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Grazia Deledda, between woman life and vocation to write

03 Marzo 2021
Grazia Deledda, between woman life and vocation to write Foto: Neria De Giovanni Neria De Giovanni
Grazia Deledda managed to combine in her life as a woman, the care of the family with her great, true vocation to writing. She was the only woman among six Nobel for Italian literature. By Neria De Giovanni

An entire community in the Puritan Norway regains the pleasure of smiling and being together thanks to "Babette's Lunch" in the splendid homonymous story by Karen Blixen. Conviviality as a primary expression of joie de vivre is expressed in the same way in different cultures and countries, from Japan by Banana Yoshimoto to Chile by Isabel Allende, from Denmark by Blixen to Sardinia by Nobel Prize winner Grazia Deledda.

The woman who write has always had a dual relationship with the kitchen. As a woman, she clashes with 'domestic' chores, so she soon learns to cook for herself and for others. But as a woman she writes, she must also conquer her own space within the behavioral code that is not, but exquisitely, originally masculine.
Many women writers have thus lived their intellectual work with conspicuous feelings of guilt, like time 'stolen' from recognized female activities. To the kitchen, in fact. We all remember the Brontë sisters, subjected to a severe father, a minister of the Protestant faith, forced to hide the written pages of their masterpieces of fiction under the peeled potato skins.
Also Alba De Cespedes, in 1952, publishes a book that has become exemplary, Quaderno proibito, where the protagonist Valeria writes at night, in the kitchen, after tidying up the dishes and putting her husband and children to bed, hiding the 'forbidden notebook' because she is convinced that she has neglected her family to write a book.

Grazia Deledda
managed to combine in her life as a woman, the care of the family with her great, true vocation to writing. In her narrative the house and in particular the kitchen is the place where the storms of feelings are unleashed, rancor and hatred are cultivated, repentance and expiation are reached.
The kitchen is also the only room in which the rigid divisions between the social classes, masters and servants, male and female, can magically be broken down. In the kitchen the servant sleeps by the fireplace and the mistress prepares coffee for the guest (Canne al vento); the runaway bandit can enter the kitchen and find comfort and love in the arms of the former mistress (Marianna Sirca); in the bed set up in the kitchen, the warmest room in the house in the harsh Nuoro winter, the death rite is carried out with which Annesa, 'soul daughter', killing her old uncle Zua, sacrifices her youth to remorse, to save the master-lover (L'edera).

Despite her feverish activity as a writer, she cooked personally for her family and in a letter she remembers that when the envoy of the Swedish embassy communicated the Nobel Prize to her in November 1927, when he kissed her hand, it smelled of onion because she had just finished preparing a tasty sauté for the sauce.
“Salute” thus takes leave of Grazia Deledda at the end of her very short thanking speech for the delivery of the Nobel Prize on 10 December 1927 (awarded to her for 1926).
“Salute” as her shepherds used to wish her in Barbagia, in Nuoro, where she was born on September 28, 1871, into a family of seven children, two boys and five girls.

She came from a Sardinia that was different in culture and language; initially, the usual prejudice towards women writers weighed on her.
Small (she was 1.54 m tall and wore size 32!) and not beautiful, without clamor or scandals, thanks to her courage and an iron will, she knew how to reach the goal she had set for herself, the goal glimpsed dreaming closed in the mountains of Nuoro.

The only woman among six Nobel for Italian literature, Grazia Deledda is among 16 women against 101 men around the world who have obtained the prestigious award. Today, the 150th anniversary of her birth is celebrated at the same time as the 150th anniversary of Rome Capital, after the arrival of the Bersaglieri at Porta Pia in February 1871.
Rome which Grazia always looked to as a destination for her life purpose, to make her Sardinia known to the world, with customs and traditions, with traditions and social aspirations. But, as she declared after the Nobel Prize "if I had been born in Rome or Stockholm, I would have always been who I am, a soul who is passionate about the facts of life".
Perhaps this is why Deledda is so loved in many countries where her narrative has been translated, perhaps this is why she has managed so well to describe the lives and characters, the intimate and social stories of the places where fate led her to live; Rome, first of all, but also Cervia, the Romagna city where she spent many summers until the last one in 1935 and Cicognara, in the Lower Po Valley, a town where her husband Palmiro Madesani was originally from.

Of course Sardinia will remain in her heart forever and she was very sorry when everyone spoke and wrote about her except the local Sardinian journalists who were never kind to her. Almost to make her pay for the "guilt" of having become famous by moving away from her island. But her was only a physical departure and there are many episodes of his life to testify. For example, when the uncle Msgr. Cambosu went to visit her in Rome, Deledda did not let her uncle leave the house because "from us, women and priests never go alone after sunset": she had lived in Rome for many years and yet she still said “from us” referring to the traditions of Barbagia.

She was buried in the monumental cemetery of Verano and she wanted a small nuraghe to rise above her tomb. Her land, which had not loved her much in life, welcomed her with all honors when in 1959 at the behest of her family, her body was brought back to Sardinia on a state flight. She landed at the military airport of Alghero-Fertilia, the President of the Council of Ministers, the Sardinian Antonio Segni, was waiting for her. Official speech entrusted to the writer Bonaventura Tecchi.
Now he sleeps in the Church of solitude, in Nuoro, at the foot of his mountain, in that church (and the title of his latest novel whose protagonist, Maria Concezione had the same disease of Grazia. She died for this illness and today, instead, thanks to medicine many women are saved.

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