How beautiful, the “wrong” creatures. A conversation with Sonia Serazzi


By John

In the shadows and in the simple, as in poverty, the sacred multiplicity of our lives is hidden. You just need to know how to look at them. Sonia Serazzi does it that «when a story arrives – she says – I don't chase it, for me writing must be a gift that comes from what I encounter, from the faces, from the stories. When something comes along that is strong enough to make me want to write, at that point I humbly sit down at the table.”
And the story of «An abundant light» (Rubbettino), the beautiful novel in which there is a tangle of “wrong” existences, because Serazzi is passionate about small stories that she does not intend to sacrifice to the «magical power of the plot», « it arrived when I read a few lines in a newspaper which talked about a little girl who lived in a state of abandonment, due to her mother being afflicted with mental fragility, and despite this she was a good girl at school and had learned to do all alone. So I decided to love her as much as I could, telling her story about her. She and she was born Francabbù.”
Calabrian on her father's side, although born in Naples, Sonia lives in Calabria and here, in a Calabria-world, she set her first novel «There is nothing to do in Simbari Crichi» (Premo Feudo di Maida). And after «…And the nettles are right» and «The sky begins from the bottom» (City of Siderno Award and Mediterranean Culture Award) and then «I ask for instructions every night» (with Antonio Cavallaro), all published by Rubbettino, « An abundant light” speaks of a place, Sacravento, in which the world is “a work of needles advancing in cross-stitch: the green of the trees sparkles in the sun, but it comes from underground roots” and the “wrong” creatures that they live, accustomed to going against the wind, they roll in a saving blue even in the midst of the waves.

From Simbari Crichi to Sacravento: narrative places where he sets his stories.

«I like to create places where stories can breathe freely and where every reader can feel at home in what I tell. In Simbari Crichi the meridian coloring was perhaps more evident because there was also an adherence to certain lifestyles, to certain looks, even to certain wounds, telling them in order to transcend them to some extent. In Sacravento the places are more nuanced because the attention is more on the existential, spiritual, emotional dimension of the creatures”.

The name Sacravento, a speaking name for “against the wind” stories, seems to have to do with the sacredness of its stories.

«The wind is a breath, the Spirit in spiritual tradition is a breath, which speaks with the delicacy of dew, the Scriptures say. We always expect important things to arrive with very loud sounds, in reality they very often speak with a murmur of light wind; so I liked telling the stories of creatures who live in a place where important things are light, almost hidden. Francabbù says something important: “I live in a wrong family that taught me the right things” and I think this of many of us, having learned the right things in the wrong families, I mean wrong according to a bourgeois evaluation criterion. That in the eyes of God there are very few things, very few creatures, that are wrong. There are criminal horrors.”

Francabbù, Marsol, Sarsì, “strange” names for “old” children. Maybe old because they are wise?

«The senex archetype is usually contrasted with the puer archetype. In reality there is a childhood in senility and there is wisdom in the child. My children are “old” because they have already seen everything, and also because, poor creatures, the world forced them to see everything much earlier than was right. As for the names, in Francabbù, which is the powerful and brazen voice of the text and reflects on good and evil, hides the uncertain “boo” of the children but also a frankness that characterizes it. She tries to understand where the world lies between her mother's madness and her father's evangelical wisdom and she looks for her path just as she looks for it among the things that her mother piles up in the house. Our children often find their little heads full of thoughts that we have thought for them and are forced to sort out to understand which is valid and which is right for them, and Francabbù narrates this conflict a little. Marsolè, a creature who learns to choose the place where he feels good and therefore, fleeing from his family, chooses Francabbù as his sister and Marinzaina and Silverio as his parents, an apparently crazy and fragile mother who treats him like an angel and who fills his pockets with colored marbles to look into the small colorful worlds in which Marinzaina takes refuge against the harshness of the world. I liked this child because of his silence and when he learns to speak he says few but correct words. In Sarsì there is a hidden name which is Sara, and then there is the “yes” to life; she is a silent creature who breathes with difficulty due to her pathology but who tries to jump, to live, makes silent gestures of love and welcomes the prayer of Sister Teresa with whom she lives. Sarsì embodies the contemplative gaze, Francabbù is the intellect, she must discern, examine, evaluate”.

The roles of Silverio and Marinzaina are interchangeable. Silverio is also a mother, and the nun is another mother too.

«When I finished the book I understood that inside there was a sort of movement of love, whoever gives it wins and both Silverio and Marinzaina like Sister Teresa give things, attention, loving care. Motherhood, parenting in this book make it clear that you can be parents of children who are not your own. We must look inside this “field of unknown orphans”, children who have parents who do not know how to raise them to life, and professors, teachers, friends who have become parents for someone. As Marsol says: “Having children is not squeezing a mirror out of your loins.” I liked to free my son from the narcissistic demand of giving birth to a mirror. Children are not our thing, they belong to life.”

The blue of the ambulance that rescues bodies and souls is suffused throughout the novel and seems to emanate from the abundant light of the title. An evangelical blueness?

«The incipit reads: “The blue comes and it is an end”. The blue can be twofold: the layman finds the blue of the ambulance, the believer reads those lines as if they were apocalyptic, an announcement of what will happen at the end of time. But even the non-believer sees human collapse: if we think about it, the ambulance arrives and worlds collapse and even when the end of times arrives worlds will collapse, according to the Scriptures, for those who believe in them. So the blue tells of a collapse and a new beginning, there is always a collapse, it can be a pain, a wound, an abandonment, but at a certain point we understand that it can be a new beginning. I would like those who read this book to find in its pages the certainty of being able to have a future even when a world seems to be collapsing.”