The silent duchess

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P. Owen, Dec 15, 1992 - Fiction - 235 pages
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Palermo, Sicily. In the Piazza Marina a large crowd has gathered to witness the public hanging of a young brigand. Duke Signoretto Ucria di Fontanasalsa, leader of the Noble Fathers of the Inquisition, is in attendance, and with him is his deaf-mute daughter Marianna, who is seven years old. The child watches as the rope is slipped round the prisoner's neck; there is a roll of drums and the hangman kicks away the box on which the boy is standing; the body drops and starts to rotate. The execution over, the Duke turns to his daughter: surely such a sight will force her to speak? But she remains silent and trembling, clinging to the folds of her father's robes.
Set in the mid-eighteenth century, Dacia Maraini's unforgettable novel tells the story of three generations of the Ucria family, seen through the watchful eyes of the young Duchess Marianna. Married at thirteen to her own uncle, set apart from others by her handicap, she searches for fulfilment in a society in which women face either marriage and endless childbearing, or a life of renunciation within the walls of a convent.

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The Silent Duchess

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The heroine of this novel, Marianna, is a duchess in early 18th-century Sicily. She is deaf and dumb, but she wasn't born that way. As she turns 40, she realizes that she has been married (since she ... Read full review


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About the author (1992)

Dacia Maraini was born in Florence in 1936. Her father's profession as an anthropologist and his antifascist stance led the family to emigrate to Japan where, during the war, they were confined for two years in concentration camps. In 1945 the family returned to Sicily and, when her parents separated in 1954, Dacia moved to Rome with her father.

Maraini's first two novels, "La vacanza" (The Holiday) and "L'eta del malessere" (The Age of Indifference), published when she was twenty-six and twenty-seven, were instant international successes: the latter received the editors' international Formentor prize and was instantly translated into twelve languages. In 1990 Maraini sealed her international success with the publication of the novel "La lunga vita di Marianna Ucria" (The Silent Duchess, Feminist Press, 1992) which stayed on Italy's bestseller list for almost two years and won the prestigious Premio Campiello (Italy's equivalent of the us National Book Award). It was published to critical acclaim in fourteen languages.

Several of her books have been made into films, and Maraini has also written screenplays for directors like Pier Paolo Pasolini, Carlo di Palma, and Margarethe Von Trotta. She is a prolific writer with more than fifty publications of novels, poetry, and plays. She lives in Rome, actively promoting theatre groups, playing a very active role in the literary scene, and speaking on tv and in national newspapers and magazines on the evolving economic and social conditions of Italian and European women.

Vera Golini emigrated with her family to Canada from Abruzzo in 1956. She has been a professor of Italian studies at St. Jerome's University since 1975, and since 1997 has also directed the Women's Studies program at the University of Waterloo. She is currently president of the Canadian Society for Italian Studies.

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