The map of Italy that I grew up looking at, from my primary school desk, presented me with a patriotic but quite distorted version of my homeland. In the map, Italy occupied almost the totality of the available space while Africa appeared in the tiny bottom corner, almost as an after thought.
It’s not that I was dumb, I knew that Africa, unlike Italy, was a continent. But then, you know, I come from Sardinia, the large island in the middle of the map, and in Sardinia people call continent the Italian mainland, so that might have contributed to the lack of critical spirit while staring at the interpretative map of Italy.
I remember the overwhelming feeling that came over me the first time that I consciously looked at the mass of the African continent in comparison to my dwarfed homeland.
What I’d be curious to know is whether the distorted geographical perception of Italy that I had growing up (and all the generations that came before me, and maybe those who came after too), has had an impact at the way that Italians see themselves.
On the topic of maps having always been used to impose realities I recommend this excellent volume, beautiful to hold, smell, touch and, of course, incredibly engaging and informative. It’s called An Atlas of Agendas, and it does exactly what it says: it goes through the different agendas of the people behind the creation of various political, social and economic maps. Has a beautiful layout, bold colours and fine paper. A fantastic addition to every book addiction. Oh, I almost forgot, it comes with its own magnifying glass to read the tiny font of some of the maps.
To the question of the title of this post, whether the distorted map at the wall has created a nation of arrogant people, sorry but I don’t have the answer right now.