No longer available: German

Mario Casella
A biographical novel

“A biographical novel that brims with poetry”

In this enthralling tale, the narration of Saulle Donetta merges with the reconstruction of the life of his father Roberto, a restless man, always burdened with debt. Donetta worked as farmer in the Blenio valley, but he was also a hawker of seeds, a waiter and, later, a photographer.

Roberto Donetta (1865-1932) only became known some forty years ago, thanks to the discovery of more than 5,000 photographic plates he had been taking over thirty years. Finding this treasure trove of photography, however, overshadowed another stunning discovery: almost 300 handwritten pages, in which the boisterous farmer from Blenio had jotted down his thought, copying out the literary and scientific writings that had impressed him most. Along with these personal records, dozens of letters and some of the correspondence with his six children were also found.
The notes of the stubborn and half-literate “Robertón” reveal that he was aware of his own peculiarity, against the rustical milieu of the valley where he lived.
It was precisely the stubbornness of this man of the mountain that kept him alive, even in the face of the worst adversities. Quoting one of his last letters to Saulle, when you are up in the mountains, the only resource in which you can and must turn to is the land (“the land will always be there for you”): the land alone will give you food every single day. As time went by, however, his self-absorbed character and the frustration he felt because he was unable to pull his family out of misery led Roberto to a painful rupture with his wife Linda and his children. Saulle was the only one who managed to stay close to his father for a few more years.

This biographical novel, born out of loneliness and poverty, is also a record of the extraordinary life of a singular man, who lived in Ticino at the turn of the 20th century.


Mario Casella (1959) has a degree in Arts and Philosophy and has been a mountaineer since his boyhood. In 1985 he obtained the federal qualification of mountain guide and started to work occasionally as a journalist. He then became a full-time journalist, working for the radio and for RSI, the Swiss public broadcasting organisation in Italian language. He has worked on several documentaries and reportages, mostly abroad: he documented the fall of the Berlin wall and covered the events that took place in former East Germany and Eastern countries, in Russia, Chernobyl, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Kosovo, and so on. In 2011 he published Black-White-Black. A voyage in time through the Caucasian mountains, which was awarded the following prizes: Winner of the ITAS prize 2013, Winner of the Leggimontagna2011 literary prize (narrative), 9th edition, and Recommended book for the “Exploration and Voyages” category of the Gambrinus “Giuseppe Mazzotti” prize 2011 (29th edition).
“The burden of shadows” has been nominated for the 2018 ITAS Awards.
Winner of the SAT Prize 2018

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No longer available: German