Alain Elkann: the elegance in journalism

Being moderate or tolerant or open is not a sign of weakness but of civilization and strength … It means we can all live in the same house as equals.

Alain Elkann

My dear readers, today I’m very pleased to introduce you one of the most elegant pen in journalism, Mr. Alain Elkann. Before we begin, I’d like to thank Mr. Elkann on behalf of our audience for granting this interview.

Here you can find his short biography:

Alain Elkann is an author, intellectual and journalist who was born in New York,23rd March 1950. Internationally well-known, his books have been translated into languages including French, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Hebrew, Turkish and Japanese. Interview work in English includes dialogue with Prince Hassan Bin Talal of Jordan, To Be A Muslim, and The Voice of Pistoletto with the artist Michelangelo Pistoletto, published autumn 2014 by Rizzoli Ex Libris.

Alain has maintained a weekly interview column for the Italian national daily newspaper La Stampa since 1989. His archive encompasses an impressive range of celebrated subjects, including award-winning writers and editors; film stars and directors; fashion designers and businessmen; artists, collectors and museum curators; politicians and diplomats; economists and historians; thinkers and human rights activists.  Two books of classic interviews have been published by Bompiani.

Alain teaches Jewish 20th century writers – from Franz Kafka to Primo Levi, from Philip Roth to Aharon Appelfeld – at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. He has lectured on art, Italian literature and Jewish studies at the Universities of Oxford, Columbia, Jerusalem and Milan’s IULM. He is President of The Foundation for Italian Art & Culture (FIAC) in New York and in 2009 Alain was awarded the prestigious Legion d’Honneur by the French Republic.

(This biography is from the website


Thank you for this interview. I located your project “Alain Elkann Interviews” on Social Media, and I find it a very interesting way of sharing culture online. Would you like to tell our readers, how did this project start?

My online interviews are published in English, because it is a way to expand my audience. Also, when the interviews come out in printed newspapers, sometimes they are cut, because they adjust the length for the print space. The interviews that I publish on the Internet can be longer, and I can add many original photographs; and, of course, they are in English. The fact is that with the English language they can reach a larger audience, in the US, in England, in China, Ukraine, in France and many other countries. This is a good thing, because it makes my interviews better known, and in many more places and by many more people. Therefore this is the aim, especially with Sunday’s new interviews. On Wednesdays I usually publish classic interviews from the past on the site, where I have talked with very significant historical figures, some of whom are not still alive. So I am building a kind of bulletin board about these great celebrities. Whoever has access to my website can read these interviews at

I know you are a great admirer of Classical Music. I read a very touching interview that you made with the Maestro Luciano Pavarotti. Would you like to tell our readers some anecdotes about him?

Pavarotti, unexpectedly, was a person that impressed me so much. Over time I interviewed him twice: once at his home in Modena, when he was married to his first wife (Adua Veroni), and a second time I met him in Pesaro, when he was married to his second wife (Nicoletta Mantovani). He had a nature that was so lively, sharp and full of anecdotes. One of the things he said that struck me very much was a story that he told me about his early career. It was a life lesson to me, and I always like to share this story with other people. He was very poor, he came from a humble family of Modena, and when he was a young tenor he started to work with Mirella Freni (the famous soprano) and the conductor Von Karajan. At some point, after a long tour and training very hard, Luciano asked Von Karajan, “What about money?” The Conductor answered him, very calmly,“You must preoccupy yourself with singing well, and you’ll see that money will come.” So it was. This is a lesson to remember, that you should try to do your best and you’ll see that the result will come. I have always kept this in mind, it is almost like an economics lesson.

(The beautiful interview to the great Maestro Luciano Pavarotti:

As a journalist, what do you think about this new era of communication?

I see the new media as multiplier of news. It is not that newspapers, television and radio have vanished, but Social Media are another way to communicate. Those who cannot read the papers today have the possibility to read and share news, and I believe in this way we can all stay immediately connected to the world. As far as I’m concerned, I feel less isolated. For example Alida, if you care about this interview, you must translate it into the English language, and I will explain why: most of the world population speaks English. Maybe language is not the most important thing, but everyone, more or less, can speak and read English. If you use the English language you can spread news and articles around the globe, and you will see how many countries your content will be read in. We are living in a better world, because using English is like a sporting event, it’s a live worldwide broadcast. Starting from this concept we can also transport the analogy and refer to content and all news. My interviews are in the newspapers, but, thanks to the New Media, are also all around the globe. That’s my motivation and why I think new media are a good thing.

