Granite Island: A Portrait of Corsica by Dorothy...

by ExperiencePlus! - Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Granite Island: A Portrait of Corsica by Dorothy Carrington

Granite Island CorsicaCarrington’s work is only a generation old, but much of her book is at least two generations behind the 21st century. In it she documents the vendettas of a 19th and early 20th century island. She writes about the lowly place of women in Corsican society and the innumerable vendettas inspired by affronts to wives, daughters or sisters. She writes of the "dream-hunters" (mazzeri) who foretell death through dreams of animals dying in the night.

Woven into the narrative about the social life of Corsicans are historical vignettes about the Genoese in Corsica, the attempt by the Franciscan order to colonize the island, and speculation about the origins of the prehistoric megalithic stone structures and menhirs that populate parts of southern Corsica. Carrington also takes the reader far afield on tangents about such topics as Don Juan (Miguel Manara, whose parents emigrated from Calvi in Corsica, to Seville before the young Don was born). Another tangent about "Tao," the Russian immigrant who danced his way through the night clubs of Paris and New York only to end in Calvi, is entertaining but not critical to modern Corsica.

Consider Carrington’s book as a series of essays and explorations woven together by a personal narrative of travel to the island. It’s poorly organized, yet her passion about the place is infectious. Perhaps the most interesting part, besides her thoughts about traditional Corsican society and the role of women, is her interest in Pasquale Paoli, freedom fighter, diplomat, friend of Rousseau and James Boswell. She describes Paoli’s ill-fated attempts to liberate Corsica from the French by soliciting the aid of the British in 1794. The British came but abandoned the fledgling nation and Paoli within three years. Napoleon put an end to any hope of liberty for the small island.

The book bears a useful "Historical Summary" and a lengthy bibliography. The former helps readers stay on track through Carrington’s meanderings, and the latter will serve as a guide to anyone wishing to pursue further reading about history and society in Corsica. Unfortunately, most of the latter entries are in French. And hence the reason why Carrington’s volume is so valuable to the English reader. There is not much else in English about this fascinating island.

(Carrington died January 26, 2002, at the age of 91)

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