Enrico Pea and the Awareness of Never-Ending Detachment (Alexandria, Egypt 1896–1914)

Research output: Chapter in Book/Entry/PoemChapter


This chapter analyzes the postcolonial discourse in Italy, through the voice of the novelist and playwright Enrico Pea (1881–1958). Living outside of Italy, Pea gained a unique awareness of the notion of multi-ethnic societies, of the concepts of nationality, borders, and boundaries. Alexandria is Pea’s referential space. It is a center, and at the same time, a marginal place. Alexandrea ad Egyptum, that is, the door to Egypt, as it was known in antiquity, this city brought together Arab and European artistic experiences that converged on, and were triggered by, its cosmopolitan profile. The history of political exile and migration of Italians to Alexandria dates back to the first half of the nineteenth century. The number of Italians in Alexandria grew from a few thousands at the end of the century to more than 30,000 residents just before World War II. Their original status as migrants shaped a peculiar sensibility toward the notion of multi-ethnic societies that was largely misunderstood or unknown in their home country. It is a sensibility that understands this city not as a space to conquer and colonize but rather as a space where to live in a surprisingly (for the then dominant European customs) tolerant society. In his mid-thirties, after eighteen years spent in Alexandria, Pea returns to Italy and reflects on his experiences. Pea discusses the complex notions of borders and nationalities as exiles and economic migrants negotiate different cultural systems, nations, states, and state-crossings. His allogeneous points of view on Alexandrian’s life are not a mere reproduction of the real city. In his memoir and novels Pea rebuilds the city-space and struggles with the wound of detachment from Alexandria. Literary discourse does not reproduce reality; rather it renovates it by bringing to the surface hidden potentialities and space continuities that interact with the real (Westphal). By focusing on the shifting gaze Pea devotes to his city, this chapter contextualizes discussions on nationality, borders, and boundaries.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationGeocriticism and Spatial Literary Studies
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages29
StatePublished - 2023

Publication series

NameGeocriticism and Spatial Literary Studies
VolumePart F641
ISSN (Print)2578-9694
ISSN (Electronic)2634-5188

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Literature and Literary Theory
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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