Who is Giovanni Dalla-Valle?
I am essentially a very intense and self-absorbed personality that was born in Italy and has been living and working in England since 1992, mainly as psychiatrist. During my free time I like writing, fencing and studying languages. By nature I tend to get easily bored with doing always the same things. So I have always felt the need to fill my life with lots of exciting things to do. Many people do it with drugs and alcohol. I do it with life. I am addicted.
And what do you think of life?
Sometimes, when I think of the misery of my soul, the greed, anger, pride, jealousies that I let take over for so many years and the huge damages caused by these, I feel ashamed that I have been given such a beautiful gift. If then I look at the elegance and perfection of human muscles, the power of breath, the magic of eyes, the effects of a simple kiss, I feel like a sissy child who has been given a wonderful toy instead of a slap.
When did you start writing?
In 1989, whilst under tremendous pressure from work. I could not cope with medicine at that time. I thought it had been imposed on me by my father, no wonder how good my performance could be. Writing allowed me to liberate my real self for years. Only recently I have rediscovered medicine as a genuine interest. But this is different. I am obviously a more experienced man now and I can handle many drives at the same time.
What would have been the choice if your father had not made pressures?
History, no doubts. It took me years to come to terms with that missing. Eventually I realised I would probably have become an unhappy and frustrated school teacher. The reality is that I do love History but, again, doing only that would have probably left me dissatisfied. I love speaking several languages, spending hours on writing, doing sports, travelling. I am just a pretty precious guy and this can also be a defect, of course. But I need to feel I am free to cultivate all my curiosities like different flowers of an ever-growing garden. Try to suppress one and you will stir the worst part of my nature!
You have been a psychiatrist for nearly half of your life: how did that condition your writing?
Very little, I want to hope. Perhaps it has helped to better build the psychology of my characters, but even that did not happen often. Psychiatry is in fact a very dangerous thing for people who want to be creative. Its obsessive concern with meanings behind everything one says and does is a fabulous killer for any attempt to grow poetry. Art needs instincts, impulses, follies to be liberated and accepted as they are...the exact opposite of what psychiatry often does to people. The moment you want to ‘understand’ a mystery, you kill it. When I write, I prefer to be the “patient”.
Why do you like History so much?
People with no knowledge of their past have no real future. You cannot know where you are going to if you don’t know where you are coming from.
And what do you think of this age?
Today we live in what I call The Age of the Stupid. The tyranny of media and the market society have reduced us to a mass of consumers, only aiming to fill our basic instincts, mainly food, sex and physical rewards. The free market society, which was in principle an Anglo-Saxon creature but is now embraced by the entire planet, has brilliantly flattened the famous Marlow’s pyramid of human needs, equalising ethical and aesthetical values to the most primitive animal instincts. Human mankind has given up its noblest commitments. Today many people just want their daily take-away, a nice car, East Enders on TV, glamorous mobiles, exotic holidays, a good fuck from time to time and go to sleep happy with that.
What is your political position?
None of those currently available. I can see politicians today act like superstore managers. They need to make people happy and so they try to fill their marketing needs the best they can do. Unfortunately they should start doing the opposite. What most people want is not necessarily the best thing for them. Good politicians should be good educators, not shop keepers.
How about religion?
Indispensable to propose models for correct spiritual growth. But often it is used by people as a tool to express their own narcissism, whether good or bad. This thing about judging who should go to hell and who should go to heaven, so typical of many religious followers, is a genuine act of narcissism and grandiosity. In reality no one can claim this right in front of our Maker. And often religion is just a tool for social control, like many ideologies. Jesus always discouraged people from judging others. Religion should be like a good school to prepare ourselves for our real life, not an excuse to take the ultimate command on earth.
What do you think of women?
The same I think of men, both wonderful creatures. But with different instincts. The rise of women in power in modern society has allowed more peace and sensitivity to the benefit of civilisation. Men tend to be more insensitive and aggressive by nature. We rather like treating interpersonal problems with sharp interventions rather than nurturing attitudes. But today the balance is gone off to the opposite. The nanny society, with his political correctness, has become another form of oppression. Sometimes you need to be sharp, you need to make cuts, you need to raise the voice and stamp your fist on the table. Never mind if some flowers shake at that: there are human priorities that are far more important than sweet manners and this is something many women find hard to understand. A society driven only by female instincts would be as catastrophic as one driven only by male testosterone. We need a good balance.
What do you think of your country?
My country is England. This is where I have chosen to live. This is where many people allowed me to grow and enjoy my life. Italy is too much of a nepotistic, castrating and narrow-minded society. It has no future in a world increasingly based on daily fast comparisons and individual merits. And in any case it never really existed. A 150 years old geographical experiment doomed to dissolve and release his components to their original constituencies. Veneto, Piedmont, Lombardy, Sicily, Campania, Tuscany etc. have fabulous individual histories and they were never really designed to blur into a united community. Let’s face it, that type of milk shake has never really worked!
What do you regret you have missed in your life?
Many things, of course, like most people, but after all I can see my final decisions, although sometimes very painful, have led me to live free, independent, powerful and prosperous. Given I am in good health and can enjoy so many things close to the age of 50, I cannot and must not ask for more.
What are the most beautiful things you ever made?
The Ruby Cross, having single-fathered for five years and then getting my family back together, losing my job for witnessing the truth in a coroner’s enquiry against bad colleagues that caused the death of a patient. Not many, really, but I am rather proud of those few.
And the worst?
I have no space to list them here! But surely having failed to get on well with my parents, especially my father. However difficult that relationship, I know I will miss him when he’s gone and only the best memories will prevail. And that will make me feel dreadful ... (PAUSE) ...can I tell you a secret?
The Ruby Cross is actually about fatherhood; it’s the story of a father and a son who don’t get on well until they finally find each other. We now live in a society that has forgotten the role of the father, if not even demonised it in name of some kind of narcissistic self-identification. In reality no one can really mature without incorporating some type of father inside. We are now assisting the growth of a society of permanent children. How boringly silly!
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Still here, and hopefully a bit wiser.
Are you not worried about ageing?
Not at all. The older I become the younger I feel. Wisdom makes life more acceptable and easier so that when the animal instincts of youth have vanished, you can finally release the best part of yourself.
But then you will die!
That’s exactly what I hope for. A man who is scared of dying will never really live his life.