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article imageBlack Comedy is in Style — Cid Andrenelli, Artist and Writer Special

By AR Vasquez     Dec 14, 2012 in Entertainment
Rometta - Finding an enigmatic artist and activist whose talents cross multiple mediums is rare to find. Italian artist, writer and playwright Cid Andrenelli is one of these unique talents.
Examining Andrenelli's paintings is hypnotic and mesmerizing. Some of her work has hints of similarity with those of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo's self-portraits. Their artwork is passionate, raw, vivid and yet quietly disturbing. In another medium, Andrenelli stretches her artistic wings in her stage play, The Burqa Master which was recently adapted into a novel. Andrenelli's writing is best described as wickedly colourful, black humour that peeks into the satirical aspects of cultures and traditions.
Digital Journal had the opportunity to interview Andrenelli for this article.
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Digital Journal: Tell me something about your book.
Andrenelli: A comic novel exploring the paradoxical lives of an Iranian father and son exiled in London. The old man, a diabetic sugar addict is lost between the mosque and tins of Turkish delight. He shoots up insulin passing from stupor and self-pity to holy fervour, shouting sermons and dropping syringes around the house.
His son Hamid, living the Moslem paradise here and now, tries to humour his father by working in the family shop and taking part in the dawn prayers accompanied by Muezzin songs on the ghetto blaster. But Hamid also has a secret life, recruiting female shop clients to sex sessions, he gets past their husbands disguised as a widow in a burqa to give ‘English lessons’ to these Moslem housewives in the privacy of their bedrooms, while their husbands happily pay.
The precarious harmony between father and son is destroyed by a series of accidents which are farcical yet tragic, causing the old man to relive a dark secret buried in his faded memories
Digital Journal: What genre is it?
Andrenelli: The Burqa master is a satirical play and drama with literary elements of a novel. It's a mixed genre blending the play format with traditional novel.
Digital Journal: What kind of readers will it appeal to?
Andrenelli: This novel would appeal to readers who enjoy reading prose poetry, theatre plays and black comedy
Digital Journal: What inspired you to write the book?
Andrenelli: I was inspired to write this book by my friends who grew up in Islamic families and hearing from them how difficult it is to live their lives freely without breaking the rules every day. Rather like being forced to diet and sneaking off to eat chocolate without anyone knowing. Also many of the rules which govern their lives are illogical and have very little sense in an evolved society, reading about a 70 year old man who was recently given 50 lashes for keeping a dog as a pet in Tehran is the sort of news that inspires me to write the other side of the story.
Digital Journal: Do you have a favorite excerpt from the book? If so, could you please share it with us?
Andrenelli: Hamid remembers the leaving. First his father had disappeared and no one would say why.
‘Baba’s gone away.’
‘When will he come back?’
‘Cant say, be a good boy.’
Alone at night Maman cried, it wasn’t the first time. The aunts said she was as parched and plain as the desert and needed the wetness. Uncles whispered on the roof at night, then Behdad Babai returned to his family home.
Hamid saw his father’s homecoming from the window on a dark black night. He heard the screech of rubber tires and an old black van skidded to a halt in the road. The back doors opened and something all broken was rolled out, a lump chucked in the road and the van was gone. The lump lie there and then his uncles came and carried the twisted thing into house and Baba was home again.
But now they were told to stay inside and not to step out on the sunlit streets anymore. Baba looked ugly, all purple and black. He got fired and was no longer the schoolmaster. All this Hamid knew from listening to the whispers that blew like a breeze through the house and by leaning over the walls and peering through the bars of the gate. He came to know that Bolour the pretty girl down the road has lost her face, it was burnt away with acid and Maman and the aunts became afraid.
