“A glacial, oppressive silence hung in the air between the married couple, one of those that weigh heavier than any harsh word, seemingly hostile yet merely inscrutable…” This quote could belong to the opening lines of a drama production, one in which the protagonist, in this case Paolo Narducci, is forced to confront a seemingly lost cause. Paolo’s story did have a happy ending however, and it’s all thanks to an insurance policy!
A case of déjà-vu? No. In fact Paolo and his wife, Nella, are the central characters in a story published in 1928 under the title il Boc (an acronym of beneficio operazioni chirurgiche, “benefit for surgical procedures”), a short story published to promote Generali’s new policy covering surgical procedures and convalescence. The marketing campaign for this new insurance cover was entrusted to the pen of Ugo Pincherle, with supporting cartoon illustrations by illustrator and engraver Gorgone Tanozzi, who also designed additional advertising graphics for Generali over the course of his career.
Pincherle (Trieste 1888-1958), on the other hand, was a Generali man. An employee of the life insurance department in the Trieste Head Office for almost 40 years, he was a competent translator who specialised in editing articles and speeches, in addition to having had works of his own published in various insurance magazines. All of this can be found in his personnel file, which also confirms him as the author of il Boc, solving the mystery of the anonymous author.
Further research has uncovered that Pincherle was well-known in Triestine literary circles, writing under the pseudonym Scampoletti – perhaps an ironic nod to the “scampoli” (fragments) of time he was able to scrape together to dedicate to his passion for writing? The pen name Scampoletti is referenced by Mario Nordio, for example, in Al Politeama Rossetti di Trieste: Storia di cinquant’anni 1878-1928 [In Trieste’s Politeama Rossetti theatre: Fifty Years of History 1878-1928], as the winner of a popular Triestine dialect song competition held in the theatre in 1923, with a song entitled El Politeama. Years later, the same pseudonym appears in the 1933 publication Letteratura popolare italiana-giudaica: con un saggio di poesie triestine di Scampoletti (Italian-Jewish Popular Literature: Including Poems in Triestine by Scampoletti), edited by Italo Zolli.
His personnel file further reveals that, after his contract was terminated in 1938 following the imposition of Italy’s racial laws, Ugo Pincherle found work in the PWB (Psychological Warfare Branch) during the Second World War. This was an Anglo-American office responsible for overseeing media and propaganda efforts during the war, including in countries under Allied military occupation. In 1944, Pincherle was re-hired by Generali, working in the company’s main Florence office. Later, he was transferred back to the office in Trieste, remaining in the field of life insurance: table ratings with his signature and various notes are evidence of his day-to-day work in the company.
And one brief final touch comes from an obituary in the 1958 edition of the Bollettino, the company magazine. The obituary mourns the sudden passing of “the retiree Ugo Pincherle, renowned in Trieste as the dialect poet who wrote his works under the pen name ‘Scampoletti’”.
And much like Paolo Narducci at the end of his story, “he walked down the street, his eyes seeing nothing beyond his liberation from the vicious thorns that had entangled him and the old bronze plaque reading “Assicurazioni Generali – Trieste” that brought a grateful smile to his face”.
For more information: P. EGIDI, Small-scale Corporate Communication. Brochures, Small Volumes, and Leaflets from the Historical Archive (1883–1973), published in Generali in History. Tales from the Archives. Twentieth Century, Venice, Marsilio, 2016, pp. 45-55.