Sardinia: Island of Myths, Giants and Magic was first published by Tauris Parke, an imprint of the Bloomsbury Group in June 2019. Next year will see a paperback edition.
It will also be published in late 2020 in Estonian by Eesti Raamat, one of the oldest publishing houses in Estonia, in later 2020.
Rarely have a land and its people been so intimately related to its nature as Sardinia. Isolated, distant in spirit, its mountains and seas have provided sustenance, legends and magic since the earliest neolithic cultures developed 8,000 years ago. Mountains had thrown up giant stones which were now fashioned into the characteristic circular towers known as nuraghi that still dot the landscape, and also provided the lead, copper, gold, silver and other minerals which generated wealth through mining for at least 5,000 years. Sea and lagoons provided abundant fish, the mountain pastures wool and cheese, the hills wine and olives, the plains wheat; the land was geologically stable, weather in symbiosis with human needs, and no animals threatened the lives of its people; maritime routes brought trade and exchange with the eastern Mediterranean, both in foodstuffs and in art.
Yet this magical landscape was fraught with danger.
The inhabitants of Sardinia have endured a series of invaders and rulers from Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, Aragonese, Pisans and Spanish to the Savoyard dukes who turned themselves into kings of Italy by the ruse of first becoming kings of Sardinia. Indigenous Sards were pushed inland by invaders who occupied the coastal areas, seeking personal island refuges in the harsh landscape; until the last century, around Nuoro inhabitants lived beyond the reach of carabinieri in clusters of houses high in the mountains which from a distance resemble vertical islands. If Sardinia is an island, one of its greatest natives the politician and philospher Antonio Gramsci wrote, then every Sardinian is an island within the island.
The sensitive and vibrant culture of Sardinia has always been overlooked in favour of its neighbour Sicily: in part because for over a thousand years the island was afflicted by endemic malaria; in part because road networks made Sicily more accessible for centuries. That has changed dramatically in modern times. The provision of free quinine decreased the danger of malaria in the first half of the last century, and a controversial project financed by the Rockefeller Foundation after the Second World War used DDT to eradicate the mosquitos which spread the disease. The later advent of high-speed ferries, low-cost flights, the appeal of luxury beach resorts on the east coast, and the development of advanced telecommunications and Internet services - in which Sardinia has been in the forefront in a conscious attempt to minimize isolation - brought radical improvements in the economy.
Yet the profound culture and magic of the island still lie relatively undisturbed by this modernity and the ‘dialects of nature’ thrive, for recent archaeological discoveries and interpretations have brought Sardinia back into the mainstream of ancient Mediterannean culture.