Letter from Italy

March 6, 2021 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

Dear Mr Ghosh,

I just want to thank you for the pleasure I ‘ve received from reading your books. It is always a unique experience: while enjoying the narrative and engrossed in the story, I discovered new paths in history, entire worlds, issues, phenomena and undercurrents that I had ignored before, especially as regards India and the Far East. It’s not like reading about history, which I also like,  this is much better, it feels like living history, diving into it.With Gun Island it was a quite different experience: I’m Italian and I had already lived some of the events narrated in the second part, I recognized the recent past, but then I was really moved exactly by the fact that I could perceive a meaning in what I had lived through, a sort of light thrown on the chaos of everyday life.I was curious about the name you chose for the rescue ship, Lucania, which is obviously connected to light/lux. I wonder whether there is also a connection to the Italian region Lucania and the surname of Mimmo Lucano, the mayor of Riace in Lucania, a model town for the integration of migrants, a real beacon of light in this country where migrants and refugees are either rejected or held in inhuman conditions (the mayor was  indicted for specious charges and the model dismantled according to the new law issued at the time).

Reading the Aeneid (a second time) soon after Gun Island, I was struck by this idea of a forefather of the Roman Empire coming as a migrant and a refugee, who was denied access to Latium, who had to fight a terrible war and then married the king’s daughter so starting the imperial dynasty out of an “interracial” marriage. And then the echo of Virgil’s lines (the Trojans appealing to Dido)  as a prophetic reproach when we closed our ports: “What race of men is this? What land is so barbaric as to allow/ this custom, that we’re denied the hospitality of the sand?”

Apart from the legend, Italy is the product of migrations, overlapping cultures and interethnicity, as you show in the picture of Venice.This is our true, forgotten identity,

I visited India in 1992. I remember a very decent, but extremely poor man who guided us through Jaisalmer. We were astounded by his knowledge of Italian current affairs, he knew about the assassinations of Falcone and Borsellino, he even knew the name of the Italian interior minister. And we hardly knew the name of India’s Prime Minister before getting there. I remembered the episode when I read Gun Island, it’s true, migrants know so much about our world, we know nothing about theirs. 

Waiting for your next book, I thank you again.

Best regards,

Alessandra Iommi


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