Livia Neri

Biography

Livia Neri was born 1939 in Perugia and holds a degree in Greek and Latin Literature from Perugia University. She has lived in Nuremberg, Germany, since 1962, and has two daughters with her German husband. For many years she taught Italian language at the Friedrich-Alexander-University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, and Latin at a private German Lyceum. She has, throughout all this, kept in close contact with her native land and her place of origin, particularly following its development over the last decades.

Livia Neri is the author of Il pane degli altri (Perugia: Guerra, 1998). In this, her first novel, Neri tells the bitter story of an Umbrian peasant woman, Bruna, emigrant at twenty years old to Germany, at the beginning of the 1960s. The author, despite her proximity to the story, engages in an objective critique of the multitude of problems that come with emigration: the difficulty in settling in, the sense of marginalisation, identity crises, loss of roots. Throughout this fictional study, the author’s close – almost autobiographical – involvement can be detected in the tales of human suffering that punctuate the lives of the novel’s characters, independent of their nationality or origin.

In her second novel, Gli occhi muti (Perugia: Guerra, 1999), Neri recounts her family history, tracing the remote events that make up her background in a bid to decipher the causes of her mother’s premature loss of physical and mental faculties, and to understand why the light from her eyes suddenly disappeared. Neri sifts through memory in search of childhood snapshots and we see threads of tales about her grandmother and her mother reappearing; she brings to life old, faded prints; she describes old photos, illustrated postcards, furniture, clothes and all sorts of artefacts; she evokes people, events, conversations, serious and humorous dialogues, letters, poems, nursery rhymes; she records life and death in all its minute details. While engaged in this search, attempting to make sense of the grey areas, she stumbles on the light and reaches an unexpected and surprising conclusion. It is a cathartic experience for the author, but not without its suffering and doubt. At the same time we are given occasion to view an intense panorama of Perugia society, while in the background, almost involuntarily, the city’s history from 1859 to the present day is intimately drawn.

Neri’s third novel, coming after a break of eleven years, is Il soldato di pietra (Perugia: Guerra, 2010). Neri’s most recent novel tells a family saga, a sort of human comedy in which the events, at times very dramatic, take place mainly in Nuremberg and environs throughout the 20th century. The title refers to a statue which can still be seen at the corner of a large popular housing block in the German city. In the novel, the ‘stone soldier’ is the work of the father of protagonist Willi, who is destined to lose everything and everyone in tragic and violent circumstances. The statue thus symbolises family affection, loss and defeat as the only tangible memories of passing time.

Compiled by David Best

Bibliography

Il pane degli altri, con prefazione di Ignazio Baldelli (Perugia: Edizioni Guerra, 1998)

Gli occhi muti (Perugia: Edizioni Guerra, 1999)

Il soldato di pietra (Perugia: Guerra, 2010)

Compiled by David Best

 

Criticism

Baldelli, Ignazio:  Prefazione a Neri, Livia, Il pane degli altri (Perugia: Edizioni Guerra, 1998), pp. 7-10

Reale, Luigi M.: Recensioni di Neri, Livia, Il pane degli altri  (Obiettivo Impresa, Periodico della Camera di Commercio, Industria, Artigianato e Agricoltura di Perugia, 109/3,1998, pp. 114-115)

Compiled by David Best