An Interview With Michela Murgia
Paul Engles: Accabadora has won six literary prizes in Italy – that’s a lot of award ceremonies and a lot of new dresses . . .
Michela Murgia: There have been many boring prize-giving ceremonies, defined by equally uncomfortable shoes and annoying TV presenters. The clothes are by far the best part of the experience.
Paul Engles: It’s your most successful novel so far, but not your first. Could you tell us about your previous books?
Michela Murgia: My first book was a protest book written to lay bare and publicly denounce the unjust working conditions within the call centers. It struck an unexpected chord and was in turn made into a successful film. My second book was a narrative guide book to the as yet undiscovered Sardinia for tourists, the Sardinia that the tourists have yet to discover and probably never will.
Paul Engles: Are there any plans to make a film of Accabadora?
Michela Murgia: The film rights have been sold but as I have chosen to have no part in the making of the film I do not know how advanced the project is.
Paul Engles You have a new book out in Italy. Is it another novel or something different?
Michela Murgia: It is not a novel, rather a non-fiction account (touching upon both sociology and theology) of the symbolic influence of the Catholic religion in the mind set of Italian women today.
Paul Engles: One of the themes in Accabadora seems to be practice of euthanasia. Where do you stand on the issue?
Michela Murgia: I don’t believe that Accabadora talks about this issue. Euthanasia, as we understand it in our modern terminology, is absent from my novel. The book does however deal with many of the aspects of the relationship between care givers as well as the obligation to care that exists between and within an individual and his or her community. The care or accompaniment one receives while dying is only one of these aspects, and perhaps not even the most important one.
Paul Engles The Accabadora is a familiar figure in Sardinia but not so much in Britain. Could you tell us about them and their role in communities?
Michela Murgia: There is no historical evidence documenting the role of Accabadoras in Sardinia, only folklore that regularly harks back to the person of a woman, often a widow, who of her own accord took on the role of accompaning the dying until their actual death. Legend has it that these women operated in Sardinia up until the 50’s.
Paul Engles: You have a very active blog, 15,000 fans on Facebook and you are also on Twitter. How important is social media to you in reaching your audience?
Michela Murgia: The internet, for me, is vital as a place to express one’s citizenship, but my popularity on different social media platforms is due to the success of my book; beforehand I had a few thousand contacts like anybody else active on the social networks. I like horizontal communication.
Paul Engles: We have recently taken on many Italian fiction writers, including Andrea Bajani, Marcello Fois and Mariapia Veladiano, all also published by Einaudi, and also Davide Longo. Is this a good time for fiction in Italy?
Michela Murgia: I believe that it is has always been a good time. But it is true that the editors are beginning to have greater faith and also to invest in first time authors. Einaudi has been in the avant-guard as far as this is concerned.
Paul Engles: With Accabadora such a big success, do many people now write to you to ask for your advice on writing? What do you tell them?
Michela Murgia: If you have a book in your drawer, throw away the key. If you really don’t want to give up the chance of publishing it, then first of all find yourself an agent. Perhaps the agent will be able to dissuade you.
Paul Engles You have published a book with Einaudi about the best places to visit in Sardinia. Could you share one with us?
Michela Murgia: I don’t believe in tourists, tourism is a destructive industry, rather like the chemical industry, it completely changes both the physical, cultural and economic landscape of a country. Instead I believe that Sardinia needs visitors that come with the spirit shown by D.H. Lawrence when he came in the ’20s to write Sea and Sardinia. That book was written with a spirit that leaves tourist at home but invites visitors to come quickly.
Paul Engles: Who are your favourite authors and influences?
Michela Murgia: The south American authors, particularly Borges, Marquez and Allende influenced me strongly.
Paul Engles: Are you writing anything at the moment? Will your next book be fiction or non-fiction?
Michela Murgia: Fiction. I will take six months – from January to July to write a new novel. Perhaps six months will not be enough, but I will give it my best shot.