Why did “The Art of Joy” change the lives of its readers? “This madness has broken me and I will not be able to chase it away from my emotions”

Why did “The Art of Joy” change the lives of its readers? “This madness has broken me and I will not be able to chase it away from my emotions”
Why did “The Art of Joy” change the lives of its readers? “This madness has broken me and I will not be able to chase it away from my emotions”

Read and reread The art of the gioiawhich begins there or ends Cheetah, initially resembles an extension of Lampedusa and which offers the demanding reader the comfortable feeling of being faced with a masterpiece. Then, get lost in certain digressions, get discouraged in detours and then catch your breath to never let go of an unforgettable book, which is part of the real temporality of life. Reread it, if time permits, to discover the full interest of these digressions and to linger on passages perhaps overlooked at first glance.

From Proust to JK Rowling, these masterpieces refused by publishers

Reread or simply keep in mind the confused but happy memory of a feminist, transgressive, human, political and atypical book. No other novel is like it and the many publishers who refused it had to bite their fingers. Published posthumously, two years after the author’s death, by Stampa Alternativa editions, a confidential Italian house, The Art of Joy only met its incredible success in 2005, thanks to Viviane Hamy, to France and the publication of its translation by Viviane Hamy editions.

“Goliarda”, the look of the last man in her life

On the occasion of the centenary of the author’s birth, Tripode editions are publishing her complete works. But also Goliarda, a romantic evocation of Angelo Pellegrino, who was his companion for 20 years and to whom we owe the publication of his long novel. Without his stubbornness, the book to which Goliarda Sapienza devoted ten years of his life would never have been published.

It recounts episodes from his life with the writer through the arrival, almost twenty years after her death, of a young photographer wishing to publish a book about her.

Thanks to their exchanges, Angelo Pellegrino reveals some secrets of their intimate life, the details of their meeting, Goliarda’s tears when she realizes she is in love with him and fears, therefore, not being able to finish the work on which she had been working for 1967. He also opened their house, Vico 4 Indipendenza number 8, in Gaeta, where she was found three days after her death following a fall down the stairs, undoubtedly due to a heart attack.

And we like to imagine this seaside house, built in the style of Le Corbusier, where they lived their story despite their age difference – he was twenty-two years younger –, their precariousness, the pennata, this old converted henhouse where they wrote closely together on a small kitchen table, the Muratti Ambassadors that she smoked so often that its walls were yellowed, the rock on which they went to bask in the sun or even their joy of leaving Rome to enjoy the coastline.

A nice introduction before – or after depending on your desires – the dense and rich reading of Lives, deaths and rebirths by Goliarda Sapienza by the author Nathalie Castagné, a great specialist in the artist, who translated the entirety of his work and who introduced The Art of Joy (read our interview, elsewhere). The editor Viviane Hamy and her assistant Frédéric Martin asked her for her opinion on a text about which a German agent, Waltraud Schwarze, had said she was very positive.

The burning life of Visconti

Many lives in one

Far from being trivial, the plural chosen for the title of her biography immediately indicates that Goliarda Sapienza lived several lives: pianist, actress, writer, anarcho-socialist, thief, depressive, prisoner, lover, vigilante, activist, outside of any enlistment, individualist, sporty, happy, among others in prison, or very unhappy. She will experience few respites in this life which begins in a blended, socialist and libertarian family, with a first name invented for her in memory of a brother, Goliardo, who died at 14, probably drowned by the fascists. A life, too, which begins in the era of fascism and which ends in the Berlusconian years after having passed through the abundant post-war era when cinema and theater were kings.

The writer was born on May 10, 1924 in Catania in Sicily but was not registered in the civil registry until June 19. Her link with Sicily will be conflicting, writes Nathalie Castagné, between the blessing of being a native and the curse of being born “ on a backward, miserable and temperless land “.

Daughter of Maria Giudice, a powerful mother, Lombard, a great anti-fascist figure, very committed and imprisoned several times, director of the Cry of the people, she will remain under his influence all her life. Relations with his father, Giuseppe Sapienza, also a militant socialist, Sicilian, became obscured during adolescence due, no doubt, to his infidelity towards Maria and to a sensuality which, in him, frightens her. Due to physiological impossibility or refusal of her first companion, she will not have children.

Claudia Cardinale and the Cheetah


As a child in fragile health, she contracted, among other things, tuberculosis, she had to stop playing the piano after an elbow accident and obtained a scholarship at the age of 16 to take courses at the Academy of Dramatic Art in Rome.

During the Nazi occupation of Rome, she took refuge in a convent on Via Gaeta. His mother experienced her first stay in a psychiatric hospital in 1944, after having descended into madness in 1942.This madness has broken me and I will not be able to chase it away from my emotions.” she wrote in 1979. In the 1950s, she frequented, among others, Visconti, who did not always keep his role promises to her and moved in with Francesco Maselli, a renowned filmmaker.

Goliarda Sapienza made a first suicide attempt in 1962. It was the time of Open letter, probably written under analytical influence. A Lettra aperta, published in 1967, which received a great critical reception and was presented at the Prix Strega, equivalent to the Goncourt.

Then begins writing The Art of Joya work of ten years, which will be the opposite of an auto fiction and which remains more than ever considered as a major work of contemporary Italian literature without Goliarda knowing anything about it, she who was despaired by publishers’ refusals. .

What does “The Art of Joy” tell you?

Lives, deaths and rebirths of Goliarda Sapienza, biography, Seuil, 399 pp.

Goliarda, Angelo Pellegrino, Tripode, 208 pp, €18.



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