“You are not of the tribe. You are in the wrong forest.” These two verses from a sharp quatrain by the poet Giorgio Caproni could be the epigraph for our long-standing obsession with identity in its many forms: cultural, national, regional, culinary, Lombard, Catalan, Serbian… We are consumed by the need to establish who belongs to the tribe and who does not, who must stay in our forest and who ought to leave, who is “us” is who is “them”. The author – who in previous works has brought his critical skills to bear on the myth of roots and highlighted the positive influence of an open and inclusive culture – here reviews the misdeeds stemming from identity-centred zeal in our everyday lives: attitudes towards migrants and Roma, fixation with purity, even the tattoo fad. This book provides both a concerned guide to our forest and a pathway to leaving it.
Maurizio Bettini teaches Ancient Greek and Roman Philology at the University of Siena.