Interviews: in the bowels of QUANTO Magazine
We had called it "a new cult of Italian literature", love at first sight, love in all respects after reading and no, we were not wrong. You readers also appreciated it by giving it the podium of Frab's Best Sellers of 2019.
HOW MUCH it is not a magazine that goes unnoticed and, to be honest, it is also a bit difficult to call it a magazine, different as it is from anything that has ever come into your hands.
The first volume, now sold out, with a single long story, had transported us to a dystopia worthy of the worst nightmares, a gray and emotionless future, where the human soul is completely annihilated, subjugated to the Company's will.
The second issue (apparently) changes genre, but the will of the magazine creators, Giovanni Cavalleri and Zeno Toppan, to give value to the tactile component of the QUANTO object remains unchanged. To welcome us is the holographic head that stands out on the semi-transparent dust jacket in a lemon yellow that could be green. It continues with a porous and beautiful cover of a green that could be blue and, again, yellow pages whose texts, notes in the margins and illustrated tables report the reworking of the doctoral thesis of the anthropologist Raymond D. Berger. Three very intense chapters make us discover the Bintu tribe, among ancient rituals, lucid dreams that connect everything and person, bird divinity and a big mouth that devours everything, even itself, a symbol of the threat of capitalist progress on the unchanged indigenous tribes .
There is no lack of points of contact with the first issue of QUANTO, almost as if it were a prequel from another world, with a small detail, contained in one of the tables illustrated by the good Rocco Natale, which will hardly escape the attentive reader and which confirms our thesis.
Zeno and Giovanni, what is the genesis of QUANTO and the meaning of a paper and ink magazine today?
Like any artistic experience, Quanto arises from an existential bewilderment, from the perception that the world is not enough for us and it is therefore necessary to start a search. Our investigation has its roots in the terrain of fiction and design. We want to make literature by telling stories in an unprecedented way and therefore involving not only the sight necessary for reading, but also the other senses: paper to the touch, the rustle of leafing through, the smell of inks ... The physical component of the narration is fundamental as much as the story itself: the materials chosen convey precise meanings and are clear meta-narrative references. To give an example, the cover of the second issue is made up of leather scraps because we wanted it to refer to the ideal cover of an anthropological field diary, but with a particular color (blue) that refers to the world of dreams.
HOW strange it is, different from every magazine, you can understand it from the colophon placed on the back cover or on the last page. Can you explain your editorial choices a little?
The colophon of the first issue collects the names of the contributors and the production details at the end of the volume, as if they were credits. We intend to create a fragmented serialized narrative of separate but connected narrative universes: the proximity of our editorial project to the television series has prompted us to adopt that choice of colophon for the first issue. Furthermore, we had decided, from the beginning, that everything that would inhabit the inside of the magazine would belong to the universe of Quanto 1 and not to our world. The endpapers host the editorial and the note on the typography, but crossing page one ends up in the dystopian world of the company and only comes out once the book is closed. There, in fact, the "credits".
For the second issue, in the fourth we reported the biography of the anthropologist from which the second episode of Quanto is taken and on the last page (together with the usual credits), we followed the bibliographic editorial rules typical of non-fiction literature, reporting the bibliography cited in the text.
Let's get to the heart of number two. Why did you decide to publish an anthropologist's doctoral thesis?
We specify: we have not published a doctoral thesis, but a revisitation of it in a narrative key. In the spring of 2019 we received a thesis (never accepted by the Academy) that had been circulating on the internet for years in a PDF of over 400 pages of adventures and madness. Raymond D. Berger, French anthropologist but graduated in London, claims in those pages that he got lost in the forests of the Congo in 1993 and met a very particular population of hunter-gatherers who had never known the white man, but who had been shocked , in the months preceding the anthropologist's arrival, from the crash of a small plane near their village. Berger investigates in his hallucinated thesis the mechanisms through which this population (the Bintus) have tried to restore meaning to their universe of beliefs after their lives had been upset by the arrival of the West in their lives. The plane is believed to be a bird, the "Great Grandfather", the VHS cassettes that the shaman of the village finds in the cargo compartment are gutted and their magnetic strips are used in rites for the intuition of the future.
The anguish for the upheaval of their world is represented by the appearance, in their pantheon, of a new and terrible divinity: The Big Mouth that devours everything, even itself: for us a clear metaphor of globalization and neo-colonialism that would have ended up upsetting the Congo after the Rwanda conflict.
