by ANDREA SCARPA - Photo by ANDREA COLZANI
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WHO I AM
My name is Antonio Dikele Distefano, I’m usually late, I love writing, jellybeans, I love Savicevic’s AC Milan, I love Luigi Tenco, John Lennon, I love shoes and I always wear black… I want to get to make 1 million euros… I was born in Busto Arsizio Varese on 25 May 1992, my parents lived in Switzerland before and I don’t know why they decided to come to Italy. My father always gets angry at my mother. He says: ‘God damn you that you brought me to Italy’, because he wanted to go to France.
EMIGRATION OVER THE PHONE
One thing nobody ever says is that emigration happens over the phone. For example, I am in Ravenna, you’re my friend and you live in Milan and you tell me: ‘Come to Milan that there is work’. And I automatically move …
GETAWAY FROM ANGOLA
My parents first emigrated to the Congo. This phenomenon is called the phenomenon of regresado, then they later returned to Angola and from Angola they moved to Europe. Nonetheless they managed to build a life, to have children.
UP AND DOWN ITALY
When they left they didn’t have anything. From Busto Arsizio they moved to Cerignola, in the South. Another phone call: ‘Come here because there is work.’ And from Cerignola they came back to the North, to Ravenna, and in Ravenna they settled down.
GROWING UP IN ITALY
(Growing up in Italy) is difficult, but it is worth it. I realized that I really needed it. I have a cousin who left (Italy) to go to England five years ago. Once he wrote to me on Facebook: ‘If you grew up in Italy, you can grow up anywhere’, because we have been through a lot.
THE ONLY BLACK KID
In my class I was the only black kid, in my school the only black kid. Today when I go to school to talk to the kids, (I see that) my nephews and nieces have kids of all colors in their class, from all kinds of backgrounds throughout the world.
GEOGRAPHY IN THE SHOP
When I was little my mother opened a grocery store called ‘Stella d’Africa (Star of Africa)’ in Ravenna. Stella d’Africa, an ethnic grocery store, in Ravenna… Every day it was full. I was little, I was eight and I was always listening to the things that people were saying: stories, events… And there I learned about Africa, I realized that in Africa there is not only Africa…Africa is a continent and many people take it for granted… At school they just say Africa, this is what’s bad about the school: they tell us things and they don’t go in depth… I found out about Cameroon, Nigeria, many countries . And then South America. I discovered Che Guevara in my mother’s shop. I discovered Thomas Sankara, I found out about Allende because many Chileans used to come to the shop, Peruvians, Cubans… And they talked and told stories…They had a key role.
MY MOTHER MOVES TO ANGOLA
Then we began to settle down, to go on vacations, to live a normal life. And then a man bought the property on our store, and then he bought the store. The gentleman was right-wing and didn’t like strangers, so this made us close the shop. And so the mess started over, we had to pay for rent, a thousand things… Therefore my mother left and went to Angola.
I HAVEN’T SEEN HER SINCE
We haven’t seen each other since (my mother and I) but we will next year, I see her on Skype. Of course, I will go there (I’ve never been) and stay four months because I want to understand and experience it… I speak Lingala, which is the dialect of the Congo.
Life wanted me to meet this girl, by chance.
IF GOD WANTS IT
I don’t believe in God, but my mother believes very strongly, she is convinced that everything that happens is due to the fact that God wants it.
LOVE AND RACISM
I met this girl and we started dating. The first few months everything was ok, then suddenly we couldn’t be together.
The relationship was good, in fact I laughed and made fun of her because I had never met her parents and I say: ‘Your parents don’t want to meet me’, but joking then I found out that it was true. Her parents didn’t want to meet me, they didn’t want to know anything about me.
Because in their opinion I was a loafer, a drug dealer, a drug addict, all that and more. They found non-existent information about me, from their sources… Luckily I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, and so everything was invented. Therefore we were forced to hide our relationship because every time she went out and she said she was going out with me, it was a mess.
