Libertarianspirit's Blog

Reviews of radio and audio programmes around the world

A Lost Generation of Young Italians and Elizabeth Bowen’s The Heat of the Day via Harold Pinter’s screenplay

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Cover of the novel 'The Young Italians' by Amanda Prantera

Why do Italy’s hard working idealistic and well educated young people have to flee abroad to pursue their hopes and dreams, and the chance to catch an audio screenplay dramatisation of Elizabeth Bowen’s The Heat of the Day.

A half hour R4 documentary convincingly argued that ‘Italy is losing its young, talented professionals, driven out by a stagnant domestic economy and an entrenched employment market riddled with patronage and nepotism. As the Prime Minister advocates marrying someone wealthy as a means to get ahead, more and more young Italians are choosing to find work, recognition and respect abroad.’

If you substitute Britain for Italy and David Cameron for Silvio Berlusconi you might well find this half hour BBC Radio Four documentary of the week, The Young Italiansfirst broadcast Friday 4th November somewhat resonant of the anxiety of the thousands of British young people demonstrating through central London Wednesday 9th November.

Cameron’s privileged background of Eton and Oxford and enthusiasm for unpaid work experience is not particularly appreciated by students facing annual fees of £9,000 a year and a diminishing jobs market.

This programme left me recalling the words of young journalist, Alessandron Poggi , living and working in London as he talked to family and friends about life abroad, and his mixed feelings about leaving home. I was impressed how young Italians in London are socially organised, picnic in Battersea Park, arrange costume balls, stage showings of Italian movies, and complain of both homesickness and disappointment in their homeland.

Copywriter Simone, only 29 years old, observed:

If you’re young in Italy you’re a problem; in other countries you’re a resource.

Construction project manager, Silvia described opportunities back home:

If I was 45, or somebody’s daughter or mistress, I’d get work. But I’m not.

There are an estimated 39,000 Italians living in London. The need for their young generation to emigrate is not a new phenomenon. The programme’s  academic expert talked of nepotism, generational bed-blocking, and the domination of professions, wealth, position and opportunity by clans, syndicates and cronyism. Italy was indeed condemned as the land of lost opportunity.

We may be living in an age where there is growing moral and political philosophical movement against greed, unfairness and an unequal world. The language and vocabulary has moved beyond grand narratives and postmodernist discourse and is starkly empiricist in its analysis.

Serious attention is being given to the work of theorists such as George Monbiot who argues that  the one percent of privilege and ‘winner takes all’ in our community are the very best destroyers of wealth the world has ever seen.

Student activist Michael Chessum writes:

The government’s assault on the welfare state, although rooted in class rather than age, constitutes the biggest peacetime generational betrayal in modern British history.

And the older sixties generational moral entrepreneurs, albeit from the centrist liberal tendency. are realising that something is acutely wrong with the trends in social change. Polly Toynbee opined in late October:

Executive pay soars while the young poor face freefall. Where is Labour? As the income gap yawns wider and the full blast of cuts hits home, those left behind will find others to voice their anger.

And at last a television reviewer is able to fathom a constructively positive depiction of British teenagers in a fly on the wall documentary series based in a secondary school in Harlow, Essex. Barbara Ellen conceded:

It’s all too easy to hate teens – try a little love instead. Educating Essex has made me re-evaluate my views of today’s teenagers.

It grieves me to think that there are social and political developments in Britain that risk driving out the creativity and brilliance of our young generation to seek a better life abroad rather like their contemporaries in Italy now and in times past.

Elizabeth Bowen a respected and much analysed modernist pioneer of the 20th century

There are still three and four days left to listen again to the Catherine Bailey independent production of the radio dramatisation of the Harold Pinter screenplay of the iconic modernist novel of the Blitz years by Elizabeth Bowen The Heat of the Day. I could not fault the casting, direction and performances, but my imagination could not cope at times with the narrative deployment of screenplay directions.

It is, in my opinion, an immensely complex book and whereas Harold Pinter’s filmic structuring for television worked in the visual medium, I was not sure whether the novel needed turning inside out in a fresh audio dramatisation.

However, the adaptation of the Pinteresque and the retention of the Bowensque by Tristram Powell and Honor Borwick proved to be aesthetically rather bracing.  And Nigel Anthony and Honeysuckle Weeks contributed riches in the vocal and emotional interpretations of their characters. Not enough is made of the fact that Elizabeth Bowen trained as a journalist .

Cover of first US edition of The Heat of the Day

Her introduction to Bloomsbury was through the generally forgotten Diploma for Journalism course run by the University of London at King’s College. Bowen scholars should start ordering Dr. Fred Hunter’s Hacks and Dons due to be published before Christmas.

For a masterclass in audio dramatisation might I suggest catching the award winning and brilliant adaptation by Joe Dunlop of Len Deighton’s novel Bomber on Friday 11th November. All four one hour episodes run between 2.30 p.m. to 11.30 p.m. in the manner of the time span of an actual bombing raid on Germany by the RAF in the Second World War.

The production, if I remember correctly, was the first by BBC Radio Four in Dolby Prologic Surround Sound.  I can hear Tom Baker in narration and Sam West in character performance in my mind even though I last heard this in the late 1990s.

You have to be fast to catch some of the gems running on Radio Four Extra. Better give the three part dramatisation of Sebastion Faulks’ Birdsong a listen before it disappears into ether and Internet slumber in about a week’s time.

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