About the article ‘A contemporary reading of The Mother’ by Gianni Criveller
Dear Gianni, thank you for your contribution. I appreciated so much your speeches at the Macau and Hong Kong events and I read your last article with particular attention. You bring new perspectives and open very interesting issues about Grazia Deledda. I think that a good author, not only Grazia Deledda, requires a systematic input of ideas, a sort of flow of ‘fresh air’: only new scholars with different visions, carrying antithetic or divergent sensibilities and traits, can enrich the reading of a masterpiece of literature. One hundred years after the writing of her best novels, you are here to discuss Grazia Deledda, adding value and arousing interest in people from different cultures and in new generations of readers. That’s the miracle of good literature. The titles of your paragraphs outline a fascinating process: The consciousness of Agnes, modern heroine; Agnes unmasks clerical rhetoric; An adult woman and independent; Deledda and the priests; The faith of Deledda; The wind and its dark omens; Mary Magdalene. Each of these paragraphs is a window over a complex world that still deserves discussions, this is my opinion. And I feel I am a new scholar too, because, as I wrote in my article ‘My Grazia Deledda’ (http://beyondthirtynine.com/my-grazia-deledda-the-complete-article/):
When I went to school, she had been completely forgotten, buried… The state curricula, the curricula of the Ministero Italiano della Pubblica Istruzione, to be precise, didn’t include Grazia Deledda… We never, either in the middle or high school, read a page, a single phrase of our fellow citizen… Grazia Deledda was dead, and totally erased… From history, also from our geography. The main street of Nuoro is Corso Garibaldi, which is not by chance. Grazia Deledda Street is still today an anonymous, narrow alley. Leave Grazia Deledda in her wild landscape, but do not let her enter the town, please, much less the schools, anthologies and conferences…
So, Grazia Deledda grew on me only during the past decades, as an existential need first, and then as an incredible literary, social and historical discovery.
Someone told me that there were no doctoral theses on Grazia Deledda in the Universities of Cagliari and Sassari, before the 80s. I cannot check this info, but I well believe it. And the analyses too of her work, wide analyses and not sporadic or occasional articles or comments, formally began only in 1971, in occasion of the centenary of her birth. There is a very interesting book, Atti del Convegno Nazionale di Studi Deleddiani, published on 30 September 1972 by Comune di Nuoro and Regione della Sardegna, which is a milestone for understanding not Grazia Deledda, but the general approach to her work and Sardinia.
I don’t want to repeat the considerations I made of Sardinian/Italian history (it is possible to read the entire collection of my articles in Beyond Thirty-Nine), but only to use your excellent piece to point out two important aspects:
– The legend that the people of Nuoro so strongly opposed the young Grazia Deledda that she was forced to leave her town. Also the episode that you mentioned in your article about the priest who rebuked her during a Mass and who was then confronted by a gentleman so strongly that the two came to blows in front of the cathedral, is generally told to underline not the reaction of a man from Nuoro against a priest who, take note, was not from Nuoro, but of the people inside the church, who obviously listened with complete amazement to that unusual sermon.
Please note again that all sort of legends – or bad censure – were told about Grazia Deledda to explain her ostracism, but the truth is that Sardinian and especially Barbagian culture shouldn’t exist, by definition. That was all. She and her Nobel Prize were an inconvenient example, only an accident, and had to be hidden and erased, by the Church, by the Italian State, by the dominant ideologies before and after the WWII, by the embedded intelligentsia. Otherwise, two hundred years of massive colonialism would have had to be revealed and explained. And, of course, there is no colonialism in the Piedmontese and Italian history, for pity’s sake!
– The myth that Grazia Deledda gained/completed her identity only on leaving Nuoro (or rather, that she was a great writer only because she could leave Nuoro). Now, I don’t deny this vision in toto. Grazia Deledda, as thousand of people, including myself, needed to get out of the narrow perspectives of our town. But she remained Nugoresa and her works are acts of love toward Nuoro. So I reject the alleged drama and the superficial conclusions. She wanted to see and to live in another place; she wanted to marry and to work in another environment, ok, but what is the matter, the existential drama? Where is the judgement against Nuoro? Also Salvatore Satta, the other great writer from Nuoro, the writer of the absolute masterpiece The Day of Judgement, left Nuoro; so what? A question: did you read The Day of Judgement? I don’t think so, while I’m sure that you know The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa. Why? They were both great artists, quite contemporary, but, unluckily, Satta came from Barbagia, so was automatically destined to silence.
The myth that Grazia Deledda became a great writer only because she could leave Nuoro is another face of the excuse that was necessary to confirm the lack of Barbagian culture and the ostracism of a Nobel prizewinner.
I have other two comments, dear Gianni. The first one is about D. H. Lawrence’s introduction to The Mother. I’m sorry I don’t agree with your reading, but I don’t want to repeat myself and again take longer than I should. If you want, you can read my previous article ‘D. H. Lawrence & Grazia Deledda’ to understand my point of view: http://beyondthirtynine.com/d-h-lawrence-grazia-deledda/. Please reread D. H. Lawrence’s introduction, especially the part related to religiosity: simply, he didn’t understand this aspect – it happens.
The second comment concerns religiosity, exactly. I have to thank you for your precious perspective, right and deep about the relationship between Agnes and Paulo. Agnes is a modern heroine, I completely agree, dear Gianni, and Grazia Deledda is a modern author – it is really astonishing, as you underline, to read so many pages that can easily relate to the present time, which are valid and live also today.
I only want to add that Barbagian religiosity is exceedingly complex because the Reformation and Counter-Reformation didn’t affect this part of Sardinia. The Inquisition either. So, in my opinion, the presence of so many diviners, witches and other magical figures in Nuoro; the contamination with other forms of religion, more pagan; the perception that a priest is first a man (also because the local stories are full of sons and daughters of priests); the never dead diffidence against the priests, especially the foreign priests; all that, to a certain degree, is natural and part of the common feelings (of the people of Nuoro). My comment doesn’t diminish Grazia Deledda’s courage and greatness, and your sensitivity, of course. On the contrary, I’m very glad because only now are we discovering how much Grazia Deledda was Nugoresa, also in terms of religiosity, and how strong she was in writing, capturing all the bonds of the human soul and facing hypocrisy and prejudices.
My hope remains that I can discuss with you more deeply these crucial aspects of Grazia Deledda’s work, maybe during the next writing retreat of the City University of Hong Kong in Sardinia, in October.