Europa Editions always makes me really happy.
If you are interested in Italian literature translated into English and don’t know this publisher, I highly recommend checking its catalog because it has many interesting titles by contemporary Italian authors.
I regularly check its website to see if there is some new Italian book available in English and I am often pleased to find some of my favorite books there. It recently happened with Nives by Sacha Nardini, a truly unique book I’ve adored, and with The garden of monsters by Lorenza Pieri (her amazing Isole Minori is currently being translated and will be out next year!).
As I’ll never get tired of saying, I love reading books and sharing my favorite reads here but I always make sure that the titles I share here are available in English as well because I want people who love Italian literature but can’t read in Italian to be able to enjoy interesting Italian books.
So I was checking Europa Editions’ website the other day and was really pleased to find the English translation of Mi sa che fuori è primavera by Concita De Gregorio, a book I read (and loved) a few years ago. The English title of the book is The Missing Word and is available in bookstores since July 5, just a couple of days ago.
Concita De Gregorio is one of my favorite Italian journalists. She is one of the most popular columnists for La Repubblica, one of Italy’s major newspapers, and she is also a writer (she has written 12 books) and a tv broadcaster. She has been the creator and host of several tv shows, which she has enlightened with her sharp wit and great intellect.
Being a journalist, most of her books are non-fiction but this one is quite unique: she writes a novel inspired by a terrible crime that took place between Italy and Switzerland in 2011. It was a very cruel fact you might have heard about: Mattias Schepp, a Canadian-born Swiss engineer, picked up his twin daughters from his ex-wife’s house and disappeared.
Irina Lucidi, the wife of Mattias and mother of Alessia and Livia, is Italian and Mattias was seen in Italy after kidnapping his daughters, so the news caught the attention of the Italian public, also because his disappearance led to a police hunt in France – where the girls and their father were last spotted – and Italy.
Unfortunately, Matthias Schepp threw himself under a train in Apulia and, before doing so, sent a letter to his wife saying that he had killed the two girls, whose bodies were never found. The shock caused by that event in Italy was incredible and everybody remembers the story of those two lovely blonde girls who went missing.
Concita De Gregorio was undoubtedly really impressed by what happened to the twins as well because she took these terrible facts and turned them into a unique novel, embodying the voice of the mother – which is one of the things that struck me the most. In a very short book, with concise prose, she tells a haunting story: that of a mother whose kids are taken away never to return.
The story is terrible but I really liked the fact that the horrible events are somehow left in the background. The writer doesn’t insist on the cruel details but she focuses on Irina, the mother. De Gregorio is great at depicting the portrait of this woman, whose courage moved many Italians (myself included). She is able to write the thoughts and memories of a mother who has lost everything and still finds the strength to build a new life for herself.
The writer doesn’t insist on the facts but more on the grief caused by such an event, creating a series of reflections that in some cases are like long poems. The book is basically a journey through the grief of a mother who has suffered the unbearable but who has found a way to deal with her loss. Therefore, the book is undoubtedly heart-aching but it also contains a spark of hope.
As you may imagine, the book is not a standard novel but mainly a collection of writings and reflections with a common thread. In a way, it is also a conversation between the author and Irina herself. It is undoubtedly moving to read Irina’s thoughts about her loss but I’ve also found it quite interesting to read about the people’s reaction to Irina’s behavior and bravery, which is something that forces us to think about the way women’s actions are perceived by society.
Given the subject and the content, it is not exactly an easy read but I found it really compelling. In terms of the language, I’d recommend the English version unless you are an advanced reader of Italian because the prose and the nonlinear narrative make it quite challenging.
By the way, have you read some Italian books in English recently? If so, which ones?
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