Michele Marziani was born in 1962 in Rimini where he presently lives. He has been living for a long term by the Orta lake and in Milan. He is an Italian writer and he had already published the novels: La trota ai tempi di Zorro (The trout at Zorro’s times), Umberto Dei, biografia non autorizzata di una bicicletta (Umberto Dei, unauthorized biography of a bicycle), La signora del caviale (The lady of the caviar), Barafonda and several books about travels, fishing, wines and food.
Is this a book where fish is raining ? Not exactly. Fish exists, darting and meaningful all the time as the writer’s words telling us about fishing but also about living, memories, feelings. Dawns and rivers and nostalgia. A tale after the other, not only for they who know about baits and sinkers and mazzacchera nets but amazingly ( or maybe not) also for them who could not even tell all these things from the others. In a split second they will find themselves hooked into the stories. “Sometimes fishing is for me almost a religion. I always failed to have my mother, my father, my friends , the women I loved understand. I hope I succeed with my offspring. Why ? Well, because I had a fantastic father, but today I know I wish I had a father who would go fishing. Someone who could have taught me the roads to venture in , who would teach me the way to knot the hook and not me studying it on books full of complicated drawings. In a word, someone who would wake up at dawn with me knowing well what I could have felt.
How if one makes his own life up? Franco Botteghi knows it well enough. For thirty years he has been an esteemed paediatrician who illegally practiced medicine in Italy and in Africa. Or, better, he will find it out when, by unlucky coincidence, his cheat will be unmasked. Everything changes: opportunities, loving people. His wife Camilla slams home door on his face and decries him with his children. Then jail and a makeshift accommodation in the crumbling little house inherited by his mother, between river and sea. Now he’s got to find out how making a living as he can no longer practice as a doctor. Luckily he got neighbours, a big-hearted couple of Algerians with a pack of children and Jelena, a Slavonic woman, survived to the massacre in her homeland. She loves Franco despite his racism and bad temper, often, almost always, made even worse by spirits. Maybe you can invent a life twice or maybe not. Lies do not work with illness.
A tough story, uncomfortable full of poetry and irony to tell about small and big evils of our times.
Michele Marziani with his delicate but somehow surgical writing makes you smile or moves you, levels with stories without rhetoric and beating about the bush. He accepts contradiction and what cannot be solved even in the language.
Nello is twelve, he is a fast bicycle rider as if he was a domestic of Bartali and he likes to go fishing with his friend Nicola. Through his eyes follow the stories of the lady of the caviar, the third novel by Michele Marziani. At the beginning they are the innocent eyes influenced by the fascist canvass of a boy of the “forties” who lives in the countryside of Ferrara, nearby the Po River banks. He spends his days among the school, the train station where he lives with his mother and his uncle. Railway we orker and the flood plain. Only one worry, that revolutionary father, killed in Spain without even leaving him his surname. It’s a mystery to solve: who is actually the Turk, Nicola’s father, the fisherman who seems to hide a past far more intriguing than his present life? The war in which Italy is caught up, seems not to affect them, just a matter to be read on the newspapers. Then the war breaks in with its wild violence and Nello grows up coping with the high school in Ferrara and racial laws, his love for Bechi and the German invasion and the tricks of the small community to survive poverty and Allies’ bombing. It’s a novel telling the Great History interweave to everyday life with its little heroisms, its cowardice, expedience and initiative. The consistency of the Turk with his choices, the tenaciousness of railwayman uncle who never deserts his job site, the fishy crossing-keeper Remo and the business skills of Nello’s mother able to transform the flood plain women into expert sturgeon fishers and thus improving the economy of the village. Another character is the parson, playing harmonium on a boat in the middle of Po river to make fishing more fruitful and also Bechi who protect herself from war by stopping talking. Nicola who hopes to dream of the white horse as this means he will be able to fish up the sturgeon of his life. The memory of the Lady of the caviar lies over everyone, elegant figure of Nello’s joyful past days. She used to produce excellent Po caviar out of sturgeon eggs so that the fishermen community could make out a living before the war would sweep away everything .
Michele Marziani writing, powerful but delicate drive us through this story which captures and involves us, between a smile and a lump in the throat.
Umberto Dei in not a man, it’s a bicycle. More than that ! It is a myth on which the novel by Michele Marziani unravels. The main character, Arnaldo Scura quits a profitable job as a finance broker to work as a bicycle mechanic. Arnaldo’s workshop in Milan becomes a place for meetings, loves, thoughts and adventures to such an extent that the events in the life of a young student from Afganistan assume thriller connotations. Nas assists the main character in fixing the bicycles, but mainly in the restoring of the Umberto Deis. The surprise ending ironically tears up the thick veil of prejudice against immigrants. This is a topic which the author is very fond of as the one of student riots in the Seventies, the subject of his first novel “The trout in Zorro’s times”. In a very different way this topic is also back in this new novel by Marziani. Without sinking into ideology and condescension, the writer from Rimini proves to be skilful in aptly and lightly dealing with present problems, heavy and too often avoided by novelists. The language he uses is some sort of an interior monologue where the speeches of other characters are not bound into quotation marks but included in the text.
