About the author: Louise Rozier holds a D.M.L, Italian and French from Middlebury College and a M.A. in French from the University of Arkansas. She has been teaching Italian at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville since 1993. Her translation of Fortunato Pasqualino’s The Little Jesus of Sicily, published in 1999, was awarded the 1996 PEN Renato Poggioli Translation Award.
This book is on Paola Masino who wrote prolifically during the Fascist dictatorship. She belonged to the European and international intelligentsia of the time and her work was widely read and reviewed. Her short stories were published in the most prestigious Italian literary magazines and her first novel Monte Ignoso was awarded the 1931 Viareggio Literary Prize.
Paola Masino’s narrative explores the realm of myths, allegories, dreams and hallucinations in order to break down the boundaries between rationality and irrationality and to expose the fundamental contradictions and limitations of reality. Life and death, the alienation and the tragedy of modern man, the changing realities of the traditional nuclear family, as well as the exploration of women self-representation and identity, are the dominant themes in her narrative. Masino’s discourse challenges patriarchal authority and the representation of models of femininity by putting into question the ideology of the woman-mother/caretaker of family and angel of domesticity promoted by the Fascist regime. Masino’s work was never censured by the regime. However, because of her strong experimental writing - from surrealism to magic realism, from the absurd to the grotesque – her narrative was qualified as “defeatist,” and she was personally criticized for “writing like a man.”
Paola Masino’s official literary production stopped shortly after WWII when Massimo Bontempelli, her life companion, fell ill. A well-known member of the Academy of Italy, Bontempelli died in 1960 and Masino dedicated the rest of her life to the publication and organization of his literary legacy. There is no doubt that Masino’s contributions have been overshadowed by Bontempelli’s stature and preeminence. However, Paola Masino is truly an avant-garde writer whose talent, complex style and independent voice fully contribute to the literature of twentieth-century Italy.