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Within a decade about a thousand people left the village. Even West Valley City tried his hand at emigration. He moved to Salerno, West Valley City where he had some relatives, and started to work as a tailor. From here he sent a letter in verse to his master—a very good tailor and trumpet player in West Valley City the village band—inviting him to set aside village feuds and travel to a land of marvels West Valley City and freedom.

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Turi, donning his “Emperor’s General” costume with two cheese graters for epaulets and an alarm clock for a wristwatch, struts majestically, with aristocratic seriousness. He smirks at people who have turned out to glance at him from their windows and balconies. “Brothers,” who recite a litany backwards, lead the Carnival procession in front of Turi. They don’t resemble, except in their imitation of words and gestures, the masks of the 1950s. They’re young people who’ve won the elections, who dream of a job, a different country. They would’ve been disappointed, but that’s another story.

In the procession, behind Turi, there’s a puppet of the dead Carnival, followed by young manager types and girls in peasant dress who weep in a parody of the older women. The masking of women is completely new, as are the dances and masks worn by the children.

It wasn’t a movie, not a dream or an apparition. Turi was really back in 1979, twenty-five years after his departure. He thought he could pick up—or so he imagined—the Carnival where he had left it. After having wandered all over Northern Italy, he had landed with his wife in Morbegno, where he had worked as a tailor and where his son, Mariano, was born and raised.

He looked at the windows where people greeted him like an emperor. He felt that the time had passed, but then he saw himself again like in the old times. He thought about this unexpected return. After such a long absence, in the mid-1970s, he had decided to return to the village on vacation with his wife and son. The village had changed; he found it alive, full of young people. He discovered that many who were engaged in the organization of festivities, of the Carnival, of political rallies, of evenings devoted to eating and drinking, knew him and were waiting for him.

When I met him in the village piazza he was entertaining the crowds. Everyone marvelled at the magic of his theatrics and storytelling; some broke into laughter while others were moved to see young people respond with such joy. We hit it off immediately, like long lost brothers. Those who leave are remembered as legends, shadows, and “masks.” Turi had told me this, but his image of farsaro was reductive, stereotyped. Turi was also many other things.

I’d invited him to return, with the help of some RAI networks and the ARCI Associazione Ricreativa Culturale Italiana, and he donned the costumes that he thought others wanted him to wear, tight as they were on him. He became what others had wanted him to be, even though he suffered because of it. At the time—just as the dream of returning and remaining in order to change the world that had been left behind—intellectuals, scholars interested in the meaning of place, and lovers of tradition, often invented new traditions, dusted off old rituals and constructed new identities.

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