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Laura Bosio: “What about the countryside people? Rough and silent, but they laugh”

She wrote a novel set in rice fields. “From the rural world, the writer says, I learnt the idea of weariness and determination. And the sense of freedom, too”

Laura Bosio, born in Vercelli, lives and works in Milan as editorial consultant. She graduated in Literature at the Catholic University of Milan and has published articles and stories in newspapers and magazines.

He debuted in fiction with I dimenticati (Feltrinelli 1993 – Award Bagutta Opera Prima), followed by the Annunciazione (Mondadori 1997 - Award Moravia; Longanesi new edition 2008), Le ali ai piedi (Mondadori 2002 - Women's Award Selection Rapallo), Teresina. Storie di un’anima (Mondadori 2004) and Le stagioni dell'acqua (Longanesi 2007 - Finalist Strega Award, and now also in Tea edition).

For the series "The Mystics", edited by Oscar-Leonardo Mondadori, she edited the anthology La ricerca dell’impossibile, dedicated to the mystical, philosophical and spiritual of women in literature.

In 1997 she worked at the subject and the screenplay of the film "Le acrobate" by Silvio Soldini. She is been a professor of technical writing at the Masters in Journalism at the Catholic University of Milan. From January to December 2008 she edited on "Avvenire" the daily section "Looks."

Laura Bosio

You were born in Vercelli, a land well known for rice culturing and for the solid farming tradition. What did the rural world let in your mindset?
The landscapes, the background, the mirror-like fields that call to contemplation were left in me. Moreover, it is left the sense of weariness and of determination. And the sense of freedom, too. I remember the women in the 40s and 50s that come from Emilia or Veneto to work in the rice fields. They lived in terrible conditions, but they conquered a freedom that it was not possible in their origin villages. For those women, the hard and poorly paid work was not only pain, poorness, bent back, resignation. It was also the adventure of their life. The rice field workers spent their lives under the sun, among other girls. Notwithstanding the fatigue, they used to dance every night, and they used to have many men.

Le stagioni dell’acqua (trad. The water seasons), in comparison to your other novels, marks a passage. It is present the attraction toward a new world, the rural and the farming world. In particular, the main character is the feminine agriculture, which is represented through the female rice workers and a series of other background women. Why did you choose a marginal and peripheral theme, even if central and pivotal in life?
I had the intention to write a novel about the work, which is so central in our lives and that was so crucial in that period. Then, I faced the rice working theme, and the novel followed this way. I was born in Vercelli, where my family was not involved in farming, and twenty-five years ago I moved to Milan. I didn’t know very much about rice, about that hard and unique work. I felt the desire to know much about it, to discover that world, and probably to know something much about myself. The farms and the rice fields are at a couple of kilometers away from cities, from metropolis. However, the distance between the city and the farms in enormous. As a matter of fact, starting from that peripheral viewpoint it is possible to better understand our past and present history. That world is an essential and live element of our society, our economy. That is true besides we usually ignore it and we prefer to look at it with sweetened eyes. Eyes those are not typical of that world.

In Le stagioni dell’acqua the reader can find the same attention for the landscape as in Le ali ai piedi. However here it is more pronounced, also because here the plot clearly arises from the pulsating heart of countryside. How much attention did you pay to the environment and to the landscape, not only the aesthetic one but also the rural and agricultural one, during your studying for the novel preparation?
Everybody that grown, like me, among rice fields carry with himself an image. This image is the world upside down, that opens the novel that can be seen when the rice fields are flooded. They became like a huge mirror where the land and the sky are mirrored and confused ones each others. In the novel, this upside down world is reflected on the characters’ stories and destinies, on things and life. It allows giving a sought from “our roots”. It is a look to the world that turns upside down and gives a comic viewpoint to things. My people, the rural people, are rough, stubborn and silent, but it is also people that, notwithstanding the hard lives, it is able to laugh. The landscape, in this novel, begun the main character; it is a character that lives together with other characters. Perhaps it is the true protagonist.

How did the rice, a so international and necessary plant for the feeding of many people, and at the same time so fragile and ancient, impress on you?
The rice is fragile and strong; it needs many attentions to grow up. It should be flooded in order to preserve it from freezing and then, when it is grown up, it should be avoided that the tree shadows mask it from the sun. It should be preserved from diseases and from bad seeds. The rice is, at the same time, the seed and the fruit. Rice born from rice. It is not a case that it is the most widespread food in the world. Without rice, a huge amount of people would be without any nourishment. Without exceeding, the rice can be a symbol of our human condition. The rice come from far, in time and space; it was first used in Asia and then arrived through the Pepper Gate of Alexandria of Egypt, through the canalizations of Renaissance, in which also Leonardo da Vinci took part, and finally through the rural laws by Cavour. The rice is the subject of many myths and legends. It is already a novel.

Do you think that people can understand the huge work that is behind field working? Or do you think that neither telling that stories to city people it is possible to increase the public awareness on these subjects and problems?
I do not. I think that the fatigue of agriculture, the care, the dedication, the patience and the fantasy that this work requires it is underestimated. Approaching this world was a real experience for me. It was an important experience that really enriched me; I’ll not come back.

Which is your approach to agriculture?
I always approached it is an approximate way; but I’d like to know much about it. For this reason I have the intention to write a novel of these themes and in particular on the rice culturing. The collection of information on the rural world is a formative and fascinating experience to me. I talk with farmers, I follow them at the weekly rice market, I study the transformation processes. At the Experimental center of the Rice foundation of Mortara there is a library containing more than 6,000 books on rice, from ‘900 till now. I’ll go there on May; I expect to find there, besides the technical details, stories, episodes and figures.

Which is your approach to the food?
I’m extremely greedy. Omnivorous! While eating people talk with relax. It is amazing to explore tastes and food combinations. It is a melting of memory and invention that give me enthusiasm. I also enjoy cooking, following the receipt books. Joseph Conrad said that the receipt books have a unique and fundamental role: to raise the mankind happiness.


I dimenticati, Feltrinelli, 1993

Annunciazione, Mondadori, 1997

Le ali ai piedi, Mondadori, 2002

Teresina. Storie di un'anima, Mondadori, 2004

Le stagioni dell'acqua, Longanesi, 2007

by Luigi Caricato
04 may 2009, Food Notes > Miscellanea