Showing posts with label Dacia Maraini. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dacia Maraini. Show all posts

13 November 2020

Dacia Maraini – writer

Long career of a feminist novelist and playwright

Dacia Maraini spent part of her childhood as a prisoner in wartime Japan
Dacia Maraini spent part of her childhood
as a prisoner in wartime Japan
Novelist and short story writer Dacia Maraini was born on this day in 1936 in Fiesole in Tuscany.

An Italian writer who is widely recognised abroad, Dacia Maraini is also a respected critic, poet, journalist and playwright. She established la Maddalena, the first Italian theatrical group composed exclusively of women.

The themes of limitation and oppression in Maraini’s writing have their roots in her childhood years, which she spent in a concentration camp in Japan. She then went to live in Sicily, which she has also described as an oppressive setting.

Her writing expresses the concerns of the Italian feminist movement, focusing on issues such as abortion, sexual violence, prostitution and the mother/daughter relationship.

Many of her works are autobiographical and are written in the form of diaries and letters.

Maraini lived with the writer Alberto Moravia from 1962 until 1983 and was a close friend of Pier Paolo Pasolini and Maria Callas.

She was the daughter of Sicilian princess Topazia Aliata di Salaparuta, who was an artist, and Fosco Maraini, a Florentine ethnologist.

When she was still a young child, Maraini’s family moved to Japan to escape Fascism in 1938. They were interned in a Japanese concentration camp from 1943 to 1946 for refusing to recognise Mussolini’s Republic of Salò.

Dacia Maraini's novels have won her several prestigious literary prizes
Dacia Maraini's novels have won her several
prestigious literary prizes
After the war, the family went to live in Sicily, in the town of Bagheria in the province of Palermo, a few kilometres from the city centre.

Maraini was educated at a boarding school in Florence. After her parents separated and her father moved to Rome, Maraini joined him when she was 18.

She married Lucio Pozzi, a Milanese painter, but they separated after four years. She then met Moravia, who became her long-term partner.

In 1966 she formed a theatre company with Moravia to put on new Italian plays, including her own works. This led to her founding Teatro della Maddalena, for women only, a few years later.  Maraini went on to direct films, write screenplays and also to appear in films.

She became a prolific writer, having produced her first novel, La vacanza, in 1963. Forty years later, her novel Chiara di Assisi – Elogio della Disobbedianza, was published in 2013.

Maraini has won many literary prizes, including the Fregene prize in 1985 for her novel, Isolina, and the premio Camiello in 1990 for her historical novel, la Lunga Vita di Marianna Ucria.

She celebrates her 84th birthday today.

Fiesole's cathedral is said to have been built on the site of the martyrdom of St Romulus
Fiesole's cathedral is said to have been built
on the site of the martyrdom of St Romulus
Travel tip:

Fiesole, a town of about 14,000 inhabitants situated in an elevated position about 8km (5 miles) northeast of Florence, has since the 14th century been a popular place to live for wealthy Florentines and even to this day remains the richest municipality in Florence.  Formerly an important Etruscan settlement, it was also a Roman town of note, of which the remains of a theatre and baths are still visible.  Fiesole's cathedral, built in the 11th century, is supposedly built over the site of the martyrdom of St. Romulus. In the middle ages, Fiesole was as powerful as Florence until it was conquered by the latter in 1125 after a series of wars.

The Villa Palagonia is a great example of Baroque architecture in Sicily
The Villa Palagonia is a great example of
Baroque architecture in Sicily
Travel tip:

Bagheria, where Maraini lived with her family in Sicily, was the subject of her book, Bagheria, published in 1995, which condemns the destruction of Sicily’s artistic and architectural treasures in its transition into a modern city. From the 17th century, when Giuseppe Branciforti, Prince of Butera and former Viceroy of Sicily, built a large villa there, the area, about 10km east of the centre of Palermo, became a preferred location for the vacation homes of the city’s elites.  The Villa Valguarnera and Villa Palagonia, both designed by the architect Tommaso Napoli, were two of the most striking Baroque residences, while the Villa Villarosa were built on more neoclassical lines. Unregulated building in the 20th and 21st centuries has rather diminished the town’s former splendour.

Also on this day:

1868: The death of composer Gioachino Rossini

1894: The death of Sister Agostina Livia Pietrantoni, a nurse murdered by a patient later made a saint

1907: The birth of Princess Giovanna of Italy - Tsaritsa of Bulgaria

1914: The birth of film director Alberto Lattuada


11 June 2017

Corrado Alvaro - writer and journalist

Novelist from Calabria won Italy's most prestigious literary prize

Corrado Alvaro
Corrado Alvaro
The award-winning writer and journalist Corrado Alvaro died on this day in 1956 at the age of 61.

Alvaro won the Premio Strega, Italy’s most prestigious literary prize, in 1951 with his novel Quasi una vita – Almost a lifetime.

The Premio Strega – the Strega Prize – has been awarded to such illustrious names as Alberto Moravia, Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, Elsa Morante, Primo Levi, Umberto Eco and Dacia Maraini since its inception in 1947.

