He began writing at the age of fifty and fame came to him when he was already in his sixties. But before Guido Brunetti, Donna Leon (1942) had already had a very intense life. The author now reviews her travels, her falling in love with Italy, her childhood memories and her family and other anecdotes, sometimes very everyday, that have marked her life in A Own Story ( Seix Barral).

“I am irresponsible and thoughtless by nature and have never planned beyond the first step of anything I have done.” That trait of his character led Leon to travel the world from a very young age. After graduating from university, he began to teach and prepare for his doctorate, but he earned little and was quite bored, so he did not hesitate to accept a job teaching American soldiers in Iran in 1976.

Donna’s stay in Isfahan spanned between tennis matches and outings with other expatriates. Until the revolution came: “More than 50,000 Americans left the country, but at the beginning of 1979, we were still there, we had jobs and we were still paid a salary, even though all the students had disappeared.” Leon’s group was transferred to an urbanization under construction where “the sound of submachine guns, the occasional explosion and the increasingly frequent noise of takeoffs” could be heard.

Finally, the future writer escaped on a bus that took her to Tehran, where she caught a plane to the United States. But the young professor had not had enough adventures and she accepted a new job this time in China, at Suzhou University in 1979: “China was more difficult than all the other places I have lived. They were gaping at us all the time, as the people of Suzhou had not seen foreigners for decades (…). The people we met would form circles around us and point out the strange colored hair and the big noses we had”.

There you had to give constant explanations “to the leader” and the surveillance was continuous. Leon got tired and looked for a new destination: Saudi Arabia, which resembled Alcatraz prison. The work was not very encouraging either because the teachers were obliged to approve all the students.

Leon, whose last name comes from his paternal grandfather, “Alberto de León, who was born in South America, although he apparently never mentioned his country”, also has German roots from “my maternal grandfather, Joseph A. Noll, who was born in Nuremberg”, and Irish by both of her grandmothers. He had a happy childhood with his parents, his brother and his many aunts from whom he remembers the unique nights of Halloween, the first day of school, the varied readings and life on the farm of his maternal grandfather in Clifton, New Jersey, ” which was an hour from New York.”

As a young girl, before becoming a globetrotter, Leon traveled to Italy with a friend and fell in love with the country after “my first cappuccino, my first plate of pasta with vegetables from the home garden, bread baked that morning, wine from the grapes of the back garden.” Delicacies that seemed “heaven to an American who had grown up on white bread and peanut butter.”

That infatuation deepened when she settled in Venice in 1981. The writer has lived in the city of canals for 25 years. There she has given life to Brunetti, she has enjoyed another of her loves, the opera, good food and great friendships.

Three years ago he moved to Switzerland: “Over the years, various cruise ships, more and more numerous, have brought thousands of tourists to Venice. There are thousands of people on board and the ships keep their engines running while they remain in the port and, therefore, each one produces the same gases as fourteen thousand cars parked on the dock with their engines running,” laments the author, who He has fled from the tourist pressure that devastates his beloved city.