Chinua Achebe says that the English language, when altered, can be used to bear the burden of his African experience. I extrapolate from that and try to put it into painting.
Njideka Akunyili Crosby
Home of the Bill T. Jones / Arnie Zane Company
Historian Carlo Ginzburg’s new book focuses on the notoriously politicized, dragged-out trial of Adriano Sofri (a figurehead of the Italian Left, from the civil unrest of the ’60s to the present day) for the crime of murder. To briefly sum up: In 1969 a bomb exploded in a Milanese bank, two anarchists were arrested, one fell to his death from the window of the police headquarters in the middle of interrogation and two years later Police Sargeant Luigi Calabresi was assassinated. Sixteen years later a repentant terrorist came forward and fingered Sofri and two other members of the Lotta Continua, a militant leftist political group, for the murder which lead to their conviction and arrest. The intrinsically flawed testimony of the repentant is brought forth in The Judge and the Historian , as are a litany of evidential inconsistencies. Originally published in Italy in 1991, The Judge and the Historian has just been published here with a new postscript.
Ginsburg and I have mutual friends who are also friends and defenders of Adriano Sofri; they have long since had me convinced of Sofri’s humanism, his commitment to cultural freedom and egalitarianism. Ginzburg makes no bones about his close friendship with Sofri, but his historian’s ethics keep him from presenting this pot-boiler verité as mere defense. In the tradition of Ginzburg’s work as a narrative historian, sculpting story-like shapes out of ancient and unexamined pasts, he offers the reader the evidence, giving the public the tools to examine this modern, ongoing history. What struck me, chillingly about Ginzburg’s book was how closely the contemporary trial transcripts he cites ape those of the trials Ginzburg previously uncovered in his celebrated work on Medieval witchcraft and the Inquisition. How far have we come?
Archie Rand You have done much celebrated work reconstructing 16th and 17th century trials, trials of the Inquisition, witchcraft trials. From that work you find precedence for evidence being manufactured in accordance with prevailing stereotypes. How does this come into play in these 20th century court records?
Carlo Ginzburg I decided to address this case for two sets of reasons, personal and professional. The bulk of The Judge and the Historian was written in 1991 between the first trial and the appeal. For the first time in my life as a historian, I was writing something which was certainly inspired by a concern for truth, but also had the intent of making an impact on actual events. Up until this book, I had been dealing with issues related to events that took place centuries ago. But here I deal with events in the making, history in the making if you like.
AR It is loosely modeled on J’accuse!—did you find that by importing the historian’s address into the present that you also physically inserted yourself into the action? Do you foresee that this will influence how you continue the work for which you are more well known? Will this experience implant itself back into your research methods? Or, will you isolate this case and say this is the one instance where you have been able to take your skills and use them for the public good, for justice?
CG Well, yes and no. Yes, because I used professional expertise which had been developed examining court records from centuries ago, specifically the Inquisition, in order to analyze the proceedings related to this trial. I tried to be as specific and professional as possible. I never used moral arguments that grew out of my personal relationship with the defendant Adriano Sofri. In other words, I never said, “I know this man, I believe he could have never done this thing.” There is a moral impossibility to the accusation against him, but I would have never used such an argument because it would be absolutely ineffective for people who didn’t share my intimate knowledge of Sofri as a person, and maybe even create a bias against him. Actually, the book is addressed to people either unfamiliar with the case or who have a negative bias. So, there is a reason why I focused on issues like evidence, proof, so on and so forth. And here is the intersection of the professional elements of the case and my own attitude, because I’d been dealing with issues like evidence and proof from a professional point of view as part of specific reflection on history as a cognitive enterprise. That’s why the book intertwines a close reading of the evidence, with more theoretical considerations about the relationship between the role of the judge and that of the historian. As I say, there are personal and professional reasons for my commitment to this case. Certainly, the personal reasons have been crucial. I wrote this book because I was trying to establish the truth about a close friend of mine. But there was a larger concern, which possibly explains why the book has been widely translated. Going back to your question, this book affected my attitude towards history as a cognitive enterprise because it’s part of an ongoing reflection of mine which I just published as a book, History, Rhetoric and Proof, lectures I gave in Jerusalem some years ago. Proof is also a crucial word in The Judge and the Historian, because it’s related to that overlapping area between law and history.
