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Interview with Marco Missiroli

Marco Missiroli was born in Rimini in 1981 and lives in Milan, a city that he loves very much. After winning the Premio Campiello with his debut novel, Senza coda, he published Il buio addosso (2007), Bianco (2009) and The Fate of the Elephant (2012, Premio Selezione Campiello). With Atti osceni in luogo privato (2015), he won the Premio Super Mondello. A regular contributor to the Corriere della Sera, his books have been translated worldwide. Since his publication in Italy, Fidelity, his latest novel, has been very well received and successful and has won the prestigious Strega Youth Prize.


Over the last few months, like most Italians during the on-going pandemic, he has been living at home in tranquillity, as he said during our interview. “The concealed traumas will come out later on. I have learned to admire nature and appreciate the silence. Some of us may have found a new birth.”


Marco Missiroli teaches narrative structure at the prestigious Holden School of narration. As he told us during the interview “reading is the basis of everything. And it is of the uttermost important for a professional writer.” However, Marco started appreciating reading quite late, when he turned 21. Prior to that, he had been reading mainly because he was told to by his teachers or by his mother, who happened to be an Italian teacher. Reading and writing always go hand in hand. For Marco Missiroli “writing is the construction of a new world and it cannot be mere venting or psychoanalysis, otherwise it would end up in diaries.”


Marco studied in the prestigious Bologna University. One of his mentors was Umberto Eco. “He wasvery funny, humble, yet ferocious when it came to knowledge. I owe him a lot. Each Thursday night we would go out and he would always drink Glenn Grant on the rocks. I still remember this to this day.”


Marco teaches writing and he tends to emphasize that the only way to find one’s literary voice is to go against other writers’ literary voice. Many writers tend to imitate other people’s styles. For Marco the most important thing is to explore all the voices that you feel you are not only to eventually to find yours, emulate who you are not in order to find who you truly are.


Fidelity, translated into Chinese by Shao Siming, is to be published in China very soon. Netflix has already acquired the rights. Next year the series will be broadcast in almost 20 countries. He spent approximately five years to complete this literary work. The possibility that something he created is transmuted, changed or respected by other people makes him really happy. Therefore, he decided not take part in the adaptation of his book for the script.


Fidelity is a novel which divided literary critics and the readers for its theme. The main topic analyzed in the book is whether we can be true to ourselves without betraying the people we love. The Financial Times defines it “a gripping novel exploring the tensions in an apparently idyllic marriage, where a couple in their thirties is tested by their attraction to others, and by their own accumulation of desires and disappointments”. Are we sure that resisting temptation means being faithful? What if that renunciation represented the betrayal of our deepest disposition? Fidelity is an anchor that allows us not to be swept away in the storm, but it is also the mirror in which we look for ourselves each and every day, hoping to recognize the image we see. Marco Missiroli tells it by going to the heart of his characters: him, her, the other, and the others. There is a moment in one’s life that people leave their original family and start exploring their true self. In this phase, one enters the so-called purgatorial states. This is when you can choose who you really want to be. The further away you live from your family, the more you can be true to yourself. The whole process of living true to oneself as opposed to living up to other people’s expectations is very traumatic and a very complex task one should deal with.


In our society based on images and on temptations of all sorts, how can one be faithful to one’s own nature while at the same time being faithful to the projection of one’s image in the eyes of the society? What is betrayal? Mobility for Marco is a key theme. One can change one’s perspective between being faithful or loyal to oneself versus being faithful to one’s family, until a certain place is found. However, once you understand your true nature, you should stick to it, otherwise you will no longer be faithful to yourself.


For Marco, writing is not a cathartic process. When he writes about his demons, it is a suffering process for him


“The best feelings are told whispering”, says Marco. Bernard Malamud once said “when I go to a party the best place for me is to be in a corner and watch other people enjoy the party”. For Marco, writing a novel is the same process. When you whisper something, it is an actually far louder cry, than it could otherwise be.


To conclude our interview, Marco said he has never been to China, but he is certain that he will love it and will never want to leave such a wonderful country once he actually visits it.


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