The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Posts tagged italy
Help translate The Confines of the Shadow, an Italian-Libyan novel

We recently received this message, regarding an effort to crowd-fund the translation of what sounds like a fascinating series of novels set in Libya during and after the Italian colonial occupation. 

We are currently trying to raise £8,000 to underwrite the production costs of Alessandro Spina's Libyan-Italian epic The Confines of the Shadow, which will be translated into English by André Naffis-Sahely. A 1300 page multi-generational series of novels set in Benghazi, The Confines of the Shadow is a sequence that maps the transformation of Libya from a sleepy Ottoman backwater in the 1910s to the second capital of an oil-rich kingdom in the 1960s.

Called “the Italian Joseph Conrad” and a “20th Century Balzac” by the Italian press, Alessandro Spina was a Syrian Maronite born in Benghazi in 1927, and he lived in Libya for most of his life, until he was forced to leave the country during the darkest years of Gaddafi's rule. He passed away in 2013, but not before his masterpiece was awarded the Premio Bagutta in 2007, Italy's highest literary accolade.

In the run-up to our publishing Volume 1 of this epic, The Nation published Naffis-Sahely's essay 'Spina's Shadow' in their August 18-25 issue. Banipal also featured the essay on their website to help promote our fundraising effort: Who is Alessandro Spina?

As this sort of project requires extensive financing, we are asking you to help contribute to the production of the remaining two volumes. This is the link to our Indiegogo site. The pledges range from £5 to £300, and we are grateful for all of them. 

Please consider making a pledge today to help support the work of Darf Publishers. We are offering, among other perks, exclusive advance excerpts from Volume 1, a chance to put your name down for a deluxe hardcover edition of the book, as well as a limited edition of prints featuring the cover art. Once you’ve pledged, please help spread the word online.

I grew up in Italy but had never heard of Spina. I searched in vain for his books in bookstores there during a recent visit (they could be ordered but there wasn't time). After being forced to leave Libya, he lived in Italy as a comfortable recluse, entirely devoted to his writing, the friend and correspondent of several prominent Italian authors. He appears to have had a reputation but a very small audience. I don't know yet if his writing is as good as his publisher and translator claim, but I do know I'd like to find out. 


Italy is back in business in Libya

The mourning period is over in Italy: Italy to help Libya protect borders, oil: Libya PM | Reuters

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Italy will help Libyan authorities protect the North African country's borders and oil facilities, Libyan Prime Minister Abdurrahim al-Keib said on Saturday.

"The defence ministers (of Libya and Italy) signed a letter related to creating a system to control borders managed by Libya and provide training, especially for (protecting) oil installations," Keib told a joint news conference with Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti.

"(The letter is) asserting Libyan sovereignty and that no Italian troops will be present," he said.

Monti is in Libya at the head of a diplomatic, economic and military delegation which is hoping to lay the groundwork for contracts for reconstruction projects worth billions of dollars over the next few years.

Projects include building major roads, expanding and rehabilitating airports and seaports and training the armed forces and police, which need new border security and reconnaissance equipment.

As the article notes, in 2008 Silvio Berlusconi agreed with Qadhafi to pay $5bn in compensation over 20 years for crimes committed during Italy's colonization of Libya, when it killed over a quarter of the population. It doesn't look like that payout is going to be honored from this deal, aside from some aid that will be well compensated by oil and infrastructure contracts. Shouldn't Libya expect prompt payment, like the blood money the victims of the Lockerbie bombing took a decade ago? 

[Thanks, PM, who adds: "Given the Italian-made weapons Qadhafi used against his people, I think the NTC should have driven a harder bargain."]

Update: Meanwhile – Protesters storm Libyan government HQ in Benghazi | Reuters

Silvio's alibi

"I swear, Hosni, breasts like this..."

You knew there was a price to be paid for counting Silvio Berlusconi as one of your friends in Europe:

A scandal over Silvio Berlusconi's relationship with a teenage Moroccan girl took on legal and political overtones today when a senior police officer confirmed that the Italian prime minister's office had intervened on her behalf when she was detained on suspicion of theft, claiming she was the granddaughter of the Egyptian president.

And it only gets better:

Late yesterday, Berlusconi tried to pull back from his earlier apparent admission that, as "a person with a heart", he had helped the young Moroccan dancer – who calls herself Ruby Rubacuori (Ruby Heartrobber) – when she was taken to a police station in Milan in May.

According to Italian media reports, a showgirl turned politician close to Berlusconi collected Ruby following her release.

The prime minister said he was unaware of any telephone call from his office, but added: "I merely made a telephone call to find someone who could make themselves available for the entrusting of a person who had aroused the sympathy of us all and told a dramatic story to which we gave credit."

Interviewed by the daily La Stampa newspaper, Vincenzo Indolfi, the station commander at the time of the incident, said one of his officers had received a call from the prime minister's office. He said the caller had said "something like: 'Is it true you've detained this person? Then make the [necessary] checks and then see what to do.'"

Indolfi, who has since been promoted to a job in the Italian equivalent of the cabinet office, confirmed media reports that the prime minister's office had claimed Ruby was the granddaughter of the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak.

The 17 year-old, whose real name was variously reported as Karima or Rachida, has a colourful Facebook page featuring photos of her wearing basques, latex and a bunny outfit. She lists her interests as belly dancing and Taekwondo.

I'm sure Hosni will understand, but Suzanne won't like it.

Qadhafi in Rome

Italy -- I love Italy, some of my best friends are Italian as they say -- but really how high of a standard can you set for a country run by a gangster who's actually been re-elected despite the many financial and other scandals around him? (Yes I feel the same way about the US and Bush). Still, rather disappointing to see a major European power honor and play host to Muammar al-Qadhafi, now the longest-serving dictator in the world. As always Qadhafi's amusing attire detracts from his brutal record:

Gheddafi è accompagnato da una folta delegazione, comprese le "amazzoni", la celebre guardia del corpo tutta al femminile con baschi rossi e divise militari. Occhiali neri, cappello e alta uniforme, il colonnello non passa inosservato. In particolare le attenzioni (e le polemiche) si sono concentrate su una foto appuntata sulla divisa: ritrae un eroe della resistenza libica contro gli italiani, Omar Al Muktar, noto come il "leone del deserto". Non solo: l'ultimo discendente di Al Muktar, ormai ottantenne, è sbucato dall'aereo subito dopo il leader libico.

Sure, there are a lot of oil and other contracts for the Italians, and many diplomats and grandees from other countries are lining up for those interminable waits at Qadhafi's presidential palaces, beady eyes darting to and fro under sweaty brows as they feverishly imagine all the money there is to be made from this poor, unlucky country.

But luckily not all Italians are happy about the half-mad Libyan dictator's visit, and some have made this nice posted telling Qadhafi his tent (he famously travels with his Bedouin tent) is not welcome in Rome.


Get the high-rez version here. By the wonderful artist Gianluca Costantini.