Readers of Carlo Levi’s classic memoir of his period of internal exile under Italian Fascism, Christ Stopped at Eboli, will know all about the poverty of Basilicata. Obviously some things haven’t moved on too much since the 1940s in the instep of Italy. But nor has the spirit that confronts them, at least to judge from the Bibliomotocarro, the traveling mobile library of elementary school teacher and literary evangelist Antonio La Cava.
As interviewed in BookSprint Edizioni and elsewhere, La Cava describes his mission to promote reading in the smallest localities of Basilicata through his library on three wheels, which has a stock of around 1200-1300 volumes, which he says he bought himself without the help of any institution. Himself the child of peasants from Ferrandina, with fond memories of reading by candlelight as a boy, La Cava tours the provinces of Matera and Potenza from his base in his home town, seeking especially to bring books to local children. Full details and pictures are available on his website and his Facebook page. A full RAI TV feature is available here.
La Cava is well aware of the value of the internet and ebooks for disseminating literature, and describes his own Bibliomotocarro as not old, but post-modern. And he concedes that everything can be done with a single click via computer nowadays, but he adds that the charm of the printed book, which falls off the nightstand when you fall asleep, will never fade.
Ebooks, ereaders and the internet may spread reading into the impoverished regions of southern Italy in future, but it’s hard to imagine them doing it with such dedication, and such charm.