Orizio, Riccardo 1961-
ORIZIO, Riccardo 1961-
Born 1961, in Italy; married Pia-Sophie (a pediatrician).
Home—Saruni Camp, Nairobi, Kenya. Agent—Shirley Stewart, 21 Denmark St., London WC2H 8NA England. E-mail—[email protected].
Journalist and foreign correspondent. Worked as a correspondent for CNN, Corriere della Sera, and La Repubblica.
Thomas Cook Travel Book Award shortlist, for Lost White Tribes: Journeys among the Forgotten.
Lost White Tribes: Journeys among the Forgotten, Secker & Warburg (London, England), 2000, published as Lost White Tribes: The End of Privilege and the Last Colonials in Sri Lanka, Jamaica, Brazil, Haiti, Namibia, and Guadeloupe, translated by Avril Bardoni, Free Press (New York, NY), 2001.
Talk of the Devil: Encounters with Seven Dictators, translated by Avril Bardoni, Walker (New York, NY), 2003.
Works have been translated into Dutch, Turkish, and English.
Italian journalist Riccardo Orizio has had two lives, according to a biographer on the Riccardo Orizio Web site. In his "first life," Orizio has been an international correspondent for CNN and prominent Italian newspapers, with dispatches from more than eighty countries. He covered the wars in the Balkans, the tentative periods of peace, and the lives of those affected by the wars. He has resided in Milan, Brussels, Atlanta, and London. Orizio lives his "second life" in Nairobi, Kenya, among the Maasai warriors and tribespeople at Saruni, a safari camp in Kenya's Masai Mara.
In his 2000 book, Lost White Tribes: Journeys among the Forgotten (published in 2001 as Lost White Tribes: The End of Privilege and the Last Colonials in Sri Lanka, Jamaica, Brazil, Haiti, Namibia, and Guadeloupe), Orizio carefully examines six groups of people comprising the remaining populations of colonial settlers who "went semi-native; adopting many of the customs and attitudes of the people whose lands they colonized, yet clinging all the while to customs and attitudes of the countries they left behind," wrote Jonathan Yardley in Washington Post Book World. Orizio recounts how he met his first "white tribe" when he encountered in Sri Lanka "a young white waiter who doesn't look local but actually is," Yardley noted. The waiter was a member of a group of Dutch Burghers living in decaying eighteenth-century mansions with no heat, running water, or electricity. In other places, Orizio finds similar anachronisms. In Haiti, the Blancs Matignon, descendants of Poles who fought in Napoleonic war-era regiments, have congregated on a single mountaintop in the area and live in African huts without a single modern convenience. Though dark-skinned, their features and blond hair make their ancestry clear. A group of French colonists founded a Utopian retreat in the remote interior of the island of Guadeloupe, but found themselves "isolated and despised by both blacks and the elite whites of the island," wrote Charles Sprawson in the Times Literary Supplement. The group evinces a great deal of malnutrition and debilitation "as a result of generations of incestuous marriages," noted Sprawson.
Orizio also located a group derived from the American Civil War, "the outpost of descendants of Confederate diehards who fled to Brazil at the end of the Civil War," Yardley commented. Many still cling to Civil War-era ideas, decorating their houses with Confederate flags and pictures of Robert E. Lee. Traditional music from banjos and trumpets can still be heard in their homes and during their parties. The group holds annual celebrations of their history where boys don gray uniforms and girls dress up like southern belles, and where a faux Miss Arkansas competes in a beauty pageant with a similarly displaced Miss Tennessee. In all of the countries he visits, Orizio finds "small communities of whites who have been bypassed by history," commented a Publishers Weekly reviewer.
"Orizio's is a perceptive and often amusing, well-translated study, of the tragic remnants of a lost world," remarked Sprawson. Orizio "is a connoisseur of languor and decay—plantation houses, lattice-work verandas and seventeenth-century balconies, that now stand empty, 'reduced to crumbling shells shrouded in detritus,' and people too weary to move," with little or nothing to do to occupy their time, Sprawson commented. "Orizio is a keen observer and a fine writer," wrote L. D. Meagher on the CNN Web site. "His descriptions of the landscapes and the people who inhabit them immerse readers in distant and exotic places, where they are not always welcome."
