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Written by Lavinia Petti   
vendredi, 23 janvier 2009

The Place Where Silence Dies (Dove il silenzio muore)

Simonetta Santamaria

Edizioni Cento Autori, Napoli 2008

Translated by Dom Holdaway


The month of the dead. There is no worse month in which to die. Everything reeks of death: the days, the nights, the air itself, the passing time. People solemnly lose themselves in memories; they do not think, only brood in the silence of their own anguish. Everything is desperately joyless. We are not always healed by time; occasionally it only numbs our emotion.
ImageThe place where silence dies.
Where can silence die? Not in the creaky doors of old houses, or the decaying castles in which the shadows of vampires flicker; nor in the cemeteries haunted by the living dead, summoned back to life by some mystical incantation. Silence dies within man. And in its place is born a voice: the voice of Evil.
As in her previous works, Santamaria does not get carried away by the uncontrolled stream of fantasy which would otherwise risk disgracing the most essential nature of horror fiction. Rather she bestows to her novel a form which follows in the footsteps of Stephen King: the author prefers the living over the dead, tears over blood, silence over a piercing scream. Ouroboros is her means. Nothing surreal would happen, if man were not to allow it.
Everything is sealed within by secrets, and by words never spoken. The characters wearily hide them inside, as if infernal souls, condemned to carry with them their un-atoned sins. And what is worse than preserving mortal secrets in a particularly enclosed place, in which everybody knows everybody?
Having been created solely in order to support the novel, the suburb Borgo Marina Piccola defines itself on a palpable plain, nestled at the feet of a wide, rocky shoreline, where the sea has the sinister characteristic of “breathing”; and Naples is pushed into the background, unaware of the horror. A place which could be pleasant and perfect, like those little villages which are blessed by endless summers, but which is ripped apart by two indelible curses: that of the ancient Ouroboros, an Egyptian artifact controlled by the Egyptian god of Darkness; and that of Sara, who has the terrible gift of perceiving in dreams which man cannot see in his reality.
The Place Where Silence Dies steals the breath of the reader exactly as Ouroboros does with its victims. The rhythm accelerates, providing the work with an almost cinematographic edge, the chapters become shorter, and that which is yet to happen seems just as inevitable as that which has already occurred. And the fresh sea-air which emerges in the first pages becomes increasingly sparse, more suffocating and stale, as happens to the air of a house which has been locked up for too long. Like silence.
Every chapter is a voice in itself, because every character is alone with his or her own torments. It is only at the moment of revelation that the voices will unite, the characters will meet up again; the dead will rest again and the living will re-discover life, at least, if they decide to do so.
A story made-up of stories, therefore; a voice full of voices, and at the end they all unite in order to fill the void left by silence.


Simonetta Santamaria is a journalist, who lives and works in Naples, where she manages the press agency Essedue Comunicazione. She won the eleventh edition of the Lovecraft award with her story Quel giorno sul Vesuvio, [That Day on Vesuvius, CentoAutori, 2007], and has published the unnerving collection Donne in noir [Women in Black, Edizioni Il Foglio, 2005], in addition to the e-Book Black Millennium.

With the horror story Un cuore nuovo, [A New Heart], she worked together with other Neapolitan writers and journalists on the ‘Giralibro’ project in 2006.

Other works include Irrefrenabile passione [Unstoppable Passion, San Gennoir – Kairos, 2006], Confessione di un apprendista di bottega [Confession of a Workshop Apprentice, Partenope Pandemonium – Larcher, 2007], and Necromandus, from an idea by Giuseppe Cozzolino, published in M. Rivista del Mistero (Alacran 2007).

The daily newspaper La Repubblica defined her as a ‘signora della suspense: made in Naples’, while for another, Il Corriere del Mezzogiorno, her previous novel (Dove il silenzio muore [CentoAutori]), cements her as the ‘Neapolitan Stephen King’.

She says, ‘I never take myself too seriously, otherwise I would be a serial killer’.





Lavinia Petti was born in Naples, where she now studies in the department of Foreign Languages in the Università degli studi di Napoli – L’Orientale. Having gradated in a liceo classico (equivalent of high school, with emphasis on humanities), she was the winner of the prize for Scrittura Giovane (Young Writing) in 2002 with Le favole del Century [Fairy Tales of the Century], and the Book Bar prize in 2006 with Oltre il ponte [Beyond the Bridge]. She came second in the competition of the Tabula Fati prize, with her published story La terza era [The Third Age], and came third in the Robot prize with L’Uomo di latta [The Tin Man]. She made it to the semi-finals of the Pirandello prize with an essay about the playwright. She is currently collaborating on the website Letterature Fantastiche, and with some local papers.

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