In a post last September we gave an overview of the most important literary prizes awarded in Italy, the most prestigious being the Strega prize. Last night the 2015 Premio Strega was awarded to Nicola Lagioia for his novel La ferocia.The Premio Strega was established in 1947 by the journalist Guido Bellonci and his wife, the novelist Maria Villavecchia Bellonci, with the financial support of Guido Alberti, the owner of the firm Strega, which still produces a popular herbal liqueur. In the aftermath of the Second World War and after twenty years of cultural oppression under the fascist regime, their hope was to revitalize a free intellectual debate with the help of their Amici della Domenica or ‘Sunday friends’, a group of artists and intellectuals who formed a literary salon in the Bellonci residence in Rome. This group included, for example, Massimo Bontempelli, Guido Piovene, Carlo Bernari, Paola Masino, Paolo Monelli, Palma Bucarelli and Alberto Savinio.
The Strega prize quickly gained prestige and has been associated with some of the most important works of fiction of the last seventy years since its inception. The names of the winners include authors well represented in the Italian collection of the UL such as Ennio Flaiano, Cesare Pavese, Elsa Morante, Dino Buzzati, Natalia Ginzburg and Primo Levi, and well-known titles such as Umberto Eco’s Il nome della rosa (741:39.d.95.33; the UL holds also several translations into English), Sebastiano Vassalli’s La chimera (741:39.c.95.156 and 9002.c.6082 for the 1993 translation into English) and Raffaele La Capria’s Ferito a morte (741:39.d.95.57).
Nowadays the winner is chosen by a jury of 400 intellectuals, including the previous winners, who are still called Amici della Domenica. Each amico may propose a work of fiction which becomes a candidate for the prize as long as it is supported by another member of the jury. A second vote is held in the month of June to select five finalists. Finally, the winner is announced in Villa Giulia (Rome) after a third vote on the first Thursday of July.
Nicola Lagioia, this year’s winner with La ferocia, (C208.c.9478) was born in Bari, published novels, many short stories and an essay on Santa Claus and Coca-Cola. He writes for the literary blog minima&moralia and hosts a radio program on Rai Radio 3. La ferocia, Lagioia’s fifth novel, is the story of the tragic death of a young woman and takes place in Puglia in the south of Italy. While the circumstances of this event unfold, Lagioia depicts a vivid image of contemporary issues such as corruption and environmental disasters, but also brings to life his characters and their contradictory and intricate feelings, often mirrored in the descriptions of the wilderness surrounding them.
The other finalists were:
- La sposa by Mauro Covacich (C203.d.8774); Covacich published extensively with Laterza, Mondadori, Einaudi, Bompiani; La sposa is a collection of short stories partly inspired by real-life events.
- Storia della bambina perduta by Elena Ferrante (C209.c.9699); Elena Ferrante is the most mysterious of the finalists, given that this name is only a pseudonym that the author adopted since her/his debut in 1992 with L’amore molesto (C202.c.7357). Despite this secrecy, Ferrante’s novels are very successful (especially in the United States, where they are translated by Ann Goldstein). Storia della bambina perduta is the last part of the best-selling novel L’amica geniale.
The UL has recently acquired the novels of the other two finalists, Chi manda le onde by Fabio Genovesi – the winner of Premio Strega giovani, voted by a jury of 400 readers between 16 and 18 years of age – and Come donna innamorata by Marco Santagata, the fictional story of Dante’s life.
Among the titles which were not included in the final five, the UL has also acquired:
- Se mi cerchi non ci sono by Marina Mizzau (C204.d.1395)
- Via Ripetta 155 by Clara Sereni; (C209.c.6300)
- XXI Secolo by Paolo Zardi; (C204.d.855)