Dazed Digital

Rome / Italiano

Chiara Barzini: Sister Stop Breathing

February 10, 2012

The inspiring Roman writer presents her debut collection of blending short fictions

  • Text by Tommaso Fagioli

“First babies are cropped and small. You are careful not to break them. Their sisters hold them in their arms. They look like Indian children. Maybe because their sisters are squeezing their faces and making them turn purple”. This is one of the those witty incipits that make you want to keep reading, if only for the sweet and sour blend of horror and comedy that immediately exudes from the words. So if you want to know what happens then, you can find out here. In the meantime, let me introduce you to the author: Chiara Barzini.

Screen and fiction writer, born and based in Rome, but raised in the US, Chiara has written films distributed in Italy, Spain, Japan, and Latin America. Her articles and stories have already appeared in various magazines and literary journalsShe is currently presenting her debut collection of short fictions "Sister Stop Breathing" in New York and doing a bunch of readings organised by Calamari Press, a small cutting-hedge and original Italian publishing house. The book is getting some great attention including a shout out by writer Dennis Cooper in his blog. It is 92 pages long for 38 stories and contains beautiful collaged-watercolour illustrations made by Cal. A. Mari. Satellite Voices meets her for a little talk about twin volcanic craters, European expatriates in Arizona, a Pope's vanishing corpse and incestuous swimming pools.

Satellite Voices: First of all, why "Sister Stop Breathing"?
Chiara Barzini: It’s the title of my favourite story in the collection. A lot of these stories emerged during a time where a series of unexpected deaths occurred, so a lot of the imagery in the book relates to the shifts that the body inhabits when passing onto the other side.

SV: All stories are maximum three pages long. Why did you chose this form?
Chiara Barzini: David Lynch’s book "Catching the Big Fish" on Transcendental Meditation and creativity had a big impact on my work. Practicing meditation has been the most useful tool for the creation of these stories. During meditation, or right after, my visual world would expand and produce these kinds of postcard / photographic images. The fictions try to tell the story of these images and Cal A. Mari’s wonderful artwork was a great complement to that.

SV: How does it feel to write in English comparing with Italian?
Chiara Barzini: I love the poetry of Italian and the sound, but there are about 270000 in the Italian against 615000 words in the English language. In English there is even a word to describe what happens when underwear sticks inside your ass... wedgie. In Italian we would need quite a longer periphrasis. English language is so mercilessly direct and allows mixing sacred and profane ideas in the same space. I love that.

SV: What will we find in your book?
Chiara Barzini: Hopefully the feeling of being frighteningly lost, but relieved in finding your way home quite soon.

SV: Like E. Hemingway did in "The Fifth Column and the First Forty-nine Stories", which tales would you immediatly recommend to the reader? Sister Stop Breathing, Dead Prime Minister, Waking Up With Legs, Polish and Beautiful, Vauville.

SV: Jonathan Ames, author of TV series "Bored to Death", defines your stories as "smashed mirrored jewels […] grotesque and fantastic" and made me want to try this personality questionnaire with you. The virtue you prefer?
Chiara Barzini: Generosity.

SV: The quality you prefer in a man / woman?
Chiara Barzini: The ability to have a feminine side. / The ability to have balls.

SV: Your idea of happiness / unhappiness?
Chiara Barzini: NY, Rome, and California being an hour train ride away from one another. / Living without forgiving.

SV: The flaw you justify / detest more?
Chiara Barzini: Social Ineptitude / Pride.

SV: Your favourite occupation?
Chiara Barzini: Taking baths.

SV: Your favourite author?
Chiara Barzini: Impossible to pick one, but Djuna Barnes has been a bit of a guardian angel for me.

SV: Your favourite hero?
Chiara Barzini: The Virgin Mary.

SV: Your favourite meal?
Chiara Barzini: Tacos al Pastor with guacamole and extra cilantro.

SV: Your favourite music?
Chiara Barzini: I am currently pregnant and have discovered that my baby is insanely into The Chi-Lites, so I am happy to go with that.

SV: Your favourite adage?
Chiara Barzini: The Joan Didion inspired: "Play it as it Lays".

SV: To whom would you recommend your book?
Chiara Barzini: Everybody! It is short and accessible and will hopefully stimulate further creations for all.

Calamari Press is an independent publishing house based in Rome but distributing in the US The founder, Derek White, lives in Trastevere and has published a number of successful writers such as Gary Lutz, Blake Butler, Miranda Mellis and Robert Lopez.

To purchase your copy of SSB click here

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