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Lia Migale, West Of The Future – A Review By Claudia Mazzilli

Lia Migale, West of the future – a review by Claudia Mazzilli

Lia Migale explores new family ecologies in her novel West of the Future (La Lepre edizioni, 2022)

“He jumped straight into the subject, almost rudely, as if he had nothing else to say. As if the speech had already had its preamble.

“I am aware that we cannot avoid this meeting, that we have to talk to each other, but it is also very difficult for me to understand what is the right thing to say. I’ve been a father for a short time and for even a shorter time have I known my daughter. Maybe you want to ask me something?”

Arianna was bothered by his embarrassed feeling, as if he was guilty of something, bordering on not finding anything outstanding to say, and so to dissolve that embarrassment she asked him, “Do you have other children? Are you married?”

“No. I don’t have children, probably you know I didn’t want them, and yes, I was married and separated, then I cohabited for a long time with a partner and later decided it was better to live alone. I confess: I have a bad temper. Your mother once told me that and I got very upset, but it’s actually true. I have an awful temper. I have always known that I could not be a father, that I needed all the attention and therefore could not accept having a rival in my house.'” (p. 200)

In a delicate and at the same time daring novel, Lia Migale explores the theme of parenthood by linking it to the crucial issue of our time (the ecological crisis) and setting this story between the present and a mildly dystopian future, one so close that it almost happens as we read and by the end of the reading it has already faded, to the west, under a sickly ochre sky – amid biblical floods and long dry spells, real ice ages alternating with increasingly scorching summers, hopeless unemployment and enraged bands of lynx men or cat girls or wolf men, economic crisis and stagnant markets in which the euro is being replaced by local parallel currencies on a very small scale.

Lia Migale is able to put herself into each character’s shoes (the daughter, the father, the mother, the mother’s dearest friend), alternating between third-person and first-person narration, helping us to stray, naturally and in awe, into the intimacy of each point of view.

There is her mother’s political passion, who with the symbolic actions of the Flowerpot Liberation Movement hopes to raise awareness on climate change and who still wants to believe in a Left while post-ideological sovereignty and populism win in 2018. There is a daughter who looks at the world in a fresh and direct language that is that of her teenage peers, a language that evolves in complexity without losing in spontaneity as the young girl moves from middle school to high school and then to college.

This single mother, Eva, creates around her daughter Arianna something that resembles a family of choice. They are the people who, although not cohabiting, habitually visit their home: relationships that are fundamental and unique, but which still cannot be named, except with shyly and by analogy with the only relations recognized by the monolithic notion of biological family: “They have become like two sisters. Inseparable” (p. 122).

“Yes, maybe, but maybe not, and in this case I want to tell you that for me you are like the son I did not have” (p. 127). Phrases like these pepper the entire novel.

Illness, agony, and death complicate these unspeakable bonds, in which care and assistance are not supported by patriarchal law and bureaucracy, eventually generating acrobatic forms of support and help. But (Michela Murgia reminded us with her Queer Family) illness, agony, and death do not cover everything with darkness but give light and power to these relationships, and no name can sparkle more than that of Diamante, the friend whom Eva cared for until the end of her days.

“One understands the grief of a wife or husband who is widowed, one understands the grief of a mother who loses a child, even that of the lover who is left alone. But no one accepts, beyond a moderate limit, the grief for the dead friend.” (p. 127)

Arianna has never met her father because her mother Eva never told her former partner that she was pregnant when their relationship ended. But fictional coincidences, not at all far-fetched, will lead father and daughter to get to know each other. And to recognize each other. To accept the challenge of a bond that, now, they freely and consciously choose, instead of suffering it by biological fate. And this is the paradox: the father-daughter relationship, as a relationship responsibly embraced by a now-adult daughter and a father transformed by many experiences, ends up resembling the other tenacious and very strong affections that run through the novel, not built on the obviousness of blood ties but on freedom, dialogue, and the search for the other.

“It was inarguable, he now felt that connection, and not because she was partly made of his stuff but because he understood that with this daughter there could be a connection quite different from what he had felt so far.” (p. 244)

Earth claims to itself all the reasons for pain and all forms of wisdom and knowledge, as the very young people in this novel can foresee. Earth creates new possibilities and designs new family ecologies, new experiments in kinship, the kind that will perhaps save us and the planet.

Claudia Mazzilli




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