Grazia Deledda

Grazia Deledda (27 September 1871 – 15 August 1936) was an Italian writer who received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1926 for her idealistically inspired writings which describe the life on her native island of Sardinia, dealing with general human problems with depth and sympathy. She was the first Italian woman to receive this honour and the second of only 13 women to have received it.

Born in Nuoro into a middle-class family, she attended elementary school and then was educated by a private tutor (a guest of one of her relatives) and moved on to study literature on her own. She started writing at a very young age, inspired by the Sardinian peasants and their struggles. The first novel she wrote and published was Fiori di Sardegna. This novel was published in 1892. Her family was not supportive of her desire to write, as it went against the social norms of the patriarchal system. [Possibly due to this, she published a novel, Stella d’Oriente, under the pseudonym Ilia di Saint-Ismael.

Still between prose and poetry are, among the first works, Paesaggi sardi, published in 1896. In 1900, after having married Palmiro Madesani, a functionary of the Ministry of War whom she met in Cagliari in October 1899, the writer moved to Rome and after the publication of Anime oneste in 1895 and of Il vecchio della montagna in 1900, her work began to gain critical interest. She had two sons and lived a quiet life occupied by her writing. She was a very prolific writer publishing, on average, a novel a year.

In 1903 she published her first real success, Elias Portolu that confirmed her as a writer and started her work as a successful writer: Cenere (1904), L’edera (1908), Sino al confine (1911), Colombi e sparvieri (1912), Canne al vento (1913) - her most well known book in Italy-, L'incendio nell'oliveto (1918), Il Dio dei venti(1922).

The life, customs, and traditions of the Sardinian people are prominent in her writing. She relies heavily on geographical description and details and her work is most often concerned with transgressions. Many of her characters are social outcasts that struggle in silence and isolation. Deledda's whole work is based on strong facts of love, pain and death upon which rests the feeling of sin and of an inevitable fatality.

In her works we can recognize the influence of the verism of Giovanni Verga and, sometimes, also that of the decadentism of Gabriele D’Annunzio. In Deledda's novels there is always a strong connection between places and people, feelings and environment. The environment depicted is mostly the harsh one of her native Sardinia. Because of her themes of women’s pain and suffering as opposed to women’s autonomy, Deledda has not gained much recognition as a feminist writer.

Deledda received the Nobel Prize in 1926 in Literature. She was very protective of her daily writing routine. Her schedule was exactly the same seven days a week: a late breakfast, a few hours of reading, lunch followed by a nap and then, clearly, ending the day with a few hours of writing. Deledda happened to receive the Nobel Prize almost exactly a year after Benito Mussolini dropped the charade of constitutional rule of the favour of Fascism. Mussolini himself wished to give Grazia a portrait of himself, and he signed it with “profound admiration.” With this string of fame, came a slew of journalists and notable photographers whom she allowed into her home to learn more about her. Her beloved pet crow, Checcha was irritated by all the commotion with people coming in and out. “If Checcha has had enough, so have I,” Deledda was quoted as saying.

Deledda continued to write even as she grew older and weaker. She showcased her optimistic view of life even as she suffered from painful illnesses. She believed that life was beautiful and serene, unaltered by personal suffering; man and nature are reconciled in order to overcome physical and spiritual hardships. Her later works show how mankind and faith in God are beautiful things.

She died in Rome at the age of 64 of breast cancer. La chiesa della solitudine (1936), Deledda's last novel, is a semi-autobiographical depiction of a young Italian woman coming to terms with her breast cancer. A completed manuscript of the novel "Cosima" (1937) was discovered after her death and published posthumously.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

1890 – Stella d’Oriente

1890 – Nell’azzurro

1891 – Fiori di Sardegna

1894 – Racconti sardi

1894 – Tradizioni popolari di Nuoro in Sardegna

1896 – La via del male

1895 – Anime oneste - Honest Soulstranslated by Jan Kozma (2009)

1897 – Paesaggi sardi

1899 – Le tentazioni

1897 – Il tesoro

1897 – L’ospite

1899 – La giustizia

1899 – Nostra Signora del buon consiglio: leggenda sarda

1899 – Le disgrazie che può causare il denaro

1900 – Il vecchio della montagna

1902 - Dopo il divorzio - After the divorce, translated by Susan Ashe (1995) and Maria Horner Lansdale (2014)

1902 – La regina delle tenebre

1903 – Elias Portolu - Elias Portolutranslated by Martha King (1995)

1904 – Cenere – Ashes, unknown translator (1908)

1904 – Odio Vince

1905 - Nostalgie

1905 – I giuochi della vita

1907 – L’ombra del passato

1907 – Amori moderni

1908 – L’edera

1908 – Il nonno

1910 – Il nostro padrone

1910 – Sino al confine

1911 – Nel deserto

1912 – Colombi e sparvieri

1912 - Chiaroscuro

1913 – Cannel al vento – Reeds in the Wind, translated by Martha King (1999) and by Dolores Turchi (2009)

1914 – Le colpe altrui

1915 – Marianna Sirca

1915 – Il fanciullo nascosto

1918 – L’incendio nell’oliveto

1919 – Il ritorno del figlio

1920 – Naufraghi in porto

1920 - La madre  - The Mother, translated by D.H. Lawrence (1923) and Mary Steegmann (1928)

1921 – Il segreto dell’uomo solitario

1921 – Cattive compaghie: novelle

1921 – La grazia

1922 – Il Dio dei viventi

1923 – Silvio Pellico

1923 – Il flauto nel bosco

1924 – La danza della collana; A sinistra

1925 – La fuga in Egitto

1926 – Il sigillo d’amore

1927 – Annalena Bilsini

1928 – Il vecchio e i fanciulli

1930 – Il dono di natale

1930 – La casa del poeta

1930 – Eugenia Grandet, Onorato di Balzac

1931 – Giaffa: racconti per ragazzi

1931 – Il paese del vento

1933 – Sole d’estate

1934 – L’argine

1936 – La chiesa della solitudine – The Church of Solitude, unknown translator (2002)

1937 – Cosima (published posthumously) – Cosima, translated by Martha King (1988)

1939 – Il cedro del Libano (published posthumously)

BOOKS ABOUT GRAZIA DELEDDA

Grazia Deledda: A Legendary Life, by Martha Stuart, Troubadour Publishing (2005). Biography.

Grazia  Deledda Grazia Deledda