Tiziano Terzani

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Florence, Italy

Tiziano Terzani Florence Reviews

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Tiziano Terzani Jul 12, 2008
Tiziano Terzani (14 September 1938 - 28 July 2004) was an Italian journalist and writer.



Terzani was born in Florence to poor working class parents; he proved an excellent student, to the extent of dodging his apparent inevitable destiny as a manual worker, like his father and ancestors had been. He attended the University of Pisa as a law student and pupil of Collegio Medico-Giuridico (now Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies) and, after graduating, he started working for Olivetti, the most advanced office equipment producer in Italy. In 1965, he had the chance to go on a business trip to Japan. This was his first contact with Asia and his first step towards his decision to change his life radically and explore Asia. During these years he again began writing for l'Astrolabio. He then resigned from Olivetti and moved to Columbia University in order to study Chinese language and culture. After a first stint as journalist within Italo Pietra's Il Giorno, in 1971 he moved to Singapore as a reporter, with his wife and their two small children. The German weekly Der Spiegel had appointed him correspondent from Asia. He then offered his collaboration to the Italian daily newspapers Corriere della Sera and La Repubblica, thus becoming one of the most prestigious Italian journalists on an international level. In the meantime, on a semi-secret level, he sent regular and useful information about the East Asian politics to the Banca Commerciale Italiana, then still headed by the progressive figure of Raffaele Mattioli.

Terzani knew much about the historical and political background of Asia, but had also a deep interest in the philosophical aspects of Asian culture. Though an unbeliever, he always looked in his journeys for the spiritual aspects of the countries he was visiting. He lived in Beijing, Tokyo, Singapore, Hong Kong, Bangkok and New Delhi which became his second home. His stay in Beijing came to an end when he was arrested and expelled from the country for "counter-revolutionary activities". Based on his experiences, he wrote La Porta Proibita (Behind The Forbidden Door), a highly critical book about post-maoist China.

Terzani's experiences in Asia are described in articles and essays in newspapers, as well as the several books that he wrote. In the first book, which he wrote in 1973, Pelle di leopardo (Leopard Skin), he tells about the last phases of the Vietnam war. Two years later he would literally face death when trying to document the new Democratic Kampuchea: the Khmer Rouge wanted to shot him right after his arrival in the border town of Poipet, and he saved his life only by his cold blood and good knowledge of the Chinese language. One of Terzani's most interesting and well-known books is Un indovino mi disse (A Fortune-Teller Told Me), the report of a journey through different Asian countries. The journey lasted for about a year. In this period, Terzani never took a plane, following the advice and warning of a fortune teller he had met.

In 1997, Terzani received the Luigi Barzini Prize for his activities as a reporter. After 9/11 he wrote Lettere contro la guerra (Letters Against the War). The book was born as a response to the anti-islamic invectives published by the Italian journalist and author Oriana Fallaci on the daily Il Corriere della Sera on 29 September 2001.

In his last book Un altro giro di giostra (One More Ride on the Merry-go-round), Terzani deals with his illness, (a tumor) which eventually led to his death, but not before he had travelled and searched through different and far away countries and civilizations, looking for a cure for his cancer and for a new vision of life. A short excerpt from his book: "...after a while, the goal of my journey was not the cure for my cancer anymore, bur for the sickness which affects all of us: mortality" He spent the last months of his life in Orsigna, a little village in the Apennine mountains in the province of Pistoia that he considered "his true, last love".

Terzani died on 28 July 2004. His last memories are recorded in a beautiful interview for the Italian television entitled "Anam" an Indian word that literally means "the one with no name", appellative gained during an experience in an ashram in India.

His testament-book La fine รจ il mio inizio (The End Is My Beginning), authored with his son Folco, was published posthumously in March 2006 and sold 400,000 copies in 4 months. Its New Age theme has been attacked by Roman Catholic sources such as the newspaper Avvenire. [1]
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