Shelves: translated , italian , reality-check , wm , reality-translated , antidote-think-twice-read , 4-star , r , r-goodreads , reviewed 4. I think we can all agree that, in reference to the most aged of defined terms of "rhetoric", pathos is both the most volatile and the most disparaged. In contrast to the ethos and the logos, reputation in fact and word in form, there are neither dictionaries to consult nor 4. In contrast to the ethos and the logos, reputation in fact and word in form, there are neither dictionaries to consult nor citations to cross reference, nothing standardized that commits one choice to that is so, this other one to that is like. Sociology and anthropology and whatever other fields involving one set of humans thinking themselves satisfactorily equipped to "study" another do not count, for a lexicon of cultural terminology or a guide book for tourism do not a level field of power playing make.
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Who is talking? And when? The Nazi occupation of Florence, following the collapse of the Mussolini Government, has taken its appalling, final turn. And where? There is fighting, gunfire. It will be another seven days before the whole city is liberated by the Allies. Refugees have clustered higher up, at the Forte di Belvedere, from which she descended a little earlier; here, she writes, there is no one nearby.
Soon she will stand and look at the rubble lining the Arno. And a whole day will pass. Who is talking to whom? It is the stricken author talking to herself, telling herself to be brave. For what the reader holds is, of course, the novel written — written again — in the following three years, and published in late , when Anna Banti the pen name of Lucia Lopresti was 52 years old.
Although she was to publish 16 works of fiction and autobiographical prose before her death at the age of 90, in , this — her second novel — is the one that assures her a place in world literature. A phoenix of a book, written out of the ashes of another book, the novel is a tribute to bitterness and to tenacity — that of the bereft little girl of the early s who will, against all odds, become a renowned painter, that of the bereaved author who will write a novel that is surely more original than the one consumed in the fires of war.
Loss has made the author free to enter the book, talking to herself and to Artemisia. It is a love relationship yet to be fully described: between the author, alternately tender and querulous, and the quarry, the victim, the tyrant whose attention and complicity she desires. Never has the passion of novelist for protagonist been so intently formulated. The lost novel has been recast as a novel about a haunting. Nothing so crude as an identification: Anna Banti does not find herself in Artemisia Gentileschi — any more, or less, than Woolf thinks that she is Orlando.
On the contrary, Artemisia is for ever and supremely someone else. And the novelist is her thrall — her amanuensis.
Sometimes Artemisia is coquettishly inaccessible. Why should she be dismissed? If Artemisia were still a ghost and not a weighty, strange name, she would shudder at my disrespectful digressions. Relentlessly dialogical it is in the nature of the language of love to be dialogical , the novel offers an impassioned mix of first and third-person voices. The third-person voice offers classically detached, omniscient narration or, much of the time, that warmer variant called free indirect discourse, which clings so closely to the thoughts of a character that it amounts to a transposed or disguised first person.
A moral and a meaning with which I trifle. Artemisia will have to be satisfied with what follows next. Today the only female member of the incomparable succession of European Old Masters, Artemisia Gentileschi was not a canonical painter when Banti decided to make her the principal character in a novel. Still, this particular life might seem an obvious subject for this author.
It appears that in the s she dreamed of becoming a film director, something impossible in Fascist Italy, and only then turned to writing fiction. Her first work was a short story published in a literary magazine in , for which she adopted the pseudonym that she used from then on. The novel about Artemisia Gentileschi, written in a relentlessly emotional voice, is the great exception: an account of the triumph of an immensely gifted woman at a time when an independent career in the arts was a nearly unthinkable option for a woman.
Aptly enough, the name Artemisia is associated with female assertiveness, with women doing well what men do. Artemis — Artemisia means follower of Artemis — is the goddess of the hunt. Women killing men — Judith hacking away at Holofernes, Jael dispatching Sisera. And women killing themselves — Cleopatra, Lucrezia. Women vulnerable or humiliated or suing for mercy — Susanna and the Elders, the Penitent Magdalene, Esther before Ahasuerus.
All subjects that suggest the torments of Artemisia herself, who had already done something heroic, virtually unheard of: taking a rapist to court and demanding his conviction. Her heroism, her ambition are intimately connected with her disgrace; she is, as it were, liberated by disgrace, by scandal — the scandal of a rape made public by the victim herself.
It is her solitude: the inexorable result of her commitment to her art. It was he who trained his precocious daughter as well as her three younger brothers, who proved run-of-the-mill talents. While heroic in that she defies the norms of her sex and puts aside womanly needs that would make her weak in order to become an artist, Artemisia is a familiar feminine type. Her life and character are organised by her fear of and subservience to her opaque, masterful father.
And then the novel follows Artemisia as she travels back to Naples, her thoughts only of death. A kindred spirit? In what sense? There is the sympathy extended to her within the novel by Banti — a declared bond of sorrow that connects author and protagonist; a healing act of solidarity as the author encounters those sorrowful feelings in herself as well as in Artemisia.
