It was the 2nd of November 1973. The humankind had landed to the moon 4 years before, every Western home had a television an Italy was facing a first decline after the economical explosion which had occurred between the 50’s and 60’s that had made of Italy a global power.

In the meantime, on that day of 47 years ago, a woman coming from Sicily, wrote a letter to her husband, who, like many other countrymen, had moved to Germany for work. The letter was part of a wide correspondence, long gone when the letter was found. When the writer Gesualdo Bufalino from Comiso, Ragusa (Sicily), put his hands on it, he started a translation of those symbols in a comprehensible language.

The woman and the husband were illiterate

In cases of illiteracy, people would usually turn to a person able to write on their behalf, either for a price or as a friend favour. The woman however chose to not seek help but instead to make some little drawings able to send through her message to her husband.

The couple did not want others to read their conversations

The letter begins with a heart pierced by an arrow then proceeds with 4 anthropomorphic characters, probably the woman and her 3 children. She continues her tale talking about their plot of land which she asked someone to plow for 150,000 lire(old currency), with the news that the priest suggested her to vote for the DC party instead of the Communist one and then other indications about the economic situation of the house. The final part of the letter seems to be suggesting:

See you at Christmas time

Naturally, the understanding of the different signs is exclusive of the two communicators, therefore it is difficult to establish what exactly each image was supposed to indicate.

Mr Bufalino, writer as well as an excellent French translator heard about the family through the pharmacist of the village. Once he managed to come into possession of the sheet, he gave to it a brilliant interpretation with an incredible perspicacity  and eventually published it in his book “La luce e il lutto” with Sellerio Publishing Company in 1996.

“My love, my heart is pierced when I dwell on the thought of you being far from me, and I spread my arms towards you along with our children. We are all good me and the older ones whilst the youngest child is a bit unwell, but nothing to be scared of. The last letter I sent remained unanswered, fact that gives me sorrow. Your mother, struck by some pain is now in the hospital, where I often go to visit her. Don’t worry about me going there empty handed, let alone giving reasons for people to bad mouth me: the middle boy always accompany me. Our little plot of land was plowed and sowed. To the two daily workers I have given 150,000 lire. We also had to vote for the town election: I picked up DC as our priest suggested. For the Hammer and Sickle there was nothing left to do, the defeat was great, as if you could count the dead on the street. But for us poor things it’s the same anyway, whoever wins; we have hoed the ground yesterday and we continue to do so tomorrow. Many olives this year: the man and two guys I have hired to beat down and then collect them costed me 27,000 lire. Some further 12,000 have been used for the olive oil mill. We have eventually obtained one big and one small jars. The current  price is 1,300 lire per litre. My far away love, my heart thinks about you. Especially now that Christmas approaches and would like you to be with me heart to heart. A hug now, from me and our three children. Goodbye my love, my heart is truthful to you, I am tight to you like our wedding rings.”

It was the 1973, just 47 years ago yet this is a picture of a different era, certainly less knowledgeable but maybe more romantic.

Matteo Rubboli

I am a publisher specialised in the digital distribution of culture and founder of the portal Vanilla Magazine. I don't wear a tie or branded clothes, I keep my hair short so I don't have to comb it. That's not my fault but just the way I've been drawn as...

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