A workmanlike translation will acquaint American readers with this 1936 novel by an undeservedly neglected Italian woman of letters. The eponymous heroine, familiarly known as Mariutine, is an exceptionally beautiful young teenager from the harsh mountain region of Friuli. She and her sister Rosute, eight years Mariutine's junior, are orphaned when, during one of their shared peregrinations, their peddler mother dies. Their uncle, Barbe Zef, taciturn and inclined toward alcoholism, assumes custody. Illness necessitates Rosute's hospitalization; in the ensuing isolation, Mariutine is raped and abused by Barbe. Drigo's (1876-1938) prose is vibrantly cinematic--peasants consuming a copious meal, villagers trudging through the snow, a primitive alpine hut are depicted with great verisimilitude. Kirschenbaum, professor of comparative literature at Brown, argues that Drigo is a ``major'' writer, but, however excellent this novelist's observations, her plot teeters into melodrama, particularly at the conclusion. (Sept.)
Blossom Steinberg Kirschenbaum is a teacher and researcher in the Department of Comparative Literature at Brown University. She has also translated Giuliana Morandini’s novel I cristaili di Vienna, issued as Bloodstains in 1987, and stories by Grazia Deledda, Marina Mizzau, and Fernanda Pivano.