What happens if a 23-year-old student takes his books and leaves Switzerland for the south of Italy? He finds an island – 9,5 km2 big – that others have left in search of work in downunder, Argentina or the USA. The villages on this island are ruined, looking like ghost towns, covered by ferns. Geckoes and snakes living in the houses.
The student works along the last inhabitants in winter storms and earthquakes. He makes wine or bakes bread. He lives with little money on the borderline of civilization. Roaming an untouched and wild nature.
One morning he's standing on a hill in front of a ruin and has the strange feeling of having come home. The very same day a contract is signed. The poet of the island sells the ruin to the young poet from Northern Europe.
That's the end of the dream of a house on an island. And the beginning of reality...
Song of the Island (italian) (mp3|5MB)
1978 by Roland Zoss | Translation: Archibald McKenzie
I hear the bell tolling for the dead old Maria has passed away,
she who raised vine-shoots and mint is emigrating,
the last of the two thousand who stamped the fire into the wine
until hunger came to the villages
Evening rises in blue shadows to my place on the mountain
the mongoloid boy on his way home
sings his song to himself
how lonely I'd be without him on this small island
Tomorrow life goes on again Mr Doctor prescribes an aspirin
the priest passes the days playing cards
in the shadow of the church and Angela – aged thirteen –
is a virgin and expecting a child
of the Holy Spirit from Australia
Yet all will pray well at the Santo Stefano procession
under the sweet burden of the cross
the lads dream of America
and all sins are forgiven on this small island
Night comes black out of Africa a hot breeze washes gold in my hair
a scent of clay and coffee caravans cross the sea
a motor-boat howls in the harbour
abruptly I wake from my daydreams
in the village the gas-lanterns are lit already
The road back there is long badly damaged by weather and cattle have they all abandoned Paradise then, even the green angel in the olive tree? And I am but a stranger here on this small island!
Winner of 1993 literature award from the city of Berne.
«The author knows how to transform language into perfumes and sounds, into spirits and landscapes, embedded in intense and amazing pictures!»
e-book in English available
Translation by Archibald McKenzie
Audio documentation to the book in German:
Aldo Gardini (Swiss Radio) has realized a fascinating one hour feature (in German) with the singing, working, living of the people of Filicudi
Audio for free:
Listen here to the Saint Stefano procession.