Salah Methnani’s Immigrato: Portrait of a Migrant as a Young Man

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Although after Unification Italy was predominantly a country of emigration, in recent years it has become a hub for migrants from different parts of the world. Among these migrants a group of writers has contributed to re-configuring Italy's national literary identity. Read by critics primarily as an autobiographical text with remarkable sociological value, Tunisian-born Salah Methnani’s Immigrato is, I argue, first and foremost a classic Bildungsroman. Salah, the 'immigrant' in the title, is the story's protagonist, point of view and leading metaphor. His Bildung follows a double path. On the one hand Italy is a country imagined through TV and books read in school, on the other it is the country of the clandestine migrant forced into illegality. Similarly, official city maps contrast with alternative maps of migration; standard Italian learnt at the University in Tunis is spoken next to the jargon of migrants; writing (a diary) and speaking (broken Italian) are often at odds; and the tough reality of everyday life is followed by the oneiric dimension of dreams, often turning into nightmares. The question accompanying Salah's quest, upon which the entire story is built, remains ultimately unresolved: "Am I leaving my country as a North African migrant or am I just another young man eager to know the world first hand?" Immigrato does not only portray the epic of the new migrant of the Mediterranean, it also offers a profound reflection on the condition of modern man and the gnoseological function of art -- that of writing, in this case.
Lingua originaleEnglish
Numero di pagine18
Stato di pubblicazionePublished - 2012


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