16
Dec
2020

The illiterate letter

 

Testo in italiano

The illiterate letter

di Giovanni Vallone

 

In 1973, a Sicilian woman wrote to her husband who emigrated to Germany for work.

Both are illiterates.

Here is the exceptional testimony found by the famous Sicilian writer Gesualdo Bufalino.

“My dear love, my heart is tormented by your far away thought, and I stretch my arms toward you, together with the three kids. All in good health, me and the two older, unwell, but not seriously, the little one. The previous letter I sent you didn’t receive a reply, and I am sad about it. Your mother, hit by a disease, is in the hospital, where I go visit her. Do not worry that I go there empty-handed; or alone, generating gossip: our middle son comes with me, while the oldest looks after the youngest.

Our little field, I ensured that it was ploughed and sown. To the two daily workers, I gave 150,000 lire [about €500, or $560 today] . The town elections were held. I voted for the Christian Democracy, as the parish suggested. For the Hammer and Sickle, the defeat has been huge: as if they died, in a coffin.

But whether one or the other wins, it’s the same. Nothing changes for us poor people: we dug yesterday, and we will dig again tomorrow. Many olives, this year, from our olive trees. The men and two guys I hired, one to knock them down, the others to pick them from the ground, cost me 27,000 lire (about €90). I spent 12,000 (about €40) more for the olive press. I obtained enough oil to fill a large jar, and a small one. I can sell it at the current price, which is 1,300 lire (about €4) a liter.

My far away love, my heart thinks of you. Now, especially that Christmas is close, I wish that I were with you, heart to heart. A hug, then, from me and our three little kids. Goodbye, dear love, my heart is yours and I am faithful to you, joined to you as our two rings are”.

Excerpt from the book “Cento Sicilie” by Gesualdo Bufalino and Nunzio Zago


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