Talk of the Devil: Encounters with Seven Dictators presents interviews Orizio conducted with seven overthrown, fallen, deposed, or otherwise out-of-power dictators—or their strong-willed wives. "I deliberately chose those who had fallen from power in disgrace, because those who fall on their feet tend not to examine their own conscience," Orizio explained in the book. Interview subjects include Idi Amin, Ugandan dictator and alleged cannibal; Central Africa's self-proclaimed emperor, Jean-Bedel Bokassa; Poland's Wojciech Jaruzelski; Haiti's Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier; Albania's Enver and Nexhmije Hoxha; Ethiopia's Mengistu Haile-Mariam; and Yugoslavia's Slobodan Milosevic and his wife, Mira Markovic. A letter from Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega rounds out the contents. Some of the interviews were hurried and short; others were conducted under dangerous circumstances; still others were done in prisons. In all cases, Orizio lets the fallen dictators, emperors, and power-players speak for themselves, telling their own stories in their own words. If the book's interview subjects "come off as villains, they are hung by their own words, by their own distorted views and their places in it," commented David Pitt in a review for Booklist.
"None of the fallen tyrants is notably well off now, even though, with the possible exception of Jaruzelski, they had looted or squandered their national treasuries with a rapacity breathtaking to behold," commented Roger K. Miller on the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Web site. "They live in a world of denial, stoutly proclaiming the rightness of their actions and expressing not a scintilla of regret or apology for the misery they visited upon their countries." Amin, for example, is found shopping in a local grocery store while in exile in Saudi Arabia. Bokassa lives in relative comfort in France but claims himself to be the thirteenth apostle of the Catholic church. Duvalier protests "that he never wanted the luxuries of rule but took over out of a sense of duty to his nation," commented Jad Adams on the Guardian Unlimited Web site. Albania's Nexhmije Hoxha declared that "The ethnic conflicts seen in Yugoslavia were averted in Albania" because of "the destruction of mosques and churches and the abolition of religion," Adams wrote. "Dictators are like movie stars, the rich and the famous: we can vicariously identify with their power and glory when they're riding high, and more righteously, enjoy their fall," observed Adam Hochschild in a review for the Times Literary Supplement. Steven Menashi, writing in National Review, commented that "Successful tyrants might at least have some experience of living in actual reality on which to reflect; Orizio's disgraced, fallen dictators have nothing but their own illusions."
Menashi called Talk of the Devil "compelling reading," and a Publishers Weekly reviewer noted that "some of the interviews are stunning" in what they reveal about the interviewee. "Readers will take deserved pleasure in these tyrants' falls, and in Orizio's sharp, literate prose," commented a Kirkus Reviews critic.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, April 15, 2003, David Pitt, review of Talk of the Devil: Encounters with Seven Dictators, p. 1432.
Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2003, review of Talk of the Devil, p. 447.
National Review, September 1, 2003, Steven Menashi, "Focus on Evil," review of Talk of the Devil.
Observer (London, England), March 18, 2001, review of Lost White Tribes: Journeys among the Forgotten, p. 18.
Publishers Weekly, June 4, 2001, review of Lost White Tribes: The End of Privilege and the Last Colonials in Sri Lanka, Jamaica, Brazil, Haiti, Namibia, and Guadeloupe, p. 70; May 12, 2003, review of Talk of the Devil, p. 60.
Spectator, May 6, 2000, Simon Courauld, review of Lost White Tribes: The End of Privilege and the Last Colonials in Sri Lanka, Jamaica, Brazil, Haiti, Namibia, and Guadeloupe, pp. 34-35.
Times Literary Supplement, May 12, 2000, Charles Sprawson, "Dragged Down for Ever," review of Lost White Tribes: Journeys among the Forgotten, p. 28; February 28, 2003, Adam Hochschild, "Lovely Chaps," review of Talk of the Devil, p. 36.
Washington Post Book World, July 22-28, 2001, Jonathan Yardley, review of Lost White Tribes: The End of Privilege and the Last Colonials in Sri Lanka, Jamaica, Brazil, Haiti, Namibia, and Guadeloupe, p. 2.
CNN Web site,http://www.cnn.com/ (November 7, 2001), L. D. Meagher, review of Lost White Tribes: The End of Privilege and the Last Colonials in Sri Lanka, Jamaica, Brazil, Haiti, Namibia, and Guadeloupe; (July 24, 2003), "Review: Heroes and Villains," review of Talk of the Devil: Encounters with Seven Dictators.
Complete Review Web site,http://www.completereview.com/ (March 12, 2004), review of Talk of the Devil.
Guardian Unlimited Web site,http://books.guardian.co.uk/ (January 18, 2003), Jad Adams, "Forked Tongues," review of Talk of the Devil.
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review,http://www.pittsburghlive.com/ (May 4, 2003), Roger K. Miller, "'Talk of the Devil' Pulls Together Stories of Dictators," review of Talk of the Devil.
Riccardo Orizio Home Page,http://www.riccardoorizio.com (March 12, 2004).
Walker & Company Web site,http://www.walkerbooks.com (March 12, 2004).*