A WOMAN by Sibilla Aleramo


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First published in 1906, this Italian feminist touchstone-work is widely known in Europe but has previously been unavailable in the U.S. The first person narrative closely parallels the early life of Aleramo herself (1876-1960), who was born Rina Pierangeli and later, as Sibilla, enjoyed a long, sometimes notorious career of literary work and literary lovers. The nameless narrator passes from childhood with an increasingly neglectful father and a suicidal mother rapidly going mad (""I had an active, carefree childhood"") through marriage at 15 to one of her father's workmen (who raped her); later he will beat and torture her for an indiscreet flirtation. As the husband fails in business, the narrator takes up writing, goes to work in journalism, finally leaves her husband and--in the momentous decision of Aleramo's own life--leaves her child as well. Inwardly she moves from the passive lethargy with which her countrywomen endure their lives to active work and freedom, though still always with one eye out for Mr. Right to save her (""The only thing that dominated me was love for my father""). True, this inconsistency makes for somewhat dodgy feminism; lint Aleramo does capture, in vivid yet understated focus, the terrible tensions between ""feminine"" and full life. Of solid historical interest, then--with a rather patronizing introduction by Richard Drake that places both the novel and Aleramo in turn-of-the-century context.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1980
ISBN: 0520049497
Publisher: Univ. of California Press