A book about the incredibly current war
Alessandra Carati is an author who recently published the book for Mondadori “And then we are safe“with which he won The Witch Prize 2022 and The Opera Prime Prize at Viareggio-Rèpaci of this year. The novel tells the story of the war in Bosnia, which broke out thirty years ago, in 1992, a story that, despite recent years, is incredibly current. We asked her a few questions about the book and asked for some writing advice for the graduates in 2022, who on June 22 will face the first maturity test again of a national nature after a two-year pandemic.
- Request: Your book tells the story of a mother and daughter’s escape from the 1990s Balkan war and their arrival in Italy. Today, the center of our day is the stories of the war in Ukraine, of the horrors and of the escape from the troubled area. Why would you tell this story, a book that started in unsuspecting times, today so terribly relevant?
Author: A meeting aroused interest in this story. In 2008, I had the opportunity to get in touch with a group of Bosnians. They lived in Milan after fleeing their country of origin to save themselves from a violent ethnic cleansing operation. The strength of their experiences struck me right away and I immediately wanted to make a novel out of it. At the time, I did not have an emotional and professional capacity that could support me in writing. I waited, I worked on other projects, with that book intuition always in peripheral vision. Then, in 2016, there was the first draft, hence a series of paraphrases that brought it to the form that the reader encounters the book in today. When the war broke out in Ukraine, I felt a strong alienation, I never thought the novel could suddenly take light from current events.
- Request: Sometimes, from our comfortable lives, even though we feel sadness and empathy, we are far from really putting ourselves in the place of others. How did you manage to tell us this story of war, refugees and a new beginning so well?
Author: I followed a method that I have refined over the years, meticulous documentation work as well as a diligent frequency of the material: I have spent some time with refugee families, in Italy and in Bosnia; I listened to their stories when they wanted to tell me; I visited the houses they live in the day I ate with them; I traveled back to the countries of origin. And then I let all this calm down, grow into the memory, mingle with the research into the texts, the study, the need to understand an obscure piece of recent history. So I wrote, then I went back to them, and I wrote again. Thus for years in a come and go that at some point also became my life.
- Request: And then we are safe it is the story of an escape, but also of a return, of successes and losses. Aida studies in Italy and becomes a doctor, while her brother is lost and dies young, despite the fact that she did not really know about war and flight. What makes the difference in these families? Do they play the same dynamics that are found in “normal” families, or is there still something that marks you, a pain that you carry inside, and that never really makes you become like the others?
Author: In part, the conflicts are the same tensions – they are the ones related to growth and the need to identify oneself in relation to one’s family, in order to make room for the mysterious and ambivalent feeling that binds us to the parents. In the case And then we are saved, the Story pushes the characters in such a radical way that it irrevocably overwhelms their balance. The perennial emergency of chaos causes them to lose their clarity, overwhelms them and requires so much effort that none of them can listen anymore. Here, the moment the mutual listening leaps, everything begins to fall apart.
Alessandra Caratis writing tips for the first exam
- Request: first maturity test (the written Italian), what in your opinion should not be missing the first paper in the state exam: a reflection on current events, a relevant quote, a personal reflection, a brave sentence …
Author: an honest and sincerely curious look at others, at the world. It does not matter what form it may take (quote, topicality, bold phrase), it is important that it stems from the desire to relate to something, anything that catches our attention.
A writing tip
Author: Breathe, always try to be in a state of openness to what surrounds us. Writing does not come from the head, it comes from the body and speaks to the reader’s body.
How much is the judgment of others worth?
Author: the recovery that comes from outside is a thermometer to understand how much good there is in the work we have done and how much more there is to do, how far we can go to become even more effective, to go some distance further. It should never be taken as a judgment on the value of our being, even if it is sometimes difficult to manage not to mix the plans. The meaning of what we do lies in the deepest part of us and should always be respected.
How do you relax before an important test?
Author: I try to stay away from stressful situations, I do not think about what I have done, whether it is good or not, I do not go back to it all the time with the doubt of not being ready. What is done is done. I dedicate myself to comfortable, free activities, a space just for me where I take my thoughts away from the goal.
Author: I have no rituals, I have not even had it before, in high school or college. Not even good luck. Not because I do not believe in it, I just never felt the need, I never thought it could be a good ally.
Tell us an important “lesson” you have learned in your life.
Author: Life has taught me patience. The reward for what we have done – when it comes – is never where and how we expect it, I think at least I have guessed.
A clue to the theme of the first test: what could it be?
Author: I imagine that a clue will be presented which has to do with the very recent history, the outbreak of war in Ukraine. Perhaps they could ask to establish an analogy with a previous war, or they could suggest a reflection on what peace is and with what tools it can be pursued.
Listen to Spreaker.
What themes will be the main characters in the first maturity test 2022? We got an idea: