Cleto Munari

Product/Industrial Designer / Italy / Cleto Munari Design Associati

Cleto Munari’s Book List

In thinking about some of my favorite books I cannot avoid dreaming about my own desires for adventure and imaginary worlds. Dumas and Salgari are part of those childhood fantasies whereas my early adulthood found me leaning toward the aristocratic world described by authors like Tomasi di Lampedusa. Other books on this list are associated with my friendships and interactions with fiction writers such as Mahfouz and Saramago, or poets met through a friend of mine who translates and works with poets, including Wole Soyinka, Mark Strand, and Manuel Alegre. Still other books are those that I enjoy rereading every now and then.

11 books
Emilio Salgari

The sea voyage, the mystery, and the awe associated with the protagonist, Emilio—Lord of Ventimiglia, Valpenta, and Roccabruna—launched me, when I was a child, into a world of fantasy and mythical adventures. That was the period when I really started dreaming full-time.

José Saramago

In this novel Saramago imagines a near-total breakdown of society following an outbreak of mass blindness in which systems of law and order, social services, government, and schools no longer function. Families have been separated and roving bands of people squat in abandoned buildings. Violence, disease, and despair threaten to overwhelm humans’ ability to cope. They attempt to create homes and establish a new order. We all hope that blindness disappears from our society.

Manuel Alegre

This is the only book of poems in Italian (the title translates as “There Will Be Another Sea”) by a wonderful Portuguese poet who is also a well-known politician. Alegre ran twice for president of Portugal (2006 and 2011) and leads the Portuguese Socialist Party. His resistance against the Salazar dictatorship and his return to his country after many years in exile is a well-known story in his country. I love his poetry because it captures our desire for travel and discovery and explores human ambition.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Demons combines two separate novels that Dostoyevsky was working on. One was a commentary on the real-life murder in 1869 by the socialist revolutionary group “People’s Vengeance” of one of its own members (Ivan Ivanovich Ivanov). The other novel eventually merged into Demons was originally a religious work. Through Dostoyevsky’s imagination I’m able to plunge into a totally new atmosphere to take a stand against any form of dictatorship that threatens personal freedom. My wife has written a book on this incomparable writer and I am particularly grateful to her for helping me get into some of his memorable characters.

Saul Bellow

Herzog’s ideas, as expressed in his letters, are brilliant and seductive. The beauty of the novel lies in this dissection of Herzog’s mind and in the descriptions of the characters’ emotions, and also in his examination of society in general. When I got to know Bellow during his involvement in the production of one of my fountain pens, I understood something of his character through the light in his eyes.

Giuseppe Tomasi Di Lampedusa
Archibald Colquhoun Trans.
Gioacchino Lanza Tomasi Foreword

The richness of the Sicilian aristocratic world was fascinating to me growing up, mirroring my own ambitions, which were not based in reality but were part of a dream world. I really admired that proudness of the Sicilians who had to suffer more than one invasion and political regime. Yet, that form of resistance to innovation appears to be quite dangerous if we think about the great cancer in southern Italy: the Mafia.

Mark Strand

Discovering this remarkable American poet was a revelation for me. We met thanks to one of his Italian poetry readings organized by a friend of mine, Marco Fazzini. I have even produced a table using his visionary poem dedicated to a man and his camel. His often surreal metaphors are a continuous inspiration for my work.

Wole Soyinka

This is the first book of Wole Soyinka’s poems ever published in Italy and was written for me. When Soyinka decided to dedicate these poetical fragments to me, I understood what simplicity and clarity of thought mean. I would like to have his wise and clear vision on things and history, but it’s more than enough for now to know that our lives have met at some stage. My friend and translator Marco Fazzini has managed to produce a wonderful book out of those fragments and ideas.

Naguib Mahfouz

This is the only book by the Egyptian writer Naguib Mahfouz not set in Cairo. The Egyptian background and the amazing list of characters who live and pass through the Miramar pension form a succession of longings and desires, while reflecting the ambitions of the young girl at the center of the novel. I felt myself sharing the author’s passion for beauty and ambition. My meeting with Mahfouz was one of the most moving and memorable events in my life, and Miramar was there, stuck in my head like a flickering diamond.

Denis Diderot

Pensées Philosophiques  (“Philosophical Thoughts”) was an early work of Diderot’s, written around 1747. It was popular but also got him into trouble by criticizing religious belief and Catholicism. A few years later he would be an outright atheist. The “pensées” are more aphoristic than usual for the author; yet, even in these brief reflections of his I became convinced that passions and ideal desires are something you must not be ashamed of but represent the real essence of life.

Alexandre Dumas

When Alexandre Dumas wrote The Three Musketeers he also was a practicing fencer, like many other French gentlemen. The three musketeers’ gestures were part of my dreams and desires for an adventurous life, full of noble values so important after the terrible devastion of World War II, which I lived through as a boy.

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