This language lets the story, which tastes as a contemporary, poetic and real tale, flow sweet and fast.
It’s the winter of 1975. Stefano Baldazzi Morra is 13 years old and he settles in Piedmont , in Gozzano village, together with his family. To mark Stefano’s growth is trout-fishing, a passion lived as a training for life, a hobby in which to put all the hours spared from the study. The quiet life of Stefano changes in few months. His father, in deep private crisis, deserts the family to find himself boozing in a homeless life. In the schools the air is full of scents of riot, of student movements then blasting in the “ Spring of 1977”. Bildungsroman, The trout in Zorro’s days , is the first novel by Michele Marziani, forty year old journalist with the passion for cooking and fishing. In this novel the years of the terrorism, the so called lead years are seen through the eyes of an ingenuous and curious boy. Trout-fishing so becomes the perspective to understand the world, the path to further knowledge and the redemption of cynical life.
Dining with Giulia
by Michele Marziani
(Guido Tommasi Editore, 2012)
Cooking can be thousands of things altogether, it depends on the points of view. Here you can find everyday cooking. It takes short time to be prepared but it needs heart in doing so. The rules are the least but they make the difference. Fresh produce, love for food and people you are cooking for, fancy to serve up into the dish. Simple recipes (a tasty seasonal omelette), very simple sometimes (strawberries and chocolate), just unpredictable, some others (hopeless octopus). No given measures, haphazardly as in the old times and you’ll go wrong. You follow tradition, care for the territory and season turnover, some popping in faraway countries, dishes that even children can like and that maybe can be prepared together. Told recipes, knowing of what they are saying about: food, obviously, but not only. They are dedicated to Giulia, and to the people for which you can fancy handling a pan.
“In a kitchen every mistake can be mended but one. Arrogance. You won’t find here big chef dishes but pieces of gastronomic happiness, pursued every day in front of the cookers, as if it were a stroll for a little breathe, or a page of a good book. In my kitchen for sure tv set does not exist while music is welcome as friends are.“
The gluttons are citizens of the world, but loving them the back-shop of life, they dwell and visit places as Frusaglia, in the countryside between Metauro and Marecchia rivers. They go wandering
from seaside to the Montefeltro, where time flows slowly and one always has the chance of sitting in front of a table, reading a book, playing tresette with an old deck and singing altogether.
A place which exists and exists not, a fictional small village but with actual landmarks.
We meet at dusk in large country houses to perform poetry aloud, to mix noodles with a tomato and may peas sauce, to roast spring onions and broil cockerels, to flip, intrigued, through a book rescued in some library or junkman’s. We say children to immediately go to bed but then we start teaching them to carve elder woods with an outlaw knife. Hovering above the world, always ready to run after a kite , catch it and fly away, we like going back where we have friends, home doors, familiar smells, loves and sliced salami. Stupefied, not stupid, by life, gluttons but not hogs, christened by a great country writer as Fabio Tombari but also Ghiottoni even without having read his work.
Along the Po River
Upstream journey discovering flavours, peoples, tales of the Big River
by Michele Marziani
Book series: Words into the pot
(Guido Tommasi Editore 2009)
Along the Po River is a downright journey carried on with a pen and fork in the backpack, upstream the most important river in Italy, from the Delta to Isola Serafini, a hamlet surrounded by the waters between Cremona and Piacenza. A travel by car, by boat and by bicycle following common cooking and the words of those writers who dipped their pens into Po waters, from Riccardo Bacchelli to Mario Soldati, Cesare Zavattini and to the great Giovannino Guareschi.
Three hundred kilometres searching for flavours, peoples, tales in the widest stretch of the Big River. A particular way to tell the story of the lands and of the river dwellings through their local produce, seawater fish and fathead minnow, vines, the most famous cured meats but also Po river civilization which is dying out day by day.
Every chapter with its own traditional recipe, is a stopover in tangible culture and in the flood plain soul, in a nook of remembrance and gourmand history.
Thirty easy dishes in the whole, tested to be carried on even in your own home kitchen.
The flavours of The Middle-earth
by Michele Marziani
Book series: Words in the pot
(Guido Tommasi Editore, 2010)
Hints here can be found of Padania, the Po basin territory, by Gianni Brera and in the Blue River by Mario Albertarelli. The two writers, belonging to the second half of the 20th century, have been selected as guides for this journey to the limits of the modern world. Two river parks for the same river stretch few minutes walk from Milan and Malpensa Airport, the big city towering by, a water and a plain triangle underlain by Po, Sesia and Ticino rivers where land farming and good flavours risk to become just a memory.
Voyaging across the lands of rice cultivations, geese, frogs, fathead minnows, of taverns, arbours, sluiceways, farmsteads, castles and channels it seems to perform archaeology of modern times where the rural soul can be closer examined and the way of cooking of a land in the balance between present and past. A journey where the pace is set by produce, recipes, flavours getting more powerful through the Ticino rapids, by the shining of flooded rice-fields, by the flight of the black-winged stilts and the afar gazing Monte Rosa mountain. It is sufficient to pick the trails out, forget the streets and let themselves be driven by one’s own instinct.