The Sky is Falling
translated from the Italian
Il cielo cade, Sellerio editore Palermo
by LIVIA FRANCHINI
with an introduction by Ali Smith,
an afterword by Francesca Massarenti
and drawings by Lorenza Mazzetti
This is no dream, and something more than a novel —Ali Smith
First published in 1961, Lorenza Mazzetti’s The Sky is Falling (Il cielo cade) is an impressionistic, idiosyncratic, and uniquely funny look at the writer’s childhood after she and her sister are sent to live with their Jewish relatives following the death of their parents. Bright and bucolic, vivid and mournful, and brimming with saints, martyrdom, ideals, wrong-doing and self-imposed torments, the novel describes the loss of innocence and family under the Fascist regime in Italy during World War II through the eyes of Mazzetti’s fictional alter ego, Penny, in sharp, witty (and sometimes petulant) prose.
First translated into English as The Sky Falls by Marguerite Waldman in 1962, with several pages missing due to censorship, the novel has been out of print in the anglophone world for many years. We are proud to reissue the text in a beautiful new translation by Livia Franchini that carries over the playfulness and perverse naivete of the original Italian.
Mazzetti certainly had no interest in looking at childhood calmly. Embodiment, not reflection, was her preferred means of catharsis. In this way, Penny’s oneiric fairy tale logic becomes more than an affectation—it is Mazzetti’s way of affirming the truth of a vulnerable child’s experience, no matter what she has been told by an unjust adult world. –Ian Wang, The Baffler
Il cielo cade is so much more than just a book about the horrors of the Second World War. It is as much a loving homage to the picture-perfect childhood Mazzetti’s aunt and uncle provided for her and her sister before circumstances beyond their control overwhelmed them, and thus also a moving portrait of the cruel loss of childhood innocence. –Lucy Scholes, The Paris Review
When tragedy finally comes the fairy-tale existence takes over: it’s as if, now that those she loved and wanted to please are gone, the heroine has no reason to grow up. –Anna Aslanyan, Times Literary Supplement
One day the Devil came in the guise of a rooster. He scared off the sparrow and polished off what was left of the food. You could tell he was the Devil by his evil expression.
‘We must kill the Devil.’
The rooster was still there, and I thought I caught a glimpse of evil in his eyes. I was afraid that the Devil would take possession of my body and soul.
With a scream, Pierino leaped on the Devil, but the Devil slipped out of his hands. Pasquetta jumped on the Devil, who did not want to die. We all set upon him with sticks and stones, hitting him. Lea struck the Devil’s neck so many times that his head came off. We left him at the foot of the Cross and began to pray.
Then Pierino turned to us and said that Satan wasn’t dead yet. He’d leapt up to Heaven and was clinging onto its edge and so when he plummeted back down to earth he would take a piece of the sky with him.
‘Really?’ said Annie.
We all raised our hands to hold the sky up. Lea began to sing and our arms were raised, our faces burning with the effort of holding the sky in place. The sky was about to fall, the sky was falling; we were standing with our arms raised to hold up the sky. Satan was about to fall down into hell, where his name would be Lucifer. And yet there we were, with our arms raised up to the falling sky. We were red from the effort. Would anyone help us?
translated from the French
Le cinéma que je fais, P.O.L. (2021)
by DANIELLA SHREIR
I make films to fill my time. If I had the strength to do nothing, I would do nothing. It is only because I haven’t the strength to do nothing that I make films. For no other reason. This is the truest thing I can say about my practice.
J.D. – What do you say to people who tell you that your films aren't cinema?
M.D. – Cinema is being trapped in the dark with an image. Nothing more. No matter what the image. A car going at 100 miles an hour or a face saying "no". A concert that has been filmed is also cinema; there is music and then there’s an image. The rest is nonsense. There is no theory that can support it.
So, I am asked: “Where are we?”
“In a hotel, for example.”
“Could it be somewhere else?”
“Yes. It’s for the viewer to decide.”
“And we never learn what time it is?”
“No. It is either night or day.”
“And what about the weather?”
“A film of the heart?”
“An intellectual film?”
“No secondary characters?”
“They were eliminated. The word 'hotel' should be enough for there to be a hotel.”
“Is it a political film?”
“Is it a film where politics are never evoked?”
My Cinema is an extensive collection of writings by and interviews with Marguerite Duras about her cinematic oeuvre.
Working chronologically through her nineteen films made between 1966 and 1985, this 400-page volume includes non-standard press releases, notes to her actors, letters to funders, short essays on themes as provocatively capacious as "mothers" and "witches", as well as some of the most significant and substantial interviews she gave about her cinematographic and writing practice (with filmmakers and critics including Jacques Rivette, Caroline Champetier and Jean Narboni).
In Duras's hands all these forms turn into a strange, gnomic literature in which the boundary between word and image becomes increasingly blurred and the paradox of creating a cinema that seeks "to destroy the cinema" finds its most potent expression.
Yet Duras's biggest preoccupations are global. With the audiovisual as a starting point, her encyclopaedic associative powers bring readers into confrontation with subjects as diverse as the French Communist Party, hippies, Jews, revolutionary love, madness and freedom across three decades of an oeuvre that is always in simultaneous dialogue with the contemporary moment and world history.
MARGUERITE DURAS (1914–1996) published over forty novels, numerous essays, novellas and plays and made nineteen films. She was part of the French Resistance, joined then left the Communist Party, and actively protested against the war in Algeria. She collaborated repeatedly with actors including Jeanne Moreau, Delphine Seyrig and Gerard Depardieu. Her films speak of her childhood in Indochina and the French colonies, of desire (burning and frustrated), madness and domesticity. Contemporary filmmakers including Claire Denis, Alice Diop and John Waters have cited Duras’ cinema as inspiration for their own work.
“Marguerite Duras was a key figure in post-war French cinema, pioneering innovations such as the disjunction of film and image, and the primacy given to voices, silence and music. Her multisensorial approach opened up new spaces for the female experience to be expressed”– Michelle Royer