Elias Portolu, by Grazia Deledda

This is the second novel of Grazia Deledda’s which I’ve read: the first one was La Madre (in English, The Woman and the Priest – a notable change of emphasis).

These novels were written about twenty years apart, but both have essentially the same plot and essentially the same style. The plot is this: a man desires (loves) a woman, but must struggle to suppress this desire. The reason for this suppression is different in the two novels: in La Madre, he has to suppress his feelings because he is a priest, but also because his mother has great admiration for the fact that he has become a priest. In Elias Portolu, it is because the woman in question is married to his brother.

I admit, this is a plot I tend to enjoy: the struggle between feelings and social pressures, with feelings all too likely to win out. It reminds me a lot of Zola and Eça de Queiroz. It is no surprise also that DH Lawrence was a great champion of her writings, since he has many of the same obsessions. Luckily though Grazia Deledda is a far better writer than Lawrence, unemcumbered as she is by his intellectual follies and didacticism.

She’s also a writer who creates her own little world: the world of Sardinia, of small sheep-herding communities, of tight-knit families both for good or ill, of simple pious folk. She seems like the kind of writer, rather like Colette or Hardy, whom you love coming back to again and again, as a return to familiar surroundings which once gave you pleasure.

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5 thoughts on “Elias Portolu, by Grazia Deledda

  1. I’ve just read one novel by Deledda – Reeds in the Wind – but it’s a novel with unusual staying power, and so I’m happy to learn of others. I can well imagine coming back to her again and again.

  2. I need to read her very soon, I’m sure of this now. I am fond of Lawrence and Colette and seeing them mentioned in the same post is certainly interesting (yes, I did notice you think he doesn’t write well. I don’t mind flawed writing if it speaks to me).
    Interesting as well that the core struggle in both books you’ve read is similar but the reason behind different. I love La Princesse de Clèves because it basically is about the same struggle but the outcome is so different.
    Not sure now whether I should get this or read the Reeds in the Wind. Decisions, decisions.

  3. I know I’ve only read two of her novels, but something tells me they’re all the same – the same type of subject, the same quality.

    I don’t know if Deledda is like Colette – perhaps, a bit; it’s a long time since I read any Colette. Just in the sense that, if I picked up a book by Colette, I know I’d enjoy it in the same way as I’ve enjoyed every other book by Colette.

    I don’t think it matters which book you read. They’re all the same. I’ve got two more: Cosima and After the Marriage.

    Lawrence is good at emotions and descriptions of nature.

  4. Have you read La Regenta by Leopoldo Alas? That’s a magnificent novel about the struggle between feelings and social pressures. One of my favourites.

    Deledda looks interesting.

  5. No, I’ve never read La Regenta; sounds like I need to get hold of a copy. Maybe too soon (and a bit long) for next month’s Spanish language books.

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