AR Your multilayered readership responds to your identification of proof in instances where fear and hysteria impact psychologically complex issues. I wasn’t familiar with the case, but I couldn’t put the manuscript down. It is a call to recognize injustice. I wondered as I read it what the implications for a tabloid reader would be to a case so articulately presented. I came back to the element of the irrational, which you have exquisitely sculpted in your previous work but avoided here, possibly because the need for fact is so strong when dealing with contemporary events, and with something for which you might be held accountable due to your relationship with the defendants. Your book on the painter Piero della Francesca is seminal in our education as artists. Thinking about that book it occurred to me that artists are among the staunchest fans of your work. And on my way here, I was thinking that artists need a belief in order—this is my opinion—to make effigies into which we can divest our faith—that is an artist’s job. Faith is a funny word, but it’s something that artists have to keep focused on while they’re making art. We deposit faith in these temporary capsules, the artwork, in a form that we hope can be extracted as needed by the viewer. Perversions such as unfairness and corruption, miscarriages of justice, interfere with, and sometimes completely sever, our ability to siphon off our sustenance from the world. According to this view, artists are naturally concerned with matters of injustice, specifically because such matters cut off their source of nutrition, an irrational but nonetheless strongly held notion that there is ascertainable order in the world. In The Judge and the Historian, when you finally call for a re-instigation of the trial, you lay out an appeal, directed toward the vague concept of hope. And hope is a very tricky word, because it verges on the spiritual. Hope assumes that people will be incited to act in good faith and to reactivate their conscience, which is not necessarily something human activity has verified. Rather, sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t. One of the elements of this story I want to ask you about—what’s his name? I keep calling him the stool pigeon… .
CG Leonardo Marino.
AR Leonardo Marino was soundly contradicted on many crucial details, both in the substance and timing of this murder. Most incredible to me was his claim that he was the getaway driver but couldn’t remember the color of the car he was driving: he said it was beige when it was dark blue. That’s astounding. He retracted many of his early accounts—most important, that he met with the alleged co-conspirators, after it was proven that these meetings couldn’t have taken place. This would seem to seriously perjure his entire testimony. However, the trial’s participants are asked to believe, when he turns state’s witness, that his confession is based on a renewal of religious conviction. That his confession to a priest—in spite of the fact that he continued to commit serious crimes right up to that point—was presaged by religious remorse. Did the court, or anybody, question the nature of his religious awakening—why it was accepted and how it was presented? Why was this religious conversion taken as proof or evidence for the prosecution? What in our society allows remorse and confession to a priest, to somehow validate otherwise totally invalid testimony? Or am I missing something very crucial in that estimation?
CG No, you are not. The justification and explanation of Marino’s “repentance” is grotesque. But let me try to be more specific, for we are dealing with something which is quite different from country to country. And so I wonder whether in another country, the systematic disappearance and destruction of evidence, physical evidence related to the crime, would have been acceptable or compatible with a sentence like this. I didn’t try to provide positive explanations, which would have certainly been conjectural, of the court’s attitude, because from my point of view, and from the point of view of the truth, the crucial thing was to show that there was no evidence against the three defendants except for Leonardo Marino’s accusations. This is a story that went on for a decade or more. I’ve been asked, Who did kill Calabresi? Actually, I have no idea. It is not my task to provide, or even conjecture about it. I try to make a clear-cut distinction between absence of proof and conjecture. A set of conjectures would have damaged my attempt to reestablish the truth. My crucial point was the absence of evidence, plus the number of contradictions in Leonardo Marino’s accusations.
AR You make a very articulate case for that. But there are other things that have continued to bother you in addition to the absence of evidence. For instance, the statute of limitations is allowed to run out on Leonardo Marino’s sentence, but the statute of limitations is not allowed to run out on the sentence of the three people he accuses. This case is 27 years old. Your English translator, Anthony Shugaar, makes particular note of the aggressiveness of the prosecuting magistrate toward Ferdinando Pomanci. While in 1980, Judge Lombardi never follows through with the prosecution of another Lotta Continua suspect. A fellow named Marco Fossati who reads in the newspaper that he is a suspect is never contacted by the judge. I’m wondering whether there is another story, either apocryphal or conjectural. Sofri’s reputation among my friends as a man of charisma and humanity is so enormous. I’m wondering whether Sofri and his friends represent something other than simply culprits, or alleged culprits, in this 27-year old murder?
