UK | 2016
Isabella Hammad was born in London and educated at Oxford, Harvard and NYU. In 2013 she received the Harper Wood Creative Writing Studentship from Cambridge University, and she is the 2016-2017 Axinn Foundation NYU Writer-in-Residence. Her writing has appeared in Conjunctions. She is currently finishing her first novel, The Parisian.
There was a moment during my stay at Santa Maddalena, somewhere during the third week, when I felt as though I had dropped out of time. I started concentrating in a very pure sort of way, which I can only describe as child-like because I don’t believe I have concentrated so well and consistently since I was a child. I didn’t write any emails. I watched no television, I made few phone calls. I read nothing but other novels and my own notes. There was only the lovely company at mealtimes and the walks around the countryside, the occasional trip to nearby villages or to Florence.
And the surroundings were so beautiful: the view from my window in the morning of the terracotta folly drenched in white mist; the olive trees from the downstairs salon of the Tower turning pink in the afternoon; walking up to the church at Donnini after lunch and resting before the stretch of blue hills and cypresses.
I was thrilled to be invited, and the experience exceeded any expectation – Santa Maddalena gave me a peace and a kind of solitude-in-company that I had never experienced before. I am very grateful to Beatrice for her hospitality, and to Andy and Joao, the lovely Nadeeka, the neighbours and other guests and fellows, and everyone else who made my stay so comfortable, and enjoyable, and productive. Thank you.