Svegliami a mezzanotte (Wake me up at Midnight) is the second novel by journalist and writer Fuani Marino. Written, as she tells us in the following interview, in the form of the ‘personal essay’ and just published by Einaudi, it tells of the author’s life with a very functional back and forward that imbues the whole draft in an original way even if the story begins four months after the birth of her daughter when she attempts suicide, also lucidly described.
The attempt fails and therefore the story unfolds on the first, the after and especially the later with brilliant associations to other unforgettable pages of literature in addition to those she writes – unsurpassed poets and writers from everywhere.
It is difficult to find a book so beautiful to read (I read it in one evening, I could not stop until it was finished) on a subject barely untold from home to the school to our – now asynchronous and increasingly insecure – workplaces: the psychological fragility or the various pathologies we could all suffer by birth or for what life has destined to us (as is the Fuani’s case).
If you are looking for the must-have of autumn for your shelves, this is the perfect book.
In your book you talk about your life far and wide, you section it crudely from the beginning to the first fall, where it is not finished, and then you tell the rebirth. Without having the doubt to be fearing new falls, you tell how it’s on a different track now.
Can you tell us about any piece of Fuani’s daily life today?
I imagine you above all very busy in spite of the chronic asthenia you denounce on your pages….
This is a bit of a sore point, because I started to feel bad working and since then I always fear physical and mental overload. For the moment I still manage to respect my times and my need for rest. My energy varies a little according to the days and periods, but in any case I can say that I tire very easily.
Verisimilitude and literature are two sisters often distant in the sense that a reader notices when he goes through moments of verisimilitude or when he sails within literature, but you have had the gift and the stubbornness to succeed where no one had ever tried before: a denounce-book about psychic fragility without veils, using you as a witness and literature as a narrative shoulder. Ranging from poetry to psychoanalysis, fiction and the middle ground of cinema.
Wake up at Midnight is a book first of all very cultured and then extremely functional. How did you decide the structure of story?
The initial project was born about six years ago, when I was just recovering from a physical and psychic point of view. At the time I imagined a book I wanted to call Lyrica, as the very evocative name of the drug thanks to which I found some peace. It proceeded like a medical record and had some parts – I refer to Family Anamnesis and Convalescence – which are actually present in Wake me at Midnight. Only more recently have I written the initial pages, those of the Fall, because perhaps after having elaborated it I felt the need to pull out a “chronicle”. The form of the personal essay derives from the very many material that I have consulted in recent years on the issues of mental distress and suicide.
You are at the second book and you land at an important publisher in Italy. Although you explain (very briefly) how and when you start writing it, you don’t dwell much on the particular ‘technical’ of the actual editing. How long did it take you to write it? What was your relationship with the editors and how did the relationship with Einaudi come about?
Although the initial idea started from farther away, the drafting and revision involved me a total of a couple of years. The interventions to the text of my editor (Francesco Guglieri) have always been very respectful and discreet. The relationship with him was born thanks to a common contact that I met during the promotion of the previous novel.
How much and how did your specific preparation influence you, having graduated in psychology, in the preparation of the book?
I think enough. In fact, some of the quoted texts date back to the university years and in writing I realized, despite the fact that I had never practiced the profession of psychologist, to possess a baggage that proved to be very useful.
Models and masters when – in the ‘solitary trade as a writer’ – you were face to face with the page?
I think they conditioned me a bit of the readings made at that time or immediately before. I think of The Lonely City by Olivia Laing or Theory of the disadvantaged class by Raffaele Alberto Ventura but also of Teresa Ciabatti and Andrea Pomella, with whom I share many topics. But there are too many references to identify them all: inevitably we end up pouring on the page what we have read, heard and seen.
Among the many references and literary quotations that accompany your reflections on mental illness and its acceptance into society, you often talk about Sylvia Plath (and Anne Sexton), Virginia Woolf but also Foster Wallace (and other authors who before all suffered first-person disorders and then decided to commit suicide).
In each of these three specific cases you choose excerpts from their works (and in particular for them) you dwell on the reaction of others to their suicidal gesture. Can you tell us how did you build this narrative part of the book and why in particular with them? How long have you been collecting material on writers who then faced their suicide?
I was interested in analyzing how survivors – the people who survive to who commits suicide – face their condition. Generally they live a strong sense of guilt but at the same time they tend to blame the suicide, forgetting the suffering that leads them to that gesture. I identify mainly in Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton because of the presence of children in their lives; Virginia Woolf and Foster Wallace are two cornerstones, I could not have written a book on suicide without referring to them. There was however my sensitivity towards the subject even in very difficult times (the thought of Émile Durkheim, met during my university years, had struck me deeply) long before my attempt and the years that followed it, in which all I did was surrounding myself with stories of suicides or aspirants.
What did Naples give you, all things considered, and what are you giving back to her as you have always been very involved in cultural dissemination first as a journalist but also for a period of time collaborating with foundations and galleries?
Naples and I have an ambivalent relationship. After my studies in Rome I decided to come back to my city, but it is possible that I can leave it again.
A talent that you have, the one you lack?
I can state without false modesty that I know how to write well enough, while I am not good at diplomatic relations.
What do you have on your desk now? What music do you listen to and what book are you reading?
I don’t have a desk since I write in bed, and I’m currently reading Han Kan’s The Vegetarian. My husband Riccardo takes care of the music selection of our house, I always end up coming back to the same: I love Janelle Monae and Kanye West, while I’m obsessed with the song All The Stars by Kendrick Lamar (feat Sza) and No One Be Like You by Flume feat Kai.
Favorite food and drink at the moment?
I often drink apple juice with no added sugar and tonight I would like an Indian dish.
Convincingly I ask you this question rather two, which are the most difficult to answer according to the people of this world we interview (maybe the second one also finds its answer in a passage of the book you want to quote): where do you see yourself in 10 years and what have you learned so far from your young life?
I do not really know where to imagine me, I just hope I will be okay. For the second I can self-quote me: “I learned that you get used to everything. And get up again “.
Fuani Marino’s portrait in the cover is signed by Danilo Donzelli
To buy (in Italian) Svegliami a mezzanotte: