In April writer Claudia Durastanti came to the Calandra Institute to give a reading from her acclaimed book Strangers I Know as part of our regular Writers Read series, which has begun again in person for the first time since 2020. Joseph Salvatore interviewed her about the work and her life. Our cable TV show Italics crew were there to tape the event, and now you can watch the entire event here.
Strangers I Know is the fourth novel by Claudia Durastanti and her first to be translated to English; the book is a bestseller in Italy and winner of the Premio Pozzale Luigi Russo and the Premio Strega Off. The largely autobiographical novel is a subversive story about family and coming of age; it crosses oceans, languages, and generations, bringing readers into small pastoral villages of Southern Italy as well as into smoky night clubs and the NYC punk rock scene. The novel’s narrator finds herself living in a strange transnational atmosphere in which communication is nearly nonexistent. An outsider in every way, she longs for a freedom she isn’t sure exists and attempts to create her own version of her life.
“Formally innovative and emotionally complex, this novel explores themes of communication, family, and belonging with exceptional insight. Durastanti, celebrated in Italy for her intelligent voice and her hybrid perspective, speaks to all who are outside and in-between. Strangers I Know, in a bracing translation by Elizabeth Harris, is a stunning English-language debut.”
—Jhumpa Lahiri, author of Whereabouts
Discussion led by Joseph Salvatore, The New School.