The main theme of the “Festival della Lettura e dell’Ascolto” is the exercise of listening and reading every book invites us to do.
Sociology, philosophy, and literature have been reflecting for a long time on the partial obsolescence of the book as object, now considering we are living in an age that seems to prefer other ways to spread culture and knowledge.
According to one of the most famous mass-media experts of the twentieth century, the Canadian Marshall McLuhan, the book – as a typographic object made of printed paper, placed in bookstores and libraries – is essentially linked to “the explosion and mechanical expansion”. That explosion, which broke out in the so-called electric era – although McLuhan didn’t know anything about computers, smartphones, and the Internet, is now replaced by the “implosion and contraction”, featuring the new “global village” (M. McLuhan, Understanding Media, McGraw- Hill Book Company, New York 1964).
However McLuhan’s prophecies are judged, his general thought remains fundamentally true, so a culture that has understood the technological infrastructure by which it is supported and made possible, that culture never existed. A so-called technological “idiocy” is therefore a condition that does not affect us, who ignore almost everything about how the devices we use work but touches every man since he is much more subordinate to what he uses than an active and aware subject. Mankind reading books for centuries was probably not unaware of how they were produced, and they ignored for sure all the ideal and material effects produced before by the invention of the book and then by the printing system with movable type.
Today, while a new technological revolution is ongoing, making us “idiots” because of the effects of what we grab in our hands (PC, tablet, smartphone …: new digital textuality), we have more possibilities in return to understand what reading meant in the past and what it could still mean. Reading as well as shifting our gaze on the characters of a page, silently whispering the words of a book. What it meant, for example, in terms of rational posture, critical discernment, analytical capacity, attention, and imagination: we assume it, and we defend it as a fundamental acquisition of the authentic human culture.
The “Festival della Lettura e dell’Ascolto” is dedicated to the dissemination and promotion of this culture, of its educational, civil, and intellectual value. The main theme of the event is, indeed, Listening, considered as a way of enjoying and experiencing the object-book, and as a specific modality of attention (“natural prayer of the soul”, said a French philosopher between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Nicolas Malebranche). And therefore: to listen, to turn to what deserves or captures our attention, to exercise sensitivity and respect, but also to seek the rhythm of life itself and the breath of the word through sounds, voices, and noises.