THE ITALIANIST: From L’ARTE SCONOSCIUTA DEL VOLO (The Unknown Art of Flying) by Enrico Fovanna, translated by Katherine Gregor

When I was a child, every now and then I had a dream which hasn’t ceased to recur in different versions even in adulthood. In a nutshell, I dreamt I was flying, although that would be oversimplifying it. Rather, I would control the force of gravity and pedal through the air. As though taking off for a long jump and, just as my body was coming back down to earth, I would prolong the trajectory as I pleased with a simple sprint across the sky, or a jolt with my hip or my arms. 

A variation on the theme consisted of my taking part in an athletics contest where, to everyone’s disbelief, I could as much as double the world record. As though I was the only man granted this secret privilege.

I did not know what lay beneath this power. The unknown art of flying was a gift that would surface from some meander or other of my soul and all I could do was enjoy its effect, the same way as a man sitting in front of a computer is a final user and has no idea of the binary codes that make it work.

I knew neither the unconscious projector nor the hidden director of this performance. But I’ve often wondered about the meaning of this event. And I always get the same answer. The dream spoke of weightlessness and of the possibility of deciding when to come back to earth, to the world, to matter. It spoke of control. Of the illusory potential of the will. 

For the first few minutes after waking up, I would almost always bring back with me an odd kind of happiness, like a feeling of euphoria. That was until I realised that it had all vanished and that I had to consign these emotions, that notion of power, to my dream fantasies. I’ve never got to the bottom of it; nor have I answered another important question: whether flying recurred randomly or whether it was linked to some episode – a specific episode – in my life.

I think I first started to fly in the winter of 1969. 

It was a Sunday morning and I was just a little over eight years old. The bells announcing Mass woke me up and I went downstairs, where my father was already dressed in his Sunday clothes. He seemed tense but was able to have breakfast with us without worrying about going to work. So he told us what he had heard in every detail. 

The first shreds of shirt had poked out from the soil at about six on the Saturday evening, when the three carabinieri, who had been at work for hours with spade and pickaxe, were about to give up. The body of the little boy was unearthed shortly afterwards on the country road that led from Ponte Rosso to the stream.

It was the 1st of November, the eve of All Souls. In the morning, the postman had taken to the barracks the envelope containing an anonymous letter, typewritten, which indicated the location of the body and was accompanied by a clumsy sketch. And so, in the early afternoon, after his coffee and a brief plan-of-action meeting, the marshal had dispatched the jeep with the soldiers in plain clothes and the shovels to the countryside, and followed them on his Vespa, map in hand.

After the discovery of the remains, a hunt was triggered for any detail or witness that could shed a little light on this new atrocity – the second one in just a few months.

By Enrico Fovanna

Translated by Katherine Gregor


L’ARTE SCONOSCIUTA DEL VOLO (The Unknown Art of Flying) Fiction

by Enrico Fovanna (Giunti, 2020)

translated by Katherine Gregor

Read Katherine Gregor’s article about L’arte sconosciuta del volo.


Enrico Fovanna (1961) is a novelist and journalist in Milan, where he is engaged in issues relating to immigration, society and human rights. On 9 November 1989, the day the Berlin Wall fell, he was hired by the newspaper Il Giorno, where he works to this day.  His first novel, Il pesce elettrico, set in Turkey, was awarded the Premio Stresa in 1996 and the Festival del Primo Romanzo prize at the Salone del libro di Torino in 1997. 

He has also published books with Italian publishers E/L and Utet and has filed field reports from countries under siege such as Iraq and Afghanistan.


Katherine Gregor grew up in Italy and France before going to university in England. She has been a theatrical agent, press agent, teacher and one or two other things before becoming a literary translator from Italian, French and, on occasion, Russian. She also writes original material and is currently working on a non-fiction book.

Category: Translations

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