Diego Bernasconi, “Lauto Grill” (Lauto Grill) – “Industrialisation” – that is, the period of change that transforms a human group from an agrarian society into an industrial one – is a word that doesn’t even make sense in a place like Sant’Eligio. Built specifically as a company town for a steel mill, it dies out when the business folds: there was never any room for a “transformation” of sort, no bucolic past on the wane.
The only legacy of the town’s fleeting existence is, ironically, a “Rural Museum”: in its utter pointlessness and in stark contrast to the blue-collar origin of Sant’Eligio, the museum becomes nonetheless a key institution, as well as the only excuse for the presence of an attendant, a police station and a police chief.
Spicing up the story is an extremely open-minded woman, an ingenious character who, unlike her dull, good-for-nothing husband, is able to fashion a brave new world full of plenty and promises. [Read more]
Alexandre Hmine “La chiave nel latte” (The key in the milk)
Winner of the 2017 Studer/Ganz Prize
“The key in the milk” tells the story of a boy of Moroccan birth who, left by his mother in the care of a Swiss widow called Elvezia, grows up in Alto Malcantone (Ticino). As the plot unfolds, shards of the protagonist’s past are brought to light: his childhood toys, the religious festivals, the hockey matches played in the road, his first crushes, and the holidays spent in Casablanca – a city that, to the eyes of the then ten-year old protagonist, looks baffling, impenetrable and distant. Although he feels a sense of belonging to Switzerland, the boy is forced to question his own indefinite identity. His doubts and confusion, shared by the reader, will be left unsolved until the end of the book.[Read more]
Damiano Leone “Il simbolo” (The symbol)
A historical novel
A little kid, a prostitute’s son, is born in a Palestine besieged by Roman troops. At the same time, another boy is born who will go down in history as Jesus of Nazareth. Their lives couldn’t be any more different, and yet they are bound to cross at the characters’ darkest hour.
Turned to prostitution, young Ben Hamir finds some solace in the affection of a slave tasked with mentoring him. Forced to flee from Palestine, after a very educational time in Athens Ben Hamir conquers Rome – or, at least, the hearts of its matrons – and becomes a much-desired guest amidst the Roman élite.
The young protagonist is introduced to the heart of Roman politics, and he ultimately becomes intimate with Tiberius himself. From this friendship, though, he learns that fate can be treacherous. When the Emperor bids him to go back to Palestine, Ben Hamir finds that a new love and an old one are waiting for him – as well as the fierce hatred of his arch-enemy, Pontius Pilate. [Read more]
Gerry Mottis “Terra bruciata” (Scorched earth)
The witches, the hangman and the devil
A historical novel
1613, Roveredo, Canton of the Grisons, Switzerland. The local hangman executes a thief in Valle Calanca. Three days later, the executioner is found dead. It’s a mystery. Without its minister of High Justice, the municipality of Mesolcina falls prey to brigands, usurers, witches and wizards that wreak havoc in the valleys. Anxious to restore order, the judicial authorities hire a new hangman from the land that border the Three Leagues.
The newly appointed minister of High Justice is a mysterious, macabre and yet bewitching character, standing at the edge of a world that is reluctant to let him in. A prostitute in Roveredo – a woman with a troubled past, but proficient in the healing arts – will present the executioner with sensations he has never felt before. Little by little, his very soul and conscience break down: is his craft even useful for human society? Are the sentences issued by the Court of the valley fair and just? [read more]
Mario Casella “Il peso delle ombre” (The burden of shadows)
Between true stories and false tales
This book is dedicated to those who have had to carry the unfair burden of lies, having been wrongly accused of being untrue; and to the liars, too. I hope these pages will help them figure out their own motives.
Some seasons are tougher than some others. Struggling as we are to stay afloat, we are unable to even think about the impact that some days, or months, or even years might have on our lives. There are crucial times, no matter how ordinary or dramatic they happen to be, that are bound to affect a person’s future forever.
I was so keen to pursue my ambitions as a mountaineer that I numbed my inquisitiveness as a journalist. I hushed my own spirit – me, the champion of human rights and freedom of speech. I left for Tibet with the bitter prospect of obeying the Chinese ban on visiting Lhasa and the other rebel cities of the province.
What’s the point of denying it? [Read more]
Giorgio Genetelli “La conta degli ostinati” (The count of the stubborn)
Short story collection
Stubbornness is the fil rouge that connects the eighteen stories in this collection.
The characters remind us of mules – stubborn, understanding, funny, smart, independent and unpredictable. But what make this fictional characters stand out is their relentless drive towards ill-fated delusions, their almost unearthly energy and nonconformism from back in the day.
Several stories take place in some undefined past, without the slightest hint of nostalgia. In fact, the past itself seems to be imbued with life and faults and strength, ready to side with us in our struggles.
