Introduction to an Italian Personal Anthology

This is one of a special series of Personal Anthology letters celebrating the short-form literature of the 27 countries of the European Union alongside the UK, which as of the time of writing is still a member

We decided to approach this personal anthology as a group exercise to see what kind of “literary constellation” we would be able to draw together. Together we organise the Festival of Italian Literature, which will take place this weekend at the Coronet Theatre in Notting Hill, but the many tasks of this activity means that we talk a lot about organisation issues and about contemporary authors that we’d like to invite to the festival, and not always as much as we’d like about the modern classics that we love. 
For this reason, we welcomed the idea of putting together our personal anthology of Italian short stories. We focused mainly on Italian literature from the twentieth century, and after a quick brainstorming we were glad to see there were a few common themes in our choices: one is the never-ending tension, in Italian literature, between realism and non-realism. Traditionally, the best-known Italian literature (as much as Italian cinema) in the last century or so has always been quite political in its inspiration and strictly realistic, favouring a portrait of society, social class, historical facts, family and generations, and so on.  But on the fringes of the main canon you can find amazing visionary stories, some of which are very political in their own way. Another common theme in our choices is the “gaze”, the theme of seeing and being seen, the literal or metaphorical difference between being blind or able to see and to acknowledge the (real) world around you…

Marco Mancassola, Marco Magini and Giorgia Tolfo

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