09. April 2021

The Injustice of Language: Nando Taviani (1942-2020)

The Injustice of Language: Nando Taviani (1942-2020)
By Eugenio Barba 

An article by Eugenio Barba in memory of Nando Taviani.

Published in New Theatre Quarterly, Vol. XXXVII, Part 1, No. 245, February 2021, pp. 38-41

His name was Ferdinando, but his friends and students called him Nando. I have often wondered what his fate would have been if he had been born in an Anglo-Saxon speaking country. 50% of the books in the world are translated from English into other languages while only 6% are translated into English. What repercussions would his books and the environment that had grown up around him have caused had they been known and metabolised internationally? This was the case in Italy where he carried out his historian’s research as a university professor, an engaged critic and an advisor to theatre groups. Known in Italy and translated into French and Spanish, none of Nando's books were translated into English. Some of his writings on Jerzy Grotowski's theatre have become part of The Grotowski Sourcebook (Routledge, 1997) and a few articles are found in the publications on Odin Teatret for which he was the literary advisor for nearly fifty years. On his death in November 2020, friends and opponents agreed that Nando Taviani, together with a small group of remarkable scholars who recognised him as a point of reference, had changed the very foundations of theatre studies.

Grotowski had called himself a teacher of performers. Nando, whom Grotowski greatly appreciated and invited to his refuge in Pontedera to ask for advice, was a university teacher who deeply marked the people who met him. First of all his students. In the ancient Scandinavian culture, the meaning and value of an individual's life materialised in the eftermæle, “what will be said of one after one’s death”. The reactions on the facebook of his former students tell of his “exalting” lessons that transmitted passion and curiosity. They were one of the best memories of their youth, had changed their lives and “upset their soul”. “We exist because of you - explain some theatre groups - because we were lucky enough to meet you and follow your advice”. Many consider it an honour to have been his students and describe his patience, his puzzling questions, his sharp reasoning and, above all, his human warmth. “He loved us”.