of every human being is either there or it isn’t! I have always had it since I was a child and have always cultivated it daily with my experiences, readings, studies, and discussions with my family, childhood and adolescent friends, professors, and the educators I have met. In short, with everything and everyone who taught me something and from whom I could draw knowledge and experience, even without them being aware. My grandmother always told me mystery gets worse! (The profession is stolen!), which means learning from others by observing them and stealing all the secrets of their trade and profession. I have always done this by watching others and reading thousands of books of all disciplines and topics of study and interest to me.
MTDD: Your passion for Literature and Cinema emerges from your commitment to the artistic sector.
What fascinates you in particular about these two disciplines?
AG: I have always loved reading and learning more about the topics that interest me. Since I was a kid, there was no Internet or Google to learn more about what interested me. I remember buying monographs to delve deeper into specific topics, or I had my parents buy me Encyclopedias, which were fashionable at the time in the late 1970s and early 1980s and were the only tools to delve deeper into what I was interested in knowing. And then the novels and readings of that age, thousands of comics, the Mondadori detective stories which were very famous at the time, and then moving on to the authors who marked and taught me so much, Capuana, Verga, Pirandello, Bufalino, Sciascia and other Sicilians, and then move on to Umberto Eco, Oriana Fallaci, Dostoevsky, Sigmund Freud, Philip Roth, Anais Nin and many others.
Cinema and music were also great passions of mine. I started studying music at the age of six, the tenor sax in the Montelepre music band, and at the same time, the piano with private lessons.
In short, I have always had many interests that I have tried to cultivate over the years, but it has sometimes been challenging to keep up. Today, for a few years now, I have resumed my old adolescent passion for writing, even if I can’t do it consistently, but that’s okay.
MTDD: I have had the pleasure of reading and reviewing your publications – published and unpublished. In “Internet Haters and Trolls” – How the unhealthy use of the Internet has transformed social media into deadly weapons, you explained in detail the pitfalls and scams that lie behind these tools, which, on the contrary, if used with intelligence (aimed at good ), with caution, correctness, and honesty represent a valid opportunity to spread knowledge and promote stable, long-lasting and constructive relationships of all kinds. In short, they could even be a way to contribute to creating a better world based on sharing, respect, and solidarity.
AG: This is an essay made available online in 2017 and published in 2019 with StreetLib.com. It is a book that can be read for free online from various portals, which was born from a social persecution I suffered several years ago. It happened that a Troll began to persecute me on social media, a woman whom I had known through work for many years but who, at a certain point, after about ten years of no longer having any contact with her, intercepted me on social media and, after a first phase of positive and friendly approach, began to haunt me. At that point, I stopped and no longer responded to her messages and the provocations she made to me on the various chats and Facebook groups. I tried to find out more to understand this phenomenon. I read hundreds of articles and saw several videos, all in English, because, at the time, in 2016, the phenomenon had yet to explode in Italy. Everything I learned, associating it with my direct experience, I wrote in this essay, which I know was very useful for many people who read it and then wrote to me to thank me for this contribution which they used to manage their relationships which had become dangerous with Trolls and Haters.
The pdf of the essay can be downloaded for free from this link:
MTDD: In “Mastr’Antria and other stories” (a still unpublished collection of eight Sicilian stories), you explored some themes and concepts expressed in your previous work, the “Short Novels of Sicily” I defined “Mastr’Antria and other stories” as the “flagship of modern and contemporary Sicilian literature and a true standing ovation to your native land” (De Donato, 2023). The beauties and riches of this spectacular island, the ongoing and slow passage of time, the daily routine of life, the generational behavioral changes, and the use of dialect, which “also becomes an instrument of recovery and dissemination of tradition, of one’s own culture, of one’s roots, of one’s ‘Sicilianness'” (De Donato, 2023), as well as the sense of sacredness and the family’s culinary art, mainly of grandmother Vita, are among the fundamental aspects of this fascinating collection of stories.
Could you explain to an Italian from another region, from the center or the north, or, better yet, to a foreigner unfamiliar with our country’s history what exactly “Sicilianness” consists of?
AG: As it is written in the introduction of this book: «This is a collection of Sicilian stories. It tells of daily events, life, habits, fashion, work, and politics suffered rather than managed, Sicilian curtigghiu in short. They are all stories that really happened, and the protagonists are recognizable only to those who told them. The little theater is imagined as the stage of the Foro Italico where the musical band played with great fanfare and the listeners while waiting, whispered to each other the facts and unspeakable events of the city. Here the theater is this little book that you leaf through and read quickly like when you look at a photo on Instagram.» They are stories of women, artists, Sicilian men, inhabitants of our smaller islands, and life that we Sicilians observe every day and which, to an observer from another region or one side of the country, appear formidable in their normality Sicilian.
