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Factory Tales

The factory is life. A life full of workers and executives, battles and conquests, conflict and collaboration. The factory – manufacturing – doesn’t just produce things, but also sensations, sounds, odours, sights, experiences, memories, emotion and ingenuity, and makes men and women who they are. And it continues to do so to this day, although in somewhat different ways. Revised, more modern, more focused on social and environmental needs, more “comfortable” than it once was, the factory continues on. Although the second largest manufacturing nation behind Germany, there is still much to do in Italy, where manufacturing needs to serve as the foundation for a new season of economic development.

As such, it is important for us to understand how, and why, factories today continue to be so crucial and how they have become what they now are, especially when the input needed to understand comes not so much from cold, hard numbers and charts, but from the warmth of words and of stories.

This makes Fabbrica di carta. I libri che raccontano l’Italia industriale (published by Laterza with the support of Assolombarda, foreword by Alberto Meomartini and introduction by Antonio Calabrò; translation of title: “Paper Factories. The books that tell the tale of industrial Italy”) a book to be read over and over again. The work provides a sort of overview of what Italian literature, in just under a century, has managed to give us on the topic of industry and all that goes on in and around it. It’s nothing scientific and precise, but that’s what makes it so real and practical.

In just over 300 pages, Giorgio Bigatti (who teaches Economic History at Bocconi) and Giuseppe Lupo (an instructor of Italian Literature at Università Cattolica) have brought together the best of these “factory tales” by authors such as Volponi, Sereni, Levi, Calvino, Ottieri, Giudici, Fortini, Vittorini, Arpino, Gadda, Pratolini, and many more. The work is divided into three main parts: Panorami dell’Italia industriale (Views of Industrial Italy), Personaggi in cerca di lettori (Characters in Search of Readers), and an appendix entitled Scritture del presente (Writings from the Present). Within these sections we find abstracts and brief accounts of Italian factory life, both past and present.

The result is a highly enjoyable book to be read and reread. And even to be used in schools and universities to study a key aspect of “Italian identity”. It’s a sort of handbook to that culture of enterprise which is one of the most important parts of Italian society.

Fabbrica di carta. I libri che raccontano l’Italia industriale.

Edited by G. Bigatti & G. Lupo

Laterza, 2013