Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 433
*Sardinia. Italian island that is the second largest island of the Mediterranean Sea and one of the most ancient of European lands, with remnants of human habitation dating from 6000 b.c.e. Until well into the twentieth century, it remained one of the most isolated of Italian regions, maintaining its own languages and tribal customs. The literary revelation of Sardinia was the work of Grazia Deledda, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1926, with special praise by the Swedish Academy for her skilled descriptions of splendidly rugged and desolate landscapes. In the Sardinia of Deledda’s novels the vendetta remain, bandits are admired, loss of chastity is horribly punished, and emotions are always raw. Her characters are not Rousseauistic noble savages, but they are also not yet corrupted by the more subtle vices of the European mainland. As in a Homeric epic, fate broods over the landscape, which, like the weather, seems to mirror the emotions of the people.
Presbytery. Primitive Sardinian home designed for the ascetic life of a priest and a female housekeeper of “a certain age.” Paul’s housekeeper is his own widowed mother, who functions as his conscience and jailor as well. She listens to his every movement and shadows him on his pastoral rounds. The austerity of the home and its keeper serves daily to remind the young priest of the life he has been forced to renounce; no youthful frivolity or sensual pleasure is to be his. Ordered by his bishop to show deference to his mother, this woman who has chosen for him this vocation, and to frequently kiss her hand, Paul has a frightening vision of her lying on the altar, like a mysterious pagan idol whose cold hand he is forced to kiss.
Aar. Fictional Sardinian village, typical of the island’s villages in the Nuoro region in the early twentieth century, long before developers and tourists arrived. The nearby mountains are the lairs of bandits; in the surrounding fields, shepherds tend their flocks. Peasants, petty craftsmen, small landowners, and priests are the neighbors. Life is especially lonely for women, shrouded in their long black garments. Older women such as Maria may live through their children, who are themselves condemned to limited, deprived existences, but younger women like Agnes, especially when they are alone, are constantly watched and judged. Only the church calendar, with its cycle of fasts and feast days, slightly relieves the monotony of the lives that pass here from birth to death without even the respite of a trip to the island’s cities, Cagliari and Sassari.
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