“CIAO, AMERICA! An Italian Discovers the U.S.”
di Beppe Severgnini
Pubblicato su L’Idea N.16, Vol.II, 2004, NY
There are times, when reading a book for the sole purpose of writing a review, that, although well written and interesting in its own subject matter, its evaluation may result as a burden of some sort. Reading CIAO AMERICA! was not one of these cases. Light-hearted and somewhat facetious, this book is the ideal reading for an Italian who has immigrated to USA.
As the author clearly states, “This is the story of an Italian who, with his family, was happy in a house in America”. His comments arise from mere reflections of the differences between the American and the Italian society. They develop, though, into intelligent clarifications of the apparent reasons, obviously as perceived by Beppe Severgnini, behind these dissimilarities. The author has clearly researched the origins of many of our American customs and he seems to have a profound knowledge of our way of life and what seems to trigger its changes.
I do believe, though, that the musings of this celebrated journalist and writer can only be savored to the fullest if you have lived on both sides of the Atlantic. Capturing the finesse of some of the comments may be difficult, unless you can relate to his European upbringing, and may produce some irritation in the unprepared reader, who could interpret some remarks as criticisms.
If you have even a minute exposure to the Italian way of life of today, though, his evaluations are going to be hilarious and to the point. Severgnini touches all the topics imaginable in a one-year diary of his life in Washington D.C., focusing on the small things of life, from the excessive ice in the soda to the supermarkets, the celebration of the Fourth of July, the way people drive, tag sales, garbage pick up and, naturally, bureaucracy.
The amazement of this journalist at the ease that the American society has created around the acquisition of the basic requirements of everyday living can be paralleled to the reaction of a child that encounters an elephant or a giraffe at the zoological garden for the first time. He knows that what he has in front of his eyes is really happening, but he can’t cease to be in awe and skepticism about it.
This book touches the very heart of the mechanism that makes this great nation as such, justly as perceived by an outsider. If you are not going to smile, laugh and feel proud of being an American by the end of this book, I can safely assume that you probably did not like Charlie Chaplin and Lucille Ball either.
Severgnini, Beppe, CIAO, AMERICA! An Italian Discovers the U.S., Broadway Books, NY, 2002 (English)
Severgnini, Beppe, CIAO, AMERICA!, R.C.S. Libri & Grandi Opere S.p.A., Milan, 1995 (Italian)