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Author:
• Sunday, February 17th, 2013

Emili Rosales was born in 1968 in Spain’s Sant Carles de la Ràpita. He spent his childhood and adolescence in his home town before moving to Barcelona to study philology. He worked as a literature teacher and translator and currently is editor and contributor to the newspapers Avui and La Vanguardia. He lives in Barcelona and is a member of the Association of Catalan Language Writers.

Emili Rosales has written two poetry books:
Cities and Sea, published in 1989 and The Days and You, published in 1991.
He has also written four novels to date:
The Beach House, published in 1995, Lord of The Earth in 1997, While Barcelona sleeps in 1999 and The Invisible City in 2005.

The Invisible City became a best seller and has been translated into twenty five languages. The English version was published in 2009. It won the prestigious Catalan literary prize: The Sant Jordi Prize, was selected among the five best novels in Spain in 2006 and was short-listed in 2007 for the Prix Médicis Etranger in France.

Emili Rossell, the main character in the novel, is a young gallery owner in Barcelona, born and raised in Sant Carles de la Ràpita – like the author himself. One day he receives an anonymous parcel containing a copy of an 18th century manuscript written in Italian and entitled: The Memoirs of the Invisible City, written by Andrea Roselli, the Italian architect of king Charles III of Spain, who reigned from 1759 to 1788. This manuscript reawakens Rossell’s great childhood interest in the mystery of the so-called “Invisible City” in his home town, a riddle that even the adults around him couldn’t solve.

Emili Rossell mentions the invisible city of his “childhood games” out of the blue to his school friend, Armand Coll. After examining his encyclopedia, Armand informs his friend that: “Sant Carles de la Ràpita constitutes a mystery within the failed projects of the Enlightenment. It was first designed to be a grand, new city, but at some point the project came to a halt, no one knows exactly why… What was not yet a reality, soon became a pile of ruins. These are the ruins where you and your friends played and scattered pigeons”.

The author skillfully connects the past and present by constructing two parallel, intertwining plots in an architectural way. On the one hand, the aborted plans and unfulfilled dream of king Charles III of Spain and on the other hand, the remaining ruins of this ambitious scheme in the Ebro delta two centuries later. The relics of this unfinished work becomes the playground for the child, Emili Rossell and his friends, who are unaware of the history of these vestiges.

King Charles III’s biggest ambition was to replace Madrid with a new capital which he wanted built around the Ebro delta in Catalonia under the name of Sant Carles de la Ràpita. He wanted a similar city to the majestic Saint Petersburg, built by Peter the Great of Russia (1672-1725) on the banks of the Neva river.

This colossal plan does not materialise because of jealousy and political court intrigues. The senior royal court architect, Francesco Sabatini, who is put in charge of this gigantic project, takes the young Andrea Roselli under his wing. Everything changes when Sabatini discovers, through Tiepolo’s painting of Cecilia – intended as a present by her for her ex lover, Roselli – the romance between his wife, Cecilia and his trusted protégé.

In a jealous rage, Sabatini confronts Roselli and promises him that he will ensure that “his new city” will never exist, and “the privileges he had enjoyed so far will be taken from him”. Roselli knows that Francesco Sabatini is capable of persuading the king to bring the project to a halt, which he does.

What was destined to become a new capital, an ideal, perfect, great artistic and commercial city promoting trade between Spain and America, instead becomes a fishermans’ town. Sabatini has effectively destroyed Roselli’s career and promising future as well as alienating him. Nevertheless, some unfinished buildings will remain until the twentieth century as a witness to this agitated period.

The story also includes the mystery of the lost painting by the famous eighteenth century Venetian master, Giambattista Tiepolo. It goes missing soon after his death and Emili Rossell’s beautiful old friend, Sofia Mendizàbal, is desperately trying to find it two centuries later, by pleading the help of Rossell.