Alain Elkann  interview for the first time Michelangelo Pistoletto  in the book "La voce di Pistoletto" "The voice of Pistoletto" published by Bompiani

Alain Elkann interview for the first time Michelangelo Pistoletto in the book “La voce di Pistoletto” “The voice of Pistoletto” published in english by Rizzoli

Do you have any tips or suggestions for a young student who wants to pursue a career as a journalist and writer?

Writing and journalism are not the same thing. You’ll have to consider that there are a lot of beautiful journalistic books, but writers are generally fiction writers, or novel writers or story tellers. We can find comedy or poetry writers, or essay writers on history, on philosophy, on science and so forth. They are very different fields. Those who write fiction, generally, are not scholars or researchers. Those who write fiction, usually they have to be storytellers, which is somewhat the same as movie writers. Those who write for the theater, for example, tell stories of fiction, and they have to invent their characters. In an essay you have to study already known characters, those of History.
In journalism you still have to follow or give news, and, for example, in Anglo-Saxon journalism opinions are distinct from news. There are reports in which we are told that “politicians have reached an agreement for Greece in Bruxelles” and the person who gives us this news is not a “journalist” in the strictest sense of the word, but a “reporter” (who reports the news) and it’s a whole different thing, he only tells us a piece of news.
After that we’ll find the news analysts or columnists, namely those who comment on this or that news, or write articles giving their personal points of view. They tell us their opinions. In some newspapers their columns, as happens in Italy, are signed. But in some newspapers, such as the New York Times or The Economist, the names of the columnists never appears, and their opinions are never signed, because they write opinions on behalf of the newspaper. Although it is not actually important who the journalists are that write on behalf of The Economist or New York Times, it is interesting that those opinions remain totally unsigned.
What one must do to become one of these things, I do not know. Slowly but surely, if you are in love with writing, if you love to express yourself through writing, I think you gradually find your way. There are those who began as a sports reporter, some people started as a novelist right away, some people started by doing an enlarged university thesis. There is no precise rule. There are many different ways of being in these two professions, so one finds one’s way. Some are more writers than journalists, and some journalists are columnists, some have a flair for music and art so they become music critics, some are more about chronicling war and have the potential to become a correspondent.

Photo Must Be Credited ©Edward Lloyd/Alpha 079457 14/11/2014 Alain Elkann, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Julia Peyton-Jones Director Serpentine Gallery at Alain Elkann in conversation with Michelangelo Pistoletto Italian Cultural Institute Belgrave Sq London

Photo Must Be Credited ©Edward Lloyd/Alpha 079457 14/11/2014
Alain Elkann, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Julia Peyton-Jones Director Serpentine Gallery
at Alain Elkann in conversation with Michelangelo Pistoletto Italian Cultural Institute Belgrave Sq London

A book you’ve read recently and a museum that you liked.

I recommend a book by Stefan Zweig, the famous Austrian writer of the book “The World of Yesterday” which is his autobiography, and in that very good book the author recounts his life and how he was born into this middle-class family in Vienna and became a great writer in Salzburg. Then came the racial laws, and Hitler came, and Zweig explains how his life started to destroy itself, at which point he lost his identity and the ability to write, and at last he was forced to go into exile. But at the same time his country, Austria, was fast slipping over the brink: that glorious empire became a small province of Germany. Zweig describes the end of this world. It’s really a wonderful book. There is also a very beautiful quotation from this man who no longer has a language.

“Only the person who has experienced light and darkness, war and peace, rise and fall, only that person has truly experienced life.”
― Stefan Zweig, “The World of Yesterday”

Recently I saw the very beautiful retrospective exhibition of Luigi Ontani, in a small town of the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines, a small village that is both the birthplace of Luigi Ontani and the birthplace of Giorgio Morandi. It’s very interesting this exhibition, partly because it is presented in Morandi’s house, so it is like a game “Ontani-Morandi” as a teaser, as a wink “Ontani-Morandi- Morandi-Ontani”.

It’s very interesting when Ontani plays with ceramics and with his imagination reproduces the paintings and still lifes of Morandi. It is a little exhibition, a small show, but I would recommend seeing it because Ontani is a very special artist.
Then from there I went down towards Tuscany, and my first stop was at Arezzo, to Montichiari and then to St. Sepulchre, I did a kind of reunion, from Piero della Francesca in the church of San Francesco. I was astonished when admiring the wonderful frescoes in the Cathedral, and I went to see the “Madonna del Parto” in Montichiari. And that is the uniqueness of Italy. A village of a few houses in the province of Arezzo where there is this extraordinary masterpiece of humanity, this wonderful fresco that the Museum of Modern Art in New York would dream of showing. The picture symbolizes the beginning of modern art, but the city of Montichiari won’t authorize the transportation of the fresco away from the town. So, if you want to see it, you need to go there.

