Sharing Toni Muzi Falconi's biased memoirs

We have always been proud to have the support of Toni Muzi Falconi whose original blog became PR Conversations, and he then passed the editorship to Judy Gombita, Markus Pirchner and myself.

Toni has now published his ‘biased memoirs’ entitled glow worms – which can be downloaded free as an ebook from the Biased Memoirs site, with a request to donate to the Cordoba Initiative – or as a paperback via Lulu.

Toni  decided to engage in what he calls the onanistic, narcissistic, navel-gazing exercise of consigning my musings to paper for two main purposes: to delay senile dementia, and to be of support and assistance to others. We naturally support both objectives!

We have also asked the book’s content editor Angie Voluti, to share her ‘biased memoir’ of helping Toni produce this masterpiece.

Angie Voluti shares her own  ‘biased memoir’ about helping Toni Muzi Falconi with his glow worms book

You’d not think that editing a book may turn into an emotionally-charged activity, would you? Neither did I.

A PR professional who moved to the UK in 1991, I have spent longer in English-speaking countries than in Italy, the place from where I come. Yet, as they say, you can take the little girl out of the village, but not the village out of the little girl. It was no ordinary village, and I was no ordinary little girl: I did not wish to become a housewife, have three children and be happily overweight. I wanted a ‘proper’ career, a difficult dream to pursue as a Sicilian young graduate.

Being approached by a professional of high stature like Toni (Muzi Falconi) with a view to edit his professional/ personal memoirs was a puzzling experience.

I was brought up to question everything, and was curious as to why an Italian PR guru would write his memoirs in English. Moreover, why would he then ask an Italian-speaker to edit the material? The questions circled in my mind like sharks. As an author myself (of novels written in English), I had no doubt that I could rise to the challenge. Yet, would it not be a better, more linear proposition to approach a British editor?

I read the first chapter of ‘Biased Memoirs’, and felt that it answered all my questions. They were not there, black on white, of course: it was the prose itself, and the matter discussed, which flicked and pinched heartstrings I had forgotten all about.

Does a PR professional understand another better? Is it easier? Does an Italian communicate more effectively with another? Is there a common background against which to play a fairer match?

I think that there was a real danger that I would tint Toni’s prose with my own colours, and be totally unaware of it, in the same way as members of a family influence the home’s general environment and set of values without perceiving their own contribution to its development as such.

Two things became clear to me: the first was that real editing keeps true to the original narrating voice even if some words and sentences’ structure may be altered. You need to come out of yourself and become someone else: that osmosis is key to empathy, and PR professionals, whether of the academic kind or not, must have a constant supply of it. I would like to think that I did.

The other was a sudden awareness of what the essence of the book, in my view, is all about: there is no objective view of reality. Reality does not exist unless through someone’s perception of it, and even that perception keeps being modified through the years and the same person’s eyes. If our profession can absorb that as a fundamental principle, the book will have gone a long way to give a lasting contribution to it.

It was daunting to read of episodes dotting my own country’s troubled political past and hear them told by someone else’s voice. True, many of the episodes narrated only exist in my personal imaginary, as I was too young to live them, yet Toni’s sharp eyes gave them a different dimension, and presented an interpretation of them for which I had to find space in my heart as well as in my memory and mind.

Toni was, at times, worried about the personal content of his Memoirs. PR professionals are acutely aware of the confidential weight of memories, especially when they involve other people. Yet there was something therapeutic about it all and – as the editor – I aimed to ensure that such soothing effect could be shared between the writer and the reader.

Muzi Falconi is too accomplished a person to offend, antagonise or disrespect individuals or cultures. Indeed the entire ethos of the work breathes and feeds off tolerance and understanding for people as well as credos.

Looking back, I am pleased to have been chosen to adapt, edit and fine-tune Toni’s ‘Biased memoirs’. An editor’s job can be considered completed when the book’s prose is as immaculate as it can be, but true to its original intent. In our case, I grew with each passing chapter; I remembered my own ‘glow worms’; I was reminded of what is so absolutely great about PR as a profession and as a way to lead one’s professional life; I developed a long-lost fondness for a flawed country.

If a book can stir any of those feelings in the reader, I consider it to be a good choice. If it can, at the same time, smooth out the rough edges of the writer’s choices and own professional and personal growth, then it is an even more accomplished result.

Born in Italy, Angie Voluti has spent the past 23 years living in the UK (arriving with one rucksack and her History of Communications Degree, in the early 1990s) and working in the fast-moving automotive industry, both agency and corporate PR-side. She is currently writing her fourth book, the second title in a new eight-part series called ‘Searching for Nonno’. She published her first book (Clay Ghosts in Sicily) in 2011, her second in 2013 (Mr Lost) and writes freelance for British and Italian publications, alongside managing her PR consultancy.

When not stuck in traffic, compressed like a sardine on a London Underground train, or promoting her clients’ automotive services, glamorous celebrities and brand ambassadors, Angie enjoys spending time with her two children, (Romeo, named after Alfa Romeo, and Florio Tazio, after both famous racer Tazio Nuvolari and the Targa Florio race), her toy poodle, Princess Allegra Leyland and a long-suffering partner – all of whom are small, fierce and hyperactive, apart from her partner, who is big and tall but very chilled and laid back, luckily for him.

