Maria Rosaria Selo, Vincenzina ora lo sa [Vincenzina Now Knows], Rizzoli 2023
This summer I chose to read books about Naples. I came across this volume by chance by an author nominated last year for the literature award, The Strega prize. This is a novel that takes a look at Vincenzina, the daughter of one of the historic workers at the great Italsider steelworks in Bagnoli, who in 1975 lost her father, who died of lung damage from the factory’s poisonous dust. The girl, who was hired in recognition of her father’s work, had to leave university and through her experience as a worker, gives us an insight into the birth and development of Europe’s largest steelworks. She describes the terrifying capacity of the factory to encompass, and to swallow up the lives of thousands of families, enveloped by the noise of the blast furnaces and the deadly dust that escapes from them, and reaping victims amidst the indifference of the trade unions and those in charge.
I liked the idea that her journey of education takes place among other women in the factory who have significant histories behind them and possess the strength to face life and look to the future with hope. In the course of half a century of the factory’s evolution and decline (it is still an open wound for Naples today, even though it is closed), Vincenzina had the opportunity to become part of the workers’ and feminist struggles of the 1970s and 1980s, and recover the broken threads of her life as she did so..