The leading themes are love and death, which coalesce into everything human: from football matches to the experience of diversity, the stories lead the reader through extravagant boondocks and snow-clad squares, along impossible voyages, picaresque quests and wild adventures. [Read more]
Tommy Cappellini “Rigor mortis per Lupe” (Lupe’s rigor mortis)
“David, can you help me out with Miss Vélez’s garden tomorrow morning? Joel is taking the day off, so you’re the only one I can ask “. The life of David Donaz, a teenage boy from the 40s whose father works as a gardener for the Hollywood élite, is about to change. He’s soon to meet his first love, a woman he will never forget: Lupe Vélez, the star-crossed heroine of the Mexican Spitfire series as well as several other successful – but often forgotten – movies. Lupe, the wife of Johnny Weissmuller, was also sentimentally close to Gary Cooper and Arturo de Córdova, as well as to other famed acquaintances of hers.
The Allies landed in Normandy on June 6th, 1944; Lupe Vélez killed herself on the 13th of December of the same year, dressed in “a grand evening gown”. This charming actress, as sensual as one might expect from a beauty from San Luis Potosí, Mexico, had found herself… [Read more]
Dada Montarolo “Nessun messaggio nuovo” (No new messages)
Alex, a 40-year old architect, is terminally ill. His new state leads him to reassess three long-unsettled issues: a trivial affair cost him his love, and he never actually confronted his woman about their mutual unhappiness; his best friend and partner thinks he conned him, and won’t talk to him anymore; and his father, with whom Alex has always had a troubled relationship, has become a complete stranger. Resolved to set things right – and to keep his disease a secret – Alex starts writing e-mails to his estranged loved ones. Although none of them replies to his first, short messages, Alex’s resolution to clean up the messes in his life remains strong and… [Read more]
Carlo Silini, “Il ladro di ragazze” (The Girl Snatcher), 15×21 cm, 464 pp, ISBN 978-88-97308-35-5, Novel/Historical Novel/Adventure Story, “A bold, daring, powerful story about people doomed for disaster that lived to tell the tale against all odds. Brigands and grave sages; reckless liaisons and blood-stained crimes; eye-for-an-eye justice and supernatural retaliation: what else does a novel need?” Il Giorno. Drawing inspiration from his land’s lore, Carlo Silini has brought his novel’s world to life with fictional characters and people from the actual, documented past. The Ticino of old becomes the stage of a far-reaching, relentless manhunt. But there’s also room for romance, murder, stories of brigands and nobles and peasants, betrayal and revenge – churning out a tale of horror, passion and humour. [read more]
Virginia Helbling, Dove nascono le madri (Where mothers are born), Novel, “The novel was awarded the Studer/Ganz prize for the best first work”. Motherhood is always a powerful, unsettling experience. The main character of this novel has just become a mother; her newborn girl is sleeping close to her in her hospital cradle, and she doesn’t even know how to pick her up. She must learn how to be a mother from scratch, while helplessly witnessing her own body’s distressing change. Her domestic life gets stuck in a rut: [Read more]
Daniele Dell’Agnola, Anche i bruchi volano (Even grubs can fly), Novel, 12-year-old Felix lives in a city suburb. He’s a wild, restless, hyperactive boy, who delights in culture and hates going to school. He can’t stand Marcello Porcello, the son of his clumsy paediatrician who prescribes him huge amounts of methylphenidate. When Felix refuses to go to school, a horde of psychologists, educators, doctors and experts start analysing him. [Read more]
Mario Casella, Nero-bianco-nero. Un viaggio tra le montagne e la storia del Caucaso (Black-White-Black. A voyage in time through the Caucasian mountains), Essay/Travel report, Winner of the 2013 ITAS prize, Winner of the 2011 Leggimontagna literary prize (fiction), 9th edition, and Shortlisted for the “Exploration and Voyages” category of the 2011 Gambrinus “Giuseppe Mazzotti” prize (29th edition). After the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, the Olympic flame passed on to Sochi, a Russian city on the western edge of the Caucasus. A spotlight was thus shone on the southern border of the Russian Federation: the media started focusing on the tensions between Russia and Georgia, on the acts of terrorism in the Caucasus republics, and on the debate around the works for the Olympic Games in Sochi. Journalist and mountain guide Mario Casella, and Russian alpinist Alexey Shustrov have undertaken a journey – mostly by ski – across the boundless Caucasus… [Read more]
Mario Casella, Calendario verosimile (A likely calendar), Tales, Drawing inspiration from his bustling life experience as a mountain guide, journalist and documentarist Mario Casella has come up with the idea of a “likely calendar”, whose events take place from Siberia to the Himalayas, in America and in Europe. “No way! Are you kidding me?” is what most of us can’t help thinking when people brag about the most unlikely stories. Every story in this book might or might not be [Read more]
Oscar Matti, “The Househusband. A Day in the Life of the Modern Man”. An entertaining account of a day in the life of a man who has chosen to turn traditional family roles on their heads by becoming a househusband. With a touch of irony he tells us about everything that a househusband has to deal with: looking after the kids, getting them ready for kindergarten, breakfast, household chores, lunch, dinner (as he waits for his “working wife” to come home), [Read more]
