Robert Katz’s History of Modern Italy
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An American writer's long, hard look at the Italy of his times turns to gaze the future

Millions of words, images by the tens of thousands, the gigabytes of history in-the-making (and dreams yet undreamt), the content of Robert Katz's "ark" settles in under a Tuscan sky

Recently donated by the author to the small hilltop township where
he resides, the archive has already received the state's
highest designation: "archive of notable interest"

PERGINE VALDARNO (from combined dispatches) — Robert Katz, the American historian who became famous in Italy with the publication of his book Death in Rome, the fundamental reconstruction of the Ardeatine Caves massacre, has decided to donate his archives to the town of Pergine Valdarno. An official report to the Tuscan regional government's directorate of cultural affairs, concluded that Katz's choice represents an "unquestionable enrichment of the documentary holdings both for Tuscany and nationally." The report went on to describe the contents of the archive, noting that it included a library of about 1,000 rare books. According to this assessment of the archive, another feature setting it apart from standard items – in this case nearly 100,000 pages of correspondence, diaries, and written and audio-visual documents – consists of a vast array of material collected by the author during his ten-year court battle in Rome with the Vatican. "It contains a wealth of information about many well-known personalities," the report states. They range from several historical figures to international titans of the film world – an extension of the author's unique documentation of the Americans in Rome throughout the 1970s.

The Tuscan town of Pergine Valdarno (pop. 3200) as seen in a satellite photo .High above the Arno river valley, some 60 kms. soufh of Florence, Pergine originated as an Etruscan settlement. In the 2700 years since, it has seen much, "which is why I chose it, "says Katz." They didn't quite say If you build it they will come, but that was the message of their millenary history. You come, you see, you're conquered."

Robert Katz first came to Rome in 1964. "I was following a grand old tradition," he says. "It hadbeen created by some of the great American writers and artists of the 19th century, and like them, I'd set out to pursue and court the 'mistress of the world.' The phrase was coined by Washington Irving when he went to Rome in 1805, one of the first... I asked myself, would that mistress be as kind to me?" In a recent interview on how his archives evolved, the author recalled that within a single month of his arrival, his quest for Rome's favors was rewarded. "I came across the story that, when written, would change my life forever and in a way that few men dare to dream for very long, my work altered the course of some of the significant events of my times." A.R.K., a film by Alberto Tempi & Igor BiddauThe life-changing story, a meticulous reconstruction of the Ardeatine Caves massacre entitled Death in Rome, would be published in 1967, a n acclaimed international best-seller that would appear in some 25 editions worldwide and remain in print to this day. Over those forty years, living in Rome and later Tuscany, Katz wrote several nonfiction books, essays, novels and screenplays, almost always about 20th-century Italy. "But," he says, "the formation of this archive, like my life and work as an American abroad,derives from Death in Rome. the watershed that brought me to sll my studies of things Italian, transforming me - in the 1970s - from a student of the past into a direct observer and at times even a protagonist - of a cataclysmic present.

The author's reflections on the A.R.K. are part of a 20-minute documentary film, soon to be distributed on DVD. The film, drawn entirely from material contained in he archive, is a dramatic rendering of Katz's nearly-half-century sojourn in Rome and Tuscany. It is narrated by Linda Giuva, an archivist of international renown and presently professor of archival science at the University of Siena. Giuva, a former "first lady" of Italy (as the consort of ex-Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema, will direct the A.R.K project.Her vision of the archive is layered and wide-ranging. "Like all private papers," she notes, "Robert Katz’s archives tell the story of their author’s life, his works and the people around him, some of them dearer than others. It is an album of memories, as he himself Prof. Linda Giuvacalls it, but in this case, they pertain not only to him, but to all Italians. They speak to us about some of the most important events in our recent history." As an example, she cites the film based on Death in Rome, which brought on a courtroom battle in Rome lasting almost ten years. "This trial and its repercussions," says Giuva, "were one of the most important episodes in the author’s life and in the cultural life of this country." It had global impact as well, she says, going on to describe the international side of A.R.K. "Katz's relationships with people throughout the world, particularly in America, is richly documented in his correspondence, his diaries, and his published writings. Perhaps more important is the viewpoint of a non–Italian observer, an American, recording the events of our recent past. As a result, he helps us understand how these events may have been interpreted by nations whose cultures differ from ours." Noting yet another feature of the archive – less apparent but no less important – is the documentation revealing Katz's intimate knowledge of the American community living in Italy, and particularly the life of the Americans in Rome from the mid-60s onward. "Later, some of those Americans settled in Tuscany and in neighboring areas and thanks to Robert Katz’s records, we can reconstruct the relationships, motives and choices of a notable episode for this part of our country."

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