The plot contains the enigma around the hidden identity of Emili Rossell’s father. A secret well kept by his family and which haunted him during his childhood. He learns at an early age never to ask about the father he has never known, feeling a heavy hidden sense of shame and culpability. He loses interest as an adult but eventually discovers his father’s identity towards the end of the novel.

As we embark on an intimate journey with Andrea Roselli and Emili Rossell, we discover that they both have things in common such as a complicated relationship with women, whether it’s Cecilia with Andrea Roselli or Ariadna, Chloe or Sofia with Emili Rossell. Another thing they both share is having to settle accounts with their own past.

The Invisible City is an interesting, thrilling and intriguing story with an elaborate plot that manages to bring all the mysterious loose threads together in the end. There is a useful and abundant description of architecture. It’s a good insight into king Charles III of Spain’s reign and no doubt a great amount of research and maybe traveling by the author was needed in order to situate his novel in historical context. But most important of all it is the hymn of praise to Emili Rosales’ native home town, Sant Carles de la Ràpita.

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Author:
• Sunday, March 27th, 2011

Francesca Marciano was born and grew up in Rome, Italy in 1955. Her grandfather was a well-known Italian writer and winner of literary awards. Since her childhood Francesca was dreaming of becoming a writer like her grandfather but she gave up her university studies and went to New York to have a six-month film course and ended up staying six years.

She worked as a producer/director for documentaries for the Italian television before she found out that her real vocation was film-making. She also acted in some films and became a writer.

Her first holiday trip to Zanzibar made her fall in love with Africa. Since then, she spends her time between Rome and Kenya, where she has a residence.

Francesca Marciano has written three novels to date :
The End Of Manners in 2009
Casa Rossa in 2003
Rules Of The Wild in 1998

The beautiful young Italian, Esme, is the main character and the passionate, self-observing narrator of Rules Of The Wild. The story is set in modern Kenya and relates the every day life of western expatriates who live a superficial, decadent, purposeless existence in a closed circle community. They get drunk, consume drugs and are devoid of morals. They live in Kenya and yet are completely cut off from the native culture of the place they call home but don’t seem to care. They don’t want to leave because they are captured by the picturesque beauty of the country and because of all the privileges and freedom they have. They don’t contribute to the Kenyan life, they don’t even make African friends, they only have cheap African labourers. The colonial attitude still prevails among the white society in Africa.

The expatriates are aware without being deterred, that they will never belong to Kenya nor be part of it despite falling in love with it. Just like Esme who surmounts her torn feelings towards her two lovers, Adam and Hunter, knowing well that she will never “belong” to either of them.

Esme is first attracted to Adam, the gentle, handsomely rugged, safari leader, a second generation Scot, who is captivated by the fascinating landscape and wild nature and would like to transmit this passion to Esme.

While living with Adam she is charmed by the conceited British war correspondent, Hunter, who after reporting the Somalian and Rwandan genocides becomes cynical about the harshness and injustice in these breathtaking, unspoilt East African countries and transmits the horror of what he has witnessed to Esme, through his copious accounts.

After much wavering between her two very dissimilar lovers, after much suffering and introspection, Esme discovers that her passion lies elsewhere. It lies in the miracle generated everyday by the swooping of birds over the still water, the movement of the clouds, the pink and purple sunrise and the stunningly dramatic orange sunset. Every day this magnificent, heavenly display looks as if perceived for the first time by the observer.

Esme discovers that she feels reborn and free by living so close to such enthralling virgin landscape which is a constant wonder, because she senses that she is part of it. She realises that she is in love with Africa more than anything or anybody. At last, after her wearying quest, she attains her flawless, “elsewhere” and extirpates herself from the past in order to live in harmony and self-abnegation with her surroundings.

Unfortunately, this striking paradisaical setting is heavily obscured by the sad crude reality of how the white Westerners still sustain the colonialist mentality in the African countries and by the rape, pillages and blood baths taking place in the neighbouring Rwanda and Somalia. A dark side of human nature juxtaposed to the beautiful images of an untamed luxuriant African panorama.