The Confines of the Shadow is a sequence of novels and short stories that 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. Alessandro Spina's saga begins in November 1912 with The Young Maronite, which sees Italian soldiers solidifying their control over Libya's coasts, leaving the Libyan rebels to withdraw to the desert and prepare for a war that would last until 1931, when by dint of sheer brutality, including the internment of tens of thousands of civilians into concentration camps, the Italians crushed the rebellion and murdered its widely respected leader, Omar al-Mukhtar. 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 finally concludes 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.
Distinguishing themselves by their intimate understanding of East and West, the novels that comprise The Confines of the Shadow are among the most significant achievements of 20th century fiction and stand unchallenged as the only multi-generational epic about the European experience in North Africa. This is the first installment of a three-volume translation, and it includes The Young Maronite, The Marriage of Omar and The Nocturnal Visitor, which are set between 1912 and 1927.
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. Andre Naffis-Sahely's poetry was featured in The Best British Poetry 2014 and the Oxford Poets Anthology 2013. His translations include The Physiology of the Employee by Honore de Balzac (Wakefield Press, 2014), Money by Emile Zola (Penguin Classics, 2015) and The Selected Poems of Abdellatif Laabi (Carcanet Press, 2015).