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.
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 Souls, translated 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 Portolu, translated 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.