Clara Sereni was born in 1946 in Rome and lived there until, in 1991, she moved to Perugia where she still lives. Her mother, Xenia Silberberg, was the daughter of two Russian revolutionaries; her father, Emilio Sereni, originally from an upper-class Roman-Jewish family, was a leading member of the Italian Communist Party between the 1930s and the 1970s.
In her twenties, she worked as a secretary, conference organiser and occasional folk singer. Her first novel, Sigma Epsilon (1974), was overlooked by reviewers and readers; her second book, the autobiographical Casalinghitudine (1987) made her known inside and outside Italy (it was translated into English as Keeping House). Many of her subsequent works also contain autobiographical themes related to her being a woman, a Jew and a person committed to social and political change.
Being what she calls the ‘handicapped mother’ of a son who suffers from psychosis led to her becoming, in 1998, one of the founders of La Città del Sole, a non-profit foundation supporting the rights of people with mental health problems, in which she was active until 2009. Her experiences as deputy mayor of Perugia between 1995 and 1997 are described, in a thinly fictionalized account, in the novel Passami il sale (2002). Il gioco dei regni (1993) is a reconstruction of the complex history of her extended family; Le merendanze (2004) is about a group of women involved in a social justice project; the stories in the collections Manicomio primavera (1989), Eppure (1995) and Il lupo mercante (2007) represent various forms of estrangement of vulnerable members of society and envisage tentative possibilities for change. Una storia chiusa (2012), set in a residence for the retired, focuses on the loneliness, disenchantment and stubborn hopes of a group of elderly people.
Sereni has also written on political and social topics for the left-wing newspapers L’Unità and Il manifesto. Some of these articles have been collected in Taccuino di un’ultimista (1998). She edited Si può, a collection of essays on the integration of people with mental illnesses (1996), and Amore caro, a collection of testimonies from well-known Italians who live with disabilities, their own or those of a loved one (2009), and translated French literary works (by Balzac, Stendhal, Madame de La Fayette).
She was awarded the Premio Sociale dei Lettori di Lucca, Premio Marotta, Premio Grinzane-Cavour and Premio Nazionale Letterario Pisa literary prizes.
Extract from the article by Mirna Cicioni on the website of The Centre for the Study of Contemporary Women's Writing, Institute of Modern Languages Research, University of London. Published here with the author's consent. Original article accessed on 21st November 2015.
1974 - Sigma Epsilon
2002 - Passami il sale
2004 - Le merendanze
2012 - Una storia chiusa
2015 - Via Ripetta 155
Life Writing and Essays
1987 - Casalinghitudine - Keeping House: A Novel in Recipes, translated by Giovanna Miceli Jeffries and Susan Briziarelli (2005)
1993 - Il gioco dei regni
1998 - Taccuino di un’ultimista
1989 - Manicomio primavera
1995 - Eppure
2007 - Il lupo mercante
1996 - Si può!
2009 - Amore caro. A filo doppio con persone fragili
Food and Subjectivity in Clara Sereni's Casalinghitudine, article by Giuliana Menozzi in Italica, Vol. 71, No. 2 (Summer, 1994), pp. 217-227.
Consuming Women and Animals in Clara Sereni's Casalinghitudine, article by David Del Principe in Italica, Vol. 76, No. 2 (Summer, 1999) pp. 205-219.