The original title of this book was “Scacco Alla Regina,” which roughly translates to “Check for the Queen.” The English translation settled on “The Slave” instead. This 1967 Italian novel was a big hit in Europe. It is written by a man but told from the point of view of a woman who desires to be dominated and humiliated in order to satisfy her erotic desires. Sylvia - the narrator - finds herself in the employ of a very wealthy actress named Margaret, who lives in a secluded house near Rome along with six other women and one man. Margaret satisfies Sylvia’s desires by becoming the very thing she wants: someone to dominate, turning Sylvia into nothing more than a plaything, subject to her every whim.
With that said, this is not an overtly sexual novel. It’s more about the psychology of debasement and finding liberation by humiliation and submission. The novel builds very very slowly. It’s very well written and Ghiotto manages to make his woman’s “voice” very believable where at times you forget this was written by a man. It can also be very surrealistic as Sylvia participates in bizarre rituals where the roles between possessor and possessed become blurred and intertwined.
If you’re looking for explicit sexuality here you may be disappointed, though it is here, through Sylvia’s meditation. There are times where you feel you may give up on it due to the slooooow pace of the narrative but you find yourself wanting to know how it all turns out. A recommended read but don’t expect anything too titillating. That isn't the point here. Readers who enjoyed Pauline Réage’s “The Story of O” or Leopold von Masoch’s “Venus in Furs” may may want to check this out - but just don’t expect it to be as erotic.