The Homeland of Itzurza (La Patria di Itzurza in Italian) is the first novel by Alessio Vagaggini. The book has been published by Chance Edizioni in 2021.
The History, the stories, and women. The first has a strong and authoritarian voice, the seconds play a secondary role in the wider history, the thirds just get lost on the way.
But this book is not (just) about the events of a specific era, this is a novel. The three elements converge all along with the tale around four women, the main characters of the novel: Itzurza, Maria, Elena, and Clara. These women – so different between them – will face their identities and their choices in a Spain stuck between the future and the memory of the recent Franco-era which is well-rooted in the society.
The first word of the title – Homeland – indicates the relevance of places. What is the relevance of the location for this novel? Why did you choose Spain?
I have always thought that Spain is a perfect location for a novel because it is a country with a solid cultural connotation and characterized by a series of unresolved conflicts. From the independence issues of Basque and Catalans passing through the nostalgics of Franco’s dictatorship, which still produce effects in today’s society. Spain has always been deeply involved in these terms. This tension reflects well in the interior torments of the women of the novel.
The main characters are all women, tell us more about them
“The Homeland of Itzurza” focuses on four female figures, four ordinary women in their lives but unique for the message that each of them wants to launch. The historical context is the background to see these lives living so differently from each other. Itzurza is the archetype of a woman who tries to impose herself in a highly male-dominated society. Through male activities such as war, she will enter a terrorist organization (ETA) and play a leading role.
On the other hand, Maria and Clara have a more “feminine” nature given their closeness to the arts, to the care of their physical appearance, to seduction; many points in common unite them, precisely because it is a mother and a daughter in conflict with each other precisely because they are incredibly similar. Indeed, Maria affirms herself thanks to her talent for acting, becoming the most famous actress in the Kingdom of Spain and, it is said, even reaching the ears of Francisco Franco. On the other side, we have Clara, whose iconic beauty is the first captured aspect, which represents the first pillar in her “rebellion”. The revolt against all traditional values, atheism, the imposition of her excessive sensuality represent the means to break all patterns in a world where she is a prisoner.
Mother and daughter impose themselves on the male world not through an “action” but rather as a “representation” – one with their own art of acting, the other of seduction – by lulling themselves into that position of domination. Still, they constantly chase something giving them a never-ending state of tension. Only the third woman of the family, Elena, will be capable of going over these inner and outer conflicts.
The book is a mosaic of scenes. Is there any you prefer among these?
I tried to make some pieces of the book “cinematic” to allow the reader to identify better with the events. The scenes I care about are the crisis of Matias, Elena’s husband. Due to his wife’s mysterious disease, he comes to the brink of madness like in an Almodovar movie or the dialogue between Itzurza and Miguel in prison. I deliberately inspired this latter by “I Malavoglia” novel when they greet Padron Ntoni at the hospital.
However, the story revolves around the dialogue between Itzurza and Clara, the piece I wrote with the most attention to detail. Here are two girls who are forged by very different life experiences and values. To tell the truth, I really imagined their meeting in the autumn of 2018, when I was in the Plaza Mayor in Madrid and saw these two girls, apparently very different, talking to each other at a bar, in the midst of great confusion. In addition to being the keystone of the novel, I have articulated the foundation of the plot around this scene, which, not by chance, comes to it after a long climax that begins from the very beginning.
Thank you very much, Alessio, both for your time and for the chance of going deeper into the novel with us. And as there is much more to talk about from this book, we will soon talk about it in a Facebook / Instagram live on our channels.
The Homeland of Itzurza (“La Patria di Itzurza”, 2021, Chance Edizioni) is available – to date, only in Italian – at the following links:
Livia Corbelli and Filippo Paggiarin