Reeds in the wind
"The moon rose before him, and evening voices told him the day had ended: a cuckoo's rhythmical cry, the early crickets' chirping, a bird calling; the reeds sighing and the ever more distant voice of the river; but most of all a breathing, a mysterious panting that seemed to come from the earth itself. Yes, man's working day was done, but the fantastic life of elves, fairies, wandering spirits was beginning." (in “Reeds in the Wind,” 1913)
Reeds in the Wind—(Review)
Published in Italy in 1913 but never before translated into English, this richly atmospheric novel by Deledda (1871-1936), the second woman to receive the Nobel Prize for literature (1926), is a tale of penitence, salvation and a Christian-peasant notion of destiny. Deledda (Cosima; After the Divorce) traces the decline of the noble Pintor sisters, who live in Sardinia at the turn of the century. Proud but poor, the three sisters, Ruth, Ester and Nomi, are reduced to selling their farm's produce clandestinely from their own house. They would be totally bereft without their wise servant Efix, who has continued to work for them without pay because he is guilt-ridden over a long-ago sin. Giacinto, the son of the fourth, dead, Pintor sister, turns up and brings with him old bitter memories. Eventually, he unwittingly causes his aunts to sink further into poverty. Even in this flat translation, Deledda beautifully captures the rough, malaria-ridden Sardinian setting, where superstition vies with theology, folklore has a strong hold on the imagination and "the sound of the accordion fills the courtyard with moans and shouts." The novel bears some resemblance to Tomasi di Lampedusa's The Leopard in its depiction of the decline of a noble class, and to Carlo Levi's Christ Stopped at Eboli in its portrait of 20th-century peasants who still harbor medieval beliefs in sprites and witches. In a conversation with one of the Pintor sisters, Efix muses, "We are reeds, and fate is the wind." Deledda evocatively depicts the desperate plight of the peasants who hope for a heavenly redemption from their earthly hardships. (Nov.)
After the divorce (full book, free download; review)
The novel begins with Costantino Ledda's conviction and sentencing for the murder of his cruel uncle. Though innocent of the crime, he accepts the guilty verdict as punishment for marrying Giovanna Era through a civil ceremony rather than an expensive church wedding. When her husband is taken away, Giovanna has no way to provide for herself, her mother, and her son, who soon dies of malnutrition. Out of desperation she divorces Costantino, according to a new law for wives of convicts, and marries a wealthy but brutish landowner. When the true murderer confesses and Costantino returns, he and Giovanna begin a forbidden and ultimately destructive affair.
Deleda's tragic story of poverty, passion, and guilt portrays the primitive and remote world of the church, pre-Christian superstitions, and laws dictated from the mainland, in her native Sardinia, where society hangs in a delicate balance. Once this order is disrupted, none of these characters can escape the spiral of destruction dictated by fate, God, and society.
While the east wind blows (Full short story)
According to an ancient Sardinian legend, the bodies of those who are born on Christmas Eve will never dissolve into dust but are preserved until the end of time.
Now this was the natural subject of conversation in the house of the rich peasant Diddinu Frau, called Zio (uncle) Diddinu. His daughter's fiancé, Predu Tasca, raised the objection:
"But for what purpose? To what use is our body to us when we are dead?"
"Well," answered the peasant, "isn't it a divine grace not to be reduced to ashes? And when we arrive at the universal judgment, would it not be wonderful to find one's body intact?"
"Pooh, would it really be that great?" Predu replied, looking very skeptical.
"Listen, my son-in-law," the peasant exclaimed, "the topic is a good one. Shall we sing about it tonight?"
We ought to be aware that Uncle Diddinu was an extemporaneous poet, like his father had been and his grandfather, too. Joyfully he seized every opportunity to propose a contest of extemporaneous song, especially whenever there were poets around who were less skillful than himself.
"Oh," Maria Franzisca observed, making herself as graceful as she could since her beloved looked at her, "the argument is a little gloomy."
"Shut up! You can go to bed!" the father shouted rudely at her.