Maria Rosaria Valentini, Antonia, Novel, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. The language and plot are very good; its lively depiction of events, characters and places is remarkable. The twofold-perspective strategy is absolutely brilliant – two points of view that tell the same story and ultimately give the same hopeful message Giorgio Bàrberi Squarotti”. Ciarli is a sad, misanthropic geologist who spends his life telling himself the story of his family. He struggles to understand it, to piece things together in an attempt to make some sense out of the past that made him a lonely wanderer. His maze of loneliness and regret, though, can never change: Ciarli is like a spider stuck in its own cobweb. When his grandfather dies at almost 100, however, his life gets abruptly turned on its head: during the burial, Ciarli sees his long-lost cousin Antonia, a dazzling beacon in his life… [Read more]
Maria Rosaria Valentini, Di armadilli e charango… (Of armadillos and charangos…), Maria Rosaria Valentini’s work lasted for several years. When an old woman from the south told Valentini the story of her own grandmother – who was kidnapped by brigands –, she was inspired to write a collection of stories. The collection has grown far beyond expectations [Read more]
Maria Rosaria Valentini, Quattro mele annurche (Four anurkas), Four anurkas is a book that should be passed over in silence: any hint or clarification about it would mar its crystalline beauty. And yet it is a book that deserves to be talked about – maybe in subdued tones. What can we say, then? [Read more]
Flavio Stroppini, Pellegrino di cemento (The concrete pilgrim. Le Voyage d’Orient a century after Le Corbusier), A story told on the road. Le Corbusier left Berlin in 1911 and set out on a voyage that would last the whole year. He visited Germany, Bohemia, Austria, the Balkans, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Istanbul and Athens, going as far as Mount Athos. [Read more]
Flavio Stroppini, Niente salvia a maggio (No sage in May), Short Story, There’s a common saying that goes: “If you eat sage in May, you will live longer”. The title of this story refers to – and quite ironically reverses – the saying. “Amidst the whole lot of the world’s facts & numbers, on the very last page of the national press, there was a tiny agency dispatch: a suicide. A man built a guillotine in his bedroom and beheaded himself. Apparently, he managed to build it in just one day, while his family wasn’t at home. Why did he do it? I felt that man wanted to tell us something. I had to understand.” This short introduction hints strongly at the book’s leading theme [Read more]
Mattia Cavadini, Un cielo blu genziana (A gentian-blue sky), Short Story, This short story is based on the life of a luminary in Swiss culture: architect Tita Carloni. Before he died, he would often repeat something – something that left a mark on the author of this book: “There will be nothing but cement below the fog. Only animals and those who successfully adapt will survive”.[Read more]
Prisca Agustoni, Cosa resta del bianco (The remains of the white), Tales, A move; an encounter; prudent eyes peering through the night; a tropical garden; a bus stop; mysterious strangers returning to a village; an unfinished love, caught between passion, hatred and remorse; a lunatic Pole whose life is a puzzle; an aimless journey – all this is the multifarious cosmos of Prisca Agustoni’s stories. What makes these short stories unique is their language:[Read more]
Fabio Caminada, Il ponte della luna (The moon bridge), Novel, Seemingly unconscious Gianmarco starts reliving all of his memories. As a child, he was adopted by an overprotective woman who wouldn’t tell him about his past and origins. His adoptive father would basically ignore him. Anxious to spice up his drudging life, Gianmarco finds sanctuary in unrestrained behaviours. While in an institution, he becomes acquainted with Anselmo, the old, grumpy gardener, who takes [Read more]
E+C Minguzzi, Il codice della follia (The insanity code), Novel, Achilles, Althea, Hermes, Pan, Theseus – these people all come from Greek mythology, and they all have something in common: a series of heinous murders. Lake Lucerne, Switzerland. A serial killer spreads terror amidst the locals: he kills and dissects his victims and then throws them in the lake after bagging them along with some rose stems. The police suspect the residents of an expensive sanatorium headed by psychiatrist Herbert Kampitsch. On the tail of the murderer there are also [Read more]
Alessia J., Fallimento terapeutico (Therapeutic failure. A true story), Going through the pages of this book wasn’t easy. It’s the story of a painfully slow pilgrimage through hospitals, through way too many intensive-care and rehab wards. And yet it was worth asking my soul to make such an effort – and it will be worth it for you, too, if you want to be the witnesses of yet another therapeutic failure; another breakdown in healthcare provision.[Read more]
Giorgio Noseda, Una finestra nella tua casa (A window in your home. Palliative care and comfort in illness), Preface by Hans Neuenschwander, Essay, The word “palliative” comes from the Latin “pallium”, a woollen cape that ancient Romans used to wear on a shoulder and wrap around the body to protect it. In modern medical science, the word “palliative” has come to mean something else – something slightly depreciative: a palliative is a mock remedy, basically a hoax which cannot possibly cure diseases. A patient’s husband, for instance, asked us not to give his wife any “palliative care – just proper medicine, for God’s sake!”. People often forget that the word “palliative” actually refers to several cares which would be better defined as “supportive cares” and which are employed in very diverse conditions. In fact, palliative cares are [Read more]
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