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Franco Rampazzo is an Italian professor of Mathematical Analysis that launched his first book a few months ago. This novel has the title “Nasso” which is the Italian name for the famous Greek Island of Naxos. The plot is very interesting since it combines elements of WW2 history, music and natural images deriving from various Cycladic landscapes. Rampazzo not only fell in love with Naxos when he first visited it, but he was inspired so much by its beauty that wrote this book too.
You are a full professor of Mathematical Analysis at the University of Padova. How often do you visit Greece?
I go to Greece -mainly in Naxos- once in every year, for one month or so.
Academism is a rather demanding occupation time wise. How do you combine your position with your love for writing and music?
I have no children – therefore, as a human being with an according human attitude, I feel the need to "raise" a child-like being, whether that is a theorem, a novel, or even a ballad!
You recently wrote your first book, “Nasso”. Would you like to share a few words regarding its plot as well as the inspiration behind it?
The book is called “Nasso”, as this is the Italian name for Naxos. The plot revolves around a young man from Italy, Libero, who visits Naxos in order to discover the past of his grandfather Cesare who lived there as a soldier during the WW2. With the help of a local student, Libero will gradually start unfolding a story that will take him from Naxos to Pennsylvania and back in Padua, and he will uncover many unknown truths regarding the life of his grandfather.
The inspiration behind the book actually came to me during a coffee downtown - not a panoramic or a seaside place. There was just a sudden familiarity in the air, a need for connecting the past and the present, the educated and the primitive. And, perhaps, a family story with a partisan who had married the daughter of the "fascist".
Your novel combines the elements of history, music, travelling and the need for finding the humanity within us. What is, according to you, the novel’s most important message?
I need the readers to help me in finding the "message". I would dare say that one of the main themes is "meeting". Humans meet sometimes because they are forced to, as in a war, or because they are attracted by each other, as is the case with erotic love or even friendship. And all combinations between these poles are possible. I like to explore this mysterious, exciting, sweet and scaring side of the human experience: meeting. History is the big stage, music speaks to very different ears, travelling belongs to the narrative since its (Greek) beginning.
In the novel, a man who had attended just three years of school is forced by war to live under the same roof with a highly educated English music conductor. The relation between them is difficult, even harsh at the beginning but then something happens. Music helps. And the two men, as well as a third one, would be lost without Maria.
A major part of the novel’s plot takes place in Naxos. When did you first visit the island?
I first visited Naxos back in 1997.
What made you the most impression?
Its amazing nature of course, which goes from the beautifully dry coasts and long beaches to the magnificent inland, with its lemon and orange trees, the scents, the white marble... But I even more loved Naxos for its blend of Mediterranean simplicity and a certain solemnity you feel in its territory. The light of Naxos is also special, generous and seductive. This is a place that introduces itself to visitors with a temple's big door (the Portara), which can be seen even from far in the sea. This is a place of myth whose actual history goes back, long before the great Greek civilization. For an unknown reason, I felt at home and I fell in love with Naxos.
You are a self-proclaimed lover of Naxos. Please share with us you favorite places on the island and why should one visit them.
I like to visit the Portara early in the morning and sit on its almost three thousand years' old stones. There are a lot of famous places you can find in the guides. Also, I suggest that you go to Tripodes (there are fantastic windmills there) and go down, on foot or by bike, through the small road that ends at Plaka. Along the way you will see the most authentic and breathtaking views of the island -you can also stop at a tiny white church. Often, there is a solitary horse behind it that looks at you gently. Do this at sunset and at the end of the route enter the sea, fully undressed, around 8 pm. Everything is rose to gray to an indefinite color. Have a simple, hearty dinner at those calm taverns.
Do not also miss Apiranthos, with its marble streets. Along the way, visit some byzantine churches. Then go to the east side of the island, where you can see the little Cyclades at the horizon. If you are a woman and want to dream, think of Ariadne (there are two versions: in the first one she is crying all the time; in the second one she is enjoying life with her lover Dionysus - you choose!). If you are a man you can be Apollo, Dionysius, Theseus - they all toured in those places! Or you can just be yourself and feel lucky...
Are you planning on writing more books in the future?
Yes, and I feel that the theme of joining past and present will still be there!