Works I have read so far for Women In Translation Month - August, 2017
1. "Happy New Year" by Ajaat Cour - Translated from Punjabi
2. "The Floating Forest" by Natsuo Kirino- Translated from Japanese
3. " A Home Near the Sea" by Kamala Das - Translated from Malayalam
4. "Maria" by Dacia Maraini- Translated from Italian
"Maria", translated by Martha King, is a very moving deftly done story that in just a few pages shows us the prejudices faced by a lesbian couple in Italy in the early 1960 while making us feel they are anchored in particularized reality.
Maria is still sleeping when the narrator quietly slips out of bed to go to her office job at an automobile factory. The noise at the job is so loud she has to shout to speak to other office workers. In just a few paragraphs we come to understand her very harsh work environment, we feel her eyes lingering on a young factory woman whose legs remind her of Maria. When she returns home the apartment is a total mess. In these beautiful lines we can feel the power of Maraini in her rendering of Maria's thoughts on their then socially unacceptable relationship:
"Maria has a very nice voice. Sometimes, while I wash, clean, put the house in order, she sits on a stool in the bedroom next to the window so she can get the sun on her back, and she talks to me like I wasn’t there. Often I can’t even follow her reasoning, which is deep and complicated, but I lose myself in her voice, which is clear and light and musical like a bird’s. We eat in the kitchen. Maria sits across from me and greedily eats everything I put on her plate. But she doesn’t look at what she eats, because she is thinking; then her face acquires that distracted and worried look so familiar to me. “Have you ever thought what love is between two women?” “No.” “There must be a reason, don’t you think?” “Why should I love you instead of a man? Why should I make love to you instead of a man?” “I don’t know. Because you like to.” “But why do I like to?” “I don’t know. Because you love me.” “Oh, fine, you fool. But why?” “I really don’t know.” “I think that men and women don’t want to make love together any more so they won’t make children. There are too many of us.” “Do you want some more cod?” She nods yes. She brings to her mouth a big piece of cod –the most economical kind and therefore fatter and more thready –without paying any attention to its taste."
As was very common in Italy in the time, Maria is very left wing. She lectures the narrator about how her bosses are getting rich from her work.
Normally I'm disinclined to tell the close of the stories upon which I post but as this story cannot be read online and the ending is so powerful I will proceed.
Maria's ultra conservative father, a farmer, has her locked up in a mental hospital because of her sexuality. We feel the great sadness and pain of the narrator as she goes about the now empty routine of her existence. After a week she takes a bus ride to the mental hospital:
"A week later I return to visit her. They tell me she has gone away. I’m happy and get ready to go back home when a fat blond girl comes up to tell me that Maria has killed herself. Immediately after she bursts into a gloomy, stupid laugh. I don’t know whether to believe her or not. Then, when the sister takes her by the wrist and drags her away screaming, I know that it’s true."
I read this story in anthology perfect for Women in Translation Month, New Italian: A Collection of Short Fiction, edited and introduced by Martha King.
in Fiesole, Tuscany, Italy
November 13, 1936
Dacia Maraini is an Italian writer. She is the daughter of Sicilian Princess Topazia Alliata di Salaparuta, an artist and art dealer, and of Fosco Maraini, a Florentine ethnologist and mountaineer of mixed Ticinese, English and Polish background who wrote in particular on Tibet and Japan. Maraini's work focuses on women’s issues, and she has written numerous plays and novels.
Alberto Moravia was her partner from 1962 until 1983.