In the prize-winning short story “Documenti, prego,” writer Ingy Mubiayi, of Egyptian and Congolese origins, refers to Dante Alighieri, the “father” of the Italian language, with apparent disrespect and subtle irony. She compares the voyage that her family has undertaken through the meanderings of the bureaucracy to apply for Italian citizenship to Dante’s voyage in the Underworld. In both cases the voyage is long and painful, in both cases it is cathartic and leads to salvation: for Dante, the salvation of eternal life, for them, the salvation of Italian citizenship, of a legal, legitimized life. If a share in the magnificence of Italian history is generally denied to recent immigrant in Italy, they have nevertheless gained access to Dante’s language, which they alter from the inside and reinvent. With the due differences, Bhabha’s notion that a culture which is “the same but not quite” in relation to the mainstream can pose a threat to the very notion of sameness and homogeneity, can be applied also to the literature of migrant and post-migrant writers in Italy. They mimic, rather than simply employing, the Italian language, by often introducing foreign words that become part of their Italian narrative, altering Italian grammar and syntax, and representing experiences that do not generally become incorporated into mainstream Italian literature. In the “repetitious slippage” created by a sameness which is not quite the same, a threat to mainstream hegemony is posed. In this paper, I will analyze how contemporary migrant and post-migrant writers in Italy are changing the Italian language from within the national context. By writing in Italian, these authors demand to be accepted as part of the Italian national narrative – socially, politically, culturally, artistically – and they also demand that Italian culture be open to accept and incorporate difference within its presumed homogeneity. Through their rich corpus of works, migrant writers in Italy are actively working to change the very notion of “italianness.” If authorship is a strategy to acquire authority, these artists are claiming – and slowly obtaining – the right to become (legal) subjects of representation in Italian culture.
New Italian Languages / Romeo, Caterina Stefania. - In: STUDI D'ITALIANISTICA NELL'AFRICA AUSTRALE. - ISSN 1012-2338. - STAMPA. - 21:1 e 2(2008), pp. 195-214.