Although he was a poet, Diddinu was a wild and brutal man who dealt severely with his family, in particular with his daughters. His family respected him, but they all feared him. In the presence of her father, Maria Franzisca would hardly have dared to sit down close to her dear Predu. According to the custom of engaged couples, she kept a distance from her fiancé, only to charm him more, enticing him with the lovely movements of her body, veiled in the fleecy scarlet vest embroidered with flowers, and the blazes of her turquoise-green, almond-shaped eyes.
Thus, it was Christmas Eve—a gray day, dimmed but mild since an east wind was blowing, carrying the enervating warmth of distant deserts and a humid scent of the sea.
It appeared that, somewhere among the mountains, their slopes green from the cold grass of winter, or in the valleys where the shaking almond trees prematurely bloomed, throwing to the wind the white petals of snow as if from harm, there burned a great fire, the flames of which were not seen, but which was the source of the heat. And the clouds incessantly issuing from the mountaintops and spanning the sky seemed to be the smoke of that invisible fire.
The country sounded from the ringing of feast; people, yielding to the strange Levantine wind, crowded streets and houses, gathering to celebrate the birth of Christ. Families exchanged their gifts: suckling pigs roasted whole, lambs of autumn, meat, sweets, cakes, and dried fruit. Shepherds brought to their masters the first milk of their calves, and the lady of the house returned the container to the shepherds, filled with vegetables or other things, having first carefully emptied it in order not to bring down ruin on the cattle.
Predu Tasca, who was a swineherd, had accordingly killed his finest little pig, painted it with its blood, filled it with bundles of asphodel, and sent it as a gift to his fiancée. And his fiancée returned the basket with a cake of honey and almonds, giving a scudo of silver [5 lire] to the woman who brought it.
Towards evening, the young man came to the house of the Frau's and pressed his young lady's hand. She blushed, radiant with joy, and withdrew her hand from his grip; but in her palm, hot from the amorous squeeze, she found a gold coin concealed. In the next moment, she went about the house discreetly showing Predu's beautiful present.
Outside the bells chimed joyfully, and the east wind spread the metallic sound in the tepid damp of the dusk.
Predu wore the splendid national costume of medieval origin, a blue velvet vest and short black woolen coat finely embroidered, an ornate waist belt of leather, and filigree buttons of gold. His long black hair covered his ears and was carefully combed and greased with olive oil; and since he had already had some wine and anisette, his black eyes beamed, and his red lips burned in his black beard. He was as sound and handsome as a rural god.
"Bonas tardas," he said and sat down close to his father-in-law at the hearth, where a log of holly was burning. "May the Lord grant you a hundred Christmases! How are you?"
"Like an old vulture that has lost its claws," the wild, aging farmer replied. Then he recited the famous verse:
S'omine cando est bezzu no est bonu... (When the man gets old, he is good for nothing.)
This way they got on to the legend about people born on Christmas Eve.
"Let us go to mass," Uncle Diddinu said. "When we get back, we will enjoy a good supper, and then we shall sing!"
"We can sing before, too, if you want."
"Not now!" Diddinu replied, striking the stick on the stones of the hearth. "As long as the holy eve lasts, it must be respected. Our Lady suffers the pains of delivery, and we may not eat meat, nor may we sing. O, good evening, Mattia Portolu! Please be seated and tell us of the others who will come. Maria Franzisca, pour out well! Bring these little lambs something to drink."
The young lady served her fiancé; and when she bent beside him to give him the glass, which scintillated as a ruby, he became drunk with her smile and her looks. In the meantime, the newcomer told of the friends who were to arrive.
The women were already busy at the hearth in the center of the kitchen, preparing the supper. On the one side of the four stones enclosing the hearth in the middle of the floor, the men were sitting; on the other, the women were cooking. Half of the pig that Predu had sent as a present was already roasting on a long skewer, and a pleasant odor of food filled the kitchen.
Two old relatives arrived, two brothers who had never married because they did not want to divide their inheritance. They looked like two patriarchs with their long hair curled over the large white beards.
Then came a blind young man, who groped about the stone walls, on the beat of his thin stick of oleander.
One of the old brothers took Maria Franzisca around the waist, pushed her towards the fiancé, and said, "What's the matter with you, little lambs of my heart? Why are you as distant from each other as the stars of heaven? Hold your hands, embrace..."
