- Urbino, Italy - I’ve looked around the Internet to see if this book has actually been published in English, and it turns out it most certainly hasn’t. So, you must be wondering, why are you even bothering to write a review? That’s a fairly correct question – I hope I’ll be able to convince you why.
As it often happens, this book – originally published in 2006 – is getting a new edition, and a rise in its price, after it was turned into a movie a few months ago. I usually avoid participating in this ridiculous play at my money when all of a sudden a forgotten author becomes everyone’s favourite, only to be forgotten again when he's no longer in vogue. This time, I’m thankful.
La Fine è il Mio Inizio is a book on life – it is described as Terzani’s testament book – and it goes through the unusual life of this man, father, journalist, and, I would dare to say, thinker. It may sound like a silly word, and he probably wouldn’t have liked it, but in a time when most of us live lives that are pre-traced patterns, abandoning our dreams because they look so distant, and never really listening to our needs, a man like this is a revolutionary.
First of all, let’s talk about Terzani. He’s well-known around Europe, and many of his books have been translated into English, French, and German, so you can certainly get a hold of them. He was a war reporter – for the German newspaper Der Spiegel - who spent most of his life living in various parts of Asia and witnessed a number of wars such as in Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. He had a deep love for this continent, its people, its culture, and its hidden treasures, and through all of his traveling through war, he was able to learn a lot about himself in the first place, but also about Man.
Taking time to think about such things as a 22-year old young woman like myself, who is going through University, is in a relationship, and feels so small when she thinks of her future, really is a luxury. It is a luxury for all of us, since we’ve built ourselves lives that are like trains always on the go, and you feel like, if you stop for just one second, you will miss your train. I’ve never been sure if I actually wanted to catch mine.
I’ve seen a huge rise in both the film and book industry on telling stories about people who chose the different way – another example is Into the Wild -, or maybe I just started noticing, but it really should make us think. Everytime one of these stories gets the focus of people’s attention, everyone is like, "Oh, this person really understood what life is," and then goes back to his own occupations. Usually, these stories describe extreme choices – a young man wanting to live off the land in Alaska or a world-traveling journalist who decides to live by himself above the Himalayas, as Terzani did. It’s hard to understand their messages, when they are covered like that.
I never thought these people wanted humanity to suddenly go back to the Neanderthals, even though part of their life philosophy certainly cornered on how technology just makes us less human. There is a chapter in the book, describing Terzani’s discovery of Mustang, a forgotten land in China where a small population used to live unbothered and untouched by technology until a couple decades ago. Terzani witnessed their discovery of television and other amenities, and was foreseeing these people change for the worse. However, as I said, I don’t see technology as Pure Evil. There is a lot of good in how it can be used. So, keeping our personal considerations, how can we translate Terzani’s lesson in our own life?
What I really think is that he saw our unhappiness. He saw an anxious multitude of people getting up everyday for no reason, and chose to tell us what he had learnt. He did it in the most beautiful way – he sat, everyday, for an hour talking with his son, letting him ask questions, until one day, he died.
"I know you’ve been there the whole time, though you don’t know everything about me. As I didn’t know my father’s life and I regret not spending time with him to talk about it."
I would have loved to have that time. Being young is a hard job these days, and we do need someone to tell us how to do it, how to not waste it. That’s this man’s message, that was Christopher McCandless’ message when he went Into the Wild. There’s no need to give up on everything, unless that’s what you want, but don’t give up on your happiness, don’t choke your will.
Also, this is a beautiful story on journalism, on passion, and on being extraordinary. There’s an extraordinarily normal life among these pages – a little boy growing up, learning, starting a family, and getting a job. It’s a book that makes you realize how much of the world there is to see, and how amazing things are around you. Travelling and self-discovery. Writing and self-discovery. Death and self-discovery.
Summing up, I think what really comes out of this book is the importance of being an individual. Going through the hard times in life by nurturing yourself.
"Because obviously you are not your name, you are not your profession, you are not the little seaside house you own. And if you learn how to die living […], then you get used at not identifying yourself in these things, seeing their extremely limited, transitory, ridiculous, impermanent value. […] Then you understand you cannot be those things that disappear so easily."
Terzani - with the help of son, Folco, who wrote down their conversations - can tell all these things without sounding rhetorical or presumptuous. He just seems to be saying, "You know, I’m almost done. Here’s what I learned, I hope it’s good for you."
So, there is what I learned by reading it. I hope it makes you want to read it too.