Arianna Dagnino


Alessandro Spina, né Basili Shafik Khouzam, is the “unsung” writer of Italian colonial past in North Africa. He published his books on the Italian experience in Cyrenaica with tiny outfits since the 1960s. In 2007 the Italian publisher Morcelliana managed to publish his works in an omnibus edition, I confini dell’ombra. In terra d’oltremare. A year later, the cycle was awarded the Premio Bagutta, Italy’s highest literary accolade. Only in 2015, however, with the translation of Spina’s work in English and three years after his death, the writer born in Benghazi in 1927 into a family of Maronites from Aleppo was finally and fully acknowledged for his contribution to the wider realm of world literature. Through a transcultural reading of Spina’s novel The Young Maronite, in this paper I will provide the cultural, political and stylistic reasons of such a late recognition of Spina’s work on the global stage – away from the more restrictive and provincial nature of Italian literary canon.
I confini dell’ombra is an oeuvre that charts the history of Libya from 1911, when Italy invaded the Ottoman province, to 1966, when the country witnessed the economic boom sparked by the petrodollars. The cycle comprises six novels, a novella and four collections of stories. The poet and critic André Naffis Saheli has translated the first instalment of Spina’s opus, which has been issued by Darf Books in early 2015 with the title The Confines of the Shadow. In Lands Overseas.


Arianna Dagnino is a researcher, writer, and socio-cultural analyst. She holds an M.A. in Modern Foreign Languages and Literatures from l’Università degli Studi di Genova and a Ph.D. in Sociology and Comparative Literature from the University of South Australia. She is currently conducting research in the fields of transcultural studies and world literature. She is interested in looking at how socio-economic factors and cultural changes linked to global mobility shape identities and cultural practices (in particular creative writing and translation). Her articles have appeared in journals such as Transcultural Studies, Transnational Literature, and CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture. Her book Transcultural Writers and Novels in the Age of Global Mobility, consisting in a creative nonfiction (or nonfiction novel) and a critical exegesis, has just been published by Purdue University Press (2015). She is currently self-translating her transcultural novel Fossils (Fazi, 2010) from Italian into English.