Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Elise Valmorbida

Elise Valmorbida grew up Italian in Australia but fell in love with London. She is the author of acclaimed literary novels Matilde Waltzing, The TV President and The Winding Stick. An award-winning indie film producer, she wrote SAXON, The Making of a Guerrilla Film. Other non-fiction includes The Book of Happy Endings.

Valmorbida's new novel is The Madonna of the Mountains.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
Confession: there are lots of books I don’t finish. But George Saunders is an author whose work compels me to continue reading, all the way to the last carefully chosen word. With Lincoln in the Bardo, I’m deep in. It’s fascinating to see how this book unfolds—it feels like a gathering of poignant short stories arranged as a theatrical script. A complicated wafting beauty.

I’ve just finished The Fireflies of Autumn by Moreno Giovannoni, which is a collection of fable-like short stories set in a Tuscan village. It’s beautifully written with ironic wit, and recurring currents of migrant melancholy. I met the author at the Byron Writers Festival. We are both insider-outsiders, both Italian Australians, so we have a lot in common. We are both driven to write about a disappearing (disappeared?) world—that of traditional Italian rural culture. It’s no wonder that I relished this book. I can’t wait for his next one.

Meanwhile, I got started with Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi, with whom I was happily paired at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Her stories are infused with saffron and cinnamon, sayings from ‘the proverb-maker’, religion and ritual, thwarted love, intergenerational conflict, the repercussions of societal change… Two characters who particularly win my heart are Zarifa, a woman of slave background, and Najiya, a moon-magical Bedouin woman who lives at the edge of the desert. Pause for thought: slavery was not abolished in Oman until 1970.
Visit Elise Valmorbida's website.

--Marshal Zeringue