Tell us about your future projects and plans for this year, what’s cooking?

I don’t do television any more. As for future projects, I have a laborious and intense summer, because I’m still working on two books: the first book is about Italian cities and I’m writing it in Italian, the second one is a short novel that I’m writing in English instead. These are the two books that I am planning, and then there are various interviews at one time or another, the first one that is dedicated to Luigi Ontani is due out soon. I’ll spend my summer between Greece and America, and then I’ll go to Rome for the “Day of Jewish Culture” on September 6th. I’m going to talk about my book “Walking Together” which was released in May. In this book there are three interviews: with Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan and Rabbi Toaff. I decided to go to Rome to give a talk because Rabbi Toaff has unfortunately died, and this year there is a commemoration in his honour.


Alain Elkann during the press conference for his book "Camminare Insieme"

Alain Elkann during the press conference for “Walking Together  ”


I agreed to go and talk in Rome because I was very close to Rabbi Toaff, who was a very enlightened, very good and special man. Speaking about enlightened men, I want to talk about Toaff and I’d also like to talk about and remember Father Arturo Paoli. I heard the news that he just died, he was a Pere de Foucauld. He died at 102 years old, in Lucca. As a young man he was the cultural director of “Azione Cattolica”, teacher of Gianni Vattimo, Umberto Eco, Minister Colombo and many others. I went to interview him for the first time when he had reached 80 years of age. I went to visit him at the Iguaçu Falls, we had a long conversation and we did a wonderful interview, and we had a beautiful Mass where there were children. I have a great memory about that, it was a very nice thing. We remained friends and he was an extraordinary man, as Toaff also was, so I remember him.


Thanks to Mr. Elkann for this instructive interview.


I suggest you visit his website and his Social Media Pages:


A very special thanks to David Hughes and again to Mr.Elkann for this beautiful inscription:

I love to write every day, Alain Elkann

The Glenn Gould Foundation: from Bach to Philip Glass


“I think that if I were required to spend the rest of my life on a desert island, and to listen to or play the music of any one composer during all that time, that composer would almost certainly be Bach. I really can’t think of any other music which is so all-encompassing, which moves me so deeply and so consistently, and which, to use a rather imprecise word, is valuable beyond all of its skill and brilliance for something more meaningful than that — its humanity.”

 Glenn Gould


My dear friends and piano lovers, today I’m so honored to have as special guest The Glenn Gould Foundation from Toronto.

We know Glenn Gould as one of the best interpreter of Bach and a visionary communicator. The Glenn Gould Foundation collects the legacy of “the exegete of Bach” and brings to us his indelible memory involving international artists and create a lot of beautiful project as you can see in the Official website the #GivingChallenge

This year in (April 12th – 14th 2015)  the american composer Philip Glass has been chosen as the Eleventh Glenn Gould Prize Laureate.  Through his operas, symphonies, film scores, compositions for ensembles, and wide-ranging collaborations with artists from many disciplines, Philip Glass has had an extraordinary impact on the musical, artistic and intellectual life of his times.

“Our jury has made a brilliant choice in selecting Philip Glass,” said Brian Levine, Executive Director of The Glenn Gould Foundation.  “At the start of his career his music was seen as radical and even derided for being contrary to the prevailing musical current, but his work advanced solidly until it permeated our cultural consciousness; it has exerted a profound influence on a whole generation of composers, filmmakers, dramatists and opera directors.  In his work and life, he reveals himself to be a man of deep spirituality and conscience as reflected in the themes of his operatic creations and film scores. We are honoured to present the Prize to an artist of such originality, conviction and vision.”


“I am very pleased to be the winner of the Eleventh Glenn Gould Prize.  It is for me a special honor as I am one of the many musicians who have been inspired by him. Glenn Gould’s name is associated with a lifetime of excellence in music interpretation and performance. Also I am aware that this award places me in the company of some of the most celebrated names in the broad spectrum of the music of our time. It is, therefore, with great pleasure that I accept this award.”

Philip Glass


When and where The Glenn Gould Foundation started. What are the key points about your program (vision and mission)?


