The daughter of well-known ethnologist Fosco Maraini and of Sicilian Princess Topazia Alliata di Salaparula, a artist and art dealer, Dacia Maraini was born in 1936 and spent her early childhood in Japan while her father conducted his research. Because of her parents’ anti-fascist views, the family was confined to a concentration camp during the final years of the war. After their return from Japan she and her family lived in Sicily, for the first few years in Bagheria, her mother’s ancestral home. Dacia studied in Palermo, Florence and Rome, beginning her writing career with articles in literary magazines.
Her first novel, La vacanza, was published in 1962, and the second, L’età del malessere, won the International Formentor Prize in 1963 and was translated into twelve languages. She has subsequently published several more novels, investigative studies, and collections of poetry and essays. She has won major literary prizes for her work, notably the Premio Campiello for La lunga vita di Marianna Ucrìa and the Premio Strega for her collection of short stories Buio in 1999.
While continuing to publish novels and poetry, she co-founded the Teatro del Porcospino in the 1960s, and established the feminist experimental theatre La Maddalena in Rome, in 1973. The American literary magazine Aphra published her play Manifesto in instalments during 1972 and 1973, and a production was subsequently presented at the Provincetown Playhouse. Several of her plays have been produced internationally, for example, Mary Stuart, which was produced at La Mama Theatre in New York, and at the Battersea Arts Centre in London (dir. Nicolette Kay), receiving the City Limits and Time Out Critics’ Choice British Premiere award in 1992. It went on to be produced in Holland, in Spain and in Uruguay, as well as in Australia, Belgium, Germany, and Austria, and at California State University, Hayward.
Her plays continue to be translated and performed, and several of her books have been filmed. She herself has written screenplays for such directors as Pier Paolo Pasolini, Marco Ferreri, Carlo Di Palma, and Margarethe Von Trotta. She continues to be active in feminist causes and as a commentator on politics and society, especially in columns for newspapers and weeklies. Her articles have appeared regularly in newspapers like Corriere della Sera, La Stampa, L’Unità, and Paese Sera. Some of these have been collected with earlier articles in La Bionda, la bruna, e l’asino (1987).
In 2001, the fable La pecora Dolly was published by Fabbri, and in 2004, the novel Colomba was published by Rizzoli, in which Maraini accompanies her readers through the discovery of a fairytale-like story which delicately probes the motivations and emotions that guide the human spirit. 2007 saw the author’s return to the theatre with Passi affrettati (Hurried Steps), published by Edizioni Lanieri. The play consists of seven stories of violence against women, all true testimonies collected by Amnesty International from around the world. The play has been staged in the UK, under the direction of Nicolette Kay, in France by the company Talon Rouge (dir. Catherine Javaloyes) and in Spain by the company Crit, directed by Maraini herself and with the extraordinary participation of Rosana Pastor.
In 2008 Maraini published Il treno dell’ultima notte, a novel centred on the depths of 20th-century totalitarianism. It narrates a voyage from the Shoah to Budapest, in 1956, the year of the revolution.
Her latest published book is Chiara d’Assisi: Elogio della disobbedienza in 2013.
Extract from the article by Alex Standen on the website of The Centre for the Study of Contemporary Women's Writing, Institute of Modern Languages Research, University of London. Published here with the author's consent. Original article accessed on 14th August 2015.
1963 - La vacanza – The Holiday, translated by Stuart Hood (1966)
1963 - L'età del malessere – The Age of Discontent (also published as The Age of Mailaise), translated by Frances Frenaye (1963)
1973 - Memorie di una ladra – Memoirs of a Female Thief, translated by Nina Rootes (1973)
1974 - Mio marito (17 short stories) – My Husband, translated by Vera F. Golini (2004)
1975 - Donna in guerra - Woman at War, translated by Maria Benetti and Elspeth Spottiswood (1984. The diary of a woman's growing self-awareness.
1978 – Stravaganza
1985 - Isolina – Isolina, translated by Siân Williams (1993). A true story of a murder in turn-of-the-century Verona.
1986 - Il bambino Alberto. Interview with Alberto Moravia.
1990 - La lunga vita di Marianna Ucrìa – The Silent Duchess, translated by Dick Kitto & Elspeth Spottiswood (1992). Set in the mid-eighteen century, the story of three generations of the Ucria family, seen through the watchful eyes of the young deaf and dumb Duchess
1993 – Bagheria – Bagheria, translated by Dick Kitto and Elspeth Spottiswood (1994). The author visits her Italian hometown in attempt to make peace with the aristocratic family she has rejected.
1994 - Voci – Voices, translated by Dick Kitto and Elspeth Spottiswood (1997). Just after radio journalist Michela Canova finds out that her neighbour, Angela, has been murdered, she is asked to prepare a radio series on crimes against women. Researching the programmes, Michela is forced to confront the horror and violence of big city life.
1996 - Cercando Emma - Searching for Emma, translated by Vincent J. Bertolini (1998).
1997 - Dolce per sé
1998 - Se amando troppo
1999 – Buio – Darkness: Fiction, translated by Martha King, 2002. 12 crime stories
2004 - Colomba
2008 - Lettere a Marina
2008 - Il treno dell’ultima notte – Train to Budapest, translated by Silvester Mazzarella (2010). A young Italian journalist is sent to report on the growing political divide between East and West in post-war central Europe.
2011 - La grande festa
2012 - L'amore rubato
2013 - Chiara d'Assisi: Elogio della disobbedienza
Article in The Guardian, 30 March 2011 - here
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