February 26, 2016
Image credit :‘Dear Diary’ by ayomide!
Title: The Story of Anna P, as Told by Herself
- Author: Penny Busetto
- Publisher: Jacana Media (Pty) Ltd
- Number of pages: 155
- Year of publication: 2014
- Category: Fiction
Penny Busetto’s The Story of Anna P, as Told by Herself is an experimental fusion of literature and psychology – issues of memory, identity, self and existentialism are handled with sagacity. The Story of Anna P, as Told by Herself is a divided into three parts: the first part is titled ‘Book of the Present’, the second part is ‘Book of Memory’ and the last part is ‘Book of the Future’.
That first part, ‘Book of the Present’, is narrated from the first person point of view, in the form of diary entries, and it accounts for about 75% of the book. Anna P lives on an island off the coast of Italy. She works as a substitute teacher and has been with the island’s local school over 20 years. She suffers from amnesia and ‘absences’. She cannot remember how she got to the island and how her life was before she got there. Days pass and she cannot remember how she spent them. ‘So many of my days pass with nothing to say for themselves, when I can’t even remember what I have eaten, I can remember no sensations, no thoughts’ (p 81).
Anna P lives a solitary life. Outside work, the only person she has some sort of relationship with is a female sex worker called Sabrina, whom she occasionally spends the night with in a nondescript hotel on the mainland. The people on the island try to guess where she comes from and what her story is but she is largely left alone. She also gets close to one of her students, Ugo, due to his fragility. Ugo is bullied by his classmates and maltreated by his grandparents, with whom he lives.
Penny Busetto writes beautiful prose with lines that read like poetry. It is easy to see why this book has been shortlisted for the 2015 Etisalat Prize for Literature:
Waves generated by the pull of wind and moon, generate degenerate. The salty smell, the seaweed smell, the smell of breaking waters, returning to the amniotic waters, to the holding, floating warmth, the lungs filled with fluid. Sightless eyes, there is nothing to see, tiny fishes have nibbled her nose, her eyes, her lips, featureless foetal face, flat, bleached, bloodless. But she has no connection, no umbilical cord attaching her to a life source (p 72).
Busetto’s novel achieves universality in its language, storyline and sensibilities. It opens with an intriguing first sentence, ‘As I hurry from the harbour to my classroom, the school secretary, Signor Cappi, stops me and hands me a letter’. All these make the book captivating. The Story of Anna P, as Told by Herself is an experience hard to shake off even long after the reading; it will stay with its readers for a lifetime.
Read the rest at www.wawabookreview.com. Wawa Book Review focuses on the outputs of African publishers.
I have followed this writer’s career (and he happens to be a close buddy by the way) for close to a decade and everything i know about books and writing I learnt from and still learn from him. This review just mirrored my life! ENJOY!