The two young people regarded each other, burning with desire; but Uncle Diddinu raised a thundering voice:
"Old ram! Leave them in peace! They do not need your counsels."
"I know, and nor do they need yours! They will find ways to be their own masters."
"If that were to happen," the peasant said, "I would have to drive away that young man as the wasps are driven away. Fill up, Maria Franzisca!"
The young woman extricated herself from the arms of the old man, a bit affronted.
Smiling and adjusting his woolen cap, Predu said, "Well, thus we may neither eat nor sing nor do anything else... but drink?"
"You can do anything you wish, because God is grand," the blind man murmured, seated beside the son-in-law. "Glory to God in the heavens and peace on earth to all men of good will!"
And so they drank---and how heavily!
Predu alone barely bathed his lips at the hem of the glass.
Outside the bells were ringing. Songs and cries of merriment were carried by the wind. Toward eleven, all rose to attend the midnight mass. In the house only the old grandmother stayed, who in her youth had learned that, on Christmas night, the dead return to visit the houses of their kinsfolk. For this reason, she performed an ancient rite: setting out a plate of food and a clay jug of wine for the dead. And that custom she followed this Christmas, too. As soon as she was alone, she got up, brought the wine and the food, and put it on a ladder outside the house, which led from the courtyard to the rooms upstairs.
A poor neighbor, who was accustomed to the old woman's practice, accordingly climbed the ring wall of the farmstead and emptied the plate and the jug.
As soon as they all had returned from mass, the old and the young merrily assembled for supper. Big sacks of wool were put on the floor and were covered with homespun linen tablecloths.
In great yellow and red clay containers smoked the maccheroni made by the women, and on the wooden chopping-board, Predu skillfully sliced the well-done pig. All sat on the floor, on mats and bags; a powerful flame crackled on the hearth, throwing a red light on the faces of the guests; the scene seemed Homeric. And how they tippled!
After supper, the women had to withdraw, as was the rigid wish of the host. The men sat or lay down around the hearth and began to sing. All faces were scarlet, their eyes languid but lucent. The old peasant began the contest:
Duncas, gheneru meu, ello ite naras,
Chi a sett'unzas de terra puzzinosa...
"So, my son-in-law," the old one sang, "tell me what is best: to be reduced to seven ounces of despicable earth... or to find our body again intact on the day of the universal judgment?"
Predu adjusted his cap and responded.
"The topic is dead serious," he sang. "Let us think of other things and sing the praises of love, celebrate pleasure, and 'sas Venus hermosas' [the Venus-like beauties] in song, and other graceful and delightful things."
All, except the old peasant, applauded this pagan stanza. The old poet was annoyed and replied in verse that his opponent did not want to answer because he did not feel himself capable of dealing with the highest subjects.
Then Predu once again adjusted his cap and answered, all the time in Sardinian verse:
"Well, since you really want it, I will answer you. The argument does not appeal to me because it is sad; I do not want to think of death on this night of joy and life. But since that is your wish, I say to you: it is of no importance to me whether our body remains intact or is dissolved. What are we after death? Nothing. The essential thing is that the body is healthy and vigorous during life, so that we may work and enjoy... nothing but that!"
The peasant retorted. And Predu objected over and again, always embracing the pleasures and joys of life. The two old siblings applauded it; even the blind man gave signs of approval. The peasant pretended to get angry, but at heart he was content that his son-in-law proved to be a good poet. That foreboded a continuation of the glorious traditions of the family!
But even as he tried to demonstrate the vanity of the pleasures of the body, Uncle Diddinu drank and urged the others to drink too. Towards three o'clock in the morning, all were drunk; only the blind man, a formidable drinker, and Predu, who had drunk very little, had preserved their clarity of mind.
But Predu had been inebriated by his song, and as the hours passed, the memory of a promise Maria Franzisca had given him made him tremble with joy. Little by little, the voice of the singers became weaker; the old one began to stutter; the young man pretended to be sleepy. Finally, all dozed off; only the blind one remained seated, silently nibbling at the rough knob of his cane.
Suddenly, the rooster sang in the courtyard.
