Tiziano Terzani: an italian-born asian

Mesdames et messieurs, let me introduce my favourite writer and role model: Tiziano Terzani.


This cute old man was born in Florence in 1938, died in Orsigna, Italy in 2004 and spent decades travelling Asia, where he lived as foreign correspondent for italian and german newspapers and wrote books about asian history and his own life experience.

I only read two of his works, both of them in the last few months. The first one, In Asia, had been glancing at me for years on my bookshelves, and when I picked it up at last it was love at first sight: In Asia is a collection of articles and letters written during 25 years from 1965 on – he was a real pioneer in a time when Far East was experiencing wars and struggles and those countries were further than ever from a western perspective. His writing style is among the most passionate ones I read, and despite the issues he writes about (bloodthirsty wars, dictatorships, Asia loosing its identity), I particularly appreciated Macau and South Korea descriptions – it was like seeing those landscapes, walking those streets and meeting those people for real, a sensation I hadn’t been feeling for long time.

Then I read A fortune-teller told me, and that’s when Tiziano Terzani became my role model. This novel is a report of what he did in 1993, a special year in his life: as a fortune-teller told him he shouldn’t take the plane during that particular year, and to comply with a wish, he decided to travel only by car, train or boat. This decision saved him from a plane crash, changed his view of the world and pushed him to immerse himself in asian culture even more than he already was. His thoughts on asian spirituality, globalization, Asia choosing to sell itself to capitalism instead of proposing a different model are what makes the novel go on, and I recognized myself so much in what he wrote I wish I could have the chance to travel with him on a slow and overcrowded thai train, to see Asia through his eyes.

“In life we should be as we are on this ship: passengers. We shouldn’t own anything at all!”

– Tiziano Terzani, A fortune-teller told me

I recommend not only these two works, but every book Tiziano Terzani wrote to everyone who is fascinated by Asia, its history and its ancient soul… And to people who think planes are sad.


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