What is Sicilianness? It’s challenging to explain it; it would take an essay, but I hope I can define it in a few words, simple and complicated at the same time. Being Sicilian means being overwhelmed by beauty since before we were born. We live and grow up in a land of incredible beauty that we only notice when we leave our island to travel, study, or work. But at the same time, it is a land inhabited by people who have undergone at least sixteen different dominations over the centuries, each of which has left traces of culture, customs, language, behavior, characters, and ways of being and relating to others. All this has led us to be mixed-race people by anthropological and historical definitions, multi-ethnic and multicultural for millennia, which does not allow a single definition of Sicilianness or the Sicilian. Each of us Sicilians is one, no one, and a hundred thousand different people, as Luigi Pirandello would say. Perhaps, this is what Sicilianness is: the indefinability of being Sicilian!
MTDD: Love, relationships – including and above all sentimental – passion, and carnality are aspects that play a fundamental role in your literary production. Sometimes, your characters are represented in an almost caricatural way, occasionally humorous. Still, other times, it seems that, despite the drama of the situations presented, a sort of “unbearable lightness of being” emerges or is at least implicitly encouraged.
What are the personality traits – of a real person or fictional character – that most inspire you and that you look for and why?
AG: It’s life that is like this, and it’s the people who live on this island who live on passions and feelings, emotions and visceral carnality, more than anything else. We live time as if it were never going to pass, as if it were still, as if it were eternal, just like the beauty of the place where we live and live, an eternal beauty beyond time that flows inexorably. All this makes us passionate and alive, even if there are the deviations that are part of our nature, the extreme moral and behavioral contradictions, the atavistic hypocrisies, the falsehoods, the betrayals, and everything that we human beings act to achieve our goals which are not always noble and of which we can be proud.
Many of the Novellas and short stories I have written can be heard recited by 36 actresses and actors.
“Audio-readings of over 150 performances of Sicilian novels and stories” by Andrea Giostra | 36 professional and semi-professional actresses and actors read:
from Facebook Watch:
MTDD: Luigi Pirandello, a famous playwright, writer, and poet, was also Sicilian. His literary production remains one of the pillars of Italian literature, something of which we are all proud.
Do you find that your “Sicilian nature” has led you to approach literature, cinema, and art in general in a different, unique way, that is, specific to your culture, history, and roots, and, if so, in what way?
AG: Pirandello investigated, from a literary and novelistic point of view, the depths of the human soul, the unconscious if we want to put it in psychoanalysis, with everything that is generated in the relational, emotional, social, and daily life of Sicilians but also of people who live anywhere else on the planet because emotions, some relational dynamics, the unconscious processes of human beings are absolutely universal and transversal to any culture and tradition. Cunto, as they say in Sicilian, meaning telling the story, is part of our oldest thousand-year-old tradition. Reporting facts and events by exalting them, making them magical, unusual, unrepeatable, as if they were unique, is part of our being Sicilian. Everything here in Sicily is exaggerated and taken to the extreme; like food, for example, we have thousands of different dishes that are served in super generous portions. Perhaps it is this millenary tradition of storytellers that has brought out and still brings out great writers, great actors, and great artists of all disciplines who, however, if they remain on this island, will never realize themselves professionally, artistically, will never find success and the fortune of becoming known, known and appreciated by the general public.
MTDD: You have had numerous interviews and received awards and recognition for your cultural activities.
Would you like to tell us about it?
AG: This is another chapter that belongs to my little writing world. The many awards received have always surprised me and still do. All the cultural awards and recognitions I have been honored with, leave me amazed every time. I always read the reasons as if they concerned another person. They flatter me, it’s true, and encourage me to write more. However, I must admit that I always maintain a certain emotional detachment and always adhere to daily reality, which is granitic.
For example, the “Targa Milano International” was an out-of-competition prize, a competition in which I didn’t even participate. This minor premise is essential to understand what happened then. When the President of the Jury of the “Milano International Literary Prize,” Dr. Roberto Sarra, called me in early September 2017, I thought it was a joke. I listened to his phone call carefully, with a smile on my lips, thinking it was the usual joke or the proposal for a subscription or a product to buy, and I tried to understand where this voice was going. Then I asked him how he had obtained and read this booklet, given that I had never sent it to the Jury of the Milanese competition. In reality, the short stories of Sicily have always been read for free online from my blog and many other social channels and pages. It’s not a little book I thought about selling. Dr. Sarra told me that a member of the Jury who had liked the Novellas had read it and that this person had asked him, as President and the other members of the Jury to read it because it was a collection for certain verses deconstructing the orthodox way of writing novels or short stories. At that point, I understood that it was not a joke; I thanked him very much, and on November 25, 2017, I went to Milan to collect the award in the beautiful setting of the splendid Barozzi Hall of the Institute for the Blind.
