Die So Geliebte (The So Beloved), originally published in Italian as Lei Cosi Amata, a fictionalised biography of Annemarie Schwarzenbach, on of the 1930s travel writers that I have become a fan of over the last couple of years, really quite surprised me.
I’m always hesitant about fictionalised biography because so many authors try to add an angle (usually a soppy romance – blergh!) that wasn’t really there, so when I come across a book that does not dwell on this, is researched well, includes a lot of details and dates, and even goes to some effort to describe the research process in the afterword, it is exciting.
Of course, there are still aspects that I could criticise in the book: I still only have a vague concept of what Mazzucco describes as the betrayal of the MC (Schwarzenbach) on her family or the “disgrace” she’s brought on her family, or that some of the re-imagined conversations were overly dramatic and sounded somewhat unnatural, or that some of the episodes in Schwarzenbach’s life were missing, like her famous trip to Afghanistan with Kini Maillart.
However, these small criticisms fade when I look at the intent of the book, which was to tell the story of a young person in the 1920s and 30s who was searching for her own identity and purpose in a world that seemed to be falling apart. It was not the intent of the book to be a factual chronology of Schwarzenbach’s life but to give context to it. And in this it really succeeded.
(Btw, it is kinda ironic that the cover of the book is from a film called “Die Reise nach Kafiristan”, which is loosely based on the trip with Maillart that is missing from this book.)