2018: XX

Die Walsche, romanzo di Joseph Zoderer. Considerazioni su un etnonimo sudtirolese

Richard Brütting
Siegen Universität

Pubblicato 2018-12-03

Parole chiave

  • disparaging ethnonyms,
  • etymology and semantic development of the ethnonym Walschen,
  • intercultural conflicts in Italy,
  • problems of cultural identity


Disparaging ethnonyms, such as ‘Walschen’, a dialectal word used by German-speaking inhabitants of South Tyrol (it. Alto Adige) to refer to Italians, are frequently indicative of intercultural conflicts. The present article studies the Celtic origin and the historical usage of this ethnonym, which is also the nickname of Olga, the protagonist of Joseph Zoderer’s novel Die Walsche (1982). The Russian first name of the young woman, who lives with her parents in a South Tyrolean mountain village, evokes her father’s tragic destiny in Russia during the Second World War. After many episodes of domestic violence, Marianne, Olga’s mother, leaves her husband, the schoolmaster of the village, and moves with her sixteen-years-old daughter to Bolzano. Olga, now 35 years old, goes back home for the funeral of her alcoholic father. During the service, she thinks of her bad class-mates, for instance Naz, whose name conjures up the idea of Nazi, and of the italophobia of her native village, whose inhabitants cannot accept a love relationship between a German and an Italian. She also tells the story of her own father, who, a foundling, was brought up without human warmth or tenderness. Finally she meditates upon her own mixed feelings for her Southern Italian partner Silvano, whose name rhymes with invano (in vain). He adds to Olga’s sensation of being excluded from both German and Italian society by spending all his time with Italian friends, who are interested neither in German culture nor in German language.