Predu opened his eyes and watched the blind man.
"He does not see me," he thought, raising himself cautiously; and he went out into the yard.
Maria Franzisca silently came down the outer ladder, and fell into his arms.
But the blind man knew that someone had left and gone outside; he thought it was Predu. He did not move but only murmured: "Glory to God in heaven and peace on earth to the men of good will."
Outside, the moon still ran behind diaphanous clouds, and in the silvery night, the east wind carried the scent of the sea and the warmth of the desert.
Original courtesy of the Deledda Madesani estate.
The mother (Full book)
INTRODUCTION BY MARY G. STEEGMANN
The novel is set in a small Sardinian hill side village, Aar, which is very remote. The whole action is two days and concerns two main characters, the mother and her son, the local priest. She is Maria Maddalena and is illiterate.
In truth the village is quite ugly but to Maria “. . . (it) seems to her the most beautiful in all the world, because her Paul was its savior and its king.”
COMMENTS BY BOB CORBETT
The mother, Mary Maddalena grew up in this small village in Sardinia. Now her only child, Paul, has become a priest and has been assigned to this village. Mary sees this as the rest of their lives; to be together here and him to become the best priest ever.
As the novel open Paul has been in the village for 7 years, is very well liked and respected and has put the village back onto the track of being a rather successful Catholic group after having had an older priest who wasn’t very serious about his work.
However, Mary discovers that is appears Fr. Paul is either involved or getting involved with a young woman in the village. Agnes is the daughter of a former rich man in the area. She lives in a manor house with servants and some wealth. Paul is seemingly totally entranced by her.
His mother thinks back to their triumphal arrival 7 years earlier; the joy of the people, the fireworks, the hope. Now she realizes that everything is in peril. Her preoccupation is that “. . . her, Paul, was its (the village’s) savior and its king.”
Mary is deeply distressed and even dreams of a visit from the old priest who wants his parish back and who has embraced the world as the gift of a good God, and not the ideal of heaven.
On his side Paul believes he is really in love with Agnes. He seems to think the two of them will run away and live a “normal” life, but he does tell his mother about her and how much he loves her. Needless to say, she is simply shocked and begins to work to convince him that this is simply madness and a momentary distraction.
While the action of the novel is only two days long, both Paul and his mother do a good deal of remembering and recounting the past, so the reader learns a great deal about their history and their lives in the village.
Also throughout there are captivating details of the lives of these people living in a remote region filled with superstition, following an ancient pattern of life, little touched by changing times and technology.
The most difficult part to fathom for me was that after developing this relationship with Agnes, albeit, only a short time ago, Paul is immediately and seemingly honestly persuaded by his mother in one single conversation, that this is an infatuation and a disaster to Paul and that he must immediately end the “affair.”
However, Agnes isn’t as easy to convince or change as Paul would wish and she threatens to denounce him from his own altar at the Sunday mass the second day of the story.
The surprise ending is quite shocking, yet not too farfetched.
I found this to be a gripping and beautifully written novel. The plot line seems to move a bit faster than I could fully imagine, but the details of the village and people are extraordinary, and even the plot it quite believable, even if I think it might have needed more time than the two days duration.
The author is able to paint the picture of the village with great success and even bring the minor characters to life in a vivid manner. The plot, while, again, for me a bit cramped with the two day time period, deals with a very believable situation and author, Grazia Deledda, creates a very believable and human and dynamic plot.
Letter to Mario Mossa Demurtas, Sardinian artist
In this house, so much farther away from Rome's noise and confusion than my faraway home in Sardinia, I live all devoted to the despised house chores, taking care of my husband and my sons in the hours that are not dedicated to my work. For I have my work schedule, which I respect. I do not adhere to impulsive improvisation but rather, like the diligent craftswoman at the loom, I sit in front of my table, close my eyes, and wait... and after a moment of uncertainty, in which my mind is still tied by some thin thread with the little and big problems of the family, suddenly, as though in a spell, I find myself in the lost world of my childhood, and all my characters, asleep since the previous day, wake up and surround me while asking that I lend them again in the breath of life. They are dogged bandits who lost themselves because of their thirst for justice, the young priests tormented by the flesh, and the loose girls, with sweet eyes and honey mouth, thirsty for love, and the old shepherds leaning on their long sticks, their chins resting on their hands and their gaze lost in the infinite. Biblical old men, who are already beyond good and evil, like Zarathustra, who are slow in responding when you address them, as if they had come back from other worlds in which they grazed stars, and they had trouble adjusting to our time... and when they talk, they do it slowly, with maxims, and at the same time you feel that they are measuring, weighing, and judging you... Now the pen runs swiftly from one side of the white sheet to the other, as a spool takes the weft between the threads of the warp and the fabric of my story. Yes, I feel like a weaver at work... Thank you for the company that your painting offers me.
