Bewilderment and confusion have descended on Italian cultural circles since Wednesday due to a decision taken by a prestigious university in Milan to suspend a series of teaching lectures that were to be given by the well-known writer Paolo Nori about Russian literary giant Fyodor Dostoevsky.
Nori had published “It still bleeds. The Incredible Life of Fyodor Dostoevsky” last year and described the university’s decision as a return to the inquisition system and a revival of the demons of the fascist regime that are still alive in Italian society.
Barely holding back his tears on social media as he publicly read the letter informing him of the suspension of the lectures, Nori said he had received several offers to deliver the material at other universities.
He said his surprise at the decision was doubled when he read the university’s statement justifying the decision by saying that the reason for canceling the lectures was to expand the students’ horizons by adding some Ukrainian writers to their syllabi.
“I do not know Ukrainian writers, and therefore I will carry my lectures to another place,” added Nori.
The university’s decision sparked a wave of criticism and protests among cultural and educational groups, while political parties demanded an urgent parliamentary discussion of the suspension, which they described as a return to a tragic fascist past.
Many professors showed solidarity with Nori and demanded the dismissal of the university’s president.
“I thought it was a joke at first. I wasn’t expecting such a move,” said the head of the political economy department at the university.
“We can understand the cancellation of Russian performances and concerts, but we are talking here about a writer who lived in the 19th century and a writer who loves literature and is known for his studies and works. It reminds me of the war days when it was forbidden to play Beethoven and other German composers,” he added.