Updike, John. (1932–2009)
"When I come to Italy I want to come with the empty head and shut mouth of a tourist." - Typed Letter Signed
TLS from the American man of letters to Professor Irma Antonetto of the Associazione Culturale Italiana, responding to a second invitation to have the author speak. May 24, 1983; 1 pp., airmail letter. "Dear Irma Antonetto:/ After eleven years, you should be entitled to a positive reply; but for the time being I have done enough travelling and posing as an author, and when I come to Italy I want to come with the empty head and shut mouth of a tourist. Italy, that is, has much more to teach me than I it. So, even thought the amount of lire has gone up wonderfully since 1972 (what is 1.400.000 in dollars, I wonder?), I fear I must decline, with my sincere thanks and/ Best wishes, [Signature]." Updike had previously been asked to speak at the Associazione eleven years prior, an invitation which he had also declined. Letter split along mailing fold with tape to back for stability, tears to edges from opening with text unaffected, two holes to left side of middle panel, else fine, 7.5 x 11 inches (19 x 27.9 cm.).
The referenced sum in Lire in May of 1983 would have been slightly less than $1,000. In terms of purchasing power, it is the equivalent of $2,500 today.
John Updike was an American novelist, poet, short story writer, art critic, and literary critic. He is one of only three authors (the others being Booth Tarkington and William Faulkner) to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction more than once.
Irma Antonetto (1920-1993), was founder and director of the Associazione Culturale Italiana [Association of Italian Culture] for 46 years, during which time she brought some 400 philosophers, writers, scientists, artists, and Nobel winners to lecture in Italy. She was recipient of the 1964 Cavaliere al merito della Repubblica italiana.