Kay Clay

Kay Clay in Sicily



In the autumn of 1945, my mother took the post of Lecturer in English with the British Council in Italy, and was sent to Palermo where she taught until 1947 when she was transferred to Torino. Conditions in Sicily in the immediate post-war period were even more difficult than elsewhere in Italy, but Kay quickly developed a very close sense of identity both with Sicily and the Sicilians. Fluent in Italian, she was soon giving talks on the radio in Palermo about Britain. She became friendly with the writers Leonardo Sciascia and Elio Vittorini and would always retain a special affection (mixed with mild exasperation) for the “Sicilian attitude” to life.

Among her papers are four writings from this period:

1. “Sicily”. A vivid sketch of the island which, as she says, was then “an unknown quantity not only for foreigners but for the majority of Italians themselves”.

2. “Tannina”. Tannina was the maid whom she employed soon after arriving in Palermo and who became her friend. Through this story of Tannina and her husband, Kay also explored her own personal relationship with her first husband Robert Gittings.

3. “Sicilian Life Sentence”. This is a dramatic, very “Sicilian”, tale, of passion and betrayal. Perhaps Kay had been told a similar story by one of her colleagues or students, or based it on a news report in the local press.

4.` “African Escape”. I imagine this is a genuine story told to Kay by a young ex-prisoner more or less as she describes.




These texts are available from john@johngittings. com