“Come fai?” How do you do it? That’s the question a lot of non-Italian asks me when admiring our way of dress-behave-act. To be “Italian”, for good and for bad, you don’t need to be born in Italy. And the UK is full of people to whom we are happy to say “Visa Approved”.
“Italy is a real enigma”, said the marketing expert Philip Kotler. “It’s the only country that is able to generate growth despite total chaos”.
There is something about writing a best-selling masterpiece in a shabby cafè chosen as a refuge from unpaid heating bills, from unemployment and the responsibilities of caring for a child at home. J.K. Rowling is undoubtedly English (she was born 31 of July 1965 in Yate, Gloucestershire) yet she was able to give her best only after hitting rock bottom, something of which we Italians are masters of. So this month’s “Visa Approved” goes to her. Her childhood was not easy; her mother was often ill and she had a difficult relationship with her father. She was not accepted at Oxford University, but decided to pursue a BA in French and Classics at University of Essex. She graduated in 1986 and shortly after she moved to London to work as research and bilingual secretary for Amnesty International. In 1990, while she was on a four-hour delayed train from Manchester to London, an idea came to her mind that would soon change her life completely: the story of a young boy attending a school of wizardry.
Rowling started to write the first chapter of the Harry Potter’s saga with great intensity. But after her mother’s death, she decided to move to Portugal to work as an English teacher for a foreign language school in Porto, where she met Jorge Arantes, a television journalist. The couple got married in 1993 and they had a daughter, Jessica. Once again, though, the writer’s life did not follow a straight line and in 1993 she separated from her husband. In the same year she moved with her daughter to Edinburgh. Left penniless, jobless and with sole care of her child, she fell into depression, to the point of suicidal tendencies. But despite that, she kept writing in Edinburgh’s cafes, with her daughter by her side. In 1995, Rowling completed her manuscript for ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’. This odd story of a modern wizard got twelve rejections after being accepted by Bloomsbury. The rest his history. In 2004, the Forbes magazine named Rowling the first person to become a billionaire simply by writing books. Moreover, in 2008 the Sunday Times Rich list named Rowling the 144th richest person in Britain. Now, it’s not that us Italians are terribly fond of hitting rock bottom. On the contrary, we love coming first, and playing in the big league. But we are also a people who tend to rest on their laurels. When things go our way, we relax, get distracted, and before you know it, everyone seems to be overtaking us. Place us in times of dire need, at the bottom of a barrel, and suddenly that flash of genius ignites, the light bulb burns white, and we come bouncing back. Isn’t that right, sister Rowling?