CG This is certainly a very appropriate question and I think that my answer is yes. In other words, Sofri is very well known. He had great charisma. And his public image and his charisma changed dramatically before and after this case. Sofri and his friends kept their passports until the very end. Pietrostefani was in Paris when the verdicts were announced and returned to Italy to go to prison in order to be with his friends. Behind this is an extraordinary, even paradoxical faith in Italian justice which made a deep impression on Italian public opinion—because those people could have fled so easily. I would even say that for many Italian politicians, it would have been a relief if they had fled. Because in this way, Sofri and his friends would have been regarded by the public opinion as guilty, or their flight as additional proof of their guilt, and the case would have simply disappeared.
AR They refused the offer of a pardon.
CG Exactly. They stubbornly refused to ask for a pardon, they went to jail, and have been, especially Sofri, very vocal in stressing their innocence. Sofri still plays a very public role from jail. He regularly writes articles for magazines like Panorama, newspapers like La Repubblica—he has gained moral authority from being in jail, and having gone to jail in the way he did. Many people who either didn’t care about this case or were negatively biased against him, have changed their minds for several reasons, including and foremost, because of how he went to jail.
AR So you find that public opinion is changing?
CG Well, this case has been either forgotten for years, or let’s say it’s become peripheral. For many people, Calabresi and his murder are prehistory, events from another generation. The Italian Supreme Court recently asked for a third time for a reappraisal of the evidence that emerged after the publication of my book. There is apparently some very important new evidence concerning the case which suggests that a formal request for a new trial is coming from the defendant’s lawyers. So for the third time the Italian Supreme Court dealt with the case, reexamined the evidence, and there is a very long and detailed report calling for a new decision from a different court, the Court of Appeals in Venice, rather than in Milan where the murder occurred. And the Venice Court of Appeals has to decide whether to have a new trial or to ignore the Supreme Court decision once again. I say once again because it’s happened before. The legal intricacies of this case are absolutely without precedence. It’s a judicial scandal the likes of which has not been documented in Italian legal history in over a century.
AR Are you at liberty to discuss the new evidence? Is it public information?
CG It is public information. The request from the lawyers is official. The most dramatic piece of evidence is testimony given by a man called Gnappi, an eye-witness to the killing. He was very close to the scene and gave testimony several times which they say was “incomplete.” Why was the testimony incomplete? And there is something incredibly worrying about Gnappi’s most recent testimony. He says that the night after the murder, he was with a friend and two individuals came to his friend’s house asking for Gnappi. They showed documents indicating they were plainclothes policemen. He was surprised, because he was to have a meeting the next day with Police Chief Allegra, at that time the official responsible for the political unit of the Questura in Milan. Those two men showed him some photographs and asked: “You say that you saw the man who physically pulled the trigger and killed Calabresi. Can you recognize that man among these pictures?” He looked at the pictures and he recognized the killer in one of them. But he said, “I don’t recognize anybody.” They left. He was very, very scared. The day after he went to his meeting and he told Allegra about the two men. He said he’d recognized the killer in one of the pictures. Allegra didn’t flinch, and Gnappi couldn’t understand why Allegra didn’t react. So he repeated his story and Allegra still didn’t say anything. Gnappi said later of this strange event, “I got the impression that I had been trapped in a story much larger than me.” So he left without giving evidence. He was afraid. He said, “I certainly did not behave as a brave person, but that’s why I haven’t said anything until now.” Sandro Gambenni, the defense lawyer, interviewed Gnappi and he was able to get a signed version of this story a couple of years ago. What’s very interesting is that Allegra did not deny those two individuals worked with him—Allegra gave interviews to the press and he actually gave their names. He admitted they’d met with Gnappi, but denied their later conversation and Gnappi’s account. At that time a journalist asked me to comment and I said, “Allegra is confirming something and denying something else. The only place this disagreement can be settled is in court. We have to have a new trial.”
AR This is not unlike what I inferred from reading your manuscript. It seems that in the preliminary questioning, the presiding judge is fairly evenhanded, even suspicious of the prosecutors evidence and then abruptly changes his tactic to become aggressive and particularly closed-minded, to the point of leading witnesses through extremely convoluted and contradictory paths. You have mentioned before that there is little precedence in recent Italian history for things like the destruction of evidence. Yet you write of the destruction of the getaway vehicle for instance, because no one had paid the road taxes. Which is …
CG It’s ludicrous and tragic.
