I always have a favorite book, not always the same. A Man by Oriana Fallaci has been my favorite book for many years starting from late 70’s. In the 80’s I met Marquez, Allende, Moravia. I read Anna Karenina in the 90’s and for many years it was my beloved one. I had a crash on De Carlo’s Due di Due but it could not replace Anna K. I read each day. It does not matter how tired, or angry, or happy. I even read a book when my first child was born and they left me alone in the room afterwards. Like an addicted, I read when the children were small, English, Norwegian, once I even read a book in Portuguese which I do not know only because I did not have anything else to read. Then Kindle, and audio books came and the situation changed a bit – I would never read a book in Portugese now – but reading remains the same, reading is life.
Knausgård’s six books made such a strong effect on me that I did not manage to read any books for a couple of months. I only read newspapers, which usually I do not read. During winter 2015, I discovered Elena Ferrante. She took me back to Italy and back in time, she took me to Napoli, Pisa, Firenze, and Torino. She took me in Italian school classrooms, universities, dirty small streets, lies and intrigues. Ferrante’s Lila learnt even how to program computers and redeems his life with informatics. I was ecstatic and reading the third book Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, I almost felt that I had come back to Italy my self.
The fourth book – The Story of the Lost Child – disappointed me a bit but still for many weeks, the tetralogy and its Lila, Elena, and Nino, were in my heart in the place where Alexandros Panagoulis, Anna Karenina, and Karl Ove have had the privilege of being before.
When I should write my reflections about Ferrante’s tetralogy, suddenly a couple of days ago, I found out that audible.com had audio books in Italian. The list of the last Strega prizes brings me to Mazzucco’s Vita.
Vita means life and Vita is also the name of one of the two main characters. Vita and Diamante are two 10 years old who come to New York in 1903. I am impressed that somebody, Melania Gaia Mazzucco, manages to write about a time and a place that is not her in such an epic, strong, beautiful way. Now it is clear that Ferrante has lived through the 50’s, the 60’s, and the years until now, and even if we do not know her, we assume that her story is a kind of autobiography if not a la Knausgård. On the contrary, Mazzucco’s book is an artwork that clearly comes from fantasy, great ability and hard research work. Colors, smells, kisses, death bodies, hair, fire, water, every ingredient is so well used, never misused, to tell the story of the story. To tell the story about young love and young hope.
It is also a story of immigration of the Italian people that all Italian should read in these years. We, Italian people, were suffering and dying in the same way, may be even more unfortunates than those unfortunates who suffer and die now to reach Italy.
I wish I was a writer and not a scientist as writers write about what nobody knows. No happy ending but Vita and Diamante together in my heart.