Begoña Feijoo Fariña
Per una fetta di mela secca (For a shrivelled apple slice)
144 pages, Euro 16,00
An insightful novel, imbued with dignity.
La Provincia di Sondrio
A transparent, grave voice; a narrative of exceeding mastery.
A reading that is meant to last.
From the early 40s to the early 80s, Swiss children and teenagers used to be coercively left to live with farmers, or put in an institute. Of course, the kids didn’t have a say in the decision. A huge number of children faced this unwanted fate – mostly the offspring of poor families, illegitimate children, children of dubious origin, and youths that were labelled as turbulent, stubborn or riotous. The victims of such inflicted placements were sent to work, forced to slave in the farms, committed to psychiatric institutes, jailed, abused, adopted coactively, and even sterilised without them knowing.
For a shrivelled apple slice tells the story of one of these children – Lidia Scettrini. A fictional character with a fictional name, created in order to unveil what had been not fictional at all for many actual children.
After the divorce of her parents, Lidia is left to live with her mother in the small town of Cavaione, in eastern Switzerland. One day, exasperated by the continuous mocking and bullying, she decides to steal some snacks from her classmate Piero. Piero’s parents will accuse Lidia of robbery; because of this, and because of the destitution Lidia and her mother live in, the little girl will be sent to stay in a religious institute. Abused and mistreated by the nuns, Lidia is then left in the cares of a farmer. In this new “home” she will befriend Anne, the farmer’s wife; ill and confined to bed, the lady will be the only loving presence in Lidia’s life. By the time Anne dies, Lidia is a nineteen-year-old woman, about to come of age and ready to leave behind the horror of her past and move back to Cavaione. Coming back to her birthplace, Lidia doesn’t feel like she belongs there anymore: nonetheless, she will battle against the trauma she had to suffer and grow, at long last, into something new.
In 2018 the Swiss Confederation established a solidarity contribution in favour of the victims of the so-called “Compulsory Social Measures and Placements”. In the act of filling out the application form, Lidia will re-evoke the thought of everything that has been stolen from her, finding in her heart the strength that is needed to fully seize the day.
My bed is amidst many other beds. The linens, a greenish-grey wool blanket, and a small pillow have been piled on the mattress. There is a new tone in the words that flow out of Arietta’s mouth – her voice is steady, her cadence slow. She describes out loud every gesture she makes, then strips the bed and asks me to make it all over. Every time I do something wrong, she patiently corrects me. Several attempts later, she says “Good girl” and smiles again. This is the first time I can actually see her. Her features are lovely, her breasts are round, just like my mother’s, and her short, ginger hair barely touches her shoulders. She’s slim and very tall – and she’s beautiful. We stare at each other for a few seconds. In a minute we would go downstairs to the large entrance; everybody would still be awake, including Mother Sofia. That was when I was instructed on the rules of the house: I had to answer all of their questions, just like an oral test at school, but with no blackboard. Mother Sofia asked all the questions and the little girls replied – sometimes in chorus, sometimes a single pupil was chosen to answer. After that pedagogic demonstration, while I was trying to hold back my tears (crying, I just learnt, was forbidden), I was explained the reason why I was here: it was because we were little, savage girls and we needed to be disciplined. There we stood, listening to the inventory of our faults, and we knew that we were here because nobody had wanted us out there; our mothers had given up on taming such cheeky, sinful, godless rascals. That day, I didn’t understand a single word.
About the author
Begoña Feijoo Fariña was born in Vilanova De Arousa, Galicia, Spain. At the age of 12, she moved to Switzerland, where she still lives. After graduating in Biology, she specialised for a few years in the field of Entomology.
In 2015 she quit her career as a biologist and moved from Ticino to Valposchiavo. Since then she has dedicated herself to theatre and writing. Feijoo Fariña is the co-founder of inauDita, a theatre company that focuses on dramaturgy and direction.
She has published two novels (Abigail Dupont and Maraya) and several short stories, featuring in Almanacco del Grigioni Italiano and Carie Letterarie.
In 2018 she won the Pro Helvetia literary grant, and the idea of this novel earned her the victory at the Great Projects Competition issued by the Canton of Graubünden. She was also a Writer in Residence at the Franz Edelmaier Residence for Literature and Human Rights (Merano, Italy).
Feijoo Fariña is the president of the Valposchiavo section of the Pro Grigioni Italiano, as well as the artistic director of the theatre season “I Monologanti” in Brusio, Graubünden.
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