“Piazza Dante will never be the same without Tullio Pironti’s bookshop”: Marco Ottaiano’s memory of the boxer publisher

Closed door, away with the sign, no titles in the window, not even the window at the gates of the “street of books” of the historical center of Naples. Could this be the first frame of the documentary on Tullio Pironti. “He had never hidden his desire for a film about his life, I’m working on a documentary. And it could be opened like this, on the door, why not ”, he says to The Reformist Marco Octajanus, professor of Spanish, literature and translation at the Oriental University. There is no longer the “Prince of Port’Alba” and his reign is also over: what was once the bookshop of this competitive and reckless publisher, capable of competing with the biggest publishing houses, a son of the war and a boxer who has also made it to the national team, is closing its doors for good. The news made known a couple of days ago has pierced the attention of the Neapolitans.

Pironti, with that face a bit like that, sort of Spencer Tracy in via Tribunali, cigarette perpetually hanging from his lips, always there in Dante square, in the bookstore, did not miss a day of work until his death in September 2021 at the age of 84. He was the first to publish cult authors in Italy such as Don DeLillo, Raymond Carver, Bret Easton Ellis, Nagib Mahfuz. He has outclassed major publishers by stealing many best-sellers from them. “If there was a Clint Eastwood around, he’d make a movie right away”, Emanuela Audisio had summed up. Pironti gave a screenplay to Giorgio Verdelli. Francesco Patierno came very close ten years ago, starring Giorgio Pasotti. No way.

The boxer bookseller was a well-known face: for those who bought school books and for his adventurous life which he had recounted in Books and Fuckswhich he himself had edited and published in 2005 before that Bompiani did a new edition that came out last year. “He made history with his publishing house, the bookshop thanks above all to his niece Chiara had taken on a more varied line in recent years: it also sold antique books, titles that were almost unobtainable. However, his vocation for books had always been scholastic, which had also allowed him to become a publisher. With Tullio’s death, I lost a friend who I knew I’d always find there. And Piazza Dante without his bookshop will never be the same ”.

Ottaiano was a boy when at the end of the master’s degree in literary translation and editing of texts he decided to do an internship at that bookshop in Piazza Dante where “we all bought texts for school”. And so he met Pironti, he was his collaborator and editor, opponent of long chess games and companion of countless chats. And for this reason he also feels the responsibility to pass on that story. And for this reason the anecdote is easy. “When September and October arrived and school began it was impregnable, it was even difficult to go together for lunch or dinner. ‘I keep to’ school’, he said. And we friends used to make fun of him: at school, as if it were a flu like Australian or Spanish flu. He also tells it in his autobiography that when he won the auction for 51 million lire the rights to Less than zero by Bret Easton Ellis it was precisely the sale of school textbooks that gave him a certain security”.

Next week in a side clearing still in Piazza Dante one will be discovered marble plaque in memory of the publisher boxer. That same corner should be named after him in a few years. Second The morning the premises of the historic bookshop could become – it is not official – a bar. And the coincidence is singular: precisely on the theme of tourism, the hit-and-run invasion, the proliferation of bars and clubs and pizzerias that is changing the center of Naples, Ottaiano had published a particularly successful post a few days ago.

That is: the cover of the novel by Ermanno Rea, Naples Railwayaltered to Naples Fryersto. “I was editor of that novel, it came close to the Strega Prize (beaten by 50 votes by The solitude of prime numbers by Paolo Giordano, ed), I feel a little mine. It was a provocation: the graphics were modified by Abdullah Ferdinando Ottaviano Quintavalle, alias Caracas, the novel’s protagonist, among others. Perhaps better than anyone else, Rea has recounted certain phases of the city, I believe that today he would have dedicated himself to this transformation. I don’t see why Naples should be condemned to this type of tourism, when there is certain potential. Can it really just be a dirty paper, greasy with pizzas and fries, as Pino Daniele sang? Because?”.

And what did Pironti think? “He was worried that Naples might lose its identity and Port’Alba its book vocation. She greatly appreciated the effort Berisius who has transformed his space without distorting it into a literary café, also open in the evening as a bar. He always had words of appreciation for that initiative, he wasn’t a plastered person. Port’Alba is still safe at the moment, even if you have closed Guida and this was a great sadness for him despite the fact that it was a competitor for the school ”. Guida was the King of Port’Alba, he the Prince. “They respected each other, once Guida passed through Piazza Dante and Tullio addressed him in his own way: ‘Mario, vulimme fa n’incontro e’ boxe, me e te, nu ring a piazza Dante?’. And the other one: ‘But addò go Tullio, you stay all’amappusciat’. Kot.

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Professional journalist. He attended studied and graduated in languages. He attended Suor Orsola Benincasa’s School of Journalism in Naples. He collaborated with the AdnKronos news agency. He wrote about sports, culture, entertainment.

“Piazza Dante will never be the same without Tullio Pironti’s bookshop”: Marco Ottaiano’s memory of the boxer publisher – Il Riformista