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November 12 – 18, 2022  |  No. 425
November 12 – 18, 2022  |  No. 425
November 12 – 18, 2022  |  No. 425
In her remarkable debut Dandelions, Thea Lenarduzzi traces four generations of her father’s family and their movements between Italy and England, gathering the stories scattered in their wake.
Setting out to capture her family history through interviews with her nonagenarian grandmother Dirce, Lenarduzzi quickly finds herself grappling with the nature of storytelling. She anchors her retellings in Joan Didion’s assertion that “we live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the ‘ideas’ with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience”.
Lenarduzzi is wary of the impulse for narrative closure. Like Didion, she focuses on phantasmagoria, exploring the tensions that underscore her family’s relationship with Italy through vivid imagery. But where Didion tended towards disenchantment, Lenarduzzi firmly embraces the opposite. She finds potent symbols amid the phantasmagoria and subtly evokes their haunting power, which endows her work with a fabular quality redolent of Marina Warner.
The dandelion motif holds the project together. The book opens with a description of Dirce picking the plant in Manchester in the late 1950s, much to the locals’ disquiet. While Italians are fond of eating dandelions “gently wilted” and “tossed with salt, perhaps a splash of vinegar or squeeze of lemon, and the essential olive oil”, in England this bitter root is just a weed and Dirce has to buy olive oil from a pharmacy. In this “resilient golden wonder” Lenarduzzi has stumbled across a symbol ready-made for her meditation on roots. She embarks on a study of the dandelion’s cultural history and depiction in art.
Lenarduzzi follows other threads that more decisively evoke Italy’s turbulent 20th-century political and cultural history and its impact on her family. She elucidates the dangers that Benito Mussolini’s drive to implement standardised Italian posed for her grandparents’ courtship and ruminates on community divisions wrought by the erection of a statue commemorating Aldo Moro – a politician murdered in the 1970s by the Red Brigades – which appears to weep blood when it rains.
In less capable hands such digressions could be distracting, but Lenarduzzi accommodates her family’s experiences without becoming obscure. Ultimately, the book’s greatest strength lies in her willingness to disturb histories previously thought to be settled.
Fitzcarraldo, 288pp, $26.95
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on November 12, 2022 as “Dandelions, Thea Lenarduzzi”.
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Amy Walters is a writer and critic.
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November 12 – 18, 2022  |  No. 425
November 12 – 18, 2022 Edition No. 425
Morrison hid governor-general grant money for a year Karen Middleton
Inside Morrison’s push for robo-debt Rick Morton
What is being decided at COP27? Mike Seccombe
The people left behind on Nauru Martin McKenzie-Murray
NT poised to raise age of criminal responsibility Esther Linder
Democrats hold back red tide at midterms Jonathan Pearlman
The definitive case against nuclear subs Albert Palazzo
The might on the hill Chris Wallace
Inflation unleashed John Hewson
Letters & Editorial
Jon Kudelka cartoon, November 12, 2022 Jon Kudelka
Angst into anger
Absurdist comedy
Actor Richard E. Grant Stephen A. Russell
RBG: Of Many, One Bri Lee
Fred Williams: The London Drawings Victoria Hannan
Boy, Lost Yen-Rong Wong
Lisa Hilli Neha Kale
Repeat offender Brandon Jack
The Successor: The High-Stakes Life of Lachlan Murdoch Jeff Sparrow
Sweeney and the Bicycles Maria Takolander
Dandelions Amy Walters
Lemongrass pork torpedo wraps O Tama Carey
What’s the answer to Australia’s bee crisis? Tabitha Carvan
Elon Musk and the fate of Twitter Elmo Keep
The sorry saga of the Brooklyn Nets Martin McKenzie-Murray
The Cryptic
Cryptic Crossword No. 425 Liam Runnalls
The Quiz
In which month and year was the first confirmed case of novel coronavirus, or Covid-19, reported in Australia? Cindy MacDonald
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