La stanza segreta, di Nino Famà *
When we approach works written in Italian in Canada, our initial perception of these efforts is somewhat affected by the reading experience of writings inspired by nostalgia or regret, often with a strong autobiographical connotation, that voice the innermost search for peace, meaning and reconciliation, if not truth, of those who experienced migration’s displacement and dislocation. The disruption of immigration was so intense that, even after many years of rationalizing and reflecting over the positive as well as negative results of being an immigrant, those innermost feelings continue to search for an outlet.
In the variety and dissimilarity of
literary results of the Italian literature of migration to
The novel is centred on the character of a young, second-generation Italian-Canadian man, Nicky Nicoterra, who continues to be in a state of depression and desolation after the death of his grandfather, an Italian immigrant who had been his only personal harbour after his parents’ separation many years earlier. Nicky wanders around in a state of confusion and disorientation. Neither his analyst nor his friends seem to be able to reach him at his inner core, wrapped, as he has himself, in layers of protective indifference and seemingly-careless detachment. Conversely, those layers do not allow him to get closer to his father or his girlfriend, focused as he is on his inner life and quest for peace. His social life revolves around work, university, friends, sex, and some drinks and drugs, without any passion or drive.
In his search for direction, Nicky starts
transcribing the written and oral accounts his grandfather has left him and
discovers the small history of his paternal family over several generations,
from the Italian Unification to the post-World War II period, when his
grandfather left for
There are several topoi in the novel that relate it to Italian-Canadian literature, such as the contraposition of the Old World and the New, and their respective value systems, as in the case of family unity and the role of women. Other common themes are the relationships among generations, the death of family members as rites of passage, the discovery of one’s roots and the return journey to the land of the fathers. Mostly, the younger generations’ quest for meaning and unity and the desire to overcome inner struggles or oppositions in their life is what connects this novel to the production of many younger Italian-Canadian writers.
Of course, common themes and motifs do not
necessarily mean similarity of style and narrative techniques, or literary
outcomes, and this is where La stanza
segreta can be considered a commendable addition to Italian literature in
In its overall structure, the novel follows a circular movement, so common in many Italian-Canadian narratives, following Nicky’s journey from his troubled inner-self to the world of his ancestors—so distant in time and place and experience—and back. Nicky’s experiences are narrated in the first person at the beginning and end of the novel, which allows for an effective layering of intimate and social dynamics. Between these two parts set in the present, the transcription of the Tolomesi villagers’ story by Nicky is inserted as the adaptation of his grandfather’s storytelling. This meta-linguistic artifice of recording and re-elaborating the grandfather’s narration in the grandson’s own words allows the author to overcome inevitable hurdles originating from a linguistically realistic rendition of the elder’s story, so that metaphorically the narration lets the voices of the young and the elderly overlap and, in the end, blend into one consciousness. The voice of the grandfather becomes the voice of the grandchild and vice versa, in a rare moment of empathy and communion.
One could argue that this artifice might
contribute to the uniformity of these two main voices; instead, variation in
the overall narration is achieved through different stylistic contrapositions
and juxtapositions. As an example, the story of the Tolomesi is written following a traditionally structured chronological order within a unity of
space, while experiences and events affecting Nicky’s intimate life are more fragmented
and disparate, with a more open-ended structure. Nature and soil are among the
main characters in the re-construction
of Toloma, in a cyclical life
dominated by the struggle for survival of an entire community. Instead, Nicky’s
effort to accept his existence is entirely his own and his wandering brings him
to the ruins of a world which both in
stanza segreta is
definitely a book that not only deserves to be read, but also demands attention
as a noteworthy addition to both Italian-Canadian literature and Italian
literature outside of
(seguirà prossimamentre una versione italiana del testo)
* Nino Famà. La stanza segreta. Caltanissetta: Salvatore Sciascia, 2004. Pp. 192. ISBN 88-8241-185-0. Euro 15 Il presente articolo è in corso di pubblicazione su Quaderni d'Italianistica, 27: 1 (Spring 2006) e ancora da impaginare.
Stellin è Assistant
Professor presso il Dipartimento of Lingue e Letterature alla Wilfrid Laurier
University in Ontario. Benché sia nata in Canada a Toronto da
genitori friulani, ha trascorso gran parte della sua vita in Italia, svolgendo
i suoi studi in entrambi i paesi. Ha conseguito infatti una prima Laurea
summa cum laude nel 1990 all’Università degli Studi di Udine, in Lingue
e Letterature Straniere con una Tesi dal titolo: Il multiculturalismo in
Canada, e poi una seconda laurea Ph.D. nel 1998 all’University of Toronto,
Dipartimento di Studi Italiani, con la Tesi: Bridging the Ocean: Italian
Literature of Migration to Canada. Fra i molti riconoscimenti Monica
Stellin annovera diverse borse di studio ricevute sia in Canada dall’Università
di Toronto che in Italia dall’Ente Friuli nel Mondo. Ha realizzato pure varie
pubblicazioni, come libri, manoscritti, articoli, recensioni, traduzioni,
conferenze. Menzioniamo i libri: Il
mosaico dinamico: Il multiculturalismo in Canada.