- Series: Crossings (Book 9)
- Paperback: 116 pages
- Publisher: Bordighera Press; 1st edition (October 1, 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1884419410
- ISBN-13: 978-1884419416
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.2 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #567,137 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Story of Vajont (Crossings) 1st Edition
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This book is a narrative re-telling of this disaster. On October 9, 1963, some 50 million cubic meters of water was displaced over the top of the Vajont dam by a massive landslide. This wall of water washed away five towns and killed 2,000 people. Originally considered a natural disaster, subsequent investigations have shown that the risks of such a landslide were known to the operators of the dam prior to the event, and that they consciously chose to ignore the warning signs.
This book is not a comprehensive report on the investigation or even a detailed analysis of the errors that resulted in tragedy. Instead, this narrative focuses on the human elements: the corporate greed of the builders, the incompetence of the government oversight, and the innocent victims of the tragedy. It is a tribute to those who died, and a reminder to remain vigilant against repetitions.
The ONLY way now to know what's happened, from the scratch and moreover in ENGLISH, on the story of this mafious AFFAIR, in which a foreseeable catastrophe led to a massive manslaughter. A way to spread worldwide, to retell. A social commitment, a legacy.
In my experience on Vajont's literature, a MUST: I put this Simpson's work just behind (for his high value, both historical and human) to the reference books from Tina Merlin ('On Living Flesh: How to Construct a Catastrophe. The Vajont Case'), and the books of Mario Passi and Sandro Canestrini
ENGINEERING NEWS-REVIEW, Oct. 24, 1963, page 84:
«Presumably, those responsible for the operation of the dam felt confident that a slide of the proportions expected... would not cause a dangerous flood downstream. But could they have justifiably felt confidence about the ability of the dam to hold?... But it was a big gamble not to evacuate the towns when a slide was actually on the move that could hardly help subjecting the dam to some unusual forces of unknown magnitude»
«At Vajont, the main lesson appears to be a trite one: Get out of the way if a landslide threatens a reservoir. It's risky to jump to conclusions before all the facts are in, but we can't help wondering whether it can be excusable not to evacuate people below a reservoir threatened by a slide.»
STEVEN FINK, «Crisis Management», page 225:
«I encourage you to view a crisis as a runaway stagecoach, with yourself as passenger. You have the option of sitting in back, being bumped and jostled and tossed from side to side without a prayer of gaining control.
Or you can ride on top. You may not stop it, but you will achieve some very definite control over the speed, the direction, and the duration. Where you sit is up to you. Either way, when the inevitable crisis hits, you're along for the ride.»
(from: "VAJONT, STAVA, AGENT ORANGE. IL COSTO DI SCELTE IRRESPONSABILI"
by Nicola Walter Palmieri, Ed. CEDAM - Padua, Italy, 1997.
(from the Foreword of "The Story of Vajont", of Thomas Simpson, 2000, Bordighera Press)
«I first became aware of the Story of Vajont in 1997, when I opened a copy of the Italian daily La Repubblica - I was riding on a train in Chicago at the time - and saw my old friend Marco Paolini's face glaring out at me from the 'Spettacolo' section of the paper. The article said that Marco had performed his solo show about the Vajont disaster live on television on a stage set up in view of the Vajont dam itself; a one-man show lasting over three hours from 9 to past midnight, and competing with a major news day that involved the collapse of the governing coalition. 3.5 million people had watched his performance; proportionally, that would be like 15 to 20 million Americans tuning in to a theatrical presentation on PBS.
Longarone, in the morning, 9th october, 1963
Longarone, in the morning, 10th october, 1963
Click to zoom in * ....in [...] *
(photo courtesy of Longarone's Survivors Committee - Longarone)
Anna Deaveare Smith's one-woman shows devoted to the Crown Heights killings and the beating of Rodney King and its aftermath attracted a significant amount of attention here in the US, but she never stopped a nation in its tracks, as Marco's performance had done.
Still more unusual is that The Story of Vajont involves the uncovering of a story buried for 27 years. Marco had drawn out a story hidden in the consciousness of a nation, revealed its pity and terror, and thus somehow created an experience of defining importance to Italians not just as a bunch of individuals, but as a people.
Two crucial operations take place here: 1) uncovering the hidden, especially something hidden from ourselves, and 2) making real the connection between single individuals and great national events, between the weak and the powerful, between the innocent and the guilty, between those who speak and those who cannot speak.
All Italians of a certain age remember the Vajont disaster: a giant wave raised by a landslide into a brand new hydroelectric reservoir in the Italian Alps jumped over the dam that was supposed to contain it. The immense wave rushed out of a mountain gorge and crushed five towns in less than seven minutes, killing over 2,000 people. At the time, it was held to be a natural disaster.
After all, the spectacular new dam, the tallest of its kind in the world and a marvel of Italian engineering genius, had held. The few voices calling for an investigation into possible human influence in the catastrophe were denounced as jackals. But due to the persistence of those few voices - one of whom, a communist journalist named Tina Merlin, figures as the model of human resilience in Paolini's story - an investigation was held, and finally a trial convened.
By this time, the Vajont story had drifted farther and farther into the back pages of the newspapers. Maybe people simply can't sustain dwelling on something so horrifying for a long time, and as the event grew more distant and the story complicated, interest dwindled. But the trial determined that the conglomerate which carried out the dam project had known that a landslide into the reservoir was inevitable, that they kept that knowledge secret from the general public and specifically from the most likely victims, and that they even maintained the water level in the reservoir at such a dangerously high level - in the name of profit, of course - that a catastrophic wave leaping over the dam in the event of a landslide was a certainty.
Paolini's rendering of this story moves in two principal directions. There is the direction of memory, reaching back from the present to the event of 1963. Then there is the chronological direction of the participants in the story, the conception and building of the dam and the coming of the disaster.
Thus Marco's telling brings two Italys together: us, the survivors, looking back from the end of the century, and they, the dead, as they approach unknowingly their fate with all the trust, all the acceleration, all the blindness, of Italy's postwar economic boom. [...]»