AR It borders on the kinds of inanities around which comic movies are sustained, unfortunately it’s not comic. We did have a very celebrated case in the United States: in the 1963 murder of John F. Kennedy, where not only evidence, but witnesses, seemed to disappear at a rate of very high velocity. The only thing the public could infer was the oft-repeated conspiracy theory. And whether or not there was a conspiracy would now be historically shrouded in mystery. You have to ask, who benefits from the cover up of what initially seems like a local, politically inspired murder? Let’s say that some people had a disagreement with Calabresi strong enough to want him eradicated. If followed through to its natural conclusion, this would include the fact that Calabresi’s supporters in the Carabinieri would have had an interest in taking vengeance on those accused of killing Calabresi. The fact that this appears to be not an incident simply about personal retribution, but the tip of an iceberg not meant to be seen by the public will never die. What we’ve got now is a situation, regardless of how this plays itself out, where evidence has been destroyed. And there are only a few people in power who could have done that, and the more that cover-up is protected by the judicial system, the more powerful, we have to assume, are those persons protecting the story. The specifics of how and why these people were—and I’m convinced by your argument—railroaded, indicates that something much larger than a homicide is at stake.
CG You mentioned conspiracy theories and obviously I tried to refrain from that.
AR Absolutely, it loses credibility and it’s another issue.
CG My task was only to show. My argument was, in a sense, a negative argument: or showing that there was no evidence against them. As far as the cui bono argument—and here a different field of possibilities opens up—the advantages related to Calabresi’s death could be related to different scenarios. On one hand, his death had an enormous impact on Italian public opinion, because there had been a press campaign against him. His name had been associated with the quote-unquote suicide of Pinelli the anarchist. And the death of Pinelli was related to those bombs in the bank in Milan in the autumn of 1969.
AR The “Hot Autumn.”
CG So, there was a sequence of events at a time in which the Italian political scene was not yet dominated by left-wing terrorism, but certainly by bombs and threats of coup d’etat. So it’s very possible that Calabresi was killed by people from the left, we don’t know. Maybe it was a deliberate provocation from the right, casting suspicion on the left. Again, we don’t know.
AR After the initial anarchist suspects were considered, the first suspects with any real suspicion were in fact from the right.
CG Yes. I would like to say something about conspiracy theories. Obviously, any sensible person is against conspiracy theories, but there is a difference between conspiracy theories and conspiracies. At least in one case—I’m talking about the autumn ’69 bombs in Milan—there had been an attempt to inculpate a group of anarchists. And now we know that people from the extreme right, neo-Nazi groups, were responsible. In that case, there was a conspiracy, which has been forgotten.
AR You make reference to the judge in the Calabresi trial saying, “What I heard was not a boiler explosion. What I heard was a bomb, an anarchist’s bomb.” How can a judge hear an anarchist bomb?
CG Shugaar mentioned that in his introduction.
AR There is something of the pseudomythic about this entire affair, its long, drawn-out process and the necessity of the prosecutors to find a culprit. Something else interests me, and that is the necessarily self-aggrandizing nature of the penitent’s recapitulation. That is, a penitent has to feel that not only is he coming clean, but that he is purified in that action. As in Stockholm syndrome, where the penitent associates with the persecutor, the turncoat’s necessity to make an infallible picture will eerily veneer the story with purposefully erratic details. The car accident that Marino talks about is open to obvious witness contradiction as is the implausible distance he purportedly backed up with the getaway vehicle. Nobody saw that happen, it couldn’t have happened in those traffic conditions. In the United States, there was the notorious testimony under Senator Joe McCarthy of Whitaker Chambers, who was a more sympathetic and complex character because he was a bit bananas. Whereas Marino seems to be a no-account hood of no particular charm. But in his incrimination of Alger Hiss, Whitaker Chambers made reference to a rural, clandestine night-time deposit and retrieval of film or microfilm in a hollowed-out pumpkin, and that made the headlines for awhile. You have done celebrated research on the force of community superstition, its effect on synthetic repentant behavior—if you can possibly be dispassionate about this. Can you make any reference to the confessional patterns apparent in Marino’s testimony? Any historical analyses about the kinds of eclecticism in the testimony he’s given which may have some similarity to traditional penitential confession?
