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This interview is taken from PN Review 86, Volume 18 Number 6, July - August 1992.

Marina Warner in Conversation Nicolas Tredell


Nicolas Tredell: What do you feel the decisive influences on your early development were?

Marina Warner: I suppose there are two very decisive ones. One is that I'm a foreigner by formation, because I was brought up abroad until I was 12. My mother is truly foreign and speaks English with a foreign accent. She is Italian, from the South, and interestingly she is also a marginal foreigner in that Southern Italy belongs in a despised category, or did until recently. So there was this sense of not only coming from a background which made me different from my father's - as it were, the mainstream background - but also of coming from a part of Europe which rightly or wrongly - probably quite wrongly - I felt from an early age needed to be explained, because English people would assume that my mother was a Tuscan, and then when you'd say no, Apulia, when you'd say Bari, they would say, ah, Bari, with a sort of slight look which indicated that this wasn't the Italy of romance, or the Italy of sophistication, of the Renaissance, which they had expected. This was the Italy of Carlo Levi, this was where Christ stopped. My father was a bookseller, first in Cairo after the war, and then in Brussels, and as a child I spoke English only with adults. I spoke Arabic with my playmates when I was a little girl and French ...

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