Review of the book and film featuring Tiziano Terzani’s talks to his son about his life and the greatest journey of all, death.
Tiziano Terzani (14 September 1938 – 28 July 2004) was born in Florence, Italy and was a journalist and writer who began exploring Asia during the sixties and later studied Chinese language and culture. He had an extensive knowledge of 20th century East Asia and was one of few western journalists who had a direct experience of the fall of Saigon to the Vietcong, and the fall of Phnom Penh at the hands of the Khmer Rouge in the seventies. He later became a correspondent to Der Spiegel, Germany.
Although a self-asserted ‘unbeliever’, Terzani knew much about the historical and political background of Asia, and had a deep interest in the philosophical aspects of Asian culture. During his vast travels, he was always keen on discovering the spiritual aspects of the countries he was visiting. He lived for years at a time in Beijing, Tokyo, Singapore, Hong Kong, Bangkok and New Delhi.
Having read several of Tiziano Terzani’s books with great pleasure and interest, among them ‘Letters Against the War’ and ‘A Fortune-Teller Told Me: Earthbound Travels in the Far East’, I immediately ordered the movie of the book ‘The End is my Beginning’. Regrettably for the solely English-speaking among us, this movie is in the German language without any subtitles and the book is available in German and Italian.
As the story unfolds, Tiziano Terzani (brilliantly portrayed by Bruno Ganz) asks his son Folco to join him in the small village of Orsigna in the Apennines to spend the last months of his life together with him. Remembering that he didn’t get to know much about his own father, Terzani wishes to tell his son in detail about his life. Those talks were recorded by Folco and posthumously published in the book.
After being diagnosed with stomach cancer, Terzani travelled to several countries looking for a cure and a new vision of life and found that “after a while, the goal of my journey was not the cure for my cancer anymore, but for the sickness which affects all of us: mortality.” During the early 2000s he spent a few months in an undisclosed Indian ashram where he is delighted not to be known by any name other than – Anam (which literally means “the one with no name”). He later moved into a small hut in the Himalayas near Binsar in the Nanda Devi region in order to meditate and work on his books for a few years, which became a life turning experience for him. He only returned to Italy when his illness advanced, spending the last months of his life with his wife and son.
The dialogues are intense and it is fascinating to see how son and father begin to connect on a much deeper level than ever before in their lives with emotions at times running high. Terzani tells his son that “Death is the only new experience that can happen to me now. Why are we so afraid of death?”
He shares that on his last travels there was an option to disappear into the forest away from the world but he could not let go of the great love and mutual dedication between him and his wife Angela.
Once he accepts that he is going to die, he feels elated, joyful. He enjoys the small hut he calls a gompa, cheerfully decorated with Tibetan and Indian fabrics and artefacts, and it is here that he breathes his last breath – with dignity and knowing.
Terzani died on 28 July 2004, aged 66. His last memories were recorded in an interview for Italian television entitled ‘Anam’. This interview is part of the DVD and is shown in Italian with German subtitles.
This trailer is in German
Bhagawati, Osho News