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The Guardian: English novelist wins case against Verona university

The English writer Tim Parks has won an epic legal battle against the Italian university whose discrimination inspired his controversial novel Europa

28/02/2000
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English novelist wins case against Verona university (28/2/00)

Rory Carroll

The English writer Tim Parks has won an epic legal battle against the Italian university whose discrimination inspired his controversial novel Europa.

The University of Verona faces possible criminal prosecution for financial irregularities after being ordered to pay up to £500,000 in salary arrears to Mr Parks and five other foreign lecturers.

A Bologna court has ruled in favour of the lecturers after a 13-year legal odyssey in Italian and European courts, sparked by a cut in wages, employment rights and sackings.

Europa was short-listed for the 1997 Booker prize for its account of the misadventures of a dysfunctional, sexually predatory group of foreign-trained university lecturers travelling in a bus from Italy to Strasbourg to petition the European parliament for the rights that their Italian colleagues enjoyed.

Potentially even graver for Verona was the decision of the magistrate, Cristina Astraldi de Zorzi, to recommend an inquiry into 10 areas of its finances. A leaked copy of her report alleged that there were inconsistencies in income and spending records, as well as the drawing up of contracts. Mario Marigo, Veronàs dean at the time, has denied this.

David Petrie, the Scottish president of Italy's association of lettori, said the ruling would help those lecturers with pending cases. "It will have a big impact," he said.

"I hear that the university is nearly broke. It has spent so much on legal fees Ìd be surprised if there is all that much left," he said. "It's been a torturous process; it's beyond credibility. Universities here are not institutions for education, they are power bases for other purposes. You couldn't make it up." Overcrowding, underfunding, nepotistic appointments and corrupt exam practices are blamed for Italy having one of the lowest proportion of graduates in Europe, at 8.1%."