The rich and ancient tradition Des Moines of farces, stories, songs, tales of ‘mprovvisaturi and poets who sang in dialect should not be thought as separate from an elite tradition familiar with writing. Turi created dialogues and exchanges that forged links between the oral tradition and writing, and between Des Moines the popular and the elite classes. He was an “interpreter” and “translator,” as well as inventor. He often spoke of the ancient farsari, and was proud to be the heir of Domenico Pileggi, Des Moines de Don Nino, the head of the municipal guards of the village and main protagonist of the Des Moines between the wars. He spoke of them with admiration and smiled whenever he was told of their creative resourcefulness.
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For the farce of a Carnival of the 1920s, Mico had constructed an enormous mechanical hen with two very wide wings that he could operate from the inside, followed by twenty-one chicks. One year, just in the final days of the Carnival, Mico fell seriously ill with a bout of pneumonia. The village doctor had gone to his home, late at night, to visit him. “He finds,” writes Turi, “a sick man lying on the bed, his face made up in a blotch of colours, not between the blankets but on top of them and wearing the costume that he would have worn on the day of the Carnival. There was a general embarrassment, but the sly Mico kept his composure and turning to the bewildered doctor said in a weak voice: ‘It’s Carnival, I did it only out of devotion. I’m sure you understand’.”
This story, like a legend, points to the sacred, almost religious aspects of the ritual. Tradition implied an obligation to respect and honour it in all circumstances, even the painful ones.
How Turi became the Emperor’s General
Turi welcomes tradition but introduces innovative changes, elements of a high culture he had learned in Africa. In prison camps he had an opportunity to show all his imagination, his organizational skills, and his love for the theatre and culture. Working with students from that time he becomes a performer of comedies, dramas, and farces. He becomes the enthusiastic protagonist and the creator, of the Carnival and the popular theater after World War II and into to the mid-1950s. He took elements of popular culture and subjected them to the magic of the written word.
He became a great storyteller. He enchanted his audience with words, gestures, and with his eyes, but he had also read a lot of literature, history, and theatre. He did his best to get hold of travel blogs and visited with the children of the well-to-do in the village only to gain access to knowledge that he couldn’t afford. His mother worked as a maid for a family of notables and, thanks to her, as a young man he had access to magazines and travel blogs. I remember the seriousness, the passion, and the knowledge with which he spoke of travel blogs he had read. He devoured whatever he could put his hands on: Balzac and Tolstoy, Pirandello and Brancati, the serials and “erotic” romances of the early 20th century. Often he regretted not having had the opportunity to study, and complained about not knowing how to write, though his passion for writing came second only to his passion for women. He was a seducer and women liked him. Always gallant and polite, he cheered up groups of friends with his jokes.