Grazia Maria Cosima Damiana Deledda (28 September 1871 15 August 1936) was an Italian writer who received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1926 “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”. She was the first Italian woman to receive this honor.
Born in Nuoro, Sardinia, into a middle-class family, she attended elementary school and then was educated by a private tutor (a guest of one of her relatives) and moved on to study literature on her own. She started writing at a very young age, inspired by the Sardinian peasants and their struggles.
The first novel she wrote and published was Fiori di Sardegna (Flowers of Sardinia). This novel was published in 1892. She first published some pieces in the fashion magazine L’ultima moda when it still published works in prose and poetry. Nell’azzurro, published by Trevisani in 1890, might be considered her first work. Her family was not supportive of her desire to write. Her works seemed to focus on portraying harsh realities and difficult lifestyles, combining imaginary and autobiographical elements. Her novels tend to criticize social values and moral norms rather than the people who are victims of such circumstances.
Still between prose and poetry are, among the first works, Paesaggi sardi, published by Speirani in 1896. In 1900, after having married Palmiro Madesani, a functionary of the Ministry of War whom she met in Cagliari in October 1899, the writer moved to Rome and after the publication of Anime oneste in 1895 and of Il vecchio della montagna in 1900, plus the collaboration with magazines La Sardegna, Piccola rivista and Nuova Antologia, her work began to gain critical interest. She had two sons and lived a quiet life occupied by her writing. She was a very prolific writer publishing, on average, a novel a year.
In 1903 she published her first real success, Elias Portolu that confirmed her as a writer and started her work as a successful writer of novels and theatrical works: Cenere (1904), L’edera (1908), Sino al confine (1910), Colombi e sparvieri (1912), Canne al vento (1913) -her most well known book in Italy-, L’incendio nell’oliveto (1918), Il Dio dei venti (1922).
Deledda received the Nobel Prize in 1926 in Literature after she had been nominated by Henrik Schck, member of the Swedish Academy. Her response in winning the prize was Gi! (Look at that!) Deledda was very protective of her daily writing routine. Her schedule was exactly the same seven days a week: a late breakfast, a few hours of reading, lunch followed by a nap and then, clearly, ending the day with a few hours of writing. Deledda happened to receive the Nobel Prize almost exactly a year after Benito Mussolini dropped the charade of constitutional rule of the favor of Fascism. Mussolini himself wished to give Grazia a portrait of himself, and he signed it with profound admiration. With this string of fame, came a slew of journalists and notable photographers whom she allowed into her home to learn more about her. Her beloved pet crow, Checcha was irritated by all the commotion with people coming in and out. If Checcha has had enough, so have I, Deledda was quoted as saying.
Deledda continued to write even as she grew older and weaker. “La Casa del Poeta” and “Sole d’Estate” are two of the collections of short stories she wrote during this time. She showcased her optimistic view of life even as she suffered from painful illnesses. She believed that life was beautiful and serene, unaltered by personal suffering; man and nature are reconciled in order to overcome physical and spiritual hardships. Her later works show how mankind and faith in God are beautiful things.
She died in Rome at the age of 64 of breast cancer. La chiesa della solitudine (1936), Deledda’s last novel, is a semi-autobiographical depiction of a young Italian woman coming to terms with her breast cancer. A completed manuscript of the novel “Cosima” (1937) was discovered after her death and published posthumously.
Her work has been highly regarded by Luigi Capuana and Giovanni Verga plus some younger writers such as Enrico Thovez, Pietro Pancrazi, Renato Serra, and later until today by Sardinian writers such as Sergio Atzeni, Giulio Angioni, Salvatore Mannuzzu, starters of the so-called Sardinian Literary Spring.
The life, customs, and traditions of the Sardinian people are prominent in her writing. She relies heavily on geographical description and details and her work is most often concerned with transgressions. Many of her characters are social outcasts that struggle in silence and isolation. Deledda’s whole work is based on strong facts of love, pain and death upon which rests the feeling of sin and of an inevitable fatality.
In Deledda’s novels there is always a strong connection between places and people, feelings and environment. The environment depicted is mostly that one harsh of native Sardinia, but it is not depicted according to regional veristic schemes neither according to the otherworldly vision by D’Annunzio, but relived through the myth.
Deledda has not gained much recognition as a feminist writer potentially due to her themes of womens pain and suffering as opposed to womens autonomy.
Complete list of works
Below is a complete list of Deledda’s works:
- Stella d’Oriente (1890)
- Nell’azzuro (1890)
- Fior di Sardegna (1891)
- Racconti sardi (1894)
- Tradizioni popolari di Nuoro in Sardegna (1894)
- La via del male (1896)
- Anime oneste (1895)
- Paesaggi sardi (1897)
- La tentazioni (1899)
- Il tesoro (1897)
- L’ospite (1897)
- La giustizia (1899)
- Nostra Signora del buon consiglio: leggenda sarda (1899)
- Le disgrazie che pu causare il denaro (1899)
- Il Vecchio della montagna (1900)
- Dopo il divorzio (1902; English translation: After the divorce, 1995)
- La regina delle tenebre (1902)
- Elias Portolu (1900)
- Cenere (1904; English translation: Ashes, 1908)
- Odio Vince (1904)
- Nostalgie (1905)
- I giuochi della vita (1905)
- L’ombra del passato (1907)
- Amori moderni (1907)
- L’edera (1908)
- Il nonno (1908)
- Il nostro padrone (1910)
- Sino al confine (1910)
- Nel deserto (1911)
- L’edera: dramma in tre atti (1912)
- Colombi e sparvieri (1912)
- Chiaroscuro (1912)
- Canne al vento (1913)
- Le colpe altrui (1914)
- Marianna Sirca (1915)
- Il fanciullo nascosto (1915)
- L’incendio nell’oliveto (1918)
- Il ritorno del figlio (1919)
- Naufraghi in porto (1920)
- La madre (1920; English translation: The Woman and the Priest, 1922; English translation: The Mother, by D. H. Lawrence, 1923)
- Il segreto dell’uomo solitario (1921)
- Cattive compagnie: novelle (1921)
- La grazia (1921)
- Il Dio dei viventi (1922)
- Silvio Pellico (1923)
- Il flauto nel bosco (1923)
- La danza della collana; A sinistra (1924)
- La fuga in Egitto (1925)
- Il sigillo d’amore (1926)
- Il sigillo d’amore (1926)
- Annalena Bilsini (1927)
- Il vecchio e i fanciulli (1928)
- Il dono di natale (1930)
- La casa del poeta (1930)
- Eugenia Grandet, Onorato di Balzac (1930)
- Il libro della terza classe elementare: letture, religione, storia, geografia, aritmetica (1931)
- Giaffa: racconti per ragazzi (1931)
- Il paese del vento (1931)
- Sole d’estate (1933)
- L’argine (1934)
- La chiesa della solitudine (1936)
- The Church of Solitude (University of New York Press, 2002)
- Cosima (1937) published posthumously
- Il cedro del Libano (1939) published posthumously
- Grazia Deledda: premio Nobel per la letteratura 1926 (1966)
- Opere scelte (1968)
- Reeds in the Wind (1999 English translation by Martha King)
- Letter inedite di Grazia Deledda ad Arturo Giordano direttore della rivista letteraria (Alchero: Nemaprress, 2004)
Deledda’s birthplace and childhood home in Nuoro has been preserved as a museum in her honor (the Museo Deleddiano). The museum consists of 10 rooms where the stages of the writer’s life are reconstructed.