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Amalia Pistilli

Italian, American

First Language(s): Italian
Second Language(s): English


Born in Naples, Italy, Amalia lived in the UK, USA, Canada and Mexico for a total of 35 years, and is now back in Italy. She studied Anthropology and Art History, but even when immersed in academic theory she was always making art. As well as creative writing, Amalia also makes visual work: photography for two decades, and now collage.


What was your favorite book as a child?

Andersen's fairy tales. My aunt gave me a wonderfully illustrated book printed in the year of my birth (1959), which I still have. They were dreamy, surreal, tender, terrifying stories suffused with the author's wit and sadness. I don't think, as a child, I could fully understand their depth, but they certainly stimulated my imagination.

What was the original reason or motivation why you started writing creatively?

I remember writing fairy tales and fantasy stories already at six or seven as a means to escape what I consider the horrors of my childhood. Later, when I encountered English, it opened up a new world for me and henceforth all my writings, be they personal journals, creative non-fiction, or poetry, have been in English.

What was the most adventurous or thrilling thing you ever did/experienced?

Leaving Naples, and Italy, in 1984, aged 25. Previously, I had moved away from my parents' home at 20, something not usually done back then, especially not by women and in Southern Italy. Sharing an apartment with friends wasn't enough freedom or independence for me, though: I had a terrible relationship with my parents and needed to put more distance between us. I also craved to be immersed in different cultures and languages. So I moved to Munich, working in hotels, and six months later to England, where I stayed for 15 years. Subsequently, I've lived in the US, Canada, and Mexico, to "return" to Italy in 2019. But I don't believe one can settle back into one's culture of origin after being away for decades; besides, I always felt like an alien even in my first life in Italy. So I came back to find that I, and the country, are so changed as to be even more incompatible than before.

All my life I've been a stranger everywhere, which is the theme of my second — work-in-progress — memoir book. To me, this feeling of displacement creates a dissonance that is painful but necessary to live more lucidly and creatively.

Do you listen to music while reading or writing?

I've frequently done so, and listened to whatever suited my mood at the time, more than the mood of what was actually writing. But increasingly I find that I prefer silence, and this is also the reason I will be moving to an isolated mountain village this year to abandon city life forever.


Issue Fall '23

Supported by:

Land Steiermark: Kultur, Europa, Außenbeziehungen
U.S. Embassy Vienna
Stadt Graz