The awarding of Nonino Prize, created by and named after the family-run distilling company, took place on Saturday, 25 January in Percoto di Udine in northeast Italy. This year marked the 39th edition of the prize. Once again this year, the event aimed to highlight themes and issues – be they concrete or immaterial – having to do with contemporary life. It was begun as a way of promoting the Friuli Venezia-Giulia area and rural culture, and is today one of the most important cultural events in Europe, having grown to recognize various forms of human knowledge and initiative. The jury, presided over by V.S. Naipaul, winner of the Nobel Prize for literature, awarded four prizes – to Palestine writer and architect Suad Amiry; Portugal’s most important contemporary writer Antonio Lobo Antunes; Italian psychiatrist Giuseppe Dell’Acqua who worked along with Franco Basaglia to close the insane asylums; and French epistemologist and writer Michel Serres.
Here are a few things heard during the award ceremony and a few titles and links that we recommend.
Suad Amiry says “I became a writer by chance at age 50.” She is the author of Sharon and My Mother-in-Law and the more recent Golda Slept Here. She spoke of her 30 years of work, first in Washington in the early 1990s with the Israeli-Palestine peace agreements and then at the Riwaq Centre for Architectural Conservation in Ramallah. She spoke humorously of Israel. “I could forgive 42 years of war, but I will never forgive the 42 days I was forced to live with my mother-in-law.” She also said “I would like to share this prize with my dog Nura. And with her passport I went over the border of Israel and entered into Jerusalem.” There is a very amusing video of her here, speaking during the Ted conference in Ramallah.
The octogenarian Michel Serres, is a visionary and an optimist. A professor of epistemology at Stanford, Serres uses an updated version of the “Thumbelina” tale in his latest book called Petite Poucette in French. This protagonist represents the typical 18-year-old today who uses her thumb for surfing the Internet from her mobile phone, for communicating and for consulting the wealth of knowledge out there that at one time was available only to very few but is today available to everyone. He uses the phrase “Maintenant tenant en main le monde” (a play on words that means “Now with the world in hand”) that 50 years ago would have been spoken by a dictator, the Sun King, Augustus the Emperor or maybe a billionaire. “Isn’t this perhaps the beginning, the promise, perhaps utopian of a new equality? A new democracy?” Here is a video of Michel Serres for those that speak French on why his protagonist is a female (“female students are more serious and professional than male students.”)
This year’s jury included Adonis, John Banville, Ulderico Bernardi, Peter Brook, Luca Cendali, Antonio R.Damasio, Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, James Lovelock, Claudio Magris, Norman Manea, Morando Morandini, Edgar Morin and Ermanno Olmi.
And as for the fashions seen at the event, the wonderful girls of the Nonino family were in Missoni as always. In this gallery, we’ve also included an image from 1997 that is at this point quite historic with Giannola Nonino, the creator of the prize, wearing a Missoni dress in space-dyed fabric alongside Polish philosopher Leszek Kolakowski.