Federica pens novel about city’s cultural differences

Federica Marchesini

When Federica Marchesini started writing her first novel nine years ago, she never thought it would materialise as her sister’s death had made her lose motivation.

Now, the Camps Bay resident finally has the finished product, Afritalian.

The book was due to be launched at the Cape Town Club in the city centre on Tuesday April 25.

It presents a mix of Cape Town and Italian cultures and languages – all from a European point of view.

And while Ms Marchesini has had many experiences in the city that she has written about, she highlighted the city centre and the V&A Waterfront as “the hub of European life in South Africa”.

“There is such a melting pot of cultures here that you almost forget we actually live in South Africa. I like it very much because I feel at home without having to pay for a flight ticket. I have more diverse friends here than the ones I would have if I lived in Verona, my home town,” said Ms Marchesini, who moved to South Africa in 2001.

“I was working in Germany before, in Hamburg, and working for a high-end fashion company. I came here for an internship and then I stayed.

“I have done so many different things since I came here and learnt so much about working in an African country. In some ways, it is easier because the red tape is not as hectic as in Europe, but obviously the other side of the coin is that when you look for efficiency you need to be patient or lucky. We are in Africa, after all. I have therefore to accept compromise between cultures, which is also one of my strongest points in my novel.”

She said she always had a love for writing and decided to pursue a career in foreign languages and tourism.

“I have always wanted to travel and explore new countries and new cultures and be able to speak to people. I studied Italian, English, French, Spanish and German and now I teach Italian, English and French in Cape Town as a main job.”

She started writing Afritalian nine years ago, but after one and a half chapters, her sister died, and she lost interest and motivation.

“A few years ago, I was asked to continue writing that book, and I finished it. I was in a good space and in a very creative moment of my life, so I finished it in six months. I dedicated my book to my late sister.”

She describes the city centre and the Waterfront a lot in her book. “ I wanted my novel to be a little bit of a guide book for Italians. I actually set a very entertaining scene at the Waterfront, where the seals are lying at the quay. In Italy, it is not common to find seals by a shopping centre – you see them only at the zoo. So I told a story of an Italian family reacting to them while exploring and enjoying the Waterfront lifestyle.

“The Italian word for seals is ‘foche’ – pronounced ‘fok he’. You can imagine how funny it is for a Capetonian to hear the Italians calling out the seals to get their attention.”

She said that while writing Afritalian, she had been mainly concerned about consistency, which had made her very aware about the physical and personality traits of her characters.

“They couldn’t be blonde in the first chapter and brunette in the end, unless I took them to the hairdresser during the story with the reader taking part.

“This book forced me to think and to elaborate on interesting and motivating thoughts about life out of Italy and analyse the differences in languages, culture and habits.

“I loved doing my research, and I found out so many things that some Capetonians may not even know about their own city.”

However, she said, now that she was writing a sequel, it was scarier than writing the first book. “It is more daunting because there are expectations now out there, which did not exist with the first book.”

The book is available for R200. Email Federica Marchesini at
lovewriteshare@gmail.com to get a copy.

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