23. ilb 06. – 16.09.2023

Mario Desiati

Mario Desiati was born in Locorotondo, Apulia, in 1977, and grew up in Martina Franca in the Province of Tarent. After graduating from his studies in law in Bari in 2000, he was employed by a law firm and published a series of essays on civil law topics. He moved to Rome in 2003, where he worked for the literary magazine »Nuovi Argomenti«, which had been co-founded by Alberto Moravia in 1953. In spite of a small circulation, the historic journal is an important publication in the Italian literary industry. At the time, Desiati was also an editor with Arnoldo Mondadori Editore, the biggest publishing house in Italy.

In 2003, he published his first novel »Neppure quando è notte« (tr.: Even at night), followed by a collection of poems »Le luci gialle della contraerea« (2004; tr.: The yellow lights of the flak). His novel »Il paese delle spose infelici« (2008; tr.: The country of unhappy wives) deals light-heartedly with the lives of young people in the 1980s and the friendship of two boys and a mysterious girl. It was turned into a film in 2011, which had its premiere at the Film Festival of Rome. Desiati’s most recent book »Ternitti« (2011; tr.: Cement fibres) is based on facts which he investigated for a period of four and a half years and reconstructed for this work of fiction. In doing so, he sheds light on a tragic and often ignored chapter in the history of the Italian labour migration in the 1970s: Many migrant workers were contaminated in a Swiss asbestos factory near Zürich, without knowing what happened to them. Mimi, the protagonist of the story, was born in a small village in Apulia and moves to Switzerland with her parents in the mid-seventies. Her father works in a factory, which produces construction materials, which the workers call »Ternetti«. He, too, is exposed to the dangerous blue asbestos. In seven episodes, which cover almost four decades until present times, Desiati tells the story of migration, factory work, the health hazards and the victims of these, and about the often sobering attempts of the victims’ families, who are fighting for justice and compensation for their misery. The novel is also a portrait of a powerful woman, the story of Mimi’s first love, her return to her home in Southern Italy, and of her own daughter.

For his literary oeuvre Desiati has received the Premio Mondello and the Premio Vittorio Bodini. »Ternitti« was listed for the renowned Premio Strega in 2011.

Since 2008, Mario Desiati has been an editor with the Fandango publishing house, and has written articles for the dailies »La Repubblica« and »L’Unità«. He lives in Rome.

© internationales literaturfestival berlin


Neppure quando è notte
Ancona, 2003

Vita precaria e amore eterno
Arnoldo Mondadori Editore
Mailand, 2006

Il paese delle spose infelici
Arnoldo Mondadori Editore
Mailand, 2008

Foto di classe. U uagnon se n’asciot
Rom/Bari, 2009

Berlin, 2012
[Ü: Annette Kopetzki]