Tag Archives: Iris Origo

Iris Origo remembered

In the latest issue  (8 February 2018) of the London Review of Books there’s a long review of Iris Origo’s The Merchant of Prato. Daily Life in a Medieval Italian City, first published in English in 1957, translated into Italian with an introduction by Luigi Einaudi in 1958 and now republished in English as a Penguin Classic. Its republication accompanies the reappearance of several of Origo’s books in 2017 thanks to the Pushkin Press: her well-known War in Val d’Orcia (1947; translated into Italian in 1968 with a preface by Piero Calamandrei), the previously unpublished A Chill in the Air dealing with the years 1939-1940, and her autobiography Images and Shadows: Part of a Life (1970).  Those three books convey brilliantly not only her family ancestry in Ireland and the USA but also her life in Italy; she grew up in Fiesole and moved to La Foce in southern Tuscany when she married Antonio Origo in 1924. La Foce was an unpromising half-ruined estate in the Val d’Orcia, 3500 hectares cultivated by mezzadri in 57 poor farms, which she and her husband determined, successfully,  to revive. Her books on Bernardino da Siena, Byron and Leopardi may have slipped from sight; but the accounts she left of her wartime years in La Foce are a lasting testimony to survival and solidarity in conditions of capricious power, lawlessness and extreme danger.

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