On Thursday 6 July, in the captivating space of the Ninfeo of the Villa Giulia in Rome, Paolo Cognetti won the 71st Premio Strega with his nove Le otto montagne (The Eight Mountains). The author, who also won the 4th edition of the Premio Strega Giovani 2017, an award for young writers, clearly moved and delighted by this prestigious recognition, dedicated the prize to the mountains, “because it’s an area that has been abandoned, forgotten and destroyed, often by the city, and I decided that I wanted to write about that. I have tried to be a sort of spokesman, a go-between, for the mountains, the plain and the city, that all seem very far away. I also try to write these stories for people who don’t know the mountains and live too far away from them, trying, in some way, to save the world I live in.” “Being here,” he added, “is like a dream come true, not so much a dream of winning a prize, as being a writer and being able to live on my work.”
From the beginning, Le otto montagne has been a literary phenomenon, something that was made clear by the competition among the publishers who wanted to publish it around the world. In fact, the novel has already been translated into more than 30 languages.
Le otto montagne tells the story of Pietro, a solitary and somewhat argumentative city boy, and his relationship with his parents, his friend Bruno and, above all, with the mountains. From the stage of the Strega prize the author reminded the audience that nature is a word used by people who live in cities.”
In their lean, hard and wild beauty, the mountains leave a permanent mark on the soul, an imprint on those who are born there and those who love them. It becomes a category of the spirit, and even when one leaves, in search of a more comfortable and easier place, you can never really break away. All it takes is a sound, a smell, and you are sucked straight back in. This is what happens to the characters in the novel. They just can’t manage without, the come and go, but never really leave.
It is a story of “fathers and sons, of abandoning civilisations, of the freedom of living wild. I have always kept with me the memory of the great happiness I experienced as a boy in the woods. Whatever destiny is, it lives in the mountains we have above our heads.” (Paolo Cognetti).