Woman of Rome
A Life of Elsa Morante
By Lily Tuck
(Harper, Hardcover, 9780061472565, 272pp.)
Publication Date: August 2008
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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Elsa Morante was born in 1912 to an unconventional family of modest means. She grew up with an independent spirit, a formidable will, and a commitment to writing—she wrote her first poem when she was just two years old. During World War II, Morante and her husband, the celebrated writer Alberto Moravia, were forced to flee occupied Rome—Moravia was half-Jewish (as was she) and wanted by the Fascists—and hide out in a remote mountain hut. After the war, Morante published a series of prize-winning novels, including Arturo's Island and History, a seminal account of the war, which established her as one of the leading Italian writers of her day.
Lily Tuck's elegant and unusual biography also evokes the heady time during the postwar years when Rome was the film capital of the world and Morante's counted among her circle of friends the filmmakers Pier Paolo Pasolini, Luchino Visconti, and the young Bernardo Bertolucci. A charismatic and beautiful woman, Morante had a series of love affairs—most unhappy—as well as friendships with such famous literary luminaries as Carlo Levi, Italo Calvino, and Natalia Ginzburg. As a couple, Morante and Moravia—the Beauvoir-Sartre of Italy—captivated the nation with their intense and mutual admiration, their arguments, and their passion.
Wonderfully researched with the cooperation of the Morante Estate, filled with personal interviews, and written in graceful and succinct prose, Woman of Rome introduces the American reader to a woman of fierce intelligence, powerful imagination, and original talent.
“Tuck is fascinated by Morante’s drive to continually reinvent herself and blends memories of her own childhood into Morante’s story, memories that add texture and a sense of honesty to the biography.”
-Los Angeles Times
“...well-researched, empathetic “Woman of Rome” is both a work of literary reclamation and an act of long, deep, devoted connection...[Morante’s] life and work come alive in this account.”
“A lovely and worthy biography, the first of Morante to appear in any language.”
“Written with a charming personal touch...that warms the narrative to a fine glow, this is a vital biography bringing to American audiences a writer most will have previously known little about.”
-Booklist (starred review)
“Lily Tuck understands Morante instinctively—it is as if Morante has been waiting for her, as if this book is a part of all that she lived for.”
“For worldly understanding alone, there is nothing of recent vintage quite like this entrancingly written and compellingly forthright biography.”
“Woman of Rome is a dazzling read, full of passion for the odyssey of a writer.”
“Everyone who cares about the literature of the 20th century must be grateful to Lily Tuck for her measured, elegant, and revelatory biography of Elsa Morante.”
“Equal parts literary biography and liberation tract, this engaging volume...elegantly achieves its dual aims. Rarely have subject and biographer been so aptly matched.”
“One literary doyenne takes on another in Lily Tuck’s wonderful, sensitive biography of Elsa Morante...This is one not to miss, both for its subject and its exquisite prose.”
-Louisa Ermelino, Publishers Weekly (Staff Picks)