For the upcoming after dinner lecture at the 2017, February meeting of the Italian Club, Professor Anthony Perrone will revisit the world renowned Sicilian town of Palazzo Adriano. The main purpose for revisiting it is now just for having been chosen as the central setting for Giuseppe Tornatore’s Academy Award winning movie, Nuovo Cinema Paradiso, nor for having been one of several Sicilian towns where elements of Albanian culture have been kept alive for the last five centuries, rather it is to introduce the Italian Club audience to a century old literary work in manuscript from of inestimable literary and historic value, until recently considered irretrievably lost by some, benignly neglected by others and with a direct connection to Italian American community of St. Louis.
This manuscript of four hundred plus brittle pages of legibly handwritten hendecasyllable verses, grouped in royal octave stanzas, written in archaic Sicilian dialect, is a professionally bound volume that has never been printed, nor published. Its author, Antonino Bufalo (b. 1854, d. 1929) was a farmer by birth, a provincial road inspector by profession and a self-taught poet by avocation from Palazzo Adriano. Like a classical poet from antiquity he chronicled with a keen sense of observation, intuitive interpretation and lyrical inspiration, events that unfolded in his town, in his personal life, in Italy and the world at large, spanning a period of approximately thirty-five years, from the early 1890’s to the mid 1920’s.
The St. Louis connection of this manuscript began in 1929, the year in which the poet died. One of his three sons, who had emigrated to St. Louis a decade earlier, went back to Palazzo Adriano to settle the family estate with his siblings. On his return he brought back with him some of his father’s effects, among which was the manuscript in question. In 2011, the St. Louis granddaughter of the poet, who inherited his manuscript, with two of her nieces became seriously interested to find out what the manuscript was all about. For this purpose, they were referred to Professor Perrone and agreed to have him translate it from Sicilian to English for them. In 2013, the translation was completed. The constituted authorities of Palazzo Adriano, to their delight, received digital copies of their long lost manuscript, while the St. Louis descendants of Antonino Bufao proudly appreciated the content of his, what were once for them, incomprehensible verses.
It is a fitting and proper gesture for the Italian Club of St. Louis to generously offer the February meeting as a forum for the literary work of Antonino Bufalo, whose legacy has become an invaluable component that has contributed in the enrichment of the cultural heritage of his Palazzo Adriano, as well as the cultural heritage of the Italian American community of St. Louis.