donna

The latest addition to my website is Sibilla Aleramo‘s Una donna (A Woman at Bay; later: A Woman). This is an early Italian feminist literary autobiographical novel, written nearly a hundred years before Elena Ferrante. The narrator tells of her upbringing in a house with a dominant and, at times, bullying father, whom she dearly loves, and a mother with severe mental problems. When she is older, the narrator goes to work in the office of the factory her father manages. While there, she gets to know a male colleague who is clearly attracted to her and eventually rapes her. As a result, she feels that she has to marry him and, though they do have a son, the marriage remains unhappy, not least because he does not have her intellectual interests. She goes to work in Milan for a feminist magazine and becomes involved in the early Italian feminist movement. What makes this book so worthwhile is her deep self-analysis and her analysis of the poor position of women in Italy. And, yes, I thought it was a better book than Ferrante but Aleramo would have undoubtedly considered Ferrante a worthy successor.