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Elias Portolu by Grazia Deledda
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Elias Portolu (1903)

by Grazia Deledda

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Italian (2)  English (1)  All languages (3)
The Sardinian novelist Grazia Deledda was the second female Nobel laureate in literature, in 1926. This simple little pastoral tragedy from 1903 was her third novel and the one that first brought her to popular attention.
It is a fairly straightforward tale of a young shepherd who returns to his family in Sardinia after a spell in jail on the continent and falls heavily in love with the girl that his brother is about to marry. As he evidently has a self-destructive urge as strong as any of Thomas Hardy's unhappy heroes, we have a pretty good idea that things aren't going to work out for the best, and they don't. But of course that's what we're paying for: the interesting thing to watch on the way is how Deledda plays with the interaction between the characters, the Sardinian landscape, and the almost overtly pagan religion of the islanders. There's a wonderful set-piece description of the annual pilgrimage to a mountain chapel to celebrate the festival of Santu Franziscu that clearly has only the most tenuous connection with any sort of Catholicism that would be recognised in Rome, and the hero's mother is forever doing divination ceremonies at her domestic altar.

So, it's a nice example of early twentieth-century pastoral quasi-realism, with the added benefit of Sardinian scenery, but I couldn't help feeling (even though it's a cliché to say this of any Italian story) that it would have worked better as an opera. Elias, in particular, is forever delivering apostrophes to the reader that are only a gnat's crochet away from being arias, and you just imagine the Shearers' Chorus... ( )
  thorold | Jul 2, 2015 |
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» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Grazia Deleddaprimary authorall editionscalculated
King, MarthaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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After serving time in mainland Italy for a minor theft, Elias Portolu returns home to Nuoro in rural Sardinia. Lonely and vulnerable after his prison exile, he falls in love with Maddalena, his brother's fiancee. He finds himself trapped by social and religious strictures, his passion and guilt winding into a spiral of anguish and paralyzing indecision.
For guidance he turns to the village priest, who advises him to resist temptation; then he turns to the pagan 'father of the woods' who recognizes the weakness of human will and urges him to declare his love before it is too late. Finally Elias chooses a course that provides a measure of redemption but forces him into a position from which he can only helplessly observe the results of his affair.
'Elias Portolu' portrays the delicate balance between Christianity, pre-Christian pagan beliefs, and social mores that rule life in primitive Nuoro. In Deledda's sparse descriptions the rural landscape itself echoes the characters' desires and fears. Against this background, Elias's passion is seen as a heinous sin beyond human judgment, accountable directly to both fate and God.
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Elias Portolu regresa a Nuoro después de cumplir una condena de cárcel solo para verse atrapado en un amor imposible por Maddalena, la prometida de su hermano Pietro. Débil e irresoluto, Elias hoy traza planes para resistir la tentación, solo para no cumplirlos mañana. Se celebra la boda entre Pietro y Maddalena, pero la joven lleva el hijo de Elias en sus entrañas. Celoso porque el niño figura como hijo de Pietro, incapaz de cortar los lazos con el amor terrenal, Elias se mete a cura solo para ser más desdichado. Hasta que la enfermedad del pequeño exige que todo vuelva a su cauce.… (more)

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