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Intro book


On the Edge of Emigration
The journey of the Italian knife-sharpeners

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Intro book


On the Edge of Emigration
The journey of the Italian knife-sharpeners

 
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Title: ON THE EDGE OF EMIGRATION. The journey of the Italian knife-sharpeners
Published by: Centro Studi Judicaria, series Judicaria Summa Laganensis
Year: 2017

Synopsis

Ten stories among Trentino, America and England telling how some emigrants, within a few generations, transformed a poor job as the knife grinder in a global business. The emigration of moleti from Val Rendena (Trentino, Italy) toward the capital cities of the Anglo-Saxon world reveals – through these stories – new and present outlines, giving to a local phenomenon the traits of an actual International epic. The complex network of relations and entrepreneurship, spread between the native soil and the adoptive one, has been producing successful examples of a new economy, not only in terms of individual business, but considered also in terms of association: this way, today just like yesterday, it is still possible to prove the value of the origin communities.

From the preface by Renzo Grosselli, journalist for “Adige” newspaper.

 

 
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the book


the book


 

Story

To tell the story covering several generations of knife sharpeners has meant to observe the traced path taken by some pioneers of this trade. In small valleys such as Val Rendena, there were times in which the experi- ences of an individual was also the collective story of a population, and that’s why the emigration of the knife sharpeners is dealt with and handed down as a phenomenon of a community
The times of the itinerant knife sharpener are over, today the descend- ants of the emigrants no longer practice their profession in the old-fashioned way. Now they have become industrial workers/ owners in the field of food equipment: these are family-run, small and medium enterprises which rake in good money. The companies are bound together in a network, thanks to what has become professional category association, but composed of people who originally came from the same villages.
In the following nine stories, whether in the case of born or adopt- ed “Rendenesi”, we see how the global development of the last 20 years has had enormous impact, even within the “microcosm” of knife sharpen- ers: company growth, opening new commercial opportunities parallel to knives, investing in the new Asian markets, and globalized sales by e-com- merce. Parallel to these aspects, some social realities have suffered a void, such as grandchildren who only speak English, or the problem of having seen the Valley as a place for which one was so homesick, longing to return to spend retirement, and then discovering the reality of being a person or a family born and raised in a foreign country. Therefore, Val Rendena turns out to be a holiday destination, a place for a summer home. Nevertheless, it is indeed the starting point of a maze of stories, meandering in so many directions, ever more complex and distant in time and space and in peoples’ perception.

 

 

 

 

Research

This volume is being published after five years of research done by Patrick Grassi for the Centro Studi Judicaria in cooperation with the Museo Storico del Trentino, concentrating on archives and interviews of this field, in Val Rendena and in London. From the year 2011 onwards there have been publications of research extracts in the Judicaria review, leading up to the year 2016 with the publication of this "narrative essay" in which the author's historiographical rigor is accompanied by a talent for narration that makes the work often seem similar to a novel.

This work offers the public new information, revealing secrets and surprises through special material such as photographs, documents, and stories about children and grandchildren who still today successfully continue the profession of knife grinder in America and England.

" In order to write this book - says Patrick Grassi - I carried out extensive research, consulting archives, doing fieldwork, and then at the time of writing I chose to invest a particularly personal tone and a touch of intensity, lest the book turn out to be a dry chronicle essay. To ask a person to recount the events occurring in his or her past often means giving new form to a reality which over the years has become rather diluted: the information is susceptible to contextual changes, and the narrator him or herself is no longer the same person. This can be an obstacle if one is searching for complete objectivity of the story, but it’s a resource if the historian/writer knows how to listen very closely, and go beyond the protagonist’s spoken words. One’s gestures, the expressions which seem to come out more naturally, the episodes that the protagonist dwells on as opposed to those brushed over, are all elements which I gathered into what I prefer to define as emigration narratives, rather than studies on immigration."

 

 
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