‘Sirene’ (‘Sirens’) by Laura Pugno

We love Laura Pugno’s writing. We seriously love it. This is why we have invited her to the festival this year, for a panel discussion with French author Olivia Rosenthal, discussing their literary “untameable creatures”. Pushing the boundaries of realism, Pugno tells powerful stories of female characters and freedom. In her novella ‘Sirens’, first published in 2007, the female characters are – indeed – sirens, but the setting and the atmosphere are radically different from Tomasi di Lampedusa’s classic story. Here, we are in a futuristic Japan. Sirens are trafficked by the yakuza, kept in “breeding tanks”, slaughtered for their meat or sold to brothels. Human-mermaid sex (or rather, rape) is common and as brutal as you can imagine. As a book blogger described it, the story is “dystopia, but with mermaids”. Then something unexpected happens – but we will not spoil it, as we hope that sooner or later this story will become available in English.

When we first read Pugno’s novella, we had that rare and yet very distinctive feeling – this story came from Italy, yes, but it seemed to come from another world. We love it when a story has that alien, beyond-genre feel to it. We can’t wait to hear Laura Pugno at the festival.

First published by Einaudi, 2007