Writer, journalist or, as he calls himself, just an artist. Matteo Collura, who was born in Agrigento in 1945 and moved to Milan about 40 years ago, nowadays collaborates with Corriere della Sera and Il Messaggero. He’s a storyteller about Sicily and famous Sicilians such as Leonardo Sciascia. Sicilian Secrets interviewed him for you.
A literary walk made of memories, experiences, pieces of life. Made in Sicily. With Matteo Collura we recalled his personal story that unavoidably passes through his career as a writer and a journalist. Moreover, we discussed about the bond with his land, the results he achieved, his friendship with Leonardo Sciascia. Just a conversation, read it and enjoy.
I consider myself an artist. An artist is not only a painter or a sculptor, everybody can be an artist. It’s a way to interpret our life.
Q: How did you get close to the world of writing and journalism?
A: Even if my studies were more art oriented, I realized that I was better in writing that in painting and that writing was as satisfying as if I had a brush in my hand. It wasn’t a tough separation, in the end to write and to paint were two parallel activities for me. This is clear not only from my narrative style but even from my essays where there’s a great attention towards the description of landscapes, exactly like a painter. I began my career as a journalist in Agrigento at Giornale di Sicilia, then I moved to Palermo. I was at L’Ora for a while and in 1978 I left. I moved to Milan and started a new job at Corriere della Sera.
Q: Your works are imbued with Sicily and sicilianity. What’s your bond with – to quote one of your masterpieces – island without a bridge?
A: I don’t like the word sicilianity, we are citizens of the world: we randomly fall where we were born. Macondo, the imaginary city described in the novel by Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude, represents all the South of the world, I can even see my poor neighborhood in it. I was born in Sicily so I’m the journalist that I became, being Sicilian influenced me.
Q: You were in your thirties when you moved to Milan and started your job at Corriere della Sera: how did your relationship with Sicily change? I quote: for Matteo Collura every abandonment is the opportunity for a continuous coming back.
A: While moving to Milan and living here, I had the chance to look at Sicily from the right distance to be able to judge it. When you live in a place, you miss many details, even some flaws. It’s like reversed binoculars, you see things small but very clear. Distance gives the opportunity to talk better about the place where we were born. This is what Borges calls the Exactitude in Science, the one about the place we come from. When I wrote In Sicilia and the rest of the trilogy, someone found in it a pessimistic vision. For me it’s like if I’m kissing Sicily but still keep my eyes open. My island is a siren and I look at it well fastened, like Odysseus.
Q: According to Matteo Collura, what’s the biggest difference between a writer and a journalist? Do they have anything in common?
A: They are two jobs that don’t correspond or maybe they corresponded only on the cultural pages of some newspapers where, especially a while ago, there still was the taste of the so-called well writing. Journalistic style is quick, concise. You write down something without a real inspiration, you talk about an experience you directly lived, saw or heard from someone else. A writer, on the contrary, is a visionary and has a different pace. Whatever he produces comes from a long and well-thought-out reflection. You can spend time to look for harmonious words, it’s something that a journalist cannot do so often.
Q: Let’s talk about the friendship with Leonardo Sciascia and your job as a biographer. Is there any anecdote you pleasantly remember?
A: There are a lot of stories! I remember a nice anecdote about Paris, where in the ‘70s we went together many times. Once it happened that we stayed there a little bit longer, I was in a small hotel close to Place d’Italie and he was in a hotel close to Étoile. We used to meet in the morning, have a walk and drink a coffee at Champs-Elysées. He was worried because he didn’t know where my hotel was, so after some days, when I went to pick him up, he told me that he booked a room for me in the same hotel he was. He used to take care of friends like if they were his siblings. He was affectionate, very easy. Friendly. This is the prove that the greater you are, the less you have to show off. To have met Leonardo Sciascia was a destiny, I have to say thanks to him if today I’m the person I am. To grow up with a friend like this changes your life.
For me it’s like if I kiss Sicily but keep my eyes open. My island is a siren and I look at it well fastened, like Odysseus.
Q: Why is Sicily a so unique place?
A: It is a sort of world’s midpoint, a border area. And every frontier is always fascinating. Sicily is the European Far West: The Leopard, mafia, this insularity that means marginality, far from the center of power.
Q: You achieved many results. Are you writing any other book, or do you have some more ambitions for the future?
A: I republished a new edition of Il Maestro di Regalpetra with a publishing company called La nave di Teseo, in my opinion the most appropriate to commemorate Sciascia. I don’t want to write any new book, people don’t read so much anymore, we express ourselves differently. As Gesualdo Bufalino said, to be elderly has some advantages, one of these is to cultivate prejudices.