This is a companion piece to New Italian Women: A Collection of Short Fiction. Published in 2004 by Italica Press, this volume presents women writers from Italy that were born after World War II, those born in the 1950s - 1970s. There is a marked difference between this volume and the last, the main one being that I found the writing to be much stronger, the writers more willing to take chances than the previous generation. Part of this has to do with the changing cultural landscape of Italy following World War II, where there was more of a willingness to approach topics previously considered “taboo” for a writer, especially women writers. There is also a noticeable difference in tone in these stories. Whereas the previous volume had a more stories reflecting remembrances, memory writing and autobiographical pieces, these stories tend to fall in a much more contemporary vein, tackling subjects such as television, pop music, apartment living, mental illness, abuse and eroticism in ways that the previous generation merely hinted at in their writing. These are more stark, frank, and well....contemporary.
There are more stand out stories for me in this volume than the previous one. The Angels by Emilia Cirillo - a harrowing tale about an abusive relationship regarding an older man and a much younger woman; Skeletons Without Closets by Carmen Covito - An aunt accompanies her young nephew on a visit to an archaeological dig - Herculaneum - while contrasting Naples’s past with the contemporary; Northern Hills by Maria Rosa Cutrufelli - a woman spends her last moments with a dying parent; Delia’s Elevator by Elena Ferrante - after attending a funeral, a woman relives her childhood by visiting an abandoned floor in her building where she once found sanctuary; Bare To The Sun by Margherita Giacobino - a tale recounting a middle aged woman’s visit to a southern island over the course of twenty years and the peace she finds there; Letters To Manola by Margaret Mazzantini - two twin sisters exchange letters with “Manola” revealing their true, secret feelings about one another; Night Owls by Laura Pariani - one of my favorites in the collection - a couple sit in a diner telling stories while one of them recounts her witnessing the death of a legendary Hollywood actor; and Women At The Pool by Sandra Petrigianni - a very interesting contemporary twist on the old “Frog and The Princess” fairytale.
What stands out about these stories more than the previous volume is the imaginative approach to the writing and the willingness to take narrative chances. There is an immense amount of talent in these pages and some of these writers have gone on to some international acclaim (Elena Ferrante and Margaret Mazzantini in particular). A great companion piece to the previous volume and a must read for those who have read the previous collection as well as anyone interested in contemporary Italian fiction.