Alessandro Prati

30 giugno 2009 michele boldrin

Il 21 giugno 2009 è morto Alessandro Prati. Mi è risultato difficile scrivere in pubblico di lui, anche se ho pensato di farlo ogni giorno per gli ultimi dieci. Oggi, complice il filtro dell'inglese ed il tempo che ti fa accettare tutto, ci son riuscito. Riporto qui le parole che ho chiesto, agli amici che lì lavorano, di leggere a nome mio in una cerimonia in sua memoria che si terrà fra poche ore al Research Department del FMI, dove Alessandro lavorava.

Alessandro was the first person that ever asked me - you will not believe it, but I recall where it took place: on the way back from Lu Valle Commons to Bunche Hall - if I could follow his thesis and, to this day, I cannot think of a better person with whom to start learning that most difficult job.

This happened in early 1988, at UCLA. Eventually Alessandro had three people (Axel Leijonhufvud, Guido Tabellini and myself) following his work on the Poincaré inflation, the political economy of the monetarist arithmetic and the management of public debt. It was a careful and beautiful thesis, to which twenty years of equally careful and beautiful research work followed. But it is not his research work I have in mind in this moment, it his him: my first student and then my friend. The friend I last saw on April 28th this year and that, with much regret, I could not find the time to visit again in May, as I had hoped.

The words I have used to describe his thesis (careful and beautiful) I have chosen intentionally because they apply not only to the thesis but to its author: Alessandro was, in my eyes at least, a careful and beautiful person. That he was beautiful is probably obvious to most, but here I do not have in mind just the good looking, elegant, smooth, athletic person that would walk into your office making you feel at ease and relaxed right away. Alessandro was, as I discovered quickly, beautiful inside and, I think, he was beautiful inside because he was extremely careful. Careful in this sense: he cared about what happened around him, he cared about the other people he interacted with, in particular, and he was very careful in everything he did. This much I learned during the year and a half during which we interacted at UCLA - I moved to the Santa Fè Institute and then to Kellogg at the end of 1989, Alessandro and Elisa moved to Rome for his first job in the Banca d'Italia in the meanwhile. Thanks to Alessandro, his beauty and his carefulness, I learned quite a bit: he taught me about my job as a teacher roughly as much, probably more, than I could teach him about his future job as an applied economist. I am not very careful and I am certainly not very patient, while he was. He was careful and patient with me: he cared about his research and he cared about my opinions, but he was not satisfied with the easy off-the-shelf advices. Alessandro wanted careful advices and he had an elegant, soft but convincing way to ask for it. His will was unbending, as he showed to all of us during the last months of his life, and this same unbending will he would apply to his relation with me: when my response was sloppy or unsatisfactory he would not complain or manifest surprise. He would smile his beautiful smile, thank me and ... ask for another meeting. To do what? As I would discover, to talk about the exactly same topic! Eventually I got it: I had to try to be as careful as he was. That's how Alessandro taught me my job: by means of his beautiful, exemplary way of living his role of a "careful student". This is why, in looking backward to when we met and became friends, I say he was the best person one could choose as the "first student". Alessandro's carefulness was for real: he cared about the actual you. He was not only searching for your attention and possibly your advice, he was also careful enough to make sure that you were there, that you were doing fine that day and felt like talking, that the topic he wanted to engage you in was actually of your interest and that you understood its subtleties almost as much as he did. And he cared beautifully, so you felt comfortable with him, you felt accepted, you felt understood and taken care of ... by your own student.

So I learned. Not to be as beautiful and gentle and elegant as Alessandro was. That was, and still is, completely out of my reach and all I could do, and I still do my dear friend, is to envy you for the easiness with which you could walk through our lives with beauty, elegance and gentleness. But I did learn that you must try to be careful with your students, and pay attention to the details of what they say and do, to the nuances in their words, and even to their moods and private lives.

And that you have to try to do this in a gentle and possibly beautiful way, because your students are, among other things, beautiful people. Like you were, Alessandro. Grazie, ciao. Michele

4 commenti (espandi tutti)

I did not know Alessandro well. Honestly, I can say that I did not know him at all. But there was one time our lives crossed, briefly.

It was in Stockholm, almost six years ago, at the EEA meetings. We were presenting in the same session, and he was the chairperson.  I had just graduated from undergrad and that was my very first presentation. Needless to say, I was nervous and a little scared by the big crowd that was attending not to listen to me, of course, but to the other three big names in the room. He noticed I was not feeling comfortable, came to me, and told me not to worry, that everything would be all right.

Well, maybe that's not much. But I wanted to share this memory anyway. I still remember those words of his and, for some mysterious reasons, I still remember them every time I give a seminar.

Nel 1991 scrissi una lettera ad Alessandro Prati nella quale gli chiedevo copia di un capitolo della sua tesi di Ph.D. Ero interessato al suo lavoro su "the Poincaré inflation, the political economy of the monetarist arithmetic and the management of public debt". Abituato al comportamento dei professori italiani riposi ad una sua eventuale risposta una probabilità prossima allo zero. Con mia sorpresa non molto tempo dopo ricevetti una sua lettera nella quale mi si diceva che avrebbe lasciato nella portineria della Banca d'Italia quanto richiestogli. Che dire rimasi sorpreso non poco dal suo comportamento. Questo è il ricordo che ho di Alessandro Prati

Ero incerto se mettere questa mia considerazione, ma la metto uguale.

Io non conoscevo Alessandro Prati, ma le parole del post, con la sottolineatura della coincidenza esemplare della dirittura morale con la grazia e l'eleganza fisica mi hanno davvero ricordato l'ideale estetico e morale greco della Kalokagathia. E' bello pensare che alle volte, in alcune persone, è possibile una cosa del genere.

Ho conosciuto Alessandro, più di venti anni fa. Era appena laureato all'università di Torino e mi venne presentato da Domenico Siniscalco quando cercavo un giovane che mi desse una mano per una ricerca CER - IRS. Così Alessandro ed io scrivemmo un lavoro sulla domanda di attività finanziarie delle imprese, poi pubblicato.  Ho avuto allora anche io la possibilità di conoscere e apprezzare la sua carefulness nella ricerca  e il  grande garbo, eleganza nel tratto, generosità d'animo sottolineate dal prof. Boldrin. Gli fui vicino quando decise di andare a continuare i suoi studi all'UCLA e poi quando entrò in Banca d'Italia, scelta che gli consigliai, anche sulla base della mia esperienza in quell'istituzione. Ma Alessandro aveva forse troppo garbo e carefulness per vivere in Italia, a Roma, dove quei due tratti, diciamo, non sono proprio frequenti. Cosi tornò in America, dove anche la moglie Elisa  aveva più opportunità di trovare un impiego - un caso di come il nostro paese non riesca  a trattenere, e non da oggi,  giovani di valore. Inevitabilmente i nostri contatti si fecero meno frequenti.

Sapevo che Alessandro era malato da tempo e che combatteva la malattia con serenità, forza e tenacia, qualità che nascondeva dietro il suo garbo e la sua generosità e direi anche la sua modestia. Alessandro era anche un eccellente studioso e un grande lavoratore. Negli anni che ci frequentammo in qualche misura il rapporto si era ribaltato, almeno così mi pare oggi: pure essendo lui più giovane di circa dieci anni  era il più saggio. 

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