Critical Context

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Women of Messina, in its revised form, was Vittorini’s last novel. He wrote it at the end of World War II and published it in Italy in 1949 but was disappointed with that version. He rewrote the book fourteen times, drastically changing its structure and plot. In 1964, he published what he thought was the final version of Women of Messina.

This novel is Vittorini’s longest, a large undertaking that he hoped would reflect all of Italian life in the postwar years. He wanted to capture the diversity, the charms, and the strengths of the Italian people as they heroically reclaimed their land from the horrors of Fascism and the ravages of war. Women of Messina includes several themes that the author analyzed in his earlier works, Il garofano rosso (1948, written 1933; The Red Carnation, 1952) and Conversazione in Sicilia (1941; In Sicily, 1948). Whereas these ideas received separate treatments earlier, they converge in Women of Messina in one all-encompassing setting. Vittorini handles his various materials well, but critics consider Women of Messina a flawed work that does not fully resolve conflicting ideologies or even its various artistic styles. Perhaps Vittorini wanted Women of Messina to be that way—a novel of diversity and some conflict, reflecting his view of Italian life in the late 1940’s.