Antonio Pascale, born in Naples in 1966, lived first in Caserta then in Rome, where he works and lives. He is a writer, essayist, television author and ministerial inspector (Ministry of Agriculture). He has published many books and won many awards. His latest book is “La foglia di Fico, storia di donne, uomini, alberi” (Einaudi), with which he won the Chiara Prize. He edits Agrifoglio and contributes to Il Mattino, Il Foglio, le Scienze and Mind. He writes for Repubblica guides and is involved in science popularization.
Pascal’s wager, whose 400th anniversary of his birth falls in June 2023, was about God. Man is a tragic being, without hope, argued the pessimist Pascal, so it is better to bet on the existence of God: nothing is lost and everything is gained. Antonio Pascale’s bet is a different one, and it is not about the existence of God, but it starts from the following question: can we use Pascal’s pessimism to investigate human nature in a secular way? To understand why human beings have invented God and stories? How do we move and why do we ask ourselves what is convenient and what is not? So the other wager is to link pessimism to the search for the reasons that make life worth living. Moreover, pessimism is the lever to answer: did the idea of God arise from the empty stomach of us humans? If the idea of God was born to honor those who feed us, if the idea of God is to fill an emptiness, then it makes sense to ask what happened to the emptiness from which everything was born. Antonio Pascale, with the sharpness and irony of his pen and head, thinks about how we are trying to fill that void. A pamphlet on the necessity of pessimism and the novelty of atheism.
La foglia di fico
What is this book about? It’s about a man who the more he lives, the more he forgets; the more he desires, the more he is disappointed; the more he reads and learns, the more he finds himself confused and afraid: a bit like everyone. That’s why he is looking for something stable, some clear points of reference. Only he, unlike many others, turns to plants, constructing a sort of atypical tale, in which each episode is like a journey (through childhood, through time, through his relationships with women). After all, these magnificent creatures have been here long before us and will be here after we’ve gone.
Plants are beacons; they contain symbols that are thousands of years old, reaching us loud and clear. They defy adversity and thus offer us a model of resistance, for they tenaciously display the power of contradiction: the desire to live and love (expressed by the cherry tree) which can lead to frustration and insecurity; the strength (of the oak) which can abandon us instantly, casting us into despair; democracy as a process of adaptation between depth and surface (the olive); the need for a rite of passage (wheat), for a journey towards death in order to be reborn. This book is a horoscope, a seismograph, a time
machine, as well as a kind of botanical study of feelings. On the other hand, plants are an exceptional tool for dealing with our mysterious, amusing, intricate nature: they resemble us more than we might ever have thought.
In the world there are plant experts and there are writers: then there’s Antonio Pascale, a passionate connoisseur of nature and one of the most widely appreciated storytellers of his generation. He knows how to interact with trees, listening to their stories and sensing their intrinsic beauty.