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Severgnini, Beppe 1956-

Severgnini, Beppe 1956-

PERSONAL:

Born December 26, 1956, in Crema, Cremona, Italy; father an attorney. Education: Graduate of Pavia University.

CAREER:

During early career, worked as a correspondent in London for Il Giornale, Milan, Italy, and as a correspondent for La Voce; Italian correspondent for the Economist, 1996-2003; Corriere della Sera (newspaper), Milan, currently columnist and writer. Writer and host of Italian television programs, including Italians, cioè italiani, 1997, Luoghi Comuni: Un viaggio in Italia, 2001, 2002, and Severgnini alle 10, 2004-06; has also contributed to BBC, ITV, and Channel 4 broadcasting companies in England, and to American news programs Nightline and Today. Guest faculty at University of Parma, 1998, University of Pavia, 2002, Bocconi University, 2003, 2006, and Middlebury College, 2006; guest lecturer at colleges and universities, including University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University, University of California at Berkeley, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Trinity College, and Cambridge University.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Named Officer of the British Empire, 2001; European Journalist of the Year (Brussels), 2004.

WRITINGS:

Inglesi, Rizzolli (Milan, Italy), 1990, translated as An Italian in Britain, Coronet, 1991.

Lezioni semiserie, 1992.

Italiani con valigia, 1993.

L'inglese: Nuove lezioni semiserie, Rizzoli (Milan, Italy), 1994.

Un Italiano in America, illustrated by Chris Riddell, Rizzoli (Milan, Italy), 1995, translated by Giles Watson as Ciao, America! An Italian Discovers the U.S., Broadway Books (New York, NY), 2002.

Italiani si diventa, Rizzoli (Milan, Italy), 1998.

Manuale dell'imperfetto viaggiatore (newspaper article collection), Rizzoli (Milan, Italy), 2001.

Manuale dell'uomo domestico, Rizzoli (Milan, Italy), 2002.

Inter Milan: Interismi, 2002, published as Interismi: Il piacere di essere neroazzurri,, Rizzoli (Milan, Italy), 2002.

Altri interismi: Un nuovo viaggio nel favoloso labirinto neroazzurro, Rizzoli (Milan, Italy), 2003.

Manuale dell'imperfetto sportivo, Rizzoli (Milan, Italy), 2003.

La testa degli italiani, Rizzoli (Milan, Italy), 2005, translated by Giles Watson as La Bella Figura: A Field Guide to the Italian Mind, Broadway Books (New York, NY), 2006.

Tripli Interismi! Lieto fine di un romanzo neroazzurro, Rizzoli (Milan, Italy) 2007.

L'italiano: Lezzioni semiserie, Rizzoli (Milan, Italy) 2007.

SIDELIGHTS:

Italian journalist Beppe Severgnini has become popular in the United States and elsewhere for his witty cultural observations of both his own homeland and of other countries he has visited. His Inglesi, translated as An Italian in Britain, was a best seller in the United Kingdom. He achieved similar popularity with Un Italiano in America, released in the United States as Ciao, America! An Italian Discovers the U.S. Based on the time he spent living in the Washington, DC, area from 1994 to 1995, the book makes wry observations about American culture, contrasting it with life back in his hometown near Milan. While he admittedly had contact with only a small slice of America, the reporter believes that, with its restaurant and store chains and homogeneity of many other cultural aspects, he gained a fairly good idea of what Americans are like. Much of the United States he admires, although he has reservations about the way Americans raise their children with a mix of "adoration, apprehension, and a total lack of discipline." Michael D. Mosettig commented in a Europe review of the book: "In between serious observations and numerous amusing digressions, there is considerable praise for America's practicality, its civic and social structures, except for the family, and especially in contrast to his home country." Library Journal contributor Lee Arnold, while considering the author's limited exposure to America a "weakness," enjoyed the "author's fresh perspective" in this "delightful book." "Despite [the] tendency to exaggerate … Severgnini's observations about America usually ring true," concluded John Green in Booklist.

Severgnini has no qualms about critiquing his own culture, either, as he does in La testa degli italiani, which was translated as La Bella Figura: A Field Guide to the Italian Mind. The main title of the translation refers to the uniquely Italian attitude that looking good and expressing oneself well are more important than actually being a good, law-abiding citizen. "The country suffers from an ethics deficit, most clearly visible in the attitude toward taxes," observed William Grimes in a New York Times Book Review article on the book. In many other aspects of their lives, too, Italians tend to take the view that laws and ethical guidelines are subject to one's perspective and one's needs at the time. For example, traffic laws are usually viewed as optional to most Italians, and a verbal insult may be permissable if it is expressed with great eloquence. Severgnini sees these and other signs as evidence of Italy's decline; it is a culture that permits an almost completely dysfunctional government and legal system. As Matt Smith reported in Time: "The future is clearly weighing on Severgnini's mind, because it requires a sober assessment of the past. ‘In Italy, you wonder. You go to the rail station and every wall is written on, lights are smashed. It makes me sad. It's because Italians don't care. I think very soon we'll have to decide whether we want to keep our Venetian, carnivalesque fantasy, or maybe make some sacrifice.’"

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Severgnini, Beppe, Ciao, America! An Italian Discovers the U.S., Broadway Books (New York, NY), 2002.

PERIODICALS

Booklist, May 1, 2002, review of Ciao, America!, p. 1505; July 1, 2006, Mark Knoblauch, review of La Bella Figura: A Field Guide to the Italian Mind, p. 26.

Europe, October 1, 2002, Michael D. Mosettig, review of Ciao America!, p. 47.

Foreign Policy, May 1, 2006, "Reading the Italian Mind," review of La Bella Figura, p. 85.

Library Journal, April 15, 2002, review of Ciao America!, p. 114; August 1, 2006, Elizabeth Connor, review of La Bella Figura, p. 111.

New York Times Book Review, August 23, 2006, William Grimes, "An Insider Explains Italy, Land of Cheery Dysfunction"; December 3, 2006, Alida Becker, "Holiday Books," review of La Bella Figura.

Publishers Weekly, March 25, 2002, review of Ciao, America!, p. 50; May 15, 2006, review of La Bella Figura, p. 58.

Time, August 20, 2006, Matt Smith, "How to Be Italian," review of La Bella Figura, p. 50.

Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), May 25, 2003, review of Ciao, America!, p. 6.

Washington Post Book World, September 3, 2006, Nancy McKeon, "Ciao, Beppe! A Tour of the Italian Temperament, Conducted by a Man with a Metaphorical Bent," p. 8.

ONLINE

Beppe Severgnini Home Page,http://www.beppesevergnini.com (May 14, 2007).

Gremolata,http://gremolata.com/ (September 1, 2006), Malcolm Jolley, interview with Beppe Severgnini.

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