God at Center of Italian Novelist´s New Book

Susanna Tamaro Speaks About “Answer Me!”

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ROME, JAN. 16, 2001 (ZENIT.org-AVVENIRE).- Susanna Tamaro, the Italian writer who won international fame with books such as “Follow Your Heart” and “Anima Mundi,” is about to publish a new book in which God is the principal character.

During an interview on Italian Radio and Television´s program, “Roots and Betrayals,” the popular writer said her new book “Answer Me!” (“Rispondimi!” in the Italian original) is a series of questions posed to “Someone who is up there. It has a common theme with my other books, [which address] human desperation, condemnation, self-condemnation. A book that made me suffer a lot but now is a beloved son.”

Tamaro´s books have been translated into 42 languages, and number about 15 million copies.

During the interview, Tamaro referred to a small remote church in the mountains, where she often went when she was young. “Undoubtedly, it was a call to the Transcendent, to a relation with the Absolute, who is within us; at 20 [the Absolute] may still be a larva, yet calls for a response.”

Tamaro recounted her long childhood search for the Absolute. She looked at numbers first, hoping to find the “super-number.” Later, she searched in different expressions of faith, in known confessions, and in the catechism doctrine, which disappointed her. She continued to question herself intensely, especially about death, and found no satisfactory answer.

“Nothing,” she said. “I was desperate. I didn´t know what answer to give. It was enough for me to see a very elderly person on the street that I would burst out crying: I thought that in no time I would be dead.”

Elsa, her grandmother of Jewish origin, who was very close to her, did not give her a convincing answer either. Tamaro was living in tormented solitude, and the question became ever more urgent.

“Christianity is a very severe faith, it is not at all do-goodism,” she said. “It has been turned into something mellifluous, but it is very demanding. I think faith is a most profound interior journey to find the Other, who for me is called Christ.

“I also meet a lot of people who think they believe in something: the clouds, nature … but to believe in the Risen One is something else, the generic is left behind. It is something that changes life, not something that brings little improvements: to be a little bit better, more generous and then, perhaps, I will go to heaven. I think that faith is to live in heaven now, to begin from here.”

Tamaro sees writing as a gift, a mimetic capacity, which is absorbing and a bit frightening, and which impedes her from writing a book a year.

“It is a very long, interiorly exhausting work,” she noted. “It is not an occupation; in my opinion, it is something mysterious. Naturally, in part it is an occupation, but this is a minuscule part.”

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