CALABRIA: THE OTHER ITALY SUBMISSION
I could never have imagined, seven years ago, as I made my way down to the southern extremity of the Italian peninsula, stepping off the train in Locri to teach English, that I would one day write a book about my experiences. And I never would have dreamed that my words would be read and appreciated by the people of the region itself, so much so that I would be honored with an award. But this is just what happened.
I had heard about the Premio Calabria through my friend Luisa. Since it was an award that also considered books in foreign languages, I thought, why not? I sent them two copies of Calabria: The Other Italy as requested.
The Premio Calabria or Calabria Prize was instituted in 1963 by the Circolo di Cultura e di Relazioni Internazionali (Society of Culture and International Relations) of Villa San Giovanni. The association’s presiding officer and driving force was and remains to be Professor Giuseppe Morabito, an octogenarian whose remarkable energy is matched by a love for his native region of Calabria.
The prize fosters the valorization of culture and promotes raising awareness with regard to the problems of Calabria and what is often referred to in Italian as the Mezzogiorno or Southern Italy. Amongst its more notable recipients are the Nobel Prize-winning German writer Heinrich Böll, Sicilian writer and journalist Giuseppe Fava and Calabria’s own Leonida Répaci – needless to say, some very good company, indeed.
PRIZE FOR A FOREIGN SCHOLAR
I was selected in this 53rd year of the prize for my book and distinguished as una scolastica straniera (a foreign scholar). For me, the word scholar conjures images of black robed intellectuals walking hallowed halls and crossing immaculate green lawns of upper crust northeastern schools and elite British colleges. While my past studies and research as a fellowship recipient working on a doctorate in music often found me in libraries surrounded by stacks of books and sifting through old microfiche, the majority of my research culminating with this honor was more hands-on in nature, living and working amongst the people and actively exploring the region and everything it had to offer.
Calabria intrigued me to the point of wanting to know more. I had become a specialist and through my book I have shared this knowledge with the English-speaking world. As I said upon accepting the award, I hope that my efforts will help spread the merits of this land and will contribute to combatting the oft negative image presented by the media and then repeated by those without direct knowledge of the issues particular to the region. In Calabria: The Other Italy, I haven’t only described the beautiful landscape and artistic splendors, but I have striven to present a balanced view, depicting a human, compelling portrait of Calabria.
The ceremony was held on the evening of October 23rd in the Grand Hotel de la Ville in Villa San Giovanni, about nine miles north of Reggio Calabria, the region’s most populous city. Facing Sicily on the Strait of Messina, the town is situated at the narrowest point between the Italian peninsula and its largest island, and is thus the main departure point for the area’s ferry system. I appreciated the members of the Anglo-Italian Club of Reggio Calabria in attendance to support me that evening.
Professor Morabito presented me with the award certificate that cited the naturalness, enthusiasm and clarity of my book’s expression. In addition, I received a medallion with the image of the Head of the Philosopher, a bronze sculpture dating from the last quarter of the fifth century BC that was found off the coast of Cannitello, a section of Villa San Giovanni. Extraordinarily, looking into his face is like looking at a real person. His wrinkled forehead, long beard, concentrated expression and short cloak that was found alongside the head amongst the remains of a shipwreck, come together to give the picture of a scholar or philosopher – very appropriate for the prize.
A line from my profile in the program notes popped out at me as I read it over that evening: “Karen enjoys her wonderful experience with a keen pioneering spirit.” I suppose I had felt a bit like a pioneer as the overnight train jostled me southwards at the start of my adventure. Along the journey that followed, I confronted a number of challenges and I was favored with many rewards. And now I have been awarded the Premio Calabria. I’m very pleased that the Circolo di Cultura liked my book and am proud they found it worthy of this prize.
Go to my homepage for more about my book Calabria: The Other Italy, available in paperback and e-book formats.