Mary Carozza

Mary Carozza is a translator and writer living near Zurich, Switzerland. Originally from the Midwest, she holds an undergraduate degree in German studies and a graduate degree in English and creative writing. Her translations have appeared in various scholarly journals and art publications. In her writing, she explores themes of otherness and belonging.


Excerpt from “Keys”

Deep breathing, in, out. Feel chest expand on the inhale, pause, count. Slowly exhale all the way, pause, count.

Marius looked down at his hands. His fingernails were short, he had no cuts, no hangnails. And the sore tendon on the pinkie side of his left hand had healed nicely.

His eyes shifted up, focusing briefly on the bare white wall in the small, chilly practice room. The old upright had a musty smell—or it was possibly the room itself. He shifted his weight back and forth on the bench and began to go through the first piece one last time. It was a short, simple composition, beginning with the slightly undecided, irregular heartbeat of the underlying rhythm: soft tones that should take on clear contours throughout the piece but that, however, shouldn’t be showcased—a continual fluctuation of chords to support the melody, to form the basis for the main voice that wouldn’t begin to sound until the fourth bar, slipping in softly, gently asserting its singing timbre.

For this performance, Marius and his teacher had chosen an easier piece to begin—really, an easy piece—but one that highlighted his ability to interpret meaning and convey emotion. In this piece, the emotion was falling in love, the teller yielding totally and utterly to the adored one over the course of the short composition: At your feet, For dine fötter in the original Norwegian.

Excerpt from Statement

The idea behind writing “Keys” was the desire to write about Edvard Grieg’s “At Your Feet,” a short lyrical piece composed for the piano that I was playing at the time. In my hearing, the music is a beautiful and sincere portrayal of devotion. It’s the floating, gossamer-like depiction of being at the service of music, of art, of a loved one that I was curious to explore. It was my intention to find a verbal and narrative portrayal of the music’s devotion, if not of devotion itself.

Then a boy showed up to play the piece for me. He quickly had a name (it’s only writing this that I see the similarity with my own), and I had a familiar thought: how odd that my protagonist was, as in so much of my writing, male. Although my most recent texts focus on girls and women, most of my stories—and nearly all my earliest pieces—have been about a man or a boy: an unnamed traveler, a kindly neighbor, a circus director, a clown… Despite the high population density of men in my stories, I still haven’t got used to it, and it always triggers a slight feeling of un-ease as well as a sense of puzzlement. I question my right to write about boys and men. After all—although I’ve had a father, brother, son, various relationships, schoolmates, bosses, neighbors—what do I know about being male? And isn’t one of the first rules of writing that we should write about what we know?

Part of my un-ease with writing about men is cultural and gender-related. Men have, of course, always written about women, and this naturally has had wide, far-ranging consequences on women and men alike. From the men who wrote—and interpreted—the Bible, on to Defoe’s Moll Flanders, Richardson’s Pamela and Camilla, Dickens’s Dora, Hardy’s Tess, even Shaw’s Mrs. Warren: male writers and thinkers have depicted female figures and thus shaped how society perceives women and their role in the world. Saint or whore. Whore with a heart of gold. Victim. Servile. Feminist with a character flaw. And this makes me wonder: Have I instinctively veered towards male characters because they aren’t weighted down by these stereotypical roles?