The Memory of the Ashes

Original title: La memoria della cenere

Publication Date:

January 2019



Original language and publisher

Italian | NN Editore


Literary Fiction

The Memory of the Ashes

Original title: La memoria della cenere

  • 2 Seas Represents: Dutch Rights.
  • English sample available.
  • Her previous novel, Le notti blu, was selected as one of the 12 finalists for the Premio Strega 2017


“If writing makes extraordinary what is normal, then Chiara Marchelli’s writing is extraordinary. A look capable of combining empathy and lucidity, intuition and clarity of vision. Her language is a crystal blade, her words are always perfect” — Il Sole 24 Ore

“A writing full of balance, capable of giving essence to unresolved conflicts and ghosts of the past: a colapse, an implosion of Elena’s inner world; an exchange of roles, between her and her parents: who takes care of who? —  La Lettura, Corriere della Sera

“A novel that you read till the last page and when you are right at the end you want to start all over again, because you know that the new reading will be different from the previous one and new revelations awaits you. Perfectly accomplished work of a mature voice” — Vanity Fair

“This novel bears a power that fills your heart with emotions, brings turmoil in your feelings and gives peace as only a rebirth could give” —  Hoepli


Elena is a writer who can read the stories on people’s faces. One night, she suffers an aneurysm at her New York home. She survives, and together with her partner, Patrick, decides to start a new life in France. They head to the Auvergne, to a small village at the foot of the volcano Puy de Lúg. During her convalescence, Elena’s mind burns with thoughts, interrupted memories, rediscovered feelings, expectations and uncertainties, almost like the magma bubbling underground, a few kilometres below her. The day her parents come for a short visit, their arrival coincides with a sudden eruption of the volcano. When a column of smoke and ash emerges from the crater, time is suspended, subverting roles and certainties. As hostile nature looms threateningly and unpredictably, trapping the protagonists inside the four walls of the house, their internal tensions grow in chorus with natural events: a game of mirrors between the fragility of the human being and the primordial force of the volcano. Puy de Lúg, “the god of light”, fascinates and attracts Elena and pushes her to explode in turn, in one last act of rebellion, when she is incapable not only of facing the “point of no return”, that moment when children are obliged to give rather than take, but also of facing a secret from Patrick’s past that can no longer be ignored.

Written in strong, clear language that can transcribe emotions, La memoria della cenere delves into the deepest, darkest mechanisms of a relationship and tells the story of a rebirth, of a soul that heals under the imperceptible weight of old memories and new passions, striving for a fragile, delicate balance with the impassive truths that govern our lives.

Chiara Marchelli was born in Aosta and graduated in Oriental Languages in Venice. She is the author of four novels, a collection of short stories and an essay on New York. She currently lives in New York, where she teaches Contemporary Literature, Translation and Creative Writing at New York University. In 2003 she released her first novel, Angeli e cani (Marsilio, winner of the Rapallo first book award), which was followed by L’amore involontario e Le mie parole per te (Piemme). In 2017 she published Le notti blu (Giulio Perrone Editore), selected among the twelve finalists of the Strega prize.

Other books by this author