Interiorae by Gabriella Giandelli

The interior of the title is both the inside of the Milan tower block in which the story takes place, and the inner lives - fears and dreams - of the tower residents. The plot meanders loosely around small moments in the lives of the occupants, generally taking in the quiet and the sad, as they ponder their own lives, generally oblivious to those around them. The plot rarely steps outside the apartment, compounding the idea that, while they are always surrounded by people, these characters are firmly locked in their own interior worlds. The Tower Block Interiorae

Atmosphere is key. The pencilled artwork is densely crosshatched - the tower block itself is a nest of shadows, whereas its inhabitants stand out as faintly luminous. It’s a brilliantly unsettling effect, suggesting a space haunted by its inhabitants, but always more unnerving than outright scary or oppressive. Most of the tower’s inhabitants are unable to move on from something, be it a bad relationship or a slow decline into a painful death. While their stories don’t interweave strongly (the isolation is maintained almost throughout), they do sometimes push each other towards the change they need.

A giant, seemingly benign spectral rabbit wanders the tower, slipping between apartments and reporting on the occupants’ lives and dreams to his boss, a formless shape who lives in the basement. This suggests Haruki Murakami, Alice in Wonderland, or even Harvey, but the tale never slips too far from the everyday lives of the denizens of the tower into outright fantasy. There are strong magical realist tendencies, but it’s clearly the smaller moments that interest Giandelli. That’s not to say that the rabbit and his mysterious boss aren’t important, but they don’t steal focus from the everyday folk - they’re more of a Greek chorus, albeit less critical, always quietly hoping for the best for their unknowing charges.

Interiorae The Boss

In less capable hands this would be the setup for spiraling into madness or sudden revelation, but Interiorae is slower and more careful than that (one overly abrupt moment towards the end aside). It warrants and rewards multiple readthroughs - there’s a wealth of detail and atmosphere to absorb.