Maria Amata Di Lorenzo and her new novel ‘Don’t let me go away’
by SIMONA LO IACONO
A hand rests on tree bark, trembles on contact, feels the warmth of the sap running under it. It is one of those Sicilian days on which the light shines indecently and every thing migrates into each other, revealing the uniqueness of all, the secret assonance of every element of the universe.
Silvana looks up. Gibilmanna is at her feet, falling away to the sea, making her heart gallop towards the blue. All now seems but a dream. The disease, the past, the unspoken words. From shame, pain and fear. There is only this time left, she knows, as a brief concession of fate. There is one last chance to reveal all, to mend the tears in the fabric of life, to confess to her daughter that, perhaps, not only those who are alive are afraid of being left, but above all the dead, or those about to die.
So she begins to write not to get anything in return, not to be forgiven, not to justify herself, but to remind those who remain that the only destiny to which we are called is compassion. Even when life goes on without revealing its hidden grief, its forbidden births, its fortuneless love affairs. Even when it is convenient to say nothing, to turn a blind eye, to give in to the rituals of composure and good manners. Even then, we are saved only by that understanding of another’s pain, with its sin and its misery.
The novel ‘Don’t let me go away’ is a wonderful and powerful story of a mother. And of a daughter who runs away without knowing that her destiny is to love her mother and the story her mother wants to tell her. Becoming reconciled with the idea that each of us does not really enter into the meaning of existence if he (or she) does not accept other people, unless he loves his mistakes.
Maria Amata Di Lorenzo gives us the voice of an intense woman, which is composed, poetic. A melody that unfolds majestically, revealing little by little the complexity of human relationships, our expectations, the love that cannot be fulfilled until after an entire story to tell.
With a language that is correspondence, chronicle of the sixties, and rhythmical review of changing life, it marks the heart of the reader, remains there and takes root…
I thus asked Maria Amata to reveal the secret of this nostalgia that resonates on every page, that seduces and enchants.
– Dear Maria Amata, Silvana is rather more than a character. She is a voice, and the reader is accompanied by her tones and even her breath itself. How did you come across this character? How did she come to ask you to give her life?
One night I went to sleep, but having switched off the light, between wakefulness and sleep, I saw a face in my mind. It was that of a woman, Silvana, the protagonist of the novel, who was almost knocking at the door of my consciousness for me to open it and tell her story. I turned the light back on and jotted down some sentences, almost as they were being dictated to me, and then went back to sleep.
The next day and in the following months, I wrote the novel almost without knowing anything about the story, which took form before me a little at a time, day by day, as if a voice were talking into my ear… On rereading, I found that Silvana, the main character, although far from me in terms of birthplace and existential experience, shared many aspects of my own character. Unconsciously, I had given her my sensibility and, perhaps, certain melancholy and more introspective aspects of my nature.
But there are parts of me also in the personality of Francesca, the rebellious daughter who chooses to burn bridges after the death of her brother Luca and who has never felt loved by her mother or been able to understand or penetrate her invincible reserve, as thick and heavy as the mantle of a moonless night. It has to be said that, in this novel, I have used a lot of fantasy in telling the events of the story, but the feelings, all the feeling that are narrated, are real.
It’s true, I’m not Sicilian. I was born in central Italy and I have ancestry from the Trentino region. But I am particularly attached to Sicily, by elective affinities if we want to call them such, so much so that over the years I have devoted various other works to Sicily; a play, ‘The Sirocco Room’, an essay, the biography of Judge Rosario Livatino, a short story, ‘South of the Heart’, and even a collection of poems, ‘Sicilian Notebook’.
As you can see, I am hand in glove with this beautiful island, which I love in all its dimensions, even in its strongest and often lacerating contradictions. Sicily as a metaphor, wrote Leonardo Sciascia. And it’s true. For me, it is the existential paradigm in which all narrative coordinates that are important to me are conjugated; beauty and dreams, pain and death, love and mourning, life and desire.
At the time I wrote the first draft of the novel (because ‘Don’t let me go away’ underwent three different drafts over 17 years), I didn’t have any friends in Sicily. They came later, as you know, but I hold them very dear. The only person I knew, but only in an epistolary sense, was Gesualdo Bufalino, the great Sicilian writer, who was very important for me to approach. I esteemed him a lot and one day I looked for his address and wrote to him. To my great surprise, he wrote back. And when I sent him some of my writings, with great trepidation, since we are talking about 20 years ago and I had just began to scribble out some things, I completely entrusted myself to his judgment, so that if he had told me to give it all up, I would have done so unflinchingly.
Instead, Bufalino praised me and told me to keep going, encouraged me to never give up in the face of difficulties that I would certainly meet along the way. And for me that was very important, I remembered that every time an editor binned my writings, every time a no came back. The words of that great Sicilian writer were, and still are, a beacon in my life as a writer.
– Your novel ‘Don’t let me go away’ is a wonderful and powerful story of a mother, and of a daughter who runs away without knowing that her true destiny is to love her mother and the story her mother has to tell. It is about reconciliation with the idea that we cannot understand the meaning of our existence if we do not accept and love one other, despite our mistakes. In this sense, we are all part of both characters, in who holds back, in who runs away, in who makes mistakes, in who forgives, in who asks for forgiveness and in who cannot bring themselves to do so. Is it this circularity that we call human compassion?
Yes, Simona, you’re right. You have an extraordinary ability to see the underlying depth of the story, which not everyone has. ‘Don’t let me go away’ is first and foremost a story of love, conjugated in multiple forms. There is indeed a great love story between Silvana, the main character, and Enzo, whom she loses early on in life and from whom she expects a son, but there is also the difficult and contentious love story between Silvana and her two children, Luca and Francesca. On another level, there is the poignant and unassailable love story between the protagonist and her homeland, Sicily, that she must leave due to the circumstances of life, yet that she bears forever in her heart, only to return at the most difficult, most vulnerable moment of her existence, when the discovery of a grave illness puts her emotionally with her back to the wall.
As you have understood, it is a story that expresses the need for reconciliation. A reconciliation that, first of all, must come from ourselves, from the ability to forgive ourselves, and that is absolutely the hardest thing. After all, we are the hardest judges of our own selves and we struggle to forgive ourselves and to let ourselves be loved. As an author, I was very interested in exploring this dynamic, in understanding the meaning of true reconciliation, that originates first in us, that becomes mercy, that is love. Love is a force that has the power to hurt us immensely, but also the immense power to heal us.
At one point, towards the end of the novel, Silvana expresses it in this way; ‘To have left behind so many people dear to me, today I know that death does not divide when mercy is born of love, even lost, rejected and then miraculously found, and acknowledged. In that incomprehensible journey from mystery to the mystery encompassing the sense of all human life, it is always love that shows the way’.
DON’T LET ME GO AWAY
by MARIA AMATA DI LORENZO
AVAILABLE IN ENGLISH