Paola Mastrocola
L'amore prima di noi (The Love Before Us)
Einaudi, October 2016, 320 pages

Foreign rights:

Love myths, told like real stories.

Myths are what remain after oblivion, ruin, passing time. This is why they are eternal, because they are basically us. Paola Mastrocola has found a miraculous dimension for telling these infinite stories one more time: in this book, sumptuousness and weightlessness come together for the pure joy of the reader; basically, she talks only of love. Love for a man, a woman, a river, a star. Our illuminated part, the point in which our lives still touch something divine. Love for the world, just as it is.
Each story carries within itself a question which goes straight to the heart. What form can our love take? Can beauty be kidnapped? And what is kidnapping, when you follow a man, or when he snatches you? When you let him look at you, or when you look at him, and you bind him to yourself and he has lost all freedom? And why, at a certain age which we call youth, do we refuse to concede ourselves to anyone, and we play, hover in midair, in flight? Love, as recounted by the Greeks, is heartbreaking. It isn’t a sentiment, it is more: it is the power that binds everything together, the knot which constricts us, the sky above us: what determines us, what takes away our freedom but gives us meaning, elevates us, nourishes our deepest substance as transitory human beings, so attached to life, so loving… Thus, to tell these stories once again is like approaching a world when everything had a soul and sometimes the gods fell in love with us.

… If I were to follow you, Orpheus, you would take me back to the usual life of days which end and begin again, and in the end leave us old, once again on the verge of departing. Love is distance, it feeds itself with inaccessible distances. I don’t have to live with you. It is perfect to love you in this darkness, where I don’t see you and I don’t have you: love is part of death. Like day is contained in the night, like the sky embraces both the moon and the sun… I have become the sky. Love is forgoing you.

Daphne, Orpheus, Helen, Theseus, Ariadne, Psyche, Calypso, Pygmalion, Atalanta… The names of the ancient heroes and gods don’t matter because, basically, they are us. Their stories are our stories. We call them myths but they have the flavor, and the meaning, of our own lives.  

Paola Mastrocola

Paola Mastrocola - © Basso Cannarsa

Paola Mastrocola was born and lives in Turin. She has a very special voice among Italian contemporary writers and bestseller authors. She is the author of La gallina volante (2000, Premio Calvino), Palline di pane (2001), Una barca nel bosco (Premio Campiello 2004), La scuola raccontata al mio cane (2004), Che animale sei? (2007), Più lontana della luna (2007), La felicità del galleggiante (2010), Togliamo il disturbo. Saggio sulla libertà di non studiare (2011), Non so niente di te (2013), L’esercito delle cose inutili (2015), La passione ribelle (2015), Lanno che non caddero le foglie (2016), L’amore prima di noi (2016), Leone (2018), Diario di una talpa (2020), La saggezza del lupo (2020), Se tu fossi vero (2021), Il danno scolastico (con Luca Ricolfi, 2021), Manifesto del libero pensiero (con Luca Ricolfi, 2022), La memoria del cielo (2023). Her books have been translated in France, Germany, Spain and Latin America, Portugal, Turkey and Japan.

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