“The eternal misunderstanding between men and women”
Interview with Chiara Gamberale
Italian author Chiara Gamberale – a prodigious literary talent who has been winning major awards since she started writing – has delved in some of her work into the theme of “the eternal misunderstanding between men and women.”
The realities she has observed in this regard could be described as both complex yet somehow straightforward, she feels.
“Men tend to simplify, women to complicate what happens: no one is wrong, no one is right, because reality is sometimes complicated, but sometimes it is terribly simple,” Gamberale said, speaking ahead of the 6th EU-China International Literary Festival.
“This is why the dialogue between male and female is always a challenge, but a nourishing challenge. And in my novels I never judge my characters, but I try to understand their reasons, especially when they are missing: this is where the profound mystery of the identity of every human being begins.”
Relationships provide consistently rich fodder for her as a writer, she says.
“I am interested in relationships because I am convinced they are the damnation and blessing of our coming into the world and the only way to grow and learn something not only of the other, but also of ourselves thanks to the other, and sometimes because of the other.”
Gamberale is leading a rich and varied professional career, and aside from writing books and hosting TV and radio shows she also writes regular columns for a number of newspapers and is the creator and artistic director of the Procida Racconta Festival.
But even as a highly successful female author and creative talent in Italy, she said she still feels an air of discrimination at times.
“Regarding being a woman and writing in Italy, unfortunately, there is still a prejudice: why is it that if a man writes about love he is considered brave, but if a woman writes about love she is looked upon with suspicion – as if she were the author of a trashy romance? I often ask myself why that is.”
For her own writing career, Gamberale said she was inspired by her university lecturer, who was the first to publish her work.
“I owe my debut to my former professor at the University of Italian Studies, the great Cesare De Michelis, who unfortunately passed away a few years ago and was an enlightened publisher, always attentive to new voices,” she said.
She found a passion from her college days and decided to make a career with it, but she has always been aware of the potential pitfalls when merging a passion with her daily work routine.
“Transforming a passion into a job is delicate, because the risk is precisely that of losing the passion and making it ‘just’ a job,” she said.
“For me it is always essential that the stories I tell are necessary: and it is the only advice I give to aspiring writers. Write only about what is rummaging in your heart: as Pasolini argued, nothing can be necessary for those who read it if it was not necessary for those who wrote it.”
The question of juggling personal life and career required extra agility for her after giving birth, she said.
“For me, motherhood four years ago was a great attack on creativity: suddenly, in the space of ideas, between the head and the heart, a small (and gigantic) human being arrives and invades it,” she said. ”Finding your way around is not easy.”
But Gamberale is continuing to find her way, extremely successfully, with her books now available in 16 languages around the world and more translations on the way.
Two of her books have been translated into Chinese already: Qualcosa (《不安公主》，陈英、邓阳译，湖南文艺出版社，2018) and Le luci nelle case degli altri(《他人房子里的灯》).
Qualcosa “is a moral fable about the need we have more than ever today to ‘make peace with emptiness’: the meeting between Princess Something Too Much and Cavalier Niente wants to tell of the balance that each of us should find inside,” Gamberale said.“It is to ‘go through the holes’ with which life shapes us and deforms our hearts.”
In the words of one Italian critic, in Qualcosa“Chiara Gamberale, who is used to giving voice to our complexities, this time focuses on the risk we run of wanting to obsessively fill our lives, instead of dealing with who we are and what we want… This book helps us to defend ourselves from Too Much. But, above all, she invites us to make peace with Nothing.”
Le luci nelle case degli altri, on the other hand, “is a choral novel: the protagonist is a little girl, Almond, who has lost her mother and is adopted by five families in a condominium where in reality her real father is hiding,”Gamberale said. “It’s a kind of thriller of deep emotions.”
Critics welcomed Le luci nelle case degli altrias “highly original”, “an unforgettable voice”, and “one that will lead us, confident above all doubts, towards a surprising ending.”
Her latest book, which has just come out in Italian, is Il Grembo Paterno. Gamberalesaid that this book “is a fundamental novel for me in which I go to the origin of all the questions about love that I have asked myself in my fifteen novels.”
Adele, the protagonist, has a tormented relationship with Nicola, her daughter’s paediatrician: and on the fatal night on the eve of the first lockdown she finds herself alone, hugging her little girl and returns as in a dream to the country where she was born and raised and finally faces the only true love of her life, the father …