. . . At the invitation of the Italian department, the great poet Eugenio Montale came to town and sat in the Senior Common Room of Magdalene to be interviewed by the head of the department, Professor Limentani. The room was jammed with members and students of the Italian department plus a couple of hundred others who had all forced their way in to pay homage. Starved of oxygen, Montale sat there under his distinguished cap of silver hair being asked several questions by Professor Limentani. The Prof spoke in a voice that might have just been audible to anyone with an ear-trumpet who had been sitting in his lap. Tired after a long journey, Montale must have thought that to whisper at great length to a huge room full of strangers was an English national custom, like riding to hounds. He whispered too. About two hundred and fifty people all dying of nitrogen narcosis were in there for an hour struggling silently for position so that they could watch two Italian men of advanced years moving their lips. Not for the first time, the extent to which an academic organization could bungle a big event made me wonder if undergraduates got sufficient credit for the extra curricular things they accomplished.
- From May Week Was In June by Clive James