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Maraini, Fosco 1912-2004

MARAINI, Fosco 1912-2004


See index for CA sketch: Born November 15, 1912, in Florence, Italy; died June 8, 2004, in Florence, Italy. Adventurer, educator, and author. Maraini was best known for bringing his firsthand knowledge of Asian cultures—especially of Tibet and Japan—to the West, through his writings, photography, and teaching. While still a student at Florence University, where he earned a degree in natural science in 1938, Maraini had the opportunity to travel to Tibet in 1937, and this experience convinced him to make the study of Asian cultures his life pursuit. Another of his interests was photography, which he explored while at university, assembling photomontages and founding a magazine on the subject, Il Feroce. A scholarship gave him the means to move to Hokkaido, Japan after he graduated, and he taught at the university there until 1941; next, he was a reader in Italian at Kyoto University until 1943. Although Maraini's father had been loyal to Italy's fascist government, Maraini opposed Mussolini, and when he refused to swear loyalty to Italy's puppet government of Salo, he and his family were thrown into prison by the Japanese. When accused by a Japanese officer of being a coward, Maraini took the unusual action of cutting off one of his fingers to prove he was, in fact, a brave man; unfortunately, his self-sacrifice did not impress his captors. With the war over, he and his family were released in 1945. Returning to Italy, Maraini pursued photography further and filmed a documentary about southern Italy. He visited Tibet again in 1948, and in 1951 published one of his best-known books, Secret Tibet, which remains a valuable document to this day because of its vivid descriptions of that country, in both text and photos, before the Chinese takeover. He returned to Japan from 1953 to 1956. In 1958 Maraini, who was an experienced mountaineer, had the unique opportunity to join the Italian expedition to climb Gasherbrum IV in the Karakorum range. This experience was recorded in his Karakoram: The Ascent of Gasherbrum IV (1961). Returning to teaching for a time at the University of Sapporo, he then found a position as a fellow at St. Antony's College, Oxford, from 1959 to 1964. While at Oxford, he continued to travel, visiting such countries as Cambodia, Nepal, India, and Thailand, and later became a lecturer in Japanese at the University of Florencel. Among Maraini's many other writings are Japan: Patterns of Continuity (1971), Prima della tempesta: Tibet, 1937 e 1948 (1990), and his unusual fictionalized autobiography, Case, amori, universi (1999).



Guardian (London, England), June 15, 2004, p. 21.

Independent (London, England), June 19, 2004, p. 45.

Times (London, England), June 29, 2004, p. 27.

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