But there is no reflection in the novel of another bond existing between author and protagonist — their enslavement by admiration, justified admiration, of a commanding, important male mentor — although the 20th-century author of Artemisia was just as much identified with a famous man in the same profession as the 17th-century painter was. It was Longhi who, among his many potent reassessments, launched the modern rediscovery of the Gentileschis, father and daughter, as important painters, in an article published in Artemisia is dedicated to Longhi.
It is always more defining for a female artist than for a male artist to have a male mentor. Thus Anna Banti is never mentioned without the explanation that she was the wife of Roberto Longhi the reverse is not true — just as Artemisia Gentileschi is always introduced as the daughter of the great Orazio Gentileschi.
And this is how Banti, like Artemisia, saw herself. To be sure, all this lies outside what is avowed in Artemisia. It was avowable at the end. The novel gives a wrenchingly insecure account of her work as a writer of fiction, replete with doubts about whether it had been worthwhile to write fiction at all.
This name, somewhat dull and lacking grace, was all she owned. When her books began to be published and each time she considered them with a genuine scepticism she realised that they earned a respectful approval, but they were also regarded with suspicion: she was primarily the wife of a prominent man, and she had to pay for the privilege.
In fiction, Banti gives voice to feelings and experiences different from his — those of a woman, and one married to this famous man — and displaces them. The only relationship Banti declares in the book is with Artemisia. Her novel is a cruel game as well as an act of love, an expiation as well as a deliverance. The immunities granted by the war, the extraordinary freedom that everyone felt he was allowed, have ended. Discouragement again. And the repeal of discouragement soon after.
The novelist has set herself an impossible task. But she can, by assuming the full burden of sympathy, console and fortify herself. And the reader — especially the woman reader. But this one is, specifically, about a woman of great accomplishment haunted by another woman of great accomplishment. But, not surprisingly, Banti always repudiated any ascription of feminist feeling or attitudes.
To refuse, vehemently even scornfully refuse, a reputation as a feminist was, of course, a common move for the most brilliant and independent women of her generation — Woolf being the glorious exception. Think of Hannah Arendt. La Vagabonde, her novel-manifesto about a woman choosing her career and a single life over the love of a worthy man and emotional dependence, was translated into Italian by Banti.
Feminism has meant many things; many unnecessary things. It can be defined as a position — about justice and dignity and liberty — to which almost all independent women would adhere if they did not fear the retaliation that accompanies a word with such a sulphurous reputation. Or it can be defined as a position easier to disavow or quarrel with, as it was by Banti and Arendt and Colette. That version of feminism suggests that there is a war against men, which was anathema to such women; that feminism suggests an avowal of strength, and a denial of the difficulty and the cost for women in being strong above all, the cost in masculine support and affection ; more, it proclaims pride in being a woman, it even affirms the superiority of women — all attitudes that felt alien to the many independent women who were proud of their accomplishments and who knew the sacrifices and the compromises they entailed.
To be a woman is to be incarcerated, and to struggle against incarceration, and to long for it. Artemisia has had a husband, a decent man, who after some years is no longer at her side. She has had a daughter, who grows up neglected by her mother and eventually ceases to love her. Read only as a feminist novel, which Artemisia certainly is, it confirms what we know or think we know; or want others to know.
To write well about the past is to write something like fantastic fiction. It is the strangeness of the past, rendered with piercing concreteness, that gives the effect of realism. As with Orlando, the conventional categories — historical novel, biographical novel, fictionalised biography — hardly do justice to Artemisia.
It offers, among its many pleasures, a headstrong, moving reflection on the presumptions of imaginative literature, at the same time as it celebrates the completeness of the imagination that fulfils itself through painting.
Did she mentally exempt it from her wish that she could destroy all the books of fiction she had published? Undoubtedly it was Artemisia. Stories that take place in the past are often assumed to be old-fashioned in form and concern. The very fact of being concerned with the past is taken to be an evasion or an escape from the present.
But there is nothing retrograde about Artemisia, with its intricate, daring exploration of what it is to make up a story based on real people — like the stories of most novels, not just the ones called historical novels. Such books — like The Memoirs of Hadrian, they centre on arduous physical journeys, which are also journeys of a wounded soul — would be trivialised by calling them historical novels.
And, if the term has any use, at the very least one needs to distinguish between novels that assume an absolute, omniscient voice, recounting the past, and those with a dialogical voice, which set a story in the past in order to dwell on its relation to the present — very much a modern project.
Anna Banti did not want to lose her manuscript in the battle for Florence in early August No writer could welcome such a destiny. A book that by being posthumous, rewritten, resurrected, gained incalculably in emotional reach and moral authority. A metaphor for literature, perhaps. And a metaphor for reading, militant reading — which, at its worthiest, is rereading — too. Send Letters To:.
Artemisia – Anna Banti
Biografia[ modifica modifica wikitesto ] Figlia unica, nata nel capoluogo toscano alla fine del XIX sec. La madre, Gemma Benini, era originaria di Prato. Non ebbero figli. Il mio vero nome, Lucia Lopresti, non mi piaceva. Anna Banti era una parente della famiglia di mia madre.
London Review of Books