HomeFeatured NewsItaly-Tunisia: 2800 years of shared history, says Sangiuliano

Italy-Tunisia: 2800 years of shared history, says Sangiuliano

During his visit to the Italian pavilion at the Tunis International Book Fair, we spoke to Gennaro Sangiuliano, Minister of Culture in the Meloni government since October 22, 2022, about bilateral relations between our two countries and cooperation in the cultural field.


Q: Italian culture has always been characterized by a variety of expressions: painting, sculpture, architecture, theatre, music, dance, art and literature, cinema. Where do Italian publishing and the world of Italian literature stand today on the world stage?

R: Italy as we know it today is the product of a cultural stratification that has lasted over two millennia and to which various civilizations have contributed, including the Arab civilization, which had a great influence, especially in the south. Italian culture reflects this historical fact and is characterized by its diversity, plurality and openness to the world. Our literature, with classics such as Dante and Machiavelli and, in the twentieth century, D’Annunzio, Marinetti, Moravia, Calvino and Eco, has always had an international outlook.

Today we are living through a period of great literary creativity, with authors such as Elena Ferrante, Andrea Camilleri, Giuliano Da Empoli and Maurizio Serra winning major prizes abroad. In addition, there were intellectuals, journalists and essayists who were able to offer important and original interpretations of world events. This is the case of Marcello Veneziani, who spoke at the Tunis Book Fair, where Italy is the guest of honor.

This vitality is reflected in the internationalization of our publishing industry: last year our publishers sold twice as many titles abroad as in 2010.

Q: The close ties of tradition, history and culture between Italy and Tunisia have always led to fruitful cooperation in various fields: what are the most important projects and contexts of cultural cooperation between Italy and Tunisia?

R: Italy and Tunisia are linked by more than 2,800 years of common history. Aeneas, the father of Juliet, according to the Latin writer Virgil, stopped in Carthage before founding Rome and giving birth to the Roman Empire.
Since then, our civilizations have met, clashed, compared and enriched each other. The result has been an extraordinary contamination that forms the basis of today’s cultural cooperation.
The Italian government, led by Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, intends to strengthen this cooperation because of the excellent relations between the two countries and because we believe that culture can be an extraordinary driving force for the economic and social development of both Tunisia and Italy.

The central pillar of our cooperation is the promotion of the extraordinary archaeological heritage that both nations possess. During my visit to Tunis, an agreement was reached to twin the Colosseum and the Amphitheatre of El Jem, which will lead to joint activities to restore and promote this extraordinary Tunisian monument. We’ll be working with the Tunisian Ministry of Culture on other major archaeological sites in your beautiful country, which could become an international tourist destination.
But we also want to focus on young people, contemporary creativity and the development of cultural industries.

I’m thinking, for example, of cinema, where Tunisia has a wealth of talent that Italy can support by financing the production of films and their participation in our festivals. But also art, music and theater. I am convinced that this cooperation will open up a new season of cultural dialogue between our two nations and create opportunities for young Tunisians.

Q: What are the main events dedicated to Italian literature and the world of books and reading?

The central event in the Italian literary scene is undoubtedly the Turin International Book Fair, which takes place from May 9 to 13. This is the fair that brings together all the publishers and authors of our literature and welcomes writers and publishers from all over the world.

Italy also has many literary events throughout the country. The most important literary prizes are the Campiello and the Viareggio, but there are hundreds of others, mainly linked to the relationship between authors of the past and the territory in which they lived.

The list is very long and gives an idea of the importance of literature in defining Italian national identity. It should never be forgotten that although Italy was politically unified in 1861, its national identity had been defined centuries earlier, originally as a linguistic and literary dimension.

Dante, Petrarch, Machiavelli, Vico, Ariosto, Tasso, Foscolo, Leopardi and Manzoni are among the greatest expressions of this Italian literature, which expressed national feeling even before the existence of the unified Italian state.


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