Alvaro made his debut as a novelist in 1926 but for much of his life his literary career ran parallel with his work as a journalist.

He was born in San Luca, a small village in Calabria at the foot of the Aspromonte massif in the southern Apennines. His father Antonio was a primary school teacher who also set up classes for illiterate shepherds.

Corrado was sent away to Jesuit boarding schools in Rome and Umbria before graduating with a degree in literature in 1919 at the University of Milan.

He began his newspaper career writing for Il Resto di Carlino of Bologna and Milan’s Corriere della Sera, both daily newspapers, for whom he combined reporting with literary criticism.

Gente in Aspromonte was Alvaro's breakthrough novel in 1931
Gente in Aspromonte was Alvaro's
breakthrough novel in 1931
After serving in the Italian army during the First World War, in which he was wounded in both arms and spent a long time in hospital, he resumed his journalistic career as a correspondent in Paris (France) for the anti-Fascist paper Il Mondo. In 1925, he supported Benedetto Croce’s Manifesto of the Anti-Fascist Intellectuals.

Alvaro’s debut novel L’uomo nel labirintothe Man in the labyrinth, published in 1926, explored the growth of Fascism in Italy in the 1920s, when his politics made him the target of surveillance by Mussolini's Fascist regime. Worried about the possibility of arrest, he moved to Berlin in 1928, and subsequently spent time in the Middle East and the Soviet Union.

On his return to Italy, having had little success with his early novels, he made a breakthrough in 1931 when Gente in Aspromonte, his 1930 novel about an uprising in the area around his home village, won a 50,000 lira prize sponsored by the newspaper La Stampa after impressing a judging panel including the novelist and playwright Luigi Pirandello.

Ironically, given that he was previously under scrutiny as an anti-Fascist, his 1938 novel L’uomo è forte – Man is strong – led him to be accused of being a Fascist sympathiser because its content was strongly critical of communist totalitarianism. Nonetheless, the book won the literary prize of the Accademia d’Italia in 1940.

Alvaro lost his father in 1941 but retained his connection with Calabria through his mother, who had moved from San Luca to nearby Caraffa del Bianco, where his brother, Massimo, was parish priest.

The monument to Corrado Alvaro in Reggio Calabria
The monument to Corrado Alvaro in Reggio Calabria
During the Second World War, Alvaro was briefly editor of the Rome newspaper Il Popolo but he was forced to flee Rome in the later years of the war to escape the Nazi occupation, taking refuge in Chieti, where he assumed a false name, Guido Giorgi, and made a living by giving English lessons.

In 1945 he was co-founder of the Italian Association of Writers, of which he became secretary two years later, a position he retained until his death.  He continued to write for prominent Italian newspapers and penned several more novels and a number of screenplays.

His Strega Prize in 1951 came in a vintage year for Italian literature, coinciding with the publication of L'orologio – the Clock – by Carlo Levi , Il conformista – the Conformist – by Alberto Moravia , A cena col commendatore – Dinner with the commander – by Mario Soldati and Gesù, fate luce – Jesus, make light – by Domenico Rea.

Alvaro died in Rome from lung cancer, having previously undergone surgery for an abdominal tumour. He is buried in the small cemetery of Vallerano in the province of Viterbo in Lazio, about 80km (50 miles) north-west of Rome, where he had bought a large country house in 1939.

His memory is celebrated both in Lazio and Calabria.

In Vallerano, a street, a library and an elementary school are named in his honour, with a statue at the entrance to the library.  The city also established a Corrado Alvaro literary prize in 2015.

In Calabria, the Aspromonte National Park contains a cultural itinerary that includes San Luca and a ‘literary park’ in his name. The regional capital, Reggio Calabria, honoured him with a monument in Piazza Indipendenza.

San Luca is on the eastern slope of Aspromonte
San Luca is on the eastern slope of Aspromonte
Travel tip:

That Alvaro’s home town of San Luca, situated on the eastern slopes of Aspromonte, could produce a literary giant of his standing is remarkable given its history as a stronghold of the N’drangheta – the Calabrian mafia – and the fact that in 1900, when Alvaro was five, it had no drinking water and a 100 per cent illiteracy rate. The only way to reach the village during his childhood was on foot. The convent known as the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Polsi, founded in 1144 by Roger II of Sicily, is situated in a spectacular setting at the foot of a deep gorge just outside the town.

The Loggia del Palazzo dei Papi in Viterbo
The Loggia del Palazzo dei Papi in Viterbo
Travel tip:

Viterbo in Lazio is regarded as one of the best preserved medieval towns in Italy, with the historic San Pellegrino quarter, which features an abundance of typical external staircases, at its centre.  The Palazzo dei Papi, which was the papal palace for about 20 years in the 13th century, and the Cathedral of San Lorenzo, which dates back to the 12th century, has a 14th century Gothic belfry and was largely rebuilt in the 16th century, are among a number of impressive buildings.