The novelist and author of the play tells #italiana
curated by Laura Pugno
Marcello Fois, what has it meant for you, as a writer, to address the figure of Grazia Deledda and why is this writer so topical for the Italian and, above all, the international public? Was there a discovery, a rediscovery, or rather a path of continuity?
A self-respecting author has little interest in what might rightly be called ‘topical reasons’, in the sense that such reasons are hardly ever the basis of a writer’s success or failure. In Italy, more than abroad, Grazia Deledda is essentially neglected because she is not supported by adequate and structured recognition. Deledda represents a critical emergency for our country. She is not the only one, and, it must be said, for the most part she is accompanied by female colleagues. Matilde Serao, Sibilla Aleramo, Natalia Ginzburg, Anna Maria Ortese, Gianna Manzini, Elsa Morante and Lalla Romano, to name but a few, have suffered from a form of ‘diminuitio’ which has been felt, starting with Deledda, by those authors who are difficult, if not impossible, to categorise within the sphere of a generically contingent, entertaining, if not expressly didactic style of writing. With Deledda, for the first time, we found ourselves dealing with an author who also interpreted her profession as a literary project, who wanted to speak to the universe of readers and not exclusively to target categories: women to be educated or entertained. Instead of dampening this trend, the Nobel Prize has exacerbated it. In our school anthologies it is impossible not to mention Deledda, but we still do so with the embarrassment of those who judge the other half of our literary sky with prejudice. The point is that Deledda does not agree with any of the literary and stylistic instances of her time ascribed to those daredevils who dared to pursue the profession of literature. Today the systems have changed, the mentality seems to have evolved, but certain prejudices die hard. But you have to get used to it: Deledda is the first and only woman ever to receive the Nobel Prize for our country and, not least, the only one to have received it for fiction, not for theatre or poetry like all her male colleagues. Nobel fiction in Italy still goes by only one name: Grazia Deledda.
What did writing ‘Quasi Grazia’ mean, as a play for the theatre and as an investigation into the life and poetic and literary universe of Grazia Deledda, for your trajectory as a writer and novelist?
For me, ‘Quasi Grazia’ was a kind of self-analysis. Through the human and stylistic story of this great fellow-citizen, I have understood many things about my own personal story as a writer. Choosing the theatrical form was a must because it is in tune with the oral culture I come from, which is the same culture Deledda came from. I was born not far from her house and not far from the house of Salvatore Satta, another Nuoro native who gave so much to our literature. It was therefore a clear journey back into the motives and drives that made me a writer by nature. A kind of stubborn faith in the impossible that I developed through the experience of Grazia Deledda.
What is your relationship with other literatures, with translation, with foreign countries in general, and how can Italian books be brought to the world in an increasingly effective way, be it classic authors, 20th century classics or contemporaries?
I have the privilege of being a highly translated author. Over the years, I have been convinced that there is no ‘tactic’ that makes a project more attractive to foreign countries. On the contrary, I would like to think that the authenticity of the themes, the beauty of the writing, and the strength of a literary project remain universally recognised values. Over time I have learnt to consider my translators as co-authors, they are my language in a given place, they have a responsibility that is as much creative as it is merely compilation. For this reason, I am a writer who prefers to collaborate with the translator and, in many cases, to establish a personal as well as a professional relationship. You have to consider that people abroad have a very different idea of Italian writing, including contemporary, or worse, current, writing, than we do. Many of our authors who don’t make it into the national rankings are top in the countries where they are translated. Now the naysayers may say that this is thanks to the translators; that may be, but the fact is that some of our current publishing superstars act in such a small way that they are not even noticed abroad. The only promotion that makes sense and guarantees return and stability is promotion focused on quality. An investment in durability not in temporary success. This I can say was a value I learned, among others, from Grazia Deledda.