Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy


Comparative Literature


Emberley, Julia V.

2nd Supervisor

Bouchard, Norma


San Diego State University



This study aims to recuperate the Italian collective remembering originating from the colonial offense in Libya. Focusing on works of testimony in different genres of contemporary literature written by the Italian former settlers in Libya, I analyze how these former settlers who moved to Libya have been subjected to different kinds of traumas by the Fascist government. I focus on how these traumas, individual and collective, are documented through these works and discuss how they continue to be relevant today. Drawing on sociology, anthropology, history, literary and trauma studies I argue that these cultural representations prove the existence of a transnational and transcultural community, which still today is traumatized by the postcolonial vicissitudes.

Chapter One focuses on the deportation of the settlers ‘children from Libya to the mainland boarding schools opened by Mussolini, as documented in Grazia Arnese’s testimonial work I tredicimila ragazzi italo-libici dimenticati dalla Storia. In chapter Two, I analyze the historical trauma of the Sephardi Jews of Libya, due to their permanent statelessness, through Victor Magiar’s novel (inspired by his childhood in Libya) E venne la notte. Chapter Three highlights the intellectual exile of Andrea Amedeo Sammartano, focusing on the way he identifies as Libyan rather than Italian through his novel Festa Grande alla Dahra based on his life experience. In the last chapter I focus on the trauma of forced repatriation of the Italian former settlers who were expelled from Libya to Italy in 1970. Specifically, putting in dialogue the testimonies’ collection Tripoli 1970 by Luisa Pachera and Capretti’s novel Ghibli I analyze how the Italians lived in Tripoli in preparation to leave Libya and through Mennuni’s novel I Ventimila I highlight the exile and ensued traumas experienced on their forced repatriation to Italy in 1970.

This work shows that postcolonial, migration and diaspora studies focusing on Italy and the Mediterranean area have left out the Libya’s settler perspective. By revisiting the consequences of colonialism and postcolonialism, the works in question are now intended as solid tools of social denunciation of the trauma(s) suffered as they aim to legitimate the past of their community by recovering a collective remembering that is still in process.

Keywords: Libya, postcolonial, Italy, trauma, transnational, Mediterranean, Jew, Sephardi, diaspora