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“Angela Merkel and Ursula Von der Leyen? I have faith in their strength and ability”

By Giovanna Pezzuoli

Dacia Maraini (Fiesole, Italy, November 13, 1936) is an Italian novelist, essayist, playwriter and poet, internationally well known. Maraini’s work focuses on women’s issues, and she has won many awards for her work, including the Premio Campiello for La lunga vita di Marianna Ucrìa (1990); and the Premio Strega for Buio (1999). Bagheria (1993) is Maraini’s only autobiographical work and the title is from Sicilian little town where Dacia lived her adolescence after the period of her imprisonment in a concentration camp in Japan during World War II, with her father Fosco Maraini, a famous Italian ethnologist.

ENWE: Women figures are often at the center of your novels and plays, from Marianna Ucria to Mary Stuart, from Chiara of Assisi to journalist Michela Canova or teacher Vanna. Although very different from each other, they have a trait of rebellion in common, a restlessness, as if you wanted to counteract an injustice at the root of the female condition. Is this so?

Dacia Maraini: Of course, the more I study history, the more I discover how women have been prevented from studying, culturally evolving, developing talent. And it was a God who sanctioned their inferiority, how not to believe him?

In 1992, you founded Controparola with women journalists and writers passionate about the theme of manipulation of the female image in communication. You highlighted the misogynist regime of Afghanistan before others did, and you underlined that prostitution is a modern form of slavery in a provocative letter to clients. After “Il Novecento delle italiane. Una storia ancora da raccontare, what are the challenges you want to face today?

As Controparola, we are about to publish a book of portraits of courageous and valiant women who can set an example for today’s girls.

Why do you think we are still missing a really incisive public word from women, the female shock wave – which Livia Turco spoke of recently – that would set the political and government agenda?

Despite some achievements (which concern only some countries in the world, anyway), the world is still in full swing within a prevailing phallocracy. Women do not have much choice: they either adapt to androcentric values or are ousted and put aside.

I remember a Rai (the italian public broadcasting company) program, in which you participated, named “Le ragazze”, which intertwined biographies of famous and unfamous women … If you think about your youth and compare it to that of a girl today, what steps forward (or backward! ) were really made?

From a legal point of view, many steps have been taken. All laws on family and relations between the sexes have changed radically after 1968 and Feminism, which was a very important peaceful revolution for women. The family law that entrusted all decisions to the pater familias, that condemned female and not male adultery, the law on equality at work, the law on the crime of honor, and many other laws have been canceled or modified. But it is easier to change a law than a very deep-rooted mentality. We are fighting against those roots, and it will take some time before we finally eradicate them.

What do you think of the women at the top of European institutions? In your opinion, what important steps have they taken so far and what could they have done (or could do) with a view to supporting women? Did they convince or disappoint you?

Right now, there are two women, Angela Merkel and Ursula Von der Leyen, who are trying to save Europe with reason and intelligence, against the stubborn obstinacy of others. These two women are showing that with gentle ways, without ranting, insulting, and arguing, it is possible to solve very complex and important issues for everyone. I don’t know if they will succeed because they constitute a minority still, but I have faith in their strength and in the ability to involve other countries in a project of peace and constructive alliances.

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