'Death in The Mountains' by Lisa Clifford

The winner of the 2009 Grollo Ruzzene Foundation Prize for Writing about Italians in Australia is:
Death in the Mountains - WINNER
Lisa Clifford
(Pan Macmillan)

The world of the Italian peasant, hundreds of years in the making, is difficult to describe to the modern reader, as it is overlain with the memories and misconceptions that are mixed up in the migration process. In Death in the Mountains, Lisa Clifford intricately re-creates an almost forgotten world of a rural Italy, a world of peasant mezzadri (sharecroppers) governed by poverty, hard work, frugality and resourcefulness in which adversity is sometimes paradoxically mediated by both religion and superstition. The key factual events, particularly the murder of the family's paterfamilias, Artemio Bruni, are located within a vivid reconstruction of the occluded world inhabited by these mezzadri. The details are astonishingly good, based on careful interviews with the descendants of Artemio and Bruna and their contemporaries, now very old people living on the margins of an Italian region better known for its glamorous villas and majestic urbanscapes. By drawing readers into the world of the Italian mezzadro peasant the story of the Bruni family, Clifford provides insight into the values, attitudes and ways that helped define the Italian peasantry and which subsequently moulded the lives of Italians both in Australia and Italy.