A dozen spread between large and (many) small and medium-sized publishers, with some expected names, many unexpected and several large excluded, and above all with a female majority (seven women and five men) and a strong theme, autofiction.
Get to the heart, with the proclamation of the dozen on March 22 online, the 2021 edition of the Strega Prize, the seventy-fifth: A birthday that coincides – recalled Giovanni Solimine, president of the Bellonci Foundation which promotes the prize with Liquore Strega and with the contribution of the Chamber of Commerce of Rome – with that of the Republic, in a climate of rebirth that animates us even today. But this is a particular edition also for the record of candidates (Even the 62 titles proposed are a record – stated Stefano Petrocchi, director of the Bellonci Foundation – and an act of trust towards this cultural institution) and above all because the edition of the year of the pandemic, an element that is partly reflected, albeit indirectly, in the themes and settings of the twelve selected books.
We have noticed – explained Melania G. Mazzucco, president of the Committee directors of the award (composed of Pietro Abate, Valeria Della Valle, Giuseppe D’Avino, Ernesto Ferrero, Alberto Foschini, Paolo Giordano, Helena Janeczek, Gabriele Pedull, Stefano Petrocchi, Marino Sinibaldi and Giovanni Solimine) – the recurrence of dystopia and autobiography, and a general diffidence in the novel of intertwining and genre. Beyond the literary genre and the age of the chosen authors (most of them were born in the sixties, seventies and eighties, Mazzucco continued), the real dominant of the dozen is the strong bio or autobiographical element: to the personal experience of the author or author, to her private and neighboring world and to the local geography. In some cases this experience crosses the big story, more often it is a matter of intimate micro-stories. The prevalence of the house as a place of action also stands out, concludes the writer: The figures of mothers and sisters dominate, while fathers are almost absent. These are stories in which the house becomes a character. In the year of confinement within the home, certainly a coincidence that is not accidental.
The house, the place and the territory enter right into the title of many of these books: happens for rooms and walls custodians of memories ne The book of houses by Andrea Bajani (Feltrinelli), nominated by Concita De Gregorio; for the narrative debut The home of the mothers the translator and essayist Daniele Petruccioli (TerraRossa) proposed by Elena Stancanelli; for the lake province of The water of the lake is never sweet by Giulia Caminito (Bompiani) presented by Giuseppe Montesano; for the identity places of Borgo Sud by Donatella Di Pietrantonio (Einaudi) proposed by Nadia Fusini; or for the Roman periphery of The year that was Christmas twice in Rome by Roberto Venturini (Sem) proposed by Maria Pia Ammirati. The autobiography the prominent element in the direct testimony of The lost bread by Edith Bruck (La nave di Theseo) proposed by Furio Colombo; in the letter to the adoptive mother of Shine like life by Maria Grazia Calandrone (Ponte alle Grazie) nominated by Franco Buffoni; but also disguised in the fake autofiction (as the author defined it in a recent interview with Corriere) of It looked like beauty by Teresa Ciabatti (Mondadori) nominated by Sandro Veronesi; or becomes a family romance in The pace by Lisa Ginzburg (Ponte alle Grazie) proposed by Nadia Terranova; and becomes adolescent history in Adoration by Alice Urciuolo (66thand2nd) presented by Daniele Mencarelli. Or still builds the stylistic experimentation of The repetitions by Giulio Mozzi (Marsilio) proposed by Pietro Gibellini; or enclosed in human and intellectual neighborhoods in the biographical-narrative essay Two lives by Emanuele Trevi (Neri Pozza) nominated by Francesco Piccolo.
In addition to the already mentioned characteristic elements of the edition, that is the majority female among the semifinalists and the presence of numerous small and medium-sized publishers close to the few titles of large groups, it should be noted that the record of 62 candidates this year has perhaps played a role in the exclusion from the dozen names expected: among the excluded many prominent authors such as Paolo Di Stefano with the autobiographical novel We (Bompiani) nominated by Luca Serianni, Antonella Lattanzi with This impending day (HarperCollins) proposed by Domenico Starnone, Aurelio Picca with The greatest criminal in Rome was my friend (Bompiani) presented by Edoardo Nesi, Carmen Pellegrino with The happiness of others (The ship of Theseus) nominated by Alessandra Tedesco.
Now the twelve titles will be read by the jury of 660 voters: in addition to the Amici della Domenica, it includes scholars and experts chosen by the Italian cultural institutes abroad and strong readers chosen by independent bookstores. The semifinalist books also compete for the Strega Giovani Prize: all, except the novel by Mozzi, which the Steering Committee judged, explains a press release, suitable for an adult audience. The next appointments on the calendar will be June 10 for the announcement of the five and July 8 for the announcement of the winner.
In the photo above from left: Andrea Bajani, Edith Bruck, Maria Grazia Calandrone, Giulia Caminito, Teresa Ciabatti, Donatella Di Pietrantonio; below, from left, Lisa Ginzburg, Giulio Mozzi, Daniele Petruccioli, Emanuele Trevi, Alice Urciuolo, Roberto Venturini.
March 22, 2021 (change March 22, 2021 | 21:14)