Elsa Morante L’ISOLA DI ARTURO – Italian Book Club

Learning Italian by joining a book club

Elsa Morante L’ISOLA DI ARTURO

Title: L’Isola di Arturo

Author: Elsa Morante

Published: 1957

Learning Italian by joining a book club

Why we read this book in our book club

For this session of our book club, we have chosen L’Isola di Arturo by Elsa Morante. Morante is one of the most remarkable contemporary Italian writers, winner of the prestigious prize Premio Strega. L’Isola di Arturo is beautifully written. It is the enchanting, coming of age tale of Arturo on his little island. It is written from his point of view and Morante teaches us to love and care for him as we follow him as he grows. We learn about his love for his father, his own loneliness and struggles, his intense emotions and imagination.

This book will capture you and after reading the excerpt chosen for you for the book club, you will no doubt wish to read the entire book. This is what the book club is all about, discovering a new author, reading a carefully chosen excerpt and falling in love with it or not. If the latter is the case, this is also good; you can read something else next time. For each of our book club sessions we pick a new book and carefully select one chapter for you to read.

 

L’Isola di Arturo: the story

L’Isola di Arturo is set in Procida, a little island in the bay of Naples in 1938. The protagonist is Arturo Gerace, a teenage boy who lost his mother at birth, and who lives in a dilapidated mansion with an absent father. Arturo is free to roam the island, lives a wild and solitary existence accompanied inseparably by his dog Immacolatella.

The island is a paradise where news of the outside world arrives muffled and delayed creating a suspended world. His imagination is fuelled by the adventures he read about in books. Moreover, he dearly loves and admires his father who, however, is often absent and only comes to the island for brief visits. What’s more, Arturo has also lost his mother who died giving birth to him. Both parents – due to their absence – are reworked by Arturo’s imagination and become for him mythical figures in his life. Therefore, his only true companion is Immacolatella, the dog with whom he shares all his adventures.

His solitary existence is broken by the arrival of his father’s new bride Nunziatella for whom he soon develops feelings.

Arturo spends his childhood and adolescence in the Island. However, as he discovers more about his father and life, he becomes disenchanted and decides to leave Procida. Finally, he leaves to fight in the second world war.

 

What we will be discussing in this book club

Our book club discussions vary according to the books we read and the contributions of the participants. The moderator provides enough structures to ensure that discussions flow, however, also flexibility and freedom so that participants have enough space to express their ideas.

For this particular book, we will start by focussing on defining the characters, their specific traits and what these mean for the story and for the overall meaning of the book.

We then focus on specific quotes from the book either suggested by the teacher moderator or by the participants. We will discuss what the quotes suggest and what bearing these elements have on the story itself.

During the book club there is a focus on specific language used in the book, and again, both the moderator and the participants will contribute either interesting or new language to analyse or simply to put forward and explain.

 

Interesting quotes from the book:

Immacolatella
“Si dirà: parlare tanto di una cagna! Ma io, quand’ero un ragazzino, non avevo altri compagni che lei, e non si può negare che era straordinaria. Per conversare con me, aveva inventato una specie di linguaggio dei muti: con la coda, con gli occhi, con le sue pose, e molte note diverse della sua voce, sapeva dirmi ogni suo pensiero; e io la capivo. Pur essendo una femmina, amava l’audacia e l’avventura: nuotava con me, e in barca mi faceva da timoniere, abbaiando quando c’erano ostacoli in vista. Mi seguiva sempre, quand’io giravo per l’isola, e ogni giorno, ritornando con me sui viottoli e nelle campagne già percorsi mille volte, s’infervorava, come se fossimo due pionieri in terre inesplorate. “

The father
“Mio padre non scriveva mai lettere, non faceva mai sapere sue notizie, né mandava nessun saluto. Ed era favolosa per me la certezza che pure egli esisteva, e che ogni istante da me vissuto a Procida, lo viveva lui pure in chi sa quale paesaggio, in chi sa quale stanza, fra compagni stranieri che io consideravo gloriosi e beati solo perché stavano con lui (non dubitavo, difatti, che la frequentazione di mio padre fosse il titolo di aristocrazia più ambito per tutte le società umane).“

Life on the Island
“In sostanza, io conoscevo la storia fino dai tempi degli antichi egiziani, e le vite degli eccellenti condottieri, e le battaglie di tutti i passati secoli. Ma dell’epoca contemporanea, non sapevo nulla. Anche quei pochi segnali dell’epoca presente che arrivavano all’isola, io li avevo appena intravisti senza nessuna attenzione. Non m’aveva incuriosito mai, l’attualità. Come fosse tutto cronaca ordinaria da giornali, fuori della Storia fantastica, e delle Certezze Assolute. ”

Friendship
“A uno non basta la contentezza di essere un valoroso, se tutti quanti gli altri non sono uguali a lui, e non si può fare amicizia.“

Death
“Beh, il primo pensiero, il massimo di tutti, è questo: Non bisogna importarsene della morte!“

 

The author and the book

Elsa Morante was born in Rome in 1912. She started writing very early writing short stories. Then she wrote a children’s book called Le Bellissime avventure di Caterì dalla trecciolina. During World War two, as Morante was of Jewish descent, she was forced to flee Rome for the countryside.

In 1948 Elsa published Menzogna e Sortilegio, which won the Viareggio Prize. This book was also published in the US finding international success.

She published L’Isola di Arturo in 1957. This book also won a prize, the prestigious Strega Prize. She was the first woman to be awarded this prize.

The author published one more national bestseller in 1974, La Storia. Her final novel was Aracoeli published in 1982.

Elsa Morante was married to the famous writer Alberto Moravia from 1941. Their relationship was competitive and troubled. In the end, they divorced 27 years later. Elsa died in 1985.

 

Elsa morante’s work:

Novels

  • Menzogna e sortilegio 1948
  • L’Isola di Arturo 1957
  • La Storia 1974
  • Aracoeli 1982

Short stories:

  • Il gioco segreto 1941
  • Le straordinarie avventure di Caterì dalla Trecciolina, 1942
  • Lo scialle andaluso 1963
  • Racconti dimenticati 1937-47
  • Aneddoti infantili 1939-40

Poetry

  • Alibi 1958
  • Il mondo salvato dai ragazzini 1968

Children’s books

  • Le straorinarie avventure di Caterina 1959

Non-fiction

  • Pro e contro la bomba atomica 1987

Further reading

Here are some sources where you can find more information about Elsa Morante and his books:

Elsa Morante

Elsa Morante

 

How to join the book club

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