Grazia Deledda Analysis

Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

All through her life, Grazia Deledda (day-LEHD-dah) wrote short fiction. After publication in periodicals, most of the short stories were collected in volumes, which number at least twenty-two. The early short pieces were exercises and appeared in local journals or women’s magazines; those written from 1899 to 1912 were of higher quality. Those were Deledda’s best years for long fiction also, so that the two aspects of her creativity seem to have nourished each other. As the writer’s fame grew, she was asked to contribute more and more frequently to popular magazines; like other writers of her generation, she provided the flourishing business of the periodical press with a steady flow of material. Although those short stories were designed to please the public and therefore were often trite, melodramatic, and full of the worst stereotypical characters and situations, they provide useful information on the cultural milieu of the twentieth century in Italy.

Deledda’s best collection of short stories is Chiaroscuro (1912). She employs a variety of styles and themes in the twenty-two pieces collected under that title: They are inspired by the traditional tale, the ghost story, the fairy tale (Deledda wrote many stories for children, too), the humorous anecdote, and the sentimental story. The most frequently used themes, however, and the most successfully treated, are those inspired by Deledda’s half-remembered, half-imagined Sardinia. These short stories are usually fast paced and colorful. The locations and the situations remind the reader of certain scenes from the best Western films: a village square or the stony loneliness of the hills in the white heat of the sun; small groups of people telling one another stories or listening to some handsome stranger’s boastings; furious loves, mysterious events, and vendettas. The ingredients are used effectively, and the themes are the same as those that appear in Deledda’s major fiction: the power of economic necessity, the greater power of sexual desire, and the uselessness of the wisdom of old people.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Critical statements about Grazia Deledda’s fiction are contradictory, at times negative, and yet they all acknowledge the power of her imagination and style. What makes a critical evaluation of her work difficult is her apparent isolation from prevailing literary currents.

When Deledda published her first novels and short stories, at the end of the nineteenth century, the emerging current was Verismo, or verism, which had largely taken over the tenets of French naturalism. With Verismo, human experience is bound to its social context. The author must let characters and events speak directly; the phenomena of everyday life—actions, rites, customs, language—are of greater interest than the probing of psychology. At first, Deledda seemed to have much in common with Verismo; the warm welcome that Veristi such as Giovanni Verga and Luigi Capuana extended to the young writer was in part the result of Deledda’s sensitivity and loyalty to the culture of Sardinia. The critics of the early twentieth century, however, questioned Deledda’s Verismo and saw it as a limitation and a superficial element in her fiction; they expressed admiration, instead, for the epic aura they found in her novels. While the critics debated Deledda’s problematic position in literary history, readers from the urban middle class became her devoted public. For them, she was the very voice of Sardinia, a mysterious and therefore...

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(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Aste, Mario. Grazia Deledda: Ethnic Novelist. Potomac, Md.: Scripta Humanistica, 1990. Offers both biography and literary criticism.

Kozma, Janice M. Grazia Deledda’s Eternal Adolescents: The Pathology of Arrested Maturation. Cranbury, N.J.: Associated University Presses, 2002. A study of Deledda’s depictions of men.

Merry, Bruce. “‘Dolls or Dragons’: The Depiction of Women in Grazia Deledda’s Novels.” In Women in Modern Italian Literature: Four Studies Based on the Work of Grazia Deledda, Alba de Céspedes, Natalia Ginzburg, and Dacia Maraini. Townsville, Australia: James Cook University of North Queensland, 1990. Discusses gender relations in Deledda’s work.

Pacifici, Sergio. The Modern Italian Novel from Capuana to Tozzi. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1973. Deledda is profiled.

Russell, Rinaldina. Italian Women Writers: A Bio-bibliographical Sourcebook. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1994. Offers useful guidance for further study.