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St Hugh's College

Saint Margaret's Road

Oxford

OX2 6LE

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IRIS ORIGO’S GRANDDAUGHTER, KATIA LYSY, AND LUCY HUGHES-HALLETT IN CONVERSATION

Lucy Hughes-Hallett and Katia Lysy, Iris Origo’s granddaughter, meet to discuss A Chill in the Air: An Italian War Diary 1939–1940, a newly discovered diary of the period preceding Origo’s much beloved War in Val d’Orcia.

War in Italy in 1939 was by no means necessary, or even beneficial to the country. But in June 1940, Mussolini finally declared war on Britain and France. The awful inevitability with which Italy stumbled its way into a war for which they were ill prepared and largely unenthusiastic is documented here with grace and clarity by one of the twentieth century’s great diarists.

This diary, which has never been published and was recently found in Origo’s archives, is the sad and gripping account of the grim absurdities that Italy and the world underwent as war became increasingly unavoidable. Iris Origo, British-born and living in Italy, was ideally placed to record the events: extremely engaged with the world around her, connected to people from all areas of society (from the peasants on her estate to the US ambassador to Italy), she writes of the turmoil, the danger, and the dreadful bleakness of Italy in 1939-1940, as war went from a possibility to a dreadful reality.

A Chill in the Air recounts, with the devastating clarity so typical of Iris Origo, the beginning of a war whose catastrophic effects are documented in the bestselling classic War in Val d’Orcia.

Iris Origo (1902-1988) was a British-born biographer and writer. She lived in Italy and devoted much of her life to the improvement of the Tuscan estate at La Foce, which she purchased with her husband in the 1920s. During WWII, she sheltered refugee children and assisted many escaped Allied prisoners of war and partisans in defiance of Italy’s fascist regime and Nazi occupation forces. Pushkin Press also publishes her bestselling war diaries, War in Val d'Orcia, her memoir, Images and Shadows, as well as two of her biographies, A Study in Solitude: The Life of Leopardi – Poet, Romantic, Radical and The Last Attachment: The Story of Byron and Teresa Guiccioli.

Katia Lysy was born in Rome. She has worked in publishing and as a journalist and translator. She now lives between Rome and southern Tuscany, where she assists her mother Benedetta, daughter of the writer Iris Origo, in the management and development of the family estate of La Foce.

Lucy Hughes-Hallett is the author of The Pike, a biography of Gabriele d’Annunzio, which won the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction, the Costa Biography Award, the Duff Cooper Prize and the Paddy Power Political Biography of the Year Award. Her other books areCleopatra: Histories, Dreams and Distortions andHeroes: Saviours, Traitors and Supermen. Hughes-Hallett is also a respected critic who has reviewed for major national newspapers, and is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. Her latest novel is Peculiar Ground. She lives in London.

Mordan Hall, St Hugh’s College, St Margaret’s Road, Oxford, 7.30 p.m. drinks reception, 8.00 p.m. conversation, on Thursday, 17th May 2018. Entry: Members £2, non-members £5, students under 30 free of charge.

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