15 Women Writers Discuss Their Favorite Overlooked Books
I would like to remind American readers of the Italian writer Elsa Morante (1912–1985). She wrote four novels, each astonishing for its quality, for the gripping density of its narrative and depth of its characters, for the complexity of its invented world and its wide-ranging view of the human condition. I love them equally: Menzogna e sortilegio ("House of Liars"), L'isola di Arturo ("Arturo's Island"), La storia ("History") and Aracoeli. I recommend starting with History. It's the story of Ida Mancuso, a widow, a mother, a Jew frightened by the racial laws of 1938, who in 1941 is raped by a German soldier and becomes pregnant. It's a stunning book about the insecurity that erodes the lives of those who, for the sin of being born, as Morante suggests, can be devoured and annihilated at any moment by "the universal power." Morante infuses the conventions of the novel with an innovative spirit, with uninhibited modernity. One reads with one's heart in one's throat.