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2 May 2024

Dolores Prato in other languages

Elena Frontaloni - scientific director Centro Studi Dolores Prato

Dolores Prato (Rome, 1892- Anzio, 1983), a writer whose debut was both tardy and difficult because of her distinct way of thinking and her natural antagonism towards highly repellent impositions (fascism, the rituals of bourgeois life, the fashions and miseries of the post-war cultural and political world), ironically lived to see one of her own books translated and printed in Polish. Sangiocondo, the story of a village, a community and a rebellious priest under fascism, which was submitted for a competition in 1948, rejected by numerous Italian publishers and which she then self-published in 1963 with the Campana publishing house in Rome. In 1965, the book was translated by Barbara Sieroszewka for the Instytut Wydawniczy Pax in Warsaw; the author later returned to Sangiocondo, disavowing the first edition: the updated version was published posthumously, in 2009, by the publisher Avagliano, edited by Noemi Paolini Giachery, with the title Campane a Sangiocondo.

The substantial majority of Prato’s other works were discovered in Italy posthumously, for example, Scottature, a short autobiographical narrative about a schoolgirl (as the author was from 1905 to 1911, before becoming a teacher of literary subjects after graduating from the University of Rome) who abandons the convent, the hatred of her body and the strictures imposed by the nuns in order to resist the lure of the eros and spontaneity. This short story, winner of the Stradanova Prize in 1965, was published in an anthology in 1966, then as a single volume in 1967 for a Rome-based printer, Canella, and was republished in 1996 and 2024 by Quodlibet, which, together with the Centro Studi Dolores Prato and the Treia municipality, has meanwhile launched a project to recover Prato’s published and unpublished writings and to enhance the value them, including translation into other languages.

Scottature, in particular, came out in French for Allia Editions edited by Monique Baccelli in 2000 (Brûlures, “a perfect tale, condenses within itself a poetic universe elaborated over a lifetime” and its power is confirmed in the “prodigious recording of the moment of passage, of opening up to the world, with its frightening promise of happiness and freedom”), then in Spanish for Editorial Minúscula in 2017 edited by César Palma (Quemaduras is the “tale, not without irony, of an adolescence spent within the walls of a nuns’ boarding school, which transports us, thanks to Prato’s powerful gaze, to past times in which people and things acquire an impressive mythical density”).

In addition to Sangiocondo and Scottature, Dolores Prato published between the 1950s and 1970s, mainly in the periodical close to the PCI Paese Sera, a series of articles on Rome, on the devastation perpetrated during the unification process and in period of building speculation (Rome, in addition to being a subject of study for the author, is almost her alter ego for its indocile resistance to the short-lived stupidity of man): these articles, collected and republished in 2022 by Quodlibet under the title Roma, non altro (edited by Valentina Polci) are now being translated into French for Verdier by Jean-Paul Manganaro, a great admirer of Prato’s prose, and by Laurent Lombard. Manganaro, who was alerted to the high quality of the text by Vincenzo Consolo, as he himself recounted, is responsible for translating and bringing to the French public, together with his colleague Laurent Lombard, the author’s most celebrated book to date: Giù la piazza non c’è nessuno.

A wide-ranging, phantasmagorical narrative rhapsody about her childhood as a “complete bastard” born in Rome to an unknown father and a mother who entrusted her at the age of three to an uncle and aunt in Treia, in the Marche region, Giù la piazza non c’è nessuno was composed by Dolores Prato starting in the 1970s (1058 pages were delivered to the publisher in 1979), it was accepted by Einaudi in the “Nuovi Coralli”, reworked and reduced by two-thirds by Natalia Ginzburg and others and, in this guise, published in 1980 after a very laborious proof-reading process for the author (Prato asked and obtained, among other things, to reproduce the incipit of the book in its initial form, rejecting the form proposed by Ginzburg, which read “I was born under a small table. I had hidden there because I had heard the door slam. Then my uncle came in. The uncle said: ‘Send her back to her mother, can’t you see she’s dying in the house?'”). The unabridged edition of Giù la piazza non c’è nessuno, compiled based on the papers left by the author, only saw the light of day in 1997, edited by Giorgio Zampa, for Mondadori; it soon sold out and was reprinted again by Quodlibet in 2009: Manganaro and Lombard worked on this basis for Bas la place y’a personne, which, published by Verdier in 2018, has attracted considerable attention in the French public and press, with discreet comparisons to Leopardi, Gadda and Proust, comparisons with Perec’s infra-ordinary and with Philip Roth, as well as the parallel recognition of a voice that had never been heard before, according to Manganaro’s own indications, who identified in Dolores Prato a unicum in the panorama of her time and also of ours, among other things because her writing “does not flee from reality, but from realism as an aesthetic definition”.

The attention of a cultured and experienced translator, Jan van der Haar, was also focused on Giù la piazza non c’è nessuno, who, emphasising among other things the intrinsic femininity of Prato’s writing and the rightness of Giorgio Zampa’s interpretative hypotheses, published a Dutch translation of the text in 2021 for De Arbeiderspers, this too was greeted with curiosity and amazement by the Dutch public and press, again with allusions to Recherche (In Search of Lost Time) and perceptions of incommensurability to other writings, as well as recognition of a text that presents itself as a “kaleidoscopic lexicon without chapters of experiences, thoughts and associations”. The journey of Giù la piazza non c’è nessuno goes on: it will be published in 2024 in Germany by Hanser, translated by Anna Leube and with an afterword by writer Esther Kinsky; in 2025 it will be translated and published for English and American audiences by Picador and Farrar, Straus & Giroux, respectively. The sequel to Giù la piazza non c’è nessuno, Educandato (re-published, after other editions, by Quodlibet in 2023), a narrative with a rhizomatic and hallucinatory progression, made up of flashes like sudden awakenings and blindings, interrupted by the death of the author who wished to denounce the linguistic and religious deformation she underwent at boarding school together with other women who were with her (nuns and schoolgirls), is also being translated into French by Verdier.