CG Actually, the circumstance that triggered my decision to write such a book was a comment made after the court’s sentence by a friend of mine who is a historian, Adriano Prosperi. In a letter to La Repubblica he wrote, “This has been a witchcraft trial.” I spent many, many years analyzing witchcraft trials and I thought, Well, maybe I can use my expertise in order to deal with the proceedings of this trial. And certainly there are some parallels between witchcraft trials and this trial. One of the troubling convergences is related: the attempt to squeeze repentance from the defendants. There is a specific Italian mixture, deeply embedded in Italy’s religious history, in counter-Reformation Catholicism, which surfaces in this trial. Not only in this trial, but in what has been written and done in the last decades in Italy about terrorism, or the Mafia, for instance. I mean, the use of a word like pentiti—repentents—is paradoxical. Certainly, in every country there are tokens used for judicial purposes, but there is a difference between calling someone a turn-coat and calling somebody a pentito. There is a moral dimension to this word which is ludicrous, the emphasis on repentance, and confession—an overlapping between a moral and religious dimension, and the juridical dimension, which is worrying. A couple of years ago, Adriano Prosperi wrote a very important book called the Tribunali della coscienza—the tribunal of conscience—on the impact of the Inquisition on early modern Italian society. And this book can be read from the vantage point of the present—something suggested by Prosperi himself—and from the vantage point of this trial, because the witchcraft trial dimension is quite evident in those trials based only on accusations leveled by accomplices. On the other hand, as I said at the beginning of my book, the Roman Inquisition in the early 17th century circulated a document which I studied many years ago in which they provided a self-criticism of their behavior. And the standards of proof raised by the Roman Inquisition at that time were higher and more demanding than the standards of proof shared by the court in Milan in this trial.
AR So what you’re saying then, by implication, is that the religious conversion of Marino had to do not with his coming closer to Christ and living a better life, but with the agglomerated ritual of confession as a social and cultural, rather than as a personally penitential, activity. That is, his decision to confess was something that was seen as public evidence of religious renewal and that was historically sufficient to account for any more private matters that did not need to be discussed.
CG Well, there is a circumstance which was initially distorted by both Marino and the state prosecutor in the trial. That is, the chronology of Marino’s quote-unquote repentance. Because there was a sudden leak that emerged by chance at the trial: Marino’s night meetings with the Carabinieri started two weeks before the police said they did. That was already extremely worrying, because it meant the official version was incorrect. What happened during those two weeks? We don’t know. Under those circumstances, the idea of Marino being coached by the Carabinieri is not so absurd. It’s a possibility. But again I wouldn’t dare to make this conjecture.
AR Not having read the court transcript, I’m curious as to what the defense attorney said, being presented with the evidence that this man committed armed robberies almost up until the point he converted, or, as we say in America, became born again. Did the defense ask him to pinpoint that moment? He only repented from his implication in this homicide plot 17 years later and presented no evidence of repentance for felonies committed up to six months before. Here’s a fellow saying, “I want to see the priest, and confess. There was a grave occurrence.” The actual nature of why he went to the priest, and what public meaning that is supposed to impart to the perception of his confession, is still very hazy to me. I’m wondering how the prosecution was able to pull it off. Here’s a person who commits armed robberies, has no religious convictions, goes to the priest but doesn’t reveal for weeks the specific nature of his confession, and is still perceived as somebody who has seen the light.
CG This is a very good point. But your comment is born from a different attitude than Italian Catholic common wisdom. What’s surprising to you is the lack of emphasis on Marino being born again. But in fact, this absolutely unreliable circumstance became very peripheral in the court debates. Maybe because a merely perfunctory and superficial conversion might be taken for granted.
AR So, in terms of counter-Reformation activities, the public act of confession became more necessary than whatever the previously held belief was in the act of personal salvation. Personal salvation is no longer a religious activity, it’s so private that no one cares. It becomes a political act.
CG Yes, I think that Protestant culture, for instance, incorporates a request for a public act of repentance. This is not the case in a Catholic culture where everything can take place in the obscurity of a confessional box.
AR That’s what I was getting to. This case is an historical re-implication of the effects of the counter-Reformation on Catholicism 300 years ago, now being taken for granted in the court testimony, supposedly impartial testimony, of a homicide case. A witness in the case, Adelia dal Piva, and quite a few eye-witnesses to the murder of Calabresi were firm in their conviction that the driver of the getaway car was female, to the point of describing her dress. There was some confusion as to whether Marino, who claimed to be the driver of the getaway car had long enough hair to be mistaken for a female. Even assuming some disagreement from a distance and in a moment’s notice as to whether or not one was seeing a female, Adelia dal Piva mentions that the driver of the car took out a round hand mirror. That detail, using a round hand mirror, stuck in my mind. Do you recall from the transcript how that use of the hand mirror was dismissed as inappropriate evidence?