Now they were leaving for England. Suitcases were packed, they had to leave it all behind, no room for all those small scraps of life. Do not look back and Behdad Babai sold the house to a cousin for a song, no time to lose and no money. One day in the late afternoon they left for the airport. Behdad borrowed an old van not unlike the one he’d been delivered home in a few months before. Hamid and his sister were squashed in the back, their legs glued to the hot seat. Their mother sat between them and their father stood on the dusty street. He was shaking hands, kissing and saying his farewells to them all. As his father stood in the crowd crushed between neighbours and family, people stared at him in reverence and fear. Men touched him, women watched him, and his mother gazed down at her twisted hands as they lay motionless in her lap. His mother’s thin lips tightened when a girl in a virginal white dress with long golden tresses flowing over her shoulders pushed her way through the crowd. Her eyes behind her black veil pouring tears like raindrops soaking her breasts. She elbowed her way through the people and called like a lark. ‘Behdad, Behdad.’
It was the sweetest voice and the crowd turned; they waited for Behdad to acknowledge her presence, even if only from the corner of his eyes.
A girl he had fed with fresh mulberries at dawn, mulberries still cool from the night air, shaken from an old tree heavy with deep red mulberries. She and he had stood together watching them fall. They could just taste each mulberry as they fell on the snow-white shawl he had lain at the foot of the gnarled tree trunk. They had devoured cool sweet juicy mulberries under an orange sky as the sun rose, their mouths smeared red as they lay by a silver stream on a white shawl stained red, and the wind had stirred the leaves as they rustled and gently fluttered in the breeze.
But Behdad did not turn to look at her, his face grew as red as the sunrise they had lain under, and he kept his eyes straight ahead. He turned his newly bent back that would never straighten and climbed into the van, he gripped the steering wheel and hit the gas. Bolour called him again, her hand nearly touching the dirt cold steel of the van as Behdad Babai drove away into the red sunset, onward and onward, and he and his van became one with the red wheel of the sun.
Then London where he became a shopkeeper and his wife died of shame. Only he remembers the smell of Tehran, and the sky was blue, it was always blue.
Digital Journal: Tell me something about yourself.
Andrenelli: I live between Italy and Sri-Lanka. I'm a writer and artist. In recent years I've made a series of documentaries in Sri-Lanka, 'Sabines Holiday Resort' and 'The Dumb Girl'. I filmed the documentary, 'Diary of an Iranian musician' (original title - Diario di una Musicista) and have written several plays including 'The Uxoricide' (original title - Il caso di un uxoricida). In my art work I use two mediums batik and oil painting, at present I am working on a collection of portraits of the most infamous Italian mafia bosses which can be seen on Saatchi online gallery. I love reading satire, plays, literary fiction and poetry and I'm interested in writing which highlights freedom and human rights with irony and humour. Best of all I like fiction that pushes the boundries; I use a fusion of literary styles in my writing combining narrative, poetry and play.
Digital Journal: Where is your book available for sale?
Andrenelli:
-Amazon paperback edition
-Kindle edition
Digital Journal: How have you marketed your book? Was it effective in increasing sales or exposure?
Andrenelli:I don't really have a strategy for publicity, unfortunately it's not something I have any experience with. Despite this, having my novel play published has been a great satisfaction for me and I knew right from the start that it was a borderline genre and type of play with a subject matter that would make it hard to market as it doesn't really fit into mainstream popular publishing.
Digital Journal: Do you have a marketing strategy? If yes, could you please share how? If not, why?
Andrenelli: For me this is a learning curve and an exploration of a new frontier. I am rather a fatalist, I believe if you follow every avenue available, sooner or later, something will great will happen, it might be by chance and it might not be what you expected.
I haven't pinned my hopes too high at having success in marketing for the moment I am enjoying the adventure.
Digital Journal: Do you have any advice for other authors?
Andrenelli:Author web sites and on-line writing communities are a great source for indie writers, as you can find support and honest peer reviews of your work and share ideas.
Digital Journal: What is next for you?
Andrenelli: I am working on a new novel play in parallel text in English and Italian.
It's a true story about Alberto Olivo, who in Milan 1870, chopped up his wife and threw her down the toilet. I discovered his autobiography by chance in a collection of case histories published by the famous 19th century psychiatrist Cesere Lombro.
I first wrote a stage play which was performed in Italy as 'Il caso di un uxoricida' but I believe the new title for this novel play will be The Wife Chopper.
Digital Journal: How can readers find you?
Andrenelli: I have a blog on word press where readers can see my latest news and post messages.
cidandrenelli.wordpress[dot]com
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