Ferrara, Monday, 2 July 2108

Written by  Roberto Pazzi

An imaginary interview with the mayor in one hundred years time.

“Thank you for agreeing to meet me Mr. Mastellari….” I look at the mayor of Ferrara and it’s amazing but I simply can’t put an age to him. His face is smooth, wrinkle-free, his smile is neutral, and his hair is perfect. He is wearing a white linen jacket over an ivory shirt, closed with a mandarin style collar. “Duty, Professor, as well as pleasure…your interviews are noted for their lack of superficiality...” and with this compliment, he rings a bell. “Coffee”? “Yes, please”. As the beautiful secretary walks in, I look out through the open window to the nearby pine forest and beaches, full of beach umbrellas by now. The municipal residence isn’t in the city centre any more, but in the suburbs, where all the most important buildings have been located. You can see the super-elevated railway line in the distance, linking Ferrara to Bologna in six and a half minutes. It is Monday, a beautiful day in July, 2108. There were elections this year, resulting in a change in the majority in both Rome and Ferrara. Ferrara has become a seaside resort thanks to climate change, and just as in the past, it has had to take another about turn in character over the last few decades. “Mr. Mastellari, where would you like to begin?” This seems to put the mayor off, even though I meant it politely. But I know that he is a suspicious type, ever wary of plots against him or tricks to trap him. He is aware that the people of Ferrara don’t like this tendency of his to distrust everyone and to do everything himself. “Well, I imagine that you would like to know what the most pressing problem is in Ferrara at the moment....” I nod in agreement as I take notes on my palmtop. “It’s not a new problem: we need to find economic resources for the city…” And he immediately begins reeling off a series of facts and figures regarding city growth. You can’t argue with figures but it’s hard to keep up with him. In any case this is how they all do it now, ideas don’t count for anything any more and politics has turned into a recitation of numbers and polls. He doesn’t touch on the fact that Ferrara finds itself at a crossroads, that it has to decide whether to continue its heritage as a city of art or to resign ourselves to the fact that it is a northern Italian port, serving central Europe. Nowadays pork has been pushed aside to let fish reign supreme on the dinner tables of Ferrara. And the fish canning industry now actively competes with the Baltic countries. “Does Oblomov still sleep in the character of the Ferrara people?” This question is an attempt to introduce a literary metaphor into all these facts and figures. He looks at me in annoyance. How dare I tear aside that numerical cloth that he is hiding behind. “Well, what can I say, he sleeps here in Ferrara as well as in Modena, Bologna, Rovigo…..by now all of Italy sleeps like that….” and the bitter curl to Mastellari’s lips surprise me. I didn’t think he had become so cynical. “What do you mean, Mr. Mayor?”...

“I mean that literature has to be brought up to date to reflect the reality of life nowadays...…” “Which is…?” “Excessive trust, inertia….things run themselves….and few, very few, know how they work...if one of the machines that controls the state-run machinery breaks down, only a few select people know how to fix it, we’re talking here about something that affects millions of people.” I look at the panel of coloured buttons on his table. I know that the utility services for Ferrara - gas, water, waste, cemetaries, electricity - are all controlled by that panel.