Then, last May 12, there was also the award of the High Merit for Italian Literature, which was recognized in Rome by the Italian Academy of Art and Literature, of which Dr. Francesca Romana Fragale is President and founder, who, in this interview, together with the entire Council, I thank publicly, who have made this determination and who have honored me with their attention and esteem. The motivation signed by President Fragale, also in this case, is truly flattering for me: “Andrea Giostra’s Short Stories of Sicily are a shining emblem of what the Academy intends to enhance: Dr. Andrea Giostra is an excellent and brilliant writer who combines in the same score the notes of the heart, those of the psychological analysis of the unforgettable characters he outlines in an admirable way and of his carefully crafted settings. The composition technique is impeccable, sometimes skillfully overcome by imaginative poetic license. The bitter aftertaste and a subtle, intelligent satirical irony make the Short Stories of Sicily an important cross-section of the human soul, of beauty and ugliness universally understood. Sicily is narrated with passion and as a litmus test of the contradictions of our beloved country.”
Today, all the awards and recognitions I have received are linked to my writing, not so much to the stories I tell. Mine is an atypical, deconstructing writing that mixes Sicilian with Italian. A way of writing with Sicilian’s linguistic structure, which is a very ancient language and indeed not a dialect as some mistakenly claim! Mine is a way of writing that does not please the orthodoxy and standardization of our country’s most influential editors and publishing houses. So, for this very reason, I am thrilled with these official appreciations and, at the same time, surprised precisely because it is all outside the mold of the homogenized orthodoxy of literature, or so-called literature, of our times.
MTDD: Another passion of yours is Cinema, as we have already said.
Why Cinema? What are you passionate about, and what is the cultural and artistic meaning of Cinema today?
AG: As far as Cinema is concerned, I’m simply a fan, and now and then I love writing reviews. I have produced and made some documentaries, yes. Still, lately, I have yet to have the opportunity to make others, even if the door always remains open to exciting and intriguing things to do.
My passion for Cinema, which I have always had since I was a child, was culturally enriched when, many years ago, I started reading Gilles Deleuze (1925-1995). According to Deleuze, Cinema has a philosophical approach, and his theories are still valid and contemporary today. If, from this Deleuzecian perspective, I wanted to talk about where Philosophy has ended up in the twenty-first century, it is perhaps Cinema which, in modern times, has recovered the philosophical tradition that over the centuries has characterized Western man’s love for knowledge and knowledge. Starting from ancient Greece, Philosophy, the art of thought, before becoming speculative, was the noblest of the disciplines that marked and traced the path of the “ancient man” for the best management of the “way of life” of the lifestyle we would say today, deduced through the pure and free reflection that leads him towards Wisdom, healthy principles based on Ethics, Morality, and Aesthetics shared in the culture of the time. According to Gilles Deleuze’s meaning and perspective, it is Cinema that today, impetuously and worthily, has taken the place of Philosophy. Cinema is the art that replaced Philosophy. Cinema is the philosophy of the twenty-first century: it holds the power to create images, to develop concepts, to stimulate thought and reflection, to essentially trace the path that leads to “lifestyles” that are inspired by Ethics, Morality, and Aesthetics of contemporary man, of twenty-first-century man, of “modern man.” In this sense, I fully embrace Deleuze’s thoughts even if, unfortunately, not all contemporary cinematographic productions have this aim and are often absolute disgraces, both from a cinematic, narrative, artistic, and cultural point of view. But that’s another story!
MTDD: Do you have any other projects you are working on you wish to tell us about without revealing too much?
AG: I have four unpublished books finished and ready to be published, which I hope to do by the end of the year. I’m not anticipating anything out of good luck, but we’ll see what happens!
MTDD: Why don’t we remind our readers how they can contact you, order your publications, and follow your activities?
AG: They can do so through my profiles, pages, and social channels and my email, which I am posting below:
In this article, however, readers who wish to know more will find my first 70 interviews as a “Cultural Editorialist”:
MTDD: Thank you, Andrea, for being my guest. I look forward to seeing you in the future for other meetings.
AG: Thanks to you, Maria Teresa, and see you next time then.