Patrizia Ferrando is a wonderfully old-fashioned lady. This is fully demonstrated by the literary proposals she has been giving to her faithful readers, for years.
In this exclusive interview she reveals many behind-the-scenes stories related to her works and opens doors to future projects that include wonderful discoveries and the project of a new magazine with an ancient flavour.
I'd start by asking you if you think there's a common thread in your novels or if, every time, you like to explore different territories...
In writing, but before that in reading, I don't mind experimenting, putting myself out there and trying to surprise myself. Yet, I realize that some elements are almost inherent in the way I fall in love with stories. I am fascinated by the past, especially the relatively recent past, from a few decades to a couple of centuries ago. I am struck by the female figures, so often mute or almost in too many magniloquent texts, and, finally, I am attracted by the places that smell of enchantment and secrets. Every day I wish I could accept Dino Buzzati's "Unnecessary Invitations", with references to "the long winters of fairy tales, in which we lived together without knowing it", and the exploration of abandoned houses.
Arquata Scrivia is the protagonist of Sui Passi dell’Estate Perduta. How did you move in the genesis of this sentimental journey?
I followed, first of all, my steps and my imagination, which led me to observe for a long time old villas, Gozzani's gardens, houses full of memories and imaginative flashes, built by wealthy Genoese families to spend in the green, in a Piedmontese countryside made close by the railway, and in the "dreamy" dimension of villas here numerous, summer and autumn. From this beginning, research has naturally been enriched along threads such as daily life in the early twentieth century. Starting from the architecture, I have tried to document, through archival sources, period newspapers and more unusual voices such as old manuals of good manners, the ways of life in the past that today we would call "free", and which, although for a fairly small number of privileged, is filled with slow beauty, gentle gestures and some imaginative ramblings. It was a short time, like the summers of a collective childhood: it took shape at the beginning of the 20th century, to end up swept away by world conflicts and incipient changes within a few decades.
I'm very attached to Il Viale degli Angeli Caduti that allowed me to make your acquaintance as an author. You have brought to mind authors much loved by me, but I would like to know from you if there are literary influences that you consider essential or if you can free yourself from them when you are struggling with a work of yours?
That's not an easy question to answer. I believe that every page we write is to some extent "inhabited" by the readings that most involved us. But it's not my habit to think about these cross-references from the beginning. Certainly, if I didn't love Gothic literature I wouldn't have written Il viale degli angeli caduti in the same way, and yet that novel owes a lot to the lighter atmospheres of romance, and even to echoes of local chronicles.
Il Diario Segreto della Contessa, instead, reveals a character with many facets: Teresa Cordero di Montezemolo. Can you tell us some anecdotes about this wonderful work of research?
The diary was a bound notebook, thickly written in French, proposed among the wares of an antique dealer. I don't know whether to call "chance" the immediate urge that led me first to absolutely want to buy it, then to read it with increasing emotion, and finally to use it as a track to tell a woman's story. To write it was to feel like friends and acquaintances who have been dead for a hundred years, yet alive with thoughts and actions. Love, fear, anger, insecurity... an entire emotional universe was waiting to re-emerge. I wanted to see the places where they had moved, the old Turin, Nervi, the Monferrato countryside. As much as possible, I wanted to feel in tune with their feelings, with their way of going through life. And when I found myself in the house most loved by Teresa, my protagonist, talking about her on a September afternoon so similar to those described by her, for a moment it seemed to me that time did not exist.
Can you tell us more about the projects you are involved in right now?
Immediately, I'm dedicating a lot of time to the project of a new online magazine La Gazette du Bon Ton, a quote from the famous Paris magazine of the early '900, a project that excites me for the assumptions of style and originality, and that sees me as editor-in-chief for the section "Retro & Vintage", then immersed in beautiful and evocative things that I love. In the meantime, two books are waiting behind the scenes: one deals with illusions of love, moving from phenomena such as online scams and other cases of - even painful ones - current events, in which the desire to dream and the need for affection are highlighted without naivety and social context; the other is once again inspired by a woman who really lived between '800 and '900, a French-Polish painter married to a Ligurian nobleman, with a nonconformist, dramatic and engaging existential path.