Grazia Deledda was an Italian novelist, born on the 27th of September 1871 in Sardinia. Known for her influences on realism or “verismo” in Italian Literature, she received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1926, becoming only the second woman to have ever won.
Deledda was born into a middle-class family, the fourth of seven siblings . With a limited amount of formal schooling, she moved to study literature by herself. Deledda began to express an interest in writing short novels, often centred around the life and struggles of Sardinian peasants. Her first story was published at the tender age of thirteen, by a local newspaper. Many of her early works were published in magazines such as L’ultima moda and Nell’azzurro. Throughout these years, her main focus was still her portrayal of poverty and despite her initial success, her family was never extremely supportive of her wish to write.
Deledda published her first novel, Fiori de Sardegna (Flowers of Sardinia) when she was just 19. Perhaps her most notable works are Dopo il Divorzio (After the Divorce), and Elias Portolu, which features the story of a former convict who falls in love with the bride of his brother . One of her works, Cenere, was adapted into a film in 1916, starring the famed actress Eleonora Duse. In Cenere, an illegitimate son drives his mother to suicide.
Throughout her works, Deledda continued to use Sardinia’s landscape as an allegory to the difficulties faced by her characters. Sardinia’s history and traditions often clashed with the rising modernity of the time, and as such, her characters struggle to bridge the gap and find moral solutions. Deledda is well known for her ability to write tragedies and display the brutal effects of both temptation and sin among humans.
In 1899, Deledda met Palmiro Medsani, a worker at the Ministry of Finance in Cagliari. They married just a year later, in 1900, and moved together to Rome. Deledda gave birth to two sons in the years after, called Sardus and Francesco. Despite a busy home life, she continued to write consistently, publishing around a novel each year.
Deledda’s most popular book, published in 1913, is Canne al Vento (Reeds in the Wind). It features the Pintor sister, heirs to a once great family, and the story of the island of Sardinia, with all its pagan myths and faeries.
In 1926, Deledda was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature by Henrik Shuck, a member of the Swedish Academy. She won the prize for her “idealistically inspired writings which with plastic clarity, picture the life on her native island and with depth and sympathy deal with human problems in general”. It is said her response to the prize was simply “Gia?” (“Already?”).
After the win, Deledda’s popularity continued to rise, with Benito Mussolini even sending Deledda a signed portrait, with a dedication expressing his admiration for the writer. Eventually, Deledda grew tired of the attention and returned to a more retired routine.
Deledda passed away in Rome, at the age of 64, from breast cancer. Her last novel, a depiction of a young Italian woman coming to terms with a fatal disease was published just before her death.