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Living on an island
Nicola Lecca was 14 years old and still had never left Sardinia. One day when he was in primary school, the teacher gave the class a theme for a written essay: "My thoughts as I look out of the airplane window". Nicola raised his hand and confessed - while his classmates laughed at him - that he had never boarded an airplane and therefore couldn't write the assignment. But the teacher didn't believe him, perhaps because she taught in a school for rich kids, who surely had been to Monte Carlo at least twice, and made him spend the entire morning behind the blackboard as punishment. Was it so strange that the beaches of Villasimius had been enough to fill a boy's summers?
The years of travel thus came late, but have been intense. As a child, behind the blackboard in the primary school classroom, Nicola Lecca swore he would visit 100 cities. It seemed like one of those childhood dreams that remain dreams all of one's life. But in the end he really did see those 100 cities and, actually, he visited a much bigger number than that. Among his favourites are: Stockholm for its formal beauty, Broadstairs for the melancholy offered by the tides, St. Petersburg for its grandeur, Reykjavík for the honesty of its people, Györ for the despairing baroque of its buildings, Trieste for the Molo Audace and, naturally, Paris.
For Nicola Lecca travelling has by now become a habit, almost a way of life, a need to be amazed discovering new places (perhaps hidden inside places already seen) and people, from north to south, from east to west.
In the summer of 2000 the Italian Cultural Institute in Berlin chose Nicola Lecca to represent Italy on board the Literaturexpress, a very special train - organised, among others, by UNESCO - that hosted 100 writers from 43 different countries on a two-month journey. The train crossed all of Europe, from Lisbon to Moscow, passing through Madrid, Bordeaux, Paris, Lille, Brussels, Dortmund, Hannover, Malbork, Kaliningrad, Vilnius, Riga, Tallin, St. Petersburg, Minsk, Brest, Warsaw and Berlin.
Lecca's experience on board the Literaturexpress was a formative one and gave him the opportunity to visit Eastern Europe before it changed forever. Travelling with 100 colleagues from a variety of backgrounds was very stimulating, and he discovered the many differences within Europe and among Europeans.
The journey of the Literaturexpress followed the line of the North-Express, a train promoted by the Belgian banker George Nagelmackers. When it first went into service, travelling from Lisbon to Moscow took 84 hours. The writers took much longer than that, stopping in many cities to hold conferences in libraries and universities or to meet readers in the squares.
It was particularly shocking and interesting to go so quickly from Minsk - where even freedom of speech was denied - to the modern West Berlin of the post-unification era. Among the many intense moments along that journey which Nicola Lecca remembers in particular are meeting with José Saramago, visiting Kant's grave in Kaliningrad, the Art-Nouveau buildings in Riga and the speech he gave to the European Parliament about the future of the arts in the European Union, of which this is a brief excerpt:
"To offer a musical metaphor, the Literaturexpress reminded me of Alban Berg's Three Pieces for Orchestra, in which many instruments play together without ever blending completely and maintaining their voice distinct from the others. Brass, strings, woodwinds and percussion play, and their sounds exist both together and separately, exactly like this Europe that is taking shape, day after day, under our eyes. A united Europe in which all ethnic groups and cultures coexist, with no barriers between them".
In September 2000, after returning from the Literaturexpress, Nicola Lecca chose to move to London where he lived until summer 2004. As often happens in large cities, Lecca found work opportunities and began a string of odd jobs. Starting as a dishwasher in the Tate Gallery cafè, he was soon promoted to waiter, cashier, steward and finally became an Executive Officer of Royal Festival Hall - South Bank Centre. He worked there for three years, enjoying the privilege of seeing extraordinary concerts, among which he remembers with great nostalgia Simon Rattle conducting the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Jane Birkin, Joshua Redman, David Bowie, Susanna Baca, Gil Shaham and Andreas Scholl. Since 2004 Nicola Lecca likes to consider himself a nomadic writer having lived for long in a large number of cities including Barcelona, Visby, Venice, Reykjavík, Vienna and Innsbruck
A vagabond in love with Iceland
For over a couple of years now, Nicola Lecca is travelling around Europe with no permanent place to live. Hungary, Sweden, Spain and Greece are among the countries where he has recently stayed. And of course he couldn't resist the temptation of spending the winter in Iceland, which he loves more than any other land and visits often, having chosen it as the setting for his last novel that has been published by Mondadori in March 2006. Of Iceland Nicola Lecca loves in particular the night enchantment of the Aurora Borealis, the days without light and those without darkness, the exemplary truthfulness of the people, the silence, the wild nature, the black and livid sea and the tame seagulls that stroll along the capital's sidewalks next to passers-by.
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For Nicola Lecca books have a hypnotic effect: they are like magic doors, and stepping through them the reader forgets his own life and lives that of the characters created by writers. His favourite authors are Proust, Musil, Sartre, Camus, Thomas Bernhard, Stig Dagerman and Ingeborg Bachmann.
His teachers, however, are all Italian. First of all, Francesco Rana, who taught him very early on a work routine and the habit to always take notes and never let an inspiration fade before it has been put on paper. Reading Pirandello and Buzzati he developed a passion for short stories that strike like lightening, while from Mario Rigoni Stern he learned the enchantment of simplicity. He loves the poetry of Giovanni Raboni and Patrizia Valduga; Sergio Maldini taught him irony, and his novel La casa a Nord-Est is still today the book he feels closest to.
Nicola Lecca is fascinated by old films with Bette Davis and especially by Robert Aldrich's Whatever happened to Baby Jane?. Among the many talented filmmakers, he prefers Ingmar Bergman, Luchino Visconti and Lars von Trier.
Yet his favourite art form is music: from Bach to Sigur Rós, to improvised jazz, Paolo Conte, Patrick Wolf and Fabrizio De Andrè, with a special preference for the Stabat Mater by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi.
Nicola Lecca is particularly grateful to all the writers and poets who encouraged him to keep on writing when he was 20 years old and his works were still unpublished: Sergio Maldini, Giovanni Raboni, Mario Rigoni Stern, Gian Piero Bona and Cesare De Michelis.