The Glenn Gould Foundation is a registered Canadian charitable organization that was established in 1983 in Toronto, following Glenn Gould’s death.  Our mission is to honour Glenn Gould’s spirit and legacy by celebrating brilliance, promoting creativity and transforming lives through the power of music and the arts with the Foundation’s signature activities, including The Glenn Gould Prize. 

Glenn Gould, people know his personality according to the videos that are circulating on the web. He was a great communicator, as McLhuan, he has been able to talk about piano and art all over the media , such as radio and television. Do you think is important, in this new era, to use social media to spread a certain type of music, such as Bach?

It’s really exciting that the world has access to videos of Glenn Gould’s performances, and that they are still so widely viewed and shared. Social media is now one of the biggest means of communication in the world, and we think it’s important to be able to use the internet to share music and other arts with people who wouldn’t be able to see them otherwise.

I read with pleasure the announcement that the american composer and pianist Philip Glass has been named the Eleventh recipient of the Glenn Gould Prize!  Would you like to tell to our readers something about this special occasion?

 This past April, we convened a jury of 10 celebrity artists and arts supporters from around the world, and after intense deliberations they chose Philip Glass as our 11th Glenn Gould Prize Laureate. We’re very excited by their decision and we’re now in the planning stages for the Prize Gala where he will receive the award. Philip Glass is a visionary artist and unique in his field for his work across multiple genres – he has worked in film, theatre, pop and concert music throughout his extensive career. Please stay tuned for upcoming news about the Eleventh Prize events, including the announcement of Mr. Glass’s chosen recipient of the City of Toronto Glenn Gould Protégé Prize.

11th Prize Jury

In the near future there are some possibilities to create a Glenn Gould project in Europe, or even in Italy? 

 We’re always open to exciting opportunities, and love to collaborate if someone suggests a great project!

The Glenn Gould Foundation recently started an on line project “Piano Week” : how was that experience?

The Piano Week project was actually produced by the CBC, we weren’t really involved. It was a fun project, with posts on all things keyboard related, and it included a lovely video of the Glenn Gould statue that we commissioned from sculptor Ruth Abernathy in 1999. You can see the video (and the rest of the blog) here:!/Piano-Week/blogs/2015/1/Watch-this-beautiful-Glenn-Gould-time-lapse-photo-essay

Do you have any particular anecdote about Gould that would you like to tell?

 Here at The Foundation we’re all big fans of Fran’s Restaurant, which was Glenn’s favourite restaurant and still exists in Toronto today. They recently did a 75th Anniversary promotion where guests could order at 1940s pricing – a burger was 25 cents! Glenn’s favourite meal there was scrambled eggs, white toast and weak tea, but our staff prefers the club sandwich with sweet potato fries.

 Future projects and events?

We’re working hard to plan the Eleventh Glenn Gould Prize Gala for Philip Glass! It will take place in Spring 2016. Right now we’re raising funds through the Great Canadian Giving Challenge, through Canada Helps. Please take a look at our social media for updates on how your support can help us launch our new outreach initiatives and maybe even win $10,000! Plus you’ll have a chance to win some cool Glenn Gould prizes. Follow us (links below) to learn more and keep updated on future events and projects!

Special Dedication by The Glenn Gould Foundation

I really would like to thanks for make this interview possible:

Amy-Lynn Kitchen

Director of Design and Communications

Lilian Belknap 

Operations Coordinator

Kate Foster

Office Manager

and of course  Brian Levine 

the Executive Director 


UniVision Days: memorie del cinema, visioni del futuro

Marco Spagnoli Alida Altemburg


UniVision Days è un evento che propone non delle linee guida, ma delle suggestioni e delle contaminazioni. All’ interno del palinsesto si possono, infatti, trovare alcuni classici del grande cinema italiano, i tributi a Maestri con Francesco Rosi, Pierpaolo Pasolini e Mario Monicelli (che avrebbe compiuto 100 anni quest’anno proprio il 16 maggio) nonché una retrospettiva – forse – la prima in Italia, dedicata alle Principesse Disney. Un’orgogliosa celebrazione della storia del cinema con la proiezione integrale di The Story of Film: An Odyssey al fianco di giornate dedicate ad amatissimi personaggi dei cartoni animati.

Marco Spagnoli apre raccontando dell’iniziativa, sette giorni all’insegna della cultura, del cinema e della televisione. Un salotto di incontri per celebrare l’incontro tra il cinema e il mondo digitale.


