“I am living permanently in my dream,
from which I make brief forays into reality.”
—Ingmar Bergman, The Magic Lantern: An Autobiography
Erminia danced the Charleston. My friend Gianluca told me how, almost every evening, his grandmother would pause on the threshold of the French doors that opened onto the terrace and trace out the steps. Her arms swinging, legs twisting, a toe to the front, then to the back, a heel swiveling to the side, a toe to the front again. She confined her movements to the doorway as though she wanted to go unnoticed, and yet somehow she demanded the attention of anyone nearby. Whenever I was at Gianluca’s, I always saw her singing softly to herself.
“In the Fog” is taken from Le Solitarie (1917), Ada Negri’s first collection of stories, astute portraits of marginalized women struggling with poverty, exploitation and loneliness. Raimonda is a young woman who was horribly disfigured by a fire in her childhood. Only in the dense and murky fog of Milan, her face concealed by a “nebulous mass of vapors,” does she feel free.
We decided to work together at the close of a week-long Italian translation workshop at the British Centre for Literary Translation and we chose this story because we were captivated by Negri’s richly evocative prose. Much of our lively collaboration, helped along by Tuscan reds, seppie in zimino, minestra di fagioli and lesso rifatto, took place in Lucca and Florence.