We couldn't help but contact Raymond and get our hands on his thesis. The narrative material was too greedy and provided us with the opportunity to tell a story as if it were a scientific article. We had to do it.
Reading between the lines, we found points of contact between the two numbers. Is it the fruit of our imagination or is there really a link between the volumes?
All volumes are connected to each other, in one way or another; but each number is a self-contained narrative universe and can be read individually regardless of all other numbers. The narration of Quanto is unique, even if fragmented and iridescent: we like to play with readers and hide information, here and there, on the macro-history that unites all the stories.
In the second issue on page 9 you talk about quarantine. In the first, you describe a world where social distancing is the norm and you have to wear fans to go out. Are you a visionary or do you believe that the world is actually going in that direction?
Social distancing, as it is called today, is an imposition that we can only tolerate because, for at least a decade now, its counterpart, that is, sociality at a distance. The pandemic has segregated us in our homes making us physically alone, but we are in eternal contact (to the point of being exhausted) with the virtual extensions of our loved ones: from social networks to video calls. Social distancing is a measure that is sometimes imposed on small groups and (for the first time in 2020) at ¾ of the world, but let's not forget that in some cases social distancing is a voluntary choice for thousands of individuals who are now considered pathological. We are talking about those people who avoid leaving their homes and consume their lives in virtual worlds, and they are more and more. We believe that, in the long run, this will be the future of humanity and since we are not seers, but "speculators", in the first issue, human beings continue to circulate as consciences in synthetic bodies but almost no one is able to prove emotions.
I quote the note on page 9 that you quote: “It is interesting to note how archaic and traditional medicines consider disease as a plague to be fought and defeated socially, through public or family cures and rituals. For Western biomedicine, however, the disease is reduced to the concept of 'pathology' and the patient's body becomes an infected body, to be isolated during hospitalization or even quarantines. "
This passage provides us with the assistance to tell what is happening even today: in the Middle Ages, processions were organized to fight the plague and churches were opened wide (even today some suggest it), but the contagion, of course, spread. These practices are crazy when you have to fight a contagious disease (as in the 2020 pandemic), but they respond to a clear human need, that of sharing one's pain in times of difficulty. In countries such as Holland or England, the idea of widespread social distancing has been contested by some studies that also took into consideration the psychological problems that could derive from quarantine, revealing how the "disease" cannot be considered only as a pathogen but must also be considered in all its extensions. In particular, I would say that anyone confined to their home today has metaphorically contracted the virus since the mere existence of the virus has heavily altered their daily life.
During this quarantine since your instagram profile you have launched the Quantiche, a series of short stories to promote culture on social media that is enjoying great public favor, so much so that it has also ended up on Marieclaire.it. How did you come up with this idea and what future do you think it might have? Will we find them on paper?
The idea came to us between a cigarette and a glass of wine (or, more likely, strawberry gin and tonic) as we contemplated the silence of San Siro from the balcony at the end of the city. We liked the idea of giving the go to sleeping pens that in seclusion could rediscover their passion for literature. We are thinking about the future of the Quantics: they will be a long odyssey and they will also have, like our quarantine, a phase two. And yes, if all goes well and our illustrator does not abandon us in the enterprise, a selection of Quantiche will also take on paper, in a format that will integrate illustration and literature, contextualizing them in a single narrative universe.
You are "serving" your quarantine together with Milan. How is this experience going and what is it teaching you?
Like all moments of crisis, this too is proving useful to take stock of what has been done so far and to reflect on when it has to come. And let's not just talk about how much. We are facing not so much a crossroads as a dangerous crossroads on several levels: internationalism or autarky; revision of the social and economic systems to which we are accustomed or their restoration; hold on to the comforts of modernity, or downsize them in favor of a more balanced life. All roads without road markings that intersect continuously. And the lack in the air of a plausible alternative to what we have seen so far worries us. These reflections are guiding us in the elaboration of the next issue of Quanto, whose direction will be that of the origins: to fish the most suitable narrative metaphors in the unthinkable to tell our world. How much 3 will tell the story of the collapse of the world and the hope (but also the terror) for the construction of a new horizon of things.
In the meantime, Zeno continues to cough but swears that it is not Coronavirus, however he is a recluse in the house.
You want to leave some quarantine tips for yours readers?
The same advice we give to ourselves: do not resign ourselves or get used to this state of things, but seek and recognize what has value in this crisis, and make it last, and give it space.
Photo credits © Stefania Zanetti