On the occasion of the New York presentation of QUEST, Journal in Contemporary Jewish Issues published by the Center for Contemporary Jewish Documentation in Milan (CDEC),
On the occasion of the New York presentation of QUEST, Journal in Contemporary Jewish Issues published by the Center for Contemporary Jewish Documentation in Milan (CDEC), this special event will present Mario Tedeschini Lalli’s research on Saul Steinberg’s Italian years, featured in the journal’s current issue.
Introduction: Sheila Schwartz (executive director, The Saul Steinberg Foundation)
Speakers: Mario Tedeschini Lalli (journalist and author of the first research on Steinberg’s Italian years), Cristiana Facchini (historian and editor of the current issue of Quest: “Modernity and the Cities of the Jews”)
Moderator: Alessandro Cassin (Centro Primo Levi)
Mario Tedeschini Lalli is a journalist and scholar of contemporary history. After many years in print journalism as a reporter and an editor, mostly covering foreign affairs, he went digital in 1997. He has been managing editor of Repubblica.it, CNNitalia.it, and Kataweb.it, where he also led a small team experimenting with multimedia narratives, all within the Gruppo Editoriale L’Espresso, of which he is now Deputy Director for Innovation and Development.
He teaches History of Journalism at Università Roma Tre, in Rome, and Digital Journalism at the Istituto per la Formazione al Giornalismo, in Urbino. His scholarly publications include essays on the history of the Middle East, Italy, and the media. He is presently working on a lengthy essay about Saul Steinberg’s service with the OSS during World War II.
The aesthetic persona of Saul Steinberg (1914-1999), who became one of America’s most beloved artists, began to take shape in Milan during the 1930s. Steinberg arrived there in 1933 to study architecture, having left his native Romania and its virulent anti-Semitism. In 1936, while still an architecture student, he started contributing gag cartoons to popular Italian humor newspapers and soon became renowned for his clever visual wit. These first years in Italy, which he would later remember as a “paradise,” turned rapidly into “hell” in 1938, with the institution of racial laws that deprived him of income, a profession, and a legal residence. Forced to live as an unwanted “foreign Jew” and unable to obtain the visas necessary to leave Italy, by late 1940 he was under threat of imminent arrest; a few months later, he spent several weeks in an internment camp before finally managing to flee the country. This crucial period in Steinberg’s biography has until now remained largely unknown because of Steinberg’s own reluctance to discuss it. The present essay, building on an earlier study by the same author and using several unpublished archival sources, sheds light on these fraught years, while also examining Steinberg’s sometimes contradictory attitudes to political events as well as art. The essay is illustrated by photographs, documents, and Steinberg’s drawings, many of them from a journal he kept during his last nine months in Italy.