(Thoughts on Reading and Writing)

I never thought I would write anything at all except for educational material and scientific papers. While at school, I never thought I was a good writer. I was factual and straight to the point which made my essays painfully short. I loved reading books though, marveling at how writers could come up with so many fancy words and convoluted plots.

Fairy tales, among other works of fiction, would allow me to step into a world of fantasy, with no constraints, no gravity, no physical or time-space boundaries. Fairy tales gave me great satisfaction, as when they had  a good ending. Evil would eventually capitulate, contrary to real life.  

That’s why I never liked history and history books. The human carnage was too great, invariably caused by selfishness and cruelty. Too many people were treated unjustly.

That pained me and still does. I wished I could change the course of history by making up new stories, where the bad guys would be defeated and misery, sickness and hardship would be erased.  If I wished it hard enough, then the horrors of history would go away, like in a fairy tale. I should have acquired some magic powers after all from all the witches and warlocks that populated my world!

My resistance to accept history’s tragic events explains why I felt so good when I watched the ending of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Quentin Tarantino rewrote history. He changed the outcome of that gruesome homicide. The bad guys got killed and the lovely young woman woke up with her unborn child to see the light of the day again. And what a day!  A day of blue skies, sunlight and fresh breezes. That’s how it should have been.


 In school, I was thrilled when the history lesson was over and I could immerse myself in  the world of the Greek and Roman philosophers. I studied Latin and ancient Greek and read about the gods in Olympus. I wondered at the beauty of their fantastic stories, which were filled with every human emotion.

Central to my development as a writer are workshops and coaches. I studied literature, art and philosophy at Liceo Classico A. Mariotti in Perugia. That study had a profound influence on me.

“Σελήνη καλά Selene, kala”…the only fragment left of Sappho’s poem, mesmerized me in its simplicity and brilliance. I’ve never seen a moon more radiant and beautiful than that one. It was mind-boggling to realize that Sappho was looking at the same moon I was looking at, centuries apart, Sappho from the blue island of Lesbos, and I from the green Umbrian hills. If something can be that beautiful and unifying, how could the world then be so ugly?

My thoughts and dilemmas became intertwined with the thoughts and dilemmas of the characters depicted in the books I was reading. They helped me to understand myself better and delve deeper into the complexity of human nature.

 One day, while at the opera, I was reminded of the predicament of Signor Vitangelo Moscarda in Uno, Nessuno, Centomila, (One, No One and One Hundred Thousand), by Luigi Pirandello.  Vitangelo Moscarda, the protagonist of the novel, was a money lender who inherited a bank from his father. After his wife observed that his nose was slightly crooked, he became deeply concerned by the realization that for others he was not what he had imagined himself to be. He started to question his own identity and the very existence of an unchangeable reality. My friends told me that I looked like one of the singers. Both of them had dark, wavy hair, and I made the assumption my friends were referring to the prettier one, who was slightly taller and more slender. I discovered to my dismay that they thought I looked like the shorter, overweight singer with the hooked nose. 

I came to realize, just like Signor Vitangelo, that friends’ perceptions of our physical attributes, and even more importantly of our character and identity, can be profoundly different from our own. They are not at all what we imagine and stand in striking contrast to our private self–understanding. If we think about it, the same can be applied to the perception of our writing. What’s compelling to some, might be rejected by others, but nobody can invalidate our experiences and deem them insignificant. 

While Signor Vitangelo in the end accepts his complex multiplicity, and survives his identity crisis, Herr Harry Haller, in Hermann Hesse’s Steppenwolf, kept on fighting the irresolvable struggle of his double nature, spiritual  versus  animalistic, and was never at ease with either one.

Harry Haller was a middle-aged man who didn’t feel comfortable in the superficial bourgeois society of his time. He struggled to fit into the world of everyday. Herr Haller was unable or unwilling, perhaps, to truly understand and accept the multiform nature of the human spirit. In his existential struggle he contemplated suicide.