THE BIRTH OF THE BOOK
At that time I started writing my book. In November, her mother called me on the phone, the strangest thing… She called on the phone of a friend of mine, because I had been calling her from my friend’s number. Because I couldn’t call her from my phone. Her mother saw this number and called me. I called her back and I heard her voice, we started talking. The conversation was really heavy, burning… She attacked me, she started to say: ‘Leave my daughter alone, you are a bad lot, how much do you earn?’, and that sort of things. At the end of the conversation her mother told me: ‘ You don’t fool me, I’m not like my daughter. I don’t believe this thing you say, that you can write. If you say you know how to write a book, then write it’. After the phone conversation, I called my best friend, it was a rainy day, I will never forget it, it was really sad, I called my friend and said, ‘That woman told me this and that. And he told me -Write this book, who cares-’, and that day I started writing the book.
Every night I sent her a part of the book, and every morning she corrected it. I said, let’s try… And I realized that I liked the things I wrote.
FOLLOWING MY INSTINCTS
At that time I was reading a book: Beach of dreams by Sergio Bambarén, a very cool book that says that in life you have to follow your instincts. Everything else is meaningless. And I followed my instincts, my instincts told me: write this book, publish it, put it on Amazon and have faith: things will go well…
BOOM IN DOWNLOADS
You know that I never once thought: what if it doesn’t go well? Never. The book came out the next day, on June 6 it was online. After three months there was a boom in downloads, in three months there had been like 15-20 thousand downloads.
DESTINY AND MONDADORI
In September, at the festival of literature in Mantua, Antonio Riccardi, Mondadori Tempi’s director, approached me with his card and said, ‘Hello, we would like to publish your book’. I had received an email from Mondadori a week before but I was sure it was from Mondadori Store and I didn’t even open it… So if Riccardi hadn’t approached me, I might have never even signed with Mondadori.
10 THOUSAND COPIES IN A MONTH
As a joke I said: ‘This book will sell 10,000 copies in a month’, and it sold them in three weeks.
But I am convinced that, with the book out in the bookshops, we talked about it and I’m glad, the best way to silence someone is indifference… But indifference with a book on display is fantastic… Among the Top Four of my favourite authors, who then would be songwriters, Vasco Brondi is in first place, second the Oasis, John Lennon in the third, and then Grand Corps Malade, a French poet who writes slam poetry.
Among Italian authors, Mauro Corona, De Silva – who in my opinion is the best of all – Ammanniti, although I’ve only read one of his books, I’m not scared (Io non ho paura). And Giulia Carcasi…
DIKELE THE NEW MOCCIA?
I find that the title is beautiful, it’s really cool. Three meters above the sky is such a cool title, the film was done really well…
DIKELE LIKE FABIO VOLO?
Fabio Volo is the writer who sells the most in Italy, it has to be said. If Dikele Antonio Distefano, who is an unknown author, in an interview says: ‘I want to sell more than Fabio Volo’, maybe Fabio Volo goes to Fazio’s (TV show) and Fazio says, ‘Have you heard this Dikele Antonio Distefano? He said he wants to sell more than you do…’. Then at Fazio’s they would talk about Antonio Dikele Distefano. It’s marketing…
BALOTELLI AND I
I really like Balotelli, since I was a kid he has always inspired me… I think that he is really angry, he was… Not anymore. Now in the Serie A… Before he was really angry. Look, it’s difficult when a player enters the field and the opponents are booing. When you play for your national team and you hear that even your fans are shouting ‘There are no Italian black people’ and they whistle at you, it’s not easy to keep calm and be superior.
WHISTLES FOR ME
All the people who are nobody’s children are booed at when they try to do something. I noticed it when I wrote the book. When I started writing the book, all the people said to me: ‘What are you doing, writing a book?’. Or: ‘Now he is a writer…’. ‘Fuori piove dentro pure, passo a prenderti’ is not a suitable title. Here, even those are boos.
CLASSIST NOT RACIST
Italy is a classist country because when Michelle Obama came to Italy she was welcomed with the red carpet, hugs, front pages. Michelle Obama is black, she is American and not everyone knows that Americans to live in Italy need a residence permit, so she is a non-EU citizen.
When I’m on the phone with someone they think I’m Caucasian, French, blond… When they see me they look at me like that and this is a misconception that really leaves me a bit confused. Because Dikele isn’t a European name, I’d change my name to only Antonio Dikele. Next year I’ll try.
