Silence and Silences: A Selected Bibliography

February 1st, 2022

Silence and Silences is a meditation on the infinite search for meanings in silence from Wallis Wilde-Menozzi, author of The Other Side of the Tiber and Mother Tongue. In this Selected Bibliography, Wilde-Menozzi shares and reflects on the books that informed her exploration of silence.

Wallis Wilde-Menozzi: There is a great deal of silence in my inner writing life, and a great number of strong opinions in my outer one. Getting at silence by using words seemed a contradiction; I often longed for a solution like John Cage’s, when musicians performed his composition of silence for four minutes and thirty-three soundless seconds. Or like Tilley Olsen’s, defining it from a single angle: the suffocating realities of women who were without means and fair chances. Instead, my experience of a cross-cultural existence made my translation of silence inevitably one of continuous openings: flow and breaks suggesting horizons beyond the narrow definitions we assume in identity, our histories, our language.

Echoing Silence: Thomas Merton on the Vocation of Writing
Thomas Merton, ed. Robert Inchausti
A compilation of essays and fragments about the process of writing; how Merton sees the relationship between good writing and good writing that is religious. He resists the ideological language of faith and its inhibiting certainties.

Waiting for God
Simone Weil, tr. Emma Craufurd
Weil’s desire to participate in the lives of the oppressed forms a deep part of her response to suffering. Her existential decisions are often judged critically, unlike her writing that is universally studied for its clarity and depth. Waiting for God, much of which consists of letters to a Catholic priest, describes emptying one’s thought in order to find attention.

Augustine, tr. Sarah Ruden
Ruden’s translation of St. Augustine shows me a human being I had not seen. He is one who tells everyday stories. Her translation bubbles with issues of language and culture.

Silent Spring and The Sea Around Us
Rachel Carson
These foundational works are acts of courage, knowledge, and beauty. Decades later, her prophetic texts show how truth that is not ideological challenges social and political assumptions, even though science has revised some of her ideas.

Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination, The Origin of Others, A Mercy, and God Help the Child
Toni Morrison
Her penetratingly original voice animates African American realities for a world that needs to hear them. Like her fictional characters, her essays challenge single interpretations, reversing permanently views of silence as repression.

Memories, Dreams, Reflections
C. G. Jung, tr. Richard & Clara Winston
An essential compilation of Jung’s thinking: how dialogue with oneself introduces openings to new content and new meanings in identity and the outer world.

Dante in English
ed. Eric Griffiths & Matthew Reynolds
Two British scholars present an enormous amount of information, learning and insight about Dante, his work in different English translations and his influence on English writers over the centuries.

Italian books: I will indicate those that have been translated.

Mario Brunello
The cellist explores the topic of silence in music, touching everyone from Beethoven to John Cage. (In Italian)

La ricerca delle radici (The Search for Roots)
Primo Levi, tr. Peter Forbes

Levi presents twenty books to explain his basic beliefs. His categories for his choices are Laughter, Knowledge, Understanding the Injustice of Suffering, and The Stature of Man.

Le città invisibili (Invisible Cities)
Italo Calvino, tr. William Weaver

The journeys of Marco Polo and his discussions with Kublai Khan. The stories are often metaphors for complexity, language, and realities that are otherwise invisible except to the imagination. Calvino used the polyhedron as the form for his tales, showing that combinatory literature, “has connections everywhere.” This idea has influenced countless writers including myself.

Lessico Famigliare (Family Lexicon), La Famiglia Manzoni (The Manzoni Family), and Le Piccole Virtu’ (The Little Virtues)
Natalia Ginzburg
All three nonfiction books challenge existing values, enchanting readers with rebellious wisdom. Ginzburg’s essay ”Silenzio” in The Little Virtues defines it as a sin, a suffocation, starting in the family where members are incapable of exchanging their true thoughts and feelings.

Between the Acts
Virginia Woolf

How to Live, or: a Life of Montaigne
Sarah Bakewell

The Prelude
William Wordsworth

Our Guerrillas, Our Sidewalks: A Journey Into the Violence of Colombia
Herbert Braun

The Silence
Don DeLillo

José Saramago

Feel Free
Zadie Smith

Wallis Wilde-Menozzi has lived in Parma for more than forty years, and in Italy even longer. Her strong midwestern roots, (she grew up in Wisconsin, took a degree from the University of Michigan) grounded her as she wrote about and reached for other worlds.

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