 In The Sorrows of Young Werther, Goethe thought that if he didn’t make Werther shoot himself, he would have pointed the gun at his own head and pulled the trigger.

Writing can be psychotherapy. It can be an attempt to work out our sorrows. I never understood before how unreciprocated love could become a source of self-annihilation.  

I thought that love should never be disruptive, but rather a force for redemption and moral regeneration, like the one experienced by Raskolnikov under Sonya’s influence in Crime and Punishment.  Dostoevsky’s work is an X-ray of the human  soul, seen through the eyes of justice and compassion. Writers can be excellent radiologists.

The fragility of life, human relationships, and the individual’s struggle for survival, amidst  social disintegration, as narrated by writer Louise Erdrich,  becomes a universal symbol of the human condition, where “Love is hard and loneliness a sure bet.”  Erdrich has made me wonder from what depth that fiery ink must be coming from.  

Writers have special sensitivities. They have a keen understanding of the transient nature of the world, where nothing is permanent and our lives, with all the struggles and triumphs, are eventually washed away just like watery ink on paper.

I felt sad when I read that closing phrase in Memoirs of a Geisha. History and personal experiences show us that everything passes and often there is not even a faint memory left of our individual tribulations. Like a melody which nobody can hear any longer as it dissipates in the air.

When the girl Chiyo, before becoming a geisha with the name of Sayuri, was starving at the geisha house, she picked up from the floor a tiny anchovy that fell from a serving platter, and hastily brought it to her mouth. I’m sure the readers felt pity for her, although they have never experienced hunger like that. I did not have to pick up that anchovy from my kitchen floor, and bring it to my mouth, although I did, to understand the desperation behind that gesture.

I noticed a tendency towards adaptability. I thought this was coming from the need for survival.  It made an impression on me when Sayuri was told that rivers and streams are  mutable. Water is destiny and self-determination. I feel like I am that water, flowing around rocks, finding new paths, with more impetus than before, with more grace. I am a sign of water.

I was trying to find my own answers. I was intrigued by the philosophical and religious arguments of my favorite writers.   We all are mortal. Shouldn’t we be doing good.? 

The more we see that we share the same needs and desires, the harder it should be to dehumanize the other person.. Why then there is so much indifference to suffering, so much cruelty and cynicism? Is that due to innate selfishness?


“The psyche is an historically determined individual relentlessly looking after himself. Even its loving is more often than not as assertion of self,” proclaims Iris Murdoch. She would add that giving attention to nature and art can help us to free our hearts and minds from the tentacles of selfishness.

Don’t we feel better when we immerse ourselves in art and nature and forget our self? Don’t we see more clearly and perceive more objectively? That’s when love, rather than being an assertion of self, becomes inseparable from a vision of justice.  


I started writing a few years ago. I didn’t start writing out of love for something or someone. In fact, I started writing out of anger. Anger is the byproduct of betrayed love. I wrote for weeks about toxic workplaces, ungrateful bosses, fake friends, annoying family members, casting calls, stereotypes and forgotten birthdays.   

I wrote a book, which is now locked in a drawer, never to see the light of the day. Too many people would feel offended and ravaged. But the act of writing was cathartic. I had gone through a transformative experience of introspection.

It felt like reemerging from turbulent waters. I could take a deep breath, the tightness in my chest gone. That’s when the focus of my writing shifted. I felt compelled then to tell the stories of everyday people, the stories of my patients, to capture elements of shared humanity.

I write to dispel biases. I write to inspire the readers to do good. This was not clear to me until I started writing. Writing helps me to understand what’s important to me, what my poles of attraction are. History, which has always pained me, has become the center of my narrative in the form of the plight of the single individual.

I don’t write to be remembered. I don’t have that need, which I see in so many of my friends.  I know that I’ll be forgotten like the vast majority of humanity, which has dissipated like mist. My absence will have no effect on this world. It will be like that melody that nobody can hear any longer.