In his ambulatory reflections on Italy’s Po valley just after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986, Gianni Celati writes: “il mondo esterno ha bisogno che lo osserviamo e raccontiamo, per avere esistenza” (126).1 The English translation of that statement is something like the following: “the external world needs for us to observe and recount it, so that it may have existence.” I cite the original Italian for the particular verb used, raccontare, which can be translated as “to narrate,” or even “to tell the story of,” just as easily as “to recount.” Motivated by an ethical commitment to both place and people, Celati is an avid narrator of the lived world, what he calls the mondo esterno in the...

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