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A mother recounts her life story to her long-lost daughter in this sweeping historical novel about a community torn between Italian fascism and German Nazism.
In the small village of Curon in South Tyrol, seventeen-year-old Trina longs for a different life. She dedicates herself to becoming a teacher, but the year that she qualifies—1923—Mussolini’s regime abolishes the use of German as a teaching language in the annexed Austrian territory. Defying their ruthless program of forced Italianization, Trina works for a clandestine network of schools in the valley, always with the risk of capture. In spite of this new climate of fear and uncertainty, she finds love and some measure of stability with Erich, an orphaned young man and her father’s helper.
Now married and a mother, Trina’s life is again thrown into uncertainty when Hitler’s Germany announces the “Great Option” in 1939, and communities in South Tyrol are invited to join the Reich and leave Italy. The town splits, and ever-increasing rifts form among its people. Those who choose to stay, like Trina and her family, are seen as traitors and spies; they can no longer leave the house without suffering abuse. Then one day Trina comes home and finds that her daughter is missing…
Inspired by the striking image of the belltower rising from Lake Resia, all that remains today of the village of Curon, Marco Balzano has written a poignant novel that beautifully interweaves great moments in history with the lives of everyday people.
About the Author
Marco Balzano was born in 1978 in Milan, where he lives and works as a high school teacher. In addition to essays and poetry collections, he has written four award-winning novels, including Il figlio del figlio (Premio Corrado Alvaro), Pronti a tutti le partenze (Premio Flaiano), and L’ultimo arrivato (Premio Campiello and Premio Volponi, among others). His bestseller Resto qui (Premio Bagutta, Premio Asti d’Appello, Prix Méditerranée, and runner-up for the Premio Strega) was published in 2018. His essay Le parole sono importanti (Premio Città delle Rose) was published in 2019. His books have been translated into several languages.
Jill Foulston is a writer and editor as well as a translator. She is the author of La Vita è Bella: The Elegant Art of Living in the Italian Style, and has translated works by Augusto De Angelis, Piero Chiara, and Erri De Luca.
“Quietly devastating…Balzano’s unvarnished approach heightens the poignancy of a story based on real events.” —Publishers Weekly
“Haunting and powerful.” —Booklist
“Brilliantly drawn…a quiet but heart-rending novel.” —Irish Examiner
“[An] intimate historical novel…[the] translation is delicate and assured and seems to retain the lyricism and immediacy of the Italian original…the themes that emerge from Balzano’s narrative, even as the town is being submerged under waves of fascism, are timeless.” —Irish Times
“Balzano employs an unpretentious style to explore Trina’s life and wider questions about an individual’s relationship to a particular place.” —Sunday Times, The Best New Historical Fiction
“A heartbreaking historical novel about the effects of extraordinary events on ordinary people.” —Foreword Reviews
“In relatively few pages that somehow span decades, a mother’s intimate writings to her missing daughter capture a village on the border between German Nazis and Italian fascists, a community caught between ordinary desire and authoritarian abuse, hearts caught between hate and hope. This spare, exquisite novel is a stunning testament to the power of words, even when they fail.” —Meg Waite Clayton, author of the international bestseller The Last Train to London
“A novel that builds with every chapter, as happens with talented storytellers. Although set in another era, [I’m Staying Here] speaks to our current tumultuous times: borders, migration, ethnic conflicts, abuse of power over ordinary people, authoritarian impulses.” —L’Espresso
“With its theme of resistance and its succinct style, without an unnecessary adjective, [I’m Staying Here] recalls the best examples of Italian neorealism.” —TuttoLibri