The Colonial Conquest
is the first volume of Alessandro Spina's epic, The Confines of the Shadow
, a sequence of novels and short stories that map the transformation of Libya, particularly the coastal city of Benghazi, under the pressure of Italian colonization.
This volume is divided into three sections--The Young Maronite, The Marriage of Omar and The Nocturnal Visitor--which are set between 1912 and 1927. At its outset we find Italian soldiers solidifying their control over Libya's coasts, leaving Libyan rebels to withdraw to the desert and prepare for a war that would rage for over a decade. The readers is then led to explore the divided Libya of the 1920s, when an Italian governor ruled from Benghazi while Sidi Idris al-Senussi, the head of the Senussi dynasty and future Libyan king, governed from Ajdabiya. Voices from all sides bicker over whether to reconcile or fight, though many simply try to make space for whatever small pleasures life amidst political upheaval might allow.
Employing a cosmopolitan array of characters, ranging from Ottoman functionaries, to Libyan aristocrats and Italian officers, Spina chronicles the colonial experience in Libya with breadth and feeling. Distinguished by an intimate understanding of East and West, this work and its companion volumes comprise among the most significant achievements of 20th century fiction and stand unchallenged as the only multi-generational epic about the European experience in North Africa.
TitleThe Colonial Conquest
SubtitleThe Confines of the Shadow Volume I
AuthorBy Alessandro Spina, Translated by André Naffis-Sahely
Published23 January 2018
Dimensions6.00 x 9.00in.
"Spina has deep and subtle literary sensibility. The rich and varied prose is peppered with aphorisms that reveal a psychological as well as philosophical depth . . . Spina is a novelist more interested in history than in consciousness. Where he distinguishes himself is in offering such a comprehensive work about a particular colonial experience . . . His work provides a rare and valuable perspective on the history of Italy and Libya and, more generally, Europe colonialism in the Middle East." Hisham Matar, The Times Literary Supplement
"Spina approaches the question of colonialism from all angles, as it were: historical, allegorical, psychological, and satirical . . .Spina's prose itself is theatrical. He can set the stage quickly. His stories have great beginnings and endings, the curtain snapping open and shut upon dramatic scenes; his characters make memorable entrances." Ursula Lindsey, The Nation
"Don't expect from Spina polished late-imperial romance of the sort that fans of the twilight-of-the-Raj school, from Paul Scott to Vikram Seth, know and love. True, he does create Forsterian figures, anguished doubters torn between two worlds, but these stories also experiment with alternatives to realism." Boyd Tonkin, The Independent
"Spina's colorful tales of unrequited love, betrayal, and revenge spring from a cacophony of diverse voices who despite fundamental differences share a felt burden: a public duty to uphold the values of their own society while experiencing private misgivings about the infallibility of those values.", World Literature Today