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Inventory of a Life Mislaid

Marina Warner in conversation with Stella Tillyard, Sally Bayley and Charles Burdett.

Chaired by Katia Pizzi   

Inventory of a Life Mislaid (Harper Collins) follows Marina Warner’s beautiful, penniless young mother Ilia as she leaves southern Italy in 1945 to travel alone to London. Her husband, an English colonel, is still away in the war in the East as she begins to learn how to be Mrs Esmond Warner, an Englishwoman. With diamond rings on her fingers and brogues on her feet, Ilia steps fearlessly into the world of cricket and riding. But, without prospect of work in a bleak, war-ravaged England, Esmond remembers the glorious ease of Cairo during his periods of leave from the desert campaign. There, they start a bookshop, a branch of W. H. Smith’s. But growing resistance to foreign interests, especially British, erupts in the 1952 uprising, and the Cairo Fire burns the city clean. Evocative and imaginative, at once historical and speculative, this memoir powerfully resurrects the fraught union and unrequited hopes of Warner’s parents. Memory intertwines richly with myth, the river Lethe feeling as real as the Nile. Vivid recollections of Cairo swirl with ever-present dreams of a city where Warner’s parents, friends and associates are still restlessly wandering.

Dame Marina Warner, DBE, FRSL, FBA, is half Italian, and a novelist, art critic, cultural historian and short story writer. She is known for her studies of myths and fairy tales, including Alone of All Her Sex: The Myth and the Cult of the Virgin Mary. Her essays and reviews have appeared in the London Review of Books, the New York Review of Books, the New Statesman, and artists’ catalogues. Her many awards include the Fawcett Society Book Prize, the National Book Critics Circle award, the Holberg Prize and most recently, the Acqui Storia prize for lifetime achievement. She is Professor of English and Creative Writing at Birkbeck College, London, and a Distinguished Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, and was made DBE in 2015 for services to higher education and literature. In 2017 she was elected first female President of the Royal Society of Literature.

Stella Tillyard FRSL is an English author and historian. She has taught at Harvard, The University of California, Los Angeles; Birkbeck, London; the Centre for Editing Lives and Letters at Queen Mary, London. She is a Visiting Professor in the Department of History, Classics and Archaeology, Birkbeck, University of London and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. She has been awarded the Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger , the Longman/History Today Prize and the Fawcett Prize.

Dr Sally Bayley  is a fiction and non-fiction writer. As a child, she absorbed the sounds and rhythms of poetry, ballads and folksongs, and these patterns inform the structure of her story-telling. She is currently a Lecturer in English at Hertford College, Oxford. She also teaches academic writing, literature, film and creative writing for the Sarah Lawrence visiting programme at Wadham College, Oxford. From 2018-2020 she was a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Oxford Brookes University.

Professor Charles Burdett is the Director of the Institute of Modern Languages Research at the School of Advanced Study, University of London. He has taught at the Universities of Cardiff, Bristol and Durham. His principal area of research include literary culture under fascism, travel writing, the Italian colonial presence in Lybia and East Africa and its legacy, and the representation of Islam and the Islamic world in recent Italian literature and culture. A large part of his research ahs recently been defined by his role as principal investigator of the Arts and Humanities Research Council beacon project, Transnationalising Modern Languages: Mobility, Identity and Translation in Modern Italian Cultures


The Italian Cultural Institute has taken the decision to verify attendee Covid-19 status on arrival at the event. Adults will need to demonstrate either:
• proof of completion of a full course of vaccination, or
• proof of negative lateral flow test result taken within 48hr.
Face covering is required during the event, unless exempt. Sanitiser will be provided.


  • Organizzato da: ICI London