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An adda of art: Mario Palma’s ‘Tales of an Art Lover’

  • Published at 12:42 pm January 12th, 2019
Tales of an art lover

Book review

Tales of an Art Lover is Mario Palma’s second book, originally written in Italian. It was published by DeriveApprodi, Rome as L’arteche non dorme, which means “the art that does not sleep”. In Bangladesh, the English version was published by Bengal Publications in November 2018, and was translated by the author himself. Tales of an Art Lover is a collection of essays and reflections on art, but as the name of the book suggests, from the point of view of an art lover, not a critic. It has been called “an endless adda, or conversation on art.” 

Mario Palma is an Italian diplomat, who has lived and worked in Germany, China, Japan, Turkey, Taiwan and Bangladesh. He was till recently the Ambassador of Italy to Bangladesh. His first book, Tales of a Grape Lover, was published in 2017. It was about his relationship with wine starting from his childhood in Southern Italy. 

Mario Palma shares the many layers of art that he has experienced, but only fragments of them. He recounts the links between art, life, knowledge and culture that he has discovered. The book does not confine itself to any single style, but is rather a combination of quite a few different styles.Deliberately imaginative,the book has the features of an autobiography, a biography as well as critical essays. 

Palma’s point of view on art is not that of a traditional art critic. His interest in art, he says,israther personal, and also, he goes on to explain, it was a useful interest and topic of conversation when engaging in his duties of public diplomacy. His view is just that of an “art-lover”, who has no economic interest in art whatsoever, and has never viewed art as a commodity. He considers himself, and is considered by others, as a “friend of the artists.” 

Palma thinks of art as something that should be seen as instrumental in shaping societies and dealing with challenges that humans face, instead of just something that is aesthetically pleasing or something whose sole purpose is to provide entertainment.He would like artists, by which he means anyone who has an important role in culture, to be socially engaged. Palma is of the opinion that it isvital that art should be seen as an important part of shaping the very structure of society, as well as helping people cope with the innumerable challenges that we face every day in our lives. 

This book in an interesting readnot only for its content, but also for its style. Even someone who is not well read on matters of art will enjoy reading this book. Palma has led a very interesting life, and his unique point of view is indeed enriching. It certainly makes the reader think and question what he or she already knows about art. 

Preeti Huq reviews books for Arts & Letters

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