Set in the inter-war period, between the late 1920s, when Italy began solidifying its power in its new Libyan colony, and the end of World War II, when control of the country passed into British hands. Spina's chief subjects in these stories are Italian military officers who idle their time away at their club or exploring the strange lands where they have been posted, always at odds between the jingoistic education they received at home and the lessons they've learned during their time in Libya. These short stories map the transformation of the Libyan city of Benghazi from a sleepy Ottoman backwater in the 1910s to the second capital of an oil-rich kingdom in the 1960s. Employing a cosmopolitan array of characters, ranging from Ottoman functionaries, to Sanussi aristocrats and Italian officers, Spina chronicles Italy's colonial experience from the euphoria of conquest - giving us a front row seat to the rise and subsequent fall of Fascism in the aftermath of World War II - to the country's independence in the 1950s. Spina continues his narrative with the discovery of Libya's vast oil and gas reserves, which triggered the tumultuous changes that led to Muammar Gaddafi's forty-two year dictatorship.
Alessandro Spina was the nom de plume of Basili Shafik Khouzam. Born into a family of Syrian Maronites in Benghazi in 1927, Khouzam was educated in Italian schools and attended university in Milan. Returning to Libya in 1954 to help manage his father's textile factory, Khouzam remained in the country until 1979, when the factory was nationalized by Gaddafi, at which point he retired to his country estate in Franciacorta, where he died in 2013. The Confines of the Shadow (Morcelliana) was awarded the Bagutta Prize, Italy's highest literary accolade, in 2007. Andr Naffis-Sahely was born in Venice in 1985 to an Iranian father and an Italian mother, but raised in Abu Dhabi. His debut collection of poems, The Promised Land: Poems from Itinerant Life, will be published by Penguin in August 2017. He is also a literary translator from the Italian and the French. His Beyond the Barbed Wire: Selected Poems of Abdellatif La bi, winner of a PEN Translates award, was published by Carcanet in 2016.