April 2016

Alessandro Spina – The Panopticon of Italian Colonialism

The works of Alessandro Spina (1927-2013) have attracted a small, cult following since he began publishing his stories in the 1960s. Only now is his most complete, epic oeuvre reaching English readers.

Starting with the Sokoto Caliphate led by Usman dan Fodio, whose rise followed the 1809 Fulani War, we are guided through the many Islamic insurgencies that emerged over Born to Syrian Maronite parents in Benghazi, Spina, nom de plume of Basili Shafik Khouzam, grew up attending Italian schools during the colonial occupation of Libya. He later settled in Milan where he became a lover of the opera, and began penning, as described by his English translator André Naffis-Sahely: ‘lush tapestries of history, fiction and autobiography that featured a cosmopolitan array of characters: Italian officers, Senussi rebels, Ottoman bureaucrats, chirpy grande dames, Maltese fishermen, aristocrats, servants and slaves.’

Over the course of almost half a century, Spina wrote the collection I confini dell’ombra: In terra d’oltremare (The Confines of the Shadow: In Lands Overseas); an epic that maps the history of Libya from 1911, when Italian colonizers overthrew the Ottomans to the discovery of oil in 1966. Winner of the 2007 Bagutta Prize, Italy’s highest literary accolade, Spina has remained largely unread despite being the first to extensively explore the Italy-Libya connection through serious fiction. This collection of novels, novellas and short story collections is becoming available to the English reader. Darf published Vol I in October 2015, with Vol II set for release in Oct 2016, and the final instalment being delivered in 2017.