The “secret” Meneghello, also a small master of sport

The young writer Luigi Meneghello with his uncle Dino (in the center) and his brother Bruno (on the left) -.

There was, and there still is, thanks to the “stuff that I wrote” (I quote the author) in his homeland letters, a champion who responds to the name of Luigi Meneghello, also belonging to the iron class and Phosphorus of 1922. Who, through negligence or disinterest in literature, has never read at least two of his critically acclaimed narrative masterpieces, Libera nos in Malo (published in 1963) and I The little masters (1964), helps him to put things right now and to settle his accounts, he needs a collection of sports writings, some of which are unpublished, collected in a band of 450 sheets signed as Sport (without the final t) and inserted among the private papers – kept at the University of Pavia – in which emerges the eclecticism, even athletic-competitive, of the Venetian writer.

The athlete and the young Olympian

A sportsman from Meneghello who has tried himself, since childhood, even as a practitioner, in almost the entire Olympic galaxy, swimming through rivers and lakes with his brother Bruno, pedaling a bicycle. From athletics tracks to climbing the rocks of Brenta with his wife Katia and Count Bonacossi. From football pitches to tennis courts, to the grass pitches of beloved England, where he lived and taught most of his life. Much like the anarchist Luciano Bianciardi boasted “of having always put at least one football match in my books”, so even the partisan writer can boast of having included sport from the pages of Libera nos in Malo in which he remembers that his generation had been preceded by that of “great runners, jumpers, slingers, superb climbers on the frenetic pines, on the perches of the cuccagne, on the immense plane trees of Prà”. Malo, his “Macondo”, was for Meneghello also the country of sporting passion, born of his cousin Ester, gold medalist at the 1941 Italian championships, in the 200 meters flat, but above all of the epic figure of the “young uncle”: “Dino, biker, but also skier, boxer” and footballer for whom he always writes in Libera nos in Malo What counts “Not the speed, nor the sprint nor even the fixed kick, but the touch of the ball. Dino’s instinct, for the center of things, life”. In the delightful preface to Sport, “Pindaro and Pumpkin. The style of sport in Meneghello”, the curator of the volume, Francesco Caputo, points out that the author himself was a “centaur”, who grew up among the oils and spare parts of the mechanical workshop Fratelli Meneghello in Malo. And that explains, continues Caputo, how Bau-Sete! (1991) is “his book with the highest rate of motorcycles in the very first months of the post-war period”. Here he is in white overalls, on the handlebars of a “radiant twin”, the “winged machine” which foreshadows a new “more open, more joyful” Action Party. It is the surge of rebirth evoked by the writer who with The little masters she had pursued her personal Resistance, recounting it with humour, with irony, faithful to historical truth, therefore free from useless triumphalism. The turning point was to have met Antonio Giuriolo (1912-1944) the “Captain Toni” of the novel. The young intellectual from Arzignano, in contact with Norberto Bobbio and with Aldo Capitini, whose philosophy of “non-violence” he had shared: these, after having refused the fascist card following the Armistice of 1943, had organized and participated in the Resistance against the fascists in the first person, founding the group of young partisans, called the “little masters”. Among them is already, for his intrepid spirit and talent, the young “S”, his alter ego of italian flowers (1976).

Young S, his athletic double

The idealistic substitute for the young Meneghello: “S” is the high school student and then the university student who takes refuge in the care of his body and in sporting activity as a clear and individual response to Nazi-fascist totalitarianism. The issues addressed by “S” and his reflections are also reflected in Libera nos in Malo, which is also an act of faith, a spiritual exercise by Meneghello, because, says Caputo, “the text opens in the name of God (ultimate antagonist of sporting challenges) and on the word that God closes, on fathers and sons that they ski ‘of God’”. British poise and humor were innate qualities in Meneghello, even before becoming a professor at the University of Reading, where from 1961 to 1980 he headed the Department of Italian Studies. His fresh and persuasive writing did not disdain to slip into those subjects in which the almost conscript (born in 1919) Gianni Brera had soared, who, before leaving forever, in 1992, presented him for the Nonino Prize, won by Meneghello (Italian author section) with the book Marede, Marede. Investigations in the field of the vulgar eloquence of Vicenza. And even then, in the speech of thanks, he used his sporting vocabulary to explain the controversial relationship with the literary prizes: “If you did an inverse ranking of Italian writers, who scored fewer points in this field, I think I would be at the top, maybe in the very top positions”. In the face of brutal rhetoric, Meneghello always acted with “schinche”, dodging dribbles, anxious to belong to a generation that had cherished the lessons of their fathers on courage, dignity and a sense of shame. “For what happened in Italy, someone should at least suffer; at times it seemed a personal exercise in mortification, at others a civic task. It was as if we had to carry the weight of Italy and its troubles,” he wrote. The little masters. And this daily exercise, which was a fully exercised civic sense coupled with a deep responsibility, only loosened when he evoked the celestial tennis of the “divine” Suzanne Lenglen or could run on the football wing with a more Venetian (libertine) than a conscientious Vicentine from Malo. Women’s football was already in her kaleidoscope, completed by an ideal team drawn up in the note of September 1, 1977: “Eve in goal, Anita Garibaldi, Penelope, Santa Teresa… how hilarious she looked! What excitement at the idea of ​​Joan of Arc on the wing and Sappho in the center forward! “. But football, like all the rest of sport, was all about seriousness, leather memory and partisan provocation: “A classmate, Zanchi, a handsome and well-respected college from the Lycée de Thiene who calmly put into practice the Supreme Aspiration of any footballer: he punched the referee…”.

Malo’s healthy football, freed from today’s hysteria

Fascinated by football, but also disappointed at the end of his life match (which took place in June 2007), by the “hysteria” and the “bestial background” that he also traced back to the exultation of the players. This is why he remarks with conviction: “Once the goal is scored, walk away without any sign of jubilation: at most, if the goal is a little out of the ordinary, exchange a real handshake with a teammate. The player of old, say in the 30s, the charismatic right arm of Us Malo who was my uncle Dino usually behaved like that”. Meneghello barely had time to witness Marcello Lippi’s 2006 world blues triumph and Zidane’s historic headbutt to Materazzi’s chest gave him an elegiac snippet. Introduced by “Football, high zones, Pindar”, he writes a page worthy of his best novels: “And then I saw the man with the calabash standing still, walking briskly next to someone , passing him, turning round: and of a mighty rustling ram, beating him suddenly into the heart of him that followed him, risking (perhaps trying) to pierce all. Is it Pindar? I must ask”.

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