Francesca Melandri

Portrait Francesca Melandri
© F. Mantovani

Francesca Melandri was born in 1964 in Rom. She worked as a screenwriter for, among others, the Adalbert Stifter adaptation of »Bergkristall«, the epic fairy tale »Fantaghirò« (Eng. The Cave of the Golden Rose) based on Italo Calvino, and the popular TV series »Don Matteo« starring Terrence Hill. She also directed the documentary »Vera« (2010), which is about a Holocaust survivor from Zagreb who was the only one of her extended family to escape extermination. Now elderly and living near Rome, she has dedicated herself to raising thoroughbreds.
Her first novel »Eva dorme« (2010; Eng. »Eva Sleeps«, 2016) is set in South Tyrol, where Melandri lived for many years. When her presumed missing stepfather requests for one last meeting while on his deathbed, the protagonist sets off from Bolzano towards Reggio Calabria on the southern tip of the boot of Italy. Along the way, she ponders the history of her single mother and the turbulent history of the Alto Adige region. In retrospect, it becomes clear what a drastic influence the ongoing political conflict had on intimate relationships and not least on the language used among each other, so that the emancipation and the perseverance of a woman on her own becomes even more remarkable. The existential meaning of a series of encounters from long ago surfaces also in »Più alto del mare« (2012; tr: Higher than the Sea): During a visit to an isolated prison island on a stormy night in the late 1970s, a female mountain farmer and a professor emeritus of philosophy meet a prison guard who feels just as isolated on the island as the prisoners who suffer under their transgressions and daily humiliations. Melandri’s novel »Sangue giusto« (2017; tr: Blood Right), spanning three generations, tackles Italy’s colonial past and its interlink with today’s migrations. When the teacher Ilaria is met outside her flat in Rome by a young African man with the message that he is her nephew – his passport also bears the name of her introverted father, who has been unreachable all her life – she is confronted with her hitherto unresolved familial and national heritage. To solve the mystery of her family relations, the protagonist must look at the Italian occupation of Ethiopia – developments that ultimately shed new light on Europe’s responsibility towards the current stream of refugees.
The author has received many national and international accolades, among them the Premio Rapallo Carige and the Premio Selezione Campiello; in 2018 she was a finalist for the Premio Strega. Her works have been translated into numerous European languages. Her »Letter from the future« about the Coronavirus pandemic, written in March 2020 for »The Guardian«, has been translated into 35 languages and published worldwide. Melandri lives in Rome. She is a 2021 guest of the DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Program.