by FERRUCCIO DE BORTOLI
Long head of the Culture editorial team of the «Corriere» (and not only), he passed away at the age of 71. Generous, ironic, determined, he brought a bit of his Genoa to via Solferino
It all began with a religious procession. Cardinal Giuseppe Siri, archbishop of Genoa, will officiate. Francesco Cevasco was then an illegal collaborator of the «Secolo XIX». The news did not turn out to be ritual. Far from it. A parade of city power. With a little too much vanity and clumsiness. The curia protested vigorously. But the chief reporter, Pietro Ferro, appreciated the style and courage of the young collaborator. That was the «Decimonono» by Piero Ottone – who would later direct the «Corriere» – and by Cesare Lanza. Massimo Donelli, who shared those first steps in the profession and was one of his best friends, remembers him like this: «Cesco was my ink brother, half a century spent together without ever arguing, not even for sporting reasons». Both then found each other – brought to Milan by Lanza – at the «Corriere d’Informazione», the afternoon edition of the «Corriere». Livid dawns, crime news, pink. Or, rather, of all colors. Years of lead but also unrepeatable moments of joviality and good humor.
At a certain point, however, Cevasco, a Sampdorian at heart, decided to leave Milan to return to his hometown. The homesickness, especially if there is the sea, said Donelli, a Genoan at heart – who in the meantime went to Naples to the «Mattino» – is uncontainable. We Po Valley people from Via Solferino, his classmates, couldn’t understand him. The professional challenge that awaited him was even more irresistible for Cevasco: that of relaunching a historic newspaper like «Il Lavoro». The glorious socialist newspaper had been entrusted, by the Rizzoli-Corriere della Sera group, already in dire straits, to Giuliano Zincone, who in terms of character and restlessness resembled his predecessor, director of «Il Lavoro», the most illustrious Ligurian of the era who was at the Quirinale at that time: Sandro Pertini. The publishing adventure did not last long and did not have the desired success. Zincone and Cevasco clashed with their publishers over the dilemma of whether or not to publish the Red Brigades leaflets. In that case it was about saving the life of a judge. «Il Lavoro», however, was a great training ground for talents. Among others, very young people collaborated: Lucia Annunziata, Gad Lerner, Luigi Manconi.
In Cevasco’s long professional curriculum the episode is minor – because a large part of his professional life took place at the «Corriere», with a parenthesis at the «Stampa», of which he was an absolute protagonist – but significant. It illustrates well one of the extraordinary characteristics of his human and professional personality. Paolo Pietroni, who had him as deputy director at «Amica», remembers his intelligence and humility. «Not long ago he was the one who suggested the title of my next book – Before the fireflies go out – and he added that it wasn’t important that I finished it but that he kept me company». The taste for adventure and the passion for rotogravure (so called very twentieth century, typographies, lead, smoke, atmospheres of which he was always nostalgic) pushed him to accept Edilio Rusconi’s proposal to launch a new quality product, «Eva ». With contempt for the danger he put a black model on the cover. Her firefly, he said. Rusconi’s rules were the following: never a black person on the cover, the Pope better not put him because he doesn’t sell, sideways titles prohibited. The experience as director of «Eva» ended abruptly. Together with Lanfranco Vaccari, as co-director, he was the protagonist of a beautiful and courageous season of investigative journalism at the «Europeo». Another hotbed of talent. And of discoveries. “Call this young art critic, it will be done,” he told me once. “But he never answers.” «He Then he talks to his mother». The stranger was Vittorio Sgarbi.
Cevasco followed, stimulated, encouraged with painstaking patience. A placid, sunny, self-deprecating character, who at times could even seem fatalistic. In Genoa, and here we return to his hometown, there is a dialect word that defines his character well: miodin. Few words but essential and sharp as needed. But a great generosity of smiles in the virtue of listening. A great work discipline – there are no timetables if you do something with passion – without ever a complaint, a worry, a protest. This rocky goodness of soul, mixed with rigor and determination, had allowed him to be, in the most important part of his professional life, a friendly respected and not hierarchically feared boss. For many years he was the head of the cultural editorial team of the «Corriere», as well as directing «Sette». Loved by colleagues and collaborators who are not always easy to manage, eager to be published, always fearful that the drawer was the antechamber of oblivion. Fernanda Pivano, an angular character, softened at his words. The only one who lost his temper was Gillo Dorfles who threw an ashtray at him, only to then apologize in every way. From the hospital room, in which he spent his last hours, Francesco could not see the sea. Also because the calm, reassuring, placid sea, for us who have had the privilege of having him as a friend and colleague over the last half century, was him. Nobody like him.
Francesco Cevasco passed away on 20 September at the Milan Polyclinic, where he was hospitalized following a serious illness. He was born in Genoa on 13 October 1951.
September 22, 2023 (modified September 22, 2023 | 8:08 pm)
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