I was born in Sardinia. My family is composed of wise people, but also of some violent individuals and of understanding artists. We had authority and we also had a library. But when I began to write at sixteen, I was opposed by my family. The philosopher warns: “If the student writes poetry, correct him and send him out for a walk in the mountains; if you catch him writing poetry a second time, punish him again; if he does it a third time, leave him alone because he's a poet”.
I had published my first works, my first sketches... So just imagine my pain, anger, and disillusionment when my first works were met in a terrible way and I earned laughter, censure, malicious gossip, especially from the women. It was a terrible blow for me; I cried and regretted this step I had taken; and confused, discouraged, duped, I decided to pull back and never write again.
On the contrary, I believe that there has not been a single Italian critic who has read all of my books, thus noticing the slow but undeniable evolution of my thinking. All have constantly and monotonously praised me as a regional author, and have talked about Sardinia and Sardinians more than about the characters that I have created.
Grazia Deledda speaks about herself
I was born in the little town of Nuoro in Sardinia in 1871. My father was a fairly well-to-do landowner who farmed his own land. He was also a hospitable man and had friends in all of the towns surrounding Nuoro. When these friends and their families had to come to Nuoro on business or for religious holidays, they usually stayed at our house. Thus I began to know the various characters of my novels. I went only to elementary school in Nuoro. After this, I took private lessons in Italian from an elementary school teacher. He gave me themes to write about, and some of them turned out so well that he told me to publish them in a newspaper. I was thirteen and I didn't know to whom I should go to have my stories published. But I came across a fashion magazine. I took the address and sent off a short story. It was immediately published. Then I wrote my first novel, Fior di Sardegna (1892) [Flower of Sardinia], which I sent to an editor in Rome. He published it, and it was quite successful. But my first real success was Elias Portolú (1903), which was first translated by the Revue des deux mondes, and then into all of the European languages. I have written a great deal:
Novels: Anime oneste, romanzo famigliare (1895) [Honest Souls], with preface by Ruggero Bonghi; Il vecchio della montagna (1900) [The Old Man of the Mountain] followed by a dramatic sketch Odio vince (1904) [HateWins]; Elias Portolú (1903); Cenere (1904) [Ashes]; Nostalgie (1905); La via del male (1896) [The Evil Way]; Naufraghi in porto [originally Dopo il divorzio, 1902] (1920) [After the Divorce]; L'edera (1908) [The Ivy]; Il nostro padrone (1910) [Our Master]; Sino al confine (1910) [Up to the Limit]; Nel deserto (1911) [In the Desertl; Colombi e sparvieri (1912) [Doves and Falcons]; Canne al vento (1913) [Canes in the Wind]; Le colpe altrui (1914) [The Others' Faults]; Marianna Sirca (1915); L'incendio nell'oliveto (1918) [The Fire in the Olive Grove]; La Madre (1920) [The Mother]; Il segreto dell'uomo solitario (1921) [The Secret of the Solitary Man]; Il Dio dei viventi (1922) [The God of the Living]; La danza della collana (1924) [The Dance of the Necklace], followed by the dramatic sketch A sinistra (1924) [To the Left]; La fuga in Egitto (1925) [The Flight into Egypt]; Annalena Bilsini (1927).
