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Elsa Morante (1912–1985)

Author of History

52+ Works 3,146 Members 76 Reviews 12 Favorited

About the Author

Prolific and highly successful, Elsa Morante distinguished herself as a novelist, short story writer, and poet. The Marxist critic Gyorgy Lukacs hailed Morante's early House of the Liars (1948) as "the greatest modern Italian novel," but it was Arthur's Island (1957) that brought her international show more fame and an independent income. Her great financial triumph was, however, History (1974), which was the first Italian novel to be marketed with high-pressure promotional advertising, making use of publisher, mass media, and political party resources to push sales up to 600,000 copies in less than six months. Morante married Alberto Moravia in 1941, and they separated in 1962. (Bowker Author Biography) show less
Image credit: cultura.panorama.it

Works by Elsa Morante

History (1974) 1,379 copies
Arturo's Island (1957) 784 copies
Aracoeli (1982) 279 copies
House of Liars (1961) 198 copies
Lo scialle andaluso (1963) 101 copies
Lies and Sorcery (1948) 87 copies
La Storia, tome 1 (1974) 27 copies
La Storia, tome 2 (1974) 22 copies
Opere (1988) 21 copies
Diario 1938 (1989) 14 copies
Alibi (1988) 11 copies
Opere (1990) 9 copies
Aneddoti infantili (2013) 9 copies
Racconti dimenticati (2002) 7 copies
La Storia - Aracoeli (1989) 4 copies
Andaluzijski šal (1989) 1 copy
La littérature américaine — Author — 1 copy
La serata a Colono (2014) 1 copy
Catullo e Lesbia (2013) 1 copy
Morante Elsa 1 copy
No title (1987) 1 copy

Associated Works

The Penguin Book of International Gay Writing (1995) — Contributor — 177 copies
The Penguin Book of Italian Short Stories (2019) — Cover artist — 139 copies
Open city : seven writers in postwar Rome (1999) — Contributor — 48 copies
New Italian Women: A Collection of Short Fiction (1989) — Contributor — 20 copies
Relatos italianos del Siglo XX (1974) — Contributor — 13 copies


Common Knowledge

Date of death
Burial location
Rome, Italy
Place of death
Rome, Italy
short story writer
Moravia, Alberto (husband)
Morante, Laura (niece)
Awards and honors
Premio Brancati (1968)



A phenomenal piece of Italian literature, Morante's prose, character development, and style overflow with depth and beauty.
BALE | Feb 26, 2024 |
5. Arturo's Island by Elsa Morante
Translation: from Italian by Ann Goldstein (2019)
OPD: 1957
format: 370-page paperback
acquired: April 2023 read: Jan 14-28 time reading: 14:12, 2.3 mpp
rating: 4
genre/style: novel theme: TBR
locations: Procida, an island in the Bay of Naples. I think ~1912.
about the author: Italian novelist, poet, translator, and children's books author was born in and lived most of her lived in Rome, 1912-1985.

I'm a little disappointed in myself as a reader. This is a beautiful book, but I never settled down into it. I was constantly impatient.

Arturo grows up on Procida, an island in the Bay of Naples, alone. His teenage mother died in childbirth, and his German-born father only visits briefly, leaving him alone for months at time. As a baby and younger child he was cared for by a young man, Silvestro. But Silvestro has left to join the army, and Arturo, now 14, lives only with his dog in an old large house, fed by a man he never really sees. Uneducated, except by Silvestro and the old books in the house, which he devours, and the example of his absent father, his real education comes as he roams the island and its beaches freely, accompanied by his dog, sometimes taking his rowboat. His own Virgilian Eden.

The untethered Arturo, bound only by his island, has a rough transition into puberty as his father marries a 16-yr-old uneducated Neapolitan girl, and leaves her in the house with Arturo. Even as Arturo hates the ugly common girl his father refuses to love, he comes to admire her willful insistence of her own view of the world, and her religious devotion to many different Mary's. He finds love in a swirl of conflicting emotions around sex, disappointment in his impossible ideals, and his longing to be loved as a mother loves.

Maybe this could called forlorn in paradise. It takes a while before Arturo casts himself out of his Eden, and into WWII. (note: I had to look up which war this was. I closed the book thinking it was WWI.)

This book has a feel similar to Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan Quartet. The translator is the same (this is a 2019 translation). And Ferrante is quoted on the front and back cover. Both books work partially on atmospheric and interpersonal unspoken emotional swings.

His paradise:
Some evenings, after dinner, drawn by the cool outside air, I stretched out on the doorstep, or on the ground in the yard. The night, which, down below an hour before had seemed to be so fierce, here, a step from the lighted French door, became familiar again. Now if I looked at the sky, it was a great ocean, scattered with countless islands, and, sharpening my gaze, I saw among the stars, those whose names I knew: Arturo, first of all of others, and then the Bears, Mars, the Pleiades, Castor and Pollux, Cassiopeia… I had always regretted that in modern times there was no longer on earth some forbidden limit, like the Pillars of Hercules for the ancients, because I would’ve liked to be the first to go beyond it, challenging the ban with my audacity; in the same way, now, looking at the starry sky, I envied the future pioneers who would be able to reach the stars.

… (more)
dchaikin | 19 other reviews | Jan 30, 2024 |
מצויין. מדכדך.
b.b.michael | 27 other reviews | Jan 29, 2024 |
Uno scandalo che dura da diecimila anni.
memolif | 27 other reviews | Dec 26, 2023 |



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