We represent World English language for Gabriella Ambrosioni Literary Agency
Twenty-nine year old Mattia Conti has previously written two prize-winning short stories and also published a collection of poetry and a novel with small publishing houses. His latest novel “Of Blood and Ice” is published by Solferino.
Mattia won one of Italy’s most prestigious literary prizes, the Premio Campiello Giovani Short Story Prize in 2011. In 2013, a second of his short stories won the Prada Journal international literary contest organised by the renowned fashion brand. He was presented with his award at a ceremony in New York during which his story was read by Jay McInerney.
“Of Blood and Ice” is Mattia’s debut novel and returns to the themes tackled in the aforementioned short stories: memory, how we relate to history and also his own home area of Lake Como.
The author has a degree in Television, Cinema and New Media, and is currently working as a writer with TV and film production company. He is also an active independent filmmaker in his own right.
Di sangue e di ghiaccio (Of Blood and Ice)
Di sangue e di ghiaccio (Of blood and ice) both is andisn’t a story about the Italian city of Lecco in the late 1800s. Under the guise of a historical novel, author Mattia Conti uses his characters to tell a story that moves away from the canonical, mainstream fictionalisation of the historical record towards a visceral, soil-stained, humane tale of the marginalised and shunned in the reality of 19thcentury Northern Italy, mixed with a novel-length metaphor about performance, theatre, folly, and freedom.
Ranocchia (‘small frog’) is a possibly epileptic, definitely stuttering, extremely awkward and lanky young man with a passion and talent for the stage and the theatrical arts. His mentor in the theatre company and de facto adoptive father, Baldo, is a washed up thespian with a heart as big as his liver, and with one actually influential and historically accurate connection: Verdi’s libretto writer Antonio Ghislanzoni. Bianca is Ranocchia’s school teacher, the most vocal denier of his passion, and his love interest – for her, he stages his own insanity in order to be committed to the San Martino mental institution in Como, where she was also forced for reasons that are revealed much later in the story. Mariuccia is another of Lecco’s ‘village idiots’ according to its population, madly in love with Ranocchia, and passionately ready to help Baldo in rescuing the young man. Of the several other characters in the novel, none are just cameos, as all play a fundamental role in the parallel tapestries of San Martino and Lecco. Their follies are exposed, their natures revealed, and the real illnesses brought to the surface in what is an inevitable yet unpredictable subversion of expectations.
If only fools and children are able to point out that the emperor, the powers that be really have no clothes, Mattia Conti – in Ranocchia, Emilio, Mariuccia, the other San Martino mentecatti, even Baldo, and finally, Emilio – has created an army of voices powerful enough to strip down every layer of the tradition, mores, laws and beliefs of Lecco in 1891, and perhaps even to echo all the way to our own.
Reviews and Reception
“...a fresh and ambitious new voice, aware that behind every literary inventio, to support the plot and the character creation, one needs a solid foundation of research and studies.”– Chiara Fenoglio, La Lettura
“There’s a bit of the foolish world of theatre and the dark one of the actually mentally ill in the last days of the 1800s in the great debut novel by Mattia Conti. Made up characters, but close to those whose voices have been lost in the dusty archives of mental institutions.” – Monica Virgili, IoDonna
“Mattia Conti’s debut is a thrilling adventure set on the shore of Lake Como at the end of the 1800s, at the crossroads between the fascinating world of theatre and the dark one of the mentally ill, able to shed a touching light on love and its opposite: betrayal.” – ciaoComo.it
“...a surprising work. It would be excellent from the pen of an experienced author; as a debut, it’s exceptional. The story, though convoluted, is told with clarity and paced well, with maturity. The visionary, flamboyant style is a delight to the eyes.”– Sonia Aggio,ilrifugiodellircocervo.it