Short Stories: «Il giuochi della vita» (1905) [The Gambles in Life]; «Chiaroscuro» (1912) [Light and Dark]; «Il fanciullo nascosto» (1915) [The Hidden Boy]; «Il ritorno del figlio» (1919) [The Son's Return]; «La bambina rubata» (1919) [The Stolen Child]; «Cattive com pagnie» (1921) [Evil Company]; «Il flauto nel bosco» (1923) [The Flute in the Wood]; «Il sigillo d'amore» (1926) [The Seal of Love].
Plays: L'edera (1912) [The Ivy], a play in three acts, with the collaboration of Camillo Antona-Traversi.
In 1900 I took my first trip. It was to Cagliari, the beautiful Sardinian capital. There I met my husband. We later moved to Rome, where I am presently living. I have also written some poems which have not been collected in a volume.
Biographical note on Grazia Deledda
Grazia Deledda (1875-1936) continued to write extensively after she received the Nobel Prize. La casa del poeta (1930) [The Poet's House] and Sole d'estate (1933) [Summer Sun], both collections of short stories, reflect her optimistic vision of life even during the most painful years of her incurable illness. Life remains beautiful and serene, unaltered by personal suffering; man and nature are reconciled in order to overcome physical and spiritual hardship.
In many of her later works, Grazia Deledda combined the imaginary and the autobiographical; this blend is readily apparent in her novel, Il paese del vento (1931) [Land of the Wind]. In another novel, L'argine (1934) [The Barrier], the renunciation of worldly things, including love, mirrors the life of the author who, accepting self-sacrifice as a higher manner of living, is reconciled with God. The common trait of all her later writings is a constant faith in mankind and in God.
Two of Grazia Deledda's novels were published posthumously: Cosima (1937) and Il cedro di Libano (1939) [The Cedar of Lebanon].
The Nobel prize
The Nobel Prize in Literature 1926 was awarded to Grazia Deledda "for her idealistically inspired writings which with plastic clarity picture the life on her native island and with depth and sympathy deal with human problems in general".
Price Motivation: "In Grazia Deledda's novels more than in most other novels, man and nature form a single unity. One might almost say that the men are plants which germinate in the Sardinian soil itself. The majority of them are simple peasants with primitive sensibilities and modes of thought, but with something in them of the grandeur of the Sardinian natural setting. Some of them almost attain the stature of the monumental figures of the Old Testament." (in the Nobel presentation by Henrik Schück)
The First Italian Woman to Receive the Nobel Prize in Literature
source: (The Nobel and her life)
A Wintry Nordic Night in 1927
At 6:45 p.m., during the lunar eclipse of an exceptionally dark and frosty winter evening on December 8, 1927*, a small Italian woman arrived at Stockholm Central Station after a three-day trip by train and ferry. This was her first trip to northern Europe. From her passport, issued in Rome just two weeks before her arrival in Stockholm, we get a generic picture of the shy woman who would soon be the center of attention: Height: 1,55 m; Age: 56; Eyes: Chestnut; Hair: White; Complexion: Rosy; Date of Birth: September 27, 1871. Place of Birth: Nuoro, Sardinia.
Grazia Maria Cosima Damiana Deledda, married Madesani, was jubilantly received at the station by a committee headed by the poet Erik Axel Karlfeldt, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy. Deledda was greeted with bouquets in the national colors of Sweden and Italy.
As sometimes happens, the Nobel announcement of the prize for literature surprised some people, but this amazingly popular Italian author had been among the nominees for a number of years. Her first nomination recorded by the Academy dates from 1913, when she was put forward by Italian academics. Indeed, her name had been mentioned continuously for almost two decades. Deledda had devoted readers in the Swedish Academy and among literary critics, many of whom knew Italian. She was suggested as a candidate by one of her Swedish translators, Karl August Hagberg, and repeatedly by the Swedish minister in Rome, Carl Bildt. In the early twentieth century, Deledda's international reputation as a writer had been solidly established by novels such as Elias Portolu and Cenere (Ashes), both published in 1903.
The Private and the Public
At the time of the announcement, Deledda lived a quiet life in Rome, caring for her adult sons, the eldest named Sardus after the legendary founder of Sardinia, and her niece Grazia. When informed that she had won the Nobel Prize, the unassuming woman said simply, "Già!" (Already!) and proceeded to her office to continue her regular writing schedule. She had just finished a new novel, Annalena Bilsini (1927), which she was adapting for the theater, and was already well into her next, Il vecchio e i fanciulli (The Old and the Young), which was to be published in 1928.
