G8, struck and sunk
Francesca Garofoli | 30-06-2008 | ENG
(Translated by Anamaría Crowe Serrano)

Writing to right the facts. A novel told like a film. Your thumb ready to hit REC or PLAY, depending on whether the narrative is in the present or the past. This is how Roberto Ferrucci recovers the memory of what happened during those days in Genoa.

It is possible to reconstruct historical memory by filtering through newspaper archives or by re-examining photographs and film footage.
We can trust the impartial reconstruction of an event: the Genoa Global Forum, July 19-22, 2001.
We can put up commemorative plaques that resound like a canon shot at mid-day: “Carlo Giuliani, young man”.
Photographs are framed to forever mark the moment, the instant memory began.
And what about words? In some cases they seem to evade us. Like a breath that slips away.

It took Roberto Ferrucci six years to digest those images, the smell of stinging gas – even if, officially, it was supposed to be tear gas – the screams of people fleeing, the swearing, the blows. Six years to be reconciled with the memory of an event that never ceases to play in the present. Maybe because no one has ever been brought to justice over it.
Dancing round it, hiding behind half truths, is useless: in Italy the crime of torture isn’t considered. That’s something that happens in Latin America, the judge must have thought. But it’s not. Now it’s something that happens here too. In Genoa. Seven years ago.

Roberto Ferrucci’s story unfolds in a hotel room. It’s one of those grey, impersonal hotels for businessmen who haven’t got the time to take in their surroundings. And the protagonist doesn’t feel like taking in his surroundings either. He’s there, six years on, to look inside himself. To remember.
With his finger, he travels the map of those days: Via Tolemaide, Piazza Alimonda, the Diaz school, Bolzaneto barracks…

His writing is concise, terse, like a still frame.
There were items of underwear laid out to dry. White panties, thongs, three pairs (…) a couple’s underwear in full view (…) Kids dressed in black (…) black balaclavas (…) a black flag rolled up (…) a pair of goggles, the kind a sidecar passenger would wear (…) These were blue (…) with the blue thingamabob on top (…) special, new overalls, like the gloves and the masks (…) No uniforms here (…) the masks were the kind you’d wear to go swimming. The helmets were motorcycle helmets. The padding was made of foam and polystyrene that their mother had put aside for future use (…) trainers (…) volleyball knee pads…

The progression speeds up: it’s a race against time, against the video recorder battery about to run out.
The video recorder had been left on, taking in shadows and feet and the lines in the middle of the road. I put the cover on it, maybe thinking I’d at least protect it from the stinging gases (…) I started to run again holding the video recorder. Still on. And now you can see dark sandals running beside me. Then my brown shoes (…) a pair of beige trousers with grey trainers. You can see a black bag placed at my feet. A blue sweatshirt with Che’s face in blue, tied round his waist (…) Giorgio’s white Adidas (…) a glass bottle kicked. Beer, I think it is.

Life continued, paradoxically, absurdly. Almost like it had always done, in as much as that could be. Three pensioners were chatting amongst themselves, seemingly relaxed, as if they did this every day of their life. There were mopeds flying around, a couple of ladies taking a leisurely stroll, dressed the way ladies dress in the afternoon to go out shopping. Calmly, impeccably, despite the heat, despite a battle being waged a little further on, which was echoing through the air.

I heard shouts. A chorus of shouts, to be precise. I turned round, he turned and we saw them come pouring round a corner. People in uniform, dark blue, black (…) I could see them shouting. I don’t know if I could hear them. I remember the scene, not the sound. They were beating cudgels against the plexiglas shields. It was a deafening, spine-chilling noise (…) What else can they do? I wondered as I retreated. We haven’t done anything, I told myself, taking larger steps back. These people are our protection, aren’t they, I thought, moving out of their line of vision. That’s what I’d been taught since I was a child, I repeated to myself, not knowing what to do. And from the time I was a child, I was convinced that the forces of law and order had been especially invented for me, to defend me, to protect only me (…) I heard someone behind me shout. Run, run! They’re firing! They’re firing! And so I fled. I didn’t look at them any more because they were no longer my – our – protection. They were the enemy now.

That night (…) ninety three Italian citizens and foreigners were massacred by violent means that we thought only existed in the movies or in very different times and places far removed from our own country (…) No one has ever looked for these ninety three citizens to apologise.

From Thursday 19 July to Sunday 22 July, 2001, the governments of the eight most industrialised countries (the G8) convened for their annual meeting in Genoa. For the occasion, anti-globalization movements (the people of Seattle) and pacifist organisations from all over the world gathered, as they had already done on previous similar occasions, to protest against the policies of the industrialised nations which disregard the interests and needs of the poorest.
For reasons that have never been made completely clear (more than 250 criminal cases were brought against the forces of law and order for unjustified injuries, but all the findings were filed on the grounds that the perpetrators couldn’t be identified), the Italian authorities charged on the crowd of demonstrators.
The clashes and mayhem continued throughout the four days of the G8 summit, and culminated in two lamentable incidents: the death of Carlo Giuliani, a young man killed on July 20 from a gunshot wound to the head fired by a police officer, and the police assault of July 21 on the Diaz school where 93 people were lodging, most of them foreign journalists.
The official version of events given by the Italian police is that it was a routine search, but the truth is that the police agents stormed the Diaz school in anti-riot formation, beating people furiously and indiscriminately, and arresting everyone present for no obvious reason. Among the arrested, 63 reported physical trauma to varying degrees; one person remained in a coma for two days.
During the four days of turmoil, over 250 people were randomly arrested and detained in Bolzaneto barracks under the pretext of having violated legal, civil and human rights. Most of those arrested claimed to have been subjected to physical and psychological torture.
Today, all that’s left of that tragic occasion is a piazza in Genoa with a plaque which reads: Carlo Giuliani, young man.

(June 30, 2008)

The sections in italics are from Roberto Ferrucci’s novel:
Cosa cambia (tr. What changes)
Marsilio, 2007

Roberto Ferrucci was born in Marghera, in 1960.
He is a writer, having written for television and radio, a journalist, translator, photographer and film director.
For many years he has contributed to the sports, cultural and literary pages of several Italian newspapers, including Il Manifesto, L’Unità and Liberazione.
Since 2002 he teaches creative writing at the Faculty of Letters in the University of Padua.
Marsilio published his Pane e tulipani (tr. Bread and tulips), based on Silvio Soldini’s film of the same title. Ferrucci’s contribution was to the film location, set in Venice.
As a translator his main focus has been on the work of Jean-Philippe Toussaint.

Other novels by Ferrucci include:
Terra rossa (tr. Red clay. Transeuropa, 1993 / Fernandel, 1998): set in the ’80s, on the tennis court that became the stage for Bjorn Borg’s historical defeat.
Giocando a pallone sull’acqua (tr. Playing ball in the water. Marsilio, 1999): an epic football adventure telling of the return to the A league, after 31 years, of the Venezia football club thanks to Alvaro Recoba’s performance (Premio Selezione Bancarella 2000).
Andate e ritorni. Scorribande a nordest (tr. Comings and goings. Incursions into the north-east. Amos, 2003): a travelogue on a Vespa through north-east Italy (finalist at the Settembrini 2004 Prize).

His blog (in Italian) contains pictures, flavours and landscapes of the soul.