Marcello Di Cintio
I was born in Calgary and studied Microbiology and English at the University of Calgary. I was also a member of the university wrestling team. I graduated in 1997 with a pair of degrees (a BA and BSc).
Later that year, I traveled to West Africa with a volunteer organization and taught biology in a Ghanaian village for three months. When my volunteer placement was complete, I wandered through western and northern Africa for nine months. My stories from Africa resulted in my first book, Harmattan: Wind Across West Africa. This won the Henry Kriesel Award for Best First Book.
In December 1999, hot with millennium-fever, I traveled to Jerusalem to watch the clock turn on 2000. I wandered throughout Israel and Egypt before returning to Calgary to begin a career as a freelance writer. Since then, I’ve published articles in numerous magazines and literary journals including Afar, The Walrus, EnRoute, Geist and Reader’s Digest Canada.
I traveled to Iran in the summer of 2003 seeking the connection between Persian poets and traditional wrestlers. This trip, and a subsequent return to the country the following year, yielded the stories that make up my travel memoir Poets and Pahlevans: A Journey Into the Heart of Iran. Knopf Canada published Poets and Pahlevans in 2006. The book won the Wilfred Eggleston Prize for Best Nonfiction at the Alberta Book Awards and was nominated for the Edna Staebler Award.
My last project was a book about walls, fences and other ‘hard’ barriers – and the people who live in their shadows – called Walls; Travels Along the Barricades. For this book, I visited walls and fences in Algeria, Morocco, the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, Israel, Palestine, India, Cyprus, Montreal, Belfast and along the US-Mexico border. Walls won the 2013 Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing, among a few other awards, and has been published in Canada (both in English and French), the US, the UK and Bulgaria.
My newest book is called Pay No Heed to the Rockets: Palestine in the Present Tense. The book reveals life in contemporary Palestine as seen through the lens of the region’s rich literary culture.
I live in Calgary with my beautiful wife and son, Amedeo.
I first became aware of Marcello Di Cintio’s writing after I had already left Calgary (the first time) to live full time on Bequia. One connection with the city I could not give up was the local food magazine, The City Palate, published by Gail Norton (owner of the bookstore, The Cookbook Company) and edited by longtime restaurant reviewer, Kathy Richardier. They mailed a subscription of the magazine to me and I’ve kept all those copies over the past 25 years. Marcello Di Cintio had contributed a number of travel pieces that involved food, and I remember being quite taken by his writing. (While preparing to write this part of the promotion, I was about to haul all my copies of the Palate off the shelves to flip through them and look for any articles written by Marcello, but then realized I had a copy of the book The Best of City Palate: 10 years of good eats and good reads (by Gail Norton and Kathy Richardier), and discovered it contained six of these articles!) Anyway, long preamble to explain that I was aware of Marcello’s writing long before I moved back to Calgary and was working to promote authors. When I did finally meet Marcello in person, it was because he was the writer-in-residence at the University of Calgary. At the same time, Betty Jane Hegerat (who I promoted here previously on A-RI) was serving as the writer-in-residence at the Calgary Public Library. An event was organized and held at Memorial Park Library at which both WIRs were invited to speak about what they had been doing, working on, and how they had been consulting other writers on their work. Over the few years after, while I was still living in Calgary, I promoted Marcello Di Cintio’s (then) new book Walls, and invited him to speak at a literary salon I had organized, named “In the Shadow of the Wall,” that featured four previous University of Calgary writers-in-residence, part of the Calgary Distinguished Writers Program – I had been serving on their selection board. (The chapbook for this salon is the one in the top right corner in the photo.)
Since that time I have also featured Marcello Di Cintio on my blog Reading Recommendations (see link below), and I’ve continued to read his writing, which just keeps getting better! His latest book, Pay No Heed to the Rockets, just proves he is a writer who deserves to reach more of an international readership, not only as his subject matter is international in scope, but also because his writing is very good indeed!
Pay No Heed to the Rockets
Celebrated author Marcello Di Cintio first visited Palestine in 1999. Like most outsiders, the Palestinian narrative that he knew had been simplified by a seemingly unending struggle, a near-Sisyphean curse of stories of oppression, exile and occupation told over and over again.
In Pay No Heed to the Rockets, Di Cintio reveals a more complex story: the Palestinian experience as seen through the lens of authors, books, and literary culture. Using the form of a political-literary travelogue, he explores what literature means to modern Palestinians and how Palestinians make sense of the conflict between a rich imaginative life and the daily tedium and violence of survival.
Di Cintio begins his journey on the Allenby Bridge that links Jordan to Palestine. He visits the towns and villages of the West Bank, passes into Jerusalem, and then travels through Israel before crossing into Gaza. En route, he meets with poets, authors, librarians, and booksellers. He begins to see Palestine through their eyes, through the stories of their stories.
Following the lives of past literary giants like Mahmoud Darwish and Ghassan Kanafani and the contemporary authors whom they continue to inspire, Di Cintio travels through the rich cultural and literary heritage of Palestine. It’s there that he uncovers a humanity, and a beauty, often unnoticed by news media. At the seventieth anniversary of the Nakba, the “catastrophe” of the Arab-Israeli War, Pay No Heed to the Rockets tells a fresh story about Palestine, one that begins with art rather than war.
Published by Goose Lane Editions (Canada), Saqi Books (UK) and from Counterpoint Books (US).
What Marcello Di Cintio is working on now: “I am currently working on the second draft of a manuscript about the “secret” lives of Canadian taxi drivers. I spent about a year traveling around the country meeting with cabbies and getting to know their back stories. The book is still untitled – though I am open to suggestions – and is scheduled for publication by Biblioasis in Fall 2020.”
For more information about Marcello Di Cintio, his writing and books, please see his website.
Marcello Di Cintio has previously been promoted on my Reading Recommendations blog in Jan. 2015.