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The Empire of Dirt: A Novel (Paperback)
In this captivating English-language debut, three generations of women must face their secrets and regrets when an old family curse awakens.
There has always been tension in “the blind house,” where Valentina lives with her mother and grandmother in the Italian countryside. Valentina’s pious grandmother often hints at a family curse, while Valentina’s mother scoffs at superstition; it’s one of the battlegrounds on which they fight to control Valentina’s upbringing.
But in the summer of 1996, when Valentina is twelve, she gets her period for the first time—and the curse suddenly becomes frighteningly real. Blood leaks from the walls; the house and farm are overrun with frogs; the kitchen crawls with flies. Valentina is certain that she has brought catastrophe to her house and its inhabitants.
In this propulsive coming-of-age novel, of mother-daughter relationships and painful family legacies, Valentina is forever changed by the events of one terrifying summer.
About the Author
Francesca Manfredi is a graduate of the creative writing school Scuola Holden, founded by Alessandro Baricco. Her debut short story collection, Un Buon Posto Dove Stare (A Place to Stay In), won Italy’s Premio Campiello Opera Prima. She lives in Turin, Italy.
Ekin Oklap was born in Turkey and grew up in Italy. She translates from Turkish and Italian, and currently lives in London. As a translator, she was shortlisted for the 2016 Man Booker International Prize.
Remarkable. . . . A compelling read, both disconcerting and enchanting. . . . The Empire of Dirt is a rich puzzle impossible to resist.
— Virginia Reeves - New York Journal of Books
The Empire of Dirt is as elegant and precise as it is haunting.
— The Millions
In Francesca Manfredi’s intense, mesmerizing novel, cosmic forces intersect with the domestic life of a girl and her mother and grandmother. With deceptively simple sentences, Manfredi brilliantly evokes the deep mysteries that lurk within everyday interactions. I couldn’t put this book down.
— Helen Phillips, author of The Need
An elegant and haunting story of feminine chaos and self-possession. Francesca Manfredi’s prose, in Ekin Oklap’s translation, is piercing and full of dark, honest wit.
— Catherine Lacey, author of Pew and Nobody Is Ever Missing
With her magnetic, captivating style and precise linguistic register, Francesca Manfredi leads us on a journey in discovery of ourselves, changing with the turning of the seasons.
— Stefania Massari - Huffington Post Italia
A complex and beautiful novel, with a dreamlike, poetic, but never macabre register.
— Francesca Frediani - D - la Repubblica
At once disconcerting and utterly captivating.
— Florence Courriol-Seita - Le Monde
A coming-of-age story that showcases, with powerful descriptions and poetic prose, the intergenerational clash and unspoken guilt between three women.
Three generations of Italian women living under one roof might be witches or might just be trying to live their lives; point of view is everything.... Valentina endeavors to make sense of her place in a world inhospitable to girls seeking freedom and within a family where secrets reign over truths. Manfredi delivers Valentina’s narrative, as translated by Oklap, in a straightforward and unapologetic tone consistent with the bravado and insecurities of adolescence. Familial truth emerges, one way or another, but it may take a few generations before it can be seen.
Evocative.... The accomplished prose is a testament to Manfredi’s potential.
— Publishers Weekly