WHAT IS YOUR GOAL?
Many times, I say it as a joke, I say that I want to become the Italian writer who sells the most, the best of all. To become the best writer is very difficult until De Silva, Baricco and company are alive. I really struggle.
I met a friend who lives in Milan, his name is Fauzi and he said: ‘Milan is the most beautiful city in the world’. I don’t believe so, but it’s really nice…
In the evening if you go to the Colonne and you meet lots of people, it is quite active, and then there is a lot of multi-ethnicity. Even if people don’t want to admit it, there is a lot of multi-ethnicity: there is the Pakistani who make pizza, the Chinese, the Calabresi… When it comes to being immigrants, we all are. Because if on the metro I take a microphone and ask: ‘How many of you are from Milan?’. I don’t know how many Milanese there would be, maybe two…
Milan, please give me a chance to meet all my idols: Vasco Brondi… When I walk at night I always look for my idols. Well, when I did meet them then I was disappointed, but the opportunity to speak with Vasco Brondi at the bar would be the best, or with Mauro Corona, and even if they don’t live in Milan, Milan is a meeting point. And also Fabio Volo.
I say that I am a child of the world, really. I realized that thanks to my parents’ culture. Family doesn’t put you in the world, but raises you and makes you happy. I grew up in Italy and haven’t always been happy. I was in Belgium and I was fine. One day I will go to Indonesia, I do not know where I’m going, and I know that maybe when I will go to Indonesia, and I will feel good, I will say I’m Indonesian or Indian or Angolan or Congolese… I still have to find my country.
RACISM AND MORE
My book was born as a book about racism, and then those who opened it found out many other things.
It pisses me off that I get categorized as a webstar writer, a teens writer… As if being young was a sin.
MY SENTENCES IF…
I am quite sure that many of my sentences, if they were written by D’Avenia or someone else, would have become a must.
MOVING IS NORMAL
History has taught us that moving is human, the Romans went around the world, the Romans had a black emperor, Cleopatra was with Marcantonio, Cleopatra was certainly not Swedish, Jesus wasn’t white and 1000 other things…
No. I’m a Marxist. If you ask me about Jesus… I believe that Jesus was a great revolutionary like Gandhi, Thomas Sankara and Malcolm X.
ISLAM AND VIOLENCE
In the world there are 1 billion 300 million Muslims, if it was as the media say, we should all live in bunkers today, but it isn’t so. If we live badly it is not the Muslims’ or Christians’ fault, it is because of those 500 people who are powerful and who still aren’t tired of getting richer and who keep making damage. Religious wars are made by the poor, economic wars by the rich.
Having an apartment on an island. I’m seriously considering it and maybe I will do it next year in the Seychelles or Mauritiuts, or Saint Helena… Get myself an apartment and live on an island, come back for the book presentations and then leave.
LA PRIMAVERA ARABA (THE ARAB SPRING)
La Primavera Araba? It’s Nizar Gallala and I, a duo. Two guys who one day said: ‘Gee, why don’t we bring a positive message to the schools? Why don’t we tell people that happiness is the only way to be healthy? ‘. I don’t believe in God, but I believe that if someone is happy he or she will never fail, because on the other hand if you’ve hurt, one day you will suffer harm… The two of us go into the schools, we went because now it is a bit more difficult, I left from Milan and he left from Ravenna, we went to schools to talk about happiness and communication. Small example: If tomorrow I take the train in Lambrate for the first time, the people in Lambrate will see me and think: ‘Who’s this black guy?’. The first thought that comes to mind is that one. It isn’t Racism but ignorance, it is lack of knowledge. If the next day I get on the train, I go to the gentleman who looks at me sideways and say ‘Hello, my name is Antonio Dikele Distefano, I wrote a book and live nearby’. The following day, when he sees me, will he think this is a negro or this is Antonio Dikele Distefano? I believe the second one. Today there are many small wars between people just because they don’t communicate. Because that’s what they want, they want that we don’t communicate. So today Christians and Muslims are at war. This is why today blacks and whites are at war, because if we communicated we would be making the peaceful revolution that John Lennon wanted.