Angie Voluti can be contacted via her website or on Twitter.  And check out (maybe download) Angie’s existing three books from her shop site.

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7 Replies to “Sharing Toni Muzi Falconi's biased memoirs

  1. There seems to me to be an underlying issue in this clearly pleasant (for me) conversation, that maybe merits some thought and consideration.

    It is the issue of language as one of the (possibly fundamental) tools public relators use to develop relationships (along with images and movements of course).

    Certainly an obvious remark and I beg your pardon for raising it here, but it has its substance.

    The importance of language has certainly not changed, but the globalization and digitilization phenomena have empowered it significantly as being able to think, listen, read, speak and write in different languages has not yet become the commodity I had always hoped it would become, at least in our profession…

    I have actually realised the relevance of an issue I had always taken for granted (like washing my teeth after wake up) only in recent years while teaching with foreign and, more specifically, Asian students as well as being involved in arguing with my client stakeholders belonging to diverse cultures.

    This is one hell of a constraint, and not only for educators, but for organizational management as well!

    I have never realised before that the Esperanto movement failure has been, amongst many other things, probably the biggest failure in the history of management and our profession.

    If one considers that, according to my interpretation of the term, listening is more than 50% of any communication process: before, during and after any significant relationship…then is it clear that even the great progress of ‘Google translation’ severely hampers the potential of this essential function of communication.

    But more than that, I think that we (educators and managers) need to ‘move out of ourselves’ and understand that,, as much as the English language has indeed become the Esperanto in many parts of the world, we must gain a deep comprehension that languages reflect very specific cultures, histories and mind frames: the essence of diversity. In most cases (admittedly no in all) that we today consider so essential to achieve our objectives both in education and in management.

    Fresh water, maybe. But hopefully worth considering as so many of us are involved in attempting to improve the quality of the public sphere…


  2. Where to start… I am a perfectionist and the “immaculate state” was my aim. However, the very idea of ‘immaculate’ is subjective (see the comments above…).

    What is immaculate? Grammar and spelling? I hope so. A linear structure of thought and sentences? Oh yes, please. What about an immaculate interpretation of what Toni had in his memory and his heart?

    It gets trickier here. The original MS was raw and stilted at times. It is not easy to express some ideas in a language that is not your own. Academic lectures offer more scope for perfect prose, as they are almost mathematical in their unfolding. Biased Memoirs, though, is not linear. It’s not two-dimensional either.

    So now we are into ‘immaculate’ sinking deeper into more levels of understanding.

    I couldn’t edit the book for actual content, of course. Dates, names and information are beyond editing when one does not have the knowledge.

    So I could only aim for immaculate Toni’s speak.

    I read the MS once, to get to the professional. Then I read it again, for the person to come out. On both occasions, Toni and I argued over a verb here, an adjective there. I teased the writer to get to the man, because I couldn’t do the editing without knowing the mind behind it.

    By the third reading, I had my ducks in a row. I knew what Toni would accept and why he wouldn’t. I knew what made the memoirs flow and what stopped the narrative.

    I saw my own history and country through someone else’s eyes, and it was incredibly moving.

    To answer your question, I went through the MS four times, plus one last time spot-checking.

    It isn’t immaculate, and it isn’t perfect. Not as a work of art or prose. However, it is perfect in conveying a very human imperfection and a very loveable human being.

    1. Such a wonderful response, Angie! Dare I say it–so Italian! (BTW, are you aware that Toni is half British on his maternal side?)

      These are my favourites:

      “What about an immaculate interpretation of what Toni had in his memory and his heart?”

      “So I could only aim for immaculate Toni’s speak.” [Note: I call them Toni-isms]

      “On both occasions, Toni and I argued over a verb here, an adjective there. I teased the writer to get to the man, because I couldn’t do the editing without knowing the mind behind it.”

      “By the third reading, I had my ducks in a row. I knew what Toni would accept and why he wouldn’t. I knew what made the memoirs flow and what stopped the narrative.”

      1. Erm…. Given that I know so much about Toni’s biography, yes. She was “Anglo-Irish”.

        Thank you for your kind words. I have spent more time in the UK than in Italy; as a result, I am neither, I guess.

  3. Now looking forward to reading the Biased Memoir of Toni Muzi Falconi.

    You speak of your goal of getting the copy to an immaculate state, Angie. In my practice experience, relatively few editing projects offer enough time to achieve such greatness. Did you feel you had sufficient time? How many passes through the text do you suppose you took?

    1. Natalie – I received the email with your comment (because I originally posted the post) and read it as referring to getting a copy of Toni’s memoirs into the Vatican – ie an immaculate state. Then I realised it is Friday evening here and I clearly need a glass of wine 😉

      1. Likely Toni would prefer his memoirs “get into” the Cordoba Initiative (rather than the Vatican) in an immaculate state, given that’s where he’s invited donations towards his ebook be directed . 🙂

        Alas, Heather, likely a glass of wine isn’t allowed there, so do enjoy one this Friday evening at home.

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