Annalucia Lomunno (b. 1972, Castellanata) is an accomplished Italian author who currently resides in Madrid, Spain. She has written four novels, which range in style from avant-garde to psycho thriller. I recently had the great pleasure to interview Lomunno about the intriguing language of her novels, the contemporary linguistic situation of her native Puglia and her plans for her exciting protagonist Commissario (Police Superintendent) Antonia Veloce.
In your first novel, Rosa sospirosa (Sighing Rosa) (Piemme, 2001), you use a variety of languages and forms of language to depict the speech of young people in Puglia. Would you say that this is a more or less accurate representation of the way Pugliese kids speak? Or is it primarily artistic in nature?
Both. Rosa sospirosa was born from the observation of a real, live, known world. But at the same time, it fed off various suggestions. And it took definitive shape through books read, films watched, places visited or simply dreamed. That linguistic pastiche that so vivaciously characterizes it is precisely the fruit of a mixture that was felt, sensed and violently celebrated.
Latin is fairly prominent in Rosa sospirosa, particularly in the names of various characters and in the titles of chapters and acts. Why did you decide to incorporate Latin into the book?
Challenge, game and nostalgia. I liked the idea of a strong and great South. Ancient Greece–style. And of a language, the Latin language, that unpredictably mixed with energy into the youth jargon, the neologisms and the terms of the dialect tradition.
The language of both Rosa sospirosa and your second novel, Nero sud (Black South) (Piemme, 2003), has been described as “scarnificato (stripped of flesh)” to reflect the lives of the characters in the economically disadvantaged South. Do you agree with this assessment of your use of language?
Stripped of flesh above all in the emotions. In the incapacity to look beyond one’s own asphyxial microcosm. Perennially suspended between old and new. Entangled and imprisoned in certain clichés. Completely lacking in a proposed push to action. Grasped by an inoxidizable fear of living. Or better, of being.
Two of the characters in Rosa sospirosa speak an Italian that mimics the dialect of Taranto by eliminating the final atonic vowel of words. Why did you avoid the use of dialect terms to represent their speech?
I felt that it was necessary to render the fresco more realistic. The true and proper vernacular, in the more archaic sense of the term, is now in disuse. And we tend fundamentally to use an “Italianized” dialect. And/or an Italian that simply imitates the sonority of the dialect.
How would you describe the difference between the dialect of Taranto and standard Italian?
I often say jokingly that in Taranto we speak French. In reality, the dialect of Taranto is very musical, and Angevin domination aside, it’s very singsong, very Parisian…
Your most recent book, Troppe donne per un delitto (Too Many Women For a Crime) (Marinotti, 2009), contains fewer varieties and forms of language than your previous works. Is this due to the nature of the story? Or was this a purely stylistic choice on your part?
In this case, yes, it was my characters who demanded a different choice. In proceeding with the story, or better, with the investigation, I suddenly realized that a different foundation was necessary. That I needed to grow. To change. To work on style and content. Precisely for this reason, Troppe donne per delitto for me marked a very important turn. Decisive.
Is Troppe donne per un delitto the first and last investigation for Commissario Antonia Veloce? Or can readers hope to see her again in the future?
Actually, my adored Antonia Veloce has already been a protagonist again in Crimini del cuore (Crimes of the Heart), a short novel published for Confidenze (Confidences) (a celebrated magazine with which I have been collaborating for years). But I fervently hope that she can return again for a third time, among my ideas and my pages. In the plot and on the scene of a new, disturbing crime of passion…
Note: For more information about Annalucia Lomunno, visit her Facebook page. Also, be sure to check out my post on her fascinating novel, Rosa sospirosa. By the way, Crimini del cuore will be released on January 16th. Go buy it!