APT Basilicata

APT Basilicata

Basilicata turistica

Rispoli Carolina

a cura di Giovanni Caserta

Carolina Rispoli was just seventeen years old when she entered the literary world. She was born in Melfi, on May 19, 1893. Her first literary work was a short-story, Lotta elettorale, published on the magazine “Vita femminile italiana”, under the assumed name of Aurora Fiore, and with an introduction by Sofia Bisi Albini, who saw a new Grazia Deledda in that young girl.

That successful experience encouraged her to publish, five years later, a wide novel, Ragazze da marito (Milano, Quintieri), which narrated the story of five sisters, but was also emblematic of the female condition in a southern town, Melfi, and sounded like a denunciation of the female minority condition in a male chauvinistic society. The novel, written in the provinces, resounded in the contemporary discussion on the feminist issue. Moreover the book, notwithstanding some prolixity and a certain amount of commonplaces, was appreciated because of its freshness and courage, in addition to the fluency and simplicity of its language.

On April 26, 1922 Carolina Rispoli got happily married to Raffaele Ciasca, born in Rionero in Vùlture in 1888. He was a cultivated man with a brilliant career ahead of him, all the more creditable because of his humble origin. Once he became a university professor, he was subjected to continual transfers from Messina to Cagliari, Genoa, Rome.

Literally enchanted by her husband, Carolina Rispoli became a different writer, and started to sound the praise of him, who was well-read but modest, often far from home but always very much attached to his roots, intellectually superior to his wife but always respectful of her dignity. Rispoli’s following novels revolve around a kind professor whose sincere love for a woman is disappointed because of a mean friend of hers (Il nostro destino, 1923, Milano, Unitas), or around Alessandro, an accountant who, after living in Florence, returns to the quietness of his hometown, Melfi, to live there indissolubly tied to a local woman, clung to her like ivy around a trunk (Il tronco e l’edera, 1926, Milano, Céschina).

In La terra degli asfodéli (1933, Milano, Céschina), the setting moves to Cagliari, where a young woman coming from Melfi, Maria, gets married to a young university professor, a colleague of her uncle. It’s a marriage under the aegis of the religious faith and the calm acceptance of what living together implies. La torre che non crolla (1938, Milano, Céschina), Rispoli’s last novel, is set in Genoa. Its main character, after breaking off his relationship with a local woman, returns to Melfi, his hometown, where he marries a good-hearted, humble, and patient woman. This happy marriage will be upset by the 1930 earthquake: his wife dies buried beneath the debris. But their child survives, and this new life represents continuity with one’s past, just like the Norman tower which survived the earthquake. The young widower, after recovering his faith, has one more reason to live and to stay in his town.

La torre che non crolla was Rispoli’s last novel, having the spiritual and literary path of the southern woman come to an end. She had calmed down next to her famous and understanding husband. In the meanwhile he had had repeated successes as a politician and as an academic, still remaining a simple man in her eyes. He sat in senate from 1948 to 1958, was president of the State Education Governing Council, and finally founder and first president of the Deputazione di Storia Patria [National History Deputation] of Lucania. He died in 1975. Two years later, in 1977, Carolina Rispoli was to devote an essay to her husband, La giovinezza di Raffaele Ciasca tra Giustino Fortunato e Gaetano Salvemini, which was the same praise of him she had sounded, directly or indirectly, in her novels. It was the confirmation of a sort of “constancy” of interests and feelings which had been the core of fifty years of literary production. For this reason she was rather repetitive, often overcome by pedagogic and moralistic aims. Her narration was not always free of unnecessary long-windedness or superfluous digressions, neither did she always avoid dwelling upon the provincial setting. She could have spared us many of his pages. As for the rest, it was already clear, in 1938, that her inspiration had run nearly dry: she wrote mostly essays since then. In addition to La giovinezza di Raffaele Ciasca, we remember Gerardiello (1946, Roma, Sales), a biography of St. Gerardo Maiella, and Uomini oscuri del Mezzogiorno nel Risorgimento (1962, Roma). Thus the best of her production is still to be found in Ragazze da marito, while La torre che non crolla appears to be, as far as ideology is concerned, more complete and definitive. As for the earnestness of her efforts and aims, nothing can be said of a woman who knew how to carve out a place for herself in the literary world of the early 20 century notwithstanding all the difficulties she had to cope with.

Carolina Rispoli died on December 6, 1991, when she was nearly a hundred years old.

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