Dacia Maraini Presents her Book "Extravagance and Three Other Plays"

On February 2, 2016 the Institute for Creative Writing and Literary Translation together with the Department of Modern Languages and Literature welcomed celebrated and renowned Italian author Dacia Maraini to present her book Extravagance and Three Other Plays, recently published by JCU Press. The plays, originally written in Italian, are featured in the volume both in Italian and in the English translation by JCU Italian Studies Professor James Schwarten.

A long-time friend of the University, Dacia Maraini was awarded an honorary degree at the 2015 commencement ceremony.

Dacia Maraini

Dacia Maraini

In front of a full Aula Magna, President Franco Pavoncello welcomed Maraini back to JCU, calling her a “tireless observer of women’s condition in society.” After brief introductions by Professor Carlos Dews and Professor Federica Capoferri, the stage was given to Eugenio Murrali, who collaborated with Maraini in a recently published book about her theater.

Murrali described the various steps of Maraini’s experience and career in theater, which spans several decades. He then focused on the four plays featured in the book “Extravagance and Three Other Plays”: Extravagance, Camille, The Story of Isabella di Morra as Told by Benedetto Croce and The Fasting of Catherine of Siena.

Professor Schwarten talked about the challenges he faced in translating the plays, which he worked on in close collaboration with the author. Maraini said: “Translating theater is clearly different from translating prose, because in theater sentences are not read, but acted. They are in the mouth of the actors, therefore, they have to be credible. I am very pleased with James Schwarten’s translation.”

Actors from the English Theatre of Rome read an excerpt from The Story of Isabella di Morra as Told by Benedetto Croce and one from The Fasting of Catherine of Siena for the first time in English. Isabella di Morra reinterprets the tragic isolation of the young 16th-century poetess. In The Fasting of Catherine of Siena, Maraini explores the figure of Saint Catherine in the context of her political authority as well as her profound religiosity.

During the Q&A session, Maraini spoke of her inspiration for writing Extravagance, a drama that alludes to Italy’s 1978 “Basaglia Law”, whose prescriptions included the closure of insane asylums throughout Italy. The play is both a critique of how asylums worked in Italy, and of how the state abandoned former patients when the asylums were shut down.

Finally, a student asked Maraini to explain the difference in her experience between writing novels and plays.

“Writing a novel is writing about the mystery of the passing of time. It is like drawing a horizontal line, similar to a river. Theater, on the other hand, is very vertical, like a line that goes from the bottom of a well to the sky. It is something that freezes time,” she said.