The Italianist: L’Unica persona nera nella stanza, N. Uyangoda

Taking over from Katherine Gregor, our pioneering columnist for two years, Alex will be writing regular columns introducing us to Riveting Italian Books You Need To Know About – the new, the (as yet) untranslated, the forgotten.

L’unica persona nera nella stanza is a hybrid memoir by Nadeesha Uyangoda, a freelance journalist who writes in both Italian and English. I call it a hybrid memoir because while it does follow major and minor events in her life, these also form the starting point for discussions, conversations, and provocations about how ‘race’ is talked about in Italian arts and media – at times becoming full-on critical essays and interviews with other minority writers, artists, people in the author’s life. The passage above is the origin of the book itself, initially an essay for an online publication, but the start of the text is Uyangoda’s arrival in Italy from Sri Lanka, at the age of six. 


She also argues at several points in the text that the reliance on anglophone terminology, especially when it comes to Italy – a country which has its own, regularly unacknowledged, history of violent colonialism – can lead to playing catch-up, instances of mistranslation, and eventual misunderstandings of otherwise clearer concepts in, say, a Black US, or even UK, community.

Read the full piece at European Literature Network!

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