With One Voice
Studer/Ganz Prize 2021 for first unpublished prose
“In a world divided between black and white, I want to be the first insignificant piece to be cast aside at the edge of the chessboard, the one that the player light-heartedly sacrifices just to start the game. The one that is soon forgotten within the course of the game, especially during those crucial moments when the most important pieces are facing each other, and the king trembles while trying to guess its destiny.”
“Will the song of the violin call me into exile? The instrument of nomadic people, gypsies, Jews. The voice of the nostalgia for a homeland that does not exist, the singer of melancholic escape.”
The first novel by Sabina Zanini, With One Voice, follows the day of a character who has decided to live in complete solitude outside the mechanisms regulating contemporary society. The nameless narrating voice reflects through an interior monologue about the surrounding world, observing with detachment the aberrations of a lifestyle that she strongly disavows. Rejecting the “beliefs” of Western society and detaching herself from a consumerist logic of appearances and waste, the nameless protagonist reduces herself to a life of habits which allows her to minimise contact with the external world and escape within her own imagination.
On the level of plot, the book simply describes the course of a day. However, what is interesting is the way in which the reader is immersed within the mind of the protagonist and thus rides the whirl of her thoughts through an interior monologue that often becomes a stream of consciousness. Accordingly, the narration shifts between reflections about the world and much more intimate and personal musings, resulting in a multifaceted and complex narrating figure who stands out for her intensity.
Her primary characteristics are the choice of living withdrawn from society and outside dominant beliefs, but also the desire not to attract attention and go unnoticed – something that, in the age of appearances and continuous exposure of the self, is extremely unusual. Strong and determined, rational and logical, the narrating I – who only reveals her sex by the end of the book – is, however, a highly sensitive individual. She offers only a small glimpse of the profound wounds that the passing of her mother and many other disappointments caused her in her life.
Moreover, With One Voice is an invitation to reflect upon the contemporary world and question which are the values that truly matter. What makes us feel good? What lies beyond consumerism and appearances? It is through the observations and the sharp, often sarcastic comments of the narrating figure that a clear and insightful portrait of society takes form, which allows us to pause for a moment and find some escape from the hectic rhythm of nonsense.
For the protagonist, the escape is not only her internal world, but also the music for violin by Niccolò Paganini. It is a sort of “open door towards a free world illuminated by beauty and harmony.” In this sense, the music becomes a leitmotiv that pervades the entire narration and creates within the monologue some pauses – interludes – in which the usually dense and intricate language becomes much more lyrical and emphatic.
Text by Natalia Proserpi
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sabina Zanini was born in Sorengo in 1972 and studied Modern Literature in Pavia.
She works as an editor for RSI Radiotelevisione svizzera.
Her novel A una voce awarded her the Studer/Ganz Prize 2021 for first unpublished prose.
Link to the sample translation
Foreign Rights: email@example.com