‘Zygmunt Bauman. La luce in fondo al tunnel’ (Zygmunt Bauman. The light at the end of the tunnel) – Book review

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After the death of sociologist Zygmunt Bauman in January 2017, a number of his texts, and texts about him, have been published in Italian which are not yet available in English. Among these is his last public lecture, which he held in Florence in November 2016, published recently as ‘l’ultima lezione’; an article on Pope Francis called ‘il dono’ (the gift) published in the book ‘Francesco e noi’; and his book on young people, ‘nati liquidi’ (born liquid), which he was writing together with Thomas Leoncini at the time of his death, and which is currently being translated into various languages (the English translation will be published by Polity Press in October 2018). Another recent publication is ‘Zygmunt Bauman. La luce in fondo al tunnel. Dialoghi sulla vita e la modernità’ (Zygmunt Bauman. The light at the end of the tunnel. Dialogues on life and modernity), which contains a number of his public lectures on the themes of dialogue and on migrants and refugees, and which contain various references to Pope Francis.

The collection of Italian texts, edited by Mario Marazziti and Luca Riccardi and published by Catholic publishing house San Paolo, opens with an introduction written by Luca Riccardi, who presents the importance of Zygmunt Bauman’s thought on contemporary themes such as globalization and migration, and who presents Bauman’s engagement with the thought of Pope Francis as a new phase, as a matter of fact the last phase, in the thought of Bauman. The secular sociologist Bauman discovered in the figure Pope Francis that ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ which he had failed to find in the intellectuals, politicians and legislators of the early 21st century.

The collection then presents abbreviated versions of four public discourses by Bauman which he held during two international interreligious peace encounters organized by the Community of Sant’Egidio, held at Antwerp in 2014 and Assisi in 2016. At Antwerp he held one of the opening speeches, on the theme of dialogue, in which he referred to thinkers such as the Polish philosopher Barbara Skarga but also to the personal example of Pope Francis. During one of the panel discussion, Bauman participated with a discourse on modernity and migration. At Assisi, he held one of the opening speeches, on overcoming the challenges of globalization and the hope of eventually arriving at ‘a light at the end of the tunnel’, using the words of Pope Francis on constructing a culture of dialogue by educating young people in the skills of dialogue. During the same encounter, Bauman contributed again to a panel on migration and refugees, with a discourse on the insufficiency of simplistic answers such as the construction of walls all over Europe. These four public discourses, translated in Italian and now published in this collection, have been abbreviated  to increase their readability.

The four public lectures by Bauman are followed by an interview held with him during the encounter in Antwerp in 2014. In the interview, conducted by Mario Marazziti, Bauman talks about such diverse themes as religion and coexistence (like in his book ‘On God and Men’, written with the Polish former Jesuit Stanislaw Obirek), and stigmatization of the stranger. He also comments on the new phase in his work in which he did not so much focus on writing more books himself but to write dialogues together with others: to communicate ideas, make connections, tie strands together, and connect thought and facts. It is an interview with the character of a conversation, in which Marazziti also shares with Bauman his own experiences in politics and interreligious dialogue for peace.

The collection concludes with an essay on Pope Francis and Zygmunt Bauman written by Andrea Riccardi, founder of the Community of Sant’Egidio. In the essay, Riccardi explains the annual interreligious peace encounters ‘in the spirit of Assisi’ initiated by pope John Paul II in 1986, and describes the private encounter between Pope Francis and Zygmunt Bauman during the encounter held in Assisi in September 2016, in which Bauman told the Pope that he had given Bauman hope and that Bauman saw him as ‘a light at the end of the tunnel’. Riccardi’s essay also helps us to understand the differences and convergences between the attitudes of Bergoglio and Bauman towards the phenomenon of globalization and its consequences of injustices and suffering, and their views on the need of constructing a civilization of coexistence in which the world’s religions have a significant contribution. Riccardi’s essay is a very helpful tool to interpret the references to Pope Francis that often appeared in Bauman’s work during the last years of his life (for example in his books Liquid EvilStrangers at our Door, and Retrotopia).

Since the recent death of Zygmunt Bauman, many are now contributing to an evaluation of his thought and work and its relevance for today. ‘La luce in fondo al tunnel’ contains important material from the last phase of Bauman’s career, meriting attention for anyone interested in the work of Zygmunt Bauman or the themes of globalization, dialogue and coexistence. It is also a collection that in my opinion merits a full translation and publication in English to introduce this valuable material to a global readership.

 

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Zygmunt Bauman. La luce in fondo al tunnel. Dialoghi sulla vita e la modernità – edited by Mario Marazziti and Luca Riccardi, 2018, Milan: Edizioni San Paolo.

(image: Edizioni San Paolo)

 

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