CG That testimony was dismissed as unreliable, and there was no real discussion about it. Maybe there was some conjecture about what we would call today “earphones.” Reading the testimony today, one finds nothing intrinsically absurd in the scene she’s describing: “someone having a conversation with earphones.” But at that time, the testimony was dismissed as intrinsically contradictory and unreliable, although she was not the only one to say that the driver was a female. We also have to remember that at that time, Marino had a mustache.
AR (laughter) I’m sorry, that’s just a bit too much.
CG It’s absolutely incredible.
AR The judge at this point does a turnaround from his initial evenhandedness and does some unconscionable twisting of the testimony of a witness named Pappini. I’m curious as to whether in the appeals, the behavior of Judge Minale was highlighted, or brought to task, or whether that was something you specifically have excerpted from the trial transcripts for emphasis.
CG No, as far as I know there were no comments about his behavior.
AR Because the examples you use are horrific!
CG Horrific, yes. I remember having a conversation with a prominent Italian journalist who said that she was convinced by my argument, but she also said that there was something about the excerpts of the transcripts I published which she found chilling. Because obviously trials are public in principle, but in fact they are not available to a larger audience. So to see in complete detail how justice can be administrated, or performed in Italy, is worrying.
AR Something about this case had larger implications …
CG Yes, I’m used to Inquisition trials court records in which so many peripheral elements were described, those peripheral elements constitute extraordinary evidence for historians. So I read the transcripts of this trial with an eye already attuned to Inquisition court records. And the way in which the relationship between the judge and the witnesses developed in this case seemed so close to the psychological and cultural violence exerted by Inquisitors—albeit through partially different means, like torture—that I felt the need to provide evidence. I think it gives an idea of the context in which the trial took place.
AR What is your estimation of the current state of the appeal? I had heard recently that there was some reversal, and you mentioned that there was the hope of reintroducing evidence. Do you feel the appeals process is gaining or losing momentum?
CG The case has been so far from any possible precedence that it would be absurd to make predictions. But there was certainly a turning point in the latest sentence by the Italian Supreme Court rejecting the rejection of the court appeal in Milan for a new trial. So, from the rejection of a rejection, there is a positive request coming from the Italian Supreme Court for a new trial. But it is the Court of Appeal of Venice which has to make the decision. One could say that the moral authority of the Italian Supreme Court and the detailed arguments provided by the Italian Supreme Court should make likely a decision in favor of a new trial, but I hesitate to say this. After all, there was already a decision in this case which was rejected. Those people are in jail, they are innocent—in my view—but nobody can make a prediction.
AR I was curious about the first reversal, where the case was thrown out for lack of evidence and tampered judicial practice. One note said that the case was thrown out despite the magistrate’s instructions to the jury to find for guilt. The jury in fact acquitted on the basis of lack of evidence. And then the judiciary was forced to write a summation that would be guaranteed to be reexamined and overturned. Again, that leads me to ask the question, to whose benefit? Not that this question can be answered. And, what is the height of the authority from which these kinds of directives are coming?
CG The scandalous event that you mentioned is, from a formal point of view, absolutely legal. Nobody could object on a formal level to that scandalous behavior. But justice is something else. The new evidence provided by the defense lawyer provides the possibility for making formal justice and justice converge. That’s the main point.
AR My point in coming to Bologna to talk with you is to help bring this case to the attention of a larger and predominantly American audience. This miscarriage so activated my own sense of outrage that—although we could talk about any number of your books—I wanted to keep it specifically to the import of this manuscript, so that these events can be discussed in the United States.
CG I am very glad that an English translation of the book is coming out, because it would be very important if comments from abroad concerning this case, the perception of a larger international community, were felt in Italy, especially in the judicial environment.
AR What are you currently involved with? You mentioned that your new book, History, Rhetoric and Proof, just came out. Is there another project to which you’re devoting your time now? Or are you primarily consumed with the events around The Judge and the Historian?
CG I have several projects. And, I’m still involved in this case. I’m going to meet a French director who would like to make a documentary of it—interest triggered by its French translation. There is ongoing attention concerning this case, which should be useful for establishing the truth. And I’ve been working for many years on issues related to the relationship between historical narratives and fictional narratives. This relationship between history and fiction is something that touches me on different levels, so I tried to address this issue from very concrete case studies. I’m interested in the way historians challenge the novelist’s work, and vice versa.
Chinua Achebe says that the English language, when altered, can be used to bear the burden of his African experience. I extrapolate from that and try to put it into painting.
Njideka Akunyili Crosby