Bruna Di Giuseppe-Bertoni is the editorial author of Diary of a Tufarolo. The text, in Italian, consists of her father’s original diary, translated into English and published by Pia Marchelletta of Joie de Plume Books. Handwritten by Emilio Di Giuseppe, the diary traces the most important moments in the author’s life, from the happiest to the most difficult: an arduous childhood, the traumatic experience of war and finally his last years of life as an immigrant in Canada.
It is an emotionally charged journey made up of instants that can often seem unbelievable, yet are regrettably true – poverty, hunger, the loss of loved ones, his early years spent working as a hired hand in order to survive, followed by the succession of so many discomforts and deprivations in the army during World War II, to his emigration voyage across the ocean, away from homeland and native tongue where, in order to give his family a better life, his sacrifice continued and culminated.
Giuseppe Cappa writes that “Diary of a Tufarolo by Emilio Di Giuseppe is a chronicle of the real socio-political living conditions of that time in history,” and that, as Don Fulvio Amici explains, “it might as well have been entitled Diary of an Italian. The reality that emerges from the few, humble pages of the diary is a vivid portrait of the real-life conditions of the proletariat of his time: of Tufo and of most small towns in Italy.”
If, at first reading, the work snaps simple photographs of a historical period lived by the original author, it simultaneously pulls open a curtain on the precarious situation of so many Italians of that era, in an Italy massacred by political and financial problems and finally destroyed by war. The words, repeated and rewritten with care by Emilio’s daughter, emerge as a work of restoration, of gratitude and appreciation for her father’s self-denial, to make sure that his life of ordeals was not in vain.
In the prologue we are in fact guided to reflect on the advice of Victor Frankel, that “suffering always offers us a challenge to seek meaning in life, to confer it worth, so as to be able to continue living even in the worst of situations.” Dostoyevski’s quotation also tells us that “there’s only one thing to be afraid of, not being worthy of our own suffering.” In Emilio’s own words, “nothing is wasted if it’s done with the heart or with love.”
This book is all the more precious when we learn that Emilio had not gone to school due to poverty, and had learned to read and write on his own, with a persistent desire to record the events of his life. A writer of the heart, he could have abandoned the idea of the diary when it was stolen from him and destroyed during the war, but he didn’t. He started the diary over from scratch and rewrote everything he had already written many years before, for personal catharsis and to give meaning to his hardships, or maybe to leave a documentation of his life to his children and grandchildren. Instead, much more than a gift to his family, Diary of a Tufarolo has become a priceless gift to all who have the good fortune to read it.
From the necessity to write about himself, Emilio redeems the past, erases ghosts and transmits to us through time, a message of hope and optimism that can guide and help us in those tragic moments we will all eventually find ourselves in. An unforgettable personal diary, which could have remained forever buried in a drawer, comes alive again through the loving endeavour of his daughter Bruna, who brings to our awareness not only the traumas lived by Emilio, but also by our own parents, in that difficult period of the Second World War and in the traumatic experience of emigration.
This book is a beacon in the darkness of an historical age which has indirectly affected and led us to our present state of well-being. Our parents’ tribulations have facilitated our way to a better life, one they dreamed of for themselves and for us from the beginning. Bringing to light their stories is an act of respect, of honour and exaltation, but most of all, it is an act of love.
Josie Di Sciascio-Andrews has written two non-fiction books and five collections of poetry. Her poems “The Red Accordion” and “Emerald City” were shortlisted for prizes from Descant and The Malahat Review. Her poem “Ghost” received first prize in Toronto’s Big Pond Rumours Journal Contest. She lives, teaches and writes in Oakville, Ontario.