Aldo Buzzi, l’Imprevisto

His writing is something to savor and enjoy, paragraph by paragraph, as you move from the subject he is ostensibly writing about, to all manner of related history, personal asides, and truths of life and culture.

Aldo Buzzi (pronounced “Boot-see”) is an urbane raconteur whose slim, brilliant volumes are mostly available only in Italian.  His books are sometimes classified — as booksellers and marketers are wont to do — as “food writing” or “travel writing”, but the brilliance of the prose – witty, arch, breezily erudite, and very funny — winds up transcending these genres.

Three have been translated into English: The Perfect Egg in 2005, (L’uovo alla kok, 1979), Journey to the Land of the Flies in 1996 (Viaggio in Terra de mosche e altri viaggi, 1994), and A Weakness for Almost Everything in 2006 (Un debole per quasi tutto, 2006) .

Oddly, and inspirationally, Buzzi’s wrote his first book, Quando la pantera rugge, at age 62.  He was first published in English when the New Yorker magazine ran his (long) short story Chekov in Sondrio in 1992.  Buzzi was then 82.

For the first 60 years of his life, Buzzi was set designer, costume designer, and, occasionally, on the scriptwriting team for various movies, mostly with director Alberto Latuada, and, early on, with Federico Fellini.  Trying to find the rather obscure films on which he has writing credit, most notably (if you are an Italian film buff) L’imprevisto (The Unexpected, 1961), is impossible in the US.

The reportedly quirky documentary he directed and co-wrote, America Pagana (1995) promises “a mystical journey to the land of the feathered serpent” — Mayan Mexico.  [If any reader has access to a copy of this documentary, please e-mail me.]

Aldo Buzzi passed away last October (2009) at age 99.  In Parliamo d’Altro he wrote:

“Quello che si prova a 95 anni è quello che si provava anni fa a 85. E quello che si proverà, fra un po’ d’anni, a 105″

“What we try to do at age 95, is what we tried to do at age 85, and what we will be trying to do, a few years later, at age 105.”

Along with a body of marvelous writing, a memorable lesson:  Success is no impediment to trying again.