At home, Deledda had a pet crow called Checcha (onomatopoetic, to be sure, but also suggestive of checché, "whatever", and reminding of the evasive Cheshire cat in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland). When journalists and photographers crowded the house the following day, they were astonished to find Checcha fluttering through the rooms. When the crow finally escaped the hullabaloo and flew away, Deledda asked the visitors to leave also, so that the bird would return. "If Checcha has had enough, so have I," she reportedly said as she showed her guests to the door.
In Stockholm, the scene was not so tranquil. She was fascinated by Sweden, as is evident from her letters home and the report of her Stockholm trip that she published in Corriere della Sera. But she was also amazed at being surrounded by dignitaries, royalty, ambassadors, and ministers of state and felt almost dwarfed by everyone she met. It all seemed to her to be a scenario out of an old fairy tale, however, so she did not lose her head amid all the pomp and celebration. At the Nobel ceremony, when the literary historian Henrik Schück solemnly praised her in a long, incomprehensible speech delivered in her honor, and she breathlessly heard her name announced and knew she was supposed to rise and approach the king to receive the prize—at that moment she thought she heard Checcha cawing. Writing to her young son Franz a day after, she reminded him to feed the bird and take good care of it.
Deledda left Stockholm on December 15. Back in Italy, publicity and public attention were harder to face, as the fairy tale turned into hard reality. Benito Mussolini, who had recently come to power, wanted to profit from Deledda's fame. The writer felt compelled to participate in an embarrassing ceremony where the mark of honor awarded to her was a portrait of Mussolini with a dedication that Il Duce proudly read aloud to the audience: "For Grazia Deledda with profound admiration from Benito Mussolini."
In private, Grazia Deledda referred to these Fascist festivities as a farce, alien to her nature; but they appeared to her to be inescapable, the price of fame. Once, Mussolini asked her if he could do anything for her; she immediately requested the release of her friend and fellow-countryman Elia Sanna Mannironi, imprisoned for anti-Fascist activities. She also seemed to have shared sympathies with another jailed Sardinian, Antonio Gramsci, known for his Prison Notebooks. But the worst embarrassment to her—and to the Swedish Academy as well—was the rumors abroad that suggested that her prize was an act of political ingratiation, arranged by Italian diplomats. This, despite the fact that her name had been in nomination even before the Fascist Party was founded in 1915, as has been noted.
A Life in Books
Grazia Deledda was to live for another ten years after receiving the Nobel Prize, years marked by a painful and slowly spreading breast cancer—the incurable malady of her protagonist Maria Concezione in the fine novel La chiesa della solitudine (The Church of Solitude). The novel was her last, published in the year of her death. Deledda died on August 15, 1936.
Despite her disease, Deledda kept to her schedule, beginning the day with a late breakfast, hours of reading, rest after lunch, and then writing for two or three hours in the afternoon, seven days a week, year after year. She produced four handwritten pages each day. Her writing was her life. She was a quiet and reserved woman, who did not speak much. She enjoyed friendly, intimate talk and traditional feasts and celebrations, but not political debates, serious discussions, parties, or society. Yet, in her quiet way, she was gathering the material for her books, listening and observing intently, just as she had done since her childhood. The outcome was over thirty novels and some four hundred short stories, most of them collected in nineteen books. She also wrote many articles, some plays, an opera libretto, and poems.
Even after her death, she seemed to continue to produce books. In a drawer there was found the carefully stored manuscript of the novel Cosima, written in ink on light-blue paper. The book was published posthumously. Its eponymous heroine was named after the author herself, whose middle name was Cosima, and the autobiographical tale tells of Deledda's life until her first trip by train, to the capital Cagliari in southern Sardinia on October 21, 1899. That journey resulted in her marriage in January 1900 to Palmiro Madesani, a state official, and a new life in Rome. Cosima recalls the first half of Deledda's life, the Sardinian world that is the soul of her writings. It also explains how she became an author.