Gianni Canova Alida Altemburg


Ad UniVision  è parlato di media digitali e sopratutto di tecnologia per l’home entertainment e sopratutto per informare ed educare. Un altro punto saliente della press conference è stato proprio quello della valorizzazione del cinema italiano, che come ha sottolineato il mio ex docente e Preside della Facoltà di Cinema e Comunicazione Iulm Gianni Canova gode invece di un folto pubblico. Il professore ha affermato che il corso di Cinema Italiano è tra i piu seguiti di sempre (vi posso assicurare che è stato proprio uno dei miei corsi preferiti!). Occorre far conoscere i registi, gli attori e tutti i protagonisti dei grandi film italiani.

Antonio De Santo Pinto

Intervento commuovente quello del giornalista Antonio Desanto Pinto che ricordava l’amico Francesco Rosi , con qualche aneddoto sulla prima intervista che fece al grande regista.

Anche il regista Roberto Faenza, grandissimo maestro del cinema italiano di cui ricorderete sicuramente il film ” Sostiene Pereira” con un incredibile Marcello Mastroianni, parla di giovani non informati “Non un ragazzo su oltre 1500 interrogati conosceva uno dei film. Vanno nei multiplex e vedeno quello che viene offerto. Siccome i multiplex non offrono i film più di pensiero ecco che loro non li conoscono. E questo è un probelma solo italiano, Mommy ad esempio ha incassato pochissimo in Italia, mentre in Francia ha incassato quasi 8 milioni. Ecco perché questo tipo di iniziativa è importante andrebbe allargato anche alle scuole. Siamo nel dopoguerra culturale., bisogna ricostruire il paese. E’ un grave danno che subiscono i giovani. Sempre facendo test in un liceo di Palermo ho proiettato Sostiene Pereira con Mastroianni, non uno aveva sentito nominare Mastroianni, e sono trascorsi solo pochi anni dalla sua scomparsa. Ben vengano queste iniziative, bisognerebbe andare nelle scuole. Il nostro è un grande cinema, è un delitto non farlo conoscere.”

Roberto Faenza e Alida Altemburg

UniVision Propone un palinsesto di eventi cinematografici interessantissimi. La presentazione darà il via agli UniVision Days – l’evento culturale dedicato alla valorizzazione dell’home entertainment in Italia – che, attraverso un ricco calendario di incontri, sarà a Milano fino al 14 Maggio. Una serie di appuntamenti fatti di incontri, dibattiti, confronti, proiezioni di anteprime alla presenza di registi, attori, distributori home video al quale è possibile partecipare gratuitamente.

Roberto Faenza e Marco Spagnoli

Ecco il programma di queste giornate:

6 Maggio

Conferenza Stampa Mediateca Braidense Ore 11.00

Francesco Rosi Day

Ore 15.00 – Proiezione ‘Le mani sulla città’

Ore 17.00 – Master Class su Il cinema civile italiano

* Daniele Vicari

Andrea Molaioli

Ore 19.00 – Proiezione Unico Intervista a Francesco Rosi

Ore 20.00 – Proiezione ‘Salvatore Giuliano’ con introduzione dell’inviato speciale Tonino Pinto

7 Maggio

Ore 10.30 – Proiezione ‘Todo Modo’

Ore 15.00 – Master Class sulla musica per il cinema in Italia – World Intellectual Property Day

* Pasquale Catalano

* Riccardo Giagni

* Lele Marchitelli

* Umberto Scipione

* Giovanni Venosta

* Fabio Liberatori

* Giordano Corapi

* Pivio & Aldo De Scalzi

* Santi Pulvirenti

Ore 18.30 Roberto Faenza presenta ‘Copkiller’

8 Maggio

Cinema e letteratura

Ore 10.30 Proiezione Teatri di Guerra di Mario Martone con Martone e Fabio Ferzetti curatore del Dvd

Ore 12.30 – Presentazione libri

Un cantiere letterario per Luchino Visconti a cura di Salvatore Silvano Nigro e Silvia Moretti, Edizioni Sellerio

Il tempo migliore della nostra vita di Antonio Scurati, Edizioni Bompiani

Alla presenza degli autori

Ore 15.00 – Il Giovane Favoloso di Mario Martone

Ore 17.30 – Maraviglioso Boccaccio alla presenza del cast e dei registi

Ore 21.00 – Senza nessuna pietà – alla presenza del cast e del regista

Vi aspettiamo ad UniVision Days, non mancate!



a Milano dal 6 all’ 8 maggio presso l’Università IULM, e dal 9 al 14 maggio presso lo spazio Vogue in Porta Nuova;
a Roma dal 11 al 18 giugno presso le Scuderie di Palazzo Ruspoli.