Mamma in her Village is the first volume of Maristella Lorch’s trilogy Beyond Gibraltar, the story of generations of strong women covering more than a century, including two World Wars, the Cold War, and the explosion of terrorism. In a biographical novel set in Tajo, a village in the Central Alps, torn between its Germanic heritage and an emerging Italian influence, we follow mamma, the author’s mother, from child to young wife, in the years leading to WWI.
Considered one of the leading post-war critics of Italian literature, the author Maristella Lorch is known for her dedication to education and international exchange. Committed to supporting authors whose work crosses cultural borders, CALEC is honored to publish for the first time all three volumes of Maristella Lorch’s memoir trilogy.
Maristella De Panizza Lorch’s fictionalized account of her mother’s struggles, realizations, learning and deep loves as a child and young adult growing up in an alpine valley of what is now northern Italy, is captivatingly written. A personal story of extraordinary charm, it is also an account of trial and courage that can inspire and evoke the imagination of any reader in any era. Each character in this book has its unusual strength, each character carries life bravely and with humor. What a wonderful story! In addition, the book tells the fascinating story of a village trapped by the territorial ambitions of national powers vying for control of Europe during the first world war. This book is a must read, both because it will touch your heart and because it will feed your hunger for cultural understanding.
Pina, the protagonist of this engrossing memoir, is an extraordinary women of fortitude and foresight as is her daughter, Maristella de Panizza Lorch. Luckily for us, Maristella has chosen to chronicle the history of her mother and her family, a story that sheds light on some of the events in Europe in the run-up to World War I that shaped the everyday lives of those who lived through those times. Mamma in her Village tells the story of Pina as a child and young women in her north Italian village in the years preceding and during World War I. Maristella not only has a clear understanding of the greater sweep of history but also its minutiae that leads to personal hardship, heartbreak and also happiness. She has the storyteller’s knack for bringing characters to life and pacing the plot so that the reader never loses interest. I was gripped from start to finish. I did something I haven’t done in a long time. I read the book from cover to cover without pause. It was wonderful!
Mary Anne Fitzgerald
Maristella de Panizza Lorch’s “Mamma in her Village” is a lovely memoir and Bildungsroman of the author’s mother growing up at the turn of the 20th century in the north-eastern Italian Alps, in what was known as Südtirol. It’s a beautiful description of the wonder of childhood where things known, things imagined, and things intimated collide. Mamma’s village of Tajo and its people are so vividly detailed that one could imagine landing there and identifying every place and everyone on sight. In the background lies a narrative of the politics and ideologies of Austria to the north and Italy to the south. When one thinks of the First World War, one usually pictures the Anglo-French-German trenches of the Western Front. But here is a description of Tajo as a gathering place of the vast multinational Austrian army that will be sent to fight on the Eastern Front, and whose defeat will permanently change life in the village.
Maristella de Panizza Lorch’s “Mamma in Her Village” is a deceptively simple novel. This account of the young adulthood of the author’s mother offers a meditation on the bonds of family and the villages we inhabit – physical, temporal, familial – the villages of our own quotidian habits and knowledge, the forms and structures and traditions that define a life. In this idyll, however, Lorch presents the forces of change wrought by history, war, and the passage of time. This tension, as experienced through the eyes of a strong and intelligent woman, lies at the heart of this story. Through spare, economic prose, the author transports the reader to a prewar Europe usually obscured by romance and myth. Maristella Lorch’s masterful novel is a clear-eyed look at history, love, and the strength of one woman in the midst of a turbulent era.
A most fascinating reconstruction of the life of the most humble of peasants a century ago — lives of which we glean practically nothing from history books. Mamma in her Village opens your eyes to the fact that often simple folk can be more reactionary than the educated upper class…. A powerful description of Pina (Mamma), the main character, with her ingenuity and her extreme strength of will. And a poetic and human expression of the hatred of war — of any kind of war. A keen and moving perspective on today’s world and wars.
One person found this helpful
About the Author
Maristella de Panizza Lorch is Professor Emerita of Italian and Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Barnard College and Columbia University, as well as Founding Director Emerita of the Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America. She is the mother of three daughters and the widow of the mathematician Edgar Raymond Lorch. The Other Shore is the closing volume of the trilogy Beyond Gibraltar, following Mamma in her Village and Beyond Gibraltar.