An English-language university here in Rome hosts author nights, open to the public. Last year, I wrote about the fabulous Conversation with Joyce Carol Oates I attended.
This year, I decided to attend a conversation and reading with the Italian author, Francesca Marciano. Ms Marciano was introduced by John Cabot University’s Writer in Residence, Jhumpa Lahiri, whose upcoming talk I look forward to attending.
Francesca Marciano was born in Rome and lived in the US and in Kenya. She is a film writer and the author of three novels : Rules of The Wild, a love story within the close-knit tribe of expats living in East Africa; Casa Rossa, a family saga spanning thirty years set in a farmhouse in Puglia; The End of Manners, a story about two women – a photographer and a war correspondent – travelling through war-ravaged Afghanistan.
Rules of The Wild has been on my bookshelf for a while – to confess exactly how long, the price tag on the back gives the price in the long-abandoned Italian lire- and sometimes readings give me a needed kick to read books I’ve been ‘meaning to read’ for ages.
She has also written several film scripts, mostly for Italian cinema, including a film I really enjoyed (from a book I loved), Io non ho paura (I am not scared), written by Niccolo’ Ammaniti and directed by Gabriel Salvatores.
Marciano is now working on a book of short stories, and she read one of her stories at the event. She described writing short stories as both liberating and challenging. Liberating because the focus is narrower, without the need to construct elaborate plots with multiple characters, and challenging because when you finalize a short story, you must start again from scratch, inventing new characters, and places, and thoughts and dreams – replicating the creative process nine or ten times to fill a collection.
Marciano is an Italian who writes screenplays in her native language, but novels and short stories in English. She shared interesting observations about what it means to write in a language that is not your own, and how it can be both exhilarating and constricting.
As those who enjoy languages and living in other cultures know well, when you learn and work in a new language, you assume a new persona, and Marciano was interesting in discussing this point.
I enjoyed learning that she translates her English-language novels into Italian herself, because she finds it disconcerting to see when others translate her work and may make changes that alter her voice and make her work no longer seem her own.
This is a fascinating issue with translation, since translation always requires a certain level of interpretation of material, and she raised the issue that authors whose works are published into different languages they don’t speak have many different ‘versions’ of themselves out there that can be quite different from the original.
Lots of interesting issues raised at a reading and conversation on a beautiful Roman rooftop terrace. Now I look forward to reading my autographed copy of Rules of The Wild.