Fondazione Faustino Onnis Onlus Università degli Studi di Cagliari Università degli Studi di Sassari Comune di Selargius
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Biography

Faustino Onnis, who passed away in May 2001 in his adoptive town of Selargius, was born in San Gavino Monreale in 1925. Third-born of six children, he was only nine when his mother died. He started working at a very young age, just after completing elementary school. In 1942, when he was only 17, he was mobilized as civilian personnel for the construction of barracks in Iglesias; his open intolerance towards extremely harsh working conditions, the blatant abuse he and his co-workers suffered, and the regime’s despotism led to a court marshal on charges of subversive activity and public defamation of Mussolini. As a result, he is remembered as the youngest antifascist in Sardinia. In 1944, he took part in a rebellion in San Gavino to prevent paratroopers of the 183rd Nembo Division from raping local women. A fellow citizen was killed during the uprising and he was arrested along with four friends. He was proven innocent and released five months later but his experience in gaol both tried him and gave him the opportunity to write: he wrote several tormented letters to his father, and a collection of poems and other writings in Italian. During this time, he diligently cultivated his literary and cultural knowledge, spending nearly all of his money on books. This thirst for knowledge led him to learn the masterpieces of Italian literature as well as nineteenth and twentieth century philosophy and political thought. After that, he worked in construction for the rebuilding of Cagliari, then as an orthopaedic worker. There followed a job as sales representative and finally, from 1957 until retirement, he was a nurse. He married Carmina Suergiu of Selargius in 1952, and ten years later moved to his wife's hometown where he lived surrounded by an ever-growing family. He was committed to trade unions and from 1975 to 1980, he was town councillor. In the meantime, his interest in Sardinian culture and language grew and he dedicated himself to writing verse and prose. He met Antonio Sanna, professor of Sardinian Linguistics and president of the “Ozieri” prize, and began to take part in this literary competition. He also met such public figures as Angelo Dettori, Francesco Masala, Giovanni Lilliu, Benvenuto Lobina, Matteo Porru, and Aquilino Cannas, thus becoming involved in the movement for literary renewal and recognition of Sardinian language. His repeated participation in the “Ozieri” competition earned him wide recognition, culminating in 1978 with the first prize for prose and ten years later for poetry. He was a member of the jury from 1982 to 1984.  He also sat in the jury in several other analogous competitions. On one occasion, he was president of the jury. Nevertheless, this did not prevent him from participating, and reaping many awards, in other literary competitions throughout the island: he “Sarcidano” in Villanovatulo; the “Cambosu” in Orotelli; the “Città di Dolianova” in Dolianova; and many others. At the same time, he took part in various initiatives aimed at preserving cultural traditions and Sardinian language. In 1981 he participated in the international convention “Le sollecitazioni etiche della poesia in rapporto alla situazione socio-politica nell’area del Mediterraneo”  (Ethical considerations in poetry in relation to the socio-political situation in the Mediterranean); for years he was an advisor in the preparations of the Matrimonio selargino (a traditional folkloric wedding celebrated in Selargius every September), translating the liturgy and homely in Sardinian; in 1995 he was among the founders of the Libera Università del Campidano (Free University of the Campidano region), where he worked both as vice-president and professor; from 1982 to 1992 he published several articles in the poetry magazine “S’Ischiglia”, and later helped in the creation of “Nur” and “Paraulas” magazines.

Author of numerous translations, in 1993 he published his poems in the volume Perdas, which includes an introduction by Francesco Masala. In 1996 he published a very useful glossary of Sardinian in the Campidano region (Glossariu sardu campidanesu), prefaced by Giulio Paulis, in which he expands Porru’s dictionary by more than three thousand terms.

Faustino Onnis