The power of Fiction: Talking with Robert A. Mann

Robert A. Mann is an American writer who has been living in Florence since 1989. Born in Burbank, California, he studied Political Science and American Literature at the State University of California, and now lectures writing at LdM. He has been writing for about 25 years. This time he shares with us some words on how to write and enjoy the city.

Why did you become a writer?

”Like many teenagers in high school, I was unhappy, confused, I was finding to be the best person I could but had no real insight on how the world works.”

So it was after taking a course with an old-fashion German intellectual and reading a novel by Thomas Mann, Tonio Kröger, that you got an outlook on how interpreting reality:

I saw how fiction reflected life more accurate than anything I had ever seen. From then on I thought of it as a way of understanding the world, and my way of understanding it is by telling lies about it, by reading lies about it: Fiction”.

Mann is a creative writing professor here, and had been to Florence before when he was 14 with his parents. Now, being here for more than 20 years he says “Impressions never last”: “I have always find the city beautiful, when there is no traffic. It’s unlike anything in the United States, It seems more real because is so much older and the art speaks to you on a level that have never spoke to you before. My first impressions have never been contradicted, but for seconds impressions, I like Italian people as people not as political, they don’t like each other either.”

“…my way of understanding it (the world) is by telling lies about it, by reading lies about it: Fiction.” (Credit: Gabriel Reyes)

How Florence has inspired you?

“I find that the energy here, the way of been in the coffee bars, cafes, people discussing, about saving the moment, inspirational, time is not always passing because you have something to do. As for the artwork, for example the David, as the epitome of art with capital A, for me looking at the David is like looking at the sunset, it’s different each time and is always beautiful.”

As a foreigner in Florence, what would you recommend to the LdM students?

Get that museum card and go see everything, Renaissance was very important for our western culture and the only place you can see those ideas embodied in its Art is in Florence.

Spend some money once in a while at a good restaurant; don’t always go for the cheap ones, find a place where you can see a lot of wine bottles, if they have good wine they’ll have good food, pick the chance.

Know as much of Italy as you can while you are here, because each place is different “

“Follow your anger, follow your love and see where that leads you, that’s where your subjects are.” (Credit: Gabriel Reyes)

What would be your advice for anyone who wants to be a writer?

“You have to believe that literature is a way of communicate unlike anything else. Believe that you have a great deal of power, especially seeing how much power fiction has and how hard it is to get published, how political it is, people won’t publish things that feel that go against their political correctness, people pay attention to it, it can change their ideas, so for whatever purpose you have, believe in it.

Follow your anger, follow your love and see where that leads you, that’s where your subjects are.”

By Gabriel Reyes

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