by Elsa Morante
July 15, 2009
novel | pb | 311 pgs
5.5" x 8.5"
"A storyteller who spellbinds."
—New York Review of Books
"The first time I read Aracoeli, I found it almost pointlessly disturbing and shocking. On rereading it, I still found it disturbing and shocking, but I have also grown to admire it—perhaps because it is so dark and resists any attempt to classify it. In writing this novel, Morante may have knowingly sacrificed clarity and logic in order to express her vision of a chaotic world." (Lily Tuck, Woman of Rome: A Life of Elsa Morante)
Aracoeli—Elsa Morante’s final novel—is the story of an aging man's attempt to recover the past and get his life on track in the process. The Aracoeli of the title is the narrator's deceased mother, who grew up in a small Spanish town before marrying an upper-class Italian navy ensign. The idyllic years she spends with her only son—Manuel, the narrator of the novel—are shattered when she contracts an incurable disease (probably syphilis) and becomes a nymphomaniac.
Now, at the age of 43, Manuel, an unattractive, self-loathing, recovering drug addict who works a dead-end job at a small publishing house, decides to travel to her hometown in Spain in order to look for her. Filled with dreams and remembrances the novel creates a Sebaldian landscape of memory out of this painful journey, painting a portrait that is both touching and bleak.
Appearing here for the first time in paperback—the hardcover was published in 1984—Aracoeli is an important, and long-neglected, work in Morante’s oeuvre. (Read an Excerpt)
Translated from the Italian by William Weaver
About the Author: Elsa Morante (1912–1985) was an Italian novelist, short story writer, and poet. She began writing short stories in the 1930s, and her first book, a collection of short stories, was published in 1941, the same year she married the prominent Italian author Alberto Moravia. In the Second World War, Moravia's anti-fascist reputation forced the couple to flee German-occupied Rome, and it was during this time, hidden away in the mountains, that Morante began to write her first novel, House of Liars. Morante was not a prolific writer; she would complete only three more major works during her lifetime, including her most famous work, History. In 1957, she won the Premio Strega for Arturo’s Island, and her final novel,Aracoeli, earned her the Prix Médicis étranger in 1985, the year of her death.
"There is a peculiar Dostoyevskian visionary quality in Morante’s writing that occasionally illuminates her somber Naturalistic landscape. At a number of crucial junctures she manages to carry out wonderful forays into the uncanny, moving from bleak earthbound things to metaphysical vistas."
—New York Times
"A marvel of a novel. . . . All the pleasures that fiction can offer."