Olimpia De Girolamo
All the Things that we Used to be

“If you already know Naples, you will rediscover it. If you don’t know it, you are about to.”

A journey to Naples, a distant and ancestral place, turns into a surprising dive into the painful mysteries of a family (and of its whole neighbourhood).

All the things that we used to be by Olimpia De Girolamo is a deep and piercing reflection about childhood, relationships, oppressive social ties, and the hope for freedom.

Anna comes back to Naples after twenty years: her family needs her help to find her father, who has gone missing. The forty-year-old protagonist, who had found her peace by fleeing abroad, returns to her childhood home to find again the omnipresent people of the district (the “rione”), her mother’s harsh character, and the many unspoken words that weight upon neighbours and fellow Neapolitans. Anna will have no choice but to resurrect her violent, dormant memories, in order to finally process them. Only after the unexpected twist at the end of the story will Anna’s inner conflicts evolve into actual freedom, emancipating her from her past.
As explained by the author: “The unspoken violence, certain forms of degradation, the truth of what used to happen within many families: all of this is the material that inspired my novel, the result of years of vigil observation. Anna’s story could be the story of many people. Some ties and events that happen in a family might be uncomfortable to tell, but telling them is necessary if we want to give their victims a chance of liberation. When Anna comes back home, she is forced to handle her own pain, buried alive. Only after facing it she will be able to be born again.”


Olimpia De Girolamo was born in Naples. She grew up there and then graduated in Philosophy (with a historical-political focus) at the Federico II University. She attended several post-graduate courses in Italy and France, deepening her knowledge of cinematic languages. She kept on studying, travelling between Naples, Rome, Turin, and Milan, until she arrived at the Agorà Teatro in Magliaso, in 2014: there she became co-artistic director, trainer, and responsible for the yearly reviews. She attended the courses of the international school for creative professionals “Università dell’Immagine” in Milan, and completed her specialisation in theatrical dramaturgy by following the open classes of the Paolo Grassi Institute. She also enrolled in the permanent workshop of the ATIR Teatro Ringhiera. De Girolamo is involved in organising school theatre workshops, aiming to highlight their didactic value, and is a teacher of Italian for middle schools. Her first play La Mar was a finalist at the Premio Donne e Teatro (Rome) in 2017, and earned her the Premio Fersen (Milan) in 2018. She obtained a Master’s degree in Theatre Pedagogy and Didactics at the Centro Psicopedagogico Studi e Ricerche “OIDA” in Naples in collaboration with the Centro di Formazione Teatrale “Cantieri Stupore”, further specialising as theatre trainer. In 2021 she won the Premio Open Net of the Solothurn Literary Days with the short story The First Step: The Assault of the Past (“Il primo scalino: l’assalto del passato”), which later became the novel All the Things that we Used to be.

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