Today is my first of what I hope will be a long series for my Italian Women Writers Project.
Elsa Morante (1912 to 1985, Rome -spouse of Alberto Moravia) is highly regarded as a writer and intellectual. "The Mirrors" is a very deep evocation of the forces and needs that keep people subservient, a slave to their baser needs. I read it three times, I think all should read it twice. It starts with a man telling us about his first memories, that of being breast fed by his mother combined with memories of an old family mirror. The story, told by the man, combines several elements. The man attributes his homosexuality to a poison his mother passed to mother with her milk. One theme one finds fairly frequently in literary accounts of the origins of homosexuality is the seeking out of lower class men as partners, not in anything equating love but in near rape in back streets. I am not sure quite how to see this but it is the course the stories narrator follows. He blames his mother for having intentionally turned him away from a sexual interest in girls. From this he expands this to a notion that people are made weak by the desire for love planted in them by their mothers. This makes it easy for governments, remember the Fascists, to control society through the use of seemingly all powerful figures. From this he expands to a hatred of the impact of motherhood.
This story is a core attack on main stream values, especially in a very Catholic devoted to Mother Mary country. It is very Freudian and Marxist ideologically.
I was happy to learn she translated many of Katherine Mansfield's stories into Italian. The Jewish Woman's archive has an excellent article on her.
The New York Times has a very interesting review of A Woman of Rome - A Life Elsa Morante by Lilly Tuck. I hope to read this book and more Morante soon.
I read this story in a very high value anthology, New Italian Women, A Collection of Short Fiction, edited by Martha King.
This anthology is published by Italica Press, a leading publisher of literary and historical works related to Italy. Anyone interested in Italian literature and history will find their webpage very valuable. They have an extensive offering of translated works by Italian women.
I am seeking suggestions for this project.