The very first “paper novel” in the world will officially launch this Tuesday, August 13, in Montaguto (AV). “Goodbye Irpinia” by Mike J. Pilla tells the story of the 2010 landslides in Montaguto, which were the largest in Europe. Mr. Pilla is known as the creator of Patrimonio Italiano TV, the premier web-based television show for Italians living abroad, and this is his first novel. We recently had the chance to sit down with Mike to find out more about “Goodbye Irpinia” and his other projects.
Where did the idea for “Goodbye Irpinia” come from?
The idea for “Goodbye Irpinia” came to me in 2010 when the landslide in Montaguto caused local streets, roads and highways to close and disrupted rail service between Rome and Lecce. This was the largest landslide in Europe and I covered it for my online newspaper, Montaguto.com. I reported on this event daily, but it just wasn’t enough to give it proper coverage. I had always wanted to write a thriller, as it is a literary genre that I absolutely love. This led me to put together the pieces: a small, isolated town, a gigantic landslide, the overseas Irpinian community and love for your heritage. All of these pieces led to the book’s creation. I had to leave the project aside for a few years, only finishing it in 2018. I travel often to America and I met a large community of Irpinians living there and they gave me the courage to finish my book!
Why did you decide to write “Goodbye Irpinia” in a paper novel format?
A “paper novel” is a brand-new style of writing and pagination. It is a type of fictional writing with elements of journalism. To better explain this concept, the book itself is a thriller, but inserted in this thriller are newspaper pages that I designed myself that contain both true and fictional accounts. These pages are inserted at the beginning of every chapter. I decided to use this type of layout because it joins together my two biggest passions: journalism and writing. Plus, I wanted to tell this story in an innovative way. The fictional character of Steve Caruso is the narrator of the story– he is an Italo-Canadese journalist who was sent to Montaguto to write about the landslide and the disappearance of two children. Steve’s research is supported by the various newspapers that he reads while on scene.
“I’d love to send a message to Irpinians worldwide, especially those in America: Never, ever tire of talking about our land, no matter where you are. Whether it is at a coffee shop, at school, at work, online… wherever you are, remember where you come from.” — Mike J. Pilla
Tell us a little bit about Patrimonio Italiano TV.
Patrimonio Italiano TV is the only web-based television for Italians living abroad. With my friend and colleague Luigi Liberti, we decided to undertake this initiative in 2017 during an event in New York with a group of people whose origins are from Montaguto. A long time ago, Luigi had created a movement linked to Italians living abroad, and we both realized that there were no European television stations that showcased the lives of our citizens who live abroad. This led us to go on this adventure that, at the beginning, seemed crazy. The results we have, however, have shown that this project is entirely worthwhile.
How can Irpinians abroad maintain their ties to Irpinia?
The Internet is truly a fundamental instrument in maintaining these ties, I discovered this first-hand through my work with Montaguto.com. I think there need to be more events, both here in Italy and abroad, dedicated to the emigrant culture. I’d love to see our elected officials demonstrate more of an interest in the Italian disapora and understand that Italians– in our case, Italians of Irpinian origin– who live abroad truly love their homeland, often even more than the people who live there now. This love for one’s roots should always take first place. Irpinians abroad must– and I stress the word “must”– pass down this love to their children and grandchildren, perhaps teaching them not only the Italian language, but also the dialect of their town of origin! Hopefully “Goodbye Irpinia” can help them come home, at least virtually!
What’s next for you?
Right now, I am focusing on promoting “Goodbye Irpinia.” It will be available in Italian bookstores, as well as in e-book format for those living outside of Italy, on September 12. I will be participating in various conferences and events to promote it as well. In the meantime, I am working on my second novel, also a thriller and also in the paper novel format. Starting in September, Patrimonio Italiano TV will also have new offerings, such as new original formats and additional stories of Italians living abroad. We’ve expanded to a non-stop 24-hour service!
Do you have any final words for our readers?
I’d love to send a message to Irpinians worldwide, especially those in America: Never, ever tire of talking about our land, no matter where you are. Whether it is at a coffee shop, at school, at work, online… wherever you are, remember where you come from. And please come back when you can, even if it is just for a few days. I know that you all keep this land in your heart– you all demonstrate the tagline of “Goodbye Irpinia,” which is “You can try to leave your homeland, but your homeland will never leave you!”