My Grazia Deledda – part 2
Grazia Deledda has been buried and erased because she preserved, well-written, the relics of a millenarian culture, described the results of our culture slaughtered by colonialism, and spoke about our lost history, forgotten in the Italian textbooks, and especially our remaining identity.
Yes, Juan, if you want an answer about the due, usual question: what is this book about? What is Grazia Deledda’s work about? The answer is simple: Grazia Deledda’s work is about our identity, our remaining identity after two hundred years of strict, greedy and merciless colonialism.
Quoting my book in the pipeline, also at the beginning of the twentieth century, after so many campaigns against a decimated population, “The Barbagia Code had to be erased at any cost, and the Sardinian culture had to be confined to a museum, confused with a vase, a jewel and a costume. And Barbagia’s people had to stop believing that they held their destiny in their hands, stop facing life with boldness, and holding their heads up.
So, also that provincial Grazia Deledda, that unlikely writer unknown in Italy and in the snobbish literary salons of Rome, the winner of the most prestigious award in the world, the Nobel prize, who came from Nuoro, from Nuoro! Grazia Deledda too had to be confined in a sort of cabinet, in a closed yard and in a distant tomb, because her power, her messages could not be allowed to represent Barbagia’s culture. She could not be a flag but only an ethnic abnormality.”
And Sardinian students were not allowed to deal with dangerous deviations. The oppressive years, you know, were those under Spanish or Austrian rule (Manzoni again), certainly not under the enlightened generosity of the Piedmontese.
So, who knows Grazia Deledda? Who knows Nuoro, Juan?
Am I surprising you? I don’t think so. You have already read my pieces about “The King of Tavolara,” in which I widely spoke about the Savoy dynasty, this historical curse on Sardinia and Italy too, so you understand my points very well. We are two Mediterranean animals with our sensibility and susceptibility, and we both know that the Mediterranean Basin, the cradle of civilization, has also been (and it still is) an incredible laboratory for all sort of fights, massacres and prevarications. There is so much underground tension, so many historical chains and religious knots, and such huge emotional involvement, that it is inevitable that sometimes violence explodes, inexorable and blind. So, it isn’t surprising to discover a brutal colonization, not in the Far East or in Africa, but in the heart of Western civilization, in Italy, and imposed by the Piedmontese over a prostrated country, Sardinia, scientifically cancelling any trace of the local culture.
It is enough to make us take our head off the sand and study our history with attention.
You see, for the extra-European people especially—many of my colleagues, for example—Sardinia is known, when it is known, only as a tourist destination, gifted by splendid beaches and the sea. Costa Smeralda, Alghero, Villasimius, Castelsardo, and so on, are wonderful picture postcards. But almost nobody has knowledge of the inner provinces and their past. The only tool you have to understand and to enter this world is to read the collection of Grazia Deledda’s books, then Salvatore Satta’s “Il Giorno del Giudizio,” which is an absolute masterpiece, and other great contemporary writers. With difficulty and laboriously, you could reconstruct a magical and dramatic past, and understand Barbagia, this secluded region, and its people. With difficulty and laboriously, I repeat, because it is necessary to dig and to remove tons of earth and dust, and, more importantly, thousands of pages of manipulation, hypocrisy, and cowardice.
Grazia Deledda’s greatness is this: she reconstructed a world and described our identity, both the best and the worst of what we could save, without manipulation, hypocrisy, or cowardice. She had a sort of ethnic mission and I think that the Nobel committee recognized that, her incredible ability to be a part of this world, passionate, achingly affectionate, and, at the same time, an objective “reporter” of the human consequences of an historical crime. Honestly, humbly.
Her greatness stems from the entirety of her novels, a mosaic of histories that composes a painful, highly dramatic picture. Something that D. H. Lawrence didn’t understand, for example, because he didn’t know the framework, our history, our background, and even though he was an extraordinary writer, for sure, with a genial sensibility, he was still historically superficial, ignorantly racist, and eventually envious of her. Yes, a woman from the middle of nowhere (by the way, a land with four thousand years of civilisation), who was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature! Recognition he never had.
I’ll come back to D. H. Lawrence in following articles, of course. But many other authors and critics, still today, speak about her technique, her innovativeness (by the way, they are points that I wouldn’t define pivotal in her pieces) without anchoring her work to our history, to the Sardinian conditions at the end of the nineteenth century, the military expeditions against the population, the economical defeat due to Umberto I’s politics, the dreadful wound of emigration.
Instead of this historical anchor points, sometimes I find parallels drawn between her and Manzoni (again? It seems that as Manzoni invented the Italian novel, so Grazia Deledda invented the Sardinian novel. So two worlds so different from any point of view, from any perspective, one set on the Moon and the other on Saturn, have an unlikely, common thread: form), or Verga, or various other authors. Inevitably, Grazia Deledda is always ‘under’ or ‘beside’ as Sardinia is.
No, Juan, as you can understand, my Grazia Deledda isn’t about technique, craft, or aestheticism. She is my blood, my genes, and my feelings. She is the Sardinia that you can breathe here, sitting at the Laconi Bar, and looking at this world so immutable, definitive, and still like a murdered body, laying down on a flat stone.
PS, only for the fools: I’m not advocating separatism or dreaming of a sort of revenge. I’m only